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

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


Power and cable outages at end of January so no substantial posts then

28 January, 2013

PM's partner under pressure over prostate joke

He seems to be a bit of a nong but there was nothing wrong with what he said. He was just saying that a small finger is preferable for a rectal probe and noted that Asians are generally smaller. All perfectly reasonable. But ANY mention of racial realities draws fire, these days

WAS First Bloke Tim Mathieson's quip about prostate testing funny or poor taste? Forget the floods and driving rain, that's the question lighting up our social media sites today.

Mathieson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner, made the quip during a speech at The Lodge last night for the Prime Minister's XI cricket match which will be held in Canberra today.

Mr Mathieson was acting in his capacity as a men's health ambassador when he encouraged the gathering - which included the West Indian cricket team - to get a prostate examination.

"We can get a blood test for it, but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate, so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small, Asian, female doctor is probably the best way," he said.

Cue anger, disappointment, eye rolls and a couple of chuckles from the social media brigade and a surprising defence from liberal senator, George Brandis.

"I think Tim Mathieson is lucky he didn't tell this joke after the Nicola Roxon anti-discrimination bill became law, because if he did he'd probably have been carted away to the re-education camp by the thought police,"Senator Brandis told Sky News.


Queensland takes on historic changes as 26 independent public schools open

Similar to U.S. Charters and U.K. academies

HISTORY will be created in Queensland schools tomorrow as 26 Independent Public Schools open their doors for the first time.

As well, the national curriculum extends its reach into classrooms and more Year 7 students will move to high school.

Queensland primary school students will learn history as a stand-alone subject for the first time statewide in decades, under the rollout of the national curriculum.

Aspley State High School is one of 26 Government schools chosen to take part in the controversial Independent Public Schools scheme, giving them more autonomy to make decisions, including the ability to hire staff.

The school is already creating a buzz over its rapid improvement in student results, with 92 per cent of their OP-eligible students last year receiving an OP1 to 15 - a better result than some prestigious private schools. About one in four students received an OP1 to 5.

Principal Jacquita Miller said their goal under IPS was to become "the school of choice for our local community" and to build closer links to businesses, organisations and other schools in the local area.

Staff plan to use IPS to fast-track creative and flexible changes around learning and timetabling and student improvement in academic and other results. "We can be more responsive, more quickly," Ms Miller said.

"My perfect Aspley State High School is every child, every day, doing the best that they can."

The IPS scheme initially sparked controversy with the Queensland Teachers' Union threatening to strike if it was introduced. They were concerned it could pit state schools against each other, but late last year the union signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government over the scheme.

An Education Department factsheet says the IPS scheme will cut red tape, enable schools to tailor curriculum to students and "also shape a more innovative school system better able to respond to community and individual student needs to improve outcomes".

Each school in the scheme has received $50,000 to assist with the change and will be given an extra $50,000 each year for administrative purposes.

It comes as a further 18 state high schools trial Year 7 this year before the grade moves into secondary statewide in 2015. Junior secondary for Years 7 to 9 will also start in all state high schools this year.

Under the Australian Curriculum, history will also be taught as a stand-alone subject in all Prep to Year 10 classes.


Experts back Premier Campbell Newman's pre-emptive dam releases strategy

EXPERTS last night commended the pre-emptive dam release strategy imposed by Premier Campbell Newman on Seqwater.

They said it made sense to keep the dam's flood compartment empty and a similar approach could have helped avoid the disastrous flooding of 2011.

Seqwater was last night releasing 630 cubic metres a second from Wivenhoe Dam, with 11 per cent of its drinking water storage capacity still unused and all of its flood mitigation capacity available. Somerset Dam was at 115 per cent and rising.

Mr Newman last week ordered dam levels be lowered to make room for floodwaters.

But Seqwater last night played down any political influence on its operations. "The role of government is to set the strategic policy direction for water supply, while Seqwater is responsible for operationalising this policy," it told The Courier-Mail. "The releases were always the decision of Seqwater and are at the low end of the Dam manual."

Seqwater said releases from Wivenhoe Dam were being made under the dam manual's "W2" strategy, under which the focus changes from minimising impact on rural life to protecting urban areas. This strategy became highly controversial last year amid confusion as to whether it had ever been adopted during 2011.

It was the focus of days of flood inquiry hearings, leading to the referral for investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission of dam engineers.

Once flood peaks in the Lockyer Creek and Bremer River had passed, releases from Wivenhoe Dam would be increased to allow the flood waters stored in the dams to be drained, Seqwater said.

Independent Brisbane hydrologist Max Winders said Mr Newman's intervention was "very logical" and appeared to be an attempt to replicate the strategy used successfully to handle floods in 1999, as well as creating capacity to absorb releases from Somerset Dam if required.

"He's following a precautionary principle," Mr Winders said. "Why wouldn't he after Anna Bligh and (water minister) Stephen Robertson were left in the dark and told on Christmas Eve 2010 they couldn't have the lowering of the dam they'd asked for."

Mr Winders said the lesson of 2011 was to make sure Wivenhoe Dam's full mitigation capacity, which starts when the water is at 67m above sea level, was available at the start of a flood event.

Dam engineers should have known the dangers of allowing the dam to fill in 2011 because their own research in 2007 had identified that such a strategy doubled the flood risk, he said.

Retired engineer Ian Chalmers, who oversaw the construction of Wivenhoe Dam in the 1980s, praised Mr Newman's "early and bold intervention". "It's a pity 'paralysis by analysis' did not allow similar decisive action in January 2011," he said.

But the intervention raises questions of the validity and purpose of the dam operations manual, the focus of much of the $15 million flood inquiry. The document, devised in the 1970s to prevent political interference in the running of the dams, has previously been regarded as sacred. It is still the subject of a long-term review ordered by the inquiry costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Failure to prosecute rioters means NSW laws need closer look - O'Farrell

THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has nominated the Muslim riot in central Sydney last year as one reason why an inquiry is needed into whether the state's racial vilification laws need strengthening.

Some conservative commentators have criticised Mr O'Farrell for asking a parliamentary committee to examine if laws dealing with complaints about serious racial vilification constitute "a realistic test" and have kept up with public expectations. On Sunday, Mr O'Farrell said he was concerned there was no attempt to prosecute those who held up "offensive" signs during violent protests sparked by an anti-Islamic film in September.

"That blackened the city; that blackened my state. That's why there is an upper house inquiry … into [the] effectiveness of this legislation," he said.


27 January, 2013

Critic of homosexuality survives his inquisition

A PERTH GP investigated after he led a group of doctors opposing gay marriage on health grounds has reportedly been cleared by the Medical Board.

Founder of the Doctors for the Family group, Lachlan Dunjey, made a submission to a Senate inquiry into marriage equality last year stating gay marriage was a health risk.

The submission prompted outrage from civil liberty groups because it stated that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and if same-sex marriage were allowed it would normalise homosexuality and have "health consequences".

"We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without," it read.

In May last year the Sunday Herald Sun revealed 22 Victorian GPs, anaesthetists, obstetricians, palliative care specialists and psychiatrists, including Victoria's deputy chief psychiatrist, Prof Kuruvilla George, joined 150 colleagues interstate to argue gay marriage posed a health risk to society.

Dr Dunjey told website Australian Doctor this week he had been investigated by the Medical Board of Australia after allegations of misconduct made by another doctor and cleared.

Dr Dunjey ran as a Senate candidate for the Christian Democratic Party in the 2004 federal election.

"It is about freedom of speech ... it was sad really as I received a lot of hate mail and I don't believe people should be vilified or targeted for expressing a view," he told the website


NSW to continue with its gas plan

THE state government will push ahead with the expansion of the state's Coal Seam Gas industry despite increasingly organised opposition from green groups, home owners and farmers.

Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher told The Sunday Telegraph there would be "catastrophic consequences" if NSW did not develop its own supply of secure and cheap gas.

Gas supplies would begin to run dry as early as 2014 and prices are already set to soar, he said, with predictions they could double within five years without further development.

Mr Hartcher said for too long green groups with an anti-mining agenda had been allowed to spread misinformation and stir up fear in the community without being properly held to account by the government or industry.

The Minister said the state was already losing manufacturing businesses that were concerned about gas prices and supply. Australian company Incitec Pivot has decided to build an ammonia plant in Louisiana, US, rather than Newcastle, because of concerns over the prospect of the soaring price of gas. This has cost the city hundreds of jobs.

"The real problem is going to be the customers who are dependent on gas. One-third of all the state's energy needs come from gas," he said.

"It really is fundamental to not only the economy but the lifestyle of the whole state."

Mr Hartcher said the Greens had been allowed to "just stand up with great confidence and assert things as facts".

"They are determined to change our energy to solar and wind and destroy gas as an alternative," he said. "Well, people can have these forms of energy, but they will have to be prepared to pay more than ten times what they do now."

The recently released Infrastructure NSW report said exploitation of the state's vast coal seam gas deposits would be "game changing" allowing the state to re-energise its manufacturing industry.

"There are two million gas extraction wells throughout the world now, and it's difficult for the anti-gas protesters to point to one that is causing problems," he said.

"The challenge for them is to find a single example where the water has been tainted or the ground has been damaged. But they don't have a single example - anywhere in the world."

The Minister said he understood residents' concerns in southwest Sydney about drilling under homes, but expansion had yet to be approved. "People are naturally protective of their homes, but at this stage the government hasn't approved any mining under people's homes," he said.

But Greens upper house MP Jeremy Buckingham has vowed to oppose any plans to expand CSG mining in NSW.

"The claim that there are no examples of CSG mining having an impact on health is a lie," he said.

"There has been a massive impact on the health of people in the US. People are reporting adverse impacts such as nose bleeds and ear aches."


I THINK this is satire -- but maybe it really is anthropology

The author, Nick Herriman, is an anthropologist

Australia Day is upon us and, for many, what could be more natural than a barbecue? Most of us know how to have a barbie without reflecting on it, yet barbecues also communicate a lot about us.

We can see this in the 1980s Australian movie, Barbecue Area. This satire provides a powerful analysis of the barbecue, Australia Day and its connotations of "white" Australian culture, by inverting white-black relationships. The film depicts a boat of Aboriginal people arriving at an area where the soon-to-be-colonised "whites" are having a barbecue. The Aboriginal invaders wonder at this white ritual, and well they might, for the Aussie barbie is deeply meaningful.

The classic, stereotypical barbecue is set around a structured series of oppositions. Inside, women prepare raw or bland food (vegetables: salad, potatoes, rice, bread). Outside, men prepare cooked food (meat, savoury).

Once the meal is prepared, the meat goes in the middle of the table and is dished into the middle of the plate. Bland foods are peripheral to the table and also to the plate. It all must be complemented by spicy or piquant sauces. The ritual typically starts during daylight hours and finishes at night. It might also be held in the afternoon, but never earlier in the morning.

The opposition of beer and wine is also illustrative. Some wine is cheaper than beer, but we rarely use wine (or fruit juice, or even water) to clean the barbecue plate. The World Health Organisation has not yet recognised beer for its sterilising or cleaning properties, so it seems the reason we use beer derives from its symbolic potency.

Beer is construed as a masculine drink. In our imagination, it also signifies an "Australian" or local beverage, as wine is conceived of as a foreign custom in as much as it was "brought by migrants". Furthermore, beer only obtains its meaning by being not-wine or not-soft drink. Like beer, meat is also associated with Anglo-Aussie masculinity - we "feed the man meat" and men are thought to "bring home the bacon".

Meaning is thus created through a series of oppositions - inside/outside; raw/cooked; woman/man; bland/savoury; peripheral/central; day/night; wine/beer. These complementary arrangements are the basis through which our social action can become meaningful, especially in our departures from the structure.

Thus many Australians also barbecue in parks, at the beach and other areas delimited as "outdoor". We are a nation that spends a lot of time inside urban homes dreaming about, and fearing, the bush and great outdoors. The barbecue gives us a chance to symbolically reconquer these.

This also means that if we wish to resist the symbolic structures, we are inevitably also forced to use them. If a man wants to emphasise his progressive credentials, he'll go inside to prepare salads - it's saying "women don't necessarily belong in the kitchen". If it's vegetarian credentials he's after, he'll ban meat from the barbie.

Many migrants do not follow the structural patterns, and nor for that matter do a lot of Anglo-Aussies! Each action thus becomes socially meaningful in the way it departs from the structural pattern of opposites.

Let's consider the gender divide which will probably play a huge role in our next election. Our female PM accuses the male leader of the opposition of misogyny and it becomes an international YouTube hit. While contesting the gender roles, the debate will inevitably be structured along the same lines of inside-outside, nature-culture that we see in barbecue symbolism. For example, does Tony Abbot think women belong inside? Are women naturally more capable of caring for children? Again, we make meaning by departing from, as much as by conforming to, the structures.

Aside from the complementary structures (raw/cooked), the order of events through time in the barbecue is also structured. First, chips and dips are served. Ideally, these are spicy and savoury and, if there is meat, it will only be in small portions. Then comes the meal in which the meat takes pride of place. And finally, fruits and sweets for dessert.

Again this is just the ideal structure through which we make meanings. If our barbecue host wants to establish his culinary credentials, he might serve a sweet aperitif first, then mango with fish for the main, finishing off with a chilli chocolate cake for dessert. By departing from the ideal progression in this way, he marks himself as gastronomic, but also may appear feminine in some eyes. The structural progression might seem natural but it is in fact a cultural invention. For example, an Indonesian Muslim breaking fast will typically start the evening meal with very sweet food and drink and then move on to savoury. On the Indonesian plate, the bland, starchy food - rice - is central with meat on the side.

This brings issues of inclusiveness and citizenship to the fore. Many citizenship ceremonies are scheduled on Saturday as part of a long-standing attempt to associate Australia Day with migration and multiculturalism. Perhaps then, the pot luck meal rather than the barbecue (or even the melting pot) better expresses the multicultural aspirations of many Australians.

Cuisine is thus not just about being nutritious and tasting good, it's also about meaning. Although it feels natural, this meaning is actually cultural.

So what will the barbecue structures this Australia Day tell us about being Australian? If while holding the barbie tongs or the salad tongs, we ask ourselves "who am I?", the answer we come up with - whether Australian or not, ethnic or not, woman or man, black or white - will be created through, or in opposition to, the same symbols which structure the great Australian barbecue. Analysing these structures tells that the most intimate ideas of our identity are also constructed.

So, if you're chucking another prawn on the barbie this weekend, or consciously avoiding it, you are also engaged in deeply meaningful and structured symbolic action.


Insult, offence and the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill

THE young apprentice loved to boast of his romantic conquests over the weekend. His workmates nicknamed him "Romeo", in the true Australian larrikin tradition.

But "Romeo" took offence to their ribbing. He lodged a discrimination claim on the grounds of "lawful sexual activity". His employer, a small auto-electrician company in rural Victoria, chose to pay thousands of dollars in compensation in a confidential settlement, to avoid the costs of fighting the claim in court.

"Employers are being held to ransom by claims of discriminatory conduct by employees," says Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce industrial manager Bill Chesterman, who helped negotiate the "go away" payment.

New discrimination laws planned by the Federal Fovernment will extend the workplace warfare to every facet of public life. Australians' behaviour and conversations in schools, shops, playgrounds, clubs, pubs and sporting fields will be covered by the anti-discrimination legislation drafted by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. Hurt feelings are set to become the legal trigger for compensation claims.

The government's attempt to modernise Australia's anti-discrimination laws attracted a hornet's nest of criticism this week from churches, employers, unions and civil libertarians.

Catholic Cardinal George Pell and the shop assistants' union - unlikely allies - both decried the draft laws as "the first step towards totalitarianism".

Employer groups predict the changes will result not in a lawyers' picnic, but a lawyers' lunch - long-running and very expensive. State governments are complaining the federal laws will interfere with their power to arrest criminals, suspend driving licences or ban the mentally ill from owning guns.

Catholic hospitals fear a challenge to their bans on abortion and birth control, while a Melbourne academic claims transgender men will start taking over the women's loos.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been swamped with more than 600 submissions during its ongoing inquiry into the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. The new legislation combines and updates five existing sets of federal discrimination laws covering race, sex, age and disability.

Discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation will be outlawed for the first time, delivering Labor's 2010 election promise. This change prompted University of Melbourne social sciences professor Sheila Jeffreys to complain that transgender people will access women-only housing, toilets and prisons.

"Under the right to gender identity, male-bodied persons, in many cases with penises intact, are likely to be permitted to enter women's toilets," she says in a submission to the Senate inquiry. "There are quite a surprising number of cases in which men wearing women's clothing have been arrested for ... secret photographing of women using the toilets and showers, peeping at women from adjacent stalls ... (and) luring children into women's toilets in order to assault them."

A much broader concern is that the definition of discrimination has been widened to include "conduct that offends and insults", in a change widely criticised as a threat to free speech.

ABC chairman and former NSW Supreme Court chief justice James Spigelman declared in his Human Rights Day oration last month that "the freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended".

Even the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has called on the government to change the wording.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association national secretary Joe de Bruyn views the legislation as "fundamentally anti-democratic".

"The fact that someone may say something which offends or upsets another person is not a sufficiently valid reason to curtail their freedom of expression," his submission states.

"To provide that someone who merely offends is guilty of an offence opens the door to ... the jailng of anyone who voices a view on any controversial matter."

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope fears the legislation could limit public debate to "innocuous, sterilised conversation".

"The council is not a racist organisation but we defend a person's right to express racist sentiments," he told the inquiry. "Being democratically elected does not give a government a mandate to stifle voices with which it does not agree. If a person is physically or emotionally abused, the issue is not racist expression, but instead a problem with violence or aggression which should not be tolerated".

Cardinal Pell agrees it is "one step towards totalitarianism".

"Discrimination is a regular and necessary part of daily life," he wrote in News Ltd papers on Sunday. "We discriminate between friends and foes. Society discriminates between criminals and the law-abiding ... (and) by choosing only the best students to study medicine or law and the best athletes to represent Australia. Governments choose which immigrants they will accept and those they expel."

The contentious terms "offend" and "insult" have been plucked from the existing Racial Discrimination Act, which was used to prosecute Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011 over his article questioning grants to "fair-skinned Aborigines".

Under the new laws, the wording would apply for the first time to all 17 "protected attributes" that range from age and sex to political opinion, religion and breastfeeding.

In theory, any of the nursing mothers offended by Seven Sunrise host David Koch's call for "classy" breastfeeding could lodge a discrimination suit.

Unlawful discrimination in employment has also been widened, to include industrial history, religion, political opinion, social origin, nationality or citizenship, and medical history.

And discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, race, disability, pregnancy and potential pregnancy, marital or relationship status, immigrant status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and breastfeeding will be banned outside the workplace as well.

Discrimination will become illegal in all areas of public life, defined in the legislation as workplaces, schools, accommodation, clubs and "access to public places".

Constitutional law professors Nicholas Aroney, of the University of Queensland, and Sydney University's Patrick Parkinson, have told the Senate inquiry the "heavy-handed" laws blur the line between illegal discrimination and social rudeness.

"A bully in a school playground, a rude customer who pushes in front of someone waiting in a queue at a takeaway restaurant, an inconsiderate employee who gossips about another employee, and a spectator who abuses a referee at a children's soccer game ... may be considered unlawful if the behaviour can plausibly be related to a protected attribute," they stated.

"This extends the reach of the law very far into areas of community life which have hitherto been regulated largely by other norms ... by school disciplinary responses, by a public rebuke to the rude customer, by a quiet word by a manager of the gossiping employee, or through criticism of the angry spectator by others at the game."

Critics are also alarmed that the burden of proof will be reversed, so that people accused of discrimination will have to prove their innocence. And each party will have to pay their own legal costs, regardless of who wins - although a judge may still opt to award costs to one party on the grounds of "justice".

Those accused of discrimination must prove that they were exempt from the law, or else "engaged in the conduct, in good faith, to achieve a legitimate aim".

The explanatory memorandum of the legislation says this will cover situations such as denying a driver's licence to a blind person, or banning men from a swimming pool "to recognise religious and cultural reasons prohibiting some females from bathing in front of men".

Denying someone a job or promotion is not discriminatory if the person "cannot meet the inherent requirements of the job".

Other defences will be "fair commentary on matters of public interest", as well as "artistic performances, fair and accurate reporting of events or matters of public interest", and statements made for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose.

The Human Rights Commission will have stronger powers to dismiss complaints, and complainants will need permission to go to court.

The Attorney-General's Department has told the Senate inquiry that "resentful ex-employees and repeat nuisance claims seeking `go-away' money" are likely to be dismissed as vexatious, frivolous or insubstantial complaints.

"Double dipping" has been banned; those who lodge a complaint under state and territory laws or the Fair Work Act can't claim under the federal law as well.

The government's Regulation Impact Statement, prepared for the draft legislation, notes that defendants are already spending more than $100,000 defending complex cases.

It admits that shifting the burden of proof to the respondent "could increase the number of complaints".

Religious organisations have been given limited exemptions, so they can continue to legally discriminate against women, gay people or employees who oppose their beliefs. But aged care services that receive federal funding will no longer be able to discriminate against gay residents.

Volunteers will be protected for the first time, so that work experience students and tuckshop mums will be able to lodge complaints and seek damages payouts.

David Goodwin, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's productivity committee, describes the law as "manna from heaven for no-win, no-fee law firms. Bosses are going to have to become the thought police," he says. "It's unworkable".


25 January, 2013

Political correctness compulsory for ALL political parties?

No diversity of opinion about homosexuals allowed, apparently. Only a few decades ago homosexuality was illegal. Now it is semi-sacred. One would hope for a middle way some time: Where what homosexuals do in bed is their business and people are allowed to say anything they like about homosexuals

BOB Katter's party has cancelled Bernard Gaynor's bid for preselection on the Senate ticket after he said he did not want his children taught by gay teachers.

Katter's Australia Party also accepted the resignation of Victorian candidate for the seat of Wannon, Tess Corbett, after she made similar comments and said gay rights would lead to acceptance of paedophiles.

The party's national director Aidan McLindon said Mr Gaynor had been suspended from the party and would not be eligible to contest Senate preselection.

"The party has made it perfectly clear on a number of occasions to all candidates and officials that KAP does not exist for individuals to air and promote their own personal preoccupations," Mr McLindon said in a written statement.

"For this reason and as a result of serious breaches of protocol the party has suspended Mr Gaynor's membership."

Earlier, Mr Katter refused to comment on the controversy, but said he backed the statement from his party.

The north Queensland MP said "everyone knows my position on this issue". "I'm not interested in it one way or another," Mr Katter told The Courier-Mail.

But he took a swipe at Mr Gaynor, who is a former national general secretary of the party and is vying for preselection on the Senate ticket in Queensland, saying he had "a rather peculiar way" of trying to secure support.

Officials from Katter's Australia Party will hold an emergency phone hook up this afternoon to discuss whether to turf out Mr Gaynor and their candidate in the Victorian seat of Wannon Tess Corbett, who made similar comments to a local newspaper.

Earlier, KAP Senate nominee Bernard Gaynor issued the statement claiming the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader would support his views, but it was quickly followed by a brief, blunt statement from KAP National Director Aidan McLindon.

"Katter's Australian Party will not be used by people to air and promote their own personal preoccupations," Mr McLindon said. "This position will be be communicated to all proposed and potential candidates and zone chairs across Australia."

Earlier, Mr Gaynor had issued a statement claiming Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott would both support his view that parents should be able to object to teachers who are gay.

"The Prime Minister of Australia and Opposition Leader would both agree that parents should be able to choose who teaches their children," Mr Gaynor said.

"I'm sure both of them would 100 per cent back the rights of parents if they had concerns over the values of teachers. This includes concerns over teachers who promote homosexual lifestyles, either actively or by example, to children."

"Furthermore, considering both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard oppose gay marriage it makes perfect sense that they would also be uncomfortable with teachers promoting a lifestyle that has serious negative health consequences and is opposed to the values of the majority of Australians."

Overnight, Mr Gaynor refused to back down from a controversial tweet in which he declared he would not let a gay person teach his children.

Senate nominee and father of five Bernard Gaynor denied he was homophobic following his tweet which read: "I wouldn't let a gay person teach my children and I am not afraid to say it."

It comes after Bob Katter admitted regretting the homophobic advertisements that ran during the 2012 state election.

Mr Gaynor said: "If we value free speech and democracy then we would respect the right of Christians to hold their views about right and wrong. And as a Christian, the homosexual lifestyle is immoral."

"I don't think Bob would have a problem with me saying this. As a parent, we should have the discretion over who teaches our children." Mr Gaynor has five children aged one to 10.

"It is my responsibility as a parent to ensure my children have good teachers.

"Bob's comments about the advertisements that ran last year is a completely separate issue."

After the State Election, Katter told an audience with former prime minister Kevin Rudd that we would regret homophobic advertisements aired by his party "for the rest of my days".

Mr Katter's Australia Party's ads, of a pixelated black and white image of an older gay man with a young lover, went to air during the Queensland election campaign.

Mr Katter said they were a "simple example of insensitivity" and "a political mistake of major proportions".


Katter candidate's halal post sparks new storm

Given the Muslim attacks on Westerners, I would think that a desire not to help Muslims was perfectly reasonable

A candidate for Bob Katter's fledgling political party declared his preference for buying "guaranteed non-halal meat" so his money does not "go to the Muslim community".

Jamie Cavanough, who is standing for Katter's Australian Party in Sydney's most marginal federal seat, Greenway, is under fire for the apparently divisive comments he made to a community forum in one of the city's most ethnically diverse areas.

They emerged a day after a Katter candidate in Victoria, Tess Corbett, sparked outrage by likening homosexuals to paedophiles, saying they should be kept out of the classroom.

Mr Cavanough made his comments on Saturday, less than a fortnight after controversy in the Greenway community over plans for a supposed Muslim enclave, dubbed "Halal housing", in Riverstone.

Mr Cavanough posted on the Riverstone Community Group forum, which has 732 members on Facebook: "Can anyone advise me where I can buy Guaranteed NON halal lamb for Australia day."

When a forum user suggested he might try a butcher, Mr Cavanough replied: "have not asked yet, just wondering if anyone new [sic] of any, I would prefer to always buy non halal as proceeds of halal goes to the Muslim community."

In a separate post, he called on people to sign a petition against a supposed plan by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to scrap the name Australia Day in favour of Harmony Day, saying "the Muslim church is in favour of this". The Prime Minister's office confirmed there was no such proposal.

Mr Cavanough told Fairfax Media he was simply looking for a better deal on meat and his comments were not racially motivated.

"In my view, and it's not the view of any party, I want to be able to purchase a product that has not been faced to a god that I don't believe in and blessed," he said.

"Every time something is deemed halal they pay for the right. I have no problem with Muslims; I breed sheep and cattle and sell them to Muslims. I don't care what they do with them, I was just simply asking where I can purchase [non-halal meat]."

Labor's Michelle Rowland, the sitting MP for Greenway, which covers parts of Blacktown, Seven Hills and Parklea, said "my jaw has just dropped" when told of Mr Cavanough's comments.

"I think those comments are bizarre, I think they are out of line and I think they are totally inappropriate for someone seeking to represent the seat of Greenway, which is a diverse part of Australia," she said.

Mr Cavanough has been courting the conservative vote in the absence of a Liberal candidate in Greenway. Fairfax Media revealed recently that Liberal Party officials were waiting for Tony Abbott to give his blessing to one of a list of candidates in the must-win seat, with concern growing at the delay in choosing a candidate.


Vic public hospitals cancel 1300 operations

ELECTIVE surgery for 1300 patients across three Melbourne hospitals will reportedly be cancelled over the next five months as the fallout from $107 million in federal budget cuts continues.

Western Health says 550 patients at the Western and Sunshine hospitals and 750 patients at Williamstown Hospital will not receive elective surgery as planned this financial year, Fairfax reports.

Thousands of elective surgeries are set to be cancelled across the state as hospitals slash services to cope with the federal funding loss.

More than 300 beds were being closed as federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and her Victorian counterpart David Davis negotiated a time to meet on the funding issue late Thursday, Fairfax said.

Mr Davis has said Canberra has cut $107 million from existing hospital budgets, while Ms Plibersek maintains Victoria will receive $900 million more in hospital funding over four years.

The cuts have prompted The Alfred to reportedly axe 300 operations, while the Royal Children's Hospital has announced it will have to slash 50 jobs.


Hate speech warning as Dutch MP Geers Wilders faces protests

Hatred of Mr Wilders will certainly be on display

CONTROVERSIAL anti-Islamic Dutch MP Geers Wilders will face protests from Muslims and others in Melbourne next month.

The Baillieu Government has also warned that Mr Wilders could fall foul of the state's hate speech laws if he incites tensions.

Mr Wilders had been due to visit Australia last year but had to postpone the trip following delays in processing his visa.

He opposes the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands and has called for the banning of the Koran, which he equates with Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf.

Mr Wilders was invited to Australia by a nationalist group called the Q Society. A meeting is planned for Melbourne on February 19, and there are appearance dates in Sydney and Perth.

Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad said he had been approached by Leftist groups about protests against the Right-wing politician.

Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood said details of meetings would be released with only 48 hours' notice, for security reasons. "We feel strongly that as a democracy we can't not talk about things because of the threat of violence," he said.

Mr Horwood said Islam was unlike any other religion, and his organisation was concerned that Australia, like Europe, was changing as Muslim numbers grew.

Victorian Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Minister Nick Kotsiras said Mr Wilders had the right to free speech, subject to the state's racial and religious vilification laws.

Mr Wilders' Party for Freedom won 10 per cent of the vote at the Netherlands' last election in September.


24 January, 2013

Jellyfish sting victim furious over hospital wait

Ain't government medicine grand? I would like to see some of our socialist politicians wait 6 hours with a jellyfish sting

A man who was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish in Top End waters says he had to wait six hours to be treated in Royal Darwin Hospital.

Jason McCarthy was working on a fishing boat near the Tiwi Islands on Monday when he was stung by the potentially deadly jellyfish.

Mr McCarthy says the navy came to his rescue and took him back to Darwin for treatment, but he then faced an agonising wait in the Emergency Department.

"It was disgusting to tell you the truth... I waited from 2pm, I didn't see a doctor until 8pm," he said.

"In that time I watched everyone in the same boat that came in there, just in pain."

He says after several hours, he approached the counter and asked to see a doctor.

"They said there wasn't enough doctors and there wasn't enough beds. There was nothing they could do, he said.

In a statement, the director of Medical Services Dr Sara Watson says emergency treatment at Royal Darwin Hospital is based on a triage system and the most urgent cases are dealt with first.


Can you believe two FEET of rain in two days?

That's what Tully got. Since drought signifies warming (so the Warmists say) we sure must be getting cool. Odd that it feels hot, though

Flooding has cut roads and forced the closure of the train line between Townsville and Cairns after torrential rain across north Queensland.

Hundreds of millimetres of rain has fallen as a result of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and central Queensland communities are now preparing for flooding as the system moves south.

The ex-cyclone is now about 85 kilometres west of Cape Tribulation and is moving slowly south, bringing damaging winds and heavy rain.

Senior Forecaster Ken Nato warns the big rain is heading south of Townsville.

"Today and tomorrow we are expecting towns like Bowen and Townsville which is already starting to see some of the weather, down to Mackay and even down to St Lawrence by tomorrow," he said.

Queensland Rail (QR) has been forced to close the Townsville to Cairns rail line because of water over the tracks at a number of places, including Tully, Bilyana, Aloomba, and Deeral.

Crews will assess damage when flooding subsides.

A QR spokeswoman says passengers will have to wait in the cities because they cannot arrange alternative transport due to road closures.

About 130 millimetres of rain has been dumped on Ingham, north of Townsville, in the past three hours.

Residents there are being urged to stock up on supplies as the Herbert River continues to rise and is expected to peak at 11 metres later today.

Tully has recorded more than 600 millimetres of rain in 48 hours, and almost 200mm has been recorded at Mission Beach and near Cairns.

Further north, Weipa has recorded 300 millimetres of rain since 9:00am (AEST) yesterday.

Police are warning drivers to avoid travelling through Tully until further notice.


Greenpeace warns against expanding coal exports

The facts have never mattered to Greenpeace

A new report has warned Australia to stop expanding coal exports or risk inflicting "catastrophic" effects of climate change on the world.

The Greenpeace-commissioned study identifies the expansion of Australian coal exports as one of 14 proposed coal, oil and gas projects around the world that will raise greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

The study predicts Australia will increase coal exports to 408 million tonnes a year, producing an estimated 1,200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Greenpeace's Georgina Woods says if the projects go ahead, they will warm the globe more than two degrees Celsius.

That is considered the temperature limit to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

"Our coal exports are already our biggest single contribution to climate change, and part of a global fossil fuel expansion enterprise that will push us beyond the point of no return in climate change," she said.


Apology demand after gay and lesbian group's signs deemed 'offensive'

PARRAMATTA'S lord mayor is facing a social media backlash after a gay and lesbian youth group invited to a family fun day was asked by the council to remove its "offensive" signage.

Council staff told Twenty10 that a banner promoting its "support services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and communities" was inappropriate at last week's Rediscover the River festival, Twenty10's acting managing director, Terence Humphreys, said.

The request prompted Twenty10 to pack up its kite-making stall and leave, posting on Facebook that it could not support an event if a sign describing the group had been "deemed to contain offensive language".

The council has been inundated with complaints as news of the January 17 incident has spread. A petition calling for an apology had attracted more than 6000 signatures in a matter of hours on Monday.

The council said in a statement that organisers asked that two banners be removed "in response to numerous complaints by members of the public" but at no stage did it request Twenty10 to leave. It declined to say what aspect of the signs was deemed to be offensive.

Independent councillor and former mayor Lorraine Wearne apologised for any offence caused but labelled some of the response an overreaction.

Labor's Julia Finn said the council's reasoning was inadequate. But independent councillor Paul Garrard said Twenty10 should not have been at the family day as it was no place for "semi-political" groups.


23 January, 2013

Tony Abbott says Government's draft anti-discrimination laws amount to censorship

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces an election-year free speech battle if she presses ahead with planned anti-discrimination law reform.

And Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has criticised the federal plans to streamline laws against discrimination, saying they would clash with state laws and could create uncertainty for Queenslanders.

Ms Gillard defended the draft laws as "most worthy for consideration" and urged people to have their say on the proposals.

Almost 600 individuals and groups have made submissions to the draft Bill, which will be scrutinised by a Senate inquiry today and tomorrow.

A wide range of critics are lining up to pan the laws, with employer groups and human rights lobbies warning the changes could see people found to have breached the law if they merely "offend" someone.

Others have complained the proposed laws give too many exemptions to religious organisations to discriminate against single mothers or gay people.

The Bill is meant to merge and simplify five existing laws against age, disability, race, sex and other forms of discrimination. But it includes some new forms of discrimination at work, including on "medical history" and "social origins".

The new laws also change the definition of discrimination to include comments that "offend" or "insult" someone.

Mr Abbott said the proposals would amount to censorship by the Government and were against the "DNA" of his party.

"We do not need any additional restrictions on free speech in this country. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear," he said while campaigning in Brisbane.

"Not for nothing are we called the Liberal Party.

"The last thing we need is anything that shuts down legitimate debate in this country."

Mr Abbott said the Government had been "hectoring" and "bullying" those who criticised it, including in the media.

Independent Tony Windsor said he was unlikely to support the legislation in its current form and said he had received a large number of complaints about the proposed changes.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has called for changes to the Bill to protect the right to free speech.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties said in a submission to the inquiry that the Bill "repeatedly and unjustifiably encroaches on free speech".

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will tell the inquiry today the changes will make it easier for employers to be accused of discrimination.


The usual Greenie exploitation of the Barrier Reef

The GBR has been "threatened" as far back as I remember and I am in my 70th year. No evidence is needed: Just a shriek

THE Great Barrier Reef could be stripped of its world heritage status within months if action isn't taken to better protect the natural icon from coal and gas developments, environment groups say.

A coalition of green groups today launched the Fight for the Reef campaign in Canberra, warning state and federal politicians were putting the reef's international reputation at risk.

Last year UNESCO was "sufficiently concerned" enough by proposed developments along the Queensland coast it sent a mission to Australia to investigate, the campaign's director Felicity Wishart said.

It made a number of recommendations to the commonwealth and Queensland governments about how to proceed in the best interests of the reef.

The global heritage body could place the reef - the world's longest coral reef system - on the "world heritage in danger" list if it doesn't receive an adequate response by February.

Ms Wishart said such action would be an international embarrassment that threatened both the reef ecosystem and the $6 billion tourism industry it supports.

"The reef has an international reputation, it is loved globally," she said.

"That's a really alarming international black mark that we could be tracking towards if we don't lift our game."

She said the campaign, formed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, had written to all the major parties in a bid to get the reef on the 2013 election agenda.

At the centre of their concerns are 45 major industrial developments proposed for the coast, including large-scale coal and gas projects that would boost shipping over the reef.

Currently, around 4000 ships make "port calls" through the reef every year, but that number could skyrocket to 7000 if the proposals go ahead unchallenged, the campaign group warns.

The main concern is that the government, which has a "proud track record" of defending the reef, wasn't now taking this issue seriously, Ms Wishart said.

"We're calling on all sides of politics to step up and commit to greater protection for what is the most significant natural icon that Australia has," she said.

"This is something that has to be beyond politics."

The Great Barrier Reef was granted world heritage status in 1981, but has since faced numerous threats from coral bleaching to cyclones, runoff, Crown-of-thorns starfish and commercial activity.


The Backpacker has lost his way if he thinks patriotism is out of this world

There is nothing shameful in declaring that you are proud to be Australian.

Sadly, Ben Groundwater, Fairfax's globetrotter on a shoestring, who writes The Backpacker column, has declared he is not a proud Aussie. He wonders what we should be proud of and asks what makes Australia so much better than everyone else's country. He does acknowledge that as he travels the world he finds people in other countries who are also proud of their patch.

For the Fairfax world traveller, the concept of nationality and nationhood has become irrelevant. One cannot be sure but the article reads as though he believes patriotism and nationalism are one and the same. Many, including myself, will disagree on that point.

I take a patriot to be someone who loves their country above all else in the sense that they would unflinchingly put the common good for their compatriots ahead of any personal gain. Patriotism, in this sense, is a good thing.

Like it or not (and The Backpacker doesn't) nation states are the prime mechanism for citizens to group together for each other's benefit. They are also the key vehicle through which large numbers of citizens (one nation state) communicate with others (in other nation states) to encourage fairer trade, protect our natural environment and encourage world peace, to name a few laudable objectives. In other words, by being good citizens of our nation state and by Australia taking helpful and constructive positions on the international stage, we are in fact being what The Backpacker professes to want, namely good citizens of the world.

I think it is also a good thing to take pride in your country. Pride in its achievements as a nation and pride in the achievements of fellow Australians can inspire others to follow suit and be the best they can be. That people in other countries do the same thing does not mean one must be better than another, simply that we take pride in what we do well. Since when has that been a bad thing?

Nationalism is another kettle of fish. The thin veneer of what I call Vegemite nationalism clearly offends The Backpacker. Yes it can get ugly and none of us see the charm in that, but it can also be both uplifting and harmless. The Backpacker seems revolted at the VB-drinking, footy-watching Australians who holiday in Kuta which is, I think, a little harsh.

Yes, when the Olympics are on we do tend to support our country "like it's a football team". Given the most transparent thing I saw in the International Olympic Committee during my visits there (when the World Anti-Doping Agency was being established ) was the glass elevator, one might have good reason to think carefully about the time and money we put into the Olympics.

Perhaps we should follow India and admit to higher priorities for government spending. Be that as it may, whenever and wherever we are competing I think it is good that we support our team. (Although if Eric Moussambani Malonga, "The Eel", has a crack at it in 2016 I will quietly give him a cheer or two as well).

There is a more acrid form of nationalism that seeks to garner genuine feelings of pride and brotherhood about ourselves and derail them into ugly sentiments about others. A positive is turned into a negative, often to carry the ego of those with narrow and ugly minds. This type of nationalism is especially unattractive - as are the people that support it. Here's a tip: keep away from them.

The Backpacker hates the standard conversation lubricant among new acquaintances overseas "Where do you come from". He says it should be irrelevant without saying why. Quite apart from being handy to even the most shy and inept conversationalist it also holds the possibility of opening up rich avenues of participation for the other person. At the very least it does them the courtesy of showing an interest in them.

The questioner discovers where the person comes from, which gives perhaps just a little insight into the respondent and highlights possible avenues for further conversation.

For example, if they come from Argentina it is a fair bet they will have something to say about Eva Peron, the Falkland Islands or great steaks.

The respondent on the other hand has the opportunity to give very little or quite a lot. It is not so much a banal and irrelevant question as an invitation to communicate, to share stories and knowledge in a gradual way. It is an invitation to interact with others as The Backpacker would have us do, as citizens of the world.

We are just acknowledging the reality that we come from different parts of the world and consequently have vastly different experiences to share.

The Backpacker points out that it is just dumb luck for Australians to have been born on this piece of land. Putting aside the complexities of citizenship being a tad more complicated than where you were born, dumb luck doesn't seem appropriate to me. Unbelievable, windfall, mega luck gets a little closer.

The test is for The Backpacker to identify for himself the country of which he would rather be a citizen. For myself, I can't nominate one. I can nominate traits of other nationalities I admire, places that are glorious to visit and achievements that are inspiring but not a country in which I would prefer to have been born and raised and in which I would now prefer to live.

On Australia Day, The Backpacker might reflect on this question: if we shouldn't be proud of Australia, who should be? If he calls at my house, hospitable Australian though I am, I think I'll send him packing.


Election 2013 will take us back to 64 BCE

Benjamin Herscovitch

In 64 BCE, the great philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for the position of consul—the highest elected office in the Roman Republic.

Not being from a noble family, Marcus was a political outsider trying to break into the inner sanctum of Roman power.

To give Marcus the best chance of realising his political aspirations, his younger brother Quintus offered some wily lessons in the pursuit of high office.

Quite aside from whether Quintus’ handbook of electioneering contributed to Marcus’ eventual election victory, it is a useful guide to the political trickery to watch out for in the lead up to the 2013 federal election.

Noting that valuable political capital can be amassed by smearing opponents, Quintus did not hesitate to endorse dirt files and rumour mongering.

He advised Marcus to remind the people of ‘what scoundrels your opponents are and to smear these men at every opportunity with the crimes, sexual scandals, and corruption they have brought on themselves.’

Whether in the form of whispers of salacious personal proclivities or resurrected stories of decades-old misjudgements, the ancient art of muckraking will almost certainly feature prominently in the 2013 election campaign.

On the off chance that distracting voters with titillating scandals is ineffective, Quintus reminded his brother that there is always the option of being the electorate’s yes man (or woman).

Quintus recommended never saying no to a request, adding that Marcus should ‘not make specific pledges either to the Senate or the people. Stick to vague generalities.’

With a proliferation of ambiguous commitments to ‘do more,’ ‘take action,’ and ‘get results,’ this election year is likely to serve up candidates who are similarly big on promises but light on details.

Like any good strategist, Quintus also understood the power of chequebook politics.

One of his most important lessons for Marcus was that undecided voters can be won over by offering them ‘even small favours.’

As with the campaign for Roman consul, we can expect to see fast and furious pledges of support for all manner of interest groups and causes during this year’s political contest.

With the playbook for ambitious politicians apparently left largely unchanged for over 2,000 years, Quintus’ words serve as a warning for the Australian electorate of 2013.


22 January, 2013

Lawyers claim dam operators caused flooding in Brisbane suburbs

Classic bureaucratic negligence. They showed no sense that they held lives in their hands. The Wivenhoe was built for flood mitigation but it is not proof against bone-headed management

DAM operators should have been on an emergency footing, making significant dam releases in December 2010, but instead negligently flooded entire suburbs in a panic the following month, lawyers claim. [Blind Freddy knows that to be true]

The law firm taking on the State Government yesterday said Chelmer, Rosalie, Auchenflower, Bulimba and the entire CBD of Ipswich were among areas that should not have flooded at all in January 2011.

The firm plans to file a complaint by April, although it has not yet established in which court.

Maurice Blackburn principal solicitor Damian Scattini said his firm and the company financing the action, IMF, were convinced there had been significant negligence before and during the floods.

Mr Scattini said the dam operators had held back too much water for too long in what appeared to have been "a misguided attempt" to keep upstream bridges open.

"When they realised what they'd done they panicked and released too much at once, so we had a much larger peak than there needed to be," he said. "Their priorities were skew-whiff."

Mr Scattini said that under dam operator Seqwater's own rules, there was a flood emergency throughout December 2010 and the first week of January 2011. But a flood event was not declared until January 6.

"Their own rules say if the dam is at 67m and there is more rain expected then they should declare a flood emergency," he said. "There was not a single day in December that those conditions did not apply. "On the second of January they said the flood was over. Then they come back on the sixth of January and keep the gates closed."

Mr Scattini said US hydrologists hired as expert witnesses had found the operators were negligent deliberately in ignoring weather forecasts.

They had also "observed" that the current version of the manual used to operate the dams "had been written to cover up what they did in 2011", he said.

But he refused to name the experts and would not reveal any of their findings in detail.

Flood victims and other Brisbane residents were yesterday poring over a map released by Maurice Blackburn that shows in green areas that it claims should not have flooded.

Areas that would have received at least 150mm (6 inches) of water regardless of how the dam was managed are marked in orange.

Some complained online that locations that did not flood were nevertheless marked green. Mr Scattini blamed state government flood maps, used to delineate the flooded areas, for the errors.

"We thought, they can hardly complain if we use their basis for the map," he said.

He said more accurate maps would be used in court.

John Walker, of litigation funding firm IMF, which is risking up to $10 million in the expectation of a big government payout, said lawyers were on track to file a complaint by April.

Mr Walker said the claim, which would be the largest class action in Australia, could potentially exceed $1 billion.

He said he hoped to get insurance companies to join the action, describing them as also having been "victims" of the dam operator's negligence.

Maurice Blackburn and IMF will spend the next two months sending leaflets throughout the suburbs, identified as having been avoidably flooded in the hope of garnering further support for their action.

Public meetings will be held in these areas in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for Seqwater said the company was "acutely aware of the impact of the floods" but rejected claims of negligence.

"We've always been confident that Wivenhoe Dam was managed as it was supposed to be managed, and the dam performed as it was designed to perform during the range of flood events from October 2010 into January 2011," the spokesman said.


Private schools reap secondary student numbers at state's expense

Private schooling mainly at High School level is the Australian norm but the pattern may be acceletating

On the figures above, 42% of Australian teenagers go to non-government high schools, which IS edging up

STUDENTS are flocking to government primary schools but the number sticking with the system for their secondary education is in free-fall.

Education Department figures, compiled for the Herald Sun, show the Catholic and independent sectors are snaring more students.Government secondary schools are expected to have 4700 fewer students than three years ago, a 2.1 per cent decline.

Deakin University Prof Jill Blackmore said parents appeared happy to trust state primary schools, but many were willing to invest to give their child the best chance at university and making lifelong contacts.

"They know that government schools actually do a good job at preparing them in the critical areas of literacy and numeracy," Prof Blackmore said. "But they know the social capital factor is the thing that is critical in secondary."

Enrolment figures, which include estimates for this year, show government primary schools are on track to record three-year growth of 5.4 per cent. The figure is on par with other sectors.

But while state secondary enrolments are going backwards, those at Catholic secondary schools are up 3.8 per cent and independent schools 1.6 per cent.

Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said growth was strong across Melbourne, particularly in new suburbs.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said many established private schools were at or near capacity.

An Education Department spokesman said a baby boom, which began in 2006, was driving government primary enrolments and would flow to secondary schools.


VCAT backs former drugs offender to work with children

VCAT are notorious Leftist lamebrains. They will go you for criticizing Muslims but nothing else seem to bother them

A MAN who racked up 25 drug offences across four states in 17 years has won an appeal to work with children.

The decision was made after Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Heather Lambrick said she believed the man's "prolonged history of offending is now behind him".

The appeal was heard on December 18, two weeks before Victoria's new working-with-children check laws, which changed legal tests for applicants with serious criminal convictions, applied.

It heard the man, referred to as JFC and who now wants to coach cricket and study welfare, was released from jail in 2010. He had been sentenced to a minimum of 6 1/2 years in jail after being found to be a "major co-ordinator" in a drug ring that distributed at least 900kg of cannabis worth more than $5 million.

Ms Lambrick said JFC had also been charged with four weapons-related offences between 1985 and 2004, and been a drug addict.

She said there was no evidence JFC had sold drugs directly to children but "there is every probability that at least some of the cannabis he distributed made its way into the hands of vulnerable children". Despite this, she said the man appeared to be reformed and had not used drugs for a decade.

The Secretary to the Department of Justice, who refused the man's application for a working-with-children check, had pointed to internal correction documents "which implicated JFC in drug use and drug dealing whilst in prison". The man had also spent time in "separated management" after cannabis seeds were found in his unit.

But Ms Lambrick said JFC had denied he dealt or used drugs in jail and had not been charged there.

"The time has come to enable him to re-engage fully with the community and that extends to his being able to work with children," she ruled. "It can never be said that a person poses no risk to children. However I consider any risk posed by JFC to be extremely low."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert Clark, James Copsey, said he was not able to comment on JFC's case. But he said the Coalition had bolstered laws applying to applicants "with previous serious convictions".


Free speech denied to Geert Wilders

The obvious question is, what are they afraid of? Is it fear of violence, or vandalism, or simply fear of association?

Debbie Robinson, a small business operator who describes herself as an ordinary citizen, wants to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.

"In Sydney, venues that were initially available were cancelled or would not take the booking when they realised who the speaker was," she told me. She provided a list of rejections: the Hilton Hotel, North Sydney Leagues Club, Sydney Masonic Centre, Wesley Convention Centre, Luna Park Function Centre, the Concourse at Chatswood and the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW.

"I offered a church-based venue in Sydney a donation and their reply was, 'You could offer $4 million and we would not accept your booking'."

Finding venues was not her only problem. "Earlier in the year I approached APN Outdoor to arrange a four-week run of bus ads in Sydney. The artwork was forwarded to them and I was quoted a price for the job . . . Then I was advised they would not be able to run the ad as it was too political and would result in the buses being damaged and defaced. They would not say who would do the damage."

The same happened in Perth, where Robinson lives, when venues declined to take her booking, including the Burswood Casino. When she tried to organise a payments system for the tour, she was rejected by Westpac. The bank, which has been courting the Chinese Communist government for years, wanted nothing to do with this Dutch democrat.

"I was organising an e-way payment system with Westpac to link to the website of the Q Society [the sponsor of the tour]. I received a call from a manager who said the Westpac Risk Management Team had decided the material for sale was offensive and inappropriate and therefore they would not proceed with the e-way system. I asked to speak to the manager responsible and was told he was on leave."

The Dutch MP causing so much concern is Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party of Freedom (PVV), the king-maker in Dutch politics over the past two years. When Wilders withdrew his support for the government last year, it collapsed and a national election was called.

A month after that election, in which the PVV polled a million votes and won 16 seats, Wilders was scheduled to be in Australia. The trip was cancelled after it was sabotaged by the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen.

The minister then had the gall to write an opinion piece, published in The Australian on October 2 last year, in which he claimed, "I have decided not to intervene to deny [Wilders] a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator."

Reality check: Bowen's department sat on Wilders' visa application for almost two months, then acted only after the minister received public criticism and Wilders was cancelling his trip.

No such long delay hindered the visit of Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an apologist for jihad, when he made a speaking tour in Australia last September while Wilders was being frozen out. When questioned in Parliament, Bowen replied: "Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia . . . This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals."

Apparently, the anti-Western Hizb ut-Tahrir is not "fringe", nor worthy of an excoriating opinion piece, but the leader of a party that won 24 seats, 1.4 million votes, and 15 per cent of the vote in the Dutch 2010 election represents an extremist fringe.

People are entitled to loathe Wilders, or shun him. They are also entitled to support him, or hear him. The problems encountered with his visit illustrate the double-speak, double-standards and fear that exists when it comes to the subject for which Wilders is notorious - confronting Muslim extremism.

Neither Wilders nor the PVV have ever been involved in violent conduct, yet he has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past nine years, since two Muslim fundamentalists were arrested after a siege in 2004 and charged with planning to assassinate him.

When Wilders comes to Australia next month for speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, he will be accompanied by five Dutch security officers. The venues will not be revealed until 48 hours before each speech.

Wilders believes Islam is a political ideology, not just a religion, and should be compared with totalitarian belief systems. He has compared the Koran to Fascism and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. He advocates ending immigration by Muslims because the Netherlands was losing its demographic and social stability. For this he was taken to court for hate speech. He won, but the case occupied three years.

Wilders is opposed to what he calls the Islamification of Europe by a combination of demography, immigration and accommodations by multiculturalism that are not reciprocated by Muslims. Two other Dutch political activists who were similarly critical of Islam were subject to numerous assassination attempts. One was murdered, the other fled to America.

Debbie Robinson believes the fear she has encountered in Australia merely confirms her reasons for arranging Wilders' visit: "With every refusal I asked why, and was almost always informed that management had concerns about the repercussions. The audience was never the issue. The issue was offending Muslims. Looking at the number of cancellations and refusals it is apparent the Islamic community are not getting their message across about being the religion of peace."


21 January, 2013

Going organic fills niche for dairy farmer

Free enterprise at work. Pic below of Mr Watson's gorgeous little daughters -- holding newly-hatched chickens. They are lucky. Few kids these days will enjoy the delight of a newly hatched chicken. Note also how green is the lush tropical landscape there. If the huge restrictions on international agricultural trade were lifted, the region could feed millions

BREAKAWAY dairy farmer Rob Watson has seen the chickens come home to roost in the lush volcanic fields of Millaa Millaa on the Atherton Tableland.

The 53-year-old is as bio-dynamic as the speciality organic milk, cheeses and yoghurts his family produces in the once-thriving dairy region two hours drive south-west of Cairns.

His newly hatched plan is to produce free-range organic eggs in a sign that to diversify is to survive in farming. "No one else is doing it," said Mr Watson. "It is an opportunity."

He is one of a small band of happy farmers who turned the disaster of dairy deregulation in 2000 and the Coles price war launched last Australia Day, into a $7 million-a-year boutique business.

Today Mungalli Creek Dairy delivers its organic milk products to 200 stores including the big supermarket chains in north Queensland and shops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. "Since the price wars, demand has soared," he said. "Some people will pay a bit extra because they don't want homogenised or permeate milk.

"It was stressful to start packaging our own milk. But we've never looked back. We can't keep up the supply."

Six dairy farmers in the region have hit the wall this year - selling up, or turning to crops, pigs or beef as Coles and Woolies sell milk for about 14 cents below farm production costs.

Some believe the dairy industry is cursed, others like Mungalli, see it is as a matter of thinking outside the box. "We need to revitalise these tiny rural hamlets," Mr Watson said.


Watchdog call for softening of new hate laws

AUSTRALIA'S discrimination watchdog wants the federal government to water down its new hate laws to avoid litigation over workers' water-cooler chats.

Discrimination has been redefined as "conduct that offends or insults" in the government's draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.

But Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs thinks the broad definition will spark too many lawsuits.

She said the words offend and insult "have to go". "There is no need to set the threshold so low," she said. "I would suggest the government consider taking the words 'offensive' and 'insulting' out (of the legislation). "It does raise a risk of increased litigation".

Professor Triggs said discrimination cases should be based on the higher test of "intimidation, vilification or humiliation".

The Gillard government has drafted the new law to combine and update five sets of legislation banning discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age or disability.

Professor Triggs said the words offend and insult had been "buried" in Section 198 of the Racial Discrimination Act, which will be replaced by the new legislation.

"Now it (the new legislation) extends that attribute to all areas (of discrimination)," she said.

"Probably what we'll see is an amendment to the exposure bill, taking out offensive and insulting."

The draft law says a person has been discriminated against if someone treats them "unfavorably" on the grounds of "protected attributes" that range from gender to race, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation.

It defines "unfavorable treatment" as harassing someone or "other conduct that offends, insults or intimidates the other person".

A Senate committee inquiring into the draft bill has already received 587 submissions from organisations including churches, employers, unions, mental health agencies, disability groups and state governments.

A spokeswoman for acting federal Attorney-General Jason Clare yesterday refused to say if the wording would be changed. "The main objective of this project is to simplify and consolidate many laws into one," she said. "If the Senate inquiry identifies the drafting goes well beyond this, the Government will closely consider those recommendations."

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has told the Senate inquiry the the new laws could damage freedom of speech.

"The use of subjective language such as 'insult' and 'offend' in the statutory definition of 'unfavourable treatment" may be interpreted to set a low threshold test for discrimination," he said.

"(This) will result in unmeritous complaints and lack of alignment with international human rights benchmarks that focus on the need for equality, rather than merely on the social value of being polite".

Queensland's Anti Discrimination Commission also wants the legislation be rewritten, so a "reasonable person" would have to find the conduct insulting or offensive.

Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission, however, wants to keep the words "insult and offend" and add others as well. "To provide greater certainty, this clause could also include the words humiliate, denigrate, ridicule or degrade to describe some of the specific types of behaviour that constitute unfavourable treatment," it told the inquiry.

The NSW Government has told the Senate inquiry the broader definition of discrimination "places unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech". "The words 'offend' and 'insult', in particular incorporate a very low threshold of unfavorable treatment," its submission says.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark warned that people could be accused of discrimination over what they say in private conversations held in a public place, such as a club or office.

"Many people may be subjectively offended or insulted by the simple expression or manifestation of views different to their own," he told the inquiry.

"To make such expressions of views in workplaces, schools, clubs and sports prima facie unfavourable treatment and hence discrimination ... appears to substantially erode freedom of expression."

The Law Society of South Australia told the Senate inquiry it "condemned" the new definition. "The robust expression of opinions, short of incitement to hatred, is a strength of our social and legal system," its submission states.

"It should not be curtailed to protect subjective offence that individuals may feel when their beliefs or attitudes are criticised."


Brisbane flood bungling going to law

It's patently obvious that if the flood compartment at Wivenhoe had been kept available, there would have been no flood. The Labor government used it for storage in a bid to save millions but the people of Brisbane lost billions as a result

LEGAL action is to be brought against the Queensland Government over the 2011 floods.

Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn say they will on Monday reveal maps that will show a "very significant" number of properties would not have been flooded if Wivenhoe and Somerset dams had been managed properly.

"We have sufficient evidence to go ahead," Principal solicitor Damian Scattini told The Courier-Mail.

He said he expected a complaint would be filed within a couple of months, after Brisbane and Ipswich flood victims had been given a chance to see whether or not they might have been spared damage.

US experts have spent about a year analysing the actions of the dam operators, crunching data and modelling the water flows that would have resulted if the dam had been operated to what they consider an internationally acceptable standard.

The colour-coded maps will mark in green the area that should not have flooded, and in orange the areas that would have received at least six inches of floodwater.

Mr Scattini said people living in the orange-marked areas could still have a case against the dam operator. "We're not ruling anyone out," he said.


For-profit schools coming to Australia

Global education companies are planning to open Australia's first for-profit schools targeting local primary and secondary students as early as next year.

Fairview Global, a for-profit schools network based in Malaysia, will send scouts to Australia within six months to find potential sites, with the aim of opening two schools next year and in 2015.

"We plan to have one school in the west and one in the east of Australia - cosmopolitan cities of intellects with international-mindedness," said the chairman of Fairview International Schools' governing council, Daniel Chian.

At present, private schools must be not-for-profit to receive public funding, a status held by Catholic and independent schools. Schools are for-profit if revenue is passed to an outside person or group for financial gain. They are legal to operate.

Mr Chian said the expansion plan was being guided by a former vice-chancellor of an Australian university who is now a member of the Fairview governing council, but would not reveal the name.

A second company, Gems Education, based in Dubai, hopes to open a school in Australia. Its original plan to start one in Melbourne was shelved two years ago.

The moves have outraged the president of the Australian Educational Union, Angelo Gavrielatos. "These are large companies driven by a profit motive that consider education as the last bastion when it comes to untapped resources. Our children cannot be seen as a commercial resource - a plaything for companies to make profit."

The NSW and federal education departments said they had not received any inquiries from overseas for-profit education companies.

For-profit schools are banned under Victorian law. "The regulator - the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority - cannot register a school, primary or secondary, for profit," said a Victorian Education Department spokesman.

Some for-profit schools exist in Australia but they mainly cater to foreign students.

A Fairfax Media investigation could not identify a for-profit school aimed at the mainstream student that is part of a global brand such as Gems Education. Gems Education claims to be the world's largest kindergarten to year 12 private education provider, offering the British, Indian, US and International Baccalaureate curriculums.

The company's communications director, Richard Forbes, who is Australian, said it had received three inquiries in the past three months from Australian investors interested in setting up schools, but its focus was on developing schools in Africa and south-east Asia.

Arguing for profit-based education, Mr Forbes said US studies showed a large portion of public-system investment never reached the classroom. "In a competitive environment, an environment where the customer - the parent - has a choice, the quality must be high or they will look elsewhere," he said.

The former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile is a consultant for Gems Education, which is making profits from schools in at least three countries, including Britain. "There are schools for profit in the UK and in the US, so in an economy like Australia's there will be that level of competition, they will eventually appear," he said.

A former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, Brian Caldwell, agreed that for-profit schools would make attempts to break into the Australian market in the next five to 10 years.

"But I don't think it's likely to attract significant enrolments, and I don't think they are the answer to improving Australia's school education - they're not viable," he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, gave Fairfax Media the same response as the department on the legality of for-profit schools, when asked whether he would allow for-profits to operate.


Staff shortage puts 000 emergency service at risk

A STAFF shortage and thousands of bogus emergency calls each year have been blamed for a series of botched triple-0 responses - including a two-hour delay before police showed up to help a caller being terrorised by a man wielding a knife.

It was one of 34 serious complaints made against police communication centres in the past two years, including another case where officers weren't sent at all despite being told the caller was afraid of getting stabbed.

The problems at Queensland's 21 police communication centres are exacerbated by operators unable to keep up as they face an average 1450 calls a day, forcing many to wait in long queues or not be answered at all.

Queensland Police Service said a review of the complaints relating to both incidents "determined that an appropriate priority and response had not been allocated".

Police statistics show 529,417 triple-0 calls were received last year - almost half at Brisbane. Less than 5 per cent of those were time-critical. Yet no guarantee would be given that communications centres wouldn't be affected by the staff cuts even though demand has increased.

"As at January 17, there are 148 staff attached to the Brisbane Police Communication Centre against an establishment of 148 positions, including 12 persons in training," a QPS spokesman said.

The Courier-Mail revealed in 2009 that police communication centres regularly operated with a staff of just 12 officers and radio operators - six fewer than the agreed minimum staffing level.

Since then, 20 more staff have been recruited but operators say the increase has not kept up with demand, with more than a 30 per cent increase in calls in the past four years (up from 1100 a day).

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said staff shortages in centres were still "at crisis point", prompting fears it would get worse under Commissioner Ian Stewart's recently announced police service changes.


- On August 6, 2012, a caller from Toowoomba region rang triple-0 to report they were being threatened with a knife but instead of getting police to respond, they "simply arranged for the job to be recorded and passed onto other police later that morning". No attempt was made to arrange for police to attend the home of the complainant.

- On September 27, 2012, police received a call at Yamanto in the Ipswich district from a person saying somebody had threatened to stab them with a knife. Later, the situation escalated and there were several people outside the complainant's home. A patrol crew were sent to three other jobs of lesser priority before turning up at this address two hours later.

- On July 12, 2012, a caller made a triple-0 call and requested police response to a "serious domestic" in Brisbane involving their defacto. The call centre staff member failed to ask basic questions such as location, the situation, whether they were safe or weapons were involved. Subsequently, it took more than an hour for police to finally reach the home.

- On July 10, 2012, A 000 call was made on "four occasions in relation to a disturbance" at a home in Brisbane. The calls were answered at two communication centres and when the complainant asked if the order had been put through, call centre staff member said: "No I haven't put the order thorough, it's not a take-away restaurant mate." [He would have got a better response from a take-away restaurant]


20 January, 2013

Gillard's chickens come home to roost

Working parents are waiting up to two years for childcare places as centres scrap care for babies. Cutbacks in care availability are precisely what was predicted when Julia basked in the "higher standards" she mandated for childcare. Socialism is always destructive

CHILDCARE centres are scrapping places for babies as working parents wait up to two years for day care.

Three in every four long day-care centres in Australia's capital cities do not have vacancies for babies, a new survey reveals. And two-thirds do not have places left for toddlers.

Brisbane parents are having to wait up to two years for a place, forcing them to quit their jobs, rely on grandparents or hire expensive nannies or unqualified babysitters.

The Greens survey of 231 private and community day-care centres nationally in the past week shows that vacancies for babies have fallen 10 per cent since 2010. In Brisbane, nearly one in three centres has a waiting list for enrolments stretching one to two years.

Of the 36 centres surveyed, more than a quarter of these have waiting lists of six to 12 months. Brisbane parents are paying an average of $76 a day for day care.

More than three quarters of the Brisbane centres do not have vacancies for babies and 61 per cent have no room for toddlers.

Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge yesterday said some Brisbane parents were putting their unborn babies' names down on up to 14 waiting lists at once.

But some centres were closing their nurseries because they cost too much to run. Centres must employ one carer for every four babies and toddlers up to the age of two.

But for the over-threes, centres only need to employ one carer for every 11 children.

Ms Bridge said the Federal Government should pay parents a higher subsidy for babies to cover the higher fees.

"It is unviable for services to provide baby care with the same rate of (government) subsidy as older children," she told The Sunday Mail.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the survey showed the availability of day care for babies had fallen by 10 per cent over the past three years. "Obviously there is a looming crisis in the sector," she said.

"The government needs to be doing far more to improve both the quality and availability of childcare while also helping mums and dads cover the costs."

The Federal Government will spend a record $4.4 billion on childcare subsidies and rebates to parents this financial year, Treasury budget papers show.

Federal Childcare Minister Kate Ellis has blamed the states and territories for the shortage of places, and demanded they fast-track planning approval for new centres.

Melbourne mum Belinda Galloway applied for a place while still pregnant - yet still had to wait 14 months for Louis to enrol at a Port Phillip council centre.

"I put his name on the list when I was pregnant and when I got back to work there was no spot for him," she said yesterday. "It forced us into a situation of nanny-sharing with another mum from our mother's group for six months. "It ended up costing us $400 a week each, so for six months I was pretty much earning half a wage."

Now Ms Galloway pays $50 a day in out-of-pocket costs for daycare.

The new mum hopes she can find a place for her two-month old baby, Archer, by the time she heads back to work part-time, managing a jewellery gallery, in September.

"I do have to go back to work because being a small business, they just can't afford to have me away too long because the position is quite specialised," she said.


Australian biochemist-turned-winemaker claims to have created a wine that is beneficial to drinkers' health

It should be remembered that the best documented effect of anti-oxidants is to shorten your lifespan. If that turns you on, go for it!

A QUEENSLAND biochemist-turned-winemaker claims to have created what drinkers had only dreamed of - wine that is beneficial to your health.

Greg Jardine, founder of Mt Nebo-based company Dr Red Nutraceuticals, filed a patent for Modified Polyphenol Technology in Wines late last year and said the creation would "finally give wine a real medicinal edge".

The process involved ageing red wine for a certain period of time, which enhanced the number of antioxidants within it, made them fat-soluble, rather than water-soluble, and easier to absorb into the bloodstream.

Some studies have shown antioxidants are effective at fighting a multitude of different diseases.

Mr Jardine said he had been working on the process for 10 years but had only recently discovered a way to retain the taste while enhancing antioxidants.

"Wine has got massive amounts of antioxidants but they are quite tannic so if you put more in people would not drink it because of the taste," he told The Sunday Mail. "What we discovered was if we allowed them to age and stop it at the right point of time the tannic taste goes and we make it taste good."

Biomedical Sciences Professor Lindsay Brown, from the University of Southern Queensland, found the non-alcoholic dried crystal used to make the wine successfully treated rats with arthritis.

"The results were astonishing. Right from the outset of the 14-day trial, this wine was effective ... and by day four, it achieved a near-perfect recovery," he said.

Mr Jardine said the wine could help treat a "range of ageing conditions" from chronic fatigue and gout to stiff joints after a visit to the gym.

Ren Gray-Smith, 51, of Red Hill, in Brisbane's inner west, was suffering from fatigue and irregular sleep patterns when she switched her regular glass of red to Mr Jardine's creation.

"I was feeling very tired, had bad sleep patterns and (the wine) just helped to get me back on the right track," she said.

Stressing the wine is "not medicine", Mr Jardine said it should be consumed in moderation as it has the same alcoholic content as regular wine.

"We gave people one glass, not 50 glasses but it had 50 times more antioxidants in the glass," he said.

"For years the word has been a glass a day is good for you but we are finally proving it. "We believe this is a game-changer for the food industry in Australia."

But before another toast, more research was needed to prove any beneficial effects, said clinical pharmacologist Creina Stockley. "If they can show it has a demonstrative effect in humans it's worth pursuing," she said.Dr Red was rapped over the knuckles by Queensland Health in 2008 after detailing their trial results on the company's website, claiming their fruit punches killed prostate cancer cells.

No convictions were recorded.


Most teaching graduates fail to secure jobs

Some of these unfortunates may find themselves readily employed in the USA and UK -- trying to teach mainly African classes. They will need a lot of luck

SEVEN out of eight teaching graduates have failed to secure a permanent job with Queensland's Education Department.

As teachers get ready to go back to school, their union warns this year will be one of the worst to attain a job in state schools.

Almost 16,000 teaching applicants are seeking employment with the Department of Education, Training and Employment - the state's largest teaching employer - including more than 1000 new university graduates.

DETE assistant director-general Duncan McKellar said as of January 16, 1608 graduates had applied for a job to teach in state schools in 2013. Only 197 of those had secured permanent jobs. Another 348 have been given temporary employment, leaving 1063 - about two-thirds - looking for jobs elsewhere.

The Queensland Teachers' Union says this will be one of the toughest years for graduate teachers to secure a job after DETE acknowledged there would be about half a classroom teacher less at each state primary school - assuming enrolments remain the same as last year - as a result of a staffing formula change. But QTU vice-president Julie Brown said there were likely to be even fewer teachers hired throughout 2013 because of the staffing change. "The sad news is that some of those graduates will go interstate or overseas," she said.

John Phelan, communication manager of Queensland's largest Catholic school employer, Brisbane Catholic Education, said they had put on extra teaching graduates this year through their centralised primary process - up from 65 last year to 89.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said teaching graduates had the right to expect a job and he was working with universities and the Federal Government to address the over-supply issue.

He said there was still a demand for teacher applicants in rural and remote areas, for specialist secondary subjects, including mathematics, science, industrial design and technology and for teaching students with disabilities.


Koch comments spark breastfeeding protest

Koch is entitled to his condescending views and others are entitled to protest his views

UP to 800 angry breastfeeding advocates will converge outside the Sydney studio of the Seven Network's Sunrise program to protest against comments made by host David Koch.

Discussing a story about a Queensland woman who was told she couldn't feed her baby at a public pool, Koch said on Friday he supported breastfeeding, but that women should be "classy" about it.

The comments prompted an immediate backlash with enraged nursing mothers and other breastfeeding supporters setting up a Facebook page to encourage people to participate in the Sunrise Nurse-In on Monday.

"A nurse-in is without doubt needed at the Sunrise studio in Sydney," the page says. "Join us on Monday morning to take a stand against this unfair view." Participants are asked to arrive at 7am (AEDT).

By Sunday 565, people had indicated they would attend the nurse-in, with 228 "maybes". The event has gained publicity with media personality and mamamia publisher Mia Freedman condemning Koch's comments on her widely read blog.


Dying baby robbed of precious time because of bureaucratic ineptitude

Nobody gives a stuff in a bureaucracy

A BABY has died after her parents went to a WA hospital desperately seeking treatment for their child but wasted precious minutes unable to find a new emergency department because it had no sign.

The sources said Health Minister Kim Hames launched Kalgoorlie's new emergency department in November, but did not even notice the sign had been left off.

And they said Dr Hames' desire to be seen to be getting patients quickly treated under initiatives such as "fast- tracking" and the four-hour rule endangered people.

"The parents of the baby, who was a few months old and we believe was unconscious, turned up at the old emergency department in the early hours, and they were knocking on the door because there was no signage for the new ED, and most people in Kalgoorlie know where the old ED is," one source said.

"Paramedics came to them, and finally managed to get the baby to the ED, but only after some time had elapsed."

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Mark Olson said: "Why weren't the signs up? I think it's typical of a Minister who has no interest in his portfolio ... and that's why these things happen."

Dr Hames at first tried to deflect the sign matter, saying the new ED entrance was "well signposted" because there was a "large white tarpaulin sign on the fence" outside. He also said there were big signs on the old ED.

But when The Sunday Times informed him it had photographs showing there was no sign on the new department the day before the baby's death, he admitted "permanent signs" were only erected on Monday - two days after the death.

Dr Hames said: "After the paramedics took the baby to the new emergency department she was seen by an emergency physician and a paediatrician.

"The sudden death of a baby or a small child is always particularly distressing and very sad for the parents and medical staff. I would like to express my sympathy to the parents of the baby at their tragic loss."

Dr Hames said an internal review of the case of the woman was finished and "at this stage" it appeared appropriate treatment was given, but there would be an external review.


18 January, 2013

Sanitarium ads raise question marks about "Discrimination"

Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon's department says Weet-Bix manufacturer Sanitarium - which advertises for job candidates who share its "Christian-based principles" - is not a religious body, but would not say whether the company's actions were unlawful.

Sanitarium was founded and is operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is not required to lodge the company's financial reports.

A number of its online job ads require successful candidates to have Christian principles. A cereal machine operator job ad says: "If you share our passion for what we do . . . and you are aligned with our Christian-based principles, this will be a great opportunity for you."

A Sanitarium spokeswoman has told Fairfax Media that religious belief "was not a condition of employment".

It is an offence to publish an ad that indicates an intention to unlawfully discriminate under a number of laws. But religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against people with various attributes, including religious belief, unlike other groups. A draft human rights bill retains most of their legal rights to discriminate.

A spokeswoman from the Attorney-General's department said Sanitarium was not a religious body because it was not "established for religious purposes" but could not say whether Sanitarium's ads were unlawful.

"The relevant question is how that preference is applied in practice," she said. "For example, refusing to hire a person merely because they are of a particular faith, gay or divorced, could constitute discrimination, but requiring employees to act in accordance with a particular code of conduct may not be."

The Federation of Community Legal Centres' Hugh de Kretser said most people would consider the ads discriminatory: "If the government thinks Sanitarium isn't a religious body, it should act to stop these discriminatory job ads."


Economy will be at heart of Abbott's election pitch

Tony Abbott has signalled that economic management will be at the heart of his election pitch, promising to "increasingly detail" the Coalition's policies during the year.

The Opposition Leader has seized on the latest rise in unemployment, linking it to Labor's decision to break its commitment to delivering a budget surplus this year.

"No government can be good for jobs if it is not good for the economy... and this is a Government which simply can't manage the budget," Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney.

"In the end, it all comes down to the economy.

"If you don't have a strong economy, it's very difficult to have the strong communities that every Australian wants and deserves."

He says having a strong economy is necessary to maintaining good government services, having a clean environment and securing the country's borders.

Labor has responded to Mr Abbott's comments by pointing to the Government's track record in guiding the economy through the effects of the global financial crisis.

"Since the Government came to office, we have created more than 800,000 jobs, we've grown the economy by 13.2 per cent, and labour productivity has risen by 6.5 per cent," Employment Participation Minister Kate Ellis said.

She also pointed to the way in which state Liberal governments have gone about slashing jobs, arguing that a federal Coalition government would take the same approach.

"You don't have to look back to the Howard government, you can look to any of the current state Liberal governments to see exactly what modern-day Liberals stand for," Ms Ellis said.

"And that is job losses, it is stripping away people's protections in the workplace, and we know that an Abbott-led government would be absolutely no different.

"Now if they want to stand up today and talk about job losses, they might want to have a few words to say to their colleague in (Queensland Premier) Campbell Newman, because we know that when you look at Queensland, it sends a very clear example to the rest of the country of what we would see if Tony Abbott was ever elected to government."

The federal election is due in the second half of the year, and this week's Newspoll showed Labor was now within striking distance of the Coalition's lead.

The results buoyed Labor MPs who said voters appeared to be backing the Government's economic vision for the country.

Mr Abbott has responded to the results, saying: "No-one ever said it was easy to defeat an incumbent government.

"But every day of this year I will be pointing out that we have an incompetent and untrustworthy government up against an Opposition which has positive plans for a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia."


'Appalling' failures kept kids in care

FIVE children have spent years in state care because the Child Safety department failed to review paperwork that could have allowed them to return to their parents' home, the Carmody inquiry has heard.

The inquiry into child protection yesterday heard disturbing allegations child welfare workers did not do follow-up work to determine if the parents of the five children had become fit and proper parents.

Rebekah Bassano, solicitor with the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service, told the inquiry she was familiar with the case of the children, who were removed from one north Queensland indigenous couple over the course of nine years.

When Ms Bassano this week requested details of the annual review paperwork that determines the progress of the parents, and whether the children could return to their care, she was told that none was available.

Under cross-examination from Counsel Assisting, Ryan Haddrick, Ms Bassano said if the paperwork had been done, it was possible that all five children could now be living safely with their parents instead of being spread across five foster families.

"So, for all you know, eight years ago there should have been a review and that review could have determined they didn't need protection?" Mr Haddrick asked.

"Yes," replied Ms Bassano.

"The children could have been returned home, but nobody reviewed the case," Mr Haddrick said.

"So you are suggesting the department itself doesn't understand its own obligations?"

"That's right," Ms Bassano replied.

"How would you describe that situation?" Mr Haddrick said. "Appalling," Ms Bassano answered.

The parents were still trying to get their children back.

The $9 million inquiry is set to resume in Brisbane on Monday.


Unemployment rises as full-time jobs shed

The unemployment rate has risen from 5.3 to 5.4 per cent, as 5,500 jobs were lost in December. Bureau of Statistics figures show the fall was centred on full-time positions, with an estimated 13,800 lost, while part-time employment increased by 8,300.

The original jobless rate of 5.2 per cent for November was revised up to 5.3 per cent, meaning last month's rise to 5.4 per cent was a modest 0.1 percentage point increase.

The more stable trend unemployment number, which smoothes out monthly volatility, remained steady at 5.4 per cent.

The proportion of those aged over 15 in work or looking for it - the participation rate - remained steady at 65.1 per cent.

Due to the rise in joblessness and shift away from full-time to part-time work, aggregate monthly hours worked fell by 1.1 million to 1.624 billion hours in December.

However, CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian says there were some positive revisions to the November data, particularly for hours worked.

"While 5,500 jobs were lost in December, the November result was revised up to show 17,100 job gains rather than a 13,900 lift in jobs," he wrote in a note on the figures.

"Indeed hours worked was also substantially revised up in November, now showing 0.8 per cent growth rather than 0.1 per cent."

Mr Sebastian says that demonstrates the resilience of the Australian labour market in the face of patchy growth and weakness in particular industries.

"It's clear that the job market isn't shooting the lights out but by no means is unemployment soaring. In a big picture sense the job market is in a holding pattern with a modest degree of softening," he noted.

"But while jobs are being lost in some industries, clearly they are being created in other industries."

Nearly 150,000 jobs were created last year, but that failed to keep pace with a 185,000 person increase aged over 15.

Only a decline in the proportion of people either in work or looking for it helped keep unemployment relatively steady at 5.4 per cent, up just 0.2 percentage points from a year ago.


17 January, 2013

Religious rights to stay

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has assured religious groups they will have the "freedom" under a new rights bill to discriminate against homosexuals and others they deem sinners, according to the head of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Under current law, faith-based organisations, including schools and hospitals, can refuse to hire those they view as sinners if they consider it "is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion".

Ms Gillard has met Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace several times, and he says she assured him "she has no intention of restricting freedom of religion" when it comes to religious groups' legal rights to discriminate in hiring and firing.

Discrimination by religious organisations affects thousands of Australians. The faiths are big employers, and the Catholic Church in particular is one of Australia's largest private employers.

They rely on government funding but because of their religious status are allowed to vet the sexual practices of potential employees in ways that would be illegal for non-religious organisations.

Labor often claims to represent progressive values and is led by an atheist, but the government has gone out of its way to placate religious organisations on this issue.

The woman who will be steering the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill through the Senate, Finance Minister Penny Wong, is a committed Christian and a lesbian.

Senator Wong said this week that Labor was "seeking to balance the existing law and the practice of religious exemptions with the principle of non-discrimination".

It is believed that senior Labor ministers have been making similar promises to the Christian lobby since Kevin Rudd was prime minister.

Before she was elected in 2010, Ms Gillard promised Mr Wallace in a filmed interview that she would protect the school chaplains program and that under her government "marriage will be defined as it is in our current Marriage Act as between a man and a woman".

She said that "we do not want to see the development of ceremonies that mimic marriage ceremonies".

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is adamant that the church should retain its rights to discriminate, but Anglicans are divided.

The more conservative Sydney diocese claims its right to discriminate against gays and lesbians and others whose "lifestyles" offend religious beliefs, Bishop Robert Forsyth of South Sydney said.

But social welfare charity Anglicare practises the opposite, South Australian branch chief executive, the Reverend Peter Sandeman said.

"Jesus didn't discriminate in who he associated with and helped and neither should we," Mr Sandeman said. "At Anglicare South Australia, we introduced a formal policy welcoming and supporting inclusion and diversity nearly a decade ago."

Jews "don't have a position on this", Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils did not respond to questions.

Labor's Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill was an attempt to consolidate the law, "not completely re-invent the anti-discrimination system", a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.

"We are proud to be introducing important new protections from sexual orientation discrimination. While there are some exemptions, this doesn't detract from these important changes".


Review 'missed opportunity' to separate church and state

Says an old Scottish red-ragger. Cameron has just got to open his hate-filled mouth for you to hear the reason behind the destruction of Scotland's industry. He should go back there

Labor Left leader Senator Doug Cameron has questioned the role of the Australian Christian Lobby in a review of anti-discrimination laws and says he does not believe there should be any discrimination on the basis of sexual preference or marital status.

Senator Cameron told Fairfax Media on Wednesday that he was concerned that Ms Gillard spoke with the Christian lobby before the matter was discussed in caucus.

"It seems to be that there is now a fait accompli about this legislation if the reports in the press are correct and the Labor Party has missed a significant opportunity to practice the principle of the separation of church and state," he said.

Ms Gillard reportedly gave assurances to ACL managing director Jim Wallace that the government has "no intention of restricting freedom of religion" when it comes to religious organisations' legal right to discriminate against those who might offend their beliefs.

Under the draft new Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, faith-based organisations retain the legal right to deny employment to groups such as homosexuals and transgender people and certain other classes, if it "is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion".

A spokesman for Ms Gillard said earlier this week it would not comment on discussions with stakeholders.

Mr Wallace told reporters on Wednesday he was "not aware of any church or any [religious] organisation actually rejecting the employment of anyone and particularly, not the provision of services".

Last year, 21 complaints were lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission by people alleging they had been discriminated against at work, on the basis of their sexuality. The commission does not break down complaints by whether the work was with a religious organisation, but commission president, Gillian Triggs, confirmed complaints had been received about religious groups. "We can and do receive complaints about discrimination in employment with faith-based organisations on the ground of sexual preference," she said.

Senator Cameron said he did not believe there should be "any discrimination on the basis of sexual preference or religion or marital status".

A Senate committee is holding an inquiry into the draft bill and public hearings are scheduled for next week.

West Australian Labor senator Louise Pratt, who sits on the Senate committee, echoed Senator Cameron's views, telling Fairfax Media that she was surprised by the position of some religious groups.

"I am surprised that religious organisations delivering services using taxpayer funds and already employing a great many lesbian and gay [people], single mums, unmarried people – and also delivering services to those people - should want to retain the right to discriminate against them. It simply doesn't make sense."

Senator Pratt, who is a lesbian and has long history of advocating for gay and lesbian law reform, said she expected the issues would be "actively debated" during the public hearings.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who also sits on the Senate committee, said it was disappointing that the Prime Minister was "again following the line that Jim Wallace and the Australian Christian Lobby want her to follow".

Senator Hanson-Young added that it was not just Mr Wallace but ALP factions and factional powerbrokers, such as Joe de Bruyn – head of the powerful Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, and a conservative Catholic – who were influencing Ms Gillard's position.

The Greens senator said that there was still "plenty of time" to change the legislation before it passed the Senate.


Economy gets big tick

Months after Labor's mining tax, its carbon tax and its fourth successive budget deficit, Australia has been given the tick of approval by the world's biggest fund manager.

BlackRock is one of the world's most important buyers of government bonds, investing $US3.7 trillion worldwide. It says Australia's carbon tax and the mining tax have had at most a "marginal" impact on perceptions of the country's risk. More important has been the government's success in shrinking its budget deficit.

The fund manager's new sovereign risk update ranks Australian government bonds as the world's seventh least risky, up from 10th least risky three months ago.

No other nation has managed to jump three places in the latest survey. The finding is at odds with a claim made by federal Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey last August that Labor was "adversely impacting Australia's sovereign risk profile".

BlackRock's Australian head of fixed income, Steve Miller, said Australia's position was "exceedingly strong" and strengthening.

"The plain fact is, compared to the rest of the world, and this is what we are doing, Australia's public debt position is very, very strong.

Whether you are looking at budget balance or public debt to gross domestic product, whichever way we look at it, Australia comes out exceedingly strong."

The new BlackRock survey rates the governments of Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Germany and Chile as the 10 safest to lend to.

The United States is in the next 10 along with New Zealand and China, which have each moved up two places.

At the bottom, in positions 40 to 48 are Spain, Argentina, Ireland, Italy, Venezuela, Egypt, Portugal and Greece.

Japan and South Africa have each slid two places to 35 and 36.

Acting Treasurer Penny Wong welcomed the report as an "endorsement of Australia's strong public finances in the face of global headwinds".

A spokesman for Mr Hockey said the reality remained that business leaders had "expressed serious concern about the chopping and changing of government policy, the uncertainty of the taxation environment and the toxic relationship Canberra has with many members of the business community".

"Unquestionably, eight changes to the carbon tax, five versions of the mining tax, unexpected changes to business taxation, and the four largest deficits in Australia's history impacts on Australia's attractiveness as an investment destination," the spokesman said.

Speaking in reference to the interest rates Australia needs to pay to borrow money, Mr Miller said: "All other things being equal, this [the risk update] and the things that brought it about will put further downward pressure on bond yields." He said it would also make it easier for Australian state governments to borrow money.

The BlackRock calculation accords with those of the world's top three credit ratings agencies, which have given Australia their highest AAA rating. But it is a more recent calculation and the improvement reflects recent developments.

"The impact of the mining tax and the carbon tax would be marginal," Mr Miller said.

"We look at ability to pay and willingness to pay. Australia's budget position has improved. It has never defaulted. It has low debt by international standards."


PM under fire on gun crime

The major source of gun crime in Australia is Lebanese Muslims who came here as refugees. Deporting them would help

An announcement by the Prime Minister that she is examining ways to end the gun violence on Sydney streets has been dismissed by New South Wales as an election stunt.

With more than 135 shootings across the city last year, including 20 in the past two months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had asked the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, to prepare "options" to address the violence and explore what, legally and constitutionally, the federal government could do.

The NSW Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, accused Ms Gillard of "gross hypocrisy" over the comments, which were made at the launch of the federal government's new cyber-safety program. He said the federal government was failing "dismally" to protect Australia's borders from illegal gun imports.

"If Labor in Canberra want to help curb gun violence on the streets of Sydney it should be taking a good hard look at its border protection regime which is failing to stem the tide of illegally imported firearms into the country," Mr Gallacher said.

"The federal government must do what it can to prevent illegal guns reaching our shores - that's to get their own government in order before telling us how to run ours."

The acting NSW Premier, Andrew Stoner, said Ms Gillard's comments were "out of the blue" and more about winning votes in key electorates than addressing the gun crime problem.

"This is merely a stunt by Julia Gillard in order to win some sort of support in western Sydney," he said. "They know that western Sydney is a key battleground for the federal election later this year."

He said the state government had urged the federal government 18 months ago to improve customs operations to "stop the flood of illegal guns into NSW" and introduce national bikie laws in an attempt to curb gun violence in the state.

Ms Gillard, who also expressed concerns about recent street clashes in Brisbane, acknowledged that state governments and police authorities were principally responsible for containing suburban violence but she believed the Commonwealth could help.

"At this time all levels of government need to be doing everything that can be done to address this violence," Ms Gillard said.

The prime minister would not give a "running commentary" on how she thought the NSW government, which has primary responsibility for policing, was handling the problem. She also would not give any more specifics on what options Mr Clare would be canvassing.

Her announcement came less than 24 hours after the latest Sydney shooting in which a senior member of the Hells Angels was shot dead and another man wounded in the city's west.

"We've seen overnight yet again a report of another shooting in Sydney's south-west … We are seeing reports of violence in suburbs in Brisbane," the Prime Minister said.

"People who make their lives in these suburbs, in these parts of our great nation, deserve to be able to get about their business, to raise their families in an environment that is safe and secure and peaceful."

A senior police source told Fairfax Media officers would support the federal government's involvement if it meant more funding and extra powers to help deal with criminals and gun violence. They would also welcome national laws that would help stop criminals moving from state to state.

"It has to be something more than just a knee-jerk reaction to the violence in western Sydney," the senior officer said. "It has to involve talking to the key stakeholders as well as funding and actually putting proper universal laws in place."

The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, also described Ms Gillard's announcement as "completely unnecessary" saying racial clashes between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander families in the Brisbane suburb of Logan were now in hand. After days of violent confrontations, the two families - the Briggs and the Palaus - finally agreed to stop the violence after attending police-brokered peace talks on Tuesday night.


16 January, 2013

"Crikey" are rather hilarious climate crooks

Below is an excerpt from Australian Leftist e-zine "Crikey". They refer to a railway engineer, Pachauri, as "the world’s most influential climate scientist". LOL.

And they misrepresent an article in "The Australian" and the journal article it is based on, both of which are reproduced below. The last sentence of the journal abstract could hardly be clearer. It says that the relationship between climate change and sea level rise is: "weak or absent during the 20th century." So who is representing the findings accurately? "The Australian" or "Crikey". You be the judge.

One of the 18 contributors to the paper (though not the corresponding author) is, however, a Warmist (John Church -- as a CSIRO employee he just about HAS to be a Warmist) and Crikey readily got some Warmist quotes from him. One wonders why they did not get quotes from the corresponding (main) author. "Corresponding" means that he is the one you should talk to about the paper. That John Church disowns the plain words of the paper suggests that his involvement with it was peripheral -- probably contributing a few statistics

As The Australian claims sea level rise is not linked to global warming, the world’s most influential climate scientist has called on "sane and rational voices” to speak out and correct the record.

More than 250 scientists have gathered in Hobart today for a summit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s climate science body. The Oz marked the summit’s opening with a front-page "exclusive” story which claimed there was "no link” between sea level rises and global warming.

In a telephone interview, Crikey asked the long-term chair of the IPCC Dr Rajendra Pachauri, in Tasmania for the summit, about the story.

"What is particularly important is that sane and rational voices must respond to these questions and this scepticism, and I think that should get adequate currency,” said Pachauri, who in 2007 accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC. "Then people can make up their minds on their own.”

He called on the media to take responsibility for the stories they run. "Unfortunately in several parts of the world, the media gives disproportionate coverage to those who take a contrarian view, even if they represent a very very small percentage of either the scientific consensus or public opinion. They get almost equal billing, and to my mind that seems a little unfair,” he said.

Pachauri said climate change was particularly serious for Australia: ”From the looks of it, Australia is very very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, you have droughts, you have heat waves. Sea level rise could be a serious problem in some parts of the country. So Australia undoubtedly is very vulnerable, perhaps more so than several other places in the world.”

The Australian has long run a sceptical line on climate change, particularly in its opinion pages. Today’s story, written by environment editor Graham Lloyd, relied on a paper co-authored by Australian scientist Dr John Church. The paper apparently "said it could not link climate change and the rate of sea level rises in the 20th century”.

But Church, a sea level expert with the CSIRO, told a media conference today that was not an accurate description of the paper.

"So sea level clearly is linked to climate change, it is clearly linked to increases in greenhouse gases, and that’s actually in the paper which was quoted by The Australian. So the quote is, I’m sorry, inaccurate,” said Church, a co-ordinating lead author with the IPCC.

While The Australian claimed the paper had found no increase in the rate of sea level rise, Church said the paper showed the rate of sea level rise had increased between the 18th and 19th centuries, and research showed a further acceleration of the rate during the 20th century.


Sea rise 'not linked to warming', says report

THE latest science on sea level rises has found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years.

A paper published last month in Journal of Climate highlights one of the great uncertainties in climate change research - will ocean levels rise by more than the current 3mm a year?

The peer-reviewed article, "20th-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?" by JM Gregory, sought to explain the factors involved in sea-level rises during the last century. It found that sea-level rises had not accelerated "despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing" or human influence.

Australia's pre-eminent sea-level scientist, John Church, contributed to the paper, which said it could not link climate change and the rate of sea-level rises in the 20th century.

Australia is at the forefront of global research on sea-level rises, but must double its funding to $10 million a year to match other countries in the search for an answer.

There is no dispute that sea levels are rising and significant concerns about what the recent increased rate of melt of Arctic ice might mean. But the key question is whether the rate of sea-level rise will accelerate and, if so, when and by how much?

Australian optical space tracking technology developed to help manage remotely operated weapons systems is playing a key role in a global satellite monitoring program.

Ben Greene, a doctor of theoretical physics, said Australia was already a world leader in measuring sea levels.

"We have the precisions with what we are doing to measure sea level rises averaged over a decade," he said. "What we need to know is what the acceleration is."

Dr Greene's company owns the technology that is used worldwide to help measure sea level rise. He has offered the company's facilities profit-free to encourage Australia to increase its research effort in line with other nations.

"We need to move from fear-based to fact-based evidence," Dr Greene said. "We can trust the current models for the next 10 years, but there are problems after 15 years; sea level rises could be better or they could be worse."

The University of Reading paper says contributions to sea level rises include expansion of the water itself as it warms, melting glaciers and ice sheets, groundwater extraction and water trapped in reservoirs.

"We show that it is possible to reconstruct the time series of global mean sea level rise (GMSLR) from the quantified contributions," the paper said.

"Semi-empirical methods for projecting global mean sea level rise depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of our closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the 20th century," the paper said.

Dr Greene said overseas opinion was there would be a bit more sea level rise in the short term.

"The interesting thing comes in about 10 years' time if methane and CO2 traps in the ocean start to get released," he said.

"There would then be at least a short term acceleration some time in the 2020s. But the rise may accelerate and then reverse."

Twentieth-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?

By J. M. Gregory et al.


Confidence in projections of global-mean sea-level rise (GMSLR) depends on an ability to account for GMSLR during the 20th century. There are contributions from ocean thermal expansion, mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets, groundwater extraction and reservoir impoundment. We have made progress towards solving the "enigma” of 20th-century GMSLR—that is, the observed GMSLR has been found to exceed the sum of estimated contributions, especially for the earlier decades. We propose that: thermal expansion simulated by climate models may previously have been underestimated owing to their not including volcanic forcing in their control state; the rate of glacier mass loss was larger than previously estimated, and was not smaller in the first than in the second half of the century; the Greenland ice-sheet could have made a positive contribution throughout the century; groundwater depletion and reservoir impoundment, which are of opposite sign, may have been approximately equal in magnitude. We show that it is possible to reconstruct the timeseries of GMSLR from the quantified contributions, apart from a constant residual term which is small enough to be explained as a long-term contribution from the Antarctic ice-sheet. The reconstructions account for the approximate constancy of the rate of GMSLR during the 20th century, which shows small or no acceleration, despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing. Semi-empirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of our closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the 20th century.

Journal of Climate, 2012

"Hate-speech" law is fundamentally unjust

Several years ago I wrote a book about vermin, the kind defined by the third meaning in the Macquarie Concise Dictionary. Researching the book required me to sit in courts for months and go out and interview dozens of people. The heroine of the book was a teenager named Tegan Wagner who had been gang-raped by a group of young Muslim men. She came from the Shire and as her case was nearing an end, and I was nearing completion of Girls Like You, the notorious Cronulla riot took place.

It was December 11, 2005. Wagner was there. "When I heard about it, I wanted to go," she told me at the time.

"I'm a Shire girl. I've been going to Cronulla for years. I'd seen first-hand how people get treated, not by the local Lebanese, but by the Lebanese Muslims that come in from places like Bankstown and Riverwood. They treat our beaches like a sleazy nightclub. They treat young women like garbage. And as soon as you say anything, they are on their mobile phones, to 50 of their closest friends, and their mates come down and outnumber people. If it's guys, they will beat them up. If it's girls, they will terrorise them."

After the riot, and the following violent rampage by Muslim men in convoys of cars, I interviewed dozens of people from the Shire and they all gave me variations of what a teacher at Cronulla High School told me: "It's so disturbing that the images [of the riot] distributed around Australia and the world never mentioned the beatings, the provocations, the filth. They were not even discussed.

"Every girl I know has either been harassed or knows someone who's been harassed. It's not just young girls. I've been followed on numerous occasions. It's just constant harassment. The word 'slut' gets used all the time."

None of this was aired at the time. The media's story had one theme, the Shire's white racism. A deafening silence about the real cause of the tension came from the feminists, much the same people now so indignant about white male misogyny.

Seven years later, nothing has changed. Now Fairfax Media is supporting the complaint by the NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, that nobody is being jailed for hate speech, which means the anti-discrimination laws should be toughened. The prime example used by Fairfax Media in its coverage was Alan Jones.

In the week before the Cronulla riot, Jones described the young Muslim men who for years had been sexually harassing women on the beach as "vermin" and "mongrels" who "rape and pillage". That was the context of his comments, a context which dropped away entirely as a prosecution for hate speech by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal dragged on for seven years. No mention was made in Sunday's news reports of the far more sinister and contemporaneous example of public hate speech on September 15 last year.

During a demonstration that turned violent in Sydney, some protesters carried provocative placards including one infamous message, "Behead those who insult the Prophet". Many wore headbands with Arabic script exhorting jihad. Among the chants was, "Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell".

Another telling moment came in the aftermath of the demonstration when supporters of a Muslim man charged with assaulting police refused to stand when the magistrate entered the court. It was a calculated act of disrespect for Australian law.

One hopes the parliamentary inquiry ordered by the Premier, which will consider diluting the section of the Anti-Discrimination Act that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of serious racial vilification, will be alert to the way in which anti-discrimination and anti-vilification laws are abused.

Vexatious or zealous litigants, such as religious fundamentalists, have only marginal interest in the outcome of their complaint. It is the threat of formal complaint, and the complaint process itself, with the burdens of compliance, which is used as a weapon against opponents.

As if to confirm every warning made before the previous Victorian Labor government introduced laws on anti-vilification, the first major test of the law came when Muslim fundamentalists sought to use it as a weapon against Christian fundamentalists.

This proposal by O'Farrell is part of the latest push by the political class, of which he is a fully paid-up member, to increase the power and reach of the political class. In Canberra, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has released a draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, which seeks to introduce an expanded never-never of nebulous categories of discrimination offences. It includes speech that "offends" or "insults". It extends the categories of potential discrimination to "political opinion" and "social origin".

Every aspect of the draft law is biased towards expanding the possibilities of complaint. It will make it easier for complaints to be lodged.

Shockingly, the draft bill reverses the onus of proof. A person accused of discrimination will be deemed guilty until the claim has been dismissed. The bill then even requires defendants who have been found not guilty to pay their own legal costs.

Complaints will be heard by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is desperate to increase its relevance, and the Federal Magistrates Court, which already has more than enough of a caseload. The draft federal bill has been submitted to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is due to report on February 18.

In NSW, the parliamentary inquiry ordered by the Premier will conduct public hearings in April.

Both these proposed changes to the law are being treated as paradisaical by the human rights industry.

This alone should send an alarm to the rest of the community.

It should also alarm the parliamentary inquiry but it never seems to occur to the members of the political class - politicians, staffers, lobbyists, bureaucrats and lawyers - that the extension of the government power via micro-management, regulation and compulsion has been cumulatively unceasing for more than a century to the point of social, legal and moral sclerosis.


Gillard "science" advisors are gung ho Warmists

Queensland Senator Ron Boswell has slammed the involvement of Gillard Government climate advisors in a Greenpeace campaign to hamstring the Australian coal industry.

Senator Boswell said it was "outrageous” for members of the Science Advisory Panel of the Climate Commission and the Climate Change Authority to sign an open letter calling for expansion of Australian coal exports to be stopped.

Senator Boswell was commenting on a Greenpeace-funded full-page advertisement published in a national newspaper yesterday talking about "out of control global warming” and arguing that Australia’s coal exports must "peak and decline” by 2015.

"Everyone is entitled to express an opinion but it is not appropriate for advisors to the Climate Commission and a member of the Climate Change Authority to take part in an advertising campaign calculated to damage the Australian coal industry” Senator Boswell said.

"The Climate Commission describes itself as ‘an independent body set up to provide reliable and authoritative source of information on climate change’ and the Climate Change Authority ‘provides independent advice on the operation of the carbon price, emissions reduction targets, caps and trajectories, and other Australian Government climate change initiatives’.

"These are people who are hand-picked by the Gillard Government to provide advice on climate policy. What signal does it send out about how Labor views coal mining to have its own advisors signing up to a campaign against the industry?”

Senator Boswell said the full-page advertisement took the form of an open letter and signatories included Prof. David Karoly and Prof. Matthew England. They are both members of the Science Advisory Panel of the Climate Commission and Prof. Karoly is also a member of the Climate Change Authority.

"If they want to campaign against the coal industry, they should resign their positions on these Government bodies,” Senator Boswell said. "If they do not resign, they should be removed by the Government. Then they will be free to express their views on the coal industry openly and freely.

"For the Labor Government to take no action will be to send a very clear message about how it views the coal industry, putting at risk another $50 billion in investment needed to boost the Australian economy and provide much-needed employment.”

Senator Boswell said coal is Australia’s second-most valuable export commodity, with exports valued at $49 billion in 2011-12, and the industry provided 55,000 direct jobs.

"This is a very important industry for the Queensland economy and Queensland jobs, not just on the coalfields but in coastal regions as well. Royalties paid by the coal industry in Queensland last year totalled more than $2.3 billion,” he said.

"Around $14 billion has already been committed for new coal mining projects, with a further $40 billion of investment under consideration. The coal industry, and coal exports, will play a vital role in the future of the Australian economy.”

Press release from Sen. Boswell's office []

That good ol' government healthcare

Wynnum Health Service, formerly Wynnum Hospital, under fire for limiting access to inside care after 10pm

Residents presenting at the Wynnum Health Service after 10pm will be treated at the front door and offered a blanket and pillow until an ambulance arrives, under the latest directive from Metro South Health.

The directive is the latest controversy to engulf the former Wynnum Hospital, which had its 24-hour emergency centre axed and was renamed Wynnum Health Service by the Metro South Health board.

Staff at the facility have been told to treat any residents presenting after 10pm, including those in a life-threatening situation, at the front door until an ambulance arrives to take them elsewhere.

Management guidelines state that nursing staff are "not to allow entry into facility for patients presenting to be seen after 10pm and before 8am", basic life support should be administered "at the front door" and that "a blanket and pillow is available in the staff dining room for use."

It is the last straw for QNU members and residents who have also been robbed of the Moreton Bay Nursing Care Unit, which will be closed by Metro South Health this year because the building fails to meet code.

Both groups will march on the site in their hundreds on February 16 to show their disgust.

"The clear message from the community is that they do not accept the spin the board has put on the reasons for closing the emergency service," acting QNU secretary Des Elder said.

"This is just a plan to slowly but surely privatise health in the Bayside area.

"The public will make sure their voices are well and truly known."

Metro South Health director medical services and facility manager Redland and Wynnum Hospitals Dr Rosalind Crawford defended the decision to deny access to the former Wynnum Hospital after-hours because of staff safety issues.

"The first responsibility of the staff are the patients in the 21-bed ward at the facility," she said.

"The majority of these patients are frail, aged and some are terminally ill and should not be left unattended.

"This is under review to provide the best health care while ensuring a safe place for staff and inpatients."


15 January, 2013

Aussies own as many guns as before 1996

But: "SYDNEY'S murder rate has halved in the past decade, falling to its lowest level in recent history". So more guns = LESS crime! Pesky!

AUSTRALIANS own just as many firearms now as they did before the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, a new study reveals.

The research by Professor Philip Alpers, from the Sydney University school of public health, says Australians have steadily restocked and the number of firearms in the community now stands around 3.2 million.

In the Port Arthur massacre, a deranged gunman shot dead 35 people and wounded another 23.

Then Prime Minister John Howard pushed through tough national controls, banning semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns and introducing more stringent licensing.

In the guns buyback, Australians surrendered more than 700,000 firearms.

Professor Alpers said Port Arthur was one of a series of gun massacres and overall more than a million guns were surrendered.

"What our research found was that a huge number of people gave in their guns for no compensation at all," he said. "These hadn't been added into the discussions. So a million guns were taken out of circulation and put into the smelter."

Gun imports increased after 1996 as people replaced banned guns, then crashed, Prof Alpers said. "Gradually for the past 10 years, they have been creeping up again.

But they are not the semi-automatics specifically banned after Port Arthur.

Prof Alpers said the buyback was a spectacular success and afterwards the risk of dying by gunshot halved.

The Australian Institute of Criminology homicide study shows gun murders have steadily declined from the late 1980s and now are far outnumbered by murders with knives.

Most gun deaths were from suicides and incidents of domestic violence, Prof Alpers said.

Only time would tell whether the increasing number of guns made Australia less safe. "It may be a problem, it may be a serious one, it may not be too bad, but we have yet to see," he said.


Stop telling bushfire victims to shut up

Greenies have blood on their hands

WHENEVER a major bushfire catastrophe occurs in Australia, the victims are essentially told to shut up.

It happened after Victoria’s Black Saturday fires in 2009. It happened after the Canberra bushfires, 10 years ago on Friday. And it’s happening now in Tasmania.

"Now is not the time for that conversation,” says the Tasmanian Minister for Emergency Management, David O’Byrne, avoiding questions about why adequate hazard reduction burns were not done in cooler months to remove fuel from the path of inevitable summer fires.

It’s just too early, claims Premier Lara Giddings, presiding over Tasmania’s ALP-Greens coalition.

But the residents of Dunalley, whose town was overrun, and the farmers whose properties and livestock have been wiped out, want that conversation right now.

Now is the time for farmers to complain that they could never get a permit to burn off excessive ground fuel on their properties.

Now, while public attention is focused, and before the truth can be buried for years.

Now is the time to point out, perhaps, that a fire which begins in a national park carrying negligently heavy loads of ground fuel can become an unstoppable inferno which will eventually burst out into the Canberra suburbs and kill four people and consume 500 homes.

Now is the time for people who understand the bush to tell the rest of Australia what fools we are.

"Fuel reduction burns make it possible to fight and control a fire; what happened here was uncontrollable,” Dunalley farmer Leigh Arnold told The Australian.

Greenies who oppose such burnoffs, "care more about birds and wildlife than they do about people and farms,” he said.

"But what’s the point of that now when the hills and trees they told me I couldn’t burn off, because there were protected eagles and swift parrots there, are now all burned and the fire it created was so hot we had dead swans dropping out of the sky?”

No, the only permissible comment on a bushfire catastrophe is to say it was caused by "climate change” - that convenient get-out-of-jail free card for greenies, governments and the obstructive bureaucracies they jointly create.

But we’ve heard it all before, and we’re not buying it.

"It’s really simple,” says Brian Williams, captain of the Kurrajong Heights bushfire brigade, a veteran of 44 years of firefighting, in one of the most extreme fire risk areas of Australia, on a ridge surrounded by 0.75 million hectares of overgrown national park between the Blue Mountains and Wollemi.

"Fires run on fuel. Limited fuel means limited fire.”

Green tape and heavy-handed bureaucracy has made his job harder today than in 28 years as captain. Rather than needing six people to perform a controlled burn in the cooler months, now 40 are involved, to oversee biodiversity and so on.

Williams managed to conduct just two of the five hazard reduction burns he planned before this fire season.

But don’t blame greenies. All week they have been claiming they support hazard reduction. Really?

No matter what legalistic and linguistic ploys are now used to rewrite history, green hostility to proper bushfire management is on the record, from the light-green NIMBYs who object to smoke, to green lobbyists who infiltrate government decision-making, taxpayer-funded green activists who embed themselves in government agencies, the bureaucratic green tape which makes the job of volunteer firefighters so difficult, the green NGOs who strongarm politicians, right up to the political arm of green ideology, The Greens.

It is true The Greens have developed a new set of "aims” including a caveat-studded "effective and sustainable strategy for fuel-reduction management”.

In practice, on the ground, it amounts to covert opposition. Williams scoffs at the Orwellian sophistry: "They publicly say they support it. The reality of how it pans out is nothing like that. Greens have two faces and underneath they are undermining everything.”

While there have been improvements under a new state government, Williams says hazard reduction is still inadequate across NSW, reaching just 1 per cent rather than the 5 per cent minimum recommended by the Victorian bushfire inquiry.

At least in the hard-won patch of Volunteer Fire Fighter Association president Peter Cannon, around Dubbo, Parkes and Forbes, hazard reduction is complete this year and he is confident any fires will be controllable.

He says it is a credit to hard-working firefighters that Tasmania-scale destruction has not occurred in NSW despite extreme fire conditions.

Another bright spot is the latest Rural Fire Service annual report which says more than 80 per cent of planned hazard reduction was achieved, and the area treated should increase by 45 per cent over three years.

It’s not enough but it’s a welcome change from the dark days of 2003, eight months before the Canberra inferno, when former RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg told a NSW parliamentary inquiry that widespread hazard reduction was "an exercise in futility”.

Fast forward to last month and blame for that fire has finally been laid where it belongs, at the feet of Koperberg’s RFS and the green-influenced National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Brinadabella farmer Wayne West, whose property was wiped out in the fires, sued the two agencies. Last month in the ACT Supreme Court, Chief Justice Terrence Higgins found them negligent.

The episode demonstrated how green pressure on decision-makers filters down into a cascade of subtle bureaucratic obstructions which disempower firefighters on the ground and disregard their expertise.

The result in 2003 was that a small fire at McIntyre’s Hut in the Brindabella ranges was allowed to rage out of control through the national park to emerge 10 days later, and burn lethally through Canberra’s suburbs.

Unfortunately for West and his insurance company, the government agencies are protected by statute and don’t have to pay compensation.

But West won a moral victory. We all are in his debt because he fought for the truth and refused to shut up.


Must not mention the high rate of unemployment and welfare dependency among blacks

THE federal MP at the centre of a social media storm after he tweeted about the Logan racial tensions has sought to clarify his position.

On Monday night, Andrew Laming, the MP for Bowman, tweeted: "Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day's work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?"

At 9.45am today. Mr Laming tweeted: "To clarify: Working together to resolve these riots the priority. Training and a chance for jobs are key."

Earlier, the Federal Government condemned Mr Laming or posting inflammatory comments about racial tensions in Logan, south of Brisbane, on Twitter.

The opposition's spokesman for indigenous health posted remarks on the social networking site on Monday night, after clashes between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander communities at Logan.

Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson told the ABC Mr Laming's quotes were disgraceful and callous, and inflaming a tense situation for political gain was appalling.

When contacted by The Courier-Mail, Mr Laming confirmed it was his tweet, but said he did not comment on his social media.


Harsh penalty for driving a Range Rover

IN 2009, P-plater Hannah Jongebloed was pulled over for a random breath test while driving her boyfriend's family Range Rover. The 21-year-old had not been drinking but ended up getting fined for driving a turbocharged car.

"I was out driving late one night and was stopped for a random breath test … The police officer just started asking me if I knew that the car was a V8 and he asked me to pop the bonnet," Ms Jongebloed, pictured, said. "I didn't even know a Range Rover was a V8. My boyfriend's family owned it because they lived on a farm.

"It was an old Range Rover, it wasn't like I was going to drag race anyone."

As a result, Ms Jongebloed lost her licence for three months. She lost all three points that she held on her provisional licence and received a $440 fine.


14 January, 2013

It was REALLY hot in Sydney recently -- about the same as 1790 (i.e. over 200 years ago)

The following was written by Watkin Tench, a British military officer, just two years after white settlement in Australia. Temperatures reached at least 108 F (42 degrees Celsius), similar to some records of maximum temperatures in Sydney in recent days.

The current average daily maxima for Sydney are 25.1 degrees for December and 25.8 for January. So 1790 was a year of extreme warming desite no power stations, SUVs or factories. There were not even many people

To convey an idea of the climate in summer, I shall transcribe from my meteorological journal, accounts of two particular days which were the hottest we ever suffered under at Sydney.

December 27th 1790. Wind NNW; it felt like the blast of a heated oven, and in proportion as it increased the heat was found to be more intense, the sky hazy, the sun gleaming through at intervals.

At 9 a.m. 85 degrees At noon; 104 Half past twelve; 107 1/2 From one p.m. until 20 minutes past two; 108 1/2 At 20 minutes past two 109 At Sunset 89 At 11 p.m. 78 1/2

[By a large Thermometer made by Ramsden, and graduated on Fahrenheit’s scale.]

December 28th.

At 8 a.m. 86 10 a.m.; 93 11 a.m.; 101 At noon; 103 1/2 Half an hour past noon; 104 1/2 At one p.m. 102 At 5 p.m. 73 At sunset 69 1/2

[At a quarter past one, it stood at only 89 degrees, having, from a sudden shift of wind, fallen 13 degrees in 15 minutes.]

My observations on this extreme heat, succeeded by so rapid a change, were that of all animals, man seemed to bear it best. Our dogs, pigs and fowls, lay panting in the shade, or were rushing into the water. I remarked that a hen belonging to me, which had sat for a fortnight, frequently quitted her eggs, and shewed great uneasiness, but never remained from them many minutes at one absence; taught by instinct that the wonderful power in the animal body of generating cold in air heated beyond a certain degree, was best calculated for the production of her young. The gardens suffered considerably. All the plants which had not taken deep root were withered by the power of the sun. No lasting ill effects, however, arose to the human constitution. A temporary sickness at the stomach, accompanied with lassitude and headache, attacked many, but they were removed generally in twenty-four hours by an emetic, followed by an anodyne. During the time it lasted, we invariably found that the house was cooler than the open air, and that in proportion as the wind was excluded, was comfort augmented.

But even this heat was judged to be far exceeded in the latter end of the following February, when the north-west wind again set in, and blew with great violence for three days. At Sydney, it fell short by one degree of what I have just recorded: but at Rose Hill, it was allowed, by every person, to surpass all that they had before felt, either there or in any other part of the world. Unluckily they had no thermometer to ascertain its precise height. It must, however, have been intense, from the effects it produced. An immense flight of bats driven before the wind, covered all the trees around the settlement, whence they every moment dropped dead or in a dying state, unable longer to endure the burning state of the atmosphere. Nor did the ‘perroquettes’, though tropical birds, bear it better. The ground was strewn with them in the same condition as the bats.

Were I asked the cause of this intolerable heat, I should not hesitate to pronounce that it was occasioned by the wind blowing over immense deserts, which, I doubt not, exist in a north-west direction from Port Jackson, and not from fires kindled by the natives. This remark I feel necessary, as there were methods used by some persons in the colony, both for estimating the degree of heat and for ascertaining the cause of its production, which I deem equally unfair and unphilosophical. The thermometer, whence my observations were constantly made, was hung in the open air in a southern aspect, never reached by the rays of the sun, at the distance of several feet above the ground.


Improving welfare or wasting money?

The debate over the adequacy of the dole flared up again last week when Minister Jenny Macklin MP said that she could live on the base rate of Newstart Allowance – or $35 a day.

Given that Macklin, a senior cabinet minister, is on a salary of approximately $900 a day, the ‘gaffe’ appeared to be made by someone aloof and out of touch with reality.

More accurately, Macklin fell into a trap that was set by the welfare lobby to reignite their campaign for an increase of the base rate of Newstart Allowance by $50 a week.

Government estimates placed the cost of such an increase at $15 billion over four years. Rival estimates commissioned by the Australian Greens put the cost of such an increase at $8 billion over four years.

Whichever figure you choose, if the welfare lobby is successful in increasing the Newstart Allowance by $50 a week, it will cost taxpayers billions of extra dollars every year. That is on top of existing spending commitments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski school reforms.

Such an increase in the Newstart Allowance will also necessarily entail wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of public money too because the data shows that even at $35 a day, Newstart Allowance seems to be serving its purpose as a short-term payment between jobs.

Around 30% of Newstart recipients move off income support within three months and more than 70% of Newstart recipients move off it within 12 months. Increasing Newstart by $50 a week will result in a windfall financial gain for these individuals without changing their behaviour.

Hundreds of thousands of Newstart recipients will receive this windfall gain if the government caves in to the welfare lobby and increases the base rate of Newstart Allowance. What this means is that the government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public money for no public gain.

It would be the very definition of government wasting taxpayer money.


Rush for solar power to increase Queensland electricity prices

THE rush on solar power that led more than 100,000 Queenslanders to sign up for rooftop panels could end up costing households extra on their electricity bills.

Charges are added to every electricity bill to fund incentives for people with solar power.

The State Government had estimated the feed-in tariff would add $75 to power bills in the southeast this year, but that is now predicted to blow out, rising to as high as $100 as a result of a spike in applications last week before the feed-in tariff for solar being slashed.

About 110,000 Queenslanders lodged an application with either Energex or Ergon in the two weeks before the July 9 cut-off, dubbed Mad Monday, which saw the feed-in tariff drop from 44c per kilowatt hour to 8.

Eco-Kinetics state general manager Torben Struck said he lodged 1100 applications on behalf of customers in the past fortnight.

An Energex spokesman said applicants for 5kW systems or smaller were not expected to be hit with problems caused by a solar power overload in their street after the Government moved to exclude large systems from the scheme.

Clean Energy Council policy manager Darren Gladman said householders who missed the deadline were better off installing a system where they were using the majority of electricity themselves.


Ambulance response sparks daughter's demand for inquest

A BRISBANE family is demanding the State Coroner hold an inquest into the death of their elderly father after it took an ambulance more than an hour to reach him.

The daughter of Nick Dapontes, Alexis Tubaro, claims her 76-year-old dad had to wait too long for an ambulance, and when it arrived, he was treated as "non-urgent".

She has called on State Coroner Michael Barnes to order an inquest citing "the circumstances and effect of the non-urgent transfer" of her sick father and the need to swap vehicles prior to reaching Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, where he died.

"On Monday, 29 August 2011, on or about 3pm, Nick Dapontes was transported to hospital via a non-urgent ambulance," Ms Tubaro said in documents lodged at Brisbane's District Court.

"An urgent ambulance with proper emergency equipment and adequately trained and experienced ambulance paramedics should have been called. Half way to the hospital, Nick Dapontes was transferred from a non-urgent ambulance to (an) urgent ambulance."

Queensland Ambulance Service documents lodged in court show the call was received at 12.40pm and an ambulance dispatched at 1.56pm.

Paramedics were on scene at 2.09pm and treated Mr Dapontes two minutes later. Mr Dapontes was loaded into the ambulance at 2.43pm, which reached RBWH at 3.31pm. He was off the stretcher nine minutes later and died at 10pm, according to court documents.

Mr Dapontes was a diabetic and suffered a stroke about a year before he was placed in full-time care at Eventide Nursing Home at Brighton in Brisbane's north.

He was also treated at Redcliffe Hospital for gallbladder problems and it was allegedly discovered he was suffering from "three seriously infected bedsores ... serious dehydration and pneumonia".

Ms Tubaro said Mr Dapontes died of heart problems but nobody had diagnosed a heart condition.

"The first we heard of Nick's heart problems was when we got the autopsy results (in) 2012," she claimed in court documents. "This is not appropriate care."

A QAS spokeswoman said as representatives of the patient had lodged a formal complaint the service was not in a position to comment in detail. However, she said due to a period of high demand, QAS dispatched a vehicle at 1.56pm, arriving on scene at 2.09pm.

"ICP (intensive care paramedics) met the crew who were already en route to hospital and accompanied the patient for the remainder of the journey to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, which was deemed the most appropriate facility for this patient given the seriousness of his condition following assessment by paramedics," she said in a statement. "At no stage were any of the attending crew 'hot swapped'."


Schools banning 'outlaw' students

STATE schools are taking a tough line to keep dangerous young pupils accused of violent and disruptive behaviour out of the classroom.

During the past six years, school authorities have taken the extreme measure of barring students from attending any public school in Queensland at least 18 times, newly released figures reveal.

Separate figures show state schools are facing worsening schoolyard violence, with principals handing out almost 20,000 suspensions for "physical misconduct" last financial year - that's about 95 suspensions for every school day.

It compares to 15,400 suspensions for physical misconduct five years earlier. Physical misconduct suspensions made up about one-third of all suspensions handed out by schools during the last reporting period.

Exclusions from individual schools have surged by 50 per cent, from 766 cases in 2006-07 to 1176 last financial year.

All up, there have been 3500 cases where students have been permanently excluded from individual state schools between 2007 and 2011.

The spike comes after principals were given the power to directly expel students without departmental permission.

Principals only exclude a student after deciding their behaviour has become so serious a suspension would not be tough enough.

A small number of students have attempted to overturn an exclusion notice, but have had only limited success.

"Of the 3500 students, approximately 40 students have sought a review of their exclusion decision and fewer than 10 exclusion decisions have been revoked," a briefing note to Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek, released under Right to Information, reveals.

Mr Langbroek said while the increased number of exclusions was concerning, schools would not tolerate violent, dangerous or criminal behaviour.

"Any behaviour that endangers the safety of other students or teachers will not be tolerated and principals have my full support in taking a tough stance in these circumstances," he said.

Students handed an exclusion can apply to attend another school, unlike those issued a statewide schools ban, which can only be issued by the director-general of Education Queensland.

Two of the worst cases triggering statewide school bans involved teenagers charged with offences ranging from sexual assault to murder, the RTI documents show.

It was feared young girls, especially special education program students, could be targeted should one of the students be allowed back to school. Both students applied to return to class after a period of absence but were blocked due to the "unacceptable safety risk".

The remainder of the cases involved students already attending school but frozen out of the public system because they either persistently disrupted class or posed an unacceptable risk.

Education Queensland deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said decisions to exclude students were not taken lightly.

She said students excluded from all state schools must still be provided with an education, with one option being a school of distance education.

Children's Court judge Michael Shanahan last month expressed concern that excluding badly behaved students was not productive.

But Queensland Teachers Union vice-president Julie Brown said disruptive behaviour put a strain on the whole classroom.


13 January, 2013

NSW moves to strengthen hate laws

The controversial commentators Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt are due to be called before an inquiry that will consider strengthening anti-discrimination laws to make it easier to convict people for serious racial vilification.

The inquiry was ordered by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, who is concerned there have been no successful criminal prosecutions in the history of the NSW laws and that they have fallen out of step with community expectations.

The move is likely to inflame the debate over freedom of speech, amid warnings that broadening the laws could be dangerous and unacceptable.

It is understood Jones and Bolt are on a witness list drafted by the inquiry, which will hold public hearings in early April.

Last month, Jones was ordered by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal to apologise on air for describing Lebanese Muslims as "vermin" and "mongrels" who "simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in".

In September 2011, Bolt was found by the federal court to have contravened the federal Racial Discrimination Act in newspaper columns which accused prominent light-skinned Aborigines of choosing to identify as black for personal gain.

The parliamentary inquiry will focus on Section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which deals with the criminal offence of "serious racial vilification" and requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a prosecution.

Penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail apply to anyone found guilty of inciting "hatred", "serious contempt" or "severe ridicule" of a person or group by threatening physical harm to them or their property or inciting others to do so on the basis of their race.

The vilification laws have been in place in NSW since 1989. According to figures supplied by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, 27 complaints have been referred by the board for criminal prosecution since 1998 the period for which records are available. But none were prosecuted as the Director of Public Prosecutions did not feel the burden of proof required by the legislation would have been achieved.

A spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said it was "questionable" whether this section of the act "constitutes a realistic test or is in line with community expectations".

"The Premier has therefore asked the [parliamentary law and justice] committee to report on whether section 20D is effective and if not, provide recommendations that will improve its efficacy with regard to the continued importance of freedom of speech," he said.

In NSW complaints about racial vilification must first be brought to the Anti-Discrimination Board, which will attempt to resolve them through conciliation.

If that fails the board's president may refer a complaint to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal if it is deemed an unlawful act or, in the case of serious racial vilification, to the DPP.

The inquiry was welcomed by the secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, who said serious racial vilification should be treated differently from actions or material that simply causes offence. "It is treading on free speech but it's speech which has very direct consequences," he said. "And it's quite right to criminalise that sort of speech".

The president of the NSW Anti- Discrimination Board, Stepan Kerkyasharian, said the inquiry was overdue. "It's a great opportunity to deal with this matter," he said.

The chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, said the NSW law was "completely ineffective in that for all practical purposes it is impossible to prove the elements of the offence in any specific case".

But director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs Simon Breheny, warned against broadening the law.

"The government is justified in restricting threats of physical harm," he said. "The current Section 20D is therefore appropriate as far as it restricts conduct of this kind. However, any weakening of Section 20D risks impacting on our fundamental right to free speech."

The NSW inquiry comes amid the furore about a proposed overhaul of federal anti-discrimination laws, which would make it unlawful to offend a person. The draft laws have been criticised by the former chief justice of NSW, Jim Spigelman, who believes they risk putting Australia in breach of its international obligations to protect free speech.



Larry Pickering

Serial pest of the extreme Left, strident ALP supporter and regular ABC contributor, John Pilger, runs a magazine fittingly called "Green Left”.

So it was surprising to see that he was well aware of the AWU scandal in 1995, albeit totally unaware of a Ms Julia Gillard or her role.

His magazine reported in 1996 that the US company Fluor Daniel had contracts worth more than $7 billion, including a partnership with BHP in the Escondida copper mine in Chile and US mining projects in Indonesia.

Pilger’s magazine said that in 1996 the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that Fluor Daniel was one of several large corporations paying into a slush fund set up for Australian Workers Union officials.

Fraud squad detectives from Victoria were trying to trace $30,000 paid by Thiess, part of Leighton Holdings and builders of the $700 million Sydney Harbour casino.

The magazine article said that, "A Mr Ian Cambridge, one of the secretaries of the AWU at the time, said, ‘Recent evidence suggests that a variety of bank accounts operated under various names linked to the AWU have in fact operated secretly and for improper purposes so as to channel money into private slush funds’”.

"Between 1992 and 1995, $400,000 flowed into the fund. The money disappeared once it was placed in union hands, much of it drawn in 40 or so cheques ranging from $4,000 to $50,000.”

There were 12 other fraudulent AWU accounts that other monies were paid into and transferred from.

"Some of the money was traced to a property bought by an AWU official... (Bruce Wilson, with the assistance of Julia Gillard.) parentheses added.

The magazine went on to say, "It is known that one of Fluor Daniel's payments into the fund exceeded $29,000 because this was one of the cheques returned to Fluor Daniels once the fraud was discovered.”

We know now that in 1995, when Gillard and Wilson were sprung, Wilson had paid himself and others $114,000 in redundancy payments.

Some of this money was hurriedly repaid to duped contractors.

Some of the stunned contractors, other than Thiess who were aware of the fraud, returned the cheques back to the slush fund believing the repayments were a mistake.

"At the time, there were calls for the Keating government to convene a Royal Commission. "None was forthcoming.”

The author stated, "The Liberals did not pursue the case either”, obviously unaware that contractors had refused to cooperate with the WA Fraud Squad for fear of retribution.

Thiess' Joe Trio wrote to Sgt David McAlpine in Perth saying they wanted the matter dropped.

The WA police file shows that payments totalling more than $400,000 went through bank accounts tied to the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

A three-page memo from Sergeant McAlpine to the Fraud Squad's legal officer, Samantha Tough, stated: "The point of this report is to obtain from you a better sense of direction in regards to charging these two crooks.”

The matter is far from finished, as Ms Gillard would prefer, because former WA State secretary of the Australian Workers Union Tim Daly, made a decision to box up and lock away hundreds of documents in the late 1990s knowing full well that the stench of the financial dealings would one day return.

Those documents are now part of the ongoing Police investigation launched as a result of Mr Ralph Blewitt’s recent statement.

The 1998 edition of "Green Left” magazine was actually far more concerned over the alleged environmental disasters of Fluor Daniels and this was a discussed at length. The AWU matter was an aside.

But it is interesting to note that the radical Mr Pilger, who says he is an investigative journalist, was privy to the intricacies of the fraud at the time and has not proffered a word since.

The ascendancy of one of the culprits to the position of Prime Minister may have prompted Pilger’s silence as the thought of a Coalition Government would be, to him, a fate worse than death.


Civil disobedience demands courage of convictions

Anti-coal protestor Jonathan Moylan became a cause célèbre in some quarters this week after issuing a fake press release, the contents of which precipitated a temporary plunge in the value of Whitehaven Coal on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Greens leader, Christine Milne, was quick to praise Moylan’s antics as ‘part of a long and proud history of civil disobedience, potentially breaking the law, to highlight something wrong.’

ASIC is now investigating – it raided Moylan’s ‘camp’ in northern NSW on Wednesday morning – and the proper authorities will rightly determine if any laws have been broken.

If criminal charges are laid, we may well see the Greens and their fellow travellers on the Left launch a Julian Assange-style outcry against the persecution of an innocent, well-meaning activist.

As with the global campaign for the leader of WikiLeaks to escape trial in the United States for publishing classified intelligence documents stolen from the Pentagon, these efforts to evade the legal consequences of illegal behaviour will profoundly misunderstand the principle of civil disobedience.

Any anarchist, vandal or malcontent can disobey the law. What makes civil disobedience morally and politically powerful is the willingness to pay the penalty for an act of conscience protesting unfair or immoral government policies. By demonstrating the courage of one’s conviction, the aim is to sway opinion and convince governments to rectify the injustice that motivated the self-sacrifice of liberty.

This was the principle of civil disobedience at the core of Gandhi’s campaign of passive resistance against British rule in India. The Mahatma ordered his followers to submit to arrest and obey all subsequent orders from the authorities.

He also practiced what he preached and, when arrested by the British, asked to receive the highest penalty under the law. Had Gandhi sought to evade imprisonment by fleeing the country, say, acting like the proverbial thief in the night would have diminished the moral force of his anti-colonial movement, and it is unlikely he would have become an international figure and rallying point for Indian independence.

In complete contrast to Gandhi are the modern agitators and their supporters who want a get-out-of-jail free card for acting illegally for the self-proclaimed greater good.

To truly belong to the ‘long and proud history of civil disobedience,’ Assange and his like should display the courage of their convictions and willingly surrender to lawful authority. Like Gandhi, maybe Assange would do greater service to his cause (whatever that is) banged up in the US penitentiary instead of hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.


Dangers of an artificial gender war


IMAGINE the furore if Tony Abbott were accused today of allowing pornographic movies to be played at his wife's birthday party, upsetting members of her family so much they left the venue. Consider the outrage if the Opposition Leader then admitted that, yes, those videos were played and he thought it was a great laugh, the birth of a "legendary story" for the boys.

In the wake of Julia Gillard's denunciation of sexism last October, in an outburst so impassioned it rapidly became the parliamentary version of Madonna - an international phenomenon recognisable by a single word: "misogyny" - it is highly likely Abbott's leadership of the Coalition would be dead by the end of the day.

Presenting evidence of Abbott's sexism, the Prime Minister even called him out on looking at his watch while she was speaking. One wonders, then, how the Labor women who have subsequently spent much of the summer warning us of Abbott's "problem with women" would react to the Opposition Leader's hearty public endorsement of a video called Freaks of Nature as entertainment in mixed company.

But these tawdry events did happen. And they did involve an opposition leader. The only difference is that man was Mark Latham.

Latham outlined the distasteful details himself in his 2005 memoir, The Latham Diaries. Granted, by then he had retired from politics and was no longer Labor's problem. But rumours of his unsavoury attitudes and behaviour - which would surely fit the definitions of sexism or "a problem with women" as they are being wielded today - were rife long before then. And while some of those stories may have been muddled, exaggerated or even fabricated, Latham confirmed enough of the general flavour, with gusto, in his book: how he and mate Joel Fitzgibbon, now the chief government whip in the House of Representatives, spent a cheerful night out in a pole-dancing venue in Melbourne; how he blasted the current Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, with "five minutes of swearing" after a factional dispute; how Jenny Macklin was "as useful as pockets in underpants"; how unattractive the women of the Canberra press gallery were.

And yet nobody spoke out. Certainly they didn't take to the floor of parliament to let fly publicly about misogyny. Sexism is not some strange, virulent strain of the flu, only recently discovered; the stories that seem so distasteful today would surely have been as unpleasant to Labor women then. But they sucked it up and stayed silent.

The reason, of course, is partisan politics. And it illustrates why Australian women should be alarmed, rather than excited, about the prospect of a historic federal election in which women's interests and the women's vote are set to take centre stage.

Sexist behaviour cannot and should not be defined by whether or not the perpetrator is on your team. A pathological, criminal hatred of women - or misogyny in its traditional meaning - is far too serious to become a political plaything. The lawyer in Julia Gillard must know this. In her private moments, this woman who has made many personal sacrifices, and brushed off countless cruel smears and slights, to blaze a trail for women to The Lodge must appreciate it too. But the hardened political street fighter will ignore it anyway.

Given what is at stake - her government - perhaps this is understandable. Certainly, it is no different from what generations of political hard men, the warriors who live by the "whatever it takes" credo, would have done. Indeed, that Gillard has demonstrated she can play the game as roughly and remorselessly may be considered by some as a triumph of feminism in its own right.

She has tempted Abbott on to unfamiliar and dangerous territory - a place where he must somehow disprove the amorphous charge that he has "a problem with women" - and she will want to keep him there, under fire. This week proved what a treacherous and unforgiving position the Opposition Leader is in. When his formidable chief of staff, Peta Credlin, gave a character reference for her boss, recounting how she had been reassured as a self-described "right-wing feminist" by Abbott's positions on IVF and abortion, and had enjoyed his support during her own IVF travails, an intensely personal story was immediately decried as playing politics.

Asked about the Credlin interview, Roxon replied: "It's clear from these sorts of stories that Mr Abbott does have a problem with women." In other words, we are moving into a bizarre cycle where anything Abbott says or does to demonstrate that he values women will be held instead as proof against him, and character references from female friends, family and colleagues will be similarly dismissed.

And there's the red flag for women. When only some female voices are acceptable as representatives of "what women want", how is that respectful of women? If we truly respect women's right to the vote, and their intellectual capacity to grapple with issues and come to their own conclusions, and their equality with men generally, then we have to accept the sometimes uncomfortable reality that they will sit across the political spectrum, depending on what their own priorities are, just as men do.

The simple truth is there is no such thing as the "women's vote" and any attempt to pretend there is can usually be revealed to be a political ploy to support another group of sectional interests.

Witness the way Barack Obama's victory in this year's presidential election was immediately embraced by liberal feminists here and elsewhere as conclusive evidence that women vote as a bloc on certain issues. "Threaten women's reproductive rights and they will vote against your arse," thundered a headline on influential women's website Mamamia.

The argument there, and elsewhere, was that women overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney because of a string of repugnant attacks by Republicans on reproductive rights.

To be sure, exit polls revealed a significant gender gap; the US President enjoyed an 11-point margin with women voters over Romney, although that was actually a two-point drop in the endorsement he received from women in 2008. But consider this: among white women only, the gender gap reversed and was even larger (14 points) in favour of Romney. More than half of all women in this category (56 per cent) favoured the conservative, despite the baggage of Tea Party extremists in the GOP, over Obama.

The President was saved by his ability to bring out the black and Hispanic vote in massive numbers, and his awesome standing among women in those categories.

From a women's perspective, what can we read into this result? That white American women are traitors to their sex and black and Hispanic women make better feminists? More likely, voters made their choice according to an array of factors, with ethnicity and socio-economic status being at least as important as sex.

Similar factors will have an impact in the Australian federal election later this year, and will be particularly influential in some key seats. But the same polling that gives us the "Abbott has a problem with women" headline already points to a similar diversity in the way Australian women will vote. Throughout last year, about 40 per cent said they preferred Gillard as prime minister, while about one-third favoured Abbott and one-quarter were uncommitted, indicating they may not like either particularly much.

That is hardly a uniform "problem with women" or evidence of misogyny. And the oft-overlooked "uncommitted" category - which remains markedly higher than in previous election years - may give an indication as to what women really want.

Perhaps discerning women want to hear about what these leaders will actually do for them, in policy terms. Perhaps they feel irritated, even demeaned, by this hysterical nonsense about whether or not the candidates "like" women, coupled with sinister but unsubstantiated whispers about what rights they intend to take away. Both leaders' relatively high disapproval ratings suggest voters generally are sick of negative smears.

Abbott's greatest vulnerability here may be that he is yet to release policies on a number of areas that might engage women, and particularly show them how a Coalition government would make their day-to-day lives and the lives of their families better in practical, "real world" terms.

However, as a prolific writer and speechmaker never shy of an impassioned debate, he has left a rich seam for his opponents to mine and quote, often selectively, to fill the void. Having chosen to put his religious faith, including his friendship with Cardinal George Pell, into the public sphere, it is now necessary for him to clarify whether and how he intends to keep those beliefs separate from policymaking - and then get on with it. Just like men, the majority of women couldn't care less what religion their leader practises, provided it doesn't impinge on them or their family.

Meanwhile, the danger for Gillard is that Labor's stoking of an artificial gender war, to stage a character assassination, will look increasingly opportunistic. Where are the policies to tackle income equality, improve community and health services, or promote women's economic security, particularly when they are most likely to be the ones juggling the care of children, ageing parents and family members with a disability?

Given this government has just drastically reduced the incomes of almost 100,000 single parents (most of whom are women), while its female Families Minister assured them that she could live on $35 a day, they are fair questions. Women certainly have the right to ask whether this newfound angst about sexism in all its forms will continue after the next election. Indeed, will it spell any meaningful change or improvement at all in the lives of Australian women?


11 January, 2013

Feminist rejects Abbott 'misogynist' tag

I never thought I would agree with Eva but the distinction she makes below is perfectly proper. Just because conservatives believe (with excellent scientific evidence) that some sex differences are genetically encoded, that does not make them "misogynist"

A PROMINENT feminist has knocked the idea that Tony Abbott is a misogynist and says some of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's policies are sexist.

Author and academic Eva Cox says the opposition leader, who last year was accused in a high-profile speech by Ms Gillard of holding sexist and misogynistic views, is "not feminism's worst enemy".

"He is a somewhat inconsistent, confused conservative with the attached sexist views on gender roles, which he seems to be trying hard to minimise," Ms Cox wrote on website The Conversation.

"He is not in my terms a misogynist."

Ms Cox said she was sticking to "the useful distinction" between a view of gender as the basis for entrenched discriminatory differences, and those who have a pathological deep dislike of womenkind and an antipathy to what they may stand for.

"Abbott fits the first, but not the second category."

Ms Cox said the prime minister may be Australia's first female national leader, but "she has real flaws in her feminist credentials".

The academic noted that at the time of Ms Gillard's verbal attack on Mr Abbott, her Labor government was cutting the incomes of almost 100,000 single parents.

She said she was concerned that issues of the leaders' personal traits and mudslinging could weaken debate over "good social policies".

"This is the area where real gender issues arise and neither party is focusing on addressing income inequality, and inadequate welfare and community services," Ms Cox said.


Aust ranked 3rd most free world economy

AUSTRALIA is ranked the third most free economy in the world despite its score falling slightly in the past year, a new report says.

Conservative American think-tank the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released its 2013 index of economic freedom on Thursday US time (Friday AEDT).

It ranked Australia third of 185 nations on economic freedom for the fifth consecutive year.

Australia's score of 82.6 was 0.5 points lower than in 2012, dragged down by declines in labour freedom and the management of government spending despite improvements in freedom from corruption and for business, the report said.

The score placed Australia among five nations ranked as free, with Hong Kong topping the index for the 19th straight year, followed by Singapore, New Zealand in fourth and Switzerland.

"Australia's strong commitment to economic freedom has resulted in a policy framework that encourages impressive economic resilience," the index said.

The index uses 10 economic measures - property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, regulatory efficiency for business, labour and monetary policy (interest rates), and open markets - trade, investment and financial.

The best rankings for Australia were for financial freedom (first), property rights (second) and freedom from corruption (eighth).

But the worst rankings for Australia were for fiscal freedom (148th), government spending (102nd) and trade (38th).

Australia's score for labour freedom, which looks at the legal and regulatory framework of a nation's labour market, fell 7.1 points to 83.5 in 2013.

The index defines economic freedom as individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.


Howard rejects IMF's 'big spender' tag

Howard more profligate than Whitlam?? They've betrayed their bias by that claim: Total hogwash

Former prime minister John Howard rejects the charge that his government spent wastefully, saying that "the reason Australia dodged the global downturn was due to the strong fiscal position of the Howard government".

Mr Howard responded through a spokesman to an international study that found Australia's most needlessly wasteful spending took place under the John Howard-led Coalition government rather than under the Whitlam, Rudd or Gillard Labor governments.

The International Monetary Fund examined 200 years of government financial records across 55 leading economies.

It identifies only two periods of Australian "fiscal profligacy" in recent years, both during Mr Howard's term in office - in 2003 at the start of the mining boom and during his final years in office between 2005 and 2007.

Mr Howard defended his record on Friday, saying that government spending as a percentage of GDP declined during his term.
Finance minister Penny Wong says the IMF has endorsed Labor's stimulus spending.

Finance minister Penny Wong says the IMF has endorsed Labor's stimulus spending. Photo: Andrew Meares

"According to none other than the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Australia's fiscal position is the envy of the developed world," the former prime minister's spokesman said.

But the Grattan Institute economist, Saul Eslake, argues that Mr Howard's statement about spending declining as a percentage of GDP, while technically true, is irrelevant and misleading.

"The Howard government in its last two terms was rolling in cash," Mr Eslake said.

Mr Howard rode two booms - in mining and household spending - and as a result raked in "extraordinary" amounts of income during its last two terms.

During that period, Mr Eslake said, the Howard government increased spending "in real terms" at a faster rate than any other government since the Whitlam years.

Mr Eslake did say, however, that he was "gobsmacked" the IMF did not judge Gough Whitlam's government as profligate.

"That they didn't regard the 40 per cent plus increase in government spending in 1974 to 1975 under the Whitlam government as profligate . . . [that's] far worse than anything the Howard government undertook," Mr Eslake said.

The Minister for Finance, Penny Wong, said the IMF study endorsed the current Labor government's "responsible spending decisions" while diminishing Mr Howard's record.

"The study shows the Howard government clearly missed opportunities to effectively use the mining boom and strong global economic conditions to invest in Australia's future, and it debunks the myth spouted by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey that the Howard government exercised spending restraint," Ms Wong said.

"Rather than investing in key infrastructure projects like the National Broadband Network, which this government is rolling out . . . the Howard government made spending decisions that made the budget unsustainable".


More gay men ignoring HIV and safe sex message

GAY men are having unprotected sex at unprecedented levels amid State Government claims that taxpayer dollars earmarked to prevent HIV infection have gone to waste.

The Newman Government says it is bracing for an outbreak of sexual disease and will redirect safe-sex funding away from "radical lobby groups".

The Courier-Mail has obtained a draft report revealing programs designed to encourage safe sex may have had an opposite effect. It says that between 2011 and 2012, the proportion of gay men having unprotected sex rose from 34.1 per cent to 39.1 per cent.

The report will spark a redirection of funding away from what the LNP Government believes are more politicised gay groups.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said safe sex campaigns had descended into a form of political advocacy rather than health advocacy.

"And we are now seeing more evidence of the tragic health reality of what happens," he said.

"The previous Labor Government squandered the health dollar trying to buy and appease radical political lobby groups rather than investing in serious health outcomes and cultural changes.

Mr Springborg said he understood some campaigns might not succeed.

"These things do happen from time to time but the real health negligence came from Labor and so-called gay community leaders falsely claiming the campaigns were successful and therefore failing to changing track."

Campaigns funded by Labor had cost millions of dollars yet were "a complete farce," he said.

"It means that the so-called gay community leaders that championed these campaigns have completely sold out the people they claim to represent.

"It stands to reason that if you have the worst levels of unsafe sexual practices in the gay community, then we must brace for seriously high levels of sexual diseases in the years ahead as the LNP Government works to unwind this mess."

Mr Springborg, whose government oversaw a series of television advertisement on safe sex last year, says it remains the most important message in the prevention of HIV and other sexual diseases.


10 January, 2013

The perils and pitfalls of bringing up daughters

The blind leading the blind below. Biddulph is no scientist and a feminist blaming "society" just shows a lack of any real understanding of how things work. Both are right that girls face conflicting pressures that can make then insecure and unhappy but do either of the writers have the faintest inkling of the best preventive for such feelings: A father? No mention of fathers at all below. A father can very easily make a daughter into a "Daddy's girl" and a Daddy's girl will go through life serene that she is adorable. Not all fathers are good for that but nor are all mothers good for their daughters

Kate Figes

Steve Biddulph's warmth, common sense and easy style have turned him into one of the world's most popular parenting gurus. His book Raising Boys has sold more than 4 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. So it was perhaps only a question of time before he would turn his attention to girls. Raising Girls is his latest book.

When he says that "Never before has girlhood been under such a sustained assault", he is right. Young girls have become a soft target for big business; messages propagated through television and advertising tend to accentuate female sexualised imagery and their bodies rather than their brains. Consequently, everywhere a young girl goes "she sees messages that make her feel that she is not good enough", Biddulph says on a YouTube promotional video. Spot on, Steve.

The distress of young girls is clearly visible in the rising rates of mental health problems, binge drinking, eating disorders and the rampant growth of bullying in our schools. Girls are now expected to be all things - attractive, thin, good, successful, happy, kind, loving, self-sufficient; perfect, in other words, within an imperfect world that still does not give women the equal status they deserve.

Biddulph's advice to parents is full of common sense. Avoid toys that imply to a girl that looks and clothes are what matter. Dress young girls in outfits that are practical rather than too girly. Surround your daughter with other adults, aunts or friends to whom she can talk when she cannot talk to you, for the mother-daughter relationship can be notoriously difficult. All of which is good counsel that could equally well be applied to boys.

What worries me is that the wider context appears to be missing, in which girls are still socialised to be good and enabling of others, rather than competitive and capable of achieving their own dreams.

Most girls lack a grasp of basic feminism to help them understand that many of their experiences are the result of growing up in a profoundly unequal world, and therefore not their own fault. Parents can only do so much.

I am the mother of two daughters, aged 23 and 19. I am probably better equipped than most to cope, with two decades of research into family life and adolescence behind me, several published books on the subject and an upbringing steeped in feminism. Yet I still find it hard.

My daughters are intelligent, capable, beautiful, ambitious and kind people and I couldn't be more proud of them. But I also see how they cannot help but internalise the message that they are not attractive, thin or sexy enough, and need regular, repeated reassurances that they are, in fact, utterly stunning.

I see how hard it is for young women of their generation to be honest about who they are and what they want from life, to confront others and say what they think rather than what they feel they ought to say just to be liked. I see how girls are still socialised to be selfless, stepping back from opportunities with the presumption that "she doesn't deserve it", or "isn't up to it", whereas young men never think twice about their right to achieve.

And I see how so many young women still assume that their needs come behind those of the boys they form relationships with, absorbing the message that they are lucky to have been chosen at all, when they are the ones who should be doing the choosing.

I have no doubt that countless girls are growing up profoundly confused by the conflicting messages they are given. Take sex. On the one hand they are as entitled to sexual exploration and fulfilment as the boys. They feel sexy and are understandably interested in sex. They are encouraged by the boys to reveal body parts that can be instantly messaged from phone to phone. But the prevailing ethos is still that "good" girls "don't". "Slag" is the number one insult hurled at girls by both sexes and rumours almost always trash another girl's reputation. Boys are never tarnished in the same way.

Girls know they have to succeed, too, on their own merits. They are, on the whole, doing better than boys at school, according to exam results. But without a strong constitution, solid academic ambition, and a few healthy middle-class female role models who are also mothers thrown in for good measure, girls easily succumb to the notion that it is only the sexier and more attractive women who thrive.

Girls are human beings so they get just as angry as the boys but they are not allowed to express that anger. Research on siblings shows that girls fight just as much as boys when they are within the safety of their own homes. But when they get out into the wider world, girls fight half as much. So they "bitch bully", knowing how to wound each other exactly where it will hurt the most because they cannot express their rage and their impotence in any other way without compromising their reputations as "good" or "nice". Girls pull each other back when they strive to achieve, or in girl talk, "get too up themselves".

Raising girls - and boys - in a world that is still so profoundly unequal in the treatment of men and women requires a very particular kind of parenting. We have to work harder to help both our sons and our daughters understand how we are socialised to behave in certain ways according to our gender. Because it is only when we find the strength as individuals to chip away at those pernicious stereotypes that we can hope to change them.

It's funny how - if sales of Biddulph's previous books are matched by this one - it might only be once a man starts talking about these issues that their importance moves to centre stage. But if that's what it takes, then go Steve, go. In the end, every girl is somebody's sister, mother or wife.


Are you being ignored in shops?

My own recent experience mirrors that below. I went into a nearby "Officeworks" store, a huge building, and tried to buy a certain computer gadget. I had to wait for attention but the fat female teenager who eventually served me knew basically nothing. When she gave me information I knew to be wrong, I walked out and bought the item online -- JR

Usually when someone is drowning they'll grab hold of anything they can find to keep their heads above water. Not some retailers.

It's become almost a boring platitude within the retail industry that a superior in-store experience will rescue the physical store from oblivion. Oddly suicidal then that so many retailers with stores are spurning their life rafts by offering customer service that borders on slapping consumers in the face.

A new survey released in the US by Motorola has found that the number of shoppers who prefer to rely on their own mobile devices, rather than shop assistants, to guide their purchasing decisions has reached a level that for retailers can only be described as embarrassing.

Two facts in particular stemming from the research suggest that retailers have simply run up the white flag on customer service.

First, the reliance on mobile devices is strongly and inversely related to age, with almost half of Millennials (also known as Gen Ys) and more than one-third of Gen X shoppers saying it's easier to find information on their mobile devices than from a store associate. Since the Millennials are gradually overtaking baby boomers as the biggest consuming group, retailers are in effect just telling their juiciest target group that there really isn't much point in coming to the store after all.

The second interesting fact to come from the Motorola research is that store managers agree - and are actually even more convinced than their customers - that mobile phones provide better information. No less than 61 per cent of managers were of this opinion, up from 51 per cent two years ago.

True, this information shouldn't come as a huge surprise to people who get out a bit. In the weeks before Christmas I was personally treated to a grand demonstration of the way things are going at a consumer electronics superstore at one of Australia's premier shopping centres.

On my shopping list were a mid-end set of earphones and an office printer. Unable to find someone to help me with the former, I made the mistake of asking a sales associate in the computer section nearby. He said to me, and I quote "I don't know [expletive] about earphones." As there was no one for him to pass the buck to, I ended up having to fend for myself.

But when I asked him a few minutes later about printers he was all smiles. He could certainly help me with printers. He came with me to the area where the printers were on display and proceeded to read off the price tags of two low-end machines that happened to be the subject of hot deals. This was not exactly what I had in mind. After all, as the beneficiary of a fairly decent primary school education my ability to read price tags was at least as passable as his.

Besides which, price wasn't really a major consideration. What I really wanted was help comparing the performance specs of a small number of printers so I could hone in on the one I wanted. And for that purpose he was useless. I ended up using my smartphone and making the purchase online.

But perhaps I am missing the point. Maybe expletive-ridden insouciance is what passes for "cool” at some retailers and since this was a successful store they had simply become conditioned not to care. Obviously my couple of hundred bucks was surplus to the retailer's requirements that day.

Motorola also found in its research – somewhat self-servingly but nonetheless confirming other information – that the shopping experience improved when sales associates themselves used mobile technologies.

Digitally-enhanced service is clearly a direction being taken by many leading-edge retailers who are already shifting to mobile checkout and digital technologies that circumvent or supplement humans to impart product information.

The evolution of retailing appears to be heading towards only a limited number of viable retail service models. The first is technology-enabled self-service, with humans being largely phased out of store operations.

The second is extreme "brand ambassadorship” – meaning the Lululemon/Nordstrom/Apple model in which store associates are so highly trained, informed and motivated that they can make customers feel good enough about the experience to make incremental purchases.

For a time there will still be a little room for retailers to sit between these two extremes, perhaps in lower-income markets. But as the Motorola research and our own shopping experiences reconfirm, consumers are losing faith in the ability of retailers to deliver on the promise of human service.


Fruitcake mother kills her baby

A BABY girl died from vitamin K deficiency bleeding just 33 days after her parents gave instructions that the newborn child was not to be given any injections or medication, a coroner has found.

Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements has supported a pathologist's recommendation that future siblings of the baby receive vitamin K, which can prevent bleeding problems in infants.

An investigation into the death of the girl - born in a regional Queensland hospital last year - heard that the mother, 30, wanted an entirely natural birth for her first baby.

Ms Clements said in her findings: "As part of the birthing plan and, in accordance with her parents' spiritual beliefs, the baby was not administered vitamin K after her birth, or any other medications."

The parents had made that decision despite being given information at an antenatal visit that newborn babies required vitamin K to prevent bleeding problems in the first few months after birth, the coroner said. She said the pregnancy was uneventful and the baby was born 10 days early in hospital.

The baby was not given vitamin K - nor was she vaccinated for Hepatitis B - before the mother and baby went home a day after the birth. A month later, the mother noticed her baby had been sleeping a lot and was not feeding as much as usual.

In the early hours of the next morning the mother saw the baby was limp and an ambulance was called.

The baby was taken to the nearest hospital and then airlifted to Brisbane's Mater Hospital, where a CT scan revealed the child had bleeding on the brain, the findings said.

The baby was given plasma and vitamin K, but she died the next day.

After an autopsy a pathologist concluded the cause of death was haemorrhages due to late onset vitamin K deficiency bleeding.

In her December 3 finding, Ms Clements concluded the baby died after suffering extreme bleeding in the brain over a month, due to a lack of vitamin K in her system.

"The baby's mother had a detailed labour plan and a considered position declining various medications and interventions in the birth process," she said.

"This included a specific direction not to administer vitamin K to their baby."

THE Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that all newborn babies receive vitamin K after birth.

Vitamin K helps the blood to clot and is considered essential for the prevention of bleeding problems in newborn babies.

Babies generally have a low level of vitamin K in their blood, as it is poorly transferred across the placenta. Breast-fed infants are at most risk of developing bleeding through vitamin K deficiency unless supplementary vitamin K is given to them, usually by injection.

Late vitamin K deficient bleeding occurs from eight days to six months after birth, with most affected babies between one and three months and it is almost completely confined to fully breast-fed infants.


Fitch Rating report says house prices will be stable through 2013

AUSTRALIAN house prices are tipped to remain flat and mortgage defaults will be among the lowest in the developed world this year, a rating agency report says.

The Fitch Rating report on residential mortgages gives the Australian property sector a clean bill of health, but warns the almost annual double digit price growth of the decade to 2010 is a thing of the past.

According to the report, house prices rose by 150 per cent in the period between 2000 and 2010 and, after falling in 2011, capital city prices rose 0.9 per cent last year.

Prices are tipped to remain "stable" overall in 2013, even if there are still declines in some areas, such as the Gold Coast.

The report was released just ahead of the latest Housing Industry Association new-home sales report that showed sales rose for a second consecutive month.

The biggest growth was in New South Wales and Victoria, which were both up almost 16 per cent.

South Australia registered 6.7 per cent growth, while Queensland was flat and Western Australia fell by 6.8 per cent.

Fitch Ratings analyst Ben Newey said the stability of the Australian property market compared to most of its global peers reflects the prospect of good GDP growth of 3.1 per cent and unemployment staying at around 5.5 per cent this year.

"Housing is still relatively expensive in terms of affordability, but price growth will be stable in 2013 as the recent run of interest rate cuts works its way through the economy," he said.

"Arrears rates will also remain flat through 2013, in line with projections for stable interest rates and low unemployment."

The official cash rate fell to a record low of 3 per cent last month, but most economists expect the Reserve Bank will adopt a wait-and-see approach in the first-quarter of this year, after cutting rates by 1.75 per cent in the past 14 months.

The prospect of a rate cut next month has waned from a 63 per cent possibility on December 31 to a less than 37 per cent chance, as the global outlook improves.

The HIA data shows strong sales in the detached home sector helped lift overall new home sales by 4.7 per cent in November.

The only downside was a 6.9 per cent drop in multi-unit sales in the month, the HIA report said.

HIA economist Geordan Murray said the result was a welcome respite but there was still a long way to go before sale volumes were back at satisfactory levels.

"The importance of a broad based rejuvenation of new home building to maintaining the health of the overall Australian economy has been widely acknowledged but, at this stage, new home sales sits among a host of indicators that are yet to provide conclusive evidence that we are on track to achieve this," Mr Murray said.


9 January, 2013

Federal government trying to muzzle the media

THE nation's media giants have slammed Labor's plans to make it unlawful to offend or insult people under the proposed overhaul of discrimination law, warning it could encourage audiences to be unnecessarily thin-skinned and outlets to restrict contentious or complex material.

In a rare united submission, the media companies say that with the exception of the section of the Racial Discrimination Act used against newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt, no existing federal law deems conduct that is simply insulting or offensive to be discrimination.

They argue that satirical material, political commentary and informative programming on matters of historical or religious sensitivity might be offensive or insulting to some but are part of the national conversation that is "essential for fostering robust social and political debate, and therefore to ensuring a healthy democracy".

"Whilst these and similar topics may be offensive or insulting to some viewers, this does not make them discriminatory," the joint submission says. "No other liberal democracy has a human rights or anti-discrimination statute proscribing conduct which merely offends or insults."

The Gillard government is proposing to consolidate five commonwealth anti-discrimination laws into one act to meet an election promise.

The Senate inquiry into the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, put forward by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, has received more than 500 submissions, with criticism from a range of corners.

Business groups fear they will face high costs to defend claims, while some of the nation's top legal minds and human rights bodies believe it could set the bar for discrimination too low, potentially undermining free speech.

The conservative state governments of Victoria, NSW and Queensland warn the law will overlap and create conflict with state anti-discrimination laws.

The ACTU has said the laws do not go far enough and should allow punitive damages to be awarded, as they can be in discrimination cases in the US, while the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association has said that exemptions in the laws for "inherent requirements for work" could lead to pregnant workers being forced to stand for a 12-hour shift or climb ladders

Church groups have warned the plan could lead to lawsuits over religious freedom, while charity groups fear being exposed to discrimination claims by unpaid volunteers.

Media companies say in their submission they support the overall objectives of the plan to simplify anti-discrimination legislation, but parts of the exposure draft provide cause for significant concern, including because in defining discrimination the bill appears to use a subjective test of whether someone feels offended or insulted by published and broadcast content.

While SBS was able to successfully defend a 2006 claim under the Racial Discrimination Act that a documentary on the Armenian genocide in the early years of the 20th century was offensive to Turkish people, under the proposed new anti-discrimination laws the outcome would have been "dramatically different".

SBS had demonstrated that academic and historical experts believe the former Ottoman Empire was engaged in genocide.

But under the proposed new law, such matters would hinge on the subjective reaction of the viewer making the complaint, irrespective of its historical accuracy or academic merit. "Such a conclusion would have been both unjust and to the detriment of Australia's commitment to free speech," the submission says.

The submission is another sign of tension between Labor and the media.

ABC chairman and former NSW chief justice Jim Spigelman has already criticised the proposed law. But the new joint media submission is the first public criticism of the government's anti-discrimination plan by other companies, including News Limited (publisher of The Australian), Fairfax Media, SBS, West Australian Newspapers and AAP, as well as radio and television groups.

Media executives have meanwhile also campaigned against the recommendations of the Finkelstein inquiry and the Convergence Review, which have ranged from a new government-funded regulatory body to adjudicate on press behaviour to a new public interest test that could block major media ownership changes.

Late last year, Mr Spigelman warned that the section of the proposed law defining discrimination contained a subjective test of being offended. The new media submission says if this is the case, it could "produce a legal climate in which would-be complainants are encouraged to be unnecessarily thin-skinned and sensitive to offence".

"The introduction of a subjective test could create significant uncertainty for media organisations conducting prepublication review of material," it says.

"The inability of organisations to foresee what standard will be set is likely to have a chilling effect on the publication or broadcast of potentially contentious material. This will most directly affect consumers, whose access to the range of content they are able to read, hear and see may be limited."

On top of this, the proposed law could require media groups "to defend their innocence each time a member of their audience felt insulted or offended" because it put the onus on defendants to prove their innocence. The bill applies a single, simplified test of "unfavourable treatment" for unlawful discrimination; this is defined to include conduct that "offends, humiliates, insults or intimidates". The submission says the words "offends" and "insults" should be cut from the definition of unfavourable conduct.

It also says the general definition of discrimination should have an objective test and specific exceptions for content that is reasonable and in good faith in artistic performances, academic debate, fair and accurate reporting and commentary on matters of public interest. Such measures are in the racial vilification provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act, and in the racial vilification part of the proposed law.

The Sex Discrimination Act includes the term "offended".


Dept keeps parents in the dark on child rape

South Australia's Education Department has told a mother that other parents will not be informed of her son's rape at a country primary school two years ago.

The woman's 11-year-old son was assaulted by an older boy in December 2010. The older student was subsequently convicted and given a suspended sentence in 2011. He has since been transferred to a new school.

The victim's mother says she has received an email from the Education Department saying that neither school community will be told of the incident because both of those involved were minors.

She says parents need to know if their children are sharing a classroom with a convicted rapist. "There would be outrage. I know there would be," she said.

"When children actually do something wrong at school, it might be something quite small, but notes come home. "Yet my child was raped and no one is told. How does that make sense? I just can't comprehend that at all?"

She says the decision not to inform parents is putting other children at risk. "We've been through this horrific episode and we just have to keep it a secret," she said.

Premier Jay Weatherill was Education Minister at the time but says the Child Protection Act prevents him from commenting.


Plan for Muslim housing enclave in Sydney suburbs

AN interest-free housing project aimed at the Muslim community and boasting 100 per cent halal housing has sparked a major row, with critics labelling it a discriminatory plan that could lead to a Muslim enclave.

Qartaba Homes' plan offers "100 per cent Halal housing to the growing Muslim community of Australia" in the heart of the northwestern Sydney suburb of Riverstone.

While the company has insisted people from all religious backgrounds are free to take up the offer, it advises that the loans are "100 per cent Halal" and a "chance to escape Riba (interest)" because interest is a sin under Islamic law.

Qartaba Homes director Khurram Jawaid said it was the real estate deal of a lifetime, open to Australians of all faiths and backgrounds, but the state MP for Hawkesbury Ray Williams said the project was divisive.

"I can only imagine the repercussions if a developer were to advertise a new Judeo-Christian housing estate; they would be hung, drawn and quartered," Mr Williams said.


Parents to dig deeper as private school fees soar across Queensland

ANNUAL tuition fees will top $20,000 this year for some Queensland students as school fees soar by up to 10 per cent.

Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) is the first in the state to post an annual tuition fee of more than $20,000, charging an all-inclusive $20,920 for Years 8 to 12 this year. That is 6.5 per cent up on last year.

Year 8 to 12 students at the school also face an $1100 tablet levy and a voluntary building fund donation of $1000.

Parents at some other schools will pay more than $20,000 for Year 12 students once levies, uniforms and textbooks are factored in.

Schools in this category include Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Brisbane Boys' College, The Southport School (TSS) and Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie).

Churchie parents will pay more than $17,000 just to send their children to prep - known as Reception at the school - when all costs are counted, including a $15,548 tuition fee.

Fees for Year 12 students are at least $20,397, including a tuition fee of $18,272 - up 5.5 per cent on last year.

The school's preparatory - Reception to Year 6 - students have their own gymnasium, teachers are paid at a higher rate than many others across the state, pupils have specialist music and arts programs and co-curricular staff are paid for their expertise, unlike in many other schools.

Churchie headmaster Jonathan Hensman said: "Churchie's educational program is built on a strong tradition and reputation for excellence, offering the highest quality educational experience".

Brian Short, headmaster of BGS, which has consistently topped state academic performance charts, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Parents at Loreto College have been hit with the biggest known fee increase in Queensland of 10 per cent - from $7400 for a first child in 2012 to $8140.

Loreto College principal Cheryl Hamilton said fee increases in recent years had typically been between 6 per cent and 8 per cent, but factors including a freeze in State Government funding levels and information technology development meant they were higher for 2013.

"I encourage any parents with any concerns about the increase to contact me," she said.

Queensland Catholic Dioceses have also released their suggested or mandated fee increases, with Brisbane Catholic Education suggesting a rise of 4 per cent in primary and 3.7 per cent in secondary.

These increases are for systemic schools, which do not include religious institute schools such as Loreto.

Systemic schools in the Cairns Diocese have a mandated 5.5 per cent increase, while parents in the Rockhampton Diocese will pay 4 per cent extra.

Queensland school fees are still substantially below some interstate.

Victoria's Geelong Grammar School will cost parents of Year 12 students more than $32,000 in fees this year.


8 January, 2013

ABC bias

Gerard Henderson

In an exclusive interview with The Australian Financial Review shortly before Christmas, Abbott said that "there is still this left-of-centre ethos in the ABC" and expressed hope that the managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, "continues to address it". Abbott commented that there is much about the public broadcaster that he likes and admires.

But, while praising ABC presenters Chris Uhlmann and Mark Simkin as "highly professional, even-handed commentators/reporters", Abbott commented that "there is the ongoing issue of bias in the ABC news and current affairs section"....

The ABC airs many a howler and then goes into denial mode when attention is drawn to its errors. In recent times, such influential documentaries as Menzies and Churchill at War and All the Way (on the Vietnam War) contained significant errors that ABC management refused to correct or even acknowledge.

The public broadcaster's online publication The Drum also declines to address errors on its website - as I have documented in my Media Watch Dog blog.

The essential criticism of the ABC is that it does not engage even one political conservative as a presenter or producer or editor on any of its prominent television or radio or online outlets. This despite Scott's pledge, made over six years ago, that, under his management, a "further diversity of voices" would be carried on the public broadcaster. It has not happened.

The ABC is replete with leftists or left-of-centre presenters/producers/editors. But it remains virtually a conservative-free zone. If ABC management is aware of conservatives to match the likes of Phillip Adams, Jonathan Holmes, Fran Kelly and others - then it should name names. Otherwise, it should cut the pretence.

There is no conspiracy at play here. It is a natural phenomenon that like-minded people tend to mix with, and engage, their own. Arthur S. Brisbane reflected on this reality after he stepped down from his two-year appointment as the public (or reader's) editor of The New York Times.

Writing in that paper's Sunday Review on August 25 last year, Brisbane referred to a left-liberal world view, which "virtually bleeds through the fabric of the Times". As a result, according to Brisbane, "developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in the Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects".

A similar world view pervades the public broadcaster in Australia. This leads ABC staff to embrace left-liberal causes and to defend one another from criticism about lack of balance, unprofessional behaviour or factual error.

The fact is that there is more real debate on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News than on some ABC programs. The final Fox News Watch program last year consisted of a real political debate between Jim Pinkerton, Juan Williams, Richard Grenell and Judy Miller. Meanwhile, ABC 1's Media Watch program has only had leftist commentators in over two decades.


Ambulances still diverting emergency patients from overstretched hospitals

EMERGENCY patients are still being diverted from major Queensland hospitals on a daily basis despite changes aimed at halting the dangerous practice.

From January 1, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg banned hospitals from going "on bypass" - where ambulances are forced to go to other hospitals when closer emergency departments are full - as part of a 15-point plan to improve access and treatment.

However, paramedics say little has changed except that the order to drive past the nearest hospital now comes from the Queensland Ambulance Service communications centre and the practice is now known as "load sharing".

The Courier-Mail has obtained a log of dozens of cases in the past seven days where paramedics were told to drive past overstretched hospitals.

The longest diversion in recent days saw patients spend an extra 30 minutes in an ambulance before arriving at the next nearest facility.

None had life-threatening illnesses, but paramedics say a patient's condition can deteriorate rapidly.

They have called for changes to improve patient flow, bed management, off-stretcher times and staffing to be rolled out quickly.

A spokesman for Mr Springborg said the QAS taking control of which hospitals patients were transported to was a key recommendation of the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative.

"Under the old system, hospitals had a category beyond 'extreme' (capacity), which was 'bypass'. That enabled them to just say no to admissions. That is the practice that has been banned," he said.

"Costly redesigns are under way in hospitals to improve patient flow."

The Department of Community Safety, which includes the QAS, was unable to reveal how many patients and ambulance crews had been redirected in the past week.

A spokeswoman said hospital load share and patient distribution were "a daily occurrence" and were not individually documented.

The QAS had developed a Patient Safety Distribution Unit that would oversee the distribution of patients across the emergency departments.

"MEDAI Recommendation 7 included a review of QAS load share across emergency departments to deliver the right patient to the right hospital," she said.

"This is aimed at assisting the emergency departments during times of peak demand, ensuring a better patient flow to improve clinical outcomes. This does not mean the hospital is on bypass."

The Emergency Medical Service Protection Association (EMSPA), which represents Queensland paramedics, has been monitoring the issue.

EMSPA Industrial relations adviser Efthimia Voulcaris said members had reported that, in real terms, bypassing was still happening on a daily basis.

Under changes driven by emergency physician David Rosengren, they were no longer able to bypass.

"This has not stopped it happening," Ms Voulcrais said.


'Hot swap' ambulance shift changes leave patients in limbo

AMBULANCE "hot swaps" - shift changes with injured or sick patients on board - are leaving Queenslanders angry.

The Courier-Mail last week revealed a case in which a patient died after paramedics decided to do a shift change instead of heading straight to hospital.

Daniel Heinz was also left on board for a hot swap after injuring his leg in a motorcycle accident last February. The 51-year-old ex-firefighter was semi-conscious when the triple zero call was made.

"They put me in the ambulance and everything seemed fine," he said.

"Working in emergency services I knew how things should happen and all seemed to be going fine.

"I couldn't believe it when we turned up at the ambulance station. When I asked what was going on they said 'shift change'.

"I thought that was bad enough and then they started to move me into another ambulance.

"I was in a neck brace, with a possible spinal injury and they were moving me about."

He could not understand the reasoning behind the decision not to take him directly to the nearest hospital.

"What were they thinking? Do they risk a patient all to prevent having to pay someone overtime?" Mr Heinz asked.

"I was lucky my injuries were not intensified by that. Others might not be so lucky."

United Voice ambulance paramedic state councillor Craig Crawford said hot swapping was brought in by the ambulance service to alleviate overtime.

A Queensland Ambulance spokeswoman said officers felt Mr Heinz was stable when they decided to hot swap.

"En route to the Princess Alexandra Hospital the paramedics, who were at the end of their shift, transferred the patient to a pre-positioned crew at Redbank Ambulance Station," she said.

"The transfer was conducted within two minutes.

"The paramedics used their clinical expertise and judgment to make the decision that it was clinically appropriate to transfer the patient . . . based on the patient's stable condition."

United Voice's Mr Crawford said shift changes with a patient on board were not an uncommon occurrence. He said it would be rare for a crew to do a hot swap with a possible spinal injury patient in the ambulance.

"Spinal injury, heart attack, anything that time is of importance, a swap would be less likely," he said.


Complaint about cab driver ignored until media get involved

A taxi driver who wanted a young female passenger to have sex with him has been tracked down and suspended.

13CABS chief operating officer Stuart Overall told radio station 3AW on Tuesday morning that "we've been swift in our action. We've suspended the driver. We got him in yesterday to 'please explain' and we've suspended him immediately pending a further investigation."

Sarah, 19, booked a taxi through 13CABS last Thursday. The cab picked her up at midnight from Clayton, for a 6km trip to a friend's party in Huntingdale, but stopped a few streets short of the destination.

Sarah said the driver repeatedly propositioned her and "refused to take no for an answer". She eventually got out of the cab and complained the following day to 13CABS who, she said, ignored her complaint.

Sarah told her story to 3AW on Monday, after which 13CABS took action.

Mr Overall said the phone operator who brushed off the complaint "will undergo further training", and he urged Sarah to report the incident to police.

"The best we can do is suspend him, get him off the road and driving for us, and then we can provide that information to police and they can do the official duties from there” Mr Overall said.

Sarah said it was distressing that she had to tell her story on the radio in order "to be taken seriously" by the company.

"It was such a scary and uncomfortable situation to be in," she told 3AW. "If no one had gotten this driver off the road and something else had happened I just would have felt awful."


7 January, 2013

New anti-smoking laws take effect in NSW

Because nicotine is a powerful addiction, smokers are chronically inconsiderate of others -- which means that legislation is needed to give other people unpolluted air

SMOKERS can no longer light up at many outdoor locations like public pools and transport stops, with new anti-smoking laws in NSW coming into effect.

The state government said on Monday that smoking was now outlawed at locations such as children's playgrounds, public transport stations, sporting fields, public pools and entrances to NSW public buildings.

Cancer Council NSW's manager for policy and advocacy, Anita Tang, said the reforms would help to protect people from second-hand smoke.

"These new measures will protect children, parents and the whole community from toxic second-hand smoke," Ms Tang said in a statement."The new laws will be a help in reducing community exposure to second-hand smoke and reducing the likelihood of future generations taking up smoking."

She said smoking was one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in Australia, with more than 15,000 Australians dying from tobacco-related illnesses each year.

Come January 2015, Prof Owler said the laws would also cover outdoor dining areas at restaurants and cafes. "I hope that restaurant and cafe owners start working on making the switch to smoke-free," he added.


Bali methanol poisoning claims WA teenager's life

Young Australians see Bali as a party destination. They don't realize the contempt which many Balinese have for them. Other known problems are terrorist attacks and spending many years in jail for drug use. Government warnings about going there could be tried

A teenager has died in a Perth hospital after unwittingly consuming a drink containing methanol in Indonesia.

Liam Davies, 19, became sick after a new year celebration with friends on Lombok, near Bali. He was flown back to Perth several days ago on the advice of doctors, but they were unable to save him.

Family members have described him as a fun-loving and active teenager, who had represented Australia in lacrosse and had dreams of seeing the world.

They issued a statement on Friday warning others about the dangers of consuming locally-brewed alcohol in overseas countries when the quality could not be determined.

There has been a growing number of cases of methanol poisoning in Indonesia.

David Mountain, from the Australian Medical Association, says bars selling unregulated drinks should be prosecuted by Indonesian authorities.

"The bar owners that are selling these things really do need to have consequences, in Australia this would be manslaughter, if a bar actually did this to a patron," he said.

"They need to crack down on bootleg liquor sales which are unregulated, where you're likely to get methanol mixed in with alcohol.

"I'm sure there are hundreds of Balinese and Lombok residents as well who've been poisoned by these drinks and it'd be in everybody's interest to actually crack down on this."

Last year Perth rugby player Michael Denton died in Bali and an autopsy found the cause of death to be methanol poisoning.


Government agencies under scrutiny over wasteful mobile phone practices

A TASKFORCE assembled to identify unused phones and mobile data being billed to government agencies could save taxpayers $2 million.

The telecommunications services audit, conducted as part of this year's Auditor-General' report, revealed that $2 million had been wasted because of mistakes and inefficient practices. Auditor-General Simon O'Neill's report found:

2335 UNUSED phones at a cost of $670,000.

$1.4 MILLION could be saved through switching broadband plans to better reflect usage and changing technologies and services.

OVERCHARGING totalling $230,000, revealed by comparing service summaries from providers with detailed reports.

$70,000 in charges for 396 mobiles that failed to generate any call or data usage.

AN ESTIMATED overcharge of $27,000 for one agency's phone network.

Public Sector Minister Michael O'Brien has assembled a task force to review all mobile and fixed voice services and conduct a thorough technical review of data networks.

"We're looking at savings of around $2 million a year," he said.

"What we're going to do with mobile phones is issue guidelines. These guidelines will be based on some assessment of the need for mobile phones for public servants.

"If you're working in an office and you very rarely leave the office, there's very little justification to be issued with a mobile phone."

"Everybody these days has a mobile phone as well so it's not the rarity that it was a decade ago.

"So the taskforce will be looking at this. We'll be looking at all the agencies and their usage."

The taskforce will also be conducting analysis of phone and mobile data usage within each agency.

"There are a lot of people with data plans so they can read their emails on the road but a lot of people aren't using their data," Mr O'Brien said.

"Identifying those individuals is part of the plan to eliminate plans with low usage or no usage whatsoever.

"As well, there are people who are exceeding their data plan who need to be on the right plan and this could save around $80,000."


The ever-increasing burden of regulation

Paul Sheehan

A law firm sent the following advice to its clients in December, which, in keeping with so much advice from government bureaucracies, local councils and human resource departments, was unnecessary, passive-aggressive and constricting:

"With the festive season upon us, now is the time for employers to communicate important messages to their employees … The rules that apply in the workplace generally also apply to work functions … "This means that policies relating to, for example, discrimination, sexual harassment, and work health and safety still apply, because of the connection between the workplace and the event.

"Injuries suffered at the party can be the subject of a workers' compensation claim against the employer. Obligations to prevent sexual harassment or bullying also apply, and responsible service of alcohol must be taken into account when managing these risks …

"Failure to observe the employer's policies at all times during the event may be used by the employer as a basis for disciplinary action, or in certain circumstances termination of employment."

Apart from that, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Multiply this message by 100,000 similar emails, management memos, regulations and public service advertisements and you get the accretion of the cultural and creative asphyxiation by red tape, the accumulating intrusions by a society increasingly obsessed with regulation.

Driving this process is a self-perpetuating political class which seeks relevance through regulation, of which there is always more, while nothing is ever repealed, so that regulations, the tools of legalism and control, simply multiply and grow.

It would, for example, be useful if local government were required to maintain an index of speed bumps, because their proliferation has reached the point of a mania. A speed bump index would measure the growth of local nanny state aggression.

We are never going to be able to legislate recklessness or distractedness from the human condition, no matter how much legislation is passed, regulations imposed, regulators deployed, laws enforced, Orwellian cameras installed, or speed bumps inflicted.

Motorists are going to make mistakes, all manner of domestic accidents are going to take their toll, young women are going to get pregnant, young men are going to injure themselves, many people are going to binge or smoke or take drugs, and some children are going to be neglected. Crap happens.

As we become a culture of speed bumps, everything is imposed in our own interests, and the interest of an abstraction called public safety. Never acknowledged is the tax-funded self-justification of the political and bureaucratic class.

Last week's flare-up over compulsory voting is a case in point. Never has there been an issue of principle in which both sides have self-evidently strong arguments. I have been on both sides for them, supporting one and then the other.

Only a fool cannot see the merit of both arguments: that it is paradoxical and inimical to democracy for the state to impose the act of voting on its citizens. Conversely, it is beneficial to democracy to have the whole of the polity engaged in the democratic process.

Only a fool or a self-interested warrior of the political class could not see and acknowledge these conflicting merits. Which is why the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was so revealing in her narky response to a discussion paper by the Queensland state government on whether to abolish compulsory voting.

The Prime Minister reacted via Twitter: "Don't let the Liberals make our democracy the plaything of cashed-up interest groups."

Apart from being ridiculous - as if the federal government itself, and the unions, were not the biggest contributors to political advertising during the 2010 federal election year - her comment does not augur well for federal politics in 2013 .

The self-interest was also obvious. It is well established that the Labor Party benefits from compulsory voting because numerous studies have shown that voter participation is lower among the lowest socio-economic cohorts when voting is not compulsory. Labor has traditionally been the party of the working class, though that is changing.

Her comment also served as an early signal of what is to come. More class war. More narky politics. The Gillard survival campaign is clearly going to emulate the playbook used so successfully by President Barack Obama, in winning re-election in November. He had one major policy, healthcare, and one major tactic, a relentless attack on his opponent's wealth and corporate background. He also played the race card. He created a massive transference of wealth, via Obamacare, then urged voters to act in their self-interest.

Given that in Australia the Leader of the Opposition has a big mortgage and three university-age children that tactic will not fly, so the government will have to tie the opposition to Big Business and Big Polluters, the interests that would make a plaything of politics if they got the chance. As for the race card, the gender card will more than suffice.

As the political class accumulates greater power to government it also accumulates greater costs.

Washington has just seen an abject failure of political leadership. The unsustainable cost of social welfare and the unsustainable growth in government debt have simply been pushed into the future even though every delay is dangerous.

Political cynicism begets voter cynicism. In Australia, this was captured over the weekend by my comrade Tim Blair, blogging in The Daily Telegraph, who offered readers various options as to who was responsible for eight traffic infringements incurred by the Prime Minister's private vehicle.

They voted: Julia Gillard 3 per cent; The Real Julia Gillard 5 per cent; Tim Mathieson 5 per cent; Misogyny 9 per cent; Big polluters 2 per cent; Youth and Naivety 4 per cent; Tony Abbott 72 per cent.


6 January, 2013

$42m of your money for Ford green duds

TAXPAYERS have pumped $42 million into two Ford "eco" cars that fail to meet the environmental criteria for some state government fleets.

In a major embarrassment to the Federal Government's "Green Car Fund for a Greener Future", the four-cylinder Falcon and the diesel Territory fall outside the purchasing requirements for many state government departments because their emissions are too high or too toxic.

It means the government isn't buying a car that it invested heavily in.

Ford employees bought more than twice as many four-cylinder Falcons than has the government (300 versus 115 cars) - and private buyers have also outspent public office (121 sales), according to confidential figures to the end of November.

Rather than investing to upgrade the cars, Ford is leading the charge to scrap the Green Vehicle Guide star-rating system - the benchmark used by business and government fleets when assessing which cars to buy.

Ford is getting a fraction of the government business compared with its Australian car making rivals Holden and Toyota.

The most recent figures show Ford sold 3300 locally-made cars to state governments across Australia compared with Toyota’s tally of 4100 deliveries and Holden’s order book of 9200 cars.

That's presumably because most of Ford's locally-made models fall below the cut-off as they have higher air pollution ratings.

Ford sold 14,000 Falcons last year; Mitsubishi sold 11,000 sedans in its last full year on sale before its Adelaide factory closed in 2008.

Only one of the three new Fords developed with $42 million taxpayer dollars - the most basic LPG Falcon - earns a high enough rating to make it onto the purchasing lists for some government departments across Australia.

For example, NSW state fleet has a minimum "pollution" and "greenhouse" score of 13.5 (out of 20) for all but emergency vehicles.

But the four-cylinder Falcon (13 out of 20) and diesel Territory (9 out of 20) don’t make the cut-off. The new LPG Falcon does comply, scoring 15 out of 20.

Government fleets are allowed to buy vehicles below this score, but if they do they won't meet their environmental targets.

Late last year the Federal Government appointed William Angove, the former boss of Ford in Indonesia, to encourage government departments to buy more locally-made cars.

In its submission to Federal authorities, Transport NSW said it has "concern regarding the proposal to abolish the GVG star ratings system and would encourage the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to reconsider its proposal”.

Sophie Mirabella, the shadow minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, said the proposal to drop the star rating system was another example of the government's "disastrous ad-hoc approach to green policy and cars."

"The current scheme was started by our government, and [as with] a lot of policies [the Federal Government] just want to get rid of it for the sake of it," Ms Mirabella told News Limited.

The office of Anthony Albanese, the federal minister for Infrastructure and Transport, issued a statement to News Limited: "The government is considering the feedback received from the community in response to the discussion paper."

The statement also mistakenly said a number-based rating system would be introduced. It already exists.


Our young aren't marrying. Here's Y not

YOUNG Australians are putting marriage and children on the backburner, as they concentrate on their careers and travel.

Social researchers are warning the result could be a generation who have fewer children and less time to spend with those they have.

"Starting families later means less kids," Mark McCrindle, director of McCrindle Research, said. "Parents may be more established in their careers and have double income, but they are also busier and have less time for activities and volunteering."

An exclusive analysis by News Limited, comparing Australian Bureau of Statistics census and birth data between 1991 and 2011, shows so-called Generation Y - born 1980 to 1994 - is waiting significantly longer to get hitched and start a family than their predecessors, Generation X born 1965-1979).

In 1991, more than 181,000 (13.4 per cent) of Gen X females and 97,000 (6.9 per cent) Gen X males had said "I do" by the age of 24.

But the 2011 census paints a dramatically different picture for Gen Y. At the same age, just under 60,000 (4.71 per cent) Gen Y females and 32,000 (2.13 per cent) Gen Y males were hitched.

It seems Gen Y is waiting longer to embrace parenthood as well. In 1991, 25.59 per cent of babies born in Australia were to a mother under the age of 24. By 2011, this had dropped to 17.61 per cent.

Monash University researcher Samantha Smith said members of Gen Y still want the traditional trappings of adulthood, but just not until they are well and truly ready.

"Marriage and children are definitely on their list of things to do. Just not yet," she said.

"Gen Ys are motivated by the desire to experience new things. Unlike their parents, who may have lived to work, their emphasis is more on working to live."

Professor Lyn Craig, from the Social Policy Research Centre, believes Gen Y is simply not ready for marriage and children by their mid-20s.

While 30 years ago it was common to start work and leave home at the age of 17, today it is more common for people to be continuing schooling and living with their parents well into their 20s.

"The cost of housing and education debt has resulted in them living at home longer," Professor Craig explained. "Approximately 50 per cent go on to do tertiary education and many do multiple degrees. This means they are not starting their working career until their mid-20s."

Mr McCrindle said with parents getting older and kids living at home longer, there is concern that Australians will be retiring while still supporting their adult children at home.

"The parental financial pinch will continue longer as there is a decline in income but household costs to maintain," he said.


Voluntary voting idea puts Libs in poll position

WHEN Campbell Newman's government discussed abolishing compulsory voting this week, it incited a debate that played out in the high-minded language of rights and democracy.

But which political party would fare better under a voluntary electoral system?

An analysis of a survey of Australian voters provided to Fairfax Media may suggest Mr Newman's party would benefit.

In the 2010 Australian Election Study, about 2000 voters were asked whether they would still vote if it were voluntary.

About 83 per cent said they "definitely" or "probably" would. But responses varied according to which political party people identified with.

Nearly 90 per cent of people who identified with the Liberals said they would vote. But on the ALP side the figure was just 85 per cent. And only 64 per cent of those who did not identify with a party said they would vote.

"In the short term, the electoral effect [of voluntary voting] would be to advantage the conservatives," said Clive Bean, a professor of political science at the Queensland University of Technology and director of the study on which the independent analysis was based.

Professor Bean is a director of the study, which an ANU political science honours student, Luke Mansillo, used to compile data on voting intentions.

Professor Bean says the figures reflect a tendency for Labor supporters to turn out in fewer numbers.

When a Liberal government introduced compulsory voting in 1922, the ALP packed on an additional 4 per cent in votes. "This is looking less than that," he said.

Professor Ian McAllister from the ANU, who directs the study with Professor Bean, said decades ago voluntary voting might have given conservative parties a two-point lead but that gap has closed sharply.

Political strategists yesterday said voluntary voting would be a test of the major parties' adaptability.

Mark Textor said Labor's union base would help mobilise votes. But how well parties narrowed their platforms to make them attractive to core supporters would also determine elections.

Labor strategist Bruce Hawker said the pulling power of unions was overstated and that a voluntary system could make the National Party more vulnerable to contests from independents.

"Both parties would have to create a sense of momentum and enthusiasm," he said.

Mr Hawker said recent low voter turnout in local elections portended the effects of a party failing to energise its base.

Despite voting being compulsory, the proportion of people who voted in last year's local elections fell to 82 per cent, down 10 per cent from 2004.

More than 630,000 people stared down a $55 fine.

The NSW opposition spokeswoman for local government, Sophie Cotsis, advocated trialling online polling booths to reach out to voters.

The state government's whip in the Legislative Council, Peter Phelps, advocated a more punitive approach. "The fines for not voting are pathetically small," he said.


O'Farrell told to man up and quit the 'sexist slurs'


PREMIER Barry O'Farrell is under fire from the state's female Labor MPs who claim he repeatedly undermines women by making snide and sexist remarks.

Acting Opposition Leader Linda Burney said Mr O'Farrell continually singled out women for abuse during parliament and had referred to her as a "witch" and a "hooker" during a series of stinging personal attacks.

The Canterbury MP said Mr O'Farrell had also called fellow Labor MP Carmel Tebbutt a "puppy" and that it was time for Mr O'Farrell to "behave like a Premier" and treat women with greater respect.

But a spokesman for the Premier dismissed Ms Burney's claims.

"Debate in the NSW Parliament has always been robust," he said.

"It is a shame Linda Burney doesn't put the same effort into policy development that she seems to put into trying to find issues to take offence at when there are none."

On October 24, the Premier told parliament Ms Burney could "keep casting her spells; they will have no effect".

In June, 2011, Mr O'Farrell said there had been some criticism of the NSW rugby league team's front row and said the team could use a new hooker "perhaps the member for Canterbury".

"He said it in reference to rugby league, but everyone knows what kind of hooker he was really referring to," Ms Burney said.

She said his attacks on former premier Kristina Keneally as the "Kim Kardashian" of NSW politics had been equally offensive to the state's women.

"To imply that Kristina Keneally was somehow vacuous and superficial is offensive; she is a highly accomplished woman and the state's first female premier," she said.

"He seems to save these things up for women. Using gender abuse, particularly in the light of the debate federally, is not on."


4 January, 2013

Threat to compulsory voting puts our democracy at risk?

By Nick McGowan, who appears to be what Americans would call a RINO -- and who spouts arrant nonsense. The USA, the UK and most other countries do not have compulsory voting and those who do (Belgium and Ireland) are not much of a model. So the USA and the UK are not democratic? There seems to be no end to the nonsense you can find in newspaspers

THE threat to end compulsory voting in Queensland is the most serious attack on our democratic way of life since the end of World War II.

Non-compulsory voting is inherently undemocratic and dangerous. It disenfranchises the uneducated and the poor, whose voices tend to be harder to hear when a system becomes dominated by cashed-up minority groups with fringe agendas that affect the majority. Taken to extremes, this becomes the vocal minority dictating to the silent majority.

In any debate around electoral reform we must recognise that with the right to vote comes an inherent and corresponding duty.

As a former UN civilian peacekeeper, I have seen people prepared to die for the rights we are now questioning.

Afghans and Africans recognise intuitively that having acquired this most basic right - to free determination - they bear a duty and often fulfil it under threat of violence or even death on polling day.

Having seen their courage and determination first hand, I take great pride in coming from a nation that leads the way when it comes to the conduct of free and fair elections.

Our democratic "currency" is important because it shows there is a successful alternative to violent dictatorship and military regimes.

That is why Australia is known among the world's nations as a beacon for democratic stability and success. And believe me, that's not as common as we'd like, even today.

The strength of Australia's compulsory system is that it enforces the individual's duty to register to vote and cast a ballot on election day. But, critically, does not mandate what one must do.

That is, you don't have to vote for anyone, but you do have to participate.

In political circles, no ones likes to talk about informal votes or ballots with words, even obscenities, scribbled across them because they are "spoilt" and lost to all candidates and political parties. But this may well be the citizen's intention, and it is certainly their right.

If we as citizens fail to participate in elections, then we fail the most basic test of any democracy - rule of the people by the people.

This has also been the international experience.

Critically, compulsory voting in Australia has actively guarded against the worst excesses of cashed-up minority interest groups (and powerful business interests) and their influential backers and lobbyists.

It has ensured we have a level playing field no matter the political or social cause or motivator.

You need look no further than the US and the gun lobby to see what ruin would come with this so-called reform.

We've taught our children since primary school that everyone counts. We'd be foolish to abandon that for a US or British-style experiment that does more to disenfranchise voters than our compulsory system ever has.

Right now Australia needs more participation by its people, not less.

Since Federation in 1901, compulsory voting has been the linchpin in our social stability and economic prosperity.

The threat in Queensland today is a threat to all the states and territories of Australia - a threat to the very fabric of our democratic success story.

If we continue to expect less of people in our society, we diminish the whole society we have spent decades and fought so many wars creating. [Just a string of unproven assertions]


Another Middle Eastern crook?

A Sydney cruise company is still accepting bookings despite leaving people stranded at Darling Harbour on New Year's Eve.

The Department of Fair Trading has launched an investigation.

The Castle Hill company Eve Harbour Cruises promised a night to remember for up to $450 a ticket. But as the midnight fireworks came and went, about 150 people realised the charter boat MV Eve was not going to arrive.

The company's director, Allen Yousif, has blamed mechanical difficulties and says he has avoided calls from customers because of angry comments directed towards him on social media.

The assistant commissioner of Fair Trading, Robert Vellar, says that is not good enough. "He has continued to take deposits and money for trips, knowing full well that the trips won't be able to be made," he said.

The department has warned people not to deal with the company.


Female graduate pay gap doubles: report

But in some occupations women earn more -- so there is a choice

New figures show the pay gap between Australian female university graduates and their male colleagues more than doubled last year.

A report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) says female graduates are losing the battle for pay equality, with the gap now reaching $5,000, up from $2,000 for the previous year.

The agency's 2012 GradStats report shows men's starting salaries increased over the past year to $55,000, while women's salaries stalled at $50,000.

The gap is highest in architecture and building, with $52,000 compared to $43,000, followed by dentistry, optometry and the law.

WGEA research executive manager Doctor Carla Harris says it is disturbing that women's salaries have stalled in the past year, especially since the majority of university graduates are women.

"The lesson here is that the gender pay gap continues to have a very real impact on the bank balance of young women starting their careers," she said.

"I'm certain that any female school-leaver contemplating a career in dentistry, would be outraged knowing she can expect to earn more than $14,000 less than a man in her first year on the job."

Only seven occupations have women earning more than men, including pharmacy, Earth sciences and computer sciences. Pharmacy leads the male inequality, with women earning $39,700, or 10.3 per cent more than men.

The report shows men and women earn the same in only three occupations - education, humanities and medicine.

We need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children. Frankly, it takes two to tango.

Dr Harris says the lack of salary transparency may make it difficult for a woman to judge whether she is being underpaid for the same work as men.

"The thing is, it is very difficult to find out what salaries are. There is such a lack of transparency around what people earn," she said.

"You almost never know, but she certainly has the right to know and if she finds that she's not earning the same, she needs to go and ask why not."

Dr Harris says it is still the case that employers may be discriminating because they believe young women will only work a few years before starting a family.

"I think that that is certainly something which does go into people's minds and that's frankly, that's discrimination and we need to be looking at how we are structuring our work practices to cope with the fact that women do need to take time off to have children.


Delightful Muslim family?

A Sydney family involved in a brawl with dozens of police say the officers used excessive force.

Hussain Mehanna was released from custody yesterday after he, his father and three siblings were granted bail at a Parramatta court.

The 18-year-old said police picked a fight with them outside their Bankstown home, and used "too much aggressive force" on Wednesday.

But police documents have told a different story.

They allege the entire family punched, bit and jumped on several police officers.

Police documents tendered to the court said one officer was allegedly forced to punch Mehanna's mother when she overpowered a senior constable.

Another tried to use a Taser, but it did not work. Police used capsicum spray and called dozens of officers for back-up.

The family were charged with assaulting police, affray and resisting arrest.

Mehannah's mother Rafah, 41, attended court today with a black eye to support her family.

The family's lawyer, Greg Heathcote, said her black eye was not her only injury. "You can see how she's feeling a little bit, but she's got bruises that you can't see," Mr Heathcote said.

Ms Mehannah's husband and children were granted conditional bail today and ordered to face court in three weeks. She will face court in February.


More details here. Police were called to a domestic dispute but family members were aggressive to police from the get-go. The father involved was Mohamed Mehanna. They are fair-skinned people so are probaly Lebanese Muslims, a well-known troublesome group often in conflict with the police

3 January, 2013

Climate change wiped out blacks

Probably the pygmies

AUSTRALIA'S original inhabitants may have died-off during a 1500-year-long "mega drought", new research suggests.

Researchers investigating rapid climate change in the Kimberley region found the intense drought coincided with the disappearance of a pre-Aboriginal style of rock paintings about 7000 years ago.

Ancient rock art from the region is divided into two distinctive styles: Gwion and Wandjina.

The Gwion rock-art style lasted some 10,000 years before the final image was painted. Wandjina paintings only began about 4000 years ago.

The study, sponsored by the Kimberley Foundation of Australia, for the first time offers an explanation for this 3000 year gap.

"The likely reason for the demise of the Gwion artists was a mega-drought spanning approximately 1500 years, brought on by changing climate conditions that caused the collapse of the Australian summer monsoon," says associate professor Hamish McGowan of the University of Queensland's School of Geography.

Researchers survey excavation sites of Gwion rock art in the north Kimberley. A sheer rock face is protected by a shallow overhang leaving a perfectly preserved Bradshaw or Gwion painting depicting unusually large figures.

The study found the plant density and land surface had changed at this time, combining with increased dust in the air. The effect was the failure of monsoon rains - peaking about 5500 years ago.

"This confirms that pre-historic aboriginal cultures experienced catastrophic upheaval due to rapid natural climate variability," he said.

"This is contrary to the conventional view that Australian Aboriginals lived a highly sustainable hunter-gatherer existence in which their knowledge of the landscape meant they adapted to climate variability with little impact."

Wandjina painters appear to have only moved into the area after the climate again became more favourable about 4000 years ago.

The report, published in the American Geophysical Union Journal, was compiled by researchers from the University of Queensland, Central Queensland University and Wollongong University.


Bureaucratic assholes who don't give a damn about other people

A DARWIN businessman is angry that a full load of precious cargo - including a hand-carved temple - was destroyed after mould was found on some items.

The entire consignment of goods were broken up and burnt by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (formerly AQIS - Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) after the foreign mould was found on about 10 items.

One of the pieces of furniture destroyed was a hand-carved temple bound for a museum display.

Darwin importer Mike Taylor said the destruction had ruined his business.

Mr Taylor estimated the container load was worth $18,200 with 160 pieces of furniture worth $12,000 and several thousand boxes of clothing worth about $7000.

But he spent a fortune on legal fees, rent and on setting up a warehouse that had to be dismantled, and is now claiming a loss of income of more than $150,000.

Mr Taylor said not all the furniture needed to be destroyed. "I've been an importer for 20 years," he said. "They just needed to refumigate them and sort out the pieces."

The clothing has not been burnt but it has not been returned either - despite being held by DAFF for more than a year.

The NT News has contacted DAFF and is waiting on a response.


Immigration review exposes risk of failure

THE crisis-ridden Immigration Department is poorly managed, its workers mistrust each other and its executives' financial illiteracy poses serious risks, an independent review has warned.

The frank report, written by a panel of government and business specialists, also describes a culture of buck-passing, in which few staff take responsibility for problems.

The review of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), overseen by the federal Public Service Commission, found weaknesses in each of the 10 areas it assessed and offered little praise for the leaders of the 10,000-strong workforce.

It warned the department remained at risk of "another high-profile failure" such as the illegal detention of Australian citizens Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon, which prompted government inquiries in 2005.

Immigration's long-serving secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, left the post late last year to head the Agriculture Department. His replacement, Martin Bowles, said he accepted the findings and agreed there was "significant room for improvement".

"I am confident [the department] will be a better agency for our staff, for our clients and for the government as a result of this capability review."

The review team, led by the former mandarin Ken Matthews, acknowledged Immigration's work was complex and highly contentious compared with other agencies.

However, it found the department failed to plan or innovate effectively because it focused on reacting to crises.

It also said many senior executives believed "risks and issues are 'glossed over' to provide good news stories rather than delivering difficult messages".

The report told of a "heavily risk-averse" culture, in which basic decisions were "routinely escalated because there has been an excessive reliance on the risk-scanning intuition of a small number of senior people".

This "led to a low tolerance for error, with staff believing that their ideas will not be seriously considered by managers", it said.

While the department's mid-level executives were "proficient technical managers", their core management skills were "patchy", the report said.

"Managers, particularly [senior executives], do not always understand their financial management responsibilities, which poses serious risks."

Managers were also often unclear about their responsibilities, saying "they were not always sure who to go to and that 'there are so many fingers in the pie that no one owns the problem'."

The review found some public servants from other agencies had low regard for Immigration's senior executives, saying they were "not always present 'in the forums that matter', are slow to acknowledge risks and impacts on other portfolios, are not always open to ideas when consulting, and do not always represent the department as a whole".

A 2011 survey found 33 per cent of Immigration staff believed recruitment decisions were routinely not based on merit, a higher proportion than the public service average of 25 per cent.

The review said this "perception is discouraging and indicates mistrust among staff members".

Among its recommendations were greater support for managers and involving all staff, rather than a select few, "in the risk-scanning process".

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the department had "made it very clear it made a number of changes" in response to the review.

"We're confident it will continue to make those improvements," he said.


Home prices fall for second straight year

Australian capital city home prices have ended in the red for the second year in a row.

The latest home value index from real estate analysts RP Data and Rismark shows capital city prices eased 0.3 per cent in December, to be 0.4 per cent down over the year. That is a better result than 2011's 3.8 per cent decline.

RP Data spokesman Cameron Kusher says home prices improved slightly over the second half of 2012. "Capital city home values remain 5.7 per cent lower than their historic highs of November 2010, however, dwelling values are up 1.8 per cent from their low of late May 2012," he noted in the report.

However, it has taken 175 basis points of official interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank to generate any property price growth, and Mr Kusher says that is a sign the housing boom of the early 2000s is long gone.

"It is important to note that despite the fact that standard variable mortgage rates have fallen by an average of 85 basis points over the past year and by 135 basis points since October of last year, the housing market has still been unable to record growth in values over the year," he said.

"Home values remain below their historic highs across each capital city and have increased at an average annual rate of just 1.9 per cent over the past five years.

"It is clear that the previous strong value growth conditions to which many home owners became accustomed of recent years are well and truly behind us."

Darwin was the best performing market over the past year, rising 8.9 per cent, although prices there eased 2.5 per cent in December.

Sydney was next best, with prices rising an average 1.5 per cent over 2012 despite falling 1 per cent in December.

That has kept the harbour city firmly in top spot as the nation's most expensive, with the median home costing more than $580,000.

Hobart remained the nation's cheapest capital city to live in, with a median price of $317,500.

Prices in the Tasmanian capital were virtually unchanged over 2012, but rose 0.7 per cent in December.

Melbourne had the worst price declines over the past year, with home values down 2.9 per cent, despite a 0.5 per cent rise in December.

Brisbane and Adelaide saw 0.8 per cent declines over the past year, while Perth had a 0.8 per cent rise.

The nation's capital saw prices down 0.3 per cent in 2012, with Canberra home values sliding 1 per cent in December.

Outside the capitals, home prices across regional cities, towns and rural Australia rose 0.2 per cent over the past year and 0.4 per cent last month.

RP Data says consumers have become more cautious and focused on saving, making large home price rises unlikely, even if interest rates are cut further.

The company's analysts are predicting home price growth this year as likely to be somewhere between consumer price inflation and wage growth, which would be somewhere around the 3 per cent level.


2 January, 2013

Patient dies after overworked paramedics opt for a shift change, delaying treatment

A PATIENT has died after sick, tired and overworked paramedics opted to do a shift change instead of taking the patient straight to hospital. Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail confirmed the incident.

The ambulance union says the case is another example of cracks in a desperately under-resourced system.

The Department of Community Safety tried to cover up the incident, which revealed one paramedic was sick and both were fatigued after working past the end of their shift.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission investigation found the chances of survival would have been greater if the patient had received hospital care sooner.

"QAS have acknowledged the care provided to (the patient) was below the expected standard, this was confirmed by the independent medical adviser," assessment officer Paul Rogers wrote on December 1, 2011.

"It is accepted that even if (the patient) was in a hospital setting at the time, (they) may not have survived. However, (their) chance of survival may have been greater."

Concerns were also raised as to why there was an attempt to "hot swap" the "fatigued" paramedics with the patient still on board, particularly when there was no crew to replace them.

Questions remain as to why this couldn't have been discovered earlier by using their radio before arriving for the crew swap with the patient still on board.

"The HQCC considers that QAS has taken reasonable and appropriate steps to avoid similar situations," Mr Rogers wrote.

In its clinical review, QAS acting medical director Ben Clarke admitted "a number of rostering reforms have occurred over recent years in an effort to control paramedic fatigue" including "hot swaps" and taxis to send them home at the end of significantly overrun shifts.

United Voice ambulance paramedic state councillor Craig Crawford said officer fatigue was still a big issue which had not been resolved.

"Our crews in busy areas are still forced to work mostly 12 or more hours without any breaks," he said.

"People who are fatigued will make mistakes (and) when you're a paramedic it's like a doctor, it means patients' lives."

The probe raised several other concerns including:

* Why the case was not Code 1, including the use of lights and sirens.

* Why the patient wasn't taken to hospital when they first called the night before.

* A perceived lack of courtesy towards the patient.

Dr Clarke apologised for any extra stress that may have been caused.

The Courier-Mail obtained the investigation report only after the department's decision to refuse access was overruled by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

But the DCS deleted information showing potential flaws in the emergency services and health system, such as how the patient died, what efforts were made to save the patient and how many hours it took to admit them to hospital.

DCS also refused to name the hospital they were queued at or the one just five minutes from the station that they couldn't get into because it was on bypass.

When asked to comment on the case, a DCS spokeswoman denied any attempt at a cover-up.


Cycle mania in "Green" Sydney

WHAT could be the nation's most expensive bike pump, costing ratepayers $4300 because it was "robust", has broken down.

It lasted on Bourke St for just three months before it began carrying an "out of order" sign urging cyclists not to use it. The model was the first of five stainless steel bike pumps that Sydney City Council bought for $21,500 to save cyclists from getting stuck with flat tyres.

A council spokesman in October said they chose the expensive design because it was a "robust model which will stand up to the demands of daily use while being weather resistant" and had been tried and tested in London.

A council spokesman said yesterday: "The bike pump on Bourke St is out of order. The spare part is out of stock and had to be ordered. It will be back in service as soon as possible."

Liberal councillor Christine Forster attacked the broken pump as "an unjustifiable waste" of money.

"It's very unfortunate that these expensive pieces of equipment, which were paid for by all ratepayers but only service the small percentage of residents who cycle, appear unreliable," she said.

"The city is spending more than $20,000 on pumps that don't work."

Meanwhile, four councillors have voted for a motion to bring in signs for cyclists to give way to pedestrians after the council took down clear warning signs at intersections and pedestrian crossings on the Bourke St cycleway.

They were replaced with small cardboard signs that cyclists can't see.

Ms Forster told a recent meeting of council that bike symbols had been repainted over the top of the existing signs "resulting in a jumbled image which could not possibly be recognised by a cyclist moving at speed".

A council spokeswoman said the intersection was a "trial format" with the RMS and that the intersection was "so far working very well".

Ms Forster said it was a "serious safety issue" and called on council to educate cyclists to give way to pedestrians, as well as develop a clear and unambiguous policy on warning signs.

Councillor Robert Kok said the council had carried out safety audits.

"At the moment we are doing all we can to improve safety on the bike network," he said.


A rocket put under a health bureaucracy

PARAMEDICS will boycott their dilapidated Sunshine branch today over safety concerns.

Twenty paramedics will abandon the Ballarat Rd station at noon in protest over the state of the 40-year-old branch.

Ambulance union secretary Steve McGhie said the paramedics would work out of the nearby St Albans branch until Ambulance Victoria fixed the unsafe workspace or found a suitable replacement.

"They have given the ambulance service and the Government many, many months to fix the problem, it hasn't happened and the paramedics at Sunshine have had enough," he said.

The Herald Sun recently revealed that WorkSafe had issued eight improvement notices to the 1970s site.

Major concerns included there were no sleeping facilities for crews working shift work, fused garage doors, cracks in walls, holes in the roof and asbestos.

An engineer's report recommended the Ballarat Rd station be demolished.

Ambulance Victoria Manager Group 6 Tony Elliott said paramedics' safety was paramount.

"We will provide any paramedic who is feeling fatigued with local motel accommodation and taxi vouchers to either the motel or their home," Mr Elliot said.

Health Minister David Davis's spokeswoman Kathryn McFarlane said the State Government and Ambulance Victoria were in discussions about the Sunshine ambulance station.

Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings said the Baillieu Government's inaction was putting paramedics' lives at risk.


Minister riles welfare groups

FAMILIES Minister Jenny Macklin has angered welfare groups by claiming she could live on the $35-a-day Newstart allowance.

On a day when more than 80,000 single parents were shifted from the parenting payment to the lower Newstart allowance, leaving some up to $110 a week worse off, Ms Macklin also urged single parents to return to work, saying it would be "better for the family", and their children would have better role models if they were employed.

Visiting a Melbourne hospital to promote the government's Dad and Partner pay scheme, which also began on Tuesday, Ms Macklin was asked whether she could survive on the $246-a-week payment. She responded "I could", but the question and her answer were described as "inaudible" in a transcript of the press conference later issued by her office.

A spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said the exchange had not been deliberately omitted, but the transcript had been produced from an iPhone recording of an outdoor press conference.

As a cabinet minister, Ms Macklin earns $6321 a week, 25 times the rate of Newstart.

The cost of renting alone in her suburb of Ivanhoe is greater than the Newstart allowance, with the median rent for a one-bedroom flat in her suburb at $270 a week.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said evidence to three parliamentary inquiries had shown the allowance had not increased in real terms in two decades, and as a result some recipients were forced to live in "extreme poverty".

"The minister should look at the evidence of people who are actually trying to do that," she said. "The government talks about evidence-based policy, so we are urging her to look at the evidence."

Kate Beaumont, the vice-president of the National Welfare Rights Network, said Ms Macklin's comments were surprising.

"As a key minister involved in securing the historic 2009 pension increase of $32 per week, she understands the needs of people doing it tough," she said.

Ms Beaumont said Ms Macklin's comments seemed at odds with those of Labor senators who in a committee report in November called for the allowance to be increased.

The calls by welfare groups for Newstart to be lifted have been echoed by others, including the Business Council of Australia, which has warned that the lack of an increase might be entrenching poverty.

In 2010, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the payment was so low it might not be enough to enable a person to look for a job.

The government has also faced heavy criticism for the changes that shift thousands of single parents from the parenting payment to the Newstart allowance when their youngest child turns eight.

While parents who started receiving the payment after July 2006 already face these conditions, until now those who were receiving the parenting payment before July 2006 were able to keep it until their youngest child turned 16. Ms Macklin said the changes were designed to ensure all parenting payment recipients were treated in the same way.

"What's important for people who are unemployed is that we do everything possible … to help people get into work, and that's what we'll be doing with these single parents as well," she said.

"The more people going back to work the better. It's better for the family, it's great to see mum and/or dad going … to work. Unfortunately we have far too many children growing up in families where nobody is working."

But Dr Goldie said recipients of the parenting payment were already required to seek work, and about half of them were already doing some paid work.

"The only thing that's going to change for them is a significant cut in their income support, and we oppose putting any other parent on to a payment which everybody acknowledges is already far too low," she said.

"We're talking about households with children in them. Why would we do that?"

The change will have the greatest impact on parents who work part time, because parenting payment recipients are allowed to earn more than Newstart recipients before their payments are affected.

As a result of the change, a single parent who gets no income from work will be $115 worse off a fortnight, while those who earn $400 a week from work will see their income drop by $223 a fortnight.

In August, Employment Minister Bill Shorten said he took the adequacy of the Newstart allowance "very, very seriously" and said it would be "very, very tough" to survive on the payment, but he did not commit to raising the allowance.


1 January, 2013

This is not New York. It's Sydney

But it got results

POLICE were last night forced to charge almost double the number of people arrested during New Year's Eve celebrations compared to last year.

A total of 97 people were charged during Operation Paramount, the police deployment which saw 3000 officers hit the streets across the CBD, Sydney Harbour, beachside locations, major Metropolitan centres and the public transport network.

Most charges related to drug supply and possession, assault, affray, assaulting police, breach of bail, offensive behaviour and malicious damage.

More than 440 people were treated by St John’s Ambulance volunteers and 370 people requested assistance from ambulance paramedics with a range of injuries, including heat stroke, intoxication, sprains and broken bones.

This year, a number of specialist police commands provided critical assistance across Sydney, including the new Police Transport Command which ensured the safety of thousands of people who travelled to and from events on the public transport network.

Marine Area Command provided a safe and secure environment for more than 3000 vessels watching the fireworks on the water.

Operation Paramount commander Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke said despite the arrests, most people celebrated responsibly.

"Around 1.6 million people celebrated New Year’s Eve in public areas across Sydney tonight and the overwhelming majority enjoyed the festivities without incident," he said.

"Unfortunately, there are a small group whose behaviour gained police attention and led to criminal charges. It’s not the best way to start 2013."

Significant incidents last night included two 22-year-old men being arrested at Woolloomooloo by Kings Cross Police after allegedly pointing a laser light at PolAir. They were later charged with threatening the safety of an aircraft and using a prohibited weapon. Both men were granted strict conditional bail and are due to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on Monday 21 January 2013.

About 30 people were arrested during a drug-dog operation at Bondi Junction Railway Station.

A number of commands also seized illegal fireworks from back yard parties.

Assistant Commissioner Clarke thanked crowds for their continued good behaviour as they left the CBD and harbour areas.

"While there have been a few idiots trying to spoil the end of the evening for others, it is good to see most revellers celebrated within their limits, looked out for their mates and are heading home in good spirits," he said.

"Once again, Sydney has set the standard for the rest of the world, not just with our impressive fireworks display, also our ability to celebrate safely."


ABC sets lower standards bar

DRAWING comparisons to pedophiles to attack your opponents is acceptable under the ABC complaints process - held up as the ideal model by media inquiry head Ray Finkelstein - but has been ruled out of order by the newspapers' existing regulatory body.

Mr Finkelstein recommended in his government-commissioned review of the media industry earlier this year that the self-regulatory Australian Press Council should be overhauled in line with the ABC model.

But two decisions this week reveal the APC is tougher on commentators who compare opponents with pedophiles.

On Tuesday, The Australian reported that the ABC had dismissed a complaint by its former chairman, Maurice Newman, against science broadcaster Robyn Williams, who made a comparison between climate change deniers and pedophiles last month. An ABC spokeswoman said the complaint was dismissed because the editorial context of the segment was reasonable, meaning "harm and offence" was justified.

Today, The Australian publishes an adjudication by the APC about an opinion article in the newspaper by the libertarian conservative commentator James Delingpole about the Australian wind-farm industry.

The article quoted an unnamed sheep farmer who said that the "wind-farm business is bloody well near a pedophile ring. They're f . . king our families and knowingly doing so."

The APC upheld the complaint, concluding that because pedophilia was a "very serious and odious crime" the comments were "highly offensive".

"The council's principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful," the adjudication says.

"They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to pedophilia."

Two other complaints about the Delingpole piece published on May 3 were also upheld by the APC, however several others were denied on the basis they were "not of a kind on which the council could make a decision".

Mr Finkelstein declined to comment on how the regulatory body he decided needed to be overhauled had been harder on such a similar issue than the ABC's own complaints process.

Newman had complained to ABC boss Mark Scott that Williams had failed the broadcaster's "public interest" test.

During a November 24 broadcast of The Science Show, Williams said: "What if I told you that pedophilia is good for children, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You'd rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science."

An ABC spokeswoman again defended its decision when asked if the APC adjudication meant the ABC might review it. "The ABC acknowledges there are climate scientists who question the core thinking about climate science. The ABC gives them . . . air time. The weight of our coverage, however, rests with the weight of the broad consensus, focusing on the extent of the impact of climate change and the speed and nature of human interventions required in response."


South Australia private school fees take a hike

But still booming

PARENTS will pay an extra $355 to send their child to a private school next year as fees rise by an average 5.5 per cent.

Across the state, fees at independent schools will rise by between 3 and 10.5 per cent, while more schools are charging over $20,000 - or more than $500 a week - for Year 12.

Schools say the fee increases are a result of the rising cost of providing education, driven by changes to federal and state education policies and programs, utilities and teacher salaries.

Association of Independent Schools of SA chief executive Garry Le Duff said the fee increases were consistent with past years and rising costs common to all schools.

He said a survey of member schools showed the significant cost drivers were teacher salaries and training, increasing water and electricity charges, the introduction of a new curriculum, compliance requirements and the replacement of outdated technology.

"Thoughtful and considered increases in fees ensure continuous improvement in education to meet parents' expectations and attract and retain the best available teaching talent," he said.

Mr Le Duff said the survey also showed the majority of independent schools expected to increase or maintain their enrolments next year and in the long-term. Many schools, he said, were at their enrolment capacity.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that over the 12 months to the September quarter 2012, inflation in the education sector rose 6.1 per cent. The main contributor to the rise was secondary education, up 7.7 per cent.

A spokeswoman for St Peter's College said the school was focused on reducing costs where possible - but the cost of education was continuing to rise faster than general inflation due to changes in federal and state education policies.

Catholic Education SA director Paul Sharkey said fee increases at Catholic schools had been kept to a minimum but would be similar to those at independent schools.

"People are conscious of the need to be quite careful to keep any increases to the absolute minimum at the moment," he said. "I haven't heard of any others freezing fees like Rostrevor."


Australia ready to take up new UN seat

Australia takes up its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council from today, after it was elected as a non-permanent member in October.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will now have a direct hand in dealing with global security challenges such as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

He says Australia's unique experience with humanitarian crises in the Pacific region will be invaluable.

"Our involvement in conflicts in Timor-Leste, Bougainville, Afghanistan, all give us experience that will be valuable on the Security Council," he said.

"To look at the conflicts in Africa and as well, to look at the really big challenges like that of the North Korean rocket launch of December 12, or the continuing bloodshed in Syria."

Senator Carr says the Government will not abandon its aid commitments to cover the cost of asylum seekers.

A total of $375 million from the foreign aid budget will be diverted or delayed over a two-year period so the money can be used to feed and house asylums seekers.

But Senator Carr says nothing will be sacrificed.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative