Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rudd must reform, not reregulate

The Prime Minister thinks the market needs more regulation. The great record of Labor leaders past proves him wrong

THE Howard government squandered the opportunity of the boom years, failing to use all its opportunities to encourage productivity, build export infrastructure and deal with the complex mess the tax and welfare systems have become. It is now up to Kevin Rudd to avoid squandering the opportunities the global economic crisis offers Australia - in hard times people will accept the need for change that seems unnecessary in periods of prosperity. The Prime Minister must push on with the reform process that he outlined last year before the slump started. But to do this he will have to stay true to the ideas that have transformed Australia over the past 30years, and which remain the foundation of our economy - the efficiency of the free market and its superiority to state management. For Mr Rudd to return Australia to the era of the all-powerful public sector that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating began to dismantle in the 1980s would reduce opportunities for young people by constraining the job-generating private sector. And it would slow the economic growth needed to fund social welfare support for their grandparents as they retire. It would, in short, dim the light on the hill.

But as The Weekend Australian reports, Mr Rudd is responding to the risk of recession by making a case for big government. In a new essay, the Prime Minister argues that the global financial crisis is the inevitable outcome of the free market "neo-liberal" ideology introduced to government in the Reagan and Thatcher years. He acknowledges the "great strengths of open competitive markets" but argues that the job for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself in mixed economies where there is "a role for the state as regulator and as a funder and provider of public goods". In criticising "the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system", the Prime Minister has a point. There is no doubting the case for better regulation of banks in Europe and the US after years when cheap credit led to less exuberance and more incompetence in lending. And the avarice of corporate bosses, such as the Wall Street executives who took $18 billion in bonuses while begging for taxpayer bailouts, was less capitalism than kleptomania. Mr Rudd is also right to advocate better regulation of financial systems. With taxpayers all over the world now owning banks, governments are obliged to oversee their investments.

But in suggesting "the challenge for social democrats today is to recast the role of the state and its associated political economy of social democracy as a comprehensive philosophical framework for the future", Mr Rudd runs the risk of pushing us towards the past. His argument will appeal to advocates of the old model of state control that held back Australia, the US and Britain before deregulation in the 70s and 80s, and which kept unemployment high in western Europe for the following 30 years. And his argument ignores the obvious. The causes of our economic problems are almost entirely imported. Australia's banks are stable. The share market may have lost five years of gains, but almost all Australians today, except the absolutely indigent, are still immeasurably more affluent than they were 30 years ago. And Mr Rudd's assertion that it is time to reject free market ideologues who believe in cutting taxes "to strangle the capacity of government" manifestly does not apply here. Canberra's tax take was 20.7 per cent of GDP in the last budget. Most important, in pointing to the greed of a few who abused privileged positions, Mr Rudd ignores the way the free market has been an engine of opportunity and prosperity all over the planet. The wave of reform that began in the early 80s transformed much of the world. It lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty in China and southeast Asia. It ended the political and economic oppression of communism in eastern Europe. In a pre-crash report, the World Bank estimated the number of middle-class people on the planet would more than double, to 16 per cent of the world population, by 2030. The reduction of the economic authority of governments over the past 30 years has also made the world safer. Prosperous people invariably prefer peace to pogroms, diplomacy to war.

To take us back to the old Labor belief that a reforming government always expands the role of the state is to forget the way things were when housing loans were allocated to suit the banks, not the home buyers, and white goods were so expensive working Australians could only acquire a fridge or a washing machine on hire purchase. And it would inevitably reduce the opportunities for Mr Rudd to enact his reform agenda - bureaucrats with regulatory authority always see reason to expand it, rarely to give it up. One of the great reforms of the past 20 years was national competition policy, which abolished state regulation of all sorts of industries - adding, according to the Productivity Commission, 2.5 per cent to GDP in the process.

The Rudd Government is right to be committed to a new round of deregulation to reduce state and federal overlaps across the public and private sectors, and to be looking for ways to improve the performance of the state hospital systems, now burdened by large and unproductive bureaucracies. And Canberra is correct to be considering investments in transport infrastructure. The slump will not last forever. The International Monetary Fund estimates global growth of 3 per cent next year. We cannot afford a repeat of the problems when Australia's railways and ports cannot move wheat and coal in good time. Most important, the Government has commissioned a comprehensive review of the tax system, including the way it interacts with welfare payments. This is essential. Low-income people with small children who go back to work can be worse off, due to increased tax and lower benefits. As Labor Minister for Small Business Craig Emerson argued in this newspaper last week: "People respond to incentives. Yet public policymakers have so often put in place perverse incentives, and then wondered why people behave the way they do."

While there is no doubting we need an active and interventionist government, we need one that reforms rather than regulates. Mr Rudd's experience should show him how a reform-driven society creates wealth. His wife built a small business into a big one by providing an essential social service -helping people to find jobs more efficiently than the old public sector employment agencies. The country understands how serious our situation is and has rallied behind Mr Rudd, who enjoys the sort of support normally reserved for leaders in wartime, with a 70 per cent approval rating in the latest Newspoll. He must spend this political capital in reforming Australia, not just for the hard times of the coming year but for the decades to come. The way to do this is to hold firm to the great Labor tradition of market-based reforms, and not use a foreign banking crisis to urge us back into the inefficient embrace of big government. It is an embrace that has always failed us.



Such has been the fear of Greenland's melting glaciers that well known Australian science journalist Robyn Williams has claimed sea levels could rise by 100 metres within the next 100 years. Mr Williams, and other journalists, have been quick to report on what has become known as the "Greenland Ice Armageddon".

Last Friday there was an article in one of the most read science journals, Science, entitled "Galloping Glaciers of Greenland have Reined Themselves In" by Richard A. Kerr.

Yes, as the title suggests, the article explains that a wide-ranging survey of glacier conditions across south eastern Greenland, indicates that glacier melt has slowed significantly and that it would be wrong to attribute the higher rates of melt prior to 2005 to global warming or to extrapolate the higher melt rates of a few years ago into the future.

Mr Kerr was reporting on a presentation by glaciologist Tavi Murray at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco last December. The paper by Dr Murray was co-authored by many other members of the group at Swansea University in the UK, a team often quoted by Al Gore and others.

When I read the article last Friday I wondered how Robyn "100 metres" Williams and other journalists in the mainstream media (MSM) might report the story. To my amazement they have simply ignored it.

It seems that the mainstream media is a shameless exaggerator of global warming, and unable to report anything really significant that contradicts the established storyline.

Perhaps I should not be surprised, as a lecturer in journalism explained to me some time ago: journalists only add to narratives, as one might add to a large tapestry. [5] Yep, so, the mainstream media's news has to all fit together like a picture. What is reported tomorrow is expected to accord with what was reported yesterday. But the real world is so much more complicated.


More of the ethical standards one expects from the Queensland police

A Brisbane police officer got into a holey row with Krispy Kreme staff, demanding to be served free doughnuts. Shocked customers looked on as the officer argued with staff for several minutes in a bid to get his freebies, before finally storming off - empty handed and non-cinnamon-fingered. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," a witness said. "He was quite rude, insisting his doughnuts should be free. He was so greedy for the doughnuts. I thought, 'you swine, get your money out and pay for them like everyone else'."

As the icing on the cake, Krispy Kreme has now decided to stop supplying Brisbane police with leftover doughnuts. The junior constable from the City Beat unit, on Adelaide St, was reprimanded by colleagues after the embarrassing scene. Before the incident, officers had been regularly popping in to collect free boxes of leftover doughnuts at the store in nearby Albert St at the end of the day. Staff were unable to sell the doughnuts and were only too happy to oblige.

A police source said the officer had become confused and thought the free doughnut arrangement applied at all times. "Everyone's a bit annoyed because they were a nice treat at the end of the day with a coffee," he said. "It's a shame the arrangement came to such a nasty end, because we do love Krispy Kremes - although our waistlines are looking a lot better now."

A spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service said the officer's behaviour could not be condoned. "A constable from City Beat received managerial guidance at the time of the incident," she said. It is believed the Krispy Kreme store now gives the leftover doughnuts to the homeless instead.



Three more current news reports below

Amazing public hospital negligence kills man

I reported the bare bones of this story yesterday but now that we have the details below, the case is even more unforgivable

He was a devoted father who loved the outdoors, but in the final days of his life the pain in his head was so great it reduced him to tears. Yesterday the distraught family of 24-year-old Brendan Burns said he had been handed a "death sentence" by an unnamed doctor at Griffith Base Hospital, who discharged him last week after refusing to order a CT scan that might have saved his life.

Mr Burns, a road worker from Hay in the Riverina, had been experiencing debilitating headaches for about a week when he was taken to the local hospital by ambulance on Saturday. A doctor who examined him ordered his transfer from Hay to Griffith Base Hospital for an emergency CT scan. But at 11.30pm that night, Mr Burns' partner Liz Newman received a call to say he had been discharged and that she should pick him up. When she and a friend arrived at the hospital, they were horrified to find him barely conscious. "Brendan didn't even know who we were. He couldn't move. Not even the doctor could wake him - I had to get an orderly to sit him up. He had no control over his bodily functions," Ms Newman said yesterday.

Despite her friend's pleas that he be allowed to stay in hospital, the pair were told to take him home. But just hours after Ms Newman put him to bed, she heard a "horrific noise". "I rushed in and started screaming. I saw this stuff coming out of his mouth. I rolled him on to his side so he wouldn't choke." Mr Burns was rushed back to Griffith Base Hospital and was then flown to Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, where a CT scan revealed a growth on his spinal cord. "He had hydrocephalitis and the pressure had been so great that it shifted parts of his brain," Ms Newman said. He underwent surgery, but died on Tuesday surrounded by family.

Ms Newman said she had no idea how to explain to the couple's daughter Nadia, 3, that her father wouldn't be coming home. "Brendan never got to say his goodbyes and it's their fault. "My daughter has been robbed of her father. Those doctors can get on with their lives. They don't have to live with a little girl screaming for her dad."


Ambulance could not find man two minutes drive away

They were so bureaucratized that they apparently did not even think of looking up one of those silly old-fashioned paper maps of the locality. And once upon a time, firemen, police and ambulance officers were supposed to a have a good knowledge of their local geography. More silly, oldfashioned ideas, I guess

A heartbroken Brisbane mother has launched legal action over the death of her partner after paramedics took an hour to find him because the address - which had existed for four years - was not in the state's road database. Kylie Bacon, 33, of Chermside, is suing the State Government, Moreton Bay Regional Council and the body corporate of Spinnaker Beach One Community Titles Scheme for unspecified damages for herself, daughter Letitia, 13, and son Owen, who turns three tomorrow. Her partner of seven years Adam Foks, 30, a landscape gardener, died from an asthma attack at a Bribie Island bus stop after dialling 000 on January 25, 2006. Their son, Owen, was born a week later - the day after his father's funeral.

Ms Bacon's claim, filed in the Queensland Supreme Court, states Mr Foks had caught a bus to visit his mother, Sandra Major, in the Sandpiper Court estate on Spinnaker Drive, when he had an attack. Mr Foks called 000 at 5.47pm and gave his mother's address. He collapsed on the nearby footpath, where his mother found him and called another ambulance at 6.06pm. Paramedics arrived at 6.45pm but Mr Foks had died. The claim states the nearest Queensland Ambulance Service station was about two minutes' drive from Spinnaker Drive and Sandpiper Court, which has existed since 2002.

Ms Bacon alleged the Government failed to ensure the State Digital Road Network, administered by the Department of Main Roads and used by the QAS, was kept up to date and accurate. She also alleged the council failed to keep up-to-date records of local roads and inform Main Roads of the existence of Sandpiper Court, and that the estate's body corporate should have also ensured its details were on the network.

Yesterday, Ms Bacon said the family was "broken" and still struggled to deal with their grief and find "stability". "Our lives have been turned upside down and we still haven't found our footing," the sole parent pensioner said. "Owen is the spitting image of his dad. Every night we go out and talk to the stars, where he knows Daddy is watching from heaven. "I stress every day about raising a son without a strong male role model and not being able to teach him things about being a man that a father could." Lawyers for the State Government and regional council declined to comment. Representatives for Spinnaker Beach said the matter was with their solicitors.


Unbelievable public hospital inefficiency

And all because of the Leftist love of centralization and horror at any hint of competition. Only a government could be this insane and wasteful

The Queensland Children's Hospital will deliver just 23 extra overnight beds at a cost of $1.1 billion. That's $47.8 million a bed. Of course I haven't factored in the new building that goes with the beds. And the hospital plan includes 100 or so recliner chairs or "same day" and "short stay" beds not counted in my calculation. Nevertheless, the revelation the new hospital will get 23 extra overnight beds for such an extraordinary pool of money will come as a shock to clinicians and patients - if not Health Minister Stephen Robertson himself.

The details are contained in the latest official figures released by Queensland Health showing there will be 248 overnight beds in the new hospital compared with a combined 225 overnight beds available now at Royal Children's and Mater Children's hospitals. The new hospital will come about with the closure of the Royal Children's and the Mater Children's and the pledge of a "world class" children's hospital adjoining the Mater in the South Brisbane electorate of Premier Anna Bligh.

Specialists already complain the new hospital will have inadequate beds and inadequate space for key departments like gastroenterology and respiratory medicine. Pediatricians have complained that consulting rooms may be too small for patients in wheelchairs. And vital research facilities are in limbo, with no space allocated in the main hospital site. Unless there are research and training facilities, the new "world class" hospital will not attract quality staff. Then there is the problem of an $80 million energy plant - unfunded in the hospital plan.

However, the chief executive of the Queensland Children's Hospital does not believe these problems are insurmountable. Peter Steer believes enhanced pediatric services at other hospitals in the southeast corner will take the heat off the QCH. [Thus defeating the point of the excercise?]

Good luck to Dr Steer. The world needs more optimists. He said the proposed Gold Coast University Hospital and the Sunshine Coast University Hospital would have emergency pediatric and inpatient specialty services. And pediatric services in other hospitals would be increased, he said. "The impact of these enhanced services will reduce the level of secondary service demand at the QCH so that it can operate as a truly tertiary level hospital," he said in response to questions I sent to Mr Robertson. Dr Steer added: "The current proposed total bed numbers at the QCH are considered appropriate to meet the projected demands for the hospital in conjunction with the enhancements to services in surrounding hospitals." Dr Steer said he was too busy to be interviewed face-to-face.

Dr Steer was also quoted as saying: "In addition to the services proposed for the QCH, there is currently work being undertaken to increase pediatric bed numbers for less complex patients who it is envisaged will access services in their local area." He said despite the closure of Royal Children's, Brisbane northside families would have adequate emergency pediatric cover. But he couldn't say where it would be or how much it would cost. "The proposed specialist pediatric emergency department on the northside of Brisbane will include a short-stay unit," he said. "The location of the specialist pediatric emergency department on the northside is being finalised in consultation with clinicians." The new short-stay facility would likely have 20 same-day beds. Dr Steer said funding was still to be announced.

Despite his assurances, Queensland Health bureaucrats say it is a "potentially high-risk strategy" to believe outer-Brisbane hospitals can pick up the slack. An internal report last year warned: "If further beds for QCH cannot be afforded, the only option will be to have strategies in place to enhance secondary level pediatric services at Logan, Redlands, Ipswich and Prince Charles hospitals. "This will require additional capital and recurrent funding for those hospitals and a reprioritisation within the Area Health Service Plans."

Then came the bombshell: "There is currently no capital planning under way for enhancements to emergency departments or pediatric in-patient capacity within the planning time frame for the QCH. The worst-case scenario for QCH is that it is built with too few beds and too small an emergency department on the assumption that these services will be provided elsewhere, and then the required capacity elsewhere is not delivered."


Friday, January 30, 2009

Bone idle police again

This story is from the Northern Territory but it reflects my own experience with the Queensland police. When I gave the police an ID card from one of the people who had stolen my car, they were not interested -- because the person concerned had no "record". One wonders how you get a "record" in that case. The police are mainly interested in very easy work -- such as lurking at the bottom of hills to catch unwary motorists who naturally speed up in such places. It takes publicity to get them off their fat behinds

A thief left a crucial piece of evidence - his mobile phone containing all his personal details - at the scene of an attempted burglary. But police are yet to interview the man, despite the owner of the business targeted passing on the phone and all of the offender's details more than a month ago. Text messages on the phone even indicated plans of a possible heist. One message was sent asking the recipient if they had any bolt cutters. Another gave the Darwin address as to where to pick him up from at 11pm.

QAL Transport owner-manager Ken Conlon said it was ridiculous the thief and his co-offenders were allowed to commit crimes and still walk the streets. He is now threatening his own vigilante justice. "It is just amazing - all the information is there in their (police) hands," he said. "I thought they would have got these bludgers by now and they haven't. "I have all their phone numbers, I know their addresses and I have his bank details. I even have a good description of the car they were in and the registration number. "How much more information do the police need?" Mr Conlan said police had told him that his case was not a priority as the alleged offenders had no prior offences.

When the Northern Territory News asked NT Police about the matter yesterday, police said they were investigating. "Evidence left at the scene has been examined by investigators and a number of persons of interest have been identified, which members of the Commander's Tactical Team are following up on," police said in a statement. "Investigators prioritise their investigations in order of severity or links with crime series."

The now phoneless thief and two co-offenders broke into the QAL Transport depot on Nebo Rd, Berrimah, about 1.30am on December 23. A truck driver for the company arrived at the headquarters to start his early morning shift and interrupted the trio as they scoured a courier van on the premises filled with alcohol and cigarettes. Mr Conlon said the would-be thieves quickly scampered off into the darkness, jumping through a hole they had cut in the back wire fence and fleeing in a car. He said the thieves had stacked up a pile of spirits and cigarettes but left empty handed, thanks to the truck driver arriving when he did. Mr Conlon said police had not even interviewed or taken a statement from his driver. "I don't want to criticise the cops as they have a tough job, but if I went and stole $20 from the post office down the road they would be arresting me straight away," he said.


The Greenie menace at work again: Water tanks help spread of dengue fever

Because Greenies go ballistic at plans to build dams, politicians are very slow to build them. So we have water shortages. And the very expensive "solution" to that -- promoted by the government -- is for each house to have its own rainwater tank. Talk about "drought" below is a coverup. It rains every couple of days where I live -- which must be the world's strangest "drought" -- but we still have severe restrictions on water usage and subsidies for people to buy household tanks. But the cost of the tanks is not the only problem:

Backyard water tanks, a key weapon for Australian households in the battle against drought and climate change, may prove a double-edged sword if they help the mosquito that spreads dengue fever to penetrate deep into southern and inland Australia. Melbourne researchers who set out to measure how much further the dengue mosquito might spread as the climate heats up discovered that water hoarding by households was likely to prove a much bigger help to the insect. The species responsible for spreading dengue in Australia, Aedes aegypti, is largely confined to Townsville, Cairns and Queensland's far north, where two outbreaks of dengue are continuing to worsen.

There have now been 198 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Cairns and 21 in Townsville, according to figures released last night. The Townsville outbreak is particularly alarming because two of the four types of dengue are circulating simultaneously, raising the risk that someone will suffer a potentially fatal second infection.

Scientists from Melbourne University say climate change and evolutionary adaptation are making more of Australia habitable for the insect, but human behaviours may be smoothing the mosquito's path even more. "While we predict that climate change will directly increase habitat suitability throughout much of Australia, the potential indirect impact of changed water storage practices by humans in response to drought may have a greater effect," the authors write.

Lead researcher and zoology lecturer Michael Kearney said there had been a "dramatic increase" in domestic rainwater storage in response to drought. "Water tanks and other water storage vessels, such as modified wheelie bins, are potential breeding sites for this disease-bearing mosquito," Dr Kearney said. "Without due water-storage hygiene, this indirect effect of climate change via human adaptation could dramatically re-expand the mosquito's range." Dr Kearney said the findings did not mean water tanks should be avoided. Instead, it was important for householders to realise the tanks should be properly sealed to prevent mosquito access, which meant avoiding improvised or badly made tanks and opting for versions that met Australian standards. "Australian-standard water tanks have brass mesh protecting the inlet and outlet valves, which are less likely to degrade," he said.

About 100 years ago, Aedes aegypti was more widespread, being found in Darwin and Broome, along the east coast as far south as Sydney, inland to Bourke and even in Perth. Its range diminished through the last decades of the 20th century for reasons not well understood, but Dr Kearney said his team's work suggested the removal of old galvanised water tanks and installation of town water supplies may have helped.

The invention of insecticides and even lawnmowers may also have played a part by encouraging householders to keep gardens under better control and to clear away discarded pots and other receptacles that could provide the mosquito with a place to lay eggs.

Queensland Institute of Medical Research's Tim Hurst has studied water storage in Brisbane households and how this might affect mosquito breeding. "About 50 per cent of the houses we surveyed have rainwater tanks, but about 30 per cent of those are collecting water in other containers -- such as buckets and wheelie bins," he said. [You would do that too if you were forbidden by law to water your garden]


Church schools to be allowed to ban homosexual staff in South Australia

CHURCH schools will retain the right to refuse to employ gay teachers in South Australia under a watering-down of proposed anti-discrimination laws. Religious schools also will retain the right to prevent students, who belong to a non Christian religion, from wearing the dress or adornments of that religion at school.

The new Bill, which replaces a controversial 2006 Bill, gives employers a loophole under which they can refuse to employ people wearing religious dress, such as burkas, by allowing them to set "reasonable" standards of workplace dress. Proposed legislation to make the changes is set down for debate when Parliament resumes on Tuesday. That follows nearly three years of debate and intense behind-the-scenes negotiations between Labor and the Opposition.

Under the old Bill, church schools wanting an exemption to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality were required to lodge a copy of their policy with the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and make it available to current and prospective staff, students and parents. That has been watered down so schools only will need to have a written policy available on inquiry and publish it on their website if they have one. Other proposed changes include:

RAISING the age limit from 12 to 16 under which a student can make a formal sexual harassment complaint.

DROPPING a proposed unlawful act of victimisation if a person were to "engage in a public act inciting hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person or group".

DELETING part of the Bill which made it an offence to discriminate on the grounds of where a person lived.

LIMITING discrimination on the grounds of caring responsibilities to those looking after immediate family members while the original Bill had a much wider coverage.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Isobel Redmond said the Liberals, who supported large sections of the original Bill, would decide their position at a shadow cabinet meeting next week.



Three current news reports below

Big deal: NSW hospital death "not from lack of beds or staff"

But it obviously WAS due to insufficient diagnostic testing -- scans etc. There is no reason why diagnostic imaging could not have been done same day. That was once routine and still is in some hospitals

The NSW Government has apologised to the family of a man who died a day after being discharged from hospital, but says his death was not due to a lack of beds or medical staff. Brendan Burns, 24, was discharged from Griffith Base Hospital on Monday with a bad headache and died the following day at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital from an undiagnosed brain tumour. Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS) Chief Executive Heather Gray yesterday said the matter was being investigated, and would also be referred to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Health Minister John Della Bosca today apologised to Mr Burns' family but said his death was not linked to staffing levels nor patient capacity at Griffith. "I extend my commiserations to his family, I feel deeply sorry that this has happened," Mr Della Bosca said. "All the evidence I have is that there was a great deal of professional skill involved in the handling of the case. "My advice is there was no bed shortage ... there was no staff shortage."

GSAHS said the man arrived at Hay Hospital on Sunday and was transferred to Griffith Base Hospital on Monday. He was discharged in the early hours of Monday, went home and returned to Hay Hospital that same morning. Later on Monday, the man was flown from Hay Hospital to St Vincent's where he died on Tuesday.


Woman left lying in agony on NSW hospital floor

Tammy Hams thought she was "going to die" when she was offered a blanket and told to lie on a waiting room floor because staff at her local hospital could not find her a bed. Ms Hams was booked in for surgery at Wyong Hospital to remove possible cancerous lesions when doctors discovered a huge abscess causing "agonising pain". The 29-year-old said she spent 3« hours writhing in agony on the waiting room floor of the hospital's surgical ward on Wednesday before she was eventually given a bed. Staff at the hospital "categorically deny" her claims. [But see picture above]

The incident comes amid yet another hospital outrage, in which a 24-year-old man was discharged from Griffith Hospital early on Monday after complaining of sinus pain. The following day he again presented to the hospital and was flown immediately to Sydney's St Vincent's where he died from unknown causes. Greater Southern Health has launched an investigation into why he was discharged. And in Dubbo, doctors are threatening to quit because they routinely run out of basic medications.

Ms Hams said her GP had been trying to get her into hospital since Friday when she began feeling stabbing pains in her stomach. A biopsy four months ago revealed pre-cancerous lesions on her cervix, which if left would turn cancerous. "I thought I was going to die," Ms Hams told The Daily Telegraph yesterday from her hospital bed. "I have never been in that much pain in my life - it was agony."

She was booked-in for a hysterectomy and told to arrive at 9am. Her mother Jenny Leatham said she was "crying and doubled-over in pain" and could not sit on the waiting room chairs or stand, so they pleaded for a bed. "They gave her a blanket and said the best she could do was lie on the floor," Mr Leatham said. "The staff were so nice and you could see they were upset about what was happening. This is just unfair, I'm not rubbishing the staff. There just wasn't enough beds. "The system has to change."

A North Sydney Central Coast Health spokeswoman said an investigation found there was no shortage of beds and Ms Hams was "treated in a caring and timely manner". "It is unacceptable for a patient to be expected to lie on the floor and staff on duty when Ms Hams arrived at the hospital deny making any such recommendation," the spokeswoman said. The hospital argues she was assessed by an anaesthetist at 10.10am and that she asked for the blanket.

Mrs Leatham said by 12.30pm staff found her daughter a bed and she was operated on at 2pm. When surgeons cut her open they discovered a huge abscess pushing on her cervix. Unable to perform the hysterectomy they removed as much of the infection as they could and inserted a tube to drain it over the next seven to 10 days.

"If the abscess had burst while she was in the waiting room she would have died," Mrs Leatham said.

Wyong Hospital is just one of the state's many hospitals plagued with debt, bed shortages and a lack of specialist doctors. Last week its emergency department - one of the busiest in the state - lost all but one of its specialist doctors to Gosford Hospital so it could retain its status as a teaching hospital.

Senior doctors at Dubbo Base Hospital threatened to walk off the job after they ran out of morphine because the hospital could not afford to pay pharmaceutical companies. Patients in intensive care also sweltered for days in record temperatures because contractors could not be paid to fix the air conditioning.

The Greater Western Area Health Service reportedly owes more than $23 million to suppliers. Many are no longer prepared to provide food or medical equipment. The situation across the state is expected to get far worse before it gets any better. A report by auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers last month revealed the state's health budget would blow out by as much as $900 million by March if dramatic changes were not made.


Queensland public hospitals have worst record for killing, maiming patients, botched operations

Queensland Health is a most obnoxious bureaucracy to work for so they are able to attract high quality staff in relatively small numbers only. The rest are often the dregs with nowhere else to go -- and it shows in the quality of their work

QUEENSLAND hospitals have the nation's worst published record for killing or maiming their patients through botched operations, medication errors and other mistakes. And NSW is one of the safest, reporting a third fewer serious errors despite its larger population.

The figures, released in a Productivity Commission report, provide a rare state-by-state breakdown of so-called "sentinel events" - the most preventable and potentially deadly mistakes that occur every year in the nation's hospitals, The Australian reports. Last year, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care reported that sentinel events - ranging from discharging an infant to the wrong family to suicides by admitted patients - more than doubled nationally in 2006-07 compared with a year earlier.

The mistakes accounted for just 10 per cent of serious hospital errors recorded by the states and territories but made public only selectively. But of the 187 deadly or damaging lapses in judgment or procedure made public yesterday, Queensland accounted for over a quarter of the national total.

Its hospitals carried out procedures on the wrong patient or body part an alarming 33 times in 2006-07. They killed another six patients through medication errors, seriously injured or killed four mothers in childbirth, left surgical instruments or material inside three patients, and transfused incompatible blood once.

The next worst offender was Victoria (45), which was slammed by its Auditor-General last year for failing to adequately monitor hospital blunders. Some 135,000 patients - or one in 10 public hospital patients - in that state had endured a medical mistake, with more errors believed to have gone unreported. South Australia, with 36 sentinel events, was next in line, followed by NSW (32), Western Australia (15), the ACT (7), the Northern Territory (2) and Tasmania (1).

"A high number of sentinel events may indicate hospital systems and process deficiencies that compromise the quality and safety of public hospitals," the Productivity Commission said. The willingness to report major mistakes could also influence the totals, it noted.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amid all its problems, Qantas is running around like a headless chook

Wotta lotta crap the story below is. It is more money spent on engineering inspections and maintenance that is needed, not more talk. Passengers are a lot more worried about bits falling off the aircraft than they are about the brightness of someone's smile. And how about having enough check-in desks open so that passengers can board without waiting in line for an hour or more? And WTF has wine appreciation got to do with any of QANTAS's problems? John Borghetti must be another typically clueless business-school graduate. It sounds to me like Qantas is headed the way of the now defunct Ansett -- a once great Australian airline that also lost its way

QANTAS is about to send 18,000 staff, from the chief executive down, back to school as part of a massive push to boost customer service standards. A high-tech $10 million training facility, which opened yesterday in Sydney, is at the centre of the strategy to propel the Qantas brand back to the top.

The move comes after a horror year for the airline where delays and maintenance problems battered its reputation with travellers, The Australian reports. Up to a third of its planes ran late and cancellations sky-rocketed as a result of an industrial row with engineers. It also comes as full-service airlines, which face a downturn in premium passengers because of the economic crisis, are being forced to compete more fiercely to fill business and first class seats.

The new Centre of Service Excellence brings all Qantas customer service training under one roof and covers areas ranging from makeup and grooming to telesales, check-in procedures and wine appreciation. Facilities include a 126-seat auditorium, four cabin-crew training pods that simulate aircraft environments and a hi-tech area where staff can send suggestions to management using interactive screens. It also features "customer experience zones", demonstrating the environments that passengers in various classes, and on various arms of Qantas, experience in the course of their journey.

Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti, who will be the first top executive to undergo training, said one of the main changes Qantas passengers could expect as a result of the new centre was more consistency in the airline's customer service. He said customer service would be a big differentiator for airlines competing for high-end customers in difficult times.


Big Four Australian banks join global elite

THE crisis in the financial system catapulted all four majors into the ranks of the top 20 global banks for the first time. As a result Australia's big banks are expect to grab new business opportunities and draw the attention of more international investors, The Australian reported.

Although shares in the Big Four banks have collapsed more than 50 per cent in the past year, with new multi-year lows struck on Friday, they have stood up far better than their UK and US counterparts.

Despite pressure on their funding and bad-loan books, they remain highly profitable while banks overseas seek government handouts, are nationalised or allowed to collapse. In the US alone, the global shake-up means Australia's four largest banks, which have retained their AA rating, are now considered some of the biggest in the world.

The banks believe their newfound status will increase their participation in markets such as foreign exchange trading, where opportunities in the past have been limited because of the presence of bigger global players.

The elevation in world rankings has brought extra attention from fund managers, particularly in the US, and the banks expect more share buying from overseas institutions.

Westpac has already experienced an increase in foreign exchange deals, with a sharp surge in the number of $1billion-plus transactions being carried out by the bank's trading desk.

On stock market capitalisation, Westpac is now considered the world's ninth-largest bank, with a worth of $US28.2 billion ($43.2 billion), ahead of Commonwealth Bank at No15, National Australia Bank at No17 and ANZ at No19. Remarkably, all four Australian banks now rank ahead of past giants such as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley in the US, Barclays in Britain and Deutsche Bank in Germany. There are now only 13 AA-rated banks in the world, compared with 20 when the global financial crisis emerged.

The world's largest bank is now HSBC, the British institution, which is worth four times the average value of an Australian bank, while US banks JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are next according to market capitalisation.

The renewed bout of fear about financial system stability, particularly in Britain, has decimated the value of a number of global institutions. The headline British banks of Lloyds, Halifax Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays are now worth about half of the Australian banks.

One of the largest casualties among the banks but still afloat is Citigroup, which was once the world's biggest bank but is now worth just $US15 billion and ranks No22.

Westpac head of institutional banking Phil Chronican said the maintenance of the bank's market capitalisation and value compared with its international peers had increased its reputation and knowledge among major institutional investors.

He said Westpac's move to being a stronger counterparty risk holder had brought increased foreign exchange market participation. "I don't think any of us had been in the top 40 banks until relatively recently," Mr Chronican said. "With the merger of St George being quite large, we've attracted the attention of our global peers and larger customers. We are finding more and more that we are quoting for large foreign exchange transactions. The customers have large amounts of money to move, more than $1billion in individual transactions. They have become much more frequent for us. We are seen to have counterparty stability."

Mr Chronican said Westpac's foreign exchange business would grow as the bank snared more international deals among fund managers and hedge funds. "The FX (foreign exchange) business is increasingly profitable because there are fewer banks and the pricing is more competitive and intensive," he said. "One of our strongest improving businesses has been in FX because of the margins and volume."

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch banking analyst Matthew Davison said the Australian banks were now large enough to be seen as serious contenders for overseas expansion, although it was more likely the majors would concentrate on the Australian market.

Bank stocks led a massive fall on the Australian share market on Friday, with NAB hitting its lowest level for almost 12 years after a $1.17, 6.5 per cent slide to $16.94.

Others also hit record lows -- ANZ its worst for nine years at $12.06 and Westpac and the Commonwealth their worst for six years -- on fears about the global economy.

US and British banks, which unlike Australian banks are not protected by a ban on short-sellers, collapsed last week, ahead of a second round of bailouts by the British and incoming US governments.


As government schools steadily deteriorate, guess what parents do?

They have been doing the same sort of thing in Britain and the USA for many years

PARENTS are buying houses in areas close to desirable schools and intervening more than ever to ensure their children are positioned for success in their education, University of Sydney research has found. The belief that bright children will do well at any school has been superseded with distrust in leaving anything to chance. Anxious middle-class parents have become more proactive in making sure their children enrol in "the best" school, whether measured by academic or cultural standards.

Frustration had displaced any sense of entitlement Anglo-Australians once felt in sending their children to selective high schools, a tradition that could no longer "be handed down along with the family silver". This had given way to resentment with the growing role coaching colleges played in helping students, particularly those from Asian-Australian families, gain selective school entry.

Despite feeling that coaching colleges were beneath them and a form of "cheating", some Anglo-Australian families admitted they had "given in" and commissioned their services, or had drilled their children on past selective school entry test papers, even if only the once.

The findings are based on 1350 surveys and 63 interviews with parents of year 7 students. The researchers, Craig Campbell, Helen Proctor and Geoffrey Sherington, also examined Australian census data from 1976 to 2001 for their new book, School Choice: How Parents Negotiate The New School Market In Australia.

The research highlights a shift in middle-class attitudes towards education as a commodity. Those committed to the public school system felt upset that they were being "forced" into non-government schools because of insufficient government investment in state schools. Satisfaction with the local school was more common in middle-class areas where some families had moved for no other purpose than securing a school enrolment.

Associate Professor Campbell, from the University of Sydney's faculty of education, said middle-class families interviewed for the project had expressed firm ideas about where their children should go to school. Those with the resources were moving to the catchment areas, such as Sydney's Hills District, to be near reputable public schools. Those who did not were often opting for low-fee Catholic and Christian schools despite having no religious convictions. "A good government school was still the first choice for most people," Associate Professor Campbell said, "but a lot of people are feeling frustrated that it is decreasingly available to them."

A mother of two young daughters who lives in the Ryde area yesterday told the Herald that she was considering moving to another suburb because her only choice of public school catered to a majority of children who spoke Mandarin as their first language. Her comments were given on the condition of anonymity because she was "all for multiculturalism" and did not want to "appear racist". "The school is focused on getting the kids into selective schools and there isn't much attention given to things like dance and sport," she said.

Working-class parents were generally more willing to respect their children's wishes by sending them to the same school as their friends. "Parents feel they have to intervene more than they have in the past," Associate Professor Campbell said. "The pressure has really racked up."

Meanwhile, the NSW Department of Education was yesterday embarrassed by a series of newspaper advertisements which incorrectly stated classes for the new school year started next Tuesday instead of today.


Labor's plan is having a lend of us all

Why on earth is the Rudd government intent of propping up commercial propertty owners? Is that the best thing they can do with taxpayers' money??

ALTHOUGH the details of the Government's proposed lending facility for commercial property are not yet known, it is fair to say that what is known raises more questions than answers.

At its simplest, why would supporting loans to developers of shopping centres and other forms of commercial property be a particular priority of policy? The vast bulk of loans relate to assets that already exist or are at advanced stages of development. When commercial property prices fall, the owners of those assets take a loss, while the purchasers of the assets, and the assets' users (that is, tenants) make a gain. As revenues from the buildings almost invariably continue to exceed the buildings' operating costs, the assets continue to be operated, so the real flow of services to the economy is unchanged.

Obviously, reductions in commercial property prices force banks to write down the value of their property investments. In practice, the impacts are likely to be very small, as most of the banks' commercial property loans have been securitised and are no longer on the banks' books.

But even putting that aside, any such impacts are no different from those that occur when prices fall for the many other asset classes that banks have invested in or relied upon as collateral. Should the result threaten the adequacy of banks' capital base, the right policy response is to facilitate the banks' recapitalisation, rather than artificially propping up the price of one particular kind of asset. Directly facilitating recapitalisation would be far more transparent and far less distorting of the pattern of asset prices in the economy as a whole.

With commercial property accounting for some 12 per cent of the investments made by Australian super funds, reductions in commercial property prices would also have an impact on the funds and especially on those that have been negligent or tardy in writing down the value of their property investments. It is understandable that the Government would be concerned about the resulting write-downs. But moving to a policy of trying to control asset prices is a very big call; and it seems foolish to get into that game by targeting the prices of one and only one class of asset, and a relatively minor one at that, for the purpose of protecting funds that are so poorly managed that they have failed to properly disclose the deteriorating quality of their balance sheet.

All this is not to deny that credit restrictions will result in some development projects for commercial property being cancelled or deferred. But the projects at risk are those that are most marginal and whose value to the economy has in fact diminished as growth has slowed. It makes no sense for the Government to prevent those cancellations and deferrals from occurring, all the more so as our economy, whatever its defects, is hardly short of office blocks.

This is especially the case as commercial property values are notoriously cyclical. Developers know this, and most developers hedge their position by securing anchor tenants (such as large supermarket chains in the case of shopping centres) to underpin their revenue base and their ability to secure finance. By intervening to prop up the market, the Government sends all the wrong signals, both in the short run and in the longer term.

In the short run, the scheme seems likely to induce developers to play off their existing foreign lenders against the safety net the scheme provides. This could accelerate the very withdrawal of foreign lenders the scheme is intended to guard against, while allowing developers to secure some free kicks on the basis of what amounts to taxpayer-funded insurance.

As for the longer run, the risk is that of protecting precisely those developers who did not take adequate precautions, while signalling to others the likelihood of government bailouts. The result will be to make property markets more, rather than less, cyclical.

What about the impact on jobs? This seems a furphy. To begin with, changes in the value of existing assets in no way directly alter employment prospects. Indeed, were rents to fall, business costs would be reduced and that might improve conditions across a wide range of sectors. True, the development projects that would otherwise not occur may create some jobs. But why would those jobs be any more valuable than the jobs that could be created by using the $2 billion for other purposes, including cutting economically distorting taxes?

The Government claims that taxpayers will make money from its proposed investments. This claim seems difficult to believe, especially when account is taken of the high level of risk involved in what are likely to be the most marginal commercial property projects in Australia. Funds devoted to those projects need to earn a return far above the bond rate if they are to cover their economic costs: and that is precisely why banks, foreign or domestic, are reluctant to underwrite them. If the Government has credible estimates that show it can do better as an investor than the commercial banks, with their many years of experience in real estate lending, it should make those estimates public. Until it does, taxpayers will have every right to be sceptical.

At the end of the day, the only sense one can make of the proposed fund is as a wealth transfer: from taxpayers to property developers, banks and the managers of the most poorly run superannuation schemes that would otherwise have had to incur reductions in asset values. If forcing taxpayers, most of whom have low incomes, to underwrite the incomes of property developers and financiers is not "extreme capitalism", it is very difficult to know what is.


More Greenie foot-shooting

Imported biofuel a threat to trees and wildlife. Just about all Greenie policies these days are destructive in one way or another.

AUSTRALIA is contributing directly to the widespread destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia by importing millions of tonnes of taxpayer-subsidised biodiesel made from palm oil. Imports of the fuel are rising, undermining the Rudd Government's $200 million commitment to reduce deforestation in the region - a problem that globally contributes to 20 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. The bulldozing of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is also putting further pressure on orangutans and other endangered wildlife throughout Southeast Asia. And the Australian biofuels industry says it is struggling to compete with the cheap imports from Asia, which are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel.

Without action, the problem will only get worse, with demand for biodiesel imports likely to rise sharply when NSW legislates to introduce Australia's first biodiesel mandate - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available. But the Rudd Government is likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of other Western nations in banning imports of palm oil-based biodiesel. Biodiesel manufacturers in Australia use primarily tallow from abattoirs and recycled cooking oil.

Caltex, the biggest biodiesel customer in Australia, refuses to use palm oil-based fuel on environmental grounds, but it is being imported by independent operators. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who is conducting a review of government assistance to the biofuels industry, declined to comment on whether he was aware of the Asian biodiesel imports.

Unlike imported ethanol, imported biodiesel is not subject to the 38.14c-a-litre fuel excise, so the biodiesel imports from Asia are effectively subsidised by Australian taxpayers. Rex Wallace, the chief financial officer of the Adelaide-based Environmentally Friendly Fuels, said his company had purchased five million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel in recent years. "We would not need to import it if people could produce a quality product on a regular basis in Australia," he said. "We would love to buy more local produce but it's just not there." Mr Wallace said his company imported from certified plantations in Malaysia that had been developed on land cleared historically for other purposes such as rubber plantations.

Australian Biodiesel Group chief executive Bevan Dooley said the industry estimated that 10million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel was imported a year. "Europe and the US are closing the gates on this product, but Australian taxpayers are subsidising its import," Mr Dooley said. He said it was difficult to establish if certified plantations were environmentally friendly, and Australian imports were helping to fuel demand worldwide for "environmentally destructive" biodiesel from Malaysia and Indonesia. "These imports are causing many Australian producers to suffer losses and are detrimental to the establishment of a biodiesel industry in Australia," Mr Dooley said. "Australia is seen as a dumping ground for palm oil-based biodiesel as there is no requirement for the fuel to be derived from sustainable resources." He said there was ample capacity in Australia to meet demand.

The Australian industry produces about 50million litres of biodiesel a year, but has the capacity to produce much more. About 80 million litres will be needed annually to meet a 2 per cent mandate in NSW. Indonesia has about 6 million hectares of palm oil plantation and Malaysia 4.5 million ha. Indonesia plans to double palm oil production by 2025 and is developing a plantation of 1.8 million ha in east Kalimantan. To make way for the plantation, the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Kalimantan is being bulldozed, with the loss of habitat for orangutans, clouded leopards and other rare animals.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is worried about the future for highly-skilled employment in Australia

A new Hitler Jugend?

OK. That heading is a bit unfair. I think Kevvy is a bit misguided but I don't think he is a bad man at all. It is however entirely in keeping that a Leftist would have a scheme to organize the nation's youth into some form of government-run youth organization. There was the Hitler Jugend, Stalin's Komsomol, Putin's "Nashi" and Obama also has proposed something of the sort. Kevvy's version, however, seems reasonable enough, though undoubtably socialistic (government-run)

Kevin Rudd wants to recruit an army of young volunteers to help the elderly, feed the homeless, and clean up the environment. In exchange for giving up their time, members of the new Community Corps would get discounts on their university HECS debts. The proposal could attract tens of thousands of volunteers from the 1.3 million Australians with a higher education debt. The average ex-student has a $12,000 HECS debt, which typically takes more than seven years to pay off. The scheme could wipe out students' debts as they accumulate hours of community service, the Herald Sun reports.

The plan, backed by top business minds and embraced by community and welfare groups, emerged from the Prime Minister's 2020 summit. The Government is expected to adopt it within days when it releases its final 2020 summit report.

Mr Rudd, who has pleaded for Australians to pull together to beat the rapidly worsening economic downturn, has described the idea as "a very practical trade". Corps members could deliver meals on wheels, youth and Aboriginal services, become volunteer firefighters, or assist the disabled and elderly. Landcare and water projects could also benefit. It is understood the Corps would operate within Australia, unlike the US Peace Corps, which works on projects across the globe.

The plan is believed to be one of about six big ideas from the 2020 summit to get the green light. After the summit, Mr Rudd said: "We need more volunteering in the community, and students are emerging from university with a whole lot of debt. "The idea . . . where young people would go out and provide voluntary service in the community in exchange for reducing their HECS debt . . . is one we want to consider."

Brotherhood of St Lawrence chief executive Tony Nicholson said there would be plenty for Community Corps members to do. "It could range from assisting with recreational programs to driving a community bus, to assisting disadvantaged people get to the doctor or do their shopping," he said. Mr Nicholson said those with special skills, such as IT graduates, would be particularly useful.

When the idea was floated at the summit, the architect of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, Prof Bruce Chapman, said it would appeal to wealthier students. Poorer students, he said, would probably prefer to enter the paid workforce.


It's happened again! Tiny baby found alone, abandoned and screaming in a closed childcare centre

This is gross negligence on the part of staff. I have always said that the only place for little children is in a loving home but this just reinforces that

A woman broke the window of a Darwin childcare centre with a brick when she arrived to find the building locked, the lights out and her tiny son trapped inside. Yula Williams, 30, said she could hear her eight-month-old baby Xavier "screaming and crying". "It made me terrified to know that my son was inside the centre, locked and in the dark," she said.

Ms Williams had dropped her son off at the centre in the Darwin suburb of Wagaman around 8am (CST) on Tuesday and went to work. She had dropped her car off at a local mechanic and arranged for one of her cousins to collect her son from the centre before it closed at 6pm (CST). But when she arrived home later that night her son was not at the house. "It was just a mother's instinct that I went back to the childcare centre and looked around," she said.

Ms Williams arrived at the centre shortly before 6pm but staff had already left the building. After scanning all the the security screens the frantic mother climbed the back of the building to call Xavier's name through elevated slats. "I couldn't hear him from the outside but when I walked around and called through the vents to the bedrooms I heard him scream," she told ABC radio in Darwin. Desperate to get to her tiny son, Ms Williams then picked up a brick from the garden bed and smashed it through a window. Police arrived at the scene about 7.30pm (CST) after they were called by one of the mother's relatives, who told them a baby was missing.

St John Ambulance officers also attended the centre to ensure the child was in good health. They gave Xavier the all-clear.

Ms Williams said that while she could understand the misunderstanding with her relative over the pickup arrangements, she could not understand how the centre had not called her to let her know that no-one had come to collect her son. Police said they were continuing to conduct investigations into the incident.


More photography madness

"Bordering on the absurd" understates it

A Perth library has declined to display an inoffensive photograph of two toddlers because of fears of a post-Henson backlash. Earlier this month, photographer Nicole Boenig McGrade submitted her picture, Kids in Suburbia, for an exhibition. Concerned that the photo might prompt complaints, the exhibition organiser suggested it be left out and Boenig McGrade agreed. The photographer declined to name the venue yesterday, but The Australian has since confirmed it is the Subiaco Library.

"They're just being cautious and I can understand that because no one wants to be put in a position where they might cause other people to be upset," said Boenig McGrade. But she said she was shocked to think her photo of two children playing on the footpath outside their WA home might be considered offensive. "This is an image of Australian lifestyle -- this is who we are. Children are part of our history and that's how I see my photographs," she said.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows an 18-month-old boy and his three-year-old sister, both with their shirts off. Their parents asked Boenig McGrade, a mother of two, to take the image, and they attended the photo session.

Library manager Colleen Harris is on leave and unavailable for comment, but it is understood that she was also concerned about the Australia Council's new protocols for artists working with children, released on January 1. The protocols, introduced after last year's national furore over Bill Henson's photographs of naked children, do not apply to Boenig McGrade because she receives no government funding.

Executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said yesterday the council protocols would hinder artistic freedom. "Because of justified anxiety over the protection of children, what we're seeing here is a complete overreaction which is bordering on the absurd now," she said.

Australia Council chief executive Kathy Keele last night defended the guidelines. "I certainly hope -- and it's been our intention all along -- that this does not exclude children from our arts body of work in Australia," she said. "But we will all have to work hard to interpret what's in front of us, and talk about what it means." [More talk is not what is needed. The deficit is of realism and commonsense]


University Dismisses Climate Change Sceptic

It is common for Australian academics to publicly express an opinion on climate change including in our newspapers; think Tim Flannery, Ian Lowe and more recently Barry Brook. A couple of weeks ago Jon Jenkins, an Adjunct Professor at Bond University, had an opinion piece published by The Australian newspaper. The piece was critical of the accepted dogma on anthropogenic global warming with a focus on how global temperatures are recorded and ended with a comment on sustainable development:
"Science is only about certainty and facts. The real question is in acknowledging the end of fossil fuels within the next 200 years or so: how do we spend our research time and dollars? Do we spend it on ideologically green-inspired publicity campaigns such as emissions-trading schemes based on the fraud of the IPCC, or do we spend it on basic science that could lead us to energy self-sufficiency based on some combination of solar, geothermal, nuclear and renewable sources? The alternative is to go back to the stone age."

Interestingly Bond University has a new name for its business and IT faculties, The Faculty of Business, Technology & Sustainable Development, but apparently didn't like Professor Jenkins' very public opinion on the subject of sustainable development. For his opinion, Professor Jenkins received an official reprimand from the Bond University Registrar and then was informed last Friday that his adjunct status had been revoked. No doubt he has contravened some rule or other at the University and no doubt this would have gone unnoticed if Professor Jenkins had a more popular opinion on these most politically charged subjects.



Three articles below

Another deadbeat public hospital in NSW

Outstanding bills which have seen a security firm threaten to withdraw its services from a rural NSW hospital will be paid within 24 hours, the state government says. Health Minister John Della Bosca said he had spoken to Greater Western Area Heath Service (GWAHS) chief executive Dr Claire Blizzard, who gave an assurance the bills would be paid imminently.

Heartland Security threatened to halt work at Parkes Hospital if the bills were not paid by today. The firm also has complained about a string of late payments by the health service last year.

"I've been advised by the GWAHS by Dr Blizzard ... that she will be paying within 24 hours the outstanding account to the security firm involved," Mr Della Bosca told reporters in Sydney.

The work performed by the security personnel includes escorting nurses to their cars at the end of a night shift, to offer protection against possibly violent patients. Mr Della Bosca said there were three outstanding bills from the security firm, and only one from November was outside the new benchmark of 43 days in which a bill should be paid. But the latest case of late-payment also follows reports of staff at Mudgee Hospital using petty cash to buy sausages after a butcher refused to supply further meat, and a cancellation of surgery at Orange Base Hospital when it ran out of syringes.

Mr Della Bosca said the outstanding accounts at the GWAHS totalled $60 million when he took on the health portfolio, and they now stood at $23 million. "It has more than halved in four months so that is a very good trend line,'' he said. "I expect that to continue. I expect the GWAHS will achieve the benchmarks that we require for payment of local businesses and suppliers.''


NSW Premier 'too busy' to deal with failing hospitals

Easy interpretation: His brain is so constipated with failed Leftist ideas that he hasn't got a clue what to do

Doctors at Dubbo Base Hospital have not been paid for weeks, nurses at Orange are using their own money to buy batteries for heart monitors and cake trays to dispense pills, and students in Mudgee have bought beds for the emergency department as more reports of the state's credit meltdown come to light. But a spokesman for Nathan Rees said yesterday the Premier was "too busy with other things" to deal with the issue. The Director-General of NSW Health, Debora Picone, refused to comment, saying the Greater Western Area Health Service "managed itself".

The area health service, which covers 56 per cent of the state, is in crisis after more reports that creditors are waiting up to six months to get paid, deliveries of food and medical supplies to hospitals have been cancelled and vital maintenance work, such as fixing blocked pipes and faulty lifts, is not being carried out.

About 12 creditors came forward yesterday, including one owed more than $16,000 for delivering fruit to remote hospitals and a nurse who was angry that several wards at Orange Base Hospital had been without paper towels, vital for infection control, for several weeks because unpaid suppliers had stopped deliveries

Their claims came after the Herald reported a Parkes security firm was threatening to withdraw its services if its $6000 bill was not settled within 24 hours. Its owner, Lindsay Harvey, said he was told yesterday his money would be in his bank account by this morning. Steve Miller, the owner of Country Fruit Distributors in Dubbo, owed $14,000 for three months, was also paid about $7000 yesterday after complaining to the Herald.

The chief executive of the Greater Western Area Health Service, Claire Blizard, said it was "clearly unacceptable that some creditors are facing these delays". "We have made progress in relation to the payment of creditors and in the past couple of months we have made a 50 per cent reduction in creditors owed money. This is not a problem that can be fixed overnight," she said.

Students from Mudgee High School ran car washes, charity balls and raffles to raise $20,000 for emergency department beds last year. "It's a bit of a shame really that in a country like ours, as rich as ours, that our Government's health system has to rely upon local community donations to keep the hospital running," the former school captain, Hannah Kempton, said. Three emergency trolleys were bought by the hospital's auxiliary last week after it raised more than $15,000 in raffles, while a football team paid for carpet in the maternity ward. "It would be nice if we didn't have to buy these things, but we do," the president of the auxiliary, Glenys Goodfellow, said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said it was unacceptable. "If people don't pay their speeding fines or taxes on time, then they get taken to court or there's some penalty. Why should the . Government think it's the exception?"


The hugely bureaucratized Queensland Health are such unpleasant people to work for that they have to employ any scum to fill the gaps that their bloodymindedness creates in their workforce

A Pakistan-trained doctor will face a tribunal after allegedly performing an unnecessary vaginal examination on a patient. The Queensland Medical Board referred Naseem Ashraf to the Health Practitioners Tribunal earlier this month, claiming he had engaged in "unsatisfactory professional conduct" that may require disciplinary action.

Ashraf, who is no longer registered as a doctor in Queensland, was working as a senior medical officer and anaesthetist at Mount Isa Base Hospital in October 2004 when the misconduct allegedly took place. It is alleged Ashraf performed an intra-vaginal examination on a woman who had visited him for a pre-anaesthetic consultation. The woman was due to undergo surgery one week later to remove abnormal cells detected during a routine pap smear.

According to a referral notice filed by the Queensland Medical Board in the Brisbane District Court, the vaginal examination was not required for a pre-anaesthetic assessment. The board also is claiming Ashraf did not gain the woman's consent before conducting the examination, or keep adequate medical records. Ashraf will face the tribunal at a later date.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Five reports from yesterday below. The mundane report of my own personal Australia day can be found here.

Australian patience with immigrant crime (despite official attempts to hide it) and demands for special treatment is beginning to run out

And, sadly, innocents get caught in the crossfire. And until the authorities start enforcing a "one rule for all" policy, the anger is going to get worse. Lebanese Muslims give particular offence to other Australians because of their frequently aggressive attitudes and a history of gang rapes among some of them. And Muslims tend to be big on demands for special treatment as Muslims, which offends traditionally egalitarian Australian attitudes

It was a day to celebrate all things Australian but it quickly descended into an afternoon of violence and racism echoing the ugly stain of the 2005 Cronulla riots in NSW. Once the embodiment of all things good about the country, Australia Day today became a scene of brawls and vandalism across NSW - with anger spreading from Shellharbour in the south to Port Macquarie in the north, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Wild brawls were also reported on the Gold Coast at Burleigh Beach, with hundreds of teenagers coming together in a series of violent confrontation on the popular family beach. The brawls occurred at about 3pm and a heavy police presence was on hand. Several arrests were made.

In the Sydney suburb of Manly [one of Sydney's most popular beaches], hundreds of youths draped in "Aussie pride" livery wore slogans declaring "f--k off we're full" as they smashed car windows and ran up the famous Corso targeting non-white shop keepers. A 18-year-old Asian female in one of the cars was showered with shattered glass, giving her numerous cuts to her arms. She was treated on the scene by ambulance officers. A taxi driven by a Sikh Indian was also targeted while an Asian shopkeeper was reportedly assaulted. Groups of men jumped up on cars chanting race hate to the terrified passengers within, and were heard singing "tits out for the boys" at passing girls and yelled "lets go f--k with these Lebs".

What started as chants of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" at 1pm (AEDT) had in an hour had developed the potential to resemble Cronulla Beach in 2005. By 3.30pm (AEDT) Manly Police called in the public order and riot squad and PolAir in an attempt to control the crowd, made up of a core group of troublemakers estimated by police about 80 drunks teenagers from out of town. By 4.30pm (AEDT) the rain came and the cooled tensions as police began to regain control. By the end three cars were damaged, one 16-year-old boy was charged with assaulting police, two 16-year-olds were cautioned for offensive behaviour and one cautioned for jumping into the water infront of the ferry.

Manly Superintendent Dave Darcy said group of teens came in from out of town. "We are significantly ramping up our investigative response and we're determined to hold these people to account for their behaviour," he said. "We've brought in some police from the areas where these people are from with their local knowledge in identifying these people. "If they came over to Manly seeking anonymity for their behaviour they're sadly mistaken."

Police were called to a report of a 30-person brawl on Shelly Beach Road at Port Macquarie while another 30 people were reportedly fighting on Towns St in Shellbarbour.


"Incorrect" T-shirts spark criticism

As the Territory was proudly celebrating our national day yesterday, a Darwin store was selling Australia Day shirts emblazoned with "racist" messages.

Little Ben Fox, 2, showed the world the Territory face we're proud of as he braved the rain to take part in the Australia Day fun run along with 2500 other Territorians. But at the same time, the Drunken Goat variety store in Casuarina was displaying a T-shirt in its front window proclaiming, "This is Australia. We eat meat, we drink beer, and we speak f#ckin English''. Another featured a picture of the Australian flag with the message "Support it or F#!K OFF''.

The manager of the store was unavailable to comment yesterday but community groups were outraged that the store would offer these shirts as part of their Australia Day window display. Africa-Australia Friendship Association president Judy Monkhouse said she was "appalled'' by the comments. "If indeed that's what they say, it is quite astonishing to see this in Darwin, in particular, which is celebrated for the fact that so many different ethnicities exist together in relative harmony,'' she said. Ms Monkhouse - a Zimbabwean-born english teacher - said the T-shirts "hark back to the days of Pauline Hanson''.

Greek Orthodox Community of North Australia president John Nicolakis said these shirts should have been "the last thing on display on Australia Day". "We all live in harmony and we're a lucky country," he said. "Things like that are only there to divide us - it should never have been on display."

Hakka Community Association president Henry Yap said he hoped people would not take them "seriously". "This was probably a light-hearted joke, but I wouldn't want to promote these things".

Opposition Leader Terry Mills said the items were "not acceptable". "It is not a good idea to ban such things, but I hope people don't buy it. Shame on anyone who would wear one."


Australia's charming Lebanese Muslim "refugees" once again?

There have been many reports of them carrying handguns -- something very little known among Australians generally. And they have of course the usual Muslim quickness to take great offence at any slight. In police jargon, "of Middle Eastern appearance" generally decodes as Lebanese Muslim

A man is dead after being shot twice in the back in a shocking outbreak of road rage. The 32-year-old father died slumped against his car after being hit in a hail of bullets during a confrontation on the Gold Coast Highway in Queensland. Police say the situation quickly escalated into a deadly standoff after one car crossed in front of another. The injured man died despite attempts by his mates, a nurse and an off-duty policewoman to save him.

About 20 detectives including Brisbane Homicide Squad officers are working on the case. The drama unfolded at Burleigh Heads last night and involved three people in the victim's car and three in another vehicle. Det Insp Marc Hogan said: "It would appear at this stage that the groups are unknown to each other but it has escalated very quickly and it's ended up the way it did. "It's a particularly nasty incident and obviously we are concerned for other people's safety."

He said both cars appeared to be travelling in the same direction and it appeared one crossed in front of the other. "It's as simple as that", he said. The man who was shot got out of his vehicle and the other car pulled alongside. Multiple shots were fired. Police said the dead man was in a relationship and was a father.

Detectives are looking for a red or maroon sedan and say one of the three people involved was of Middle Eastern appearance.


Record citizenship ceremonies on Australia day (26th Jan.) mark an Australian immigration success

It is undoubtedly true that Australia has successfully assimilated proportionately huge numbers of people from overseas, with minimal problems and notable enhancement of Australian life. Recent changes to the immigrant mix -- including for the first time substantial numbers of Africans and Muslims -- mean that the past is no guarantee of the future, however

Today, on the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship ceremonies, 13,000 Australian immigrants became lawful citizens of Australia. Over 300 citizenship ceremonies were held around the country, with Perth hosting the largest group at a record 1,881 people sworn into citizenship. Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans attended the ceremony, saying they were joining "four million others who have done it before you," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ceremony was the second-largest citizenship ceremony in Australia's history, and Senator Evans says it is all thanks to the achievements of the Australian immigration system. "We are a great success story," Senator Evans added. "You go anywhere in the world and they say no-one has done it better than Australia at settling and promoting the success of its migrants."

Being a multicultural nation, celebrations for Australians at Hyde Park included munching on Aussie beef burgers and snags (sausages), Turkish gozleme, Spanish paella, and Thai curries.

In Canberra, Leo Sayer, a British-born musician who became an Australian citizen today, said becoming an Australian citizen is better than getting a number-one hit, while in Adelaide, men from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association shouted "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi", and Samoan women wearing traditional Samoan dress danced to the beat of a drum. In Melbourne, Chinese dragons accompanied the People's March that used the theme "We are one, but we are many" as their focus. Perth will have the final celebrations in Australia, topped off with fireworks and a partial solar eclipse.

Over 90 countries were represented around Australia at the citizenship ceremonies, and Senator Evans reminded listeners at the ceremony it is an excellent opportunity to celebrate multiculturalism and to thank those who move to Australia for their contributions to Australian society. "It's a great day to think about what Australia means to you and what we can do to make Australia the great place it is.We have refugees and business migrants building Australia ... and tasting its success."

When a permanent resident of Australia has been lawfully resident for four years or longer, they may be eligible to become an Australian citizen. They must have remained in Australia for the twelve months prior to application as a permanent resident, and had no periods outside of Australia for longer than 12 months during those four years, including no absences of three months or more in the 12 months prior to application.

If the applicant has been confined in prison or a psychiatric institution for any period during their time of residence, they may not meet the residence requirements. Some residents may be exempt from the residence requirements as determined by the government, such as those who serve in the Australian army, navy or air force. The Government provides a Residence Requirements Calculator to help determine eligibility for Australian citizenship. Applicants must also prove that they are of good character.

The government will be holding events throughout the year to celebrate Australian citizenship.


Baz Luhrmann named UnAustralian of the year

Rather sad that it takes a popular girlie magazine to state the obvious. Disparaging Australia -- and even telling lies to do so -- may be popular with the Leftist elite but ordinary Australians despise such talk

BAZ Luhrmann has been named UnAustralian of the Year for his "embarrassment" of a film Australia by Zoo Weekly magazine. He topped the lads' mag poll ahead of cricket captain Ricky Ponting and boxer Danny Green, who was included for going on reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.

Luhrmann took out the top spot after his film was panned by critics and bombed at the international box office, Zoo editor Paul Merrill said. "Australia was supposed to be something to make all Aussies proud and sell the 'Lucky Country' to the world," Merrill said. "Instead it was an embarrassment. Turning our proud history into a dismal love story full of cliches is not something we'll forgive easily."


Monday, January 26, 2009

Toilet row - man sacked over bathroom habits

It is true that many Asians see the use of toilet paper as "dirty" and wash their bottoms instead. But let me say what is unsaid below: Asian lavatories are set up for washing. Australian lavatories are not. The result is that Asians following their customs in Australia tend to leave a lot of water on the floor around the toilet pedestal -- sometimes polluted water. And that makes it most unpleasant for other users. The company was entirely reasonable in protecting its employees from that. In the circumstances, it is rather a surprise that the union representative attacked the company. I don't think he represents his workers. Below is an excerpt from an email about the matter that I received from one North Queensland worker:

"The Yanks would call this a bum rap. I read this in the Courier Mail the other day. I am geting a bit sick of these bleeding hearts coming out backing these gippo pricks crying about cultural rights. If the union wanted to do something constructive they would be placing a ban on these muslim clerics preaching wife beating etc and calling for their immediate extradition. I don't know where all this, the average Aussie is tolerant and welcomes migrants, comes from. What a crock of sh*t. The government knows that the majority of Australians don't want these pricks in Australia but keep pandering to the rowdy miniority. No one is game to say to much in case they end up in court"

A Townsville man has been sacked for `un-Australian' toilet habits. Amador Bernabe, 43, uses water to clean himself instead of toilet paper. Mr Bernabe, a machine operator on a working visa from the Philippines, said it was his culture. But on Thursday he got the shock of his life when his foreman followed him into the toilet questioning his toilet hygiene.

Mr Bernabe said his employer Townsville Engineering Industries (TEI) sacked him yesterday for not going to the toilet the Australian way. TEI, which is located at the Bohle, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The move has angered union bosses and politicians on the Australia Day weekend.

"I went to go to the toilet and I took a bottle of water when my foreman saw me and he said `you can't bring the water in there'," Mr Bernabe said. "I asked why and he said it wasn't good but I said it's our way and he followed me into the toilet. "I said it's my personal hygiene. I didn't break any law, I didn't break any rules of the company, why can't I do this, and he said he would report me to the manager.

"The next morning when I came in I went to punch my time card and he told me the manager wanted to talk to me in his office. "He asked me what had happened and I explained to him and he said if I didn't follow the Australian way I would be immediately terminated and I said `sir, then you better terminate me'."

Australian Manufacturing Worker's Union state organiser Rick Finch said the incident was shocking. "I think it is atrocious, an invasion of a person's rights and cultural beliefs," he said. "The paradox of the toilet and a person's actions is something that no boss can even think about interfering with and the thought that bosses think they have the control to get involved in the toiletry is a gross invasion of an employee's privacy. "If it wasn't so disgusting it would almost be laughable." Mr Finch slammed the move as `bigoted'.

Greens spokeswoman Jenny Stirling praised Mr Bernabe for standing up for his rights. "I commend the man for standing up for himself and I encourage the employer to have further talks with the union and the employee and I am sure commonsense will prevail," she said. "I would like to see how Australians feel when they go to Europe where in places they don't have toilet paper."

Thuringowa MP Craig Wallace said the company should re-evaluate their priorities. "Employers should be worried how their business operates rather than what their employees do in the loo," he said. "I know in a number of cultures using paper to clean yourself is considered an offence because of their beliefs. "If he is being hygienic and not bothering anyone else then good luck to him."

Mr Finch said employers should be more tolerant of their employees, especially in Mr Bernabe's case where he has been brought to the country by TEI on a 457 visa. "At the end of the day we are a multicultural society and if they want to import workers then they need to be tolerant of other workers and other cultures," he said. "They don't own these workers, they are borrowed and hired to carry out a job. "The thought these bosses think they can lord it over these workers is insane. "What it shows is the company's complete arrogance for workers' rights."

Mr Bernabe, a father of four, had been with the company since April 2008 and said he had no problems until yesterday. "It's hard work but it is my skill so it is good," he said. "The only problem was yesterday."


Sorry Mick, but Australia Day date stays: Rudd

January 26, 1788 was when the first English settlers arrived in Australia. My relatives on my mother's side have celebrated the day with a get-together for many years. We did so over a BBQ lunch today. The celebration these day includes several members of Han Chinese descent but they wear symbols of Australiana as proudly as anyone

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said a "respectful" no to the call by Australian of the Year Mick Dodson for a "conversation" to change the date of Australia Day. Mr Rudd told a citizenship ceremony in Canberra he believed January 26 was a day all Australians could celebrate despite the historical origins of the day. "We're all in this together," he said. Mr Rudd paid tribute to Australia's indigenous heritage saying it was a "privilege" for non-indigenous Australians to share the country with indigenous Australians.

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has said any discussions aimed at changing the date would be "a long conversation''. Professor Dodson says many Aborigines view the First Fleet's arrival in 1788 as invasion day. "I'm not suggesting we move the date. I'm saying that we should have a conversation about that,'' Prof Dodson told Fairfax Radio today.

Mr Mundine, a former Labor national president, said it would be a worthwhile conversation, but a long one. "You don't just change a powerful, emotional and symbolic day like Australia Day on a whim or over night,'' he told Fairfax Radio. "Yes, we do have an issue with the 26th January we can't get away from, but I'm a realist. "If we are going to change the date we have to bring all Australians with us and it has to be a date that we can all be comfortable celebrating together. "And if that is going to happen, that is going to be a long conversation.''

Mr Mundine said he believed the discussion was necessary because January 26 was "a festering sore within indigenous communities''.


Sentencing council to give public a say in penalties

A long overdue idea. I documented long ago the big gap between the judiciary and the public

The public could get input into penalties for criminals under a new plan which would put an end to "out of touch" sentencing by Queensland courts. The Queensland Law Society has urged the State Government to set up a sentencing council which would consult with the public, do research and advise on sentencing policy. According to a letter from QLS president Ian Berry to Attorney-General Kerry Shine, obtained yesterday by The Courier-Mail, a sentencing council might also end the "opportunistic and cynical" law and order debates governments and oppositions engaged in, in the lead up to elections.

In his January 8 letter, Mr Berry said NSW in 2003 and Victoria, the following year, had set up sentencing advisory councils similar to those in England and Scotland. He said they provided "the machinery for on-going, rational consideration of sentencing issues". The case for their establishment was "beyond any doubt". "Through no fault of the judiciary, it must be acknowledged there is a feeling in the wider community that there is a disconnection between what people might consider appropriate sentences for crimes - especially crimes of violence - and what sentences are imposed," he said. "If the public is to feel that it has some direct 'ownership' of sentencing policy ... it will go a long way towards public acceptance and understanding of the administration of justice and law and order."

A spokesman for Mr Shine said the proposal was appreciated and would be given full consideration.

Response to the proposal has been mixed. Bar Association vice-president Michael Byrne, QC, said the BAQ had full confidence in the judiciary but was "open to consider any initiative proposed by the Attorney-General". But Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said he was not in favour of the proposal. "I do not accept the community lacks general confidence in the sentencing process," he said. "I have not heard any consistent call for reform." [He must be deaf]


Dumbed down education hits home

POOR spelling and grammar, verbose resumes and applications that include too many personal details are killing the chance of job seekers finding work. Recruiters and those who help applicants prepare CVs and resumes say they are astounded by some of the obvious mistakes that job applicants make. "The world of texting and emails has lowered people's standards of English," Jeanette Hannan of Brisbane firm Resumes for Results said. "I receive emails with text message jargon. I straight away dismiss them."

Some applicants put too many details about their private lives, and wrote resumes that were 20 to 30 pages long. "They will put in that they are married, how many children they have, even the dog's name," Ms Hannan said. One woman even detailed her husband's and father's job qualifications.

Ms Hannan said job seekers often failed to sell their achievements, such as boosting sales achieved in a previous job. Kevin Alexander, practice leader with recruitment firm Hudson, said many people forgot the importance of the resume document. "It is the document that the candidate will be initially judged against, and therefore it is vital to get right," he said. While candidates could get away with a few lapses in their resume in the past, as the job market intensified this year employers would look for those who stood out, Mr Alexander said. Many people with great resumes fell at the interview hurdle and job applicants needed to be prepared for several interviews, he said.

Recruiter Glenda Stenner said the internet had made it too easy for people to apply for jobs, and as a result some applied for too many positions, including those for which they were not qualified. She has seen bad spelling mistakes, particularly in resumes of people applying for administrative positions.

Ms Stenner said employers and recruiters were being inundated with applications, and resumes and cover letters needed to have enough impact to get the job seeker on to the shortlist. "It should be just the facts," Ms Stenner said. One employer said he sometimes had to scroll down five pages of information before he found out where an applicant had worked. Ms Stenner said some applicants failed to tailor cover letters to the position, and were sending the same cover letter over and over, with the same mistakes.

Deborah Barit of Impressive Interviews said many applicants did not explain what they did and tried to give employers too much information they were not interested in.


Sunday, January 25, 2009


It's on tonight. I have the saltire of St. Andrew flying from my flagpole. I have 25 guests and a whole heap of haggis. So there will be much poetry and tradition tonight.

Aussie pride outshines gloom this Australia Day, 2009

SOCIAL experts and Australia Day officials say there are clear signs that 2009 will see a rush back to patriotism. Homegrown products, talent and attitudes are all set to be back in fashion. With unemployment on the rise, credit drying up and overseas travel increasingly risky, the experts say we can expect a year where stickers and logos like "Buy Australian" suddenly will be back on car bumpers amid renewed pride in local communities and the nation as a whole.

"When times are tough you do tend to cling to your own and go back to basics," AustraliaSCAN social analyst David Chalke said. "We've seen some signs already of an upswing in 'country first' (sentiment)."

National Australia Day Council chief executive Warren Pearson said he also had noticed a rise in national pride as preparations for tomorrow's national day get into full swing. While some are saying the inauguration of new US President Barack Obama (Democrat Party) last week and the outpouring of nationalism there has helped spark Australians' own pride, others attribute record support for Australia Day and associated celebrations to slow processes over many years that are now easier to sense because of the numbers involved. Mr Pearson predicted more than one in every four Australians would attend some kind of official Australia Day event tomorrow. "I've been doing this nationally now for seven years and I've not seen a greater engagement in the day," he said.

In Brisbane, South Bank Corporation events manager David Contarini expects up to 55,000 people to take part in free activities and watch a fireworks display there. That would be a 10,000 increase on last year. Mr Contarini believes pride will prompt many people to attend, while others who may be concerned about the year ahead will see it as premier entertainment at the right price. "In an atmosphere of downturn, people look for an escape, people look for things to do," he said. "Our program is totally free. ''All you have to do is get here."

Further evidence of a swing back to all things Australian can be gleaned from the internet, which is now accessed by at least 59 per cent of Australian households. Australians are becoming more patriotic with their searches, according to statistics compiled by Yellow Pages. Online searches for items of Australiana increased by 97 per cent this year, the survey found. There was also a 52 per cent increase in the number of searches for Australian flag suppliers.

Brisbane City Council tomorrow will host one of Australia's biggest citizenship ceremonies, with 530 people listed to take part. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said he expected more people than ever would reflect on how lucky they were to be Australian. "There might be uncertainties on the horizon but when you think about what's going on in the rest of the world, in terms of stability and things, it is fantastic to be in this city," he said. Festivities across the state today and mostly tomorrow include cockroach races, fun runs, beach cricket and concerts.


Want better sex, fellas? Have a stiff drink

IT gives the phrase "a stiff drink" a whole new meaning: Australian researchers have made the surprise discovery that alcohol improves, rather than damages, men's performance in the bedroom. They hope the finding, which flies in the face of conventional belief, will reassure men who worry about the affects of drinking on their sex lives. Until now, it has been widely believed alcohol consumption could cause erectile dysfunction, commonly called "brewer's droop''.

But a study of 1580 Australian men has shown the reverse may be true, with drinkers reporting as many as 30 per cent fewer problems than teetotallers. Even binge drinkers had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who never drank, although this type of drinking can cause other health problems. Lead study author Dr Kew-Kim Chew, of Western Australia's Keogh Institute for Medical Research, told The Sunday Telegraph men who drank within safe guidelines appeared to have the best erectile function. "We found that, compared to those who have never touched alcohol, many people do benefit from some alcohol, including some people who drink outside the guidelines,'' Dr Chew said. Dr Chew said he had patients with erectile dysfunction who had been told to stop drinking completely.

The latest finding should prevent them compounding the problem by feeling "guilty and stressed'' about present or past drinking, he said. After other risk factors were excluded, weekend drinkers, high-risk drinkers and those who exceeded alcohol-intake guidelines had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who drank one day a week or less. Ex-drinkers, however, had the highest risk.


Teachers getting fed up with chaotic schools

MORE than 530 graduate teachers will begin work in State Government schools this week, but twice as many teachers resign every year. There has been a 17 per cent jump in primary and secondary teacher resignations since 2003, according to the latest State Government figures obtained by the Opposition.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said there would be a shortage of teachers in specialist subjects in government secondary schools this year. Mr Ryan said maths, science and manual arts would be hit hardest. "Enrolments are increasing and the number of teachers also needs to increase," Mr Ryan said. The Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Beattie and Bligh governments had taken teachers for granted.

ABOUT 5 per cent of state school classes have too many children. That figure has remained constant for the past three years, despite regular complaints of overcrowding. Education Queensland and the Queensland Teachers Union have agreed on target class sizes for 2009: Prep to Year 3, 25; Years 4 to 10, 28; and Years 11 and 12, 25. "Queensland state school students spend the vast majority of their time in classes under the target sizes," a department spokesman said.

Almost 500,000 students will enrol at state primary, secondary and special schools in 2009. Just under half that number will enrol at private schools. Staffing at the 1250 state schools will be based on rolls on the eighth day of the school year - Thursday, February 5, - the official census day.


Public hospital management and staff pass the buck

A FOUR-YEAR study of NSW hospitals has revealed staff and senior health bureaucrats blame each other for shocking errors, including deaths of patients. The statewide "safety check" found patients were at significant risk of death or injury from falls, medication errors, staffing levels, lax infection control and mistakes in diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors and nurses overwhelmingly agreed that chronic understaffing and heavy reliance on inexperienced junior staff was a major risk - especially after-hours and in complex areas such as emergency and intensive care. But the area health service managers blamed adverse incidents on mistakes made by medical and nursing staff rather than problems with skill mix.

Opposition Health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said it was "scandalous" that it has been five years since the Walker inquiry into 21 deaths at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals recommended an urgent audit of risks in the health system. Since then internal reports into 85 deaths over two years at western Sydney hospitals revealed that at least 49 of the patients did not receive adequate care.

Most of the avoidable deaths were due to a delay in responding to a rapidly deteriorating patient, the Annual Review of Root Cause Analysis 2006 and 2007 found. But the chief executive of the $55 million Clinical Excellence Commission, Professor Clifford Hughes, defended the Quality Systems Assessment report released today, saying a great deal of developmental work had been done to get an accurate picture of the state's complex health system. Professor Hughes said allowing everyone from the ward staff to hospital managers to top-level administrators to nominate their three highest risks to patient safety showed there was a significant disparity between the issues front-line staff saw as important, and the priorities of management.

The report found dozens of patient safety programs had been implemented since 2004 but very few had been reviewed to assess if they actually worked. Four of the eight area health services, and the Children's Hospital at Westmead, did not have any systems or processes for reviewing deaths. It also found confusion and lack of clear policy in many areas.

The director of the Institute of Health Innovation at the University of NSW, Jeffrey Braithwaite, commended the report but said collecting information was just the first step. "On too many initiatives in NSW we've seen things chopping and changing."

Health Minister John Della Bosca said 89 per cent of respondents felt there had been an improvement in patient safety and quality culture in the past two years. "This rigorous program is a world first for the assessment of quality and safety processes in a health system that will help us achieve ongoing improvements."


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Greenie people-haters at it again -- Australia "Full up"

Very strange ideas in a mostly empty country. Most people who live in Manhattan wouldn't live anywhere else but it has at least 100 times the population-density of Australia

Prominent Australians have thrown their support behind a controversial new book which argues that population growth is the biggest threat to environmental sustainability in this country. In a provocative attack on water conservation schemes, such as Melbourne's Target 155, the book Overloading Australia urges Australians to ignore water conservation, forcing politicians to rethink population and immigration policy.

Focusing on perhaps the most taboo aspect of environmental debate, authors Mark O'Connor and William Lines have argued that pro-immigration and "baby bonus" policies are at odds with plans to reduce carbon emissions and secure water supplies. "The task of simultaneously increasing population and achieving sustainability is impossible," the book argues. Predicting Australian cities will suffer more congestion, pollution, loss of biodiversity and diminished services, the authors argue there is no point conserving water "until we get restraint in population".

O'Connor said his background was largely in poetry, yet despite his lack of conventional expertise in demography and population studies, his book has struck a chord with prominent Australians and increasingly echoes the views of leading environmentalists. Former New South Wales premier Bob Carr has agreed to launch the book next week, and has lauded O'Connor's previous books about the perils of unchecked population growth. The Australian Conservation Foundation has also called for a "substantial reduction" in the nation's skilled migration program in this year's budget. In its budget submission, the foundation said Australia's population needed to be stabilised at "an ecologically sustainable level". "Population increase makes it harder for Australia to reduce carbon pollution levels and is placing immense stress on state and regional planning, infrastructure and ecological systems."

The comments will resonate with the Brumby Government [of Vivtoria], which has presided over an increase in total emissions in recent years, despite improvements in emissions on a per capita basis. Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell, who has read Overloading Australia, said despite the global nature of the emissions problem, national borders still mattered because people tended to adopt the typical emissions profile of the nation they lived in. "When you add an extra million in a society like ours you are imposing a very considerable additional burden, there is no way of escaping it, and that's the key to understanding why the population issue is so serious in Australia; we live very high on the hog," he said.

Australia will welcome a maximum of 203,500 new migrants this financial year, with skilled migration accounting for 133,500 of those places, and refugees just 13,500. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Rudd Government had started developing a longer-term migration plan that would consider "net overseas migration rates and the impact of demographic changes".

Victoria has swelled by about 1500 people a week in recent years, a rate that Premier John Brumby has described as "about as fast as we want to go".


New Pill 'eases women's pain'

A NEW contraceptive pill is set to revolutionise the lives of two million Australian women after a landmark clinical trial being launched in Sydney. Doctors are hoping the new type of pill will bring relief to women who suffer debilitating pain and discomfort each month. It comes as researchers believe women on the Pill suffer "hormone withdrawals" when they stop taking it during the seven-day break. Causing addiction-like reactions, women suffer pelvic pain, headaches, mood swings and breast soreness.

The Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick is recruiting women to take part in a worldwide trial for the new pill. Sexual health physician Terri Foran said the new pill would change the way women take the Pill in Australia. "There is no reason why women have to have a seven-day pill-free interval," Dr Foran said. "A lot of women suffer these symptoms and believe they are normal or its PMT, but they don't have to (suffer). "We believe it will work but before we put our hand on our heart and declare that, we have to test its effectiveness."

At least 70 per cent of all women who take the Pill suffer symptoms that can be mistaken for premenstrual tension. The new pill shortens the hormone-free interval from seven to two days and aims to end the withdrawals. Introduced in 1961, the contraceptive uses a combination of oestrogen and progestogen. Dr Foran said that by reducing the pill-free interval to two days, the body would not have enough time to experience the "withdrawals". "The difference with this pill to others on the market is that it alters the amount of hormone given and alters when it is given in the cycle," she said. "There is a suggestion that if you can manipulate that pill-free week, you might be able to lessen the symptoms. "The shortened break might well mean they don't get the symptoms."

More than two million Australian women take the Pill, making it the most common form of contraception. Unlike other types on the market that aim to reduce the symptoms, this new pill contains a natural form of oestrogen, estradiol, which could hold the key to ending the monthly suffering. Dr Foran yesterday urged women who suffer from withdrawal symptoms to take part in the trial. At least 880 women are needed worldwide to be part of the six month trial.


Federal conservatives compromise on climate policy

THE Federal Coalition is moving beyond denial into a new era with the release of its climate change policy, a key environmental research group says. Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull today unveiled a three-stage climate change policy which aims to achieve annual reductions of carbon pollution of equivalent of at least 150 million tonnes by 2020. The Coalition's Green Carbon Initiative would offset greenhouse gases by biosequestration capturing and storing large quantities of carbon in soil and vegetation. Mr Turnbull said the plan also would include measures to encourage improved energy efficiency in buildings where he says 23 per cent of greenhouse gases originate. A third element of the Coalition's plan is to increase investment in new technologies such as clean coal.

The Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said the policy initiatives on green carbon, soil carbon and forests were important. "The key things really are to welcome a coalition that is moving beyond denial and delay," he said. "We still need to see the detail but he has some important new ideas and some important new energy into the things which need to be addressed, like energy efficiency and clean energy technologies in which the government said it's been planning to do things, but has not yet come forward. "Most importantly this is a recognition we will need stronger targets than the government is talking about. "We need to move beyond a mining based economy into the new economy of the 21st century."

Mr Connor said the policy has Mr Turnbull joining other conservative leaders across the world who recognised taking action on climate change was good risk management and insurance and could lead to economic benefits. He said it was an important step for the climate change debate in Australia. "It's a very important moment in Australian political history," he said. "It will be fascinating to see how its received."

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong dismissed the policy as short on hard facts and costings. Senator Wong said Mr Turnbull's speech to the Young Liberals convention was designed to distract attention from the Liberal Party's own internal divisions over the issue. "This is the speech you make when you don't want to tackle the issue of climate change in a real way," Senator Wong told reporters in Adelaide. "This is the speech you make when you're a leader who can't control your own party and climate change deniers stand behind you." Senator Wong said the coalition had failed to release any hard data on how it would reduce carbon emissions. "The reality is tackling climate change is not easy, it is a hard economic challenge," Senator Wong said.

The Greens welcomed the Coalition's climate change policy, but said it still protected the big polluters. Greens senator Christine Milne said that while the announcement sidelined the Coalition's climate change sceptics and was an improvement on the Government's narrowly focused scheme, it still fell short. "Malcolm Turnbull is trying to make himself out as a 'green' conservative like the UK's (Tory leader) David Cameron, but scratch below the surface and you see Howard's coal-black Liberals of old," Senator Milne said. She said the coalition's new policy lacked detail and still protected the biggest polluters, the coal, logging and "energy-hungry polluters".

The Government is expected to introduce legislation soon for its proposed emissions trading scheme due to start in 2010, which targets a cut in carbon emissions of between five and 15 per cent by 2020.


Victorian Nurses Board approves 103 registrations of criminal nurses

As usual, your regulators will protect you

NURSES guilty of manslaughter, sex offences, arson and torturing animals have been allowed to care for the sick and vulnerable in Victoria. In the past three years the Nurses Board approved registration of 103 nurses who had admitted being found guilty of crimes such as theft, stalking, drug trafficking, possessing child pornography and manslaughter. The board cancelled registration of two nurses because of their criminal pasts, while the results on another three nurses are unclear, the Herald Sun reports.

Patient advocates and the Opposition want an immediate investigation of registration of some nurses, as well as the process, in light of documents obtained by the Herald Sun through Freedom of Information requests.

But the Nurses Board says it is not concerned that at least 103 of Victoria's 86,000 registered nurses have serious criminal records. Its says its investigation processes ensure public safety. In 2006 it became mandatory for nurses to disclose their crimes when renewing their registration each year. Since then the board has been told of:

A NURSE convicted of manslaughter in 1994 whom it re-registered.

THREE nurses guilty of indecent assault who had their registration renewed.

TWO nurses guilty of cruelty to animals.

THREE nurses guilty of recklessly causing serious injury and others who committed serious assault, common assault, unlawful assault, intentionally causing serious injury and negligently causing serious injury.

TWO nurses convicted of stalking.

A NURSE caught with a drug of dependence and taking it into a prison in 2005.

A HOST of theft, fraud and social security offences.

In one instance the board renewed a nurse's registration despite being aware of 19 convictions for arson. Some offences date back many years, but all were disclosed to the board after 2006.

Medical Error Action Group spokeswoman Lorraine Long accused the state's medical authorities of placing the interests of nurses above those of their patients. "The Nurses Board is looking at the rights of nurses, but the patients are part of this equation and where are their rights? Who is protecting them?" she said.

Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson said she had not urged an investigation because the new disclosure requirements may lead to better processes. "When you get a whole lot of disclosures all at once like this you can't possibly investigate them all, particularly when some of them go back to the 1980s . . . What is more important is the nurse's record. Have they been a good nurse and are they well supervised? "It might be that sometimes people who make mistakes in their life could actually be better nurses."

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey demanded the board investigate the most serious offences.


Friday, January 23, 2009

The latest Greenie nuttiness

Cheaper to fly than hire a bike. You have to understand that this is a religious thing. Logic is irrelevant

It's cheaper to hire a car, fly to Sydney or take a limousine to the Gold Coast than ride a bike all day as part of Brisbane's new cycle hire scheme. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman came good on an election promise by awarding the contract to JCDecaux to provide 2000 bikes at 150 stations across the inner-city. However, despite claims it would be free, that only applies for the first half-hour and users will still be charged $20 to buy a helmet and up to $300 deposit. For an hour's hire it will be $2, for 11/2 hours $5.50 and up to $150 for more than 10 hours. Which means a person wanting to hire a bike for an entire day on a casual basis, once adding in the helmet fee and subscription fee ($10), will pay $180.

At yesterday's launch, Cr Newman denied he had misled voters. "What I said is we were endeavouring to introduce a scheme like in Paris," he said. "I said we would try and get as close as possible to that and I'll just maintain, I was there at the announcement, I know what I said and that's exactly what we delivered." It's the first scheme of its kind in Australia with stations to be located between St Lucia and Newstead.

The council signed a 20-year contract with JCDecaux and ratepayers will pay about $1.5 million over the next three years, but Cr Newman was unsure what the contribution would be each year after that. "Over a 20-year life, it could potentially generate $9 million of revenue for council. [If anybody uses it!] So ultimately it won't cost the ratepayers of Brisbane," he said. Cr Newman said he was confident the scheme would be successful and promised to use it himself and encourage his staff to do the same. "Let's just see how it goes over the coming months ... ultimately it's going to be very popular," he said.

JCDecaux, which has 16 cycle schemes across Europe, said bikes would be on Brisbane streets by the end of the year. "It's a new system, using new technology, of course there's going to be glitches, but I think it's an overwhelming success," CEO Steve O'Connor said.

Bicycle Queensland manager Ben Wilson said the bike hire scheme was for short-term not all-day use. "And for that, it's very reasonably priced," he said. Opposition Leader Shayne Sutton said Labor supported the scheme if it was implemented properly. "The Lord Mayor needs to ensure there are safe, designated bikeways for cyclists to use," she said.


Overseas students trade Sydney, Melbourne for Australia's wild North

I like Darwin and what is said about it below is true. But what is overlooked below is how big Australia is. Darwin is about 4 hours flying time from Sydney. Most of the OS students come from S.E. Asia (Malaysia etc.) and Darwin is not much more than a local trip from there. And both Darwin and S.E. Asia are in HOT climates. And the Darwin university is now well-established and creditable, despite initial Federal opposition to its establishment. The bureaucrats got it wrong again

International university students are leaving Sydney and Melbourne in search of better lifestyles and work options in the north of Australia. While universities nationwide are recording a drop in foreign enrolment, Charles Darwin University (CDU) appears to be bucking the national trend, according to its manager of international marketing Fiona Richards. "International student numbers are continuing to increase at CDU and are projected to rise by a further 20 per cent every year over the next four years," she said.

The media reported on Monday that foreign students had begun to pull out of Australia, with universities hit hard by the global credit crunch. They have also recorded an increase in deferrals, as students struggle to finance overseas eduction - an industry worth $14.2 billion to Australia each year.

But Ms Richards said a large number of students were choosing to stay in Australia and move to Darwin, as a preferred option to Sydney or Melbourne. "A large segment of our international student body is made up of students who have initially enrolled at more established, southern universities only to transfer their studies to CDU," she said.

There were a number of reasons for the appeal of the north, she said, including an easier lifestyle, friendlier people and more job options. "Traditionally, international students tend to make more identifiable Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne their home," Ms Richards said. "Once there, they tend to struggle in a number of areas such as language barriers, gaining employment, social networks etc, which is partly due to the sheer size of these cities. "This, in turn, has a detrimental affect on their studies."

Ms Richards said the multicultural nature of Darwin and its laidback lifestyle acted as drawcards for CDU. "Darwin truly is a cultural melting pot with pre-established ethnic clubs and networks, tropical climate and an easy going lifestyle which appeals to international students still trying to make the adjustment to an entirely new country and way of life," she said.

It is feared the nationwide contraction of Australia's third-biggest export industry will result in job cuts to the sector and hurt the housing market.


The driving dead

The guy who nominated Einfeld had a sense of humour

HUNDREDS of drivers in New South Wales have refused to heed the lesson of speeding judge Marcus Einfeld and are making sworn statements falsely blaming the dead, strangers or relatives for traffic offences. In desperate bids to escape fines and demerit points, one woman blamed her relatives for 158 offences, a man blamed his dead father and another even blamed former judge Einfeld.

New figures obtained from the State Debt Recovery Office reveal 626 drivers who had lodged a combined 2871 driver nominations blaming others for their fines were investigated. A spokesman for the Office of State Revenue said investigators believed they were suspect because the person they nominated disputed having driven the car, the nominated driver was unlicensed, held a foreign licence or was dead, or the same driver was nominated repeatedly by others. They also checked if the person trying to avoid the fine had done so previously.

Of those 626 drivers, 131 admitted they had falsely nominated someone else for their offence when advised they were being investigated by the SDRO, which has set up a dedicated unit to investigate the fraud. A total of 28 people were referred to police for prosecution and more matters remained under investigation.

The spokesman said while the fraudsters comprised only a small proportion of the total of 305,000 driver nominations processed last year for demerit point offences, they were still a concern. False nominations achieved intense media attention from 2006 when former judge Marcus Einfeld nominated a dead US professor, Theresa Brennan, for driving his car which attracted a speeding fine. He recently pleaded guilty to making a false statement under oath and acting to pervert the course of justice. He faces a possible jail sentence for those offences.

One driver recently admitted lying after nominating his dead father as having driven his car when it was detected committing a traffic offence.


The Contradictions of the Garnaut Report into climate change

The present world financial crisis has seen the great economist John Maynard Keynes making a comeback, with even a fiscal conservative like Kevin Rudd espousing Keynesian deficit finance. Keynes is also remembered for his remark that "madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back". That is an apt description of the climate change mantras that led to the appointment of the Garnaut Review, and the Review's Final Report itself exhibits frenzy distilled from not a few scribblers of the past, including Malthus, Jevons and Arrhenius of the nineteenth century, Paul Ehrlich, the Club of Rome and the IPCC's John Houghton of the last century, not forgetting James Hansen (of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies) and his acolyte Al Gore.

Ehrlich and the Club of Rome confidently predicted exhaustion of all mineral resources by 2000 if not before, and the Garnaut Report merely extends the final date to 2100. Malthus earned fame with his theory that while population grows "geometrically", for example by doubling every twenty-five years (we would say exponentially) food production grows only "arithmetically", that is, by the same absolute amount in every time period.

Arrhenius took over this formulation in his celebrated paper of 1896 that remains the cornerstone of the anthropogenic global warming (or climate change) movement, by asserting that while atmospheric carbon dioxide "increases in geometric progression, augmentation of the temperature will increase in nearly arithmetic progression". Arrhenius won a real Nobel for proceeding to calculate that if carbon dioxide increased by 50 per cent from the level in 1896, global average temperature would increase by between 2.9 and 3.7 degrees, depending on season, latitude and hemisphere, with a global annual mean of 3.42 degrees. The level of carbon dioxide has nearly increased by 50 per cent since 1896-faster it is true than Arrhenius expected-but global temperature according to the Goddard Institute has increased by just 0.73 degrees.

Malthus has long since been proved wrong about food production, which has grown exponentially even faster than population, so that the recurring starvation and population wipe-outs that Malthus feared have yet to materialise. Evidently Arrhenius has been nearly as mistaken, but in a different direction, with global temperature growing almost imperceptibly relative to the near 50 per cent growth in carbon dioxide. Yet the Garnaut Review endorses the claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest Report (2007) that if carbon dioxide doubles from the level in 1896 (270 to 280 parts per million, ppm) to 560 ppm, global temperature will rise by between 1.5 and 4 degrees, with a central estimate of 3 degrees, the latter being four times the observed increase of 0.73 degrees for the near 50 per cent rise in carbon dioxide since 1896. Yet Arrhenius had calculated that doubling carbon dioxide from the 1896 level would raise annual global mean temperature by 5.5 degrees, just 1.6 times more than his estimate for an increase of carbon dioxide by 50 per cent. Thus the Review and the IPCC predict an acceleration of temperature increase with respect to increasing carbon dioxide, despite also asserting that the relationship is logarithmic rather than exponential, or, as the Review puts it, using terminology close to that of Arrhenius, "CO2 added later will cause proportionately less warming than CO2 added now".

This is an extraordinary contradiction given that the Garnaut Review as a whole is dedicated to the proposition that global warming will accelerate unless carbon dioxide emissions are subjected to draconian reductions, by as much as 80 per cent of the 2000 level in Australia. But as we shall see, the Report has other equally bizarre contradictions that exemplify Keynes's comment about "madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air".

The Labor governments of Australia's states and territories commissioned the Garnaut Climate Change Review in April 2007. The newly elected federal Labor government took over the Review in November 2007. Its terms of reference required the Review to assess "The likely effect of human-induced climate change on Australia's economy, environment, and water resources", and to "recommend medium to long-term policy options for Australia ... which, taking the costs and benefits of domestic and international policies on climate change into account, will produce the best possible outcomes for Australia". Given this provenance, the Review's Final Report (2008) is above all a political document.

The Report runs to 634 pages and twenty-four chapters, rambling over a wide range of topics, from the science of climate change to the economics of mitigation to prevent change. Clearly it is not possible here to do justice to the whole Report. Instead the focus will be on its unsound economics whereby benefits of avoiding future climate change are exaggerated and costs of avoidance minimised. The centrepiece of the Report's mitigation proposals is its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), yet this receives only a cursory treatment that fails to grasp its likely disruption of the Australian economy.

The Report makes many dire projections for the future, including the claim that without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide, there will by 2100 be major declines in gross domestic product (GDP) across the globe, and that in Australia its iconic tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park will be destroyed by ocean acidification and rising sea levels, while endemic droughts will eviscerate the Murray-Darling Basin. For Australia the Draft Report projected "the median temperature and rainfall outcomes for Australia from climate change with unmitigated growth in global emissions [that] may see GDP fall from the reference case by around 4.8 per cent, household consumption by 5.4 per cent and real wages by 7.8 per cent by 2100".

The Report offers no evidence for such effects having already become apparent despite the warming temperatures experienced globally and in Australia since 1976. On the contrary, that whole period has seen the fastest economic growth ever recorded across almost the whole globe, and Australia is no exception. The last decade of the twentieth century was the hottest on record, but it also delivered Australia's longest known sequence of per capita GDP growth above 2.5 per cent annually.

More here

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A REAL Greenie cause: Brisbane's beloved fig trees

Moreton Bay fig trees are native to the area, are amazingly vigorous and grow to massive size -- and huge numbers of Brisbane people love them. They are trees that inspire. The one in the first picture below is actually rather scrawny compared to some. Such is the outcry at any proposal to cut them down that roadworks have in the past been re-routed to avoid any need to cut them down. But they do have their downside -- with their roots very often clogging drains and their huge branches sometimes breaking off during storms. I had a splendid example of a fig tree right in the front of my house until recently and I was devastated that I had to remove it. It was just too close to my sewer line. Getting into sewer lines is a snack for fig tree roots. So you can see the dilemma behind the story below. My view is that it should be permissible to remove particularly dangerous branches.

(Bigger image of the second tree here)

BRISBANE residents worried about potentially dangerous trees remain in limbo as the city council works out how to deal with them. Brisbane City Council said findings of its tree policy review were three months away but ratepayers who contravened present laws could be slugged thousands of dollars.

Brad Waters, of Ascot, said he faced a $5000 fine if he so much as trimmed two giant fig trees owned by the council, which has branches hanging over his property. He said he feared extensive damage to his house if a storm as severe as the one that devastated The Gap in November last year hit his area. "The limbs that represent a hazard to my family and property are many metres off the ground and are up to 12m long," he said. "In the recent storms, two limbs sheared off and slammed to the ground - luckily not from the parts of the trees overhanging my property. "Council can be assured I'll be seeking damages for any damage these trees cause to my property."

Mr Waters said he'd been trying for up to five years to get the council to remove the danger, which was worsening as the trees grew. "Upon making my most recent call to council, I asked for someone to make arrangements to meet me at my property to assess the trees and to see first-hand the reasons for my concern," he said. "Council's response was to send someone out unannounced, who left a brochure in the letterbox indicating that council does not 'fenceline' council trees, that council does not majorly prune trees, and that council is not responsible for the debris caused by council trees."

A spokesman for Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said a review of "Labor's long-time tree policy, under which this tree is protected, has been under way since The Gap storms". "For every request that the Lord Mayor gets to remove a tree he gets a request to save a tree," he said. "It has always been a difficult and contentious issue that has to be taken on a case by case basis. "Council takes seriously all situations that could cause a threat to a property, but we do err on the side of protecting the greenery of the city."

Opposition Leader Shayne Sutton said the removal of dangerous or oversized council-owned trees should be fast-tracked. "We need to be sure that our suburbs' trees are of appropriate size and species," she said.


More of that drought the Greenie "scientists" predicted

As the floods move slowly through the Channel Country in southwest Queensland, the bush telegraph is experiencing its own flood of calls. The talk is all of rainfall and river heights, and the promise of a far more bountiful season. Many towns and properties have received more rain in the first three weeks of 2009 than they did for all of 2008. And it is still raining and the wet season has two more months to go.

David Brook has been checking the river heights bulletin daily, waiting for the flood waters to reach his Birdsville property, Adria Downs. "We have only had 53mm, but there have been much bigger rains (in the Georgina and Diamantina river systems)," he says. "We had some rain, nice rain, and that is good. Ninety per cent of anyone's pastoral land is not flooded, so you still need rain. "But the 10 per cent that can get these quite large floods can probably support 50 per cent of the property for a period afterwards."

North of Birdsville, at Boulia on the Burke River, which flows into the Georgina River, cattle producer and Boulia Shire mayor Rick Britton says he has had more rain this year - 202mm - than he had all last year. "We had 70mm in 18 months (to the end of 2008). We have doubled that in 21 days, and the country has responded. How it is reacting is just awesome; you can nearly hear it growing," he says. Britton is at the southern end of the big wet. "Once you get north of us there have been falls anywhere from (200mm to 650mm) of rain." That rain has brought relief and joy. "You can imagine how happy they are, the pressure is off everyone now." He says the rain is evoking memories of the big wet of 1974. "My dad was running the property when we had the last big wet, and now he is retired. This is my first big fair dinkum wet. We hope it is not a one-in-a-generation event."

The Channel Country is the land of drought and flood, of boom and bust. When it rains and the floods come down the complex braided channels and anabranches of the system, Brook says they provide the best natural irrigation system in the world. He said properties, if they are lucky, will get 75mm to 200mm of rain a year. "But it is nothing compared with a section of land inundated to a metre deep or half a metre deep for one month, or three months at a time. The benefits from flooding are great."

The creeks and rivers of the Channel Country have never been regulated by dams or pumped for irrigation. "A few of us out here have argued strongly against any damming or diversion of the rivers upstream," Brook says. He is one of 32 partners in the organic beef company, OBE Beef. Between them, they have up to 100,000 head of cattle raised on 64,000sqkm of organically certified pasture in the Channel Country. That business alone means Australia has the largest organically farmed area in the world.

"We are fairly remote from any intensive agriculture, which is important in minimising risk," Brook observes. "Generally speaking, people are like-minded. No one wants to go down the other path of damming or heavy intensive agriculture, or using the rivers for anything other than natural irrigation." Brook explains the rivers and creeks are actually a series of ponds. "Those big ponded areas, they are wide and the velocity of the river slows and it drops the sediments, they are the really good areas for grazing." He says rain is good, but a slow flood is better. "Once you get that some of that country flooded for weeks, the plant life keeps coming up for months after the flood goes. "For us, with our organic certification, it is the bee's knees. You can't get any better." An astonishing 250 species of plants have been identified on Brook's property.

Martin Thoms is professor of Riverine Ecosystems at the University of Canberra. "In the dry times we walk out across the floodplain and we see nothing but dust and dirt," he says. But that dust harbours a huge seedbank and store of zooplankton eggs, "which are essentially fish food". When it rains, the floodwater stimulates the release of nutrients and carbon from the floodplain soils, seeds germinate and the eggs of zooplankton hatch. "The productivity of that plant growth is absolutely unbelievable," Thoms says. "Rain will stimulate plants that can grow up to 1m or 1.5m in a matter of months, particularly the native grasslands out there. The pastoral industry is going to be loving it."

It is not just the pastoral industry that is benefiting. The post-flood wildflowers will bring tourists, and if the floodwaters reach Lake Eyre, there will be a local tourist boom. Thoms says the lakes of the system are biodiversity hot spots. "All this activity in the Channel Country is going to be really great for migrating water birds," he says. "And that gives the floods not just local and domestic significance, but international importance as well. "We have migratory birds coming from China, Japan, Korea that bunny-hop all down eastern Australia through the Channel Country, using these big floodplain systems that are now being inundated by the rain."

The health of the Channel Country is in stark contrast to the state of the Murray-Darling basin. Thoms says Channel Country graziers not only understand, but embrace the natural variability of the climate. "That is why these guys are so resilient, whereas I think in some areas of the basin we have tried to control that variability and that hasn't always worked." He argues the efforts to regulate and control the rivers of the Murray-Darling basin have resulted in the ecosystems, like the lower Lakes and the Coorong, suffering. "Rather than trying to control these highly variable rivers I think we need to embrace their variability," he says.


Some very strange "research"

The findings I have highlighted are so contrary to eveything else we know that I think the whole study has to be disregarded. The findings were based on self-reports and factors such as boasting and embarrassment could well have distorted the results

IT doesn't matter what your background is, the key to earning big bucks at work is having a university degree or apprenticeship under your belt, a new report reveals. Young employees who have completed a bachelor's degree increase their earnings by about 31 per cent on average, while apprenticeships increase income by 23 per cent, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) report says. A university diploma will make your wallet 17 per cent fatter, while a TAFE diploma increases pay by 14 per cent. A traineeship will increase earnings by just eight per cent and a TAFE certificate by a meagre five per cent.

The study was based on interviews with a group of young people over a decade, from 1995, when they were students in Year 9, through to 2005, when 77 per cent were working full-time and their average age was 24. The report's author, Gary Marks, says post-school education and training leads to higher-status jobs and earnings, regardless of social background. Generally the effects of factors other than qualifications on earnings were small or negative,'' Mr Marks writes in The Occupations and Earnings of Young Australians. "The results indicate social background plays only a small role in accounting for differences in occupational status and earnings, indicating education is enhancing social mobility.''

People from non-English speaking and higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and those who attended Catholic or independent schools, earned five per cent less on average than their counterparts.

But ACER research director Phillip McKenzie said those somewhat surprising results could be related to these groups studying for longer periods of time. "Hence they may have had less time in the workforce,'' Dr McKenzie said. "This was a period of pretty strong job growth and people who left education earlier have been able to get pretty good jobs with good incomes.'' But Dr McKenzie suggests even the relatively small difference in earnings due to background may cancel out over time.

While background doesn't play a big role in determining status and pay, sex does matter. Young women were slightly more likely to be in prestigious jobs than young men, but they earned 20 per cent less. The report says this could be due to the incidence of full-time work being substantially higher among young men than women.

On average, people who completed an apprenticeship earned $907 per week while university graduates earned $816 per week. Someone with a TAFE certificate earned $663 per week while those with a TAFE diploma earned $674 per week.



The $60 billion coal industry is at risk without greater support for clean coal, the Opposition warned yesterday after the nation's only commercial project in the field said it would be unviable under the proposed emissions trading scheme. The Australian revealed yesterday that ZeroGen had warned Resources Minister Martin Ferguson that the Rudd Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme would be a "significant barrier" to the development of clean coal. ZeroGen is understood to have laid off or redeployed staff from its corporate division recently. The company would not comment yesterday, but said in a statement there had been "no reductions from project staffing, and none are planned".

Gas suppliers say they can provide cleaner energy than conventional coal-fired electricity for less than renewables if clean coal is delayed. Coal industry sources warned of a bleak future without greater support for clean coal research. "You run all your coal assets down and build gas, and basically the coal industry is out of business," one industry watcher said. "The only way ZeroGen will work is if someone stumps up and puts a sizeable amount of money under it -- someone being the federal Government."

The Opposition says clean coal technology will never be developed if the Government puts all the revenue raised from selling permits under the ETS into compensation. "ZeroGen was the only project of its type left in the world," Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane said. "It was the project Kevin Rudd was lauding as his international project. "If the Government doesn't breathe life back into ZeroGen and the project folds, basically there is no zero emission project in a developmental stage.

"The Government is conceding defeat on clean coal, which not only affects the domestic industry and the price of electricity but also says no one in the world is going to develop clean coal technology. The future for thermal coal is bleak."

More here

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Excuses, excuses for a foolish HMAS Sydney commander

The story below is a dishonest attempt to cover up the folly of Capt. Burnett in the battle between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran under Capt. Detmers. They speculate below about Capt. Detmers using a white flag to fool Burnett, for instance. There is in fact zero mystery about what Detmers did. He certainly did all he could to allay suspicion as long as he could but Burnett was still amazingly overconfident in putting his ship within 1,000 yards of the Kormoran before final identification. And Detmers did NOT open fire before declaring himself. He did not even loose a torpedo until Sydney had fired a salvo. As soon as the Sydney came within close range, Detmers ran up the Kriegsmarine battle flag and THEN immediately opened fire with all he had. And he had a lot. For years. people doubted Detmers and the other German sailors who corroborated his account but everything he said from the beginning has eventually proved to be true and accurate so there is no reasonable room to doubt his account of the matter. See here for details of that account. It is in a way lucky that Burnett went down with his ship. There would have been ample precedent for court-martialling him had he survived.

The German raider Kormoran might have used a series of ruses to draw the cruiser HMAS Sydney into a range where it could ambush it with its guns, the HMAS Sydney inquiry heard yesterday. Captain (retired) Richard Arundel, former director of Naval Communications, said there had to be a reason why the commander of an Australian warship would make such a "gross error of judgment" in deciding to overhaul an unknown merchant vessel, believing it to be friendly, thereby putting his ship in a "suicidal position". It was "implausible" that Captain Joseph Burnett, with a tier of experienced naval officers to advise him, would have made such a manoeuvre unless there had been a "compellingly friendly identification event".

HMAS Sydney saw the Kormoran, disguised as a Dutch merchant ship, the Straat Malakka, off the West Australian coast on November 19, 1941, and challenged it. It drew very close, between 900 and 2000 metres, and the Kormoran dropped its disguise and attacked with guns and torpedo. Sydney sank with the loss of 645 men, and the Kormoran, also damaged, was scuttled.

Captain Arundel said that when challenged, the Kormoran did a manoeuvre consistent with a merchant ship's prescribed response, but it then sailed into the sun, making it difficult, along with the wind across the deck, for Sydney to read the signal flags. That would have tempted the Sydney to have come closer to get a better view. The Kormoran might also have been putting up its signals in a confused manner to convey the impression that it was a merchant ship in panic. [It did indeed do that]

He said this was conjecture, but the German Navy had made use of ruses before, such as in the Battle of Coronel in World War I , when its positioning of its ships in relation to the sun gave it victory over the British. Asked about the possibility of the Kormoran displaying the white flag of surrender, he said he had never seen one on a merchant ship and it was not part of the fitout of a warship. But Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Thomas Whittaker said he believed the Kormoran might have displayed the white flag while it launched its torpedo. When the torpedo struck, it might then have removed its camouflage, raised the German ensign and opened with its guns. He believed that had the Kormoran decided to take away its camouflage and run up its ensign without putting in the initial blow, the Sydney would have blown it out of the water.


Paper's apology over anti-Semitic article 'inadequate'

On Tuesday "The Age" carried a very brief apology (under Contacts) on Page 2. I reprint it in full below:

"A column by Michael Backman, headlined "Israelis living high on US expense account" (BusinessDay 17.1.09) was published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets publication of the column."

The Jewish community is considering legal action over the matter and in my view they should insist on "The Age" giving space to a comprehensive reply to the Backman article. With the Murdoch press on their tails (see article below) as well as the Jewish community, I think "The Age" would be wise to surrender quietly and soon

A former editor-in-chief of The Age has accused the paper of "journalistic failure", blasting the newspaper for printing an "inadequate" apology after it published a column espousing racist views. The apology said an article titled "Israel living high on US expense account", which caused outrage in the Jewish community, was "published in error". "The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets publication of the column," the apology said.

Former editor-in-chief Michael Gawenda yesterday said the paper had missed the point, and demanded it tell its readers how it would prevent the publication of racist material in the future. "This is a journalistic failure, this is an editing failure," Mr Gawenda said. "The apology is not about offending people, the apology ought to be about the publication of something which should not be published. "Newspapers publish lots of things that they don't endorse, that's what an op-ed page does, it publishes views that the paper disagrees with."

Victoria's Jewish community has considered taking legal action over anti-Semitic comments in the article, written by London-based business contributor Michael Backman. The piece blamed the 9/11 attacks and the Bali and London bombings on the inability of the Israelis to make friends with the Palestinians, suggested the historical persecution of Jews constituted punishment for the death of Jesus and reinforced stereotypes that Jewish people were selfish and stingy.

Mr Gawenda, who served as editor-in-chief from 1997 to 2004, famously refused to publish a Michael Leunig cartoon that compared the plight of Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II to that of the Palestinians today. Before editing The Age, he worked as associate editor of the Australian Jewish News. Writing on a blog on The Australian's website yesterday, Mr Gawenda said: "What this apology seems to be aimed at doing is limit the damage to the paper from the publication of this piece." He told The Australian that questions should be asked about the journalistic culture at The Age. "What I want to know is how The Age has reached the point where racist rubbish like this gets published, and what the new editor-in-chief intends to do about changing this culture."

A source close to staff at The Age said employees were "upset and amazed" the article had gone to print.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle said the apology was seen as a first step, but by no means the conclusion of the matter. The Age failed to return calls from The Australian yesterday.


Disgusting "postmodern" university media studies programme still in deep Doo Doo

If a conservative had made a film called "Laughing at the Disabled", there would have been hell to pay. But if you are a "postmodern" Leftist, your university will back you to the hilt -- and even attack your critics

Queensland University of Technology and one of its PhD filmmakers, Michael Noonan, face a maximum $250,000 damages claim after mediation talks with an Aboriginal woman broke down. The dispute, which has ramifications for how research involving indigenous people is conducted, has moved to the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia after conciliation talks were terminated.

Brisbane solicitor Stephen Kerin, representing May Dunne, has alleged the Boulia elder was racially vilified by depicting her as an intoxicated Aboriginal woman in a stereotypical manner in video footage as part of Mr Noonan's PhD project, "Laughing at the Disabled". Ms Dunne has denied she ever signed a consent form authorising her appearance in the film which has the working title "Darren & James' Down Under Mystery Tour". Mr Noonan maintains that he is holding a consent form signed by Ms Dunne after she danced with one of the disabled men in the Boulia pub.

Mr Noonan maintains that the clip shown at his confirmation hearing, the "Boulia pub scene", has been unnecessarily demonised by his academic opponents, John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, and was unlikely to have ever made the pilot.

In April 2007 two QUT academics, Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham, wrote an article in the HES condemning the project as an unethical exercise in mockery. A dispute on many fronts was unleashed. QUT convicted Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham on disciplinary charges, apparently on the basis they had overstepped the limits of civil debate. They said QUT had trampled academic freedom. The two academics responded with a Federal Court challenge, which was settled on confidential terms. They resigned, were cleared of misconduct charges and walked away with $200,000 each, the HES reported.

QUT is named as the second respondent to the latest complaint as Mr Kerin alleges it gave ethical clearance to Mr Noonan's PhD project, which included the footage depicting Ms Dunne. A QUT spokeswoman told the HES yesterday it is not appropriate for the university to comment on a matter that will be before the courts.


Your regulators will protect you -- as usual

Taxi sex fiends allowed back behind the wheel

TAXI drivers who sexually harass and assault passengers are being allowed back on the road and taking fares within months of being caught. The Courier-Mail can reveal drivers are escaping with little more than a slap on the wrist after groping passengers and making unwanted advances to women and children. One woman was even compelled to tell a driver she had a knife after being so frightened of his sexual small talk.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show life bans were handed out after a driver received a sexual favour as a fare from an underage girl while another was charged for allegedly raping a disabled passenger.

But tougher punishments are being demanded after seven cabbies in the past two years were still allowed behind the wheel despite multiple misdemeanours in some cases. One current driver was involved in four cases inside 12 months, including sexually assaulting two women and cajoling another to let him inside her home, before Queensland Transport suspended him for three months last year.

Transport Minister John Mickel yesterday insisted passenger safety was paramount, with all drivers convicted of an offence to be immediately banned indefinitely. However, Mr Mickel admitted to a loophole in which his department only heard about lesser complaints if taxi companies offered the information. "Assaults by taxi drivers against passengers, and particularly sexual assaults against women, are totally unacceptable," Mr Mickel said.

But Queensland Taxi Council chief executive Blair Davies said no driver caught for predatory behaviour of any kind should be allowed to drive again. "Where somebody has acted in a sexually and predatory manner in any way, there is no place for them and we would want Queensland Transport to get rid of them for good," Mr Davies said. Both Black & White and Yellow Cabs insist they tell the Government about all sexual complaints received.

But the FOI documents, which censored the taxi company identities, show companies often did not tell the Government. Black & White Cabs general manager John Tighe said only one of the cases involved the company and the driver was banned forever. "We take these offences very seriously and we act upon them and investigate them," Mr Tighe said.

The documents reveal a driver was spotted performing a lewd act outside a hotel in the Brisbane CBD in 2006. However, the taxi company did not tell Queensland Transport, with the driver not denying the claim during an interview. "What can I say?" he said.

The Government was finally told about the case a year later after the driver inappropriately touched a female passenger. He was banned for only eight weeks.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pretty grouchy about high bank ATM fees

Arrogant Therapeutic Goods Administration still refusing to cough up for its wrongful actions

They think that they can get away with destroying hundreds of businesses and creating huge financial losses on the basis of mere speculation. One of the grosser examples of bureaucratic irresponsibility and abuse of power. They are all the more hateful because they have settled with the "big" guy whom they hurt but now seem to think they can stiff all the the little guys by insisting on long drawn out and expensive court action. I have commented on the scum previously. Note that I am no fan of "alternative" medicine. As you can see here I think that there is too much quackery even in conventional medicine. But my attachment to the importance of evidence is obviously not shared by the TGA and the bitches who seem to run it -- depite scrutiny of evidence being their brief

PHIL Alexander has turned to the law for help five years after it was used against his naturopath business in the country's biggest medicines recall. He has become part of a $120 million class action against the commonwealth over its role in the collapse of Pan Pharmaceuticals, which once supplied his multivitamin business. "It was an incredibly harrowing experience," Mr Alexander said, recalling the 12,000 items of stock he was forced to destroy in the recall.

He even received death threats as frightened customers turned against him and bad publicity swamped his sales. "The odd father rang up and said 'If you kill my baby, I'll kill you'," Mr Alexander said.

In 2003, the Therapeutic Goods Administration suspended Pan's licence and progressively recalled 1600 of its products. The TGA accused Australia's then largest complementary medicine maker of substituting ingredients, manipulating test results and running sub-standard production lines after a Pan travel sickness drug was linked to 19 admissions to hospital.

But the decisions the authority made at the time were brought into serious question last year after the commonwealth settled with Pan founder Jim Selim for $55 million over the TGA's handling of the affair.

Now Mr Alexander wants redress, saying his once-thriving Sydney business has never recovered from the TGA's actions. "They pulled all the vitamins and minerals off the shelves, without cause," he said. "After 14 weeks, we were able to get stock made and get it back on the shelves, but of course over 30 per cent of our customers wouldn't come back."

Mr Alexander said the TGA had acted on an "ideological and regulatory whim" in ordering such a massive recall. He said Pan had passed a TGA audit not long before, and no complaints were made or illnesses recorded from the recalled products.

Mr Alexander said he first learned of his business's fate on the 6pm news one Monday in April 2003. "All hell broke loose, and the next day the phones went absolutely mad for 14 days. We spent months returning all the calls. It was bedlam, it was just insane," he said. The TGA refused to even test his multivitamins for contamination, despite ordering the destruction of his stock, Mr Alexander said.

A Health Department spokeswoman said yesterday the TGA was unable to comment because the case was before the courts. But the regulator has publicly refused to concede any of the allegations made in Mr Selim's lawsuit.

Susanna Khouri, investment manager with IMF Australia, which is funding the lawsuit, said Mr Alexander's story of lost revenue and emotional harm was repeated many times over.


An antisemitic Leftist newspaper

No surprise about that. Disappointing when it is a major Australian newspaper though. Some of us hoped that the departure of "Wee Andy" Jaspan as editor of The Age might have led to more mature policies there but it seems that the paper has got worse rather than better. Their circulation is already a mere fraction of the rival "Hun". Looks like they want to reduce it further. I think they are going to find that the antisemitic market is rather small. The article does not seem to be online at the site of "The Age" itself but, funnily enough, a Muslim newspaper has reprinted it. So, you can read their latest reiteration of all the old antisemitic tripe here. Below is an outraged response from the Melbourne Jewish community

John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), and Dr Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), today jointly called on Melbourne's The Age to apologise for publishing a blatantly antisemitic article (attached) in the Saturday Age yesterday. Searle and Lamm stated:

"Sometimes criticism of Israeli foreign policy becomes so irrational and so hate-filled that it spills over into antisemitism. Yesterday Saturday's Age (17/01) published such a piece wherein its columnist Michael Backman encapsulated centuries of hate speech against Jews in a few hundred words. Among other things, Backman wrote:

* Israel's conflict with the Palestinians caused the London, Bali and World Trade Centre bombings.

* Israel has united the Islamic world against Western nations.

* The historical persecution of Jews constitutes punishment for Jesus' death.

* Israelis and Jews are uninterested in the welfare of others, and do not invest financially or socially in the broader community.

It is inexplicable why The Age would publish such a pernicious article, and why by one of its business columnists, a man whose field of expertise is Asian business and art, a man apparently without credentials on the Middle East, international politics or contemporary religion.

Each of the above statements is demonstrably wrong as are other assertions in the article. It is sheer nonsense to claim, for example that "The enmity many Muslims now feel for Israel has nothing to do with religion". Really? Perhaps Backman should read the hate-filled Hamas Covenant which explicitly talks about extermination of all Jews, not merely Israelis.

It is unacceptable that The Age gave a platform to this man's hatred of Jews and Israelis and incitement against them. The Victorian Jewish community's experience is that such commentary rouses violence and hatred against local Jews. Indeed, the JCCV and the ZCV made this very point to The Age only two weeks ago. We were assured by acting editor Mark Baker that its reportage was totally even-handed. And yet its editors saw fit to publish this vile piece. We are outraged with The Age for publishing Backman's disgusting falsehoods.

The JCCV and SZC have complained to The Age today in the strongest possible terms on behalf of the Victorian Jewish community. We have further committed ourselves to further steps, including possible legal action. This is not 1930s Germany. We will not accept this hatred."

SOURCE. See also here

Australian Study Debunks Methane Theory of climate impact

New Research by an Australian-based scientists Ellen Nisbet has found that in fact plants do not produce greenhouse methane gas. These findings destroy a central plank of the climate change theory.

The scientific theory that plants produce methane was published in the international science journal Nature three years ago, forcing a rethink of the possible sources of greenhouse gas.

Methane is more than 20 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Its main sources include natural gas fields, landfills, cattle, bogs and decaying organic waste.

A 2006 study by German scientist Frank Keppler asserted that tropical rain forests were emitting large amounts of methane. Dr Nisbet, who was studying at Cambridge University at the time, was sceptical when she saw Dr Keppler's results.

Evolutionary biologist Nisbet working with 12 scientists, including her father, atmospheric chemist Euan Nisbet, found that plants do not carry the right genes to produce methane, but merely filter the gas when it's contained in soil and dissolved in water.

"When we grew plants under very controlled conditions we found no, they don't produce methane. They don't have the right genes to make methane. We know what the genes are and they're definitely not there."

Dr Nisbet lectures in life Sciences at the University of South Australia said the team found that plants absorbed methane dissolved in water and soil, and then secreted it into the air. The research has been published this week in Transactions of the Royal Society in Britian.


More destructive bureaucracy in NSW

After a sperm donor in Sweden was ordered to pay child maintenance, is it any wonder that potential donors are now very wary?

A controversial plan for a sperm and egg donor registry has sparked concerns donations will end and women will be forced into one night stands to conceive. Under new State Government regulations for the fertility industry, a database containing highly confidential and sensitive information about donors will be handled by government staff. But fertility specialist Dr Joel Bernstein, from Fertility East in Bondi Junction, said the "over-policing" could turn donors away and may affect hundreds of couples who can't be helped by IVF. "It could turn responsible reproduction into irresponsible reproduction. Donations will reduce and I have little doubt that women will go down to the pub or ask a friend (to donate)."

One in six couples in Australia is infertile and many go overseas to find a donor due to the shortage. Donations plummeted when the law changed in 2004 allowing offspring access to information on their donor once they turned 18. It is believed only a dozen men are registered donors in NSW.

The draft Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation, on display until February 27, will also allow inspectors to enter fertility clinics to view records and take samples. "I think the Government should be encouraging more donors and not (taking) an aggressive approach," Dr Bernstein said.

The industry is divided over the registry, which may also force donors to update their address and include information on other offspring and partners. IVF Australia medical director Professor Peter Illingworth said the clinic supported a registry but "question marks" remained over its operation. His clinic has a 12-month waiting list for sperm donations while egg donors must be known to applicant couples. "Our view is the donor registry will not affect our ability to attract new sperm donors," he said.

Egg donation is so low in Australia women spend up to $15,000 and travel to Greece and Spain where donors are not identified.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The flow of illegals has resumed

A conservative government stopped it. A Leftist government has restarted it

A vessel carrying 21 asylum seekers has been intercepted by a navy patrol boat near the Ashmore Islands off Australia's northwestern coast. Navy patrol boat HMAS Maryborough intercepted the suspected illegal entry vessel on Saturday, about 39km from the Ashmore Islands, which is some 320km off Australia's Kimberley coast, Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said. An air force aerial patrol had earlier spotted the boat.

Twenty people were found aboard the vessel. The group has been taken to Christmas Island for health, security and identity checks, Mr Debus said. The interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Command's surveillance program, he said.

A day before the latest vessel was intercepted, the Federal Government announced 28 boat people intercepted by border patrols in September and November last year would be resettled in South Australia in the next few days. [And every one of them will write home encouraging others to come] They are the first people to be granted asylum since the Government softened Australia's refugee policy last July.

Announcing a "more humane" approach, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd scrapped the automatic incarceration on arrival of asylum seekers and called for an end to the detention of children and their families - both legacies of the previous government.

The Immigration Department is currently processing claims for another 134 unauthorised arrivals on Christmas Island.


Obama opts for a friend of Australia in key policy role

BARACK Obama has ensured Canberra will remain at the heart of US policy in Asia by moving to appoint one of Australia's closest friends in Washington to his top Asia policy position. Kurt Campbell, who runs the influential think tank the Centre for a New American Security in Washington - and is a good friend of Kevin Rudd - will become the assistant secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific. This is the senior Asia policy position within the State Department, and in the past its occupant has carried enormous sway over US policy in the region. The appointment has not yet been announced, but well-placed Washington sources have confirmed it.

Dr Campbell could be the most significant pro-Australian US senior official since Richard Armitage was deputy secretary of state in the first George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2005. Mr Obama's other foreign policy appointments are also good news for us. Jim Steinberg, a senior official under Bill Clinton, will be deputy secretary of state, and Michelle Flournoy will be undersecretary of defence. Close friends of Dr Campbell, they are veterans of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue.

In some senses, all the senior Bush administration officials were pro-Australian. But Mr Armitage became the go-to person, in effect the godfather, of the Australia relationship. He had an unmatched breadth of connections to Australia as well as vast experience of Asia, and a large network of close contacts throughout the region. As one senior Australian put it: "Campbell will be the new Armitage."

Dr Campbell has an in-depth knowledge and enormous range of contacts in Asia, and an almost unparalleled level of intimate involvement with Australia. He is a member of the board of the foundation that supports the annual Australian American Leadership Dialogue, founded by businessman Phil Scanlan (soon to take up his appointment as Australia's consul-general in NewYork). Dr Campbell is a core member of the dialogue, and through its annual meetings has become a good friend of the Prime Minister. He is also on close terms with former Labor leader Kim Beazley.

His appointment, and a number of others by Mr Obama, are a triumph for Mr Scanlan's dialogue. One Washington insider suggests 12 or 15 members of the dialogue will end up scattered across senior roles in the Obama administration. This dramatically demonstrates the dialogue's success in recruiting the A-team of American international relations in both parties, and shows how central the dialogue has become in US-Australia relations.

Friends of Australia in Washington plan to work hard to foster the Obama-Rudd relationship, stressing the similarity in outlook and political philosophy, especially on international issues, of the two new national leaders. A committed Democrat, Dr Campbell spent the past eight years out of government, working in think tanks. However, as a senior official at the Pentagon in the 1990s, he worked closely with the Howard government, especially on East Timor.

He is one of the most brilliant policy wonks in Washington, who has an ability to turn deep intellectual insight into effective policy. He is regarded as a centrist or even modestly hawkish Democrat, and his appointment, along with a number of others, signals the centrist and hard-headed approach Mr Obama is likely to take in foreign policy and security issues generally. It signifies the eclipse of the Left of the Democratic Party in national security issues.

A prolific author of books, academic papers and opinion columns, Dr Campbell wrote an important book in 2006 called Hard Power - an intellectual response to the vogue of soft power. Dr Campbell argued not that soft power was unimportant, but that the Democratic Party had to master the tools of hard power and had to show the US electorate it could effectively and decisively use the military and other tools of hard power. He argued that the Democrats had allowed the Republicans to consolidate an image as the party of national security and military purposefulness, and that as a result one of the strongest Republican constituencies was the military. Too often, he said, Democrats thought generous benefits for veterans and a stress on diplomacy constituted a national security policy. He was not against diplomacy or soft power, but Democrats had to understand that hard power was at the centre of national security and international relations, and make themselves masters of it.

Dr Campbell's hard-headedness is evident in two passages in the book. One, which will bring great comfort in Canberra, shows his deep appreciation of US alliances as a central organising principle of the international system. "The US leads a remarkable alliance system," he writes. "Never before has a great power elicited such support from the world's other powers and provoked so little direct opposition. This situation is in some jeopardy as a result of the Bush administration's internationally unpopular decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein in 2003, but on balance it holds."

The other shows a nuanced but hard-headed approach to China. "The key is not to bash China but to have a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of the relationship that we can be encouraging and work together in some areas while standing firm and pushing for reform in others."

Dr Campbell's appointment will reassure Japan, which has lacked a champion in the US administration since the departure of Mr Armitage, as well as Taiwan, where Dr Campbell has extensive contacts.

Dr Campbell writes in Hard Power in praise of Australia's military prowess, stating that with Britain, France and to a lesser extent Italy, it is the only US ally capable of "any significant rapid intervention missions whatsoever".

Given his Pentagon background - Dr Campbell served in the US Navy - it had been thought he would be undersecretary of defence. But he was a strong backer of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and this may have told against him in consideration for that post.

Dr Campbell's closeness to Australia matches that of Mr Armitage. He has taken family holidays in Australia and last year gave serious consideration to coming to Sydney to live, as Sydney University had canvassed the possibility of offering him the directorship of the new and lavishly funded American Studies Centre established with government and private money.

Dr Campbell was not always an Asianist. He completed his first postgraduate degree at a university in the former Soviet Union and is a fluent Russian speaker. But Joe Nye, the author of a hugely influential book on soft power, saw his potential and was critical in promoting Dr Campbell to deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia and the Pacific in the mid-90s. In this role, Dr Campbell became a pivotal player on Asian policy. He was an important part of the decision to send a US aircraft carrier battle group to deter Chinese aggression in Taiwanese waters in 1996. And he was crucial to Canberra in mobilising support in the Clinton administration for Australia's intervention in East Timor in 1999. He became a friend of Alexander Downer, and at one ASEAN meeting he was the star of the traditional skit night, appearing with great good humour on stage in a skirt to make up for Madeleine Albright's absence.

But Dr Campbell's talents do not end there. After a stint on the US National Security Council, he wrote a TV pilot script that played a part in the genesis of what eventually became the smash hit TV series The West Wing.

Although a strong Democrat, Dr Campbell was well regarded by centrist Republicans. Some senior Republicans wanted to offer him a job in the Bush administration, but Dr Campbell was always a committed Democrat. At one point during the Clinton administration, I asked Mr Armitage who was the best person in the Clinton team on Asia, and whom I should try to get to know. He told me to seek out Dr Campbell.

Dr Campbell's wife, Lael Brainard, has been tapped as undersecretary of state for international economics under Mr Obama, making them one of Washington's most impressive power couples. There is also a strong rumour that Derek Mitchell, a veteran Asianist with a deep involvement in Burmese policy, will be the senior deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama will appoint a special negotiator for North Korea, either the existing Assistant Secretary of State, Christopher Hill, or Frank Januzzi, a well-regarded staffer for vice-president-elect Joe Biden. The significance of this appointment is that it will free up Dr Campbell to oversee Asia policy more comprehensively. Previously the assistant secretary of state has handled the North Korea negotiations. The overall quality of these appointments means the State Department will have a strong spine, with extensive Asia knowledge at the most senior levels, under Mr Obama.


Water bureaucracy doesn't know how to call a plumber

OK. Maybe their own crews were busy. But what about calling a private plumbing firm in to fix the leak?

A resident with a water leak in his driveway says he was forced to ring 000 for help after six calls to United Water were ignored and it developed into a "geyser" yesterday. United Water said its crews were kept busy dealing with burst mains at Royal Park and Richmond yesterday and another at Enfield on Saturday. But crews were too busy to attend a leak at Cudmore Ave, Toorak Gardens, where thousands of litres of water were lost.

Resident Nigel Gammon said he reported water leaking from his driveway on Friday, only to see it turn into a "geyser" by Sunday afternoon. "At 9am on Friday my neighbour came in and said there was water coming from my driveway . . . I rang United Water and the guy said someone would be out here soon to take a look at it," Mr Gammon said. "The next day, 24 hours later nothing had happened, so I rang them again . . . "We were into today, nothing had happened, and the next thing the neighbour came in again and said there's a geyser . . . we rang 000 and they were out here in two hours. "I think I've rung up six times, the people across the road have rung up, other people have rung up and no-one gives a damn."

Mr Gammon said he was frustrated at hearing about the plight of the Lower Lakes and drought-ridden rural areas of SA, only to watch water gush down the gutters. "Here in the city, we've got an opportunity to stop the loss of thousands of litres of water and no one's done anything about it – it's ludicrous."

United Water spokeswoman Edwina Chapman confirmed crews had been delayed in attending to the Cudmore Ave leak as they were diverted to other burst water mains. "Unfortunately in this situation it's a leak that's turned into a burst," Ms Chapman said. "We had a number of (other) large bursts over the weekend that we had to prioritise . . . these bursts were damaging property. "We have a limited number of crews and they attend in order of priority."


Hate-filled social workers say foster mother is too dedicated

Their own bureaucratic power obviously comes before the welfare of the children

They were the kind of children who normally end up in an institution: they could not speak or feed themselves; they had to be rolled over in their beds; they would never walk or get out of nappies. For six years, they lived in the sun-filled home of a registered nurse on the NSW central coast - and then, on December 12, with no warning, all three were removed from her care.

The foster mother, who cannot be named because it would identify the children, says she's still stunned by the reason given. According to social workers, she'd become "greedy" for as many disabled children as possible, revelling in the fact that others saw her as a "superwoman" who could take on any burden, and using the children to fend off "feelings of worthlessness". Officially, she'd become a "compulsive caregiver". "I never knew such a syndrome existed," says the woman. She says she is the victim of "revenge" by social workers with whom she'd been in dispute for many years.

The woman's career as a foster mother of severely disabled children began in 2002. She had been working as a nurse when she heard about the plight of two girls, then aged one and four, who had a mysterious syndrome that limited their development to that of eight-week-old babies. The girls' parents could not care for them - indeed, the stress of their birth helped break up their marriage - so the nurse, who was looking for a new start in life as well, agreed to take them on as foster children.

She makes no bones about the fact she saw this as her new job. "Not many people would agree to do it, but I'm a nurse so I'm not frightened of what has to be done," she says. "I feel confident. I can deal with the medication and the doctors. "I care deeply for the children, but it was also what I had decided to do with my life. I would care for them full-time."

In return, she would receive $600 per child - or $1200, tax-free - a week. By comparison, the private corporation that employs her, Life Without Barriers, receives about $6000 a child per week from the NSW Department of Community Services.

To accommodate the children's wheelchairs, the foster mother widened the hallways in her home. She installed a ground-floor spa, and rigged up trolleys and pulleys above the beds. In 2006, she applied for a third child, a boy, who is not related but has a similar syndrome. He, too, must be fed through a tube, and use nappies and a wheelchair. The three children shared a room, and the home with the foster mum and her three teenage daughters.

It was not all smooth sailing. There were disputes with Life Without Barriers, particularly over money. It's clear from documents seen by The Australian that some welfare workers believe the foster mother and her partner, who shares care of the children, are motivated by the $1800 a week, tax-free, they receive. Last October, the foster mother agreed to meet a psychologist, Toni Single, to "work out the issues" she had with Life Without Barriers. Ms Single has an interest in the syndrome known as "compulsive care-giving" and has written papers on it. She believes that some foster parents believe they are good people who want to care for children, and do not know they have a psychological problem.

Upon meeting the foster mother, Ms Single concluded that she displayed some evidence of the syndrome. In her report, she said that people with this syndrome "enjoy being involved in the drama" of having disabled children, and often "need recognition and approval of others". According to documents seen by The Australian, Ms Single's report was the "key document" used by Life Without Barriers when it decided to remove the children from the nurse's home.

She says they have also "dredged up ancient history" - the fact that she suffered from severe depression and needed medication after her 19-year marriage broke down in 2000, for example. "That was before I took in the children," she says. "I don't deny it. I had a really hard time. But to say that I'm a nutcase now ... I mean, if that were true, how did I ever get approved? "And why, in 2006, did they give me another child? "This is all to do with the fact that I was prepared to take them on, and I will not give up."

Ms Single's report says the nurse is an "attractive, intelligent and charming" woman who had provided "good physical care" for children who would otherwise be impossible to place. "The quality of care provided to date has been of a high standard," the report says. The foster mother is "committed and competent" and "committed to their wellbeing" and often places "their needs above her own". A hearing on the matter will take place on January 28.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The "caring" Leftist mania for closing down public hospitals continues

Yesterday it was Queensland. Today it is South Australia. And once again the bureaucrats think they know better than the doctors. They didn't even bother talking to the doctors! My suspicion is that some Leftist hater just didn't like the "Royal" in the name of the existing hospital. They are small-minded enough for that. Witness all their whining about politically correct words

Eminent medical specialists have launched a campaign to save the Royal Adelaide Hospital, saying the city does not need the planned $1.7 billion Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital. A group of respected senior doctors who have spent the past year "brooding and alarmed" have decided to go public with their opposition and have formed a committee dedicated to saving the RAH from being bulldozed. "We want genuine discussion about whether the RAH really needs to be closed," spokesman Dr James Katsaros said yesterday. "We have a responsibility to look at whether we are making a terrible mistake in spending $1.7 billion on something that is not needed while erasing an iconic institution. ". . . as senior members of the medical community we came to the view that if we did not stand up against this lunancy, no one would. "We have been brooding on this for a long time, whispering in corridors and over coffees about the madness of the plan, which was announced without consultation with the medical community."

The "Save the RAH Medical Committee" says the state does not need a new hospital and the RAH's patient accommodation could be upgraded for far less than the Marj's ballooning $1.7bn cost - and the work completed far earlier than the Marj's 12-year time frame. The Save the RAH group includes leading and retired orthopaedic surgeons, cardiologists, plastic surgeons, oncologists and pathologists, as well as people who have held representative positions such as Australian Medical Association office holders. Members so far include Dr Peter Hetzel, Dr John Sangster, Dr Daryl Teague, Dr Francis Ghan, Dr Randall Sach, Dr Peter Malycha, Dr Philip Harding and Dr Katsaros.

The committee is holding a meeting for the medical fraternity at the RAH on March 16 to discuss the issues and see if there is genuine support for the new hospital. If the meeting shows a lack of support for the Marj, the committee will widen the debate to public meetings. The key concerns of the Save the RAH group include:

A LACK of consultation by the State Government with the medical community or the AMA before the plan was announced;

A LACK of convincing arguments in favour of building the Marj;

MISINFORMATION about the state of the RAH, which they say has been substantially upgraded in recent years;

DESTRUCTION of the close working relationship between the RAH, Adelaide University Medical School, Hanson Institute and Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, which are all on the one city campus;

ABOLITION of the brand name "Royal Adelaide Hospital" - world famous within medical circles.

Dr Katsaros, committee chairman and director of the plastic and reconstructive surgery at the RAH, said the group represented conservative people who otherwise would not want to be caught in a political row. "There was no review to see if it was actually needed, no public debate, just an announcement," he said. "We have been alarmed ever since the announcement was suddenly made and the discussions among doctors have been ones of alarm and incredulity. "Being conservative, it has taken a while to band together and go public, but we have to show leadership and generate genuine discussion about whether we need a new hospital. "While we as senior doctors feel we must stand up, we also have the support of many junior staff as well as nurses and allied health workers who believe the RAH should be retained. "I believe we do not need a new hospital at all; but if the overwhelming view of the medical community after we have discussions is that we do need one, then we will say `so be it' and move on."

Dr Katsaros noted the RAH was world respected, both in facilities and in name that also promoted the city. "The RAH has a brand new emergency (department), which is state-of-the-art, an intensive care area the envy of most hospitals, a world-class burns unit, modern dialysis unit and so on," he said. "Every hospital has to start planning upgrades virtually as soon as they are built, but the RAH right now is at a point where the most urgent thing is a new patient accommodation wing. "That could be built for around $300 million, rather than $1.7 billion, and could be completed in a couple of years rather than waiting 12 years."

The committee will meet AMA officials this week with a request it notify members of the March 16 meeting in the hope of having the largest possible number of the medical fraternity on hand to voice their opinions about whether a new hospital is needed.

Dr Katsaros said the Marj announcement came without any review into whether it was needed. "The existing institution can be refurbished and rejuvenated, as was done in the 1960s when a larger RAH was rebuilt on site without major problems," he said. Dr Katsaros emphasised the RAH name was a respected and valuable brand name for SA. "Can you imagine the folk in Minnesota bulldozing the Mayo Clinic and building the Michael Jordan Hospital 1km away?" he said. "They'd be a laughing stock."


And a corrupt hospital system in Victoria too

A SENIOR Victorian doctor will this week use a parliamentary inquiry to blow the whistle on alleged corruption, negligence and bureaucratic bungling in our public health-care system. Peter Lazzari is to release a report that says a "deepening crisis in our hospitals" is costing hundreds of Victorian lives every year. Dr Lazzari, head of an acute unit of medicine at Angliss Hospital and deputy chair of the Victorian State Committee of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, says a deteriorating standard of care and training is responsible for more than 500 deaths each year. In a submission to the Upper House Parliamentary Inquiry Into Public Hospital Performance Data, Dr Lazzari is to:

ACCUSE the Brumby Government and health executives of incompetence and intimidation of doctors, calling medical service directors "doctors of death".

CLAIM nurses are frequently violently and sometimes sexually assaulted by patients and that hospital administrators leave them without protection, "terrified" and "alone" at the bedside.

ACCUSE hospital boards and bosses of deliberate and "widespread cruelty to patients, doctors and nurses".

REVEAL several hospital buildings are putting patients' lives at risk because they are riddled with asbestos, have "crumbling internal walls" and have operating theatres that shake when trucks pass.

In a separate submission, Dr Lazzari will tackle "fraudulent waiting list reporting", claiming many hospitals "fudge" waiting list figures, to avoid penalties and claim government bonuses. He says hospitals tweak elected surgery waiting lists for up to a year, then claim it was the patients' choices. Others keep a second set of waiting lists and only enter them into the system when beds are available. He says it is "sentencing patients to pain, suffering and death". Both reports, expected to be released within days, call for major reforms.


Big surrogacy backdown

Politicians see babies as future taxpayers so want more of them

MOTHERS could be paid up to $10,000 to give birth to another woman's child under radical changes to controversial surrogacy laws. Commercial surrogacy is illegal but state governments will consider allowing women to be reimbursed by parents for the medical costs, and up to two months' loss of earnings.

The man behind the proposal, NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos, said existing laws made it difficult for parents to get a passport for surrogate children, or to enrol them in school, The Sunday Mail reports. "If the national model is adopted, courts could grant a parentage order to a couple if it was in the best interests of the child, and the surrogate mother had given her informed consent," he said.

A discussion paper, prepared by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, will be released today in a bid to introduce a uniform law. It questions whether a same-sex couple could become the legal parents of a child, and whether surrogate mothers must be over 25 years of age and have previously given birth. It also will consider whether intending parents must have a criminal background check.

Other potential changes include having the names of the intended parents on a second birth certificate. The original birth certificate would still exist, and the child would be entitled to both records at a certain age.

Courts would be given the final say on whether a couple should be granted the legal right to be a child's parents.

In Queensland, altruistic surrogacy - where a woman bears a child for a couple without receiving payment - could be decriminalised this year. A parliamentary committee in October recommended that surrogacy not involving payments or gifts be made legal. If the State Government adopts its recommendations, an independent surrogacy review panel, including medical and legal experts, will be appointed to approve applications.

Committee chairwoman Linda Lavarch said couples were being driven overseas and families were being turned into criminals under the existing law.


More idiotic bureaucracy: Identical twins 'not related'

Is this the "compassionate" Rudd government at work?

A WA woman has been told by Australian authorities that she's not related to her identical twin sister. Rosabelle Glasby says she is ``shocked and saddened'' she cannot bring her sister into the country to live because the Department of Immigration and Citizenship does not consider the pair to be related. Adopted by different families shortly after their birth in Malaysia, Mrs Glasby and Dorothy Loader were separated for almost 50 years before finally meeting last September. But now Mrs Glasby, from Margaret River, is facing an uphill battle to be permanently reunited with her twin, who lives in Malaysia.

In a letter to Mrs Glasby last month, DIAC state director Paul Farrell explained that despite the circumstances, the present laws meant Ms Loader would not be eligible for family migration. ``Under Migration Law where the legal relationship between a child and his/her birth parents has been severed by adoption, the legal relationship between the child and his/her birth siblings is also severed,'' he said. ``It therefore does not appear that your twin sister would be eligible for a permanent visa under the Family Stream of the Migration Program.''

Mrs Glasby said she was heartbroken that her long-lost twin did not qualify as family. ``We're identical twin sisters _ we're the same egg,'' she said. ``Just because we got adopted into different families they say they don't consider us related. ``It's hard to get anyone more related to me.''

Following an arduous search for her twin that stretched two decades, Mrs Glasby located her sister late last year and the pair finally met in Perth for an emotional reunion. Having spent time in Australia and then Malaysia getting to know each another, Ms Loader said the sisters, who turn 50 next month, were desperate to be together. ``We have a bond that perhaps only other identical twins can understand,'' she said. ``We don't just want to be together, we need to be together; it is as strong as that. ``I hope the people who know about our story will have the compassion and mercy to grant this last wish of mine to be with my sister and turn my dream into reality.''

Mrs Glasby, a former WA Health Department worker who now acts as a carer for her disabled husband, echoed the sentiments of her twin sister. ``She calls me the yin and I call her the yang _ as a whole, we work together as one,'' she said. ``We've totally bonded and we want to be together. Without her, I now feel incomplete.''

Mrs Glasby's husband, Marc, said he found it difficult to understand the department's policy. ``It doesn't make sense _ I think the typical phrase is `bureaucracy gone mad','' he said. ``Now (that) the department has decreed that the identical twins are not related, this effectively closes off our last avenue to apply.'' He said because Ms Loader was over the age limit of 45 that applied for most skilled migration streams, the sole remaining hope for her to obtain a permanent visa was a plea on compassionate grounds. ``What more compassionate grounds could there be when these two have got nobody else in the world as blood relatives and they want to be together?'' he said.

A DIAC spokeswoman said the family would have to lodge a valid visa application and have it denied before ministerial intervention on compassionate grounds could take place. ``As much as we sympathise with Mrs Glasby's situation, the department is bound by Australian law and any application for a permanent visa for her sister and her sister's family would have to be considered against the relevant laws and the regulations which apply to every case,'' she said.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Who'd be a teacher in today's nervous educational system?

This report documents the familiar modern practice of allowing one whiner to dictate to everyone else. Policy should be changed only when there is an extensive demand for it, not just a demand from one individual

WANTED: A mature adult, with tertiary qualifications, good values, ability to work long hours to educate tomorrow's leaders in everything from maths to English to good manners. Need to be able to be criticised, abused and possibly even assaulted.

Who would apply to be a teacher in 2009? As the school doors closed last year, the debate centred around whether red pens should be used in classrooms and whether building a replica of Noah's Ark amounted to Christian indoctrination. But as those teachers preparing to go back into the classroom this month will tell you, that's only the beginning. Each day, someone will question the decisions they make. They accept that. But more and more often, the questions become complaints, which are taking up more and more of a teacher's time. And it's the consequence of that that we should be worried about.

Teachers are rethinking their career choices; many with years of experience are choosing to leave and none of the debate is focusing on where that leaves our education system -- or the children at its centre. The following is a list of real examples you will not have heard about; they are complaints given to organisers of the Queensland Teachers Union.

* A primary school teacher had a complaint lodged by a parent because she had given the kids a worksheet headed "Spelling demons". The parent's objection centred around "the association with the supernatural" and thought the children would be frightened.

* A primary school in a regional area in Queensland withdrew yoga classes that had been offered to students as part of their fitness program. The reason hehind the forced withdrawal? A parental complaint about yoga's association with "foreign religions" .

* Another primary school removed Harry Potter posters after a parent complained that the posters "introduced children to witchcraft".

* Similarly, a parent of a high school student complained about Macbeth being studied in English classes because it "promoted witchcraft".

* The parents of a high school student complained about the "grave health risk to their child" who was asked to pick up papers from the school grounds as a consequence of persistent disruptive behaviour.

* Melbourne Cup Day was difficult last year -- as it is every year - because of the litany of complaints it brings. For example, the last race prompted complaints from parents because students were not allowed to discuss "the big race". The teachers were accused of being un-Australian. But the same day - and race -- brought complaints from parents of children who were allowed to discuss it, because it allegedly promotes gambling.

* In cases wbere Santa was allowed to be part of recent classroom celebrations, these complaints were logged. 1. Santa promotes a fantasy figure and should be banned. 2. Teachers were promoting an unhealthy overweight role model to children and should be brought into line 3. The presence of Santa in the classroom promoted "greed". You'd think that would make a teacher's plan for the next Christmas easy: Ban Santa and stop the complaints. But no. An equal number of complaints are received each December when Santa is not part of celebrations. Parents have complained that (a) it is political correctness "gone mad"; and (b) that teachers are denying children exposure to a well-loved traditional and cultural figure.

Even the sun-safe "no hat, no play" rule - which has been in place in Queensland state schools for years - brings regular complaints from parents who claim their children have been "discriminated against" if they are not allowed on to the oval because they have no hat. The issue of homework, too, is fraught with problems. Some parents argue that children should do all their work during school hours. But those on the other side say not giving enough homework means teachers are not fully providing for their education and how can all education be achieved from 8.30am to 3pm five days a week?

Add to that the appalling pay given to our teachers, and you wonder whether we are setting our education system up to fail. Of course, parents should have a say in the education of their children. But surely once you investigate the options, and select a school for your children, barring real evidence that your child is being damaged, shouldn't we leave the education to those trained to do it?

The spectre of daily complaints and even legal threats must have an effect on those at the front of the classroom. Why would you go the extra yard, think outside the square, or add to the curriculum if the risk is a barrage of complaints and the threat of legal action? It's our children who risk missing out here.

The above story by Madonna King appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of Saturday 17, January, 2009

Another reduction of medical services in a socialized medical system

In both Britain and Australia, "caring" Leftist governments have a mania for closing down hospitals and shrinking the number of beds available. The pretext is that they want to combine several hospitals into one to provide bigger, better and brighter services. It is utter crap, of course. It is about cost-cutting and nothing else. Standards decline rather than rise. We see the latest iteration of this "compassionate" Leftist policy in Queensland, where the government wants to replace two childrens' hospitals with one new one. Result? Everyone is going to be shortchanged. Even the size of consulting rooms has been reduced to the point where they are too small to fit a wheelchair in. And this is a hospital?

One of Queensland's leading doctors sent a disturbing email to nearly 100 colleagues that was leaked to me last week. Dr Brent Masters, a specialist in respiratory medicine at the Royal Children's Hospital asked if anyone was happy with the planned move to the new Queensland Children's Hospital. The planning process was "truly getting out of hand", he wrote. "I recommend you all read the book On Bullshit: you can buy it at the Medical School bookshop for about $15," he said. "It points out that basing decisions on bullshit are (sic) fraught with dire consequences - indeed worse than basing decisions on lies . . .

"The complete lack of intellectual honesty has let pediatrics down badly in this state . . . "I again point out that this hospital should not be about secondary level pediatrics (the bullshit factor) but about tertiary pediatrics: You can not have a world class hospital based on secondary-level pediatrics." Then he gave an ominous warning about underfunded hospitals. "You can cross the road 100 times with your eyes closed and you will get away with it 90 times," he said.

Despite some positive announcements on the new hospital this week, Dr Masters, like many other specialists, remains sceptical. He has to be. He leads a team treating 350 young cystic fibrosis patients. "People come from all over the world to train with them," said a doctor. They are that good." He is backed up by Dr Ann Chang, a leading researcher and devout Catholic who is a world authority on respiratory disease. This week Chang is in Darwin and soon she heads to New York and Miami to present papers to international medical forums.

For Dr Masters it is a demanding clinical load. CF is an unforgiving genetic disease characterised by frequent lung infections. It is incurable. Even lung transplants have only a 50 per cent success rate. Masters and Chang fear the new hospital simply doesn't have enough space to treat existing cases, let alone the 125 new cases who will come onstream in the next five years. And hospital planners neither seem to understand nor care about necessary research. This is a common complaint among specialists, from pathology to neurology.

Gastroenterologists fear they have been sidelined by planners who "stole" some of their space for respiratory medicine. "Gastroenterology is seriously compromised at QCH, with the complete disintegration of our diagnostic unit," said Dr Looi Ee last week.

Doctors practising nuclear medicine and medical imaging fear they, too, have been short-changed, with not enough MRI scanners.

Professor Jenny Batch told colleagues she needed rooms for diabetics and growth hormone therapy and a permanent patient-family education centre. "I share the concerns that there will not be adequate rooms," she said in another email leaked to me.

Space shortages also worried Dr Jane Peake, a pediatric immunologist who deals in allergies, eczema and auto-immune deficiencies. She feared there would not even be enough space to store research papers. She thought she was looking at a "poorly designed rabbit warren" with "small and grossly inadequate consulting rooms".

Dr Kate Sinclair agrees. She says proposed, open-plan office space will be unsuitable. Privacy will be endangered and deeply personal conversations with patients will be difficult.

Several doctors also questioned plans to cut queues at the new hospital by running clinical sessions in a day starting at 7am and finishing at 8pm.

Dr Lynne McKinlay, the director of pediatric rehabilitation at the Royal, noted the apparent lack of large consulting rooms. She said rooms would be "unsuitable" for children who arrived with both parents, siblings and a stroller, "let alone children who come with wheelchairs and walkers".

The proposed research centre remains unfunded and clinicians in allied health, genetics and dentistry believe their patients, too, will suffer in the shift to South Brisbane.


Boofheaded Queensland cops again

They sometimes block whole freeways in their zeal to catch drink drivers. I have seen it for myself. And I am not talking from sour grapes. I have NEVER had a drink-driving conviction

POLICE have defended an officer who forced motorists across three lanes of traffic during a peak-hour speed trap on a major Brisbane road. Motorists who contacted police headquarters and the media complained that the officer could have endangered his life and the lives of drivers. The Courier-Mail photographed the officer striding into the middle of southbound traffic at the southern end of the Story Bridge about 7pm on Thursday after receiving calls from outraged motorists.

The officer was conducting mobile speed patrols by stopping drivers on Main St, Kangaroo Point, and ordering them across three lanes to a grassy patch on the side of the road. Twenty-seven motorists were caught speeding at the site.

Motorist Jason Riley said he only narrowly avoided a crash because of the "ludicrous" set up. A motorist who had been caught speeding was trying to reverse back on to the main road when he came into Mr Riley's path. "He couldn't see me because of the terrible visibility," Mr Riley said. "I had to swerve to avoid the collision. It was ludicrous."

Gary Fites, of Queensland's peak motoring body RACQ, said drivers relied on police to exercise commonsense. "Something that puts drivers at risk is not acceptable," he said.

Police yesterday defended the speed trap as safe and worthwhile, claiming the site was not conducive to a speed camera "due to engineering issues". [What about safety issues??]


More about an ultimate hero

He says: "I was just doing my job"

Mark Donaldson has become the first Australian in almost 40 years to be awarded the nation's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. The 29-year-old SAS Trooper was yesterday presented with the first VC for Australia, which replaced the Imperial award in 1991, for most conspicuous acts of gallantry during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.

Trooper Donaldson, who was recovering from wounds suffered in an earlier battle, deliberately exposed himself to withering machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire to draw fire away from his mates in the ambush on September 2 last year. Without thought for his safety, he then ran across 80m of exposed ground to rescue a badly wounded Afghan interpreter.

Trooper Donaldson, who has been in the army since 2002 and the Special Air Service Regiment for four years, said he never gave a moment's thought to the possibility that he might die. "I didn't really have time to think about it," Trooper Donaldson, from Newcastle in NSW, said. "I was too busy worrying about getting back to my mates ... and getting us all through it."

Ninety-six other Australians have been awarded the VC since the highest award for valour in the face of the enemy was introduced in 1865. In the drawing room of Government House yesterday the nation's political and military leaders saluted Trooper Donaldson. His survival without so much as a scratch stunned Australia's last recipient, Keith Payne, whose own VC was for action in Vietnam in May 1969. "In a party like his your chances of coming out alive are pretty negative," said Mr Payne, 75, who witnessed the investiture by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

A group of SAS comrades from Donaldson's patrol, including three who were wounded during the terrible ambush, looked on as their mate got his medal. Ms Bryce told the young soldier, his wife Emma and two-year-old daughter Kaylee that the VC for Australia was reserved for the "incomparable and unsurpassed". "You have cradled life in your arms, and opened your heart to its meaning," Ms Bryce said. "You are the finest example and inspiration ... I salute you." Defence Chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Trooper Donaldson had been inducted into a band of brothers so admired for their valour that just 10 remained alive.

Trooper Donaldson said he was overwhelmed by the award. "It's very humbling and really makes you sit back and take a look at yourself," he said. "I'm a soldier, I am trained to fight and that's what we do. It is instinct and it is natural. "You don't think about it at the time, you just do what you've got to do."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Trooper Donaldson had joined the ranks of Australian heroes. "His feat under fire now becomes the stuff of Australian legend," Mr Rudd said.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the heroic medal winner had been on the front line of the battle for freedom. "A battle we cannot lose, we will not lose because of brave men like you," he said.

Trooper Donaldson said the magnitude of his award had not yet sunk in. "I just want to get back to being Mark Donaldson," he said.

More here (Video of interview at the link)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Australian SAS soldier Mark Donaldson awarded Victoria Cross

What a man! I am so glad that the old warrior genes are still among us. Yet again we see that the Australian army uniform is one to be worn with pride. At this time my thoughts also turn to Major Peter Badcoe VC, another very exceptional Australian who will long be remembered

Mark Donaldson has become the first Australian soldier awarded the Victoria Cross in 40 years, for his "exceptional bravery" in service in Afghanistan. Trooper Donaldson has been awarded the nation's highest military honour in a ceremony in Canberra this morning by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

Trooper Donaldson was serving with the SAS in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan on September 2 last year when his unit was hit by an ambush, wounding nine Australians. He deliberately drew enemy fire to allow wounded soldiers to escape and be taken to safety. Then, "with complete disregard for his own safety" Trooper Donaldson ran back 80m across exposed ground to rescue a wounded coalition force interpreter and take him back to a vehicle. His citation said he "displayed exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril" and saved the life of the interpreter.

An official Defence account of the action in December detailed the ambush and heroism of Australians, referring to Trooper Donaldson as Trooper F. Major General Tim McOwan said a joint US, Australian and Afghan Humvee convoy was ambushed when returning to base after inflicting 13 Taliban kills a day earlier. "In order to regain the initiative several SAS soldiers reacted to the ambush without regard to their own safety," Major General McOwan said. "One soldier, whom I shall refer to as Trooper F, moved between positions of cover to engage the enemy, using anti-armour weapons as well as his personal weapon. "The soldier deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire on several occasions in order to draw fire away from those soldiers who were already wounded in the initial heavy fire."

During an attempt to move the convoy away from the heavy enemy fire, a severely wounded Afghan interpreter fell from a truck. "Trooper F saw he had fallen and was lying to the rear in the open in ground being raked by machinegun fire," Major General McOwan said. "Without prompting and without regard to his own safety, Trooper F went back to recover the wounded Afghan. He ran across about 80m of fire-swept and exposed ground, drawing intense and accurate machinegun fire from the entrenched enemy positions." Trooper F lifted the wounded man on to his shoulders and carried him back to the vehicles before applying first aid and then returning to the firefight. The Taliban ambush resulted in nine Australian soldiers being wounded, the most in a single action since the Vietnam War. Ninety six Australians have been awarded the Imperial Victoria Cross.

Trooper Donaldson becomes the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, which replaced the imperial honour in 1991. The first Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross was Captain Sir Neville Howse VC KCMG CB KStJ in 1900 during the Boer War. He also served in World War I and later as commonwealth minister for health, defence and repatriation.

The most recent Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross was Warrant Officer Keith Payne VC OAM in 1969 for gallantry during the Vietnam War. Under heavy enemy fire Warrant Officer Payne instigated a daring rescue of more than 40 men, many of them wounded, and led the party back to the battalion base. Along with Mr Payne, the only other surviving Australian VC recipient is Victorian Edward Kenna, who won his award for service in New Guinea in 1945.


Religious, political and business leaders outraged at Muslim veil ban

Western women are not allowed to wear their normal Western dress in many Muslim countries so it is hard to see why it is unfair to ban Muslim dress in Western countries.

A push to ban customers wearing Muslim garb or hooded tops in shops and banks has outraged religious, political and business leaders. A retail lobby group wants laws forcing all customers to uncover their faces before entering stores. Scott Driscoll, a spokesman for the Queensland group, said yesterday full-face hijabs and hoodies were a security risk. It was only a matter of time before armed robbers and shoplifters donned hijabs for disguise. He rejected claims such a ban would be discriminatory. "This is a really simple situation of treating everyone equally," he said.

But acting Victorian Premier Rob Hulls likened the Queensland association's views to those of former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson. "These Hansonesque views . . . have no place in a modern, multicultural, tolerant society," he said.

The Federal Government last night said a ban would never be allowed. "The Government would not consider such a ban to be acceptable," a spokeswoman for acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Retail king Gerry Harvey said laws against Muslim women wearing hijabs would be bad for any business. "Maybe you have to put the debate on the table but it's a terrible thing to debate," he said.

Banks already require customers to remove motorbike helmets before entering. But Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission chief Helen Szoke said forcing women to remove their hijab before they entered banks or shops would be discriminatory. She rejected a claim by Mr Driscoll that allowing women to wear the hijab because of religious beliefs was political correctness gone mad. "Showing respect for different religious beliefs is not political correctness, it's appropriate in the multi-cultural community we have in Victoria," she said.

The president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Ramzi Elsayed, said calls to ban hijabs were an over-reaction. He said wearing the hijab scarf was an individual choice made by Muslim women. He warned that discussions about laws prejudicing Muslim women could lead to divisions in the community.

Peak industry body the Australian Retailers Association last night distanced itself from the rival Queensland group. ARA executive director Richard Evans said the ban was "misguided, uneducated, fearmongering and disturbing in its nature". "Mr Driscoll's comments are extreme and harking back to a day when xenophobia was rife and serves to create a culture of angst, anger and mistrust," Mr Evans said.


Amazing emergency room incompetence in public hospital

A pensioner [senior citizen] who claims a doctor at Wynnum Hospital was unable to administer an insulin shot has become embroiled in a dispute over the emergency department's level of care. Richard Supranowicz, an insulin-dependent diabetic, said the doctor told him he would need technical advice from either the Redlands or Princess Alexandra hospitals on how to administer the insulin needle. "He also explained his experience was very limited, and his main duties were to supervise admitted patients," Mr Supranowicz said. Mr Supranowicz, directed to Wynnum after phoning a Queensland Health hotline, said he had to be transferred to Princess Alexandra Hospital to be treated for high sugar levels.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Stephen Robertson said he had ordered a full investigation into the issues raised by Mr Supranowicz. Mr Robertson said: "Doctors at Wynnum Hospital are qualified and registered medical practitioners who can handle emergencies and provide resuscitation and stabilisation of emergencies until transfer or retrieval to a higher level service. "A doctor is rostered on and is on site at all times."

Mr Supranowicz, however, described the situation as "absolutely disgraceful". Wynnum specialist physician Dr Brian Senewiratne said Wynnum Hospital was a ``write-off''. ``It has been a write-off for a long time because it doesn't have the beds, the trained staff or the facilities, so everyone is referred to the PA which doesn't have the beds either,'' he said. ``There is the obstinate refusal of the administration to admit there is a problem.''

Queensland Health's website lists the facility's hospital services as being ``acute medical'' and ``emergency services''.

Dr Senewiratne said Wynnum deserved better because patients especially those who were elderly needed practical and emotional support from nearby family and friends.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said: ``I think it is a reasonable expectation that a hospital that is described as offering acute medical and emergency services on the Queensland Health website should actually do this.''


Goodies for Australian scientists with flexible ethics

One of the world's largest research grant pools for climate change adaptation, about $30million, is expected to be allocated over the next two years, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility announced yesterday. The $50 million NCCARF, set up in contentious circumstances by former environment minister Malcolm Turnbull during the 2007 election campaign, is preparing to take research application grants across eight priority areas.

Based at Griffith University, NCCARF recently published the first three of eight draft research priority plans: for health, disaster and emergency management; marine biodiversity; and resources. Research adaptation plans for terrestrial biodiversity, primary industries, water resources, human settlements and social, economic and institutional dimensions will follow this year. Last year Griffith and James Cook University signed a research deal aimed at positioning themselves ahead of the proposed new national research priorities of tropical science and climate change adaptation.

In what appears to signal the emergence of the first university research hub, Griffith and NCCARF will host a series of seven university-based research networks on climate change adaptation. This will include three of the Group of Eight research-intensive universities. Under the JCU- Griffith deal, the universities will do joint research and supervise each other's postgraduates to position themselves as research leaders in tropical science and climate adaptation for the Asia-Pacific.

JCU deputy vice-chancellor, research, and leading UN climate change author Chris Cocklin told the HES the alliance had been formed in response to the Rudd Government's proposed new national research priorities. "Both universities want to consolidate our research on tropical knowledge, and it's also no secret that it's a direct response to (Innovation) Minister Kim Carr's policy to build capacity (hubs) in areas of national priority," he said. "Tropical solutions", especially their subset issues of technology transfer to Australia's neighbours, is one of nine priorities in the Cutler innovation review released last September.

NCCARF director and former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change impact and adaptation author Jean Palutikof told the HES that the field of adaptation research was not well advanced and the emphasis would be on developing resilience. "We are hopeful about making a (research application) call over the next few months for the first three plans, and the other five as soon as possible thereafter," she said yesterday. Professor Palutikof said a fellow IPCC author, British-based Neil Adger, had described the $30million as "one of the biggest pots of money ever put up for adaptation research; it's a significant investment internationally".

She said the extent to which Australia, already challenged by climate extremes such as drought and tropical storms, could adapt to climate change was restricted by the lack of precise predictions of changes at the local level, especially for rainfall. "Even under such uncertainties, we can plan for the future. Adaptation will be easier for resilient systems, and research is needed into what makes systems and institutions resilient and what actions we can take to enhance resilience," she said. Heat extremes, extreme weather, vector-borne disease, mental health and healthcare systems and infrastructure are among the research priorities identified in the health plan.

Last October, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong announced a $10 million grant under which Griffith and its NCCARF would host a series of mainly university-based research networks. NCCARF expects to allocate about $20 million this year and the remaining $30 million in 2010, Professor Palutikof said.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Independent Senator rejects Warmist laws as too coercive

Xenophon is a successful lawyer and a genuine centrist, with some Left, some conservative and some Green positions

Key crossbench senator Nick Xenophon has stepped up his attack on the Government's planned emissions trading scheme. "The Rudd Government targets are pretty pathetic, the 5per cent," Senator Xenophon told The Australian yesterday. "What Rudd's done is overly bureaucratic and cumbersome." The South Australian independent senator is travelling in the US and Canada on budget airlines and Greyhound buses to examine carbon reduction schemes, on a trip paid for from his own pocket.

Senator Xenophon said the Government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme would lead to a massive churn of funds from industry and households to government and back as compensation, as well as higher-than-anticipated costs. He pointed to modelling by Melbourne consultants Frontier Economics to warn that the CPRS could collect up to $80billion a year that would need to be reallocated. "The scheme is all stick and no carrot," he said. "If the design is wrong, we shouldn't do it."

Senator Xenophon said Australia should follow the Canadian model, which granted concessions to lower greenhouse gas emitters. This would reduce churn and allow for higher emission reduction targets. "What it does is encourage investment in greener technology," he said. "The cleaner you are, the greater level of credits you get. You don't have the same degree of churn because you work at a level of energy intensity. "It's much simpler. You just don't get the same price effect."

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke defended the Government's proposals. "We've got the balance there in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to make sure that industries can deal with the challenges of the transition whilst making sure that Australia is part of the economy of the future and can credibly argue for significant emissions reductions for the major emitters around the world," Mr Burke said.

The minister sought to highlight Coalition splits on emissions trading after Nationals Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce told The Australian his party might vote against the Liberals on the issue. "Malcolm Turnbull is willing to tolerate climate change sceptics and a front bench which can't agree on anything," Mr Burke said. "He will tolerate a Coalition partner that only votes with him when it feels like it." The Opposition Leader denied that the Coalition partners were divided. "I've no doubt that we will be responding to this legislation with one voice," Mr Turnbull said.


On our way to the bad old days

Gillard's workplace plan is a big win for union leaders

ANYBODY who does not believe we have returned to the old era of union authority should pay attention to what ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence is up to. As Samantha Maiden reported in The Australian yesterday, Mr Lawrence is angry over the Rudd Government's proposed workplace laws, saying that pattern bargaining, where unions negotiate deals that apply to an entire industry, is not allowed. He wants pattern bargaining back, so unions can protect workers' wages and conditions.

Back in the days when wages and conditions were imposed on employers and workers by lawyers, peak employer representatives and big union officials of the industrial relations club, this was called an ambit claim - an outrageous demand to distract attention from the real objective. In this case, Mr Lawrence's objective looks like being to stop people from understanding that Employment Minister Julia Gillard has already given the ACTU a great deal of what it wants, and he does not want anybody to realise this before the new workplace relations legislation goes through parliament. It is a deception that will help Ms Gillard, who knows that ostensible union anger will help her bill in the Senate, where the Government is in the minority. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has already acknowledged that the Government has an election mandate to change John Howard's workplace laws, and union anger will make it easy not to fight Ms Gillard's bill too hard. After all, if the ACTU is upset by it, how bad can it be?

The answer is that it is very bad indeed. Ms Gillard wants to re-establish the foundation of the old industrial relations club, with a powerful quasi-court, to be called Fair Work Australia. It will have a role in setting minimum wages and resolving disputes. Unions will be empowered to get involved in negotiations in organisations where they have but one member. And in workplaces where they have none, union officials will have right of entry to inspect staff records, on the grounds that employees might want to become unionists in the future. If employers do not bargain in "good faith", defined in a set of instructions, FWA will be able to compulsory arbitrate an agreement.

The complex arrangements Ms Gillard has in place until the old Howard government laws are replaced by her legislation demonstrate how bad things will be. They are designed to keep industrial relations experts busy and business bemused. But the ACTU's biggest win is the way Ms Gillard plans to create a separate bargaining system for low-paid workers in industries such as childcare and cleaning, hospitality and security. The new legislation outlaws industrial action across these industries but does permit industrywide negotiation. That parliamentary secretary Greg Combet, Mr Lawrence's predecessor at the ACTU, pushed for the compulsory bargaining powers in the system for low-paid workers demonstrates the victory they are for the unions.

While Mr Lawrence says none of this is good enough, in fact, suddenly it's the 1970s. Ms Gillard is pointing us towards a time when employers were obliged to organise their workplaces in accord with centrally set wages and conditions, regardless of local circumstances, or capacity to pay. Certainly, her new pattern bargaining under another name is restricted to specific industries, and Ms Gillard is right to remind us that striking in support of claims is not permitted. But FWA's authority to oversee negotiations means employers will answer to an organisation with the power to set wages and conditions. And once the principle of industrywide negotiation is accepted, the unions will push to increase it across the economy.

Ms Gillard has been very clever in giving the unions as much authority as they need to impose themselves on workers and employers who have no interest in their assistance, while talking tough about keeping union power under control. She has got away with it because Kevin Rudd pays attention to industrial relations only when he has to. The Prime Minister intervened when Ms Gillard went too far with her first draft of the industrial relations laws in April 2007. But he failed to intervene when she, with Mr Combet's counsel, drafted the present proposals.

Mr Rudd needs to intervene now, as we face the biggest threat to employment in a generation. To preserve jobs we need a system where wages and conditions are set at the enterprise level, without the uninvited interference of union officials or Ms Gillard's quasi-court. For Mr Rudd to amend the workplace legislation would upset Mr Combet and generate genuine outrage from Mr Lawrence. Tough. This is a time when the interest of all Australians must come first. And if he doubts it, Mr Rudd should ask the first prime minister of modern times to take on the unions, that master of consensus, Bob Hawke.


Maggots in public hospital ICU

This must be about as charming as it gets. But the NHS got there before us, of course

Maggots have been found falling from the ceiling of the Royal Hobart Hospital's intensive care unit. The maggots were discovered on Tuesday in a male staff toilet not accessible to the general public. The hospital attempted to play down the grubby find yesterday, saying only a small number of larvae were found by a staff member, who reported them immediately.

Spokeswoman Pene Snashall said patient hygiene was never at risk. "The Environmental Services Team and the Infection and Prevention Control Team responded immediately with a thorough clean-up and investigation," Ms Snashall said. "Patient safety and care was always our top priority." But even after virtually gutting the toilet block, the source of the infestation remains a mystery. The hygiene team ripped out ceiling tiles looking for possible sources of the maggots, including dead rodents in the air-conditioning vents, but found nothing. "There have not been any further discoveries [of maggots] as of today and we are confident we have eliminated the problem," Ms Snashall said.

Maggots are sometimes used in medicine to eat dead flesh and speed up the healing of wounds -- but not in this case. Ms Snashall said the hospital had a year-round pest control program to control spiders, ants and cockroaches.

Australian Nursing Federation Neroli Ellis said the incident showed the ageing hospital was virtually rotting. "I do think it is a one-off -- the cleaning staff are vigilant," she said. "But it is reflective of the state of the building and the age of the building that these issues are occurring and there needs to be strong monitoring and a review of maintenance to ensure this situation doesn't happen again." Ms Ellis said building a new hospital would not fix the problems at the old facility in the short term. "Whatever is decided politically about building a new hospital, there must be an ongoing upgrade of the current building in the meantime because it is falling down around them," she said.


Must not criticize Muslim garb

A Brisbane radio station may have to explain why it should keep its licence after an announcer was accused of making anti-Islamic comments. Former Victorian police officer, now 4BC drive-time announcer, Michael Smith called for Muslim women who wear an Islamic hijab in public to be fined for offensive behaviour. He made the remarks on-air and on the 4BC website, saying: "Any reasonable person would find this offensive."

Islamic Council of Queensland president Suliman Sabdia said Mr Smith's remarks amounted to "a clear case of intolerance".

Under the Commercial Radio Code of Practice, a licensee must not broadcast a program likely to incite hatred against or vilify any person or group on the basis of age, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, religion, or disability. Christine Donnelly from the Australian Communications and Media Authority said Mr Smith's comments could be a breach of the Code of Practice. 4BC general manager David McDonald said Mr Smith's remarks were not intended to be anti-religion or anti-Muslim.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A private education and proud of it

Note for American readers: "Whingeing" (pronounced "winjing") is a derogatory Australian/British word for the sort of persistent whining a little kid does when it is tired etc. It is derogatory when applied to adult complainers and critics

LET'S get a few things straight from the outset: I went to a private school; my parents aren't rich; they worked hard to pay for a total of 39 years of private education for their three daughters. Should they or I be ashamed of this? No. I'm tired of the whingeing about private schools, their pupils and parents. The beauty of earning income is that you can spend it on whatever you choose. My parents chose to spend a significant portion of their earnings educating their kids. We worked hard at school and did well, the only way we knew how to repay them.

At 26, am I now an idle eastern suburbs "lady who lunches"? No. The moment my HSC exams finished, I was on my own. I got a part-time job, paid my way through uni and got a "real job" at the end. I now work alongside alumni of both the public and private systems in investment banking.

There is a small number of private school students who do rort the system; who use daddy's funding of a new wing for the school as leverage to get their own way. They are the minority who give us all a bad name. There are also kids in the public system whose behaviour is equally unscrupulous.

Just because I was educated at a private school it doesn't mean I'm lazy, up myself and undeserving of what life presents me. I drive an entry-model Japanese car, rent a small apartment and, like most, struggle to pay my bills and wish I had more money to pursue the things I desire.

Why isn't there similar outrage against people who buy a European car instead of a domestic make because they can afford it? Could it be because it's their money to spend as they wish?

It is time people stopped complaining about the "evils and excesses" of the private school system and started looking at the failures and problems in the public system. For me the most telling thing I've heard was a case of a public school teacher who would not send his three sons to a public school. His wages, by no means excessive, were poured into educating his boys at a private school. If all the energy spent complaining about private schools and their pupils was channelled into improving the dire state of public schooling, we might have a public school system worth defending.


Senator Joyce blasts Greenie fanatics

NATIONALS firebrand Senator Barnaby Joyce has launched a fresh attack on carbon emissions trading, drawing parallels between environmentalists and Nazis. Senator Joyce warned of the rise of "eco-totalitarianism" and said he would not be "goosestepping" along with them.

The Federal Government plans to start emissions trading in 2010 to reduce carbon pollution and take up the fight against climate change.

"The idea that this scheme can go forward and no one's allowed to question because there's a new form of eco-totalitarianism that demands blind obedience, I think that is wrong," the Nationals Senate leader said on ABC radio today. "One has to fall into lockstep, goosestep and parade around the office ranting and raving that we are all as one?"

Senator Joyce rejected a suggestion he was a climate change denier and drew a parallel with the Holocaust, the murder of millions of Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II. "Climate change denier, like Holocaust denier, this is the sort of emotive language that has become stitched up in this (emissions trading) issue," he said. Senator Joyce said emissions trading would put Australians out of their homes and out of jobs. And it would do nothing to counter climate change, he said.

Senator Joyce's stance raises the possibility of a coalition split with Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull yet to announce a position on emissions trading. Some within the Coalition support taking action on climate change, while others share Senator Joyce's reservations. The Government needs the support of the Coalition to pass its scheme through the Senate, or it will have to rely on the Greens and independents, a prospect not welcomed by the business lobby.


Greenie knowalls goof

They talk about ecosystems but don't seem to be able to recognize one when they see it -- so end up shooting themselves in the foot

Eradicating feral cats on Australia's remote Macquarie Island has devastated the environment after rabbit numbers exploded, a new study shows. The study says it will cost $24 million to fix the World Heritage-listed island located about halfway between Australia and Antarctica. Scientists writing in the British Ecological Society's Journal Of Applied Ecology, said conservation agencies could learn important lessons from what happened on Macquarie Island.

According to the article, rabbit numbers on the island were reduced from a high of 130,000 in 1978 to less than 20,000 in the 1980s, after a program to spread the disease myxomatosis. But as rabbit numbers fell, cats introduced in the early 1800s began to hunt the island's native burrowing birds, and in 1985 a cat eradication program began. After the last cat was killed in 2000, myxomatosis failed to keep rabbit numbers in check and their numbers jumped. In little over six years, rabbits substantially altered large areas of the island, the study found.

Dana Bergstrom, who works for the Australian Antarctic Division and was lead author of the report, said the rabbit population had reverted to 1978 levels, with up to 130,000 on the island. By 2007 the impact on protected valleys and slopes was acute, she said. "We estimate that nearly 40 per cent of the whole island area had changed, with almost 20 per cent having moderate to severe change," Dr Bergstrom said. About half of this vegetation change occurred on the island's coastal slopes, home to penguin colonies. "Before, it was lush tussocks up to 1.5 metres high," Dr Bergstrom said. "In some of the most severe cases, the tussocks have been eaten down to the ground."

The disappearance of the tussocks has exposed penguin "roads" developed over hundreds of years by penguins making their way from colonies to the beach. As a result, the penguins were exposed to large predatory birds, called skuas, Dr Bergstrom said.

The study said changes documented were a rare example of "trophic cascades", when changes in one species' abundance cause several other parts of the food web to be altered. Macquarie Island, which is just 34 kilometres long and five kilometres wide, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997.


Buying property in Australian cities

Whingeing Poms? Hardly. The record number of Brits moving to Oz are justifiably smug

Thanks to its sun, sea and surf, Australia sounds attractive at the best of times. In the worst of times, it sounds positively Elysian. Or, as one British expat observed: "Unemployed in Scunthorpe or unemployed on Bondi Beach - which would you prefer?" Last year, a record 23,000 British migrants arrived in Australia. This year, even more recession-weary Brits are expected to apply to migrate there - some, perhaps, inspired by Baz Luhrmann's sweeping cinematic vistas of the country. Which makes it a good time to ask what you can expect from life down under.

Let's start with the good news. Most aspiring migrants assume the Antipodes will mean warmer weather, more space and a better quality of life. From where I'm sitting - at a desk overlooking a leafy acre of the Adelaide Hills, enjoying a very clement 26 degrees - these are perfectly reasonable assumptions. I've enjoyed the Australian sunshine since 1992, when I left London for Sydney with a couple of thousand in the bank. I've made good hay since then, entering the city's property market in 1995 and riding the years of prosperity. Today, I'm in South Australia, where my wife and I delight in seeing our young boys growing up, happy, healthy and safe.

As a British expat, I'm often asked what I most like about Australia. Where do I start? The big cities offer all the civilisation, commerce and culture I need, yet true wilderness is never far away. Great restaurants are a fact of life, rather than a special occasion, lovely old British sports cars don't rust, and while Anglo predispositions towards humour, energy and asking questions are seen as symptoms of Pommie madness, they're appreciated by the locals.

Perhaps the best news, at least from where you're sitting, is that Britons who bring their equity south - however much it has dwindled in the past year - can usually afford more house than they had back home. Which brings us abruptly to the bad news. First, being unemployed on Bondi Beach is a real possibility - if not for you, at least for your new neighbours. Yup, the credit crunch has hit us too.

Second, the pound, which until recently bought A$2.50, is now below A$2.20. And finally, the property market, which was still surging this time last year, is looking patchy, so you can no longer count on capital appreciation if you buy. Prices are still rising in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, the least populated states, but elsewhere they're either falling or flatlining.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks sharks might be less dangerous than welfare housing

Lying Greenie haters exposed

The pastoralist nephew of one of Queensland's richest men believes he was "crucified" by false scientific claims that he had been developing his property to take water illegally from the last free-flowing river in the Murray-Darling Basin. The University of NSW has admitted the research accusing Jake Berghofer was funded by opponents of irrigation development, and has been forced to back away from the findings by some of its most senior scientists.

Mr Berghofer said he had been "crucified" by the findings of the university's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences that he had breached a moratorium on the Paroo River. "It's not right that a big university can get away with trying to destroy someone who hasn't done anything wrong," Mr Berghofer said. His uncle, Toowoomba businessman Clive Berghofer, who has an estimated fortune of $327 million, saidhis nephew had been shabbily treated. "Jake is a very hard worker and he hasn't done anything wrong," he said.

An investigation by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water concluded that a series of findings in the UNSW study were wrong. The study claimed that irrigation works on Mr Berghofer's property, Springvale, south of Eulo, breached a 2003 agreement between the Queensland and NSW governments to protect the Paroo, the only river in the Murray-Darling Basin with no irrigation. The study said satellite imaging last year showed that since a moratorium on irrigation works was introduced for the Paroo in 2001, a new channel system had been developed on the property and a 21ha water storage built. It said that of nine storages on Springvale, only three were visible in satellite imaging produced in 2002. "All but two of the levee banks that existed in 2002 had new works around their perimeter that might increase storage capacity," it said.

The study triggered an avalanche of criticism of Mr Berghofer when itwas released late last year, with South Australian Premier Mike Rann describing the irrigation works as an "act of terrorism". However, the state investigation concluded that all the works referred to in the report were either completed or approved before the 2001 moratorium. Queensland Natural Resources Minister Craig Wallace said there were no breaches of the Paroo River agreement and that Mr Berghofer had done nothing wrong.

Richard Kingsford, who oversaw the study, conceded that the irrigation works identified on the property might have been legal, and that the agreement might not have been breached. "That could be the case but I think there is still a potential breach," Professor Kingsford said. "Even if it's legal, we still should be concerned about irrigation in the only Murray-Darling system river that is undeveloped." Professor Kingsford said the study was funded by the NSW-based Australian Floodplain Association, a fierce critic of irrigation upstream in the Queensland sector of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Paroo River Association president Robert Bartlett said the Queensland Government was "covering up" for Mr Berghofer. "The Paroo is in near pristinecondition and it should be able to remain that way," Mr Bartlett said. But Mr Berghofer said the irrigation work identified by the university was intended only to stop storage leakages; that it was covered by government permits; and that it was located nowhere near the Paroo River. "I'm a small bloke trying to grow a bit of hay and they've tried to crucify me," he said. Mr Berghofer said Professor Kingsford and other critics had ignored invitations to visit his property.

In June, the three-year Sustainable Rivers Audit found that of the basin's 23 rivers, only the Paroo in western Queensland was in good health.


More "caring" socialist medicine

Mother charged $500 to park at hospital but media exposure brings a backdown

THE Children's Hospital, Westmead has told a mother about to donate a kidney to her daughter she will have to pay $500 in parking fees. The case of South Granville mother Kristy Hite has exposed the confusion and heartlessness of the hospital's new parking policy. The Daily Telegraph this week revealed the State Government's plan to privatise hospital car parks and Westmead's proposal to increase fees at its car park.

Ms Hite's daughter Lily, 4, has been sick since she was born and the struggling family was entitled to free parking. Last month a hospital social worker said the free parking would be revoked and Ms Hite would have to pay for parking for at least two months until the hospital could consider her case. If Ms Hite parks at the hospital - which is now charging $16 a day, up from $12 - during visits before and after her daughter's operation she would pay about $512.

When The Daily Telegraph alerted the hospital to Ms Hite's plight yesterday, a spokeswoman said there had been a miscommunication and the family would continue to be allowed to park free. "She (the social worker) said she was looking into what we could do further down the track," Ms Hite said yesterday. "She said I would have to pay for a couple of months until they worked something out, it was a very vague conversation we had. "It is the worst time for them to cancel that card, we're going to live here for at least a month."

Ms Hite has moved from Nowra to South Granville and borrowed money to stay afloat. Before the hospital returned her parking privileges, she said she would have to park blocks from the hospital and walk to see her daughter despite undergoing serious surgery to have her kidney removed. "That cost isn't even an option . . . I am in debt up to my eyeballs," she said. "I am amazed you have to pay at all and the price is ridiculous."

Health Minister John Della Bosca said yesterday he had called the hospital to ensure families were given proper consideration. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Ms Hite would be provided with free parking.


Loophole gets criminals off

NEARLY one in six people who committed a crime in 2007 had no conviction imposed by the courts, according to figures obtained by the Herald. Overall nearly 19,000 people in NSW had the case against them proved but received no criminal record under what is known in legal circles as "section 10" - a section of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act giving magistrates or judges the discretion not to impose a conviction. The crimes range from drink driving - the most common and well-known use of this discretion - theft, property damage and drug offences to assault, sexual assault and manslaughter or driving causing death.

But some insiders say there is a two-tier system: if you are articulate, have good legal representation, commission expert witnesses and your job is at stake if you receive a criminal conviction, your chances of getting off without one, anecdotally, seem to be stronger.

The Opposition justice spokesman, Greg Smith, said section 10 was used too often and should be used only for trivial offences. Police already had the discretion not to proceed with prosecution for trivial offences, he said. When the section is used the charge can be dismissed, or the offender asked to enter a good behaviour bond. In either case the offence is found proved without recording a conviction. The Judicial Commission's instructions describe it as "a safety valve" to be used where there are extenuating circumstances. But it warns that its widespread use could "undermine confidence in the administration of justice".

Overall, there was a drop in the use of section 10 for drink driving offences - from nearly 7000 in 2003 to 5267 in 2007 since a guideline judgment on its use for high-range drink driving offences. During the same time, its use in driving licence offences more than doubled.

The barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, a member of the Bar Association's criminal law committee, said the figures showed magistrates or judges used their discretion only in unusual cases. "The reduction in section 10s for traffic offences including PCA [drink driving] reflects the courts' and parliament's crackdown on bad driving offences."

Mr Smith said it should rarely be used for offences as serious as drink driving. "You are risking your own life, the life of your passengers and other people. It's really not appropriate." He said he could not imagine anyone found to have committed a sexual assault escaping a conviction.

The secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the ability of magistrates and judges not to record a conviction was an essential element of the justice system. It provided a way for a magistrate to make the point that the prosecution was unjustified or unreasonable, Mr Blanks said. The consequences of having a conviction recorded were getting ever more serious, he said, as increasing numbers of employers asked for workers to disclose such matters. Also a conviction often made it difficult to travel overseas, he said. Accused who were "better able to articulate the circumstances to a court will get better results", he said. Having a lawyer who could present the argument to the court "certainly helps", he said.

Mr Smith agreed. "People with money and the ability to afford private legal representation and expert witnesses are more likely to get [a section 10]." If the court was convinced they would not reoffend, their chances also rose, he said. One prominent example was the former Secret Life Of Us star Samuel Johnson, who in December 2007 escaped conviction when he pleaded guilty to a drunken assault at a wedding reception. In May last year the actor Alex Dimitriades received a bond but no conviction for driving with a blood alcohol reading of 0.11 - a mid-range drink-driving offence.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said the proportion of people receiving a section 10 had fallen by one percentage point since 2003 [A whole 1%! Wow!], and about two third of offenders who received a section 10 had to enter a bond. "Rather than getting more lenient, studies . show that courts are getting tougher, with more offenders being sent to prison with longer sentences.


HMAS Sydney was sunk so quickly because of the huge firepower of its adversary

And the overconfident Capt. Burnett was careless enough to put his ship where all that firepower could be used against it

New reconstructions of the encounter between HMAS Sydney and German raider Kormoran show how the Sydney was lost. Computer re-enactments show the Australian warship was not only hit by a torpedo but also peppered with close-range gunfire. HMAS Sydney was lost with all 645 crew on November 19, 1941, following a battle with the disguised Kormoran off the West Australian coast.

Observations from the wreck site and accounts from Kormoran survivors have enabled a team of defence scientists and naval architects at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to create computer graphics of the battle between the two warships. The stark images were shown at an inquiry into the ship's sinking in Sydney this morning.

The graphics, shown from the Kormoran's view, show Sydney's port side being sprayed with shellfire and then hit by a large torpedo, before the ship turns and is bombarded with more shellfire on its starboard side. Another graphic then shows the doomed warship sinking onto its side as black smoke billows out.

"The battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran was unique as a sea battle in that HMAS Sydney was not only hit by a torpedo, but also pounded by accurate and sustained gunfire from close range for an extended period of time," Commodore Jack Rush QC told the inquiry. "Other World War II ships had survived single torpedo hits, while others survived shell hits from larger calibre shells. "HMAS Sydney, however, had to endure the sustained attack of 15 centimetre shells at close range, 20 millimetre shells raking the upper deck at a rate of more than 100 rpm, and sustained shelling by 3.7 centimetre guns."


Monday, January 12, 2009

Greg Sher honoured

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered a moving eulogy at the military funeral Sunday of a Jewish soldier killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the request of the slain soldier's family, donning a yarmulke, Rudd delivered a euology, telling almost 2,000 mourners at Melbourne's Lyndhurst Jewish Cemetery that Private Gregory Sher's death was not in vain. "He believed not just in the service of which he was a proud member, but also in the ideals to which Australia was committed in the fight against terrorism," Rudd said.

Sher, a 30-year-old South African-born soldier, was killed Jan. 4 in a rocket attack on a military compound southwest of Kabul.

Dozens of dignitaries followed Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn from the makeshift marquee to the grave site, including opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, members of the military's top brass and Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem. They were joined by dozens of soldiers and war veterans. Private Sher's casket, draped in the Australian flag, arrived at the burial site in a gun-carriage escorted by members of Australia's elite forces and an honor guard from his own company. A volley of gun shots was fired before Sher's coffin was buried. The prime minister joined the Sher family and other mourners in shoveling earth into the grave.

Sher is the eighth Australian soldier, and the first of the country's reservists, killed in Afghanistan since Australia sent forces to aid the United States-led coalition against the Taliban and al-Qaida in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He is believed to be Australia's first Jewish military casualty at least since the Vietnam War.

Fitzgibbon, the defense minister, told local media that Sher was "an Australian hero." "He understood the risks but willingly did what his country asked of him," Fitzgibbon said. Michael Danby, a Jewish parliamentarian in Rudd's government, told JTA he had never seen a funeral like it before. "There will probably never be a funeral like that ever again, where not just parents but the prime minister, leader of the opposition and three generals helped bury Greg Sher," he said.

Rabbi Ralph Genende, the local Jewish chaplain to the armed forces, told the Australian Jewish News that Sher was "a courageous soldier, a mensch [nice guy] and a committed Jew." Sher received a farewell from his comrades at a military ceremony Thursday in Afghanistan; a star of David was hung above his casket in the hangar before his body was repatriated to Melbourne Jan. 9.

In a statement issued issued through the Defense Department late last week, the Sher family declared: "Greg was a man of purpose and committed determination" and "was an extremely positive person with a kind soul. He was the sort of mate who would do anything for anyone, and his friends knew him for the great guy that he was." Sher had previously served in East Timor, where he received several medals. He was also awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO medal and the Australian Defense Medal. He moved to Australia with his family in 1986, and is survived by his two brothers, his parents and his partner


Australian troops get revenge

Australian special forces troops have killed a Taliban leader believed to have orchestrated the rocket attack that killed an Australian soldier in Afghanistan last weekend. Private Gregory Sher, whose funeral will be held in Melbourne today, died when a rocket struck the remote patrol base in the Baluchi Valley of Afghanistan's restive Oruzgan Province where he and other special forces soldiers were harbouring.

Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, on a visit to troops in Afghanistan, said the special forces troops had just finished a successful operation that resulted in the death of a number of Taliban insurgents and the capture of two. Unfortunately it also resulted in the death of Private Sher, the eighth Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan. As a member of the part-time 1 Commando Regiment, he was also the first reservist to die in Afghanistan.

In an impassioned speech, Air Chief Marshal Houston told special forces soldiers gathered in the dining area at their base in Tarin Kowt: "It is quite clear you made them pay for the death of a comrade.'' He praised them for continuing the operation in a completely professional manner, showing great distinction, courage and teamwork, despite this tragedy. "The results they achieved were nothing short of spectacular,'' he said later.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said it had been confirmed that one of those killed in the operation was a prominent and long-hunted Taliban leader from the Baluchi region. "They actually got the leader who we think orchestrated all of this,'' he said. "They went into an area this guy was the leader. They got him.''

Australian special forces have killed or captured more than a dozen Taliban leaders in the province in the past six months. Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Australian special forces team were having a significant impact on the province. "Last year the violent incidents went up right acoss Afghanistan. The only province where there was a reduction in violent incidents was in Oruzgan. We were against the trend,'' he said.

Commander of Australian forces in the Middle East Major General Mike Hindmarsh said the special operations task group had been operating in Oruzgan since 2005, disrupting Taliban operations by targeting the leaders and bomb makers. He said most of the top leaders had now fled to Pakistan. "They know it is just too dangerous to operate in that part of the world,'' he said. "Our aim is to keep whacking them and disabuse them of the notion that they can exist there at all.''


Yet another attack on displaying the Australian flag

Again with an absurd "safety" excuse

A Gateway Bridge crane operator was ordered to remove the Australian flag by a project manager worried it could distract motorists or fall on the highway. Leighton Abigroup Joint Venture project director Hugh Boyd said the flag needed to go for safety reasons.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Queensland secretary Andrew Dettmer said he was "a bit gobsmacked". Mr Dettmer said he was aware of crane operators being ordered to remove union flags, but "I've never heard of it being done against the Australian flag".

Leighton Abigroup has no policies on the flying of flags and doesn't intend to investigate ways for the Australian flag to be flown safely above the bridge. But that would change if their client - the Queensland Government - requested them to fly the flag. "In that case, we would follow their wishes," Mr Boyd said.

Some motorists were getting used to seeing the flag on their daily commute and at least one fumed over seeing the banner come down. "How many times must Australians endure this crap?" he said, pointing out the flag was acting as a wind indicator to aid the crane operator. The project director said the main safety concern was the potential for a high wind to cause the flag to fall on to vehicles.


There is no bungle like a government bungle

The first day of the Sydney Harbour Bridge's cashless toll system may have gone smoothly on the road but for drivers trying to buy an e-tag online from the RTA, it was frustrating. While the State Government urged motorists to "get on board with electronic tolling", in a shocking case of bad timing the RTA's myE-Toll website page crashed for several hours due to technical problems.

The RTA apologised last night for the inconvenience caused by the fault, which crashed the site from about midday to just after 4pm.

NRMA president Wendy Machin said the glitch was unacceptable. "It's astounding that on the first day the Bridge is cashless, people go online to register for an electronic pass only to find the site says it's closed for maintenance," she said. "Obviously the point of going cashless on a Sunday was to allow people time to get a tag for work the next week and now they won't be prepared. "They make it so hard. People are already cranky about the amount of the tolls they have to pay on NSW roads and now, when they are trying to do the right thing, they can't."

More here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Palestinian supporters desecrate OZ war memorial

John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the peak body of Victorian Jewry, said today: "Yesterday unknown persons desecrated a memorial in Caulfield Park with pro-Palestine graffiti. This memorial is dedicated to the citizens of Caulfield who died serving Australia in both World Wars.

What makes this act even more reprehensible is that it occurred in a week when a Jewish Australian soldier was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. This young man died in the fight for democratic values and freedom from extremism, just like those whom the memorial honours. These are the very same values that Israel's citizens embody in their struggle against Hamas, Hezbollah and their Iranian masters.

As the majority of Melbourne's Jewish population is located in Caulfield, it is fair to assume that this graffiti was aimed at them. It is the latest in a series of intimidatory actions against Victorian Jewry presumably related to the current Middle East conflict. These include acts of physical and verbal aggression to persons and property, not against Israel, but against citizens of Australia.

As local Jews have no influence on Israeli policy - and nor should they - such actions cannot be seen as fair political protest or comment, but as hate crimes against Jews. Even more to the point, these vile acts are not only aimed at Victorian Jews; quite simply, they are a rejection of the ethics of the multicultural society in which we take such pride.

All fair-minded Australians must recognise this and raise their voices in protest. As for those cowards who violated this tribute to brave defenders of Australian values, they should hang their heads in shame."


Crooked Victorian cops

No surprise

UP to 100 Victoria Police officers and employees have been taken into criminal custody or punished for serious disciplinary breaches in only 12 months. Thirty-two sworn officers have been detained, suspected of offences including rape, child pornography, drug-related offences and perverting the course of justice. Another 50 officers were punished for breaking internal police rules. Twenty-two civilian police employees were investigated for crimes and internal breaches.

The figures were obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun under Freedom of Information. Ethical Standards Department head Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said: "We believe there is a need for a faster system that allows dismissal of members who are corrupt, involved in criminal offences or have lost the community's confidence." But the Police Association claims any reforms would give too much power to the Chief Commissioner.

Most of those taken into custody were locked up or questioned as suspects in thefts, assaults, drug crimes, deception offences and misconduct in public office. Some officers were released, while others were charged and jailed.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal Victoria Police internally disciplined 50 officers with ranks as high as inspector for breaking rules in a recent 12-month period. The 50 officers received penalties for "disgraceful" and "improper" conduct, illegal moonlighting, criminal acts and disobeying orders from Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon, according to Victoria Police data.

The revelations come as the reputation of Victoria Police reels from criminal and corruption scandals, including allegations of police running an illegal brothel and suspicions of police leaks being linked to gangland executions. Misbehaving cops caught by police internal affairs, now ESD, include:

TWO inspectors, one demoted, the other put on a good behaviour bond, for disgraceful conduct.

TWO Sen-Sergeants, believed to have been training police officers in Iraq, fined and given good behaviour bonds for non-approved moonlighting.

DISGRACEFUL conduct by a Sen-Sgt and six Sen-Constables leading to a dismissal, demotion, promotion freeze and transfer freeze.

A SERGEANT and 16 Sen-Constables who refused to follow an order of the Chief Commissioner, leading to a promotion freeze, a demotion, four reprimands, four fines and seven bonds.

SIX officers proven guilty of a criminal offence, leading to a dismissal, reprimand, promotion freeze and three bonds.

A SEN-CONSTABLE and constable put on bonds after committing an offence punishable by jail.

FOUR constables found negligent in discharge of duty, but given no penalty.

AND improper conduct by a Sen-Sgt, five Sen-Constables, a leading Sen-Constable and two constables leading to four bonds, two fines, a dismissal, a reprimand and a transfer.

Another four unsworn force employees were also given good behaviour bonds after being found guilty of serious misconduct. Victoria Police refused to identify the alleged culprits or reveal details of their alleged offences.


Public hospital delays killing cancer patients

CANCER campaigners are developing a hospital waiting lists shame file in an attempt to cut treatment delays they say could be killing patients. People who have faced hold-ups in the state's health system are being urged to contact Cancer Council Queensland's hotline, from tomorrow, to report their experiences. Chief executive officer Professor Jeff Dunn said the calls would be logged and presented to Health Minister Stephen Robertson.

The move follows the release of Queensland Health figures showing more than 250 Category 2 patients had been waiting more than two years for elective surgery. People in that group - including cancer and heart disease patients - should be operated on within 90 days, according to State Government guidelines.

"We are very concerned that some cancer patients might have experienced a two-year wait for treatment," said Prof Dunn. "We have a moral responsibility to ensure that Queenslanders with cancer are receiving timely treatment."

The Cancer Council says hold-ups in getting access to treatment could cost lives. "A two-year delay in treatment for most types of cancer is too long and could have an impact on patient survival and quality of life. "With timely treatment, effective care and support, people have a much better chance of surviving and thriving after a cancer diagnosis," Prof Dunn said.

Long waits could also cause additional pain and distress for patients and their loved ones, he said. "The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a major life stress for most people and brings with it a range of psychological challenges, including anxiety, depression and - for some - feelings of loneliness, confusion and fear of the future. "Over one-third of people diagnosed with cancer experience persistent, clinically significant distress, and carers often experience even higher distress than patients.

"A two-year waiting time could significantly exacerbate their distress, with adverse effects on the patient's treatment and recovery process."


Anti-Israel protesters continue campaign in Canberra

Sounds like they are mostly Muslims who hate Israel anyway

Protestors marched on the embassies of Israel, the USA and Egypt yesterday. Anti-Israeli protesters have vowed to continue their campaign against the latest violence in Gaza, calling on the Australian Government to change its stance. Yesterday hundreds of protesters marched on the Israeli, United States and Egyptian embassies in Canberra, ending at the Lodge where they called on the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to immediately condemn Israel's actions. Tonight they will begin a vigil outside the Israeli embassy.

Keysar Trad from the Islamic Friendship Association says they will continue to pressure the Australian Government. "Unequivocal condemnation of Israeli aggression number one, number two we want our Government to also call a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations and strongly condemn Israel and also send troops to stop the Israeli aggression," he said. "There are people who are losing their lives some of them are related to you, some of them are your cousins, I'm sure some of you here know some of the people who were killed. "Is it enough just to attend a rally? Do a simple letter, sign a few petitions, talk to your local member, don't just let it end with a simple rally."


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bureaucratic brilliance kills public hospital patients

A Westmead Hospital scheme designed to slash costs and improve performance statistics by getting patients out of ambulances more quickly contributed to the deaths of two patients, who received sub-standard care in the emergency department, internal investigations claim. Patients were placed on trolley beds in a corridor, under the care of a nurse and without supervision by a doctor or even basic resuscitation equipment, under the scheme, which continued for seven months after the first death and despite the written objections of the hospital's emergency chief.

Internal investigations into the deaths of a 64-year-old man in February 2007, and of 85-year-old Mary Redfern in October the same year, pointed to inherent dangers in the so-called Nurse Ambulance Release Team (NART) arrangements as significant contributors to both. A report into the death of the man - admitted with a lung infection, low blood pressure and low oxygen levels - concluded, "the geographical location of NART beds and the absence of allocated [doctors] to the NART beds were a contributory factor". It recommended the relocation of the release team to "a defined clinical space", with emergency equipment and medical supervision.

But the hospital's administration did not act on the advice until Mrs Redfern's death, which occurred after nurses missed the seriousness of her falling blood pressure. The hospital's investigation again blamed the release team initiative in part, concluding, "There is an inability to [recognise] critical illness ... in the NART area."

Internal emails, seen by the Herald, show hospital management rejected a demand by the director of emergency medicine, Matthew Vukasovic, for the immediate cessation of the release team system six weeks before Mrs Redfern's death. "I feel that the minimal advantages that are obtained from offloading patients on to a NART trolley are overshadowed by the patient safety issues," Dr Vukasovic wrote on September 12 to Maureen Berry, the director of clinical operations for a group of western Sydney hospitals including Westmead.

Ms Berry responded by forbidding Dr Vukasovic from ending the release team arrangements without her permission, saying this would inflate costs and off-stretcher times and would not ease crowding in the corridor - which she said would still be occupied by ambulance trolley teams. The initiative was finally ended days after Mrs Redfern's death.

Under the scheme, patients arriving at a crowded emergency department could be transferred into the care of a registered nurse - typically a part-time or casual employee on an extra shift - who worked without formal supervision by a doctor, allowing the ambulance team to return to the road. This replaced a more expensive measure in which ambulance paramedics, paid overtime rates, were based at the emergency department to offload ambulance patients. An internal memo shows the hospital expected to save more than $200,000 a year by having nurses take charge of patients - half the $400,000 cost of ambulance officers managing the equivalent service.

According to a 2006 synopsis of the policy, written by hospital administrators when they entered it for a health-care industry award, the proportion of people waiting longer than 30 minutes to be off-loaded from an ambulance fell from 30 per cent to about 10 per cent - the NSW Health Department benchmark - immediately after its introduction.

In a written response to questions, a spokeswoman for Sydney West Area Health Service, which administers Westmead Hospital, said the initiative was intended as "a way of improving patient care by providing a better, safer and cheaper alternative [to hospital-based ambulance officers]". Despite the damning conclusions of the internal reports, she said the two deaths were due to "multiple factors but not a direct result of the NART model of care".


Drunken cop OK?

And the police brass are too arrogant even to explain the decision

POLICE have cleared an officer who had drunk at least 18 beers when he was pulled from a pub on his day off to breath-test a driver in Cunnamulla. An internal inquiry by the Ethical Standards Command ruled no action should be taken against Senior Constable Adam Reedy, despite widespread outrage and concerns by Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence. Police have refused to answer questions or provide reasons as to why the decision has been made.

Senior Constable Reedy, who was a constable in Cunnamulla on May 14, 2005, returned to the pub to finish his beer after the breath-test about 10pm. He drank rums and coke at another hotel before declaring himself on duty about 12.45am on May 15, when he tried to arrest a woman he said spat at him. An internal investigation was only ordered after it came to light in The Courier-Mail - three years after the incident.

A spokeswoman for Ms Spence said last night she was still to see the report. A two-line police statement read: "The investigation into this matter is finalised and there will be no further action taken. As this matter is finalised it would be inappropriate for the QPS to provide any further comment."


Australian professor identifies danger genes for deadly Kawasaki disease

An Australian researcher says he has made a breakthrough which could lead to a diagnostic test and better treatment for the potentially fatal Kawasaki disease. The illness is an inflammatory condition in young children that can damage blood vessels. There are up to 200 cases in Australia each year. A team of researchers led by University of Western Australia Professor David Burgner studied almost 900 cases around the world and has identified genes which could make some children more susceptible.

Lily Allen was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease before she was two months old. She is now fully recovered, but Lily's mother Amanda says they had to wait several agonising days before a diagnosis could be made. "That was the hard thing, we knew nothing of it and it just took so long to actually diagnose it, which was hard," she said. "It emotionally and physically takes its toll on you. You wonder why your baby's so sick and her heart rate was at 180 at rest, so she was constantly in pain and having trouble breathing."

Named after the professor who first described it, Kawasaki disease usually affects children aged from six months to four years. The symptoms include fever, rash, swollen hands and feet, and peeling skin. Kawasaki disease also inflames blood vessels and can cause permanent damage to the heart.

Professor Burgner says the disease can be difficult to diagnose. "It's often mistaken for Measles or severe infections, scarlet fever or even sometimes meningitis," he said. "So this is a mysterious but very serious disease of young children. "Like many diseases we think that genetics plays a major role in deciding or determining who actually develops Kawasaki disease. "And we think this because if Japanese children move to America which has a relatively low rate, their risk remains as high as it would be if they were in Japan. "And the risk of brothers and sisters who have had Kawasaki disease is about 10 times the risk of the general population. "So we think that genes are going to be important in determining who actually develops Kawasaki disease when they're exposed to whatever it is that's triggering this illness," he added.

Professor Burgner says the findings are an important first step in understanding the disease. "Ultimately we'd like to develop a diagnostic test, that's really what the paediatricians are crying out for - a bedside or a diagnostic test for Kawasaki disease, because it's a very difficult diagnosis to make sometimes," he said. "We need better treatment because our best treatment actually fails in 5 to 10 per cent of cases to prevent damage to the heart. "It's not inconceivable. In the future we may be able to develop a vaccine to prevent Kawasaki disease and maybe that will have some impact on future risk of heart attack and things like that.


Dame Edna to launch cosmetics line

Superstar housewife Dame Edna Everage will return to Australia next week to share her beauty secrets and launch her gladiola-inspired range of MAC Cosmetics. Dame Edna is the first Australian celebrity to have a global collection with the brand, and she will unveil her range at David Jones in Sydney next Friday at 11am (AEDT). At her only in-store appearance worldwide, Dame Edna will reveal some of the secrets behind her good looks during a question and answer session with singer Ricki-Lee Coulter.

"Sardines are one of my beauty secrets," she said. "I used to sleep with them taped to my face. But it always made a mess of my pillow, and my late husband didn't particularly care for it."

The company have worked closely with Dame Edna to ensure the packaging for the collection of glosses, shadows, lipsticks and nail lacquers truly represents the Dame. Colour inspiration has been drawn from the lilac of her hair, the red sparkle of her glasses, and the various hues found in her signature flower, the gladiola. "This collaboration is a celebration of spirit and creativity and is beyond everyone's extreme dreams," MAC senior vice president James Gager said.

Source. (In case there are some American readers unaware of it, Dame Edna is a creation of Australian mega-satirist, Barry Humphries)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Another birth in a public hospital toilet

Aint government medicine wonderful?

A WOMAN has told how she miscarried "in a blur" in a hospital toilet then cleaned up the area herself. Mother-of-two Jodie Whiteside was 14 weeks pregnant when she felt something was "wrong". After believing her waters had broken, and able to see the leg of her child, Ms Whiteside headed to Maitland Hospital, about 30 minutes drive from her home in the New South Wales Hunter region. "En route my husband phoned up the Maitland Hospital emergency department to say what had happened and that I was on my way," Ms Whiteside said on the Fairfax Radio Network. "It was a blase response, basically that I have to be processed like everyone else and wait to see the triage nurse."

On arrival at the hospital, Ms Whiteside said she was "in a lot of pain, cowering over the counter" while she was being asked for her personal details. A triage nurse then asked Ms Whiteside a series of questions. "I said that I saw the baby coming away and she proceeded to take my blood pressure, I think that she took my temperature and she gave me a plastic pot and said 'I need a urine sample'," she said. "I told her that I was 14 weeks pregnant ... I asked her 'if I'm miscarrying what do I do?' She said there is nothing they can do and instructed me to go to the toilet."

After making her way through a crowded emergency department waiting room, Ms Whiteside reached the women's public toilet. "It's a bit of a blur to me, all I know is I gave birth to the child, I had it in my hands, I was given no other option, I just didn't know what to do ... I put it in the toilet and I had what they call afterbirth everywhere and I was thinking what poor woman wants to come into the cubicle after me," she said. "I tried to tidy it up a bit because it was just a mess."

A short time later Ms Whiteside was found a bed, was given an ultrasound and saw a doctor. She was offered surgery or told she could go home, and was then told that thousands of women had gone through what she had just experienced. Ms Whiteside chose to go home and has since written letters of complaint to the hospital and NSW Health Minister.

Chief executive of the Hunter New England Area Health Service, Nigel Lyons publicly apologised to Ms Whiteside today. "Let me say I'm very distressed to hear about the circumstances of Jodie's care," he said on Fairfax Radio Network. "It's clear that the distress that was caused by Jodie's experience at the hospital is something that we deeply regret and apologise for. "We'll fully investigate this and find out what's occurred and why and what we can do better. But the aspects that come through to me is that it is about the care that we've provided in terms of sensitivity."

Her experience is similar to that of Jana Horska, who miscarried in a Sydney hospital toilet in September 2007 after waiting two hours in the emergency department.


Australian atheists banned from bus blitz

Atheists in Australia wishing to follow the lead of their British counterparts have been refused permission to launch advertising slogans on local buses. British atheists campaigners launched their campaign - proclaiming, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" - on 800 buses this week. But a similar campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia has been rejected by the largest outdoor advertising company in the country, APN Outdoor. APN Outdoor gave no reason for barring the $16,000 Tasmanian campaign, which was set to feature slogans such as "Sleep in on Sunday mornings" and "Celebrate reason".

David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald the rejection amounted to a breach of freedom of speech. "Australia is in desperate need of a human rights and equal opportunities act," Mr Nicholls said. "It's clear that western Europe, the US and Britain have better laws than we do when it comes to . respecting freedom of speech. "The intention was to demonstrate to the public that there is an alternative to religion that is rational, reasonable and worthy of thought.

"It took three weeks for APN Outdoor to come to a decision, after they initially told me there'd be no problem. The final discussion by phone to an executive ended with an abrupt message that they were not going to take our business." Mr Nicholls said the Foundation would take the case to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board.


Rudd's green plan won't help Australia's artificially created car industry

News that exports of Holden utes to America have been cancelled is the latest nail in the coffin of the Australian automotive industry. It is an industry in terminal decline, and it's time the Rudd Government admitted it. Yet in 2008 prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Industry Minister, Kim Carr, did the opposite and expanded automotive industry assistance to $6.2 billion. With 64,000 workers employed in the industry, the package is equivalent to nearly $100,000 per worker. And that's on top of tariff protection.

But neither subsidies nor tariffs are helping to create a long-term, viable industry. Tariffs and subsidies make industries unresponsive to consumer demand. And being unresponsive has caused the problem that now plagues the industry. The Australian automotive industry has traditionally produced large passenger vehicles. But Australians clearly don't want them.

Last year just 171,432 of the 1,012,432 cars sold were made locally -- less than 20 per cent. Tougher economic times have seen overall sales drop 3.6 per cent on 2007. But sales of locally made cars dived by 14.5 per cent. Meanwhile, demand for small and medium cars, primarily made by importers, account for more than 50 per cent of the market.

At least 60 per cent of locally made cars are sold through fleet to corporates. With company belt-tightening, the pressure to turn over their fleets may wane.

There have been some markets that demand Australia's large cars, notably the Middle East. Cars being exported to the Middle East are being subsidised by our taxpayers' dollars. But we aren't getting subsidised oil in return.

The Rudd Government may argue that it's reforming the sector by continuing to phase out tariffs. But with every drop in tariffs, it is simply increasing equivalent subsidies. The only difference is, the cost is being spread to every taxpayer, instead of just to consumers of new cars.

The Government is also using its $1.3 billion green-car fund to achieve its industry and climate-change objectives by encouraging research and development of lower-emissions vehicles. If the objective of the fund is to get consumers to buy lower-emitting cars, subsidising research and development isn't the best way to go about it. Estimates show that State and Federal Government taxes and tariffs add $7000 to the cost of a Toyota Prius. Removing these taxes and tariffs would be the best way to increase sales.

And Australia is highly unlikely to become a green car innovator. At best, Australia will contribute to the development of their next range of vehicles. And any short-term benefit will be small. During a global economic downturn, the first concern of consumers is not to buy expensive "green" cars. It's to buy cheaper ones. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than a million new cars are bought annually. Yet only 5000 Priuses are estimated to be sold this year. Consumers are still voting with their hip pockets, not their green thumbs.

The Rudd Government may argue their plan is working. Days before Christmas, Holden announced that it was to develop its new four-wheel-drive model out of Adelaide and will deliver 1200 jobs. But so long as these 1200 jobs are built on the false foundations of government subsidies, no worker can have faith in the sustainability of their job. Successive governments have conned automotive industry workers into thinking their jobs are viable. They never have been, and it is the Government's job to clean up this mess.

To be fair to workers, the Rudd Government should use its industry assistance to retrain workers and find them alternative employment. Government spending on infrastructure projects provides a potential pathway. The geographic concentration of the industry in Geelong and Altona will mean any collapse will be devastating. Retraining will lessen the impact on these individuals and communities. More importantly, young workers need to be stopped from entering a dead-end industry. But the Government won't, because the affected communities correlate strongly with marginal seats. And the cost of inaction will be borne by consumers with higher car prices, and workers with an uncertain future.


Childhood obesity epidemic a myth, says research

THE rise in childhood obesity has halted, defying warnings that it is an "epidemic" that is out of control. Obesity rates among children levelled off around 1998 and have remained steady ever since, exploding the myth that children are becoming more overweight than ever before. Research by the University of South Australia found the alarming rise in the percentage of children who were overweight or obese recorded through the 1980s and much of the 1990s had stalled. Timothy Olds from the SA University School of Health Sciences analysed 27 Australian studies of childhood weight status between 1985 and 2007 and found a "clear plateau" in recent obesity data.

The analysis concluded that overweight and obesity prevalence rates among children had settled at 23-24 per cent and 5-6per cent respectively for the past five to 10 years. "These findings directly contradict assertions in the published literature and the popular press that the prevalence of pediatric overweight and obesity in Australia is increasing exponentially," it said. Even in recent years, some researchers have predicted childhood obesity would reach adult prevalence levels within 30 years.

"People are always reluctant to let go a notion which is their life work," Professor Olds said. "I include myself in that because I've written quite a few papers predicting that exponential increase, but we've got to look at the facts and the facts don't bear that out."

Last year, comparative data published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and a separate analysis by University of Sydney associate professor Jenny O'Dea also challenged the popular perception that children were becoming fatter by the year. Professor Olds said some still held to that viewpoint because they had a lot invested in childhood obesity. "It's a sensational story for the media, academics have built careers in dealing with and treating childhood obesity and, frankly, the success of their grants depends on a sense that it's a national crisis that's continuing," he said.

In April last year, Australia's governments added obesity to their list of national health priorities, alongside major killers such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Professor Olds said his study results should not detract from efforts to combat obesity, warning it was still too common among Australian children and was still on the rise among adults. The lull in weight gain among children could prove temporary if anti-obesity campaigns ceased, the study warned.

Professor Olds said walk-to-school programs, healthy diets and other improvements could finally be affecting the problem. He said some children could be more resistant to obesity, while others were genetically predisposed to weight gain. The recent lack of movement in childhood obesity rates could be linked to this difference. "(It may be) we've just reached a situation where we're so saturated with opportunity for inactive play, it's so easy to access energy-dense food, high-caloric food, that any child that will become overweight or obese has become overweight and obese."

Public Health Association of Australia's Mike Daube said it was probably too early to say that childhood obesity rates had levelled off, noting it had taken decades to achieve equivalent results in anti-tobacco campaigns.

Obesity Policy Coalition spokesman Craig Sinclair at Cancer Council Victoria said the sedentary, calorie-rich environments that children were growing up in had not changed. Today's children were more likely to carry extra weight, and tomorrow's health system would end up paying for those excesses through extra heart disease, cancer and diabetes admissions.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Victorian mother dies because of closed government maternity services

Rural doctors have blamed the closure of country maternity wards for a mother's death. The Barooga mother of one, 38, died from heavy bleeding caused by an ectopic pregnancy after allegedly waiting more than two hours at Cobram District Hospital for an ambulance to take her to Shepparton's Goulburn Valley Hospital for emergency surgery. Deaths from ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilised egg grows outside the womb, are rare and the coroner has begun an investigation.

The Cobram hospital's obstetrics unit closed about six years ago and Rural Doctors Association Victoria president Dr Mike Moynihan said a lack of specialists may have cost the woman her life. "On the surface, it would have made a difference if there was a maternity ward if it was a straightforward ectopic," he said. ". . . There are going to be more of these incidents and we have pointed this out to the Government."

The Cobram and Shepparton hospitals declined to comment on the woman's death because of the coronial investigation. But Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the Brumby Government had endangered lives by closing 20 country maternity wards, including Cobram's. "John Brumby has breached the trust of Victorian families by closing maternity wards and presiding over an underfunded health system which endangers the lives of Victorian women," Ms Shardey said. "Many country paramedics have told me response times are poor and plenty of rural doctors have warned the Brumby Government time and time again that the closure of maternity units could cost lives. "John Brumby and the Minister for Health will be held accountable for the closure of 20 maternity wards, particularly in light of their flippant claim that Labor has provided record funding for health."

Premier John Brumby said funding was not an issue as it had doubled in the past nine years. "In relation to any local services, whether they're maternity or any other specialist services, it's the local doctors and clinicians who make the decisions about whether those services are provided," he said. "I understand in the case of this hospital (it) took the decision that better services were available elsewhere."


Five-year surgery wait for almost 400 Queenslanders

ALMOST 400 sick Queenslanders have been placed on surgery waiting lists for more than five years, figures released today have shown. Figures obtained by the State Opposition also show 264 people assessed as category two patients - needing surgery within 90 days - have been waiting up to two years for surgery. Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said the government was failing some of the state's sickest people. "These are life threatening illnesses and this government has done nothing to save these people," he said. The figures also showed a blow out in waiting times for a hospital bed, which has grown from four hours and 48 minutes in 2004-05, to nearly six hours in 2007-08.

Australian Medical Association of Queensland (AMAQ) says the figures were unacceptable. AMAQ acting president Mason Stephenson said the figures were not new but once again highlighted a need for more beds. "Beds are on top of the list, then you need more medical man and woman power - more doctors and nurses - then you need the operating time," Mr Stephenson said. "If you look at the 400 waiting for more than five years, they are category three patients - often elderly patients needing prosthetic knees and hip replacements or orthopaedics ... they are suffering to a lesser extent but they are suffering none-the-less and this is unacceptable." He said in past 20 years there has been a reduction in public hospital capacities and now it was up to all governments to reverse this trend and cut waiting lists.

Mr McArdle said the figures were proof the government had mismanaged the health budget throughout the state's most prosperous period. "In the best economic times this state has seen for many years, this government has blown the health budget and has not provided adequate care for Queenslanders," he said. The Liberal National Party would improve the health system by "streamlining" funds to the frontline, but that didn't mean sacking bureaucrats, Mr McArdle said. "We'll move to ensure these (waiting) lists are reduced dramatically and provide an efficient Queensland health system," he said.

"We know that the efficiencies in the Queensland Health department are there to be utilised, we know that there are millions of dollars misspent in Queensland Health that can be redirected to the bottom line - to the doctors to the nurses, allied health professionals." Mr McArdle said the opposition would release its health policy "in near future".


Proposed Greenie laws to be deadly for Australian mining industry

"More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let's pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." For some observers, this extract from Woody Allen's "Speech to the graduates", first published in The New York Times in 1979, might sum up the debate over the white paper on an emissions trading scheme.

On the one hand, the white paper has been widely condemned by environmental NGOs well-practised in hyperbole and ambit claims. On the other, business groups, including my own, have warned that the ETS, in the form proposed in the white paper, will cost jobs, investment and competitiveness. Some have been tempted to surmise that this means the Government has charted an appropriate middle path.

But this is a lazy and cartoonish view of the challenges of sensible policymaking. Leadership and sound policymaking takes more than running a figurative tape measure between the two poles of a policy debate. That is especially the case where one end of the spectrum is populated by a cheer squad of enthusiasts whose analysis is uninhibited by economic and practical realities, including the impact on the living standards of average Australians. The truth is that the proposed ETS is neither cautious nor a middle path.

Under the white paper approach, about 70 per cent of permits will be auctioned. No comparable scheme anywhere in the world has auctioned more than 2 or 3 per cent of its permits. This means that many Australian companies will be paying tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in permit costs every year. Another misconception is that there will be wheelbarrow-loads of free permits to protect the competitiveness of Australia's export sector. Not true. Nearly 90 per cent of Australia's minerals exports will be subject to the full impact of all of their permit costs. At an expected opening carbon price of $25 per tonne, that's a lot of competitiveness being put at risk; billions of dollars of annual costs will be borne by local producers of coal, iron ore, gold, uranium and so on.

Their competitors will face no such burden, at least not for a decade or so. Those who believe that this burden won't harm the competitiveness of our most important export sector also believe in the tooth fairy, monkey fishing and that Elvis Presley is living in a caravan in Tumut.

It may not yet be widely understood, but Australian business will face the highest carbon costs in the world. By a very large margin. Between 2010 and 2014, the carbon costs faced by an average Australian company will be 18 times higher than those of a counterpart in the European Union. And that margin won't close quickly. Under the deal finalised in Brussels by EU leaders last month, the average European company will not have to buy all its permits until 2027. That's right: 2027. Those who argue that Australia's scheme is softer than Europe's have a poor grasp of arithmetic.

The contrast between the treatment of so-called emissions-intensive trade exposed companies is just as stark. Australian companies classified as EITE will be required to buy between 10 and 40 per cent of their permits from July 1, 2010. Their European counterparts will not be required to spend a single euro on their permits before 2020. Not one single euro. Real action from the US is likely to be similarly delayed, while comparable action from China, Brazil and South Africa is even more distant.

Surely a 5 per cent reduction on 2000 levels shouldn't be too hard, say some. Given that Australia is already about 8 per cent above 2000 levels, it will be a lot harder than some people think. On the white paper's numbers, we will have to strip 80 million tonnes of carbon out of our economy in the first three years of the scheme. By 2020, we will have to eliminate 250 million mega-tonnes C02- equivalent from existing business-as-usual projections. That's nearly equivalent to the 2006 emissions of Australia's entire electricity and transport sectors.

These policy developments are contributing to some perverse outcomes. The Guardian reported last month on proposals to open 58 new coalmines in Britain. Meanwhile, in Australia - the world's largest coal exporter - production in the coal sector is being scaled back. Is this due to a sudden reversal of the rules of comparative advantage? Bear in mind that in Europe, coalminers face no present or future carbon costs because methane - the greenhouse gas generated during the mining of coal - is not even covered by the EU ETS. Meanwhile in Australia, the export coal sector will confront a $5 billion carbon burden in the first five years alone. These are strange days indeed.


Telstra refuses to hang up on 8c bill: "Phone giant Telstra has spent five months bombarding a customer with demands that he pay a measly eight cents. The telco, which streamlined bills for millions of customers last year to save on paper, repeatedly spat out reminders to Sydenham man Craig Mackley. Mr Mackley dismissed the request for an 8c credit card payment-processing fee as a joke. He was swamped with double-page monthly forms after settling a $10.08 mobile phone account in August last year. "You'd think they'd wake up and get their house in order and stop wasting money," he said. "I hadn't rung them about it because I thought it was a bit silly and ridiculous. But they keep sending the bill and I keep laughing at them." The telco, which returned a $3.69 billion profit last financial year, overhauled its bill format several months ago and pledged to cut down on paper. It is changing to a new system that will stop repetitive requests for tiny amounts of money. The carrier apologised and cancelled Mr Mackley's overdue account when contacted by the Herald Sun. "We have removed the charge to the customer and apologise for any inconvenience caused," spokesman Martin Barr said."

An outspoken Australian: "Lamb spruiker [promoter] Sam Kekovich wants the corporate world to trim the fat. Slamming Sam will use his annual Australia Day address to the nation to sum up the year of share-market slumps and credit card crunches. "The world economy is rooted [Australian slang for [f*cked"]," he says. His 90-second rant, due to hit the airwaves from Sunday, claims the only recipe to fix the fiscal fiasco is with a lamb chop in one hand and a coldie [beer] in the other, the Herald Sun reports. In his latest TV ad, the serial satirist takes swipe at the 'unAustraliasm" of "Wall Street wankers [jerks] and bottom-feeding, billionaire bankers". The footy star turned public speaker wags a finger at Aussie Olympians "flogging undies and waterproof laptops, while the Brits were flogging us on the medals table".

Vegemite is safe with me - Gillard: "Julia Gillard says there is no way she is giving up her breakfast ritual of Vegemite on toast. A shadow has been cast over the future of the iconic spread as a federal government taskforce considers special taxes and other deterrents on the sale of fatty, sugary and salty foods. But the Acting Prime Minister today said Vegemite's future on Australian grocery shelves was assured. "I am a very happy Vegemite eater and there is no way in the world that Vegemite would be banned in this country," she said. "Vegemite is part of being Australian, part of our history, part of our future and I'll be continuing to wake up in the morning and having it on my toast." The Government set up the taskforce last year to recommend ways to tackle preventable health problems such as obesity, which cost Australia an estimated $8.3 billion in 2008, The Australian reports. The taskforce's final report, due in June, is one of the most eagerly anticipated of all the health reviews under way, the newspaper says.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Climate crook claims Australia 'destroying life on Earth'

Hansen's hysteria never stops. He even fabricates climate data in aid of his scares. His temperature graphs are so edited that they are vastly different from the graphs produced by others. See here for one example

AUSTRALIA'S use of coal and carbon emissions policies are guaranteeing the "destruction of much of the life on the planet", a leading NASA scientist has written in a letter to Barack Obama. The head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Professor James Hansen, has written an open letter to Barack Obama calling for a moratorium on coal-fired power stations and the use of next-generation nuclear power.

In the letter he says: "Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet." Prof Hansen said goals and caps on carbon emissions were practically worthless because of the long lifetime of carbon dioxide in the air. "Instead a large part of the total fossil fuels must be left in the ground. In practice, that means coal," he wrote. "Nobody realistically expects that the large readily available pools of oil and gas will be left in the ground."

Prof Hansen said that emissions reduction targets, like Kevin Rudd's goal to cut emissions by a minimum of 5 per cent and up to 15 per cent by 2020, do not work. "This approach is ineffectual and not commensurate with the climate threat," he wrote of reduction plans. "It could waste another decade, locking in disastrous consequences for our planet and humanity."

Professor Hansen also works in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and has given testimony on climate change to the US Congress. He said he wrote to Mr Obama as the incoming US president is in a position to instigate global change and "his presidency may be judged in good part on whether he was able to turn the tide (on climate change) - more important, the futures of young people and other life will depend on that".

He called for the end of coal plants that do not capture and store carbon dioxide and for funding for "fourth generation" nuclear power plants that could run on material now regarded as waste. Comment is being sought from Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.


The economy isn't that bad, finance survey finds

Greatly reduced interest rates seem to be a big help

MOST Australian households are meeting loan repayments despite the economic downturn, a new survey reveals. Surprisingly, given a wealth of bad economic news, more Australians feel financially better off now than they did in the first quarter of last year. There's also renewed interest in borrowing money, according to the survey conducted by the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia.

More than three quarters of households surveyed said they were easily meeting their mortgage repayments. One in four households believe their financial situation had improved in the past 12 months. While that result did not compare favourably with the data compiled in November 2007 - when 43.3 per cent of respondents believed they were financially better off - it is an increase from six months previously.

The survey results indicated the financial situation of the average Australian was not as dire as portrayed, the association said. As interest rates dropped there was also increased interest in taking out loans, it said.


Three deaths blamed on public hospital overcrowding

QUEENSLAND Health has linked three deaths of mental patients in the past two months to overcrowding at the crisis-ridden Logan Hospital . "Capacity management" issues have been blamed for the fatalities involving the hospital's mental health unit since late October. A leaked internal report prepared for Queensland Health hierarchy shows that the deaths were "potentially related" to overcrowding, with 16 patients waiting for a bed on December 4. "The number of presentations is consistently higher than the number of discharges," the report said.

The revelations come after a top Logan Hospital doctor enlisted by Premier Anna Bligh to advise her about health issues quit three months ago because the hospital was "too dangerous and dysfunctional".

Health Minister Stephen Robertson ordered independent coroner's and internal investigations into all three deaths. "I always feel very sad when I receive reports of mental health patients who, for one reason or another, treatment doesn't help," Mr Robertson said. "That's why I am keen to have these cases investigated."

The first patient absconded from the busy inpatient unit on October 28 and was later found dead at Brisbane's Fairfield Railway Station. Another patient escaped from the emergency department on November 11 during an assessment and was later found dead. The third on November 25 occurred shortly after a patient was sent to a motel due to "accommodation issues". The patient's family has lodged a complaint but Mr Robertson said his department went beyond what was required as the patient was homeless.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle has questioned why the minister had not been transparent and told the public about the cases, given he had known about them for weeks. "These are people dying and it is this minister's and this Government's inability to plan and resource our public hospitals properly," Mr McArdle said.

Queensland Health has allocated an extra $6.6 million annually since 2007 to fund an extra 53 mental health staff across the southside of Brisbane. A 16-bed community care unit is also being planned.


When is a smack just a smack?

A lawyer attempts a middling approach to the spanking debate below. Mirko Bagaric says that any harm in it needs to be proven before it is banned but that it is in principle bad -- so should be resorted to only when smacking clearly seems the lesser of two evils. I think that those comments come close to a justification of the status quo

To smack or not to smack children? The issue will continue to divide the community until a reasoned and informed policy is adopted. Is a zero-tolerance approach to child discipline the mother of all nanny laws, constituting an unreasonable incursion into family matters, or should the law step in to "save" children subjected to any degree of physical chastisement?

The strongest arguments against any type of smacking are that it leads to serious forms of abuse and teaches children that violence is acceptable. However, these arguments have not been empirically validated.

There is a vast difference between the occasional controlled, strategic disciplinary tap on the bottom and an uncontrolled violent assault. It is absurd to think that adults aren't morally sophisticated enough to recognise this difference. The law recognises that it is acceptable to use reasonable and moderate force to chastise children, and while there is no firm line between acceptable and excessive force, few parents are investigated, let alone convicted of child assault.

There is surprisingly little concrete information about how smacking affects children in the long term. There is strong evidence suggesting that violent criminals are disproportionately subjected to smacking as children. However, nearly all adults who were smacked as children don't grow up to be murderers, rapists or even road ragers.

About three-quarters of Australians were smacked as children and it is incontestable that we live in a society which strongly disapproves of demonstrably harmful violence.

The only way to sensibly deal with the smacking issue is to rationally look at the interests of all parties concerned against the backdrop of accepted moral principles and empirical data regarding the effects of smacking. We need reliable, wide-ranging objective data on the long-term effects on children of minor levels of chastisement. Data about the impact of serious assaults on children is useless (unless it shows that small taps lead to two big whacks). That is already illegal and will remain so. If the research shows that children who are subjected to mild levels of smacking do not disproportionately experience psychological or behavioural problems, then smacking should be permissible.

However, until such data is available the default position is that smacking is morally wrong. Smacking proponents have not rebutted the starting principles that we should avoid intentionally inflicting pain and that certain (physical) pain carries more weight than remoter forms of harm (in the form of the distress caused by out-of-control children to parents). Still, like all moral principles, the prohibition against smacking is not absolute. There are worse forms of physical harm than smacking and no kid is more important than the next. It follows that it is OK to smack where it is the only way to protect the child or another person from serious physical harm.

In the meantime, both sides of the smacking debate need to make sure that they stick to the facts and don't abuse the rest of us with their spin - for this, no amount of smacking would be too great.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of Guantanamo inmates coming to Australia. He wants to send them to Gaza -- which has a certain logic! They should feel at home there.

Playing outdoors protects young eyes from myopia

The differences reported below do seem to be quite stark and well controlled so the "safety" freaks who try to stop almost all outdoors childhood play may be damaging the vision of those children

The hours spent in front of the PlayStation or at the computer play no role in ruining a child's sight, with Australian researchers finding that being cooped up indoors is what gives children glasses. Children should spend two to three hours a day outside to prevent them becoming short-sighted, says a study by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science. A comparison of children of Chinese origin in Australia and Singapore, which has the highest rate of myopia in the world, found the only significant difference was the time spent outdoors.

The study, conducted on the centre's behalf by Australian National University and Sydney University researchers, challenges the prevailing assumption that near work, such as watching television, reading a book or playing computer games, ruins vision. Ian Morgan from the ARC Vision Centre yesterday said exposure to daylight appeared to play a critical role in limiting the growth of the eyeball, which is responsible for myopia or short-sightedness.

Professor Morgan said it had been apparent for a couple of hundred years that more educated people were short-sighted, but the research suggested spending some hours a day outdoors could counteract the myopic effects of study. "Video games are as ineffective as reading on vision," he said. "Computers are pretty neutral, watching television doesn't seem to affect vision. The only difference we could find is the amount of time spent outdoors. "As you are involved in intensive education through to studying at university, you ought to be conscious of this well into your mid-20s."

The research says about 30 per cent of six-year-olds in Singapore are short-sighted enough to need glasses, compared with only 3 per cent of Chinese-Australians. Both groups spend the same amount of time studying, playing video games, watching television and reading books. But Singapore children spend an average 30 minutes a day outdoors compared with two hours in Australia.

Professor Morgan said similar trends were seen in India, with 5per cent of rural-dwelling Indians being short-sighted compared with 10 per cent of their urban cousins and 65 per cent of those living in Singapore.

Myopia is increasing in urban areas around the world, and is described as an epidemic in parts of east Asia, with Singapore the world capital. Australia has a level of myopia more commonly found in the Third World, with only 0.8 per cent of six-year-olds of European origin being short-sighted. They spend on average three hours a day outdoors.


The warmaholics' fantasy

By Jon Jenkins (Jon Jenkins is an adjunct professor of virology specialising in computer modelling at Bond University, and a former independent member of the NSW Legislative Council)

THE warmaholics are fond of using the phrase "official records going back to 1850", but the simple facts are that prior to the 1970s, surface-based temperatures from a few indiscriminate, mostly backyard locations in Europe and the US are fatally corrupted and not in any sense a real record. They are then further doctored by a secret algorithm to account for heat-island effects. Reconstructions such as the infamously fraudulent "hockey stick" are similarly unreliable.

The only precise and reliable temperature recording started with satellite measurements in the 1970s. They show minuscule warming, all in the northern hemisphere, which not only stopped in 2000 but had completely reversed by 2008 (see graph).

The warmaholics also contend that global mean temperature and sea level rises are at the upper range of the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change's projections. Well, no, actually they are not. Sea level rises since 1900 are of the order of 1-2mm a year, which is indistinguishable from tectonic movement, and the IPCC computer projections are simply completely wrong.

The warmaholics argue that they have been able to model all of the complex processes occurring on the earth, below the oceans and in the atmosphere, and yet also admit in the same breath that they cannot predict the single biggest transfer of energy that dwarfs all others on the planet: El Nino. How can the two statements be resolved? They can not: the computer models cannot predict either weather or climate.

Some scientists argue that human-induced changes to CO2 levels are more sudden, but this also does not stand up to scrutiny. Cataclysmic volcanic eruptions have often placed more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in few minutes than man induces in a decade. But, more importantly, they fail to explain how it is possible for concentrations of CO2 to have exceeded 6000 parts per million (about 20 times present levels) and yet for temperatures to have been cooler than today's average? How is this possible if CO2 is the predominant driver of temperatures?

Clear and unambiguous evidence against the warmaholics is dismissed with consummate ease. For example, freezing temperatures across the northern hemisphere and growing Antarctic ice sheets are explained away with unproven theories such as deep ocean currents and ozone hole-induced winds.

And this in the same year that the theory of human-induced ozone depletion was shattered by hard scientific findings that the rate constant for one of the critical reactions in the computer models of chlorofluorocarbon-induced ozone depletion was in error by a factor of 10 and as a result CFCs alone cannot be responsible for observed ozone depletion.

The warmaholics, drunk on government handouts and quasi-religious adulation from left-wing environmental organisations, often quote the consensus of scientists as being supportive of the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory and use the phrase "4000 scientists agree with the IPCC report" repeatedly. But again this does not stand up to scrutiny. The vast majority of the IPCC report is what-if scenarios, but all the what-if scenarios are centred around chapter nine, because it is this chapter that says "we humans are responsible". If chapter nine is wrong (that is, if the computer models are wrong) then the rest of IPCC computer projections are just useless hand-waving.

More than two-thirds of all authors of chapter nine of the IPCC's 2007 climate science assessment are part of a clique whose members have co-authored papers with each other and, we can surmise, very possibly at times acted as peer reviewers for each other's work. Of the 44 contributing authors (no, not the 4000 often quoted, just 44) to chapter nine, more than half have co-authored papers with the co-ordinating lead authors of chapter nine. It is no surprise, therefore, that the majority of scientists, who are sceptical of a human influence on climate, were unrepresented in the authorship of chapter nine.

So that's the real consensus: about 44 scientist mates who have vested interests in supporting IPCC computer modelling agreed that "we did it", and this has become the "consensus of thousands of the world's meteorologists". Compared with 31,000 (including 341 meteorologists) in the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine petition, the IPCC's 44 have no right to claim consensus at all.

Finally, to say "the question is not whether there is absolute certainty about the extent of global warming or its effects" is scientific blasphemy. Science is only about certainty and facts. The real question is in acknowledging the end of fossil fuels within the next 200 years or so: how do we spend our research time and dollars? Do we spend it on ideologically green-inspired publicity campaigns such as emissions-trading schemes based on the fraud of the IPCC, or do we spend it on basic science that could lead us to energy self-sufficiency based on some combination of solar, geothermal, nuclear and renewable sources? The alternative is to go back to the stone age.


Global Warming Unlikely Reason for Slow Coral Growth

"Researchers in Australia say the growth of coral on the country's iconic Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has fallen since 1990 to its lowest rate in 400 years"; variations of this message have been repeated around the world from South Korea to London with global warming, and the associated acidification of oceans, claimed to be the cause.

These reports are repeating claims in an Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) media release made just last Friday to coincide with the publication of research findings in the journal Science [1]. The media release also claimed the research to be "the most comprehensive study to date on calcification rates of GBR corals".

Having followed GBR issues for many years I was surprised to hear global warming associated with slow coral growth rates, indeed AIMS's researchers Janice Lough and David Barnes have published detailed studies concluding that coral growth rates increase significantly with an increase in annual average sea surface temperature [2].

Furthermore growth rates actually decrease from north to south along the GBR as this corresponds with a cooling temperature gradient of 2-3 degrees C. If there has been a slowing in growth rates of coral over the last nearly 20 years, as suggested by this new research, a most obvious question for me would be: Have GBR waters cooled?

This new research paper in Science presents evidence for a decline in coral growth rates since 1990, but no credible reason for the decline. While the study hints that the cause could be ocean acidification no direct evidence is provided to support this claim - not even a correlation. Indeed no data is presented to suggest the PH (a measure of acidity) of GBR waters has changed, and based on modelling of hypothetical changes in PH associated with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide there is a timing problem - the decline in calcification rates should apparently have started years earlier.

Confronted with a lack of evidence in support of this hypothesis - that ocean acidification has caused the drop in growth rates - the researchers suggest in the paper "synergistic effects of several forms of environmental stress" and implicate higher temperatures. But no data is presented in the paper to contradict the well established relationship between increasing temperature and increasing growth rates - though various confusing statements are made and it is suggested that global warming has increased the incidence of heat stress in turn reducing growth rates - while at the same time the researchers acknowledge higher growth rates in northern, warmer, GBR waters.

Marine Biologist Walter Starck has perhaps aptly described the research as part of "the proliferation of subprime research presenting low value findings as policy grade evidence" and has suggested this has "science headed in the same direction as Wall Street."

Interestingly, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, has decided the "massive decline in the reef's growth" will require new laws. None of this, however, gets us any closer to understanding why there has been an apparent dramatic decline in the growth rates of GBR corals over the last 20 years.


No longer safe to be a "good Samaritan"

This is such a grave assault on civility that all such offenders shoulds be given VERY severe sentences

Police are warning people of the hazards of being a good Samaritan after a man was car-jacked by someone he was trying to help on Saturday night. A 31-year-old man stopped at Mitchell St, Acacia Ridge in southern Brisbane, to help a cyclist who had apparently fallen off his bicycle. However, when the driver got out of his car, the "injured" cyclist produced a knife and threatened him before stealing his car. The stolen car was later found dumped and his assailant remains at large.

A Queensland Police spokesman said the public should not put themselves into a position where they were risking their own safety. Instead, members of the public should contact police rather than place themselves in a situation where they could be at risk, he said. [A fat lot of good that would do! You could die waiting for the Queensland police. A lot of the time they don't come at all]

In the US, cases have emerged of good Samaritans being sued, however this is one scourge helpers are unlikely to face in Australia. "Unless you were a trained medical professional doing something you knew you weren't supposed to do, there is little chance that you will be sued in Queensland for rendering aid to someone," Gold Coast personal injury lawyer Bruce Simmonds said. Mr Simmonds said if you displayed ill-intent or deliberate negligence you could be sued, but in Queensland you could not be sued for rendering first aid or other assistance. "No judge in Queensland would penalise a genuine good Samaritan."


Monday, January 05, 2009

Woolworths' range shrinks again

This time last year, I went to Woolworths and bought myself a calendar. This year? No longer stocked. So yet again I went to the friendly Indian guy just outside Woolworths and got what I wanted. He even had a range of 8 different calendars to choose from -- all at the very reasonable price of $2.00.

I realize that Woolworths is no longer a variety store but became a grocer years ago. But about a quarter of their stock is non-grocery lines so the distinction is a tenuous one.

And the use they do make of shelf space often makes very little sense. Why do they have yards of shelf-space devoted to Coca Cola? Do they think that people will buy more Coke if they have 100 identical bottles to choose from rather than 50?

I have quite a lot of Woolworths shares so I fear that the firm has recently fallen into the hands of business school types, or some other airy-fairy types who are good at corporate-speak but know nothing about selling. Let me tell them the most basic truth of all about selling: If you don't stock it, you can't sell it. As basic as that is, the top brass at Woolworths don't seem to get it.

Some more of that wonderful government "planning"

Brisbane is suffering severe water rationing while a major dam in the region is overflowing! Beat that! Why? They built the dams and the pipelines but forgot about the treatment plants!

A $900 MILLION pipeline pumping water from the Gold Coast to Brisbane is operating at full capacity while the Hinze Dam continues to send millions of litres of water over the spillway each day. The Southern Regional Pipeline was commissioned last month and in the past six weeks has been sending 70 million litres of water a day north via the Molendinar treatment plant. About 50 million litres of water is diverted to the Mt. Crosby treatment plant to dilute the foul-tasting water Brisbane residents have encountered following the big storms late last year. The other 20 million litres is sent to Logan residents.

SEQWater Grid acting chief executive Barry Dennien said no more water could be sent to Brisbane. "The capacity constraint from the Hinze Dam is not the amount of water in storage," he said. "It's really about how much you can get out of the treatment plant, and we've got the treatment plant running flat out at the moment."

Between 200 and 260 million litres of water are pumped from the Hinze Dam each day to the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Acting Premier Paul Lucas said the capacity of the grid had to be weighed against the cost to households. "We will continue to augment our water supply infrastructure but we must balance any extra supplies against extra cost to consumers," Mr Lucas said.

While water restrictions have been suspended on the Gold Coast, Brisbane residents continue to face high-level restrictions. Gold and Sunshine Coast residents can do everything from washing their boats and cars to topping up the pool and water gardens. But Brisbane residents can use the hose for no more than half an hour once a week. That has not stopped Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke saying that Brisbane should keep its hands off water from the overflowing Hinze Dam. He was concerned that the water going to Brisbane would see the region forced back on to water restrictions. "It's crazy. We've been send- ing 50 megalitres a day for over six weeks. Brisbane doesn't need it," he said."

Opposition LNP spokesman Tim Nicholls said the water grid was flawed and better planning would have reduced the need for water restrictions. "The whole purpose of the water grid is to re-allocate the water throughout the region," he said. "If it were working properly you would think there would be equal amounts of water available whether you lived in Brisbane, or the Gold Coast, or at Pine Rivers or Redcliffe."

However Acting Premier Paul Lucas said the opposition was being hypocritical. "I'm surprised the opposition is calling for the Gold Coast to send more water to Brisbane when it has repeatedly told people there and on the Sunshine Coast that they were getting a raw deal," he said. "This is despite the fact that in recent years both the Gold and Sunshine Coasts were in drought and would have been able to benefit from the water grid now in place:"

The article above by Mitch Gaynor appeared under the heading "Coast's water let spill" in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 4 January, 2008

Exodus from Queensland government schools continues

The public school system has lost more than 55,000 students to private schools since Labor won Queensland in 1998 and rebranded it the Smart State. Figures obtained by The Courier-Mail show a 3.4 per cent drop in public school students compared with the private sector, from 1998 to 2007. And of the 206,000 extra private school students in Australia over that time, about one in three has been from Queensland. The net result means just 68.6 per cent of Queensland students attend state schools.

Over the decade, annual education funding has dropped 3 per cent as a proportion of total government funding, to 22 per cent. A spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Fraser said the decrease was "because of an elevated focus on health funding" and total spending should double, from 1998 levels, to $8.17 billion this financial year.

Deputy Opposition Leader Mark McArdle claimed the march out of state schools showed parents did not trust the Government to deliver quality education. Falling literacy, numeracy and behavioural standards in classrooms were the main reasons parents were aggrieved, he said.

Even as the economy slows dramatically and widespread job losses loom, more Queensland parents are choosing private, paying upwards of $15,000 a year. Brisbane parents Ben and Lisa Wavell-Smith said they had chosen St Elizabeth's Primary at Tarragindi for their daughter Malena because the Catholic school "brand" delivered a better, more rounded education than state schools. "You get the feeling also teachers seem to be more involved in their school," Mr Wavell-Smith said.

A week before Christmas, Premier Anna Bligh set terms of reference for the Masters Review into Queensland's underperforming primary school system, leaving the door open for Professor Geoff Masters to investigate any "systemic cultural issues (within Education Queensland) that are inhibiting performance", including bullying of teachers by EQ staff.

Experts say recruitment and retention of quality teachers is pivotal to a student's success. Former Queensland Studies Authority chairman Professor Bob Lingard said state school teachers were regularly blocked from promotion by self-interested EQ bureaucrats. "Often we get those promoted because they go along with what's happening with those above them," the Professor said. "If you want schools to do better, you have to get rid of some of those broader inequities as well."


Child homicide rates reduced if spanking banned?

This is totally illogical. Because feral parents injure their children, everybody else is to be restricted? Ferals ignore the law anyway. Injuring a child is already an offence. There is no need for further laws -- just better enforcement and better vigilance over feral parents

Child homicide rates could be slashed if parents are banned from smacking their children, according to new research by Australian doctors. Revealing that a third of child homicides are caused by "fatal child abuse" linked to corporal punishment by parents and carers, psychologists have called for smacking to be outlawed. Of the 165 cases of child homicide committed in New South Wales W between 1991 and 2005, 59 were caused by physical punishments with young fathers and stepfathers the biggest culprits.

The call is being backed by Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive officer Joe Tucci, who said the risks associated with physical punishment were too great to allow smacking to continue. "I believe there is a link between the community acceptance of physical punishment and children who end up being killed," he said. "If you look at some of the cases in Victoria over the last four of five years, those kids that were physically beaten the carer who did it started off trying to physically discipline them and went too far.

New Zealand - which banned smacking in 2007 - and the US are the only comparable nations in the world with higher rates of child homicide than Australia, and lead researcher Dr Olav Nielssen from Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital said it was time for Australia to follow international lead. "A third of the homicides were due to fatal child abuse and any measure that reduced it is worth considering it," he said. "Everyone laughed when Sweden introduced it (smacking bans) 30 years ago, but in the 15 years after they did they didn't have a single case of fatal child abuse and a lot of other countries have followed suit. "I think most families could give it up and find other ways to control and discipline children and maybe one of the things we have to think about is alternative ways to train vulnerable families in better parenting skills."

As well as being responsible for a third of child homicides, Dr Nielssen said hitting children created a circle of violence with abused children often becoming bullies at school and involved in anti-social behaviour in the community. He said smacking bans, combined with strong public education about ways to better discipline children, would make the biggest difference in reducing Australia's child homicide rates. Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Nielssen and his colleagues also called on colleagues to act on the first signs of mental illness among parents to save young lives.

They found 27 instances where children were killed by someone during psychotic illness, which may be reduced if doctors recognised and treated the first episode of psychosis. Five children also died after carers gave them methadone, leading for calls to end "take away" doses of methadone so that the treatment was only provided to adults under supervision.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Racist attacks on Indians in Melbourne

The notoriously corrupt Victoria police fudge like fury on racial matters so when they say that "no specific ethnic group" is targeting the Indians, you have to decode it. In all the cases I have heard of, the attackers have been African. So my decoding of "no specific ethnic group" would be: "Mostly African, with a few Pacific Islanders and one white"

INDIAN students are being terrorised by gangs of thugs in Melbourne's suburbs in racially-motivated attacks. The number of crimes being committed against Indians, mainly in the western suburbs, has so alarmed police and the Government that several taskforces have been formed in response. The problem is being widely reported in India, threatening Victoria's multi-million-dollar foreign student industry. Police, the Government and the Indian consulate have joined forces to try to protect Indian students and residents, some of whom are moving out of the western suburbs because they no longer feel safe.

With almost 35,000 Indian students studying in Victoria last year, The Times of India has hosted forums on whether Melbourne is safe, saying the suburbs had "increasingly turned unsafe with a good number of attacks on migrant youth". The Times also reported last year: "Some of these crimes bear the us-and-them racial overtone."

Footscray, St Albans and Sunshine are trouble hot-spots, with police increasing their presence at train stations to curb the violence. Founder of the Footscray-based Bharat Times, Dinesh Malhotra, said crimes against Indian residents and students had risen in the past year. "Sunshine is pretty bad, quite violent for the Indian residents and the students," he said. He said Melbourne was not a racist city and it was a minority who were targeting Indian students for bashings and robberies.

Community leaders said Indian students were considered a soft target because they were not aggressive and often carried the latest gadgets such as mobile phones and iPods. As they were required to pay full fees at university and colleges, most worked to support themselves and were often travelling alone on public transport at high-risk times such as late at night.

Commander Trevor Carter said police had been aware of the problem for 12 to 18 months. "There was a range of victims, but people of Indian backgrounds were over-represented in the crime statistics," he said. Police launched an operation, code-named Repped, to have a strong presence around train stations to curb gangs.

Commander Carter said there was no specific ethnic group targeting the Indian students. Police would not release figures on how many attacks on Indian students had been recorded.


Ban on Australian flags

In the name of "safety"!

HAVE a ball at today's start to the Brisbane International tennis tournament, but just make sure you leave your Australian flag tucked away at home. That was the message from organisers as international tennis returns to Brisbane for the first time in 15 years at the new Queensland Tennis Centre at Tennyson. National flags, beach balls and oversized placards may be confiscated under plans to preserve a safe, family atmosphere, organisers said.

Tournament director Steve Ayles said flares were banned and people waving flags could be a problem if they interfered with others' enjoyment at the $82 million arena. "Anything that can be dangerous or could get in the way of spectators enjoying a great day out will be restricted," he said.

The crackdown comes after ugly scenes at the past two Australian Opens in Melbourne. Last year police used capsicum spray to subdue fans during a match between Greece's Konstantinos Economidis and Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, and more than 150 people were ejected in 2007 after violence between Serbian and Croatian supporters. "We're certainly not expecting anything like that. This is a very family-orientated event," Mr Ayles said. "Having said that, we'll make sure we have everything in place if anything like that does happen."

High security was evident at the venue's official opening on Friday when police sniffer dogs were used to check the centre. Bags were checked at all gates and police were on hand throughout the day. Mr Ayles said such scrutiny was normal whenever Premier Anna Bligh, a guest at the opening, was in attendance. "We've got all the appropriate security measures in place for this," he said.


Racist poison from the Left

Last week the unspeakable Mumbai killers were asking who among their victims were British or American. This week Monash University is hosting the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association's "Re-Orienting Whiteness Conference". Connect the dots for yourself between foolish western academics with killing ideas and terrorists killing for ideas.

The keynote address, and public lecture, by Professor Ann Curthoys [The Curthoys family are old Commos from way back] is called "White British, and Genocidal." When the Conference settles down to work, after the Welcome to Country, there are academic contributions such as these:

"White Colonialism in the Early Childhood Field";

"Cultural Contagion in the Eye-To-Skin Encounters of Inter-Racial Sexuality";

"Whiteness and the Working Mother";

"Brown bully, white class; brown teachers exposing whiteness to white students";

"The Good White Nation Once More Made Good: Apology for Atrocities to the Stolen Generations";

"Re-orienting Racism. `Raggers' and `Rednecks' in Relation to a Proposed Islamic School";

"From Henry Parkes to Geoffrey Blainey: A Stronger and Persistent Strain of White Australia."

For real misery try an American whiteness studies academic journal called Race Traitor - "treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity"; "The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race ..."


Australia's "beautiful people"

It takes a woman to scale the heights of bitchiness but, from all I have seen, what she says below about New Year's day at Bondi beach is pretty right

Guests were arriving in convoys of black Bentleys and blue Aston Martins into an airconditioned bar where French champagne and tasty little Arancini balls were being served by sexy waiters, along with a different cocktail each hour. There was no sandy suspicious substance flicking on to your thongs in these toilets. Nor did these people smell like bus drivers. And it was all served up with uninterrupted ocean views.

I certainly know where I'd rather be. I'd rather be right there on my square inch of stinking hot beach with a bottle of Mt Franklin and my two-year-old son. At least I would be guaranteed of a decent conversation. Trust me. I've been to that particular party and so many like them that the lychee cocktails and polenta prawns have all merged into one. At Sydney Confidential I spent four long years of my life with these people and no amount of Veuve, no goodie bag or prawn skewer could drag me back.

Because all the stereotypes are spot on. What I've come across over the years are lazy, vacant, hedonistic, self-indulgent, boring people with nothing to talk about but their own dull selves. Many are women with no known talent other than their blown-up boobs, with orange skin and legs so long they resemble transvestites. Others are pill-popping footballers or famous for no other reason than they are career criminals. They are walking advertisements for overpriced clothes who change the 'y' for 'i' in their names or make up new ones in the hope they might be noticed in the social pages.

But you don't need to know them to realise that pretenders like those squished on to the balcony this New Year's Day at Icebergs or those crammed poolside at Justin Hemmes' Ivy pool party, are just that - utterly phoney. Witness the women in their boho headbands and gladiator stilettos chatting up photographers like long lost friends. Witness the number of "friends" the bar owners, even the bouncers, of the city's hotspots have hanging around. But fake reached new heights at Hemmes' pool party, where he actually paid models $50 an hour to act like partygoers, frolicking in his rooftop pool for a bit of atmosphere.

These people are a study in selfishness. From their pedicured feet in their designer shoes to their Brad Ngata "hair designs" it is, as they say, all about "moi". If not where the next free champagne is coming from, conversations focus on their mediocre successes. Real celebrities in this city are rare as hen's teeth. You're lucky if you strike a Paris Hilton, if you can even call her a star. The rest are promotional models, handbag designers, PR chicks, hairdressers, bit-part soapie stars, PR chicks and PR chicks. Some undernourished giraffe who might or might not have gone out with Thorpie at some stage. Another who used go out with the son of a property tycoon and, if the organiser's lucky, the son of the tycoon himself. And they will chew your ear off blabbing about themselves.

The same people there this week were talking about themselves at the New Year's functions of 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, back when I last heard their unexciting tales. They've been thrilling each other with great new anecdotes about themselves at every race day, every fashion launch and the launch of every new cocktail menu in Sydney for the past 10 or more years. And never, dare I even suggest it might occur, wearing the same thing twice.

At such "dos", there is no shortage of romance either. And I'm talking more Blue Light Disco than walk along the beach at sunset. More gyrating and open-mouthed pashes than a Year 9 social. It might have looked a tad less tacky when they were all 18. But it's simply not that hot when you're 43. Or even 34. As one regular on the scene put it: "There's usually four legs in each loo and a queue of six deep outside the bathrooms trying to get in."

Now that's glamorous, right? Don't these people have families? It's the first day of the year, a day off work and a chance to hang out with your nearest and dearest. Some sun, a swim, maybe a beer. It's what the crowd of public holiday beachgoers were enjoying when they inexplicably chose to stand waiting, melting in the sun as they peered on to the balcony in the hope of catching a glimpse of the "stars" inside on Thursday.

It is for you and for anyone fortunate enough to have spent an hour on a foul-smelling train to get to the crowded beach, that I wrote this. You weren't the ones missing out on the fun. The spread might have been spectacular, the champagne chilled, but in the end there was probably a whole lot of nothing going on in there. I hope you weren't looking up to these clowns. They may never realise, but it was you showing them how to have fun this week.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rejects US plea on Guantanamo prisoners

Onya Kev! Why should Australia do what is ultimately the bidding of the American Left? They are the ones who have been ceaselessly agitating for Guantanamo closure

Kevin Rudd knocked back a request from George W. Bush for Australia to accept former Guantanamo Bay prisoners for resettlement. The Government yesterday revealed the Bush Administration had asked early last year if Australia could resettle a small group of detainees. Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Government rejected the request. She said the US had made a fresh request last month but the Government would probably say no again.

"Australia, as an ally of the US, is examining this second request," she said. "Notwithstanding that it is unlikely Australia would accept these detainees, given the fact that the Bush Administration has formally approached Australia with this request, the request demands proper consideration."

Ms Gillard stressed the request was from the Bush White House, not from President-Elect Barack Obama, who will be sworn in on January 20. Mr Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and it is possible he could make another request to Australia to accept former detainees. About 250 prisoners are being held by the US at the Cuban military base. The Bush Administration wants to release about 60 detainees who will not be charged with criminal offences. But the prisoners cannot be returned to their home countries because of fears they could be killed. Britain is expected to accept some former detainees and is pushing its European allies to do the same.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said Australia should not accept any former Guantanamo Bay detainees. "It is plainly completely unacceptable to have inmates from Guantanamo Bay being admitted in to Australia as migrants," he said. "If the Americans believe some of these inmates are suitable to be admitted into the Australian community then we have to ask why they do not regard them as being suitable to be admitted into the American community."

Australian Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the Bush Administration should house them in the US. "This is the US's mess and they should really clean it up," she said. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights president Susan Harris-Rimmer said the former prisoners would be at risk of being made targets by vigilantes if they were resettled in the US. "I think it's probably wise not sending them to the US," she said. "They could become targets for all kinds of things." She said detainees released in Australia could be monitored by security agencies.


Federal government blocks new nursing home provision in NSW and elsewhere

There are already lots of frail elderly taking up hugely expensive public hospital beds because they have nowhere else to go and the knowall socialists in Canberra are trying to make that problem worse??? Nathan Rees and the other Premiers affected should be making Rudd's ears red until he backs down on the stupid regulations dreamed up by his subordinates

The state's main aged-care home operators have boycotted the Federal Government's annual offer of nursing home bed licences, leading some to predict a significant shortage of places in the near future. "In a few years' time we could be back to the bad old days when people were on huge waiting lists for months," said Rod Young, chief executive officer of the Aged Care Association Australia. The operators, including the non-profit and church agencies, say it is uneconomic to build new nursing homes - now known as high-care facilities - under the Federal Government's funding arrangements that prohibit nursing home bonds.

The Government offered licences for 7663 new residential aged-care places across Australia, 2100 of them in NSW; applications closed last month. The number of licences offered each year is based on a strict formula of predicted need. The state's biggest non-profit operator, UnitingCare Ageing, applied for none of the new bed licences; nor did the other big providers, Catholic Healthcare, Illawarra Retirement Trust and Anglican Retirement Villages. Baptist Community Services applied for only a few licences in order to finish a project.

The managing director of Catholic Healthcare, Chris Rigby, said this would prove a "watershed year" in aged care. "My sense is that the number of providers who have applied for high-care bed licences will be minimal," he said. "From talking to our bankers I understand they won't lend for high care on greenfield sites because they can't see how it will work." He said Catholic Healthcare had handed back some approvals it had received in a previous round: "We just can't make the economics work."

The private company Amity has applied for 350 licences. Its chief financial officer, Peter Forsberg, said: "It's barely economic but we had already secured the land." The director of UnitingCare Ageing, Gillian McPhee, said it cost about $200,000 for each new high-care bed in metropolitan Sydney. But the Federal Government allowed operators to recoup only $120,000 for capital funding through a capped accommodation charge to residents of $26.88 a day. "Aged-care providers are not able to make sufficient margins to make it sustainable," she said.

The Federal Government has made clear it will not introduce bonds for entry to high-care facilities, although bonds are permitted for low-care facilities. Critics say the frail elderly should not have to sell their house to finance entry to a nursing home. The issue proved politically sensitive for the Howard government. Some operators are now lobbying for substantial increases in the daily accommodation charge, little changed in real terms since John Howard introduced it in 1997.

Paul Bradley, general manager for residential care for Anglican Retirement Villages, said it was the first time in the past eight years the organisation had not applied for any residential bed licences, even though it had building sites available. Nieves Murray, chief executive officer of Illawarra Retirement Trust, one of the nation's biggest community providers, said the organisation had several sites on coastal NSW, but the capital cost problem was a main reason it had not applied for licences. She said unless the Federal Government tackled the funding problem, the non-profit sector would not build new homes, leaving the field to private operators and "you may end up with a situation like ABC [child care]".

A spokesman for the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, said that over the next four years funding for aged and community care would reach record levels of more than $41.6 billion, $29.5 billion of that on residential care. It would provide an average of $43,000 for every aged-care resident. The Department of Health and Ageing is sifting through the applicants. However, several agency heads told the Herald they believed the offer would be undersubscribed in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.


Amazing! 'Lost kid not our problem,' say Northern Territory cops

They're just horrible buckpassing bureaucrats

A WOMAN who found a lost child at the NT's biggest shopping centre took him to the new police shopfront inside the complex - but was told it wasn't their problem. The concerned mother said she couldn't believe it when the police auxiliary at the newly opened police beat at Casuarina Square in Darwin's northern suburbs told her they were not responsible for lost children and to take him to the information booth. But she said if she had walked outside of the complex and crossed the road to the Casuarina Police Station, not even 50m away, they would have opened up their arms to him. "It is just ridiculous," she said. "You teach kids that they can turn to the police if they are in trouble and need help and here they are turning their backs on them. "I'm just glad it was me who found him - anything could've happened. It reminded me of James Bulger in London where he was taken from a mall, brutally tortured and killed."

The woman, who is also a Darwin school teacher, found the young boy standing by himself near the escalators at the Woolworths end of the centre on the Saturday before Christmas. She said after asking him where his mother was and what his name was, he freely took her hand and followed her to the police shopfront, beside the Body Shop. The information booth is directly outside the police beat, but was manned by one woman who was extremely busy with customers.

NT Police said lost children in shopping centre's were not their initial responsibility. "Initial responsibility lies with security," police said. "This also applies to events such as Royal Darwin Show, V8's, football etc - initial responsibility lies with security at events. "Once all avenues have been exhausted it may become a police matter."

"I think that they could have put their resources to better use," the mother said. "If I needed to go to the police, I'd just walk through the centre and go across to Casuarina Police Station - it's just a few steps to get your business done and then you can come back over to the shops."

The police beat was opened last month in a bid to crack down on anti-social behaviour in and around shopping centres. The boy was reunited with his distressed grandmother soon after.


Campbelltown hospital again

See here for another recent case of negligence there

John Haywood will spend this morning in a church chapel watching a video of the life he shared with his wife of 25 years, Marie. He and his 15-year-old son Johnny won't speak at her funeral - the only word they can think of at the moment is "why." Why was she told she was well enough to leave Campbelltown Hospital despite having pneumonia she contracted in there. "My wife went into Campbelltown Hospital two days before Christmas Day for a routine operation and now she is dead," Mr Haywood said yesterday. "She wasn't going in there to die. "They made her sick and they should have made her better. She was only 43."

Her death has sparked a full investigation into events leading to her death on Monday. Mrs Haywood went into hospital to have fluid removed from her stomach; a minor operation done under local anaesthetic. By Christmas Day she was seriously ill with pneumonia as well but Mr Haywood said a specialist, without actually seeing her, decided she was well enough to go home. "One of the staff there told Marie's sister they didn't have a lot of staff on anyway and she'd probably get better care at home," Mr Haywood said. "She didn't want to go home because she knew was still too unwell."

By December 27 Mrs Haywood could not breathe and was rushed back to Campbelltown Hospital where she was immediately put in intensive care. She died on Monday.

Mr Haywood believes the State Government's penny-pinching in health contributed, in a large way, to her death. "Most of the beds and rooms were closed off when we were in there," he said. "We want to know whether it was the system that fell down or the people." The hospital and state Government argue there was enough staff and would not say more as the matter was being investigated.


Friday, January 02, 2009

NSW police still lying

They are doing their best to protect one of their incompetent dickless tracys. See here for what actually happened. All witnesses dispute the police story

An interim report shows a Sydney police officer "acted appropriately" when she shot a woman twice, leaving her with serious injuries. The NSW Police critical investigation team is looking into the December 21 incident, during which a 48-year-old woman was shot by the officer at Iron Street in North Parramatta at about 1.30am. A short time after the shooting, police said officers had responded to calls that a woman armed with a knife was threatening a man. When they arrived, the officers were themselves allegedly threatened by the woman, who ran at them making threats. Police failed to subdue the woman with capsicum spray and when she attacked them again a junior female officer fired a number of gunshots, police said. The 48-year-old woman was taken to Westmead Hospital.

Professional boxer Sonny Michael Angelo, 23, the man allegedly threatened by the woman, has since said the shooting was unnecessary, and that the woman was armed with a fork, not a knife. "It was not necessary. There were 10 police officers outside. Why would the police shoot at the old lady?" Mr Angelo told the Nine Network. He also contradicted police claims the woman had threatened the officers. "The lady was trying to stand up and run away and that's when I hear a shot. They shoot her two times," he said.

The woman, named by media outlets as mother-of-two Susie Bandera, was taken to Westmead Hospital with a gunshot wound to her chest. A second bullet was lodged in her spine after passing through her liver. She remains in hospital recovering from her injuries.

Preliminary findings showed the shooting was justified, Acting Deputy Commissioner Denis Clifford said in a statement on Friday. "I'm satisfied from my briefing by the officers who investigated this case that actions of police were appropriate and justified in the circumstances," Mr Clifford said. "It has since been confirmed the alleged weapon was a fork.

"It's important to note that this interim report centred only on the actions of the police officer in the discharge of her firearm. The exact circumstances of the earlier confrontation are still being investigated and will be the subject of a further report."


Imported toilet paper will now cost more

What an absurdity! Australia needs to make its own bum paper?? There must be lots of better things to do

Imported toilet paper will cost Australians more following a 12-month Customs Service investigation which found local manufacturers were harmed. Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus has accepted a report from the Customs service that found the imports were keeping toilet paper prices as much as 40 per cent below normal prices and hurting local manufacturers, Fairfax newspapers reported. The imports came from China and India and were sold largely under the Select home brand at Woolworths and Safeway supermarkets.

Local makers Kimberley-Clark Australia and SCA Hygiene Australasia had claimed that after Woolies awarded a tender to Australian-based importer Paper Force in May 2006, prices on supermarket shelves were undercut by up to 20 per cent and unfairly damaged their businesses. Woolworths declined to give Customs full details of the contracts but said the success of Select showed consumers were getting a superior product for less. The contract arrangements ended in August last year, a spokesman said.

The investigation found one of Woolworths toilet paper suppliers was dumping their goods in Australia at 33 to 38 per cent below normal prices, and another was undercutting the market by five to 10 per cent. Both companies have a month to appeal against the findings. Penalties for dumping will increase the supply cost to Woolworths and force up shelf prices.


NSW public hospitals not coping with emergencies

Almost one in three people are waiting more than eight hours in emergency departments for a bed, the highest in 18 months, but doctors say the true figures are much worse as hospitals struggle with a surge in the number of patients and a lack of staff, beds and funding. NSW Health figures, released yesterday after the Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, submitted a freedom of information request, show that 29 per cent of people are waiting more than eight hours for a bed, known as access block, up from 19 per cent six months ago, but the figures failed to reveal that some patients could wait up to five days, the president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said yesterday.

"A patient is only counted when they have been waiting for eight hours or more for a bed, but you can have people waiting for days and days in the emergency department," she said. "There are plenty of cases where management will move a person out of the department when they have been waiting for 7« hours to avoid them being counted as an access block statistic, while someone who has been waiting more than eight hours could be overlooked and left for days because they have already been counted anyway."

About 17 per cent of people who present with imminently life-threatening conditions (triage 2 category) are not being seen within the required 10 minutes and 32 per cent of those with potentially life-threatening conditions (category 3) are not being seen within the necessary 30 minutes, up from 15 per cent and 30 per cent 18 months ago. The number of patients not being seen on time in categories four and five remain the same. There were 153,897 people seen in emergency departments between June and September, up from 137,117 in June 2007, with most of the increase in the middle and lower triage categories.

"Bed numbers have not changed in 10 years but we are seeing about 40 per cent more patients through our emergency departments," Dr McCarthy said. "It is very bad for the proper functioning of any emergency department because once we have 10 per cent of patients not being moved out to a bed, it starts to create problems. We have no space to see new cases, ambulances are delayed, patients get poor treatment and it has been well documented that mortality rates go up."

Mrs Skinner said: "They are the worst emergency department figures I have seen in my 13 years in the job. No wonder the Government tried to hide them. The Garling inquiry was told that stressed ED staff need more doctors, experienced nurses and beds in wards but nothing has been done."


Cool 2008 warms climate debate

The fact that the article below is from Australia's national daily is an encouraging sign. Can you imagine the NYT printing the news that 2008 was an unusually cold year and giving perspectives on it from skeptics?

While the official figures are not yet in, 2008 is widely tipped to be declared the coolest year of the century. Whether this is a serious blow to global warming alarmists depends entirely on who you talk to. Anyone looking for a knockout blow in the global warming debate in 2008 were sorely disappointed. The weather refused to co-operate, offering mixed messages from record cold temperatures across North America to heatwaves across Europe and the Middle East earlier in the year. Even in Australia yesterday [midsumnmer] there were flurries of snow on the highest peaks of a shivering Tasmania, while the north of the country sweltered in above-average temperatures.

A cool 2008 may not fit in with doomsday scenarios of some of the more extreme alarmists. But nor, meteorologists point out, does it prove the contrary, that global warming is a myth. In Australia this year, on the most recent figures, the average temperature was 22.18C. Last year it was 22.48C. In 2006 it was 22.28C, and in 2005 22.99C. Senior meteorologist with the National Meteorological Centre Rod Dickson said that based on data from January to November, 2008 might be the coolest this century but it was still Australia's 15th warmest year in the past 100 years. "Since 1990, the Australian annual mean temperature has been warmer than the 1961-1990 average [Hey! That is not the 100 year average. It is the average of a generally cool period] for all but two years, 2008 being one of those years," he said. In Australia overall, 2008 on the most recent date, was 0.37C higher than for the 30-year average to 1990 of 21.81C. Worldwide, 2008 was expected to be about 0.31C higher than the 30-year average to 1990, of 14C.

One of Australia's best-known sceptics of man-made global warming, former head of the National Climate Centre William Kininmonth, said the cool year did not fit in with the greenhouse gas theory that suggests the globe should be continuing to warm. "All the reports from the northern hemisphere of record snows and freezing temperatures would suggest that 2008 will follow the predictions and officially be declared the coolest of the century," he said. "But the only thing we can really deduce is that the warming trend from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s appears to have halted."

Another well-known sceptic, geologist Bob Carter, said critics were jumping on the cold northern hemisphere winter to dismiss global warming, but climate was a long-term phenomenon and there was nothing particularly unusual about present circumstances.

But Don White, of consultancy firm Weatherwatch, said while last year was likely to end up the coolest year this century, this needed to be put into perspective. "If the same temperatures had occurred in the early 1990s it would have been the warmest ever," he said. "The year 2008 may have been colder than the previous seven years, but it was still warmer than most years prior to 1993." Mr White said Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide had well below average rainfall for the calendar year 2008, with just 449mm in Melbourne, compared with an average annual rainfall of 652mm. Hobart received 407mm in 2008 compared with an average of 618mm. Sydney was also slightly below average at 1083 mm, compared with an average of 1213mm. Brisbane, Perth and Darwin were all wetter than normal.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

The juvenile Left in action

How amusing! There is an intermittent Australian Leftist blog called (for no obvious reason) "Grodscorp". Perhaps that means something to Leftists. And I have been honoured as a theme on it! See here. In good Leftist style, the blog is 100% abuse and mostly fiction.

I suppose I could object to them putting words into my mouth that I did not say but their hostility is so obvious that I can't imagine anyone taking them seriously. All they have is hate.


Maybe I should direct the attention of the emotional infants over at Grodscorp to the latest entry on my personal blog. A pleasant happy comfortable life in tune with its surroundings is anathema to Leftists so I am sure they will find something to mock there. They will undoubtedly have to Google Pickelhaube to find out what that is, however.

It's late in the day now that I have got my cable service back so just a few borrowings from the inestimable "Agmates" until tomorrow:

The Innate Problems With Labor's Emissions Trading Scheme

By Senator Barnaby Joyce

I'm going to be serious and quite frank with you here as the issues I am about to raise will be contentious not only amongst coalition MP's but also my own party. Every age comes up with a witch to burn, a sect that apparently if it is not succumbed will bring about the destruction of an empire, an issue that occupies the rigours of the day. It is almost as if those in the position of power and their surrounding Illuminati with time to spare are terrified of the banality of daily existence and so search for an issue that demands blind obedience to conquer it.

The most dangerous place to be in these times of immense fervour is in the counter position that calls in to question the logic of the euphoria. Those who dare to question are held as heretics. There is a communal life fest in being part of the pack or staying silent. It is hard for them to separate from the reality that the world is fairly constant and predictable and that things of the greater nature of the universe have remained beyond our control in the past and generally shall remain so into the future.

It was interesting to hear the recent discussion between Freeman Dyson, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, with Robyn Williams, on The Science Show on ABC Radio National, when he rightly stated that the world has many problems but global warming is not one of the biggest ones. As Dyson said:
"Sea level rise has been going on much longer, long before global warming, and it probably has very little to do with human activities. All we know for sure is that sea level has been rising steadily for about 10,000 years and we'll have to do something about that."

I don't pretend for one moment to be a scientist but in my role in the Senate it is implicit in my job to be a sceptic , to question and to consider all sides and be open to the views of many rather than one view.

My current concern with the emissions trading scheme is that a religious fervour has built up around the altar of global warming. Those who serve at the altar have become ruthless in their denigration of alternate views. This fervour has now received its imprimatur by reason of a new tax, or should it be tithe to be paid to the Rudd Labor Government. The similarity in this newest forte of socialism can be defined by the ultimate purpose of divesting the individual of their asset or income stream on the premise of an apparent greater moral good. But who becomes the benefactors of this divestment? The administrators and the traders. Their pockets are lined with the property and income of others.

I don't remember anybody paying rural Australia for the vegetation that was divested from their asset, rural land, during the tree-clearing legislation so we could meet our Kyoto target and unfortunately I don't hear any chorus of questioning as to why in the future rural producers, after trying to feed the nation and others, will have to be dragged into an emissions trading scheme that could make many of them unviable.

Where is all this heading?

The National Party has been at the forefront of saying this is all getting beyond ridiculous and becoming dangerous. They are also being supported by unlikely allies such as the Australian Workers Union who see their own members, who have been part of the process of delivering wealth to our nation from their labours have had their industries now termed `dirty' by the new environmental high priests. In this new Orwellian frenzy everyone is looking over their shoulder.

Australia is going down a path of an ETS without the co-operation of the major emitting countries. It says that it is morally right to do so. The Rudd Labor Government and others say that unilateral action is a moral imperative. I look forward to that same fervour of moralistic rectitude as they approach the Mugabe issue in Zimbabwe. He is certainly in the wrong and it is on this new platform of morals that we await our dear leader to launch an attack in a very worthwhile and immediate practice of ridding our planet of this tyrant, Mugabe. That is something that would be of an exceptional benefit.

The government is currently honey-coating the fact that it will be collecting a vast amount of money from the Australian people. The ETS will collect $11.5 billion in its first year, $12 billion in its second, it will force up the price of goods and services, it will encourage industries to move to where an ETS is not present. Australia generates 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions and this ETS will reduce world levels by the smallest sliver, which self-evidently will have nil effect on global climate whether you believe in climate warming or not.

People will lose their job or their business because of the ETS. They will be the modern-day witches burning on the environmentalist fanatical pyre because their role in this new dynamic was unacceptable. For regional Australia we look forward to the ridiculous prospect of 34 million possible hectares of forest to take the place of farming land, formerly the backbone of so many regional towns and generations of good, honest working Australians' lives.

The history of human civilisations has the disturbing trait of devising ways to put themselves out of business, sometimes through no more than their own excesses and belief structures of their governing bureaucracies. The only protection against these excesses is the capacity of the general population to question, to doubt and to disagree.

I have no doubt that as a world we must become efficient with the utilisation of our resources. We must give the greatest number of people the greatest access to the highest standard of living, it is only fair. Efficiency, more than emissions, must become the trading scheme that brings a cleaner, fairer future. Encourage efficiency and keep the government's hands out of people's pockets and off their assets and that will bring a greater propensity to a long-term broad-based better world for all of us.


Global Warming Is Killing The Great Barrier Reef and Other Bulldust

The Australian Greens and Eco-Fundamentalist have declared that Australia's ETS reduction target of 5% means we will lose the Great Barrier Reef. Ask any green and they will swear that's the truth even though they have never visited one square inch of The Great Barrier Reef which includes over 2900 reefs, around 940 islands and cays, and stretches 2300 kms along the Queensland coastline. Heres what a couple of guys who dive the reef most days have to say:.
Shark expert Ben Cropp said yesterday the outer reef was more or less the same as when he started diving 50 years ago... I've got a gut feeling the reef will cope with climate change, if it exists, but that's just a gut feeling. Scientists say you aren't allowed to have a gut feeling, but my gut feeling is based on diving the reef for half a century. But then again, I'm not their kind of expert.

And Patrick Ligthart, is a volunteer with the Low Isles Preservation Society and cleans away rubbish and maintains the reefs around the Low Isles.
. said his section of the reef had never looked better, and he was sceptical about predictions of its demise. I come out to the reef all the time, and the reef's in good shape.. even old timers say the reef here has never looked better. I don't know why these fear-mongers keep making these claims

Yet Bob Brown and The Greens continue unabated with their fear mongering claims that Climate Change is killing the iconic Great Barrier Reef. It follows then that Brown and the Greens would lie to the Australian public about other things too.

Source (See the original for links)

Water fluoridation: An old chestnut

I just cannot for the life of me fathom what these people are on about.
"OPPONENTS of water fluoridation have vowed to give LNP leader Lawrence Springborg their vote if he moves to scrap the controversial practice.
Almost 80 per cent of southeast Queensland households are now drinking fluoridated water."

Welcome to Queensland where residents would rather lose our teeth than drink fluoride in our water. Well some would, not me. I would hope that Lawrence Springborg and the LNP don't fall for this blatant political ploy. I mean for god sake, putting fluoride in the drinking water has been done in most other states for the last 20-30 years. Queensland has had none and our rate of dental cavities is almost 30% higher than any other state in Australia.

It's not a health risk. There are no health side affects in any other state and 20-30 years on we'd know if there was. The only risk is that you may just have to visit your dentist a lot less often. It is a shameful scam how the Queensland Dental Association has lobbied against fluoridation for the last 2 decades. Those people who are against fluoridation would be the same folks to oppose any and every change. We all hate change and the older we get, the more we resist it. Even if that change is good for our health. It's a fact that the only people who like change are wet babies.

So I urge Lawrence Springborg not to take the cheap political opportunistic approach of giving these anti-fluoride campaigners any oxygen.

Source (See the original for links)


My cable connection has been down since last night and Telstra have no idea when it will be repaired so there may be no further posts here today.

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