Thursday, July 31, 2008


It's the big debate in Australia at the moment. Four current articles below

Australia is a climate irrelevance

The most difficult thing for an Australian to get right, especially psychologically, is a sense of our relative standing in the world. We are important, but we are not that important. We are about the 15th biggest economy, which is not negligible, but we are a minnow compared with the great powers. We have the sixth largest land mass. We have a small population and, despite recent growth, it is becoming proportionally smaller compared with the rest of the world, particularly our region. We tend to fall into the competing vices of braggadocio or donning the humble garments of Uriah Heep.

The truth is we are a significant middle power, unable to decide any issue beyond our shores but able to influence, a little or sometimes a lot, almost everything. This is intensely relevant to the climate change debate. Short of war, climate change presents us with a uniquely international problem requiring domestic management. We must do the best for ourselves and our planet. But what that best actually is will be determined by the actions of other international players. If we make policy blind to that fact, we are in danger of making irrational policy. And that could be profoundly harmful.

Those arguing for a very robust response to climate change - that is, severe targets to cut our greenhouse gas emissions - often do so on the basis that it is prudent. There is genuine contention over the science of global warming, whether it is happening at the supposed rate, whether it is caused primarily by human activity and whether changing our activity can halt it. But, it is said, we must act because it may be true or, if you believe the science, it is highly likely it's true. If we act without needing to, we get a cleaner environment anyway. But if we need to act and don't, we may encompass a human catastrophe.

That may very well be true. But there are other scenarios that also may be true. It may be that we act without needing to and produce substantial dislocation in our economy. This would make us much poorer than we are now. Moreover, it may have perverse effects internationally. If we act too dramatically and sustain real economic damage, we may well encourage other countries to avoid our mistakes by acting much more slowly or not acting at all. And if the science is wrong, we may get a wrecked economy for no good reason.

What if the science is right but our own actions nonetheless have no effect? This column is consciously avoiding the usual blizzard of rubbery statistics that all sides use in this debate. But let me give you just three factoids I've come across in the past day or two. By the year after next, carbon emissions from non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries - that is, from developing countries - will exceed those from developed countries. Since 2000, China has increased its emissions by 45 per cent to 65 per cent, depending on whether you include land-use changes. And finally, the Tata company of India is planning to produce a motor car that will sell for about $US2500. Even with petrol getting more expensive, that almost certainly means millions upon millions more cars in India. The same of course will happen in China.

Just let those three facts sink in. What are their implications? How should they affect Australian policy? This column has argued before that developing nations, especially the fast-growing nations of Asia, will never consent to carbon targets and will certainly not reduce their emissions.

Those who find that an inconvenient truth tend to just ignore it, taking a fraudulent comfort in the motherhood pro-environment statements of Chinese, Indian or other developing world leaders, without applying the slightest rigour to analysing what they are actually doing. One possible outcome of all the factors in play today is that we could spend countless billions of dollars combating climate change and have absolutely no effect at all.

One important factor is public opinion. The Australian people want something done and they want it to start now. But, rather contradicting themselves, the Australian people get extremely upset about increases in petrol or electricity prices, which are the first thing that any carbon trading scheme tries to achieve. You cannot ignore public opinion on climate change and you cannot really be offside with it. On the other hand, as the years roll by and reality bites, I'm not sure people will enjoy the idea of losing their job or the employment prospects of their kids so that we can be pure on climate change, especially if the rest of the world doesn't follow our lead.

The debate is so confused and general at the moment that a lot of people probably feel that Australia, by its actions alone, can prevent the Australian climate changing, that we can save the Barrier Reef, make the rivers flow.

How would public opinion develop if it is ultimately presented with a choice something like this: these crook environmental outcomes are going to come about anyway, would you rather confront them as rich people or as poor people? It is said that industry in particular wants the certainty of an emissions trading scheme, but it is difficult to see how a scheme with an endlessly shifting carbon price provides certainty. Of course those many sectors of industry, especially the finance industry, which will make money out of trading carbon credits, will want such a scheme. The rest of industry may be less certain.

All of this is not to argue for inaction. It seems to me there are four obvious things we can do. First, we can go along with, as well as trying to influence through persuasion rather than example, what becomes the consensus position of the developed world. Carbon still has no price in Japan or the US and not an effective price in Canada or Europe. We don't want to be laggards but we would be mad to be far out in front. Travelling with the herd here is truly the only sensible option.

Second, we can encourage every bit of useful technological research. All those carbon capture trials are well worth doing. Third, we can encourage efficiency, conservation and green technology. This is to some extent the preferred option of the US and Asia. These really are low-cost options.

I'm quite happy to have the Government interfere, through regulation and modest tax, to encourage these things: the right sort of light bulbs or fuel efficiency standards for cars. Taking measures such as those and changing our land-use patterns have resulted in a big cut in our per capita greenhouse emissions during the past decade.

Four, we should sell uranium to India. All that's a prudent policy. Anything much more is probably irresponsible, with far too much danger for far too little benefit.


Rudd sees trade talks collapse as a blow for climate talks

Gotta agree with Rudd on that. Good to see that he is so strong on free trade

PROSPECTS for global co-operation to tackle climate change weakened yesterday as the collapse of trade liberalisation talks cast doubt on the international community's capacity to act in concert for a common good. A downbeat Kevin Rudd - who had personally stayed up to 2am calling world leaders - was yesterday "deeply, deeply disappointed" that World Trade Organisation talks, which would have reduced barriers to international trade, had been abandoned in the Swiss city of Geneva.

And the Prime Minister suggested the failure of the talks augured poorly for the completion of international negotiations aimed at crafting a global agreement for carbon emissions reductions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012. The climate talks, due to be finalised at a UN meeting late next year in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, are seen as crucial to creating a global approach to climate change by creating co-operation between developed and developing nations.

Mr Rudd said the climate talks, which hope to include the big emitters who spurned the Kyoto pact, such as the US and China, would be extremely difficult. The finalisation of the talks is important to Mr Rudd, whose proposal to begin an emissions trading scheme in 2010 will be attacked as meaningless without commitments by big carbon emitters. While stressing there was no direct link between trade and climate change, the Prime Minister noted: "I think we have had a huge setback in terms of the political will of the governments of the world to act in concert for what is plainly in the global economic good." He said global climate change negotiations "have a way to run through until Copenhagen at the end of next year". "They'll be tough, they'll be hard, they'll be difficult," he said. "We understand that, we accept that but we intend to be activists in that process."

Mr Rudd said expanding free trade through the so-called Doha Round of WTO negotiations would have provided benefits for all nations, including Australia and its agricultural sector, which, unlike its competitors in the US and Europe, receives no government protection or subsidy. The long-running Doha Round required co-operation between developed and developing nations, with the US and Europe under pressure to bring down trade barriers to give poor nations greater access to their huge consumer markets.

But despite expectations earlier in the week of a breakthrough, the Doha talks were abandoned early yesterday, Australian time, after the US and India failed to compromise to solve a dispute over tariffs on farm products. The collapse sparked an angry response from Australian exporters, as well as accusations from senior Australian trade officials that US trade negotiator Susan Schwab lost her political nerve and deliberately scuttled the negotiations. The US had agreed on Friday to a breakthrough formula that would have allowed developing countries to defend their rural industries against surging imports. Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean had helped negotiate China's support for the formula, which was backed by all the key nations except India.

However, when negotiations resumed on Monday, Ms Schwab shifted her position, saying the formula would be used to deny US farmers access to developing-country markets. Australian officials believe the US administration concluded over the weekend that the proposed deal would be too hard to sell to the US Congress in an election year.

Mr Rudd said the decision was a "body blow" to the global economy at a time when it needed "a shot in the arm" to counter financial instability. He had spent the early hours of yesterday seeking an 11th-hour solution to the Doha impasse. "I last night was ... until about 2am this morning on the phone to various people in Geneva, on the phone to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others about how this could be rescued. It didn't work. I am deeply disappointed." "What we've got to do now is dust ourselves off and get on with the task of where to next," he said. "I'll be engaged in discussions with various international leaders in the days ahead about how we seek to find a further pathway forward."

Mr Crean said he held no immediate hope the negotiations could be revived. "What has been particularly frustrating is that a deal was clearly well within reach," he said. Mr Crean said there had been an agreement for deep cuts in tariffs for agricultural and manufactured goods, and for an end to export subsidies. Significant gains were made in import quotas, and the world's poorest countries were to get tariff-free access to industrialised countries' markets.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said Australia must continue to pursue liberalisation. "A bold and comprehensive outcome from the Doha Round could potentially have been worth another $7billion a year to the Australian economy," Mr Anderson said. National Farmers Federation president David Crombie said entrenched positions that led to the breakdown of Doha would undermine global food security.

Aid agency Oxfam blamed wealthy nations. "They defended vested interests and put poor countries under intense pressure to make concessions that have no place in a development round," said acting executive director James Ensor.

Opposition trade spokesman Ian Macfarlane said the breakdown of the talks had exposed the "haphazard, convoluted and politicised" trade policy of the Rudd Government.


Wong all wrong: Climate paper clouded with mistakes

By Bob Carter (Professor Bob Carter is a geologist who studies ancient environments and their climate, and is a science adviser to the Australian Climate Science Coalition)

The Government's advisory channels are clogged with rent seekers, special pleaders and green activists who have misadvised the minister. Climate Minister Penny Wong published an astonishing green paper in response to what she perceives to be the threat of global warming. The first sentence of the opening section of her paper, entitled "Why we need to act", contains seven scientific errors - almost one error for every two words.

Here is the sentence: "Carbon pollution is causing climate change, resulting in higher temperatures, more droughts, rising sea levels and more extreme weather." And here are the errors.

First, the debate is not about carbon, but human carbon dioxide emissions and their potential effect on climate. It makes no more sense for Wong to talk about carbon in the atmosphere than it would for her to talk about hydrogen comprising most of Sydney's water supply. Use of the term carbon in this way is, of course, a deliberate political gambit, derived from the green ecosalvationist vocabulary and intended to convey a subliminal message about "dirty" coal.

Next, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but a naturally occurring, beneficial trace gas in the atmosphere. For the past few million years, the Earth has existed in a state of relative carbon dioxide starvation compared with earlier periods. There is no empirical evidence that levels double or even treble those of today will be harmful, climatically or otherwise. Indeed, a trebled level is roughly what commercial greenhouse tomato growers aim for to enhance growth. As a vital element in plant photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is the basis of the planetary food chain - literally the staff of life. Its increase in the atmosphere leads mainly to the greening of the planet. To label carbon dioxide a "pollutant" is an abuse of language, logic and science.

Third, that enhanced human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming ("carbon pollution is causing climate change") is an interesting and important hypothesis. Detailed consideration of its truth started with the formation of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. Since then, Western nations have spent more than $50 billion on research into the matter. Despite all the fulminations of the IPCC, 20 years on, the result has been a failure to identify the human climate signal at global (as opposed to local) level. Accordingly, independent scientists have long since concluded that the most appropriate null hypothesis is that the human global signal lies submerged within natural climate variability. In other words, our interesting initial hypothesis was wrong.

Fourth, the specific claim that carbon dioxide emissions are causing temperature increase is intended to convey the impression that the phase of gentle (and entirely unalarming) global warming that occurred during the late 20th century continues today. Nothing could be further from the truth, in that all official measures of global temperature show that it peaked in 1998 and has been declining since at least 2002. And this in the face of an almost 5% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1998. Spot the problem?

Fifth, sixth and seventh, the statement that human carbon dioxide emissions will cause "more droughts, rising sea levels and more extreme weather" is unbridled nonsense. Such confident predictions are derived from unvalidated, unsuccessful computer models that even their proponents agree cannot predict the future. Rather, a model projection represents just one preferred, virtual reality future out of the many millions of alternatives that could have been generated. Complex climate models are in effect sophisticated computer games, and their particular outputs are to a large degree predetermined by programmers' predelictions. It cannot be overemphasised, therefore, that computer climate projections, or scenarios, are not evidence. Nor are they suitable for environmental or political planning.

Moving from virtual reality to real observations and evidence, many of the manifestations of living on a dynamic planet that are cited as evidence for global warming are, at best, circumstantial. The current rates of sea-level change, for example, fall well within the known natural range of past changes.

Should we adapt to the rise? Of course. Should we try to "stop climate change" to moderate, possibly, the expected sea-level rise? Of course not; we might as well try to stop clouds scudding across the sky.

The first sentence of the "Why we need to act" section of the green paper is followed by five further short paragraphs that are similarly riddled with science misrepresentation and error. In essence, the section reads like a policy manual for green climate activists. It represents a parody of our true knowledge of climate change. Never has a policy document of such importance been released in Australia that is so profoundly out of touch with known facts of the real world.

It is a matter for national alarm that the Government's advisory channels should be clogged with the rent seekers, special pleaders and green activists who have so obviously misadvised Wong on the content of her green paper on climate change. Time for some due diligence, Minister.


Climate mafia has us fooled

By Dennis Jensen (As well as being the Federal member for Tangney, WA, nuclear physicist Dr. Dennis Jensen is a PhD-trained scientist and a former researcher for Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organization (CSIRO) and the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO)

Vested interests have hijacked the climate debate, and taken Australia's future hostage. The ransom they demand? Simple agreement or, at the very least, compliance. Voices of dissent face derision. Legitimate questions are met with ridicule. But with many of the squabbling forces of power in this country now apparently united in their enthusiasm for an emissions trading scheme, it is more important than ever that we go back and examine the basis of their campaigns.

It has been an article of faith for many years that humans are gradually destroying the environment, and are specifically responsible for global warming via man-made carbon emissions. On Monday, The Australian published results of a poll showing 96 per cent of the population believes climate change is wholly or partly caused by humans. But any detailed scrutiny of scientific data shows that the environment is quite stable. There are even suggestions the world's temperature has decreased in recent years.

Any real climate change in the past century has been at a glacial pace (that is, the speed of a glacier that is not melting because of the globe's supposedly soaring temperatures). Far greater periods of environmental change have been recorded in history without any human intervention. The Ice Ages, anybody?

While it remains almost universally popular (or perhaps just fashionable) to spout the mantra "trees are good, cars are bad" and all the similarly simplistic slogans of the green lobby and those they have seduced, the facts tell a different story. The next time someone tells you that humans are killing the environment and driving up temperatures, ask them to prove it, and demand they disprove the weighty data contradicting such claims.

The same is true of the suggestion that nuclear power be considered part of our future energy mix. The population has been conditioned to equate this incredibly clean and efficient form of power generation with terrifying weapons of mass destruction, and horrific accidents, such as that at Chernobyl. The truth is that hundreds of nuclear reactors around the world have long been efficiently pumping out electricity, with no significant environmental impact. And more are coming on-stream all the time, using cleaner and more cost-effective models. Where is the incontrovertible evidence that nuclear power is a dangerous or unsafe option?

Even the whale-watching club that is the Rudd Government agreed to sell uranium to other countries, most of which have far less scrutiny and monitoring of nuclear power generation than would be imposed in Australia. So the Government also thinks nuclear power is a safe and reasonable alternative. Or is it just hypocritical?

I love a pristine environment as much as the next Australian, but where is the evidence that using a few less light bulbs and riding a bike to work will do anything to improve our surroundings other than in the most token way? How is the belching of coal-fired power stations preferable to the clean air that envelops nuclear plants? Or do we just have to depend on the as-yet-unviable alternatives of solar and wind generation?

If Australia's 21 million people - already some of the most environment-friendly in the world - embark alone on the course set by our climate-change mafia, what real impact will this have? What is the point when the major polluters such as India and China refuse to take part as it would hamper their economic development? If Australia ceased all carbon emissions tomorrow, in just nine months the increase in emissions of China alone would have taken up the slack.

We, too, should be mindful of the impact an emissions-trading scheme will have on our economy. If all carbon in the stationary power sector were to have a $50-a-tonne price of carbon dioxide imposed (as is the case for the European price for CO2), it would mean a cost burden of $660 a year for every Australian, or more than $2500 per household, according to data I have received. These would not all be direct costs from the emissions-trading scheme, but also from higher prices of products that would flow through as a result of increased production costs. Those higher costs would make some businesses unviable, and they would have to close or move offshore. In short, emissions trading will have an enormous effect on every Australian. And glib assurances of compensation for some are no substitute for well thought-out, responsible policies.

Both the issues of an emissions-trading scheme and nuclear energy have been built up to instil and exploit fear in this society, largely based on flawed or questionable data and the promise of a warm-and-fuzzy sense of pride about doing something.

The history of mankind has been marked by repeated cautions against accepting populist claims as truth and is littered with the corpses (both real and metaphoric) of those who failed to heed the advice. And it continues. We laugh today at those who once believed the world to be flat, but see no irony in the widespread acceptance now of equally spurious claims made in the name of science, as in the climate debate. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do hope the issue can be subject to broad-ranging rational debate so that we do not fall as just another victim of history. The subject is too important for us not to ask questions.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just offered his take on the immigration reforms of the Rudd government.

Australia must not grow the crop that feeds most of the world??

Let's have swamps instead, apparently. Isn't it wonderful to have "experts" on the case? One reason for the much bemoaned low water levels in the Murray river is that large quantities of dam water have already been flushed down the Snowy and out to sea as "environmental" flows

Drought-hit Australia ["drought-hit"? Dam levels across Australia have been rising for the last year or so] must stop growing rice because it is too thirsty and uses 10 times as much water as other crops, an expert warns. Dr Eric Craswell, from the Australian National University, said rice should no longer be planted in the Murray-Darling Basin, and the water be allowed to flow through the river system to help the environment.

"People have said you shouldn't single out particular industries but I think in the case of rice there is an argument," he told AAP. "Instead of growing rice in the very wet years, let that water go down the river to rejuvenate the wetlands."

Dr Craswell - of ANU's Fenner School of Environment and Society - said most Australian rice was exported and questioned why the nation was growing rice for overseas markets when its own water was running so low. He said rice-growing should be left to countries with monsoonal climates like Thailand.

He pointed out that using a litre of water to grow vegetables or grapes produced 10 times as much revenue as using that water to grow rice. There has not been a significant rice crop in five years because of the drought. "The rice mills have been in mothballs for the last year," Dr Craswell said.

However Les Gordon, president of Ricegrowers' Association of Australia, said the commodity should continue to be grown because many countries were running out due to the world food shortage. "If we don't grow rice, you won't see rice on your supermarket shelves," Mr Gordon said.


Spanking 'causes mental illness'

What rubbish! More likely the lack of it causes psychological problems. But the study noted below allows no causal inferences either way. It says that children who are smacked more are more badly behaved. It does not seem to have entered the addled heads of the do-gooders who wrote the report that maybe the kids who are smacked more are smacked BECAUSE they are badly behaved. Ignoring the obvious is no problem if you have ideological blinkers on

Smacking and yelling at children is causing a rise in mental health problems, with three-year-olds suffering from depression and anxiety. At least one in seven children are affected by a mental illness. Some psychologists are reporting a 60 per cent increase in the number of youngsters displaying anxiety and social issues.

A study from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute has found that harsh discipline and parental stress is increasing the risk of mental health troubles in young children. Stressed parents lashing out at their kids are behind the growing problem. Study author and child psychologist Dr Jordana Bayer said constant smacking and yelling at a child was fuelling abusive behaviour. "We are not talking about a parent who smacks just once," she said. "Remember when parents smack or hit their child, they might learn to do that as well. When parents are stressed, it's more challenging to be relaxed and respond to their children in ways they would like to respond to them."

Researchers have been following more than 700 toddlers, aged between seven months and three years, to reveal the risks of parenting practices. Children subjected to physical punishment are more likely to kick, hit and bite others and become socially withdrawn. Parents who continue to smack their abusive children could be setting them on a path of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, unemployment and suicide.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra, Sydney, said stressed parents were placing too much pressure on their children. "We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months," she said.

Mental health has become one of the nation's biggest health issues. Psychologists are seeing toddlers biting their nails, while older children are wetting the bed and pulling out their eyelashes as a result of anxiety. Despite a push by experts to ban smacking, some adults are still using the "traditional" method to discipline children. Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci said hitting youngsters had become outdated.


Crookedness goes to the top of Victoria's police force

As it did in Queensland in the days of Terry Lewis

Explosive was the word usually used to describe the hearings that led to yesterday's charging of police union boss Paul Mullett and two others. Bombshell after bombshell was dropped through secretly bugged conversations that ignited debate about police corruption and power struggles at the very top of the force. The Office of Police Integrity hearings last November resulted in State Parliament being told of plans to install a puppet chief commissioner. An OPI report named former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby as the puppet and police union boss Paul Mullett as the puppet master. Both men were charged yesterday, along with former police media director Steve Linnell.

The damning OPI report, which was tabled in Parliament in February, was called "Exposing corruption within senior levels of Victoria Police". It claimed Mr Linnell was "Mr Ashby's enthusiastic henchman" in the conspiracy to get Sen-Sgt Mullett's man into the top job. "Mr Mullett believed that if he could use his contacts to install Mr Ashby, he would have a puppet chief commissioner," the OPI report alleged.

It claimed Sen-Sgt Mullett and Mr Ashby had joined forces to oppose Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and Deputy Commissioner Simon Overland. The report accused Sen-Sgt Mullett and Mr Ashby of being prepared to compromise the murder investigation into the 2003 death of gigolo Shane Chartres-Abbott during the power struggle.

"Both Ms Nixon and Mr Overland were viewed as outsiders," the report claimed. "They are proponents of a reform agenda that challenges the old style of policing to which some within Victoria Police cling. "The common rallying point provided Mr Mullett and Mr Ashby with a common purpose. "Working to destabilise and undermine senior police in Victoria Police command, the end goals of this alliance were to install Mr Ashby as commissioner of police and to provide Mr Mullett with a puppet commissioner. "Motivated to gain personal power, both men fostered the alliance without regard to the impact on either the Victoria Police or the Police Association. "Even the prospect of compromising a murder investigation appears to have had secondary consideration. "Neither Mr Mullett nor Mr Ashby could have achieved their aims without a willing, and, at times, gullible supporting cast."

The report also alleged:

MR LINNELL fed Mr Ashby confidential material to help him to undermine Mr Overland, who they saw as Mr Ashby's rival for the chief commissioner's job.

MR ASHBY tipped off Sen-Sgt Mullett that he and Chartres-Abbott murder suspect Det-Sgt Peter Lalor had probably been bugged during a damaging telephone conversation.

SEN-SGT MULLETT was able to manipulate Mr Ashby at will.

MR ASHBY agreed to a request from Sen-Sgt Mullett to try to intervene to save the job of a factional supporter who was facing discipline charges.

Mr Ashby quit immediately after appearing at the OPI public hearings. Sen-Sgt Mullett revealed in February he was planning to quit his $180,000-a-year position with the union and said his decision was not linked to his suspension from Victoria Police. Mr Ashby and Sen-Sgt Mullett have both repeatedly denied the allegations made against them.

Counsel assisting the OPI, Dr Greg Lyon, SC, claimed during the OPI hearings that Mr Ashby passed information to Sen-Sgt Mullett that led Sen-Sgt Mullett to the conclusion that Det-Sgt Lalor's telephone was being intercepted. Dr Lyon alleged Sen-Sgt Mullett then asked Police Association president Brian Rix to tip off Det-Sgt Lalor. Evidence was produced during the OPI hearing that Det-Sgt Lalor rang former detective David "Docket" Waters, who was also a suspect in the Chartres-Abbott murder, immediately after an urgent meeting with Insp Rix in the Police Association car park. But no evidence was produced as to whether anyone had warned Det-Sgt Lalor or Mr Waters they were murder suspects.

Insp Rix denies doing so and no charges have been laid or recommended against him. Former Federal Court judge and OPI delegate Murray Wilcox, QC, said in the February report to State Parliament there was not enough evidence to prove Sen-Sgt Mullett warned Det-Sgt Lalor he was being investigated over the Chartres-Abbott murder. But Mr Wilcox said the inference could be drawn that the alleged warning was over a serious criminal offence and that was sufficient to consider a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice against Sen-Sgt Mullett.


An orgy of climate self-satisfaction

A mocking comment from Stephen Matchett

The world is heating up because people are running their airconditioners too high, driving their four-wheel drives too fast and turning on TiVo. As the planet warms up, tide and tempest, flood and fire, plague and - you get the idea - will engulf us. Already global gloomsters are inviting the four horsepersons of the apocalypse to come and punish us for our conspicuous consumption, the way we use coal-fired power stations to run toasters, that sort of thing.

So it's fortunate that when it comes to doing something we have a Prime Minister who tells us what he is going to do, in many languages. And this time he actually remembered to stop talking long enough to act, commissioning economist Ross Garnaut and a bunch of brainy bureaucrats to work out how we can slow global warming.

And what they say is we must cut our carbon emissions in ways that only economists and the experts who blog at will ever understand. (Before I get an aggrieved email from Climate Change Minister Penny Wong's office I know the Government's response to Garnaut was a green, not a white paper, which means they have put all the politically poisonous bits in it they will later take out; but as nobody appears to have read the document they may as well have called it a puce paper for all the colour scheme signifies.)

Still, even though few have a clue what it all means everybody is delighted that Australia is leading the way in saving the planet. Everybody that is, except aggrieved industrialists and annoyed unionists who think the Government plans to do too much and greens who are convinced it is not doing enough, because only alternative energy isn't evil.

Still, the rest of us seem pretty pleased. After years of people demanding that somebody does something about the weather, somebody is. The problem is that we do not have a snowflake's in the global greenhouse chance of doing anything effective about the world's slide to ecological oblivion. While we use more energy than people whose primary power comes from dried cow dung, there are not very many of us. Australia could cut carbon emissions to zero without moving the global warming weather vane.

But let's not allow a little thing like reality to get in the way of cutting carbon. It's time we were punished for our acts of power profligacy, such as the environmental vandalism of forgetting to turn the outside light off at bedtime. So it's generous of the Government to make us - well, some of us - feel better by slugging us for the cost of carbon. And you know the pain will do us good, because emitters are upset. People who own power stations are demanding carbon credits on the grounds that change is so stressful.

There is outrage in the LNG industry because a carbon tax will make it harder to boast about ever increasing annual profits. Then there are the unions and the inevitable activists in the welfare industry who are demanding compensation for, you guessed it, working families, basically because this is their standard response to every event, from global warming to the price of potatoes.

And because the Government's green-ness does not extend to its electoral instincts, emitters, unions and activists will get the carbon compensation they demand. The chance of anything other than a carbon tax on petrol before the next, or for that matter any, election is as likely as Brendan Nelson abandoning aphorisms for English in his speeches. It's also the reason why the puce, sorry green, paper proposes parliament will decide our annual carbon emissions.

You can imagine the outcome after lobbyists get into the ears of members and senators. We will have industry exemptions and concessions for working families and farmers. And of course government MPs with marginal seats will all want headlines in thelocal papers, of the "MP saves area fromwhatever this carbon thing is all about"variety.

By the time the snouts rise from the carbon trough emissions are likely to have increased: after all, saving the planet is one thing, saving the Government's hide is entirely another.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Schwarto and Queensland police indifference to car theft

Rob Schwarten is a long-standing Labor party member of the Queensland parliament who has served in various ministries. He has a reputation for being aggressive -- even physically intimidating. So I was amused to receive from him a letter that was typically Schwarto -- a sort of verbal punch. Before I show you the letter, however, I need to tell you what led up to it:

In a nutshell: My car was stolen and the Queensland police showed not the slightest interest in apprehending the thief or thieves, despite the ID of one of them being handed to them on a plate.

More detail: Someone reported my abandoned car to the Redcliffe police about a week after it was stolen; the Redcliffe police checked their reports of stolen cars and notified me accordingly.

When I got the car back, most of the contents that I had in it were missing. This bothered me greatly as some of the contents were of considerable value to me. On checking through what remained, however, I found a library card belonging to someone I had never heard of. It was for a library in the Redcliffe area. It seemed clear to me that one of the thieves had inadvertently dropped it while they were in the car. Eureka! Just trace the person and I might get my stuff back!

So I took the card to my nearest cop-shop -- at Dutton Park. I was greeted at the counter by a dickless Tracy by the name of Turgeon. I told her my story, she listened and said she would look into it. I had no sooner stepped outside the building before I realized however that she had not taken a single note or asked for any details, let alone fill out a proper report.

I went back in and urged details upon her -- registration number, dates etc. She grabbed a torn-off scrap of paper and jotted a few things down. That was it. I left in great doubt about whether I had been taken seriously.

So I followed the matter up in the following weeks and months. In the course of that I was told two things by various police persons:

1). The card could have been dropped by anyone so was no proof of anything. Police logic, I presume. They seemed to think that I might have been driving around with people unknown to me in my car.

2). The person on the card had been checked and found to have no "form" (no criminal record) so there was no point in pursuing them. More police logic. How one ever gets form in the first place under those circumstances was never expained.

I was of course not remotely impressed by those pearls of wisdom but they came from more than one police officer, including a rather senior one. It stood out like dog's balls that the Queensland police were not remotely interested in catching car thieves -- unless of course you could catch them at the end of an exciting high-speed chase. No wonder Queensland has the highest rate of car theft in Australia. If you don't catch the baddies they will continue doing it.

So I started writing to the politicians in order to get some action. I got some very ill-considered replies from them too but it emerged that by that time the ID card had been "lost" and they could not therefore investigate the matter even if they wanted to.

That was quite appalling. There are of course strict police rules about the recording and preservation of material evidence and those regulations had obviously been ignored. It's not much of a guess to conclude that the Virgin Turgeon threw it straight into the bin, in fact.

I asked for disciplinary measures to be taken and Inspector Volk of Dutton Pk. station assured me that they had. For all I know that was just hot air, however. Clearly, Constable Turgeon had simply been following informal police rules.

I was rather stumped at that point but eventually made what was probably the only move left to me: Sue for compensation for my loss of car contents. I accordingly wrote to the Minister in charge of police with a claim for $500 in compensation for the loss of car contents that police negligence had prevented me from recovering. I got the usual ill-considered reply -- presumably written by a junior ministerial assistant. So I wrote again to point that out.

It was then that I got my amusing letter from Schwarto:
Judy Spence MP
Member for Mount Gravatt

Office of the
Minister for Police and
Corrective Services

Ref: 5627 F6 GM

23 May, 2008

Dear Dr Ray

Thank you for your further letter of 19 March 2008 concerning your dealings with police regarding the theft of your motor vehicle and property stolen from the vehicle.

I note you have received several replies from the Honourable Judy Spence MP since 2006 regarding associated issues.

While I have noted your further comments, as the Acting Minister for Police I am unable to intervene in any particular police investigation or operational decision, or interfere in the Police Service's handling of any particular complaint against its officers.

In the circumstances, your correspondence has been forwarded to the Police Service for consideration and you should take up direct with the Service on any further issues of concern.

Neither Ms Spence nor I am can assist you further in this matter and therefore do not intend corresponding with you in future on this issue.

Yours sincerely
Robert Schwarten MP
Acting Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport

He appears to think he can shut me up!

No further correspondence from the Police Service has arrived in the two months since Schwarto wrote so I suppose that an action against the Constable in the Small Claims tribunal will have to be my next step.

I have put this post and most of the letters I wrote on the matter up on a special blog called "Queensland Police Negligence". You will see there that I even wrote to the body that is supposed to act on complaints against the police but that they simply referred the complaint back to the police -- as they usually do.

What I would most like to see at this stage is a public enquiry resulting in visible disciplinary action against the police officers primarily responsible for the unofficial policy of not investigating car stealing.

Labor reverses John Howard's tough immigration policies

These were the policies that stemmed the flow of boat people. Now that they have nothing much to fear, the illegals will start coming again

Mandatory detention for asylum-seekers has been eased under changes to immigration policy announced by the Government today. "A person who poses no danger to the community will be able to remain in the community while their visa status is resolved," Immigration Minster Chris Evans said. Mandatory detention would apply only to those arriving by boat for health, identity and security checks, or those considered a risk to national security or health.

Legal assistance would be offered to those arriving by boat and they could have an independent review of unfavourable decisions. Children would also not be detained in immigration detention centres.

"The department will have to justify why a person should be detained," Senator Evans said. "Once in detention a detainee's case will be reviewed every three months to ensure that the further detention of the individual is justified.

Senator Evans said the Government would still retain its right to deport refugees. "People who have no right to be here and those who are found not to be owed protection under Australia's international obligations will be removed."


Public hospital bungle covered up

A whistleblower was bullied and information was covered up when a crucial cancer treatment went wrong, critics say. On Friday, SA Health revealed a radiation machine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, used to treat 720 people between July, 2004, and July, 2006, was delivering the wrong dose.

Yesterday, the hospital was accused of bullying and harassing an employee who tried to expose the error, and of covering up the mistake, which only came to light last week. While working as the Employee Ombudsman, Gary Collis said he dealt with a hospital employee who was bullied after taking his concerns to management. The whistleblower also said up to three machines were not working properly. Mr Collis said whistleblowers in this situation had "very little protection". "Until there is genuine protection the individuals are going to think more about their own survival careerwise rather than just keep on banging their heads against the wall," he said.

SA Health chief executive Dr Tony Sherbon said RAH management discovered the error in 2006 through a quality assurance check but chose not to inform the department, prompting accusations of a coverup from the State Opposition. Dr Sherbon was only made aware of the problem on July 16 this year after someone filed a formal complaint.

"In 2007, the Central Northern Adelaide Health Service completed an investigation of an allegation of bullying and harassment," he said. "It found there was no bullying. This person suffered no retribution." He added that as far as he knew only one machine was affected.

The calibration error meant people received a dose up to 5 per cent lower than prescribed by their doctor. It is not clear what effect, if any, this would have on their survival. SA Health has launched a review into the error and has contacted all patients affected.


Public transport not much of a solution to anything these days

PUBLIC transport is often recommended as a solution to congestion in our cities and as a way of reducing the fuel costs of working families. Two cautions are needed regarding this suggestion. First is the increased cost to governments from any increase in public transport patronage. Victoria has been successful in increasing annual passenger trips from 351 million in 2001 to 383 million in 2005, but the public transport budget has also increased from $1.34 billion to $1.92 billion over the same period. This works out to a cost of $19 for every trip increase, and is much higher than the average public transport subsidy for the entire Melbourne network of trains, trams and buses of about $4 a passenger trip.

The second caution, and this sounds counter-intuitive, is that increased public transport patronage will probably decrease social equity. Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys of household expenditures have found that the upper 20 per cent income group spend about three to four times more on public transport than the lower 20 per cent income group, probably because most of the present public transport infrastructure is located in high-income inner and middle suburbs and most public transport trips are made into the central business district by higher income managerial and office workers. In other words, the subsidies state governments provide to public transport are going mainly to higher income groups, whereas other expenditures on education and health are much more equitably based.

Given that governments have only limited budgets, any increase in public transport expenditure would lead to lower expenditure on health and education, and thereby to reduced income transfers to lower income groups. There is also the social inequity of residents in country areas paying taxes to subsidise further increases in huge metropolitan public transport expenditures in Australia, which are already of the order of $4.5 billion a year.

It may surprise some, but public transport was a profitable business for governments in the 1950s, when passenger trips reached 1500 million journeys a year. The rise of the motor car, mainly because of a tenfold decrease in vehicle operating costs, meant public transport trips dropped to just over 800 million journeys in the '80s, despite a doubling of the population. They have increased slightly in total numbers during the present decade, but not on a per capita basis. This shift away from public transport was a classic case of a newer technology providing a cheaper and quicker transport mode that took market share from the slower transport mode, just as railways took away market share from the horse and carriage and planes are taking market share from cars on interstate travel. The decline in public transport share has been even more noticeable for rural passenger travel: the quantity of rail trips has decreased from 60 per cent in the '50s to 2 per cent today.

Public transport is still economically viable in some markets, such as radial journey-to-work trips to the CBD and for education trips, while cars have their own particular passenger markets, such as circumferential journey-to-work trips and shopping, social and business trips. It is difficult to see that this market differentiation will change by either mode capturing market share from the other in the future. In fact the experience of Seattle is that significantly increasing public transport facilities and patronage does not reduce car trips or congestion but increases the total amount of urban trips taken.

One of the inevitable trends when new technology triggers the development of a new infrastructure network for trains, cars, planes or, most recently, the broadband network, is that the substitution of one mode for another follows a particular model that is independent of different political and economic systems. Like sailing ships and the horse and carriage, public transport will not come back to regain market share and we will probably see public transport trips in Australia continue to decline as a percentage of all trips taken.

The most promising avenue for decreasing fuel costs for working families and reducing congestion costs lies in new technological developments that will provide us with a cheaper and quicker method of communicating with each other. The transport substitute of telecommunications has allowed many of us not to visit banks (internet banking), libraries (Google), shops (internet sales), entertainment centres (broadband) and people (Facebook). Telecommuting saves journeys to work while salesmen's visits are abbreviated because of websites with details of every companies' wares. Reducing urban congestion and family fuel costs will probably depend on how quickly the broadband infrastructure network takes market share away from rail, road and airport networks.


Monday, July 28, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just offered a cynical take on arctic oil and alleged space visitors

Drought threatens water supply of more than a million Australians

I guess this is why it rains nearly every day where I am -- even though winter is supposed to be the dry season. We've just had a shower as I write this, in fact. Dam levels throughout Australia are in fact rising. The only adverse thing happening is that too much water is being drawn off the Murray/Darling river system for long-term sustainability. In 1901 (Yes. 1901, not 2001) the Murray was just a chain of waterholes so it is very variable naturally. For a laugh, compare the report below with the one immediately following it

More than a million people in Australia could face drinking water shortages if the country's seven-year drought does not break soon, a government report has warned. The bleak report into the future of the Murray-Darling river system found the situation had become "critical".

The system, which runs from Queensland in the country's north east to Victoria in the south, irrigates Australia's vast food bowl and drinking water to more than a million people. However, due to rising temperatures and a desperate lack of rain, inflows to the basin are at their lowest ever recorded levels. Climate change minister Penny Wong yesterday said the Murray Darling was "in real trouble". "We've had very low inflows, we've had a very dry June and the focus absolutely has to be critical human needs, that is the needs of the million-plus people who rely on the basin for drinking water," she said. "It just reminds us, yet again, the way in which this country is particularly vulnerable to climate change."

Australia is in the grip of the worst drought in a century, with water restrictions in place in most major cities and a forecast for more dry weather. The report said the parched Murray-Darling system should provide enough drinking water until the middle of next year. But the document, compiled by senior federal and state government officials, warned there could be difficulties supplying drinking water after that if rains did not arrive. "Work is continuing on contingency planning in order to protect critical human needs for 2009-10 should inflows remain at or below record minimums through winter," it said. "Governments would also need to consider how they would set aside water early to protect critical human needs for 2009-10."

More than 40 per cent of Australia's food comes from the Murray-Darling Basin. It would take years of above-average rainfall to return water levels in the basin to normal, but "the long dry" is expected to continue. A recent report predicted a tenfold increase in the frequency of heat waves as climate change continues to push up temperatures on the continent.


Brisbane's dams fill as the chill bites

(Brisbane is Australia's third-largest city)

WATER kept flowing into Brisbane's dams yesterday as the Somerset reservoir hit 89.19 per cent - the most it has held in the last seven years. Continuing showers and strong southwesterly winds brought chilly conditions to the southeast and border regions, with a minimum of 7C and a top of just 16C predicted for Brisbane today.

Minimum temperatures were below average over most of the state. Cooktown in the far north plummeted to 12C, which was six below normal, while Nambour on the Sunshine Coast was 6C (3C below average) and the Gold Coast dipped to 7C (5C below average). Queensland's coldest recorded temperature was at Stanthorpe, where temperatures dropped to -3C.

Weather Bureau forecaster Bryan Rolstone said it was difficult to say whether the cold snap would force temperatures to record-breaking levels. "But we're expecting strong blustery winds, showers, sleet and a possibility of small hail in some places which sounds more like Victorian than Queensland weather," Mr Rolstone said. Brisbane's record maximum low was 10.6C in 1938. Stanthorpe's coldest July day was in 1984 when the temperature managed only a maximum of 2.9C.

Weatherzone meteorologist Matt Pearce said there was a prospect of snow down to 900m in NSW and in Queensland's border regions. Rain was expected to clear early in the southeast today, although there remained the possibility of showers and thunder.

The aggregate water level in Somerset, North Pine and the huge Wivenhoe Dam was 40.53 per cent yesterday after five days of scattered falls. Dam managers hope it might hit 41 per cent by the end of the week. As with previous good flows, most of the water has come from the Stanley River catchment, part of which rises in the wet Sunshine Coast hinterland. SEQWater spokesman Mike Foster said North Pine was on 35.42 per cent and Wivenhoe 25.61 per cent. "It's not bad given this time last year we were on an aggregate 16.5 per cent," Mr Foster said.


NSW Ambulance staff dread return of boss

Vicious "Health" bureaucrats at work again. They seem to be as bad in NSW as they are in Qld.

The former boss of an ambulance station in western NSW is being returned there as an officer despite an external investigation largely substantiating more than 50 allegations of bullying and harassment made against him over the past 10 years. Several former officers at Wellington station have either resigned, transferred or gone on stress leave, saying they could no longer work there while Rodney Althofer, 63, was manager. The Herald understands a six-month external investigation by Kamira Stacey Consulting found more than 50 allegations against him were mostly substantiated.

Today marks the final hearing day of a parliamentary inquiry into the NSW Ambulance Service, which has been inundated with submissions on bullying and harassment and complaints about poor handling of grievances. Investigators interviewed about a dozen officers who had worked at Wellington for the report, which was completed midway through last year. However, the service has kept that report secret and did not act on the matter until last week. The chief executive of the service, Greg Rochford, has also refused to release to staff the service's response to the report.

The Herald spoke to seven former and serving Wellington ambulance officers, as well as the partners of two others, all of whom alleged bullying by Mr Althofer. Three alleged that he told them not to bother buying property in the area because he would run them out of town. The officers described Mr Althofer, a warrant officer in the navy for 20 years, as a "military-style", micromanaging authoritarian who screamed at, and publicly humiliated, staff. They are also furious at management for failing to deal with the problem for so long.

They were devastated to learn at a staff meeting on Tuesday that Mr Althofer would be returning within two weeks - although as an ambulance officer and not in his original job as station manager. They were told an external mediator would be available to work through any problems. One ambulance officer immediately went on stress leave upon hearing the news and another is seeking a transfer. There are only six full-time ambulance officers at the station.

An email from a former western division officer, sent to the parliamentary inquiry last month, said it was "one of the most investigated and documented accounts of bullying and harassment that I have seen in my experience". The email, which has been seen by the Herald, said "[The manager] has previously been stood down for harassment of staff over the years and has also been sent to anger management courses, this you will find in the [Kamira] report". The Herald understands the Kamira investigation was prompted after the service received three formal complaints of bullying in one week in late 2006 - two from Wellington officers and one from a doctor at the local hospital.

A former officer, who worked there for 18 months until mid-2000, said he went on workers' compensation due to stress from being bullied by Mr Althofer. The final straw was when Mr Althofer "chased me across the road yelling at me . in the main street of Wellington", he said. "They found that he needed to attend an anger management course and he refused to do it." Another former Wellington officer said Mr Althofer would hide behind trees near the station on his days off and check what time staff turned up for work.

Mr Althofer denies any bullying and harassment of staff. "I've always tried to get ambulance officers to do what they are supposed to do and because of the culture of the ambulance service they simply don't do what they're supposed to do. "They breach the code of conduct on a daily basis and all I ever did was to try and get people to do what they're supposed to do," he told the Herald. He said he offered to return as an ambulance officer, and not the manager, because of "all the stress of trying to manage people who don't want to do their job". "I was bullied and harassed," Mr Althofer said.

The service would not comment except to confirm there had been an investigation at Wellington "involving interpersonal dealings between colleagues".


Kevin Rudd fails as a nanny

He thought he could reduce the amount of alcohol young people drink! Ha!

AUSTRALIANS knocked back an extra shot of hard liquor for every man, woman and child the month after the alcopops tax was introduced. New figures showing an increase in hard liquor consumption following the tax are being used by the industry to demand the tax on ready-to-drink liquor be scrapped. Family First Senator Steve Fielding also claims the figures confirm his view the 70 per cent alcopops tax simply pushed drinkers into buying cheaper spirits.

The Liquor Merchant's Association of Australia, which collects sales data from across the nation, said between April (when the tax was introduced) and June there was a 46 per cent increase in the volume of alcohol sold in full-strength bottled spirits - the equivalent of an extra 48 million standard drinks. At the same time there was a reduction in ready-to-drink (RTD) alcopops to the tune of 27 million standard drinks. Australians had effectively consumed an extra 21 million shots of hard liquor in the wake of a tax designed to stop binge drinking, the association said.

Previous sales figures from April 2007 to June 2007 show there appears to be a seasonal uptake in harder spirits as the winter months come on. But the 2008 figures still show a dramatic increase in hard spirit consumption which Stephen Riden, information and research manager for the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, says are solid proof the RTD tax trial has failed. "It's just not working as a public health measure," he said. "The unintended and serious consequences of the tax are clear. "Far from reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, the tax has turned many RTD drinkers to drinking bottles of spirits at significantly higher alcohol content levels."

While Health Minister Nicola Roxon remains committed to the tax, Senator Fielding says the Government is clearly trying to dress up a revenue grab as a health measure, and it's not working. The Government's taskforce on binge drinking, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy, now wants to wipe out numerous inconsistencies across Australian jurisdictions affecting minors and alcohol. In some states for example restrictions on supplying alcohol to minors relate only to licensed premises, or to public venues and state penalties vary from $550 to $20,000. But Ms Roxon said there were no plans to introduce a British-style ban on under-21s buying alcohol from liquor stores and supermarkets.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

More diet nonsense

There is no basis for any of this in the double blind studies. It is all just attention-seeking behaviour based on epidemiological speculation. And the "low-fat=good" assumption underlying most of it is KNOWN TO BE FALSE. See here, here and here. As for the water myth, there is no basis in nephrology for that either. It's just an old wive's tale. And if the Australian diet is so unhealthy, how come Australians have exceptionally long lifespans? But who cares about evidence when you have "official" wisdom to guide you?

Only one in 10 adults drank enough water to maintain their health, a study of Australians' dietary habits has found. And many Aussies were failing to hit most targets set by dietitians, according to a new healthy eating "index". Melbourne scientists have devised a 15-step checklist - called the dietary guideline index - by combining the latest recommendations from health authorities. The DGI was designed to make healthy eating easy by using scores of between 0-150. People could use the index to rate themselves in 15 categories - including fruit, vegetable and fast-food intake - worth up to 10 points each.

And by applying the DGI to the most comprehensive survey of Australians' eating habits, research leader Dr Sarah McNaughton, from Deakin University, has exposed the nation's diet secrets. Dr McNaughton said women aged 50-64 were the healthiest eaters in the country - and men aged 18-29 the most likely to neglect their health. "If you score 150, that means your diet is pretty much perfect and nobody in the survey has a perfect diet," Dr McNaughton said. "Younger people, particularly men, tend to have less healthy diets. "That can be for a whole variety of reasons, but it's often because younger people take less time to cook for themselves."

Results published in The Journal of Nutrition showed 10 per cent of Australian men and 14 per cent of women were drinking enough fluids (low-calorie soft drinks were accepted in the guidelines). However, Dr McNaughton said the most concerning result was the "very low" vegetable consumption. Just 15 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women ate five serves a day.

More than half of Aussies were also eating too many foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar and not enough cereals and dairy. Women scraped over the line for daily fruit intake with 55 per cent eating the recommended two pieces, but only 46 per cent of men. Dr McNaughton said adults could improve their diet and enjoy better health if they identified their weaknesses using the DGI.


Pollies 'suffer mental problems'

Why am I not surprised?>

Many Australian politicians are suffering from mental health problems but are reluctant to seek help, New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa says. Mr Costa said a number of state parliamentary colleagues approached him about their mental health problems after he publicly revealed his battle with bipolar disorder in 2001. Bipolar is defined as a mental condition involving extreme mood swings. "Once the article (on his disorder) was written, I had people come up to me, independent politicians, and I won't name them, and they said: 'I read that article and I've got such and such a problem. What do you think?'," he told a Black Dog Institute function at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital today.

Mr Costa, who manages his disorder with medication, said he gave them advice and told them to seek professional help about their problems. He said many politicians with mental disorders were often unwilling to reveal them. "People are very reluctant in political life to come forward with their issues relating to mood disorders," he said. "The reason for that is politics is a contact sport where aggression and arguments are par for the course, and there is a temptation too great to use any weakness as part of an argument to deal with a policy issue."

Mr Costa said opponents to his stance on electricity privatisation in NSW had used his bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic depression, against him. "(They said) my views on this were characterised as being a function of my manic depression," he said. "You talk about stigmatism ... we have a long way to go, particularly in the realms of politics."

He said he wished more high-profile people would open up about their condition to help abolish the stigma attached to illnesses such as bipolar. "There is a tendency for many people to misassociate mood disorder with intellectual impairment, and I find that incredibly frustrating," he said. Mr Costa said he used to suffer badly from bipolar but had now found the right combination of medication to manage the condition. "I sought treatment. Anyone that seeks treatment for depression clearly has a bad case of depression. But the good news is that there are medicines, there are strategies," he said.

Mr Costa said his family had a history of mental illness. "My sister is a schizophrenic and my mother suffered from bipolar disorder," he told the audience. Mr Costa was at the Black Dog Institute, a facility dedicated to mental health disorders, to launch the book Managing Bipolar Disorder. Edited by psychologist Kerrie Eyers and University of NSW psychiatry professor Gordon Parker, the book is a collection of case studies and diary entries from people with bipolar who talk about their experiences in a light-hearted and non-clinical way.

Mr Costa said the book would be a welcome resource. "If we are going to get on top of this issue, particularly for our younger people, we need people who have suffered from mood disorders to come forward and tell their story and say that there are good treatment regimes for these problems," he said.


Rudd needs to stop diplo-babble and Bureaucratese

A TELLING exchange occurred between Kevin Rudd and an ABC journalist, Louise Yaxley, at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April. Yaxley asked Rudd if NATO leaders had changed the rules of engagement that applied to NATO soldiers. Rudd responded, "You mean RoEs." Yaxley replied, in a tone dripping with sarcasm, "Yes, I mean rules of engagement."

Prime ministers in the Westminster tradition have a duty to communicate (without dumbing down) a whole range of issues, especially the big ones, such as global warming. And that's where we have a problem with Chairman Kevin. Consider these gems from a joint press conference Rudd gave with European Commission president Jose Barroso in Brussels on April 2: "I'll reverse engineer and start at the third and move back to the first. On the question of security in the Asia-Pacific region, I think it's quite clear that if you look at the post-'45 history of East Asia that you see an absence of multilateral security mechanisms.

"What you saw even prior to the end of the Cold War here, of course, was the evolution of a series of confidence and security-building measures coming off the back of CSCE, OSCE and the Helsinki accords. There has to be a greater synergy between, let's call it our policy leadership in this, which has been focused so much, legitimately, on targets and global architecture, almost reverse-engineered back to the means by which you can quickly deliver outcomes, and on the demand side in our economy we're looking at potential advances in terms of 20 to 25 per cent range if you do this across the board. It all takes cost, but let me tell you it's probably the quickest lever you can pull given the challenges we face."

At a meeting of global heavies at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire three days later, Rudd repeated one of his rhetorical atrocities: the undefined acronym. The head-scratchers at the Grove were regaled with the EWS (early warning system), IFIs (international financial institutions), RTPs (rights to protect) and CCS (carbon capture and storage).

Now let's jump across the pond to Rudd's famous (or infamous) speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on April 20: "Seventh, it has timely deployed the ASEAN Regional Forum for the purpose of developing confidence and security-building measures across the region. The ARF has spent far too long as a regional talkfest. One practical area where we can begin building CSBMs is in the development under this ASEAN Regional Forum umbrella of a regional counter-disaster co-ordination authority, an Asia-Pacific disaster management organisation." (CSBMs, for you and me, are the aforementioned confidence and security-building measures.)

The Plain English Campaign in Britain each year awards a Foot in the Mouth award for the most baffling comment by a public figure and the Brookings speech of Chairman Kevin has been nominated, which must make all our hearts swell.

Rudd's other vices are nominalisations and the passive voice. In the jargon of linguistics, nominalisation means turning a verb into a verb plus noun combination, which makes for long sentences. Instead of saying "I discussed (verb)", the phrasing becomes "I undertook (verb) discussions (noun)". In the passive voice, a simple phrase such as "I love you" becomes "you are loved by me".

Consider the Prime Minister's interview with Chris Uhlmann on ABC radio's AM on June 27. Rudd averaged 21.7 words a sentence while Uhlmann used 14.4. (Tony Abbott has tracked Rudd speeches with sentences containing more than 30 words.) Rudd used passives 6 per cent of the time compared with Uhlmann's 4 per cent. On a readability index, Rudd clocked in at 10.1, Uhlmann at 7.1. Readability is a concept developed, primarily by US linguists, to determine the complexity of language. There are various versions: Flesch-Kincaid, FOG (frequency of gobbledegook), SMOG (simplified measure of gobbledegook). Most of them try to measure text difficulty in terms of how many years' education you need to understand it. The average reading age in the US is presumed to be seven or eight, with Australia not far behind. Also, recent research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development indicates that about one-fifth of adults in countries such as Australia have difficulty reading labels on medicine bottles and finding a plumber in a telephone directory. (The readability of the previous paragraph, by the way, was Flesch-Kincaid, 10.5; FOG, 15.5; and SMOG,13.6.)

So what? Well, even when we make allowances for the approximateness of such scores, Rudd's Brussels speech about synergy and architecture rates at Flesch-Kincaid, 18.5; FOG, 22.4; and SMOG, 15.2. That means that 50 per cent to 80 per cent of Australians would have difficulty understanding what their leader was saying.

To be fair, recent speeches by Rudd in parliament on mundane topics hit quite acceptable fours and eights. But therein lies the problem: Rudd's speech complexity varies with his audience and he seems to have difficulty in understanding just what an audience is. When Rudd speaks to select audiences in Brussels, he seems to think that he is operating under Chatham House rules, where what is said in the room stays in the room. Among chums in a think tank such as Brookings, he thinks everyone is conversant in dippospeak or tankese, and when he uses management buzzwords such as "low-hanging fruit" he does not realise that he has to speak to the electorate through the medium of journalists or, even worse, directly through cameras and microphones.

His prissy pedantry comes out when in interviews he uses words such as extant, disparate and trajectory. And his use of triplet phrases such as "responsible, clear, consultative", "calmly, coolly, methodically", and "it's difficult, it's hard, it's complex", does not have the climactic kick that was present in the speeches of Margaret Thatcher, who pioneered the technique (all quotes from the Uhlmann interview).

Rudd's non-verbal repertoire is too vast to canvass here, but there is a worrying consistency about it: the counting of arguments on the fingers; the hula-moving hands to emphasise a point, a gesture that often remains out of view on a bust camera shot; the crucifix of the two hands, especially the right one; the head tilt and the look down when making a point, a strange mix between a smarmy and unctuous vicar and a patronising and contemptuous lecturer.

As Barry Cohen has noted in these pages, Rudd is the logical culmination of a funnelling effect, a trend that began with Ben Chifley and John Curtin and continued through Bob Hawke. Once caucus had members from a wide range of professions. Now there is hardly one business person or farmer, but instead a plethora of apparatchiks, former research assistants and union bosses, all considerably younger.

Rudd has been a public servant for most of his career (with a short spell as a consultant on matters Chinese) and he speaks Chinese, bureaucratese and diplo-babble. If he is to cut through to the people, and not be a one-hit wonder or the victim of a Gillardista putsch, he must learn to talk to the people in language they understand.


Teachers strike over decaying government houses

The Torres Strait is a long way from the State capital and most of the people there are black, so who cares? -- apparently

Teachers living in leaking, mouldy and flea-infested houses could be pulled out of their schools for their own safety if a strike in the Torres Strait, Cape and Gulf scheduled to take place over the next two weeks is unsuccessful. Around 500 teachers from 28 schools will be involved in the 24-hour stop-work action to protest against the State Government's chronic neglect of teacher housing in remote areas.

Hundreds of reports of leaking roofs, electrical faults and mouldy living conditions have reached the Queensland Teachers' Union and it is a problem which president Steve Ryan said must be addressed swiftly and properly. "We've literally got teachers living in houses that are falling down, where doors are missing and broken, termites are taking over and up to one third of air-conditioning units are broken," Mr Ryan said. "If we cannot get the funds required to fix these uninhabitable properties - which the Auditor-General estimated to be around $37.2million - then we will be forced to take more drastic action and withdraw teachers from their schools. "Obviously this will adversely affect students and our teachers do not take these actions lightly, so this shows how huge the problem is."

Mr Ryan said he had hoped one-hour stop-work meetings held in April would force the state government to take notice of the situation but that the 2008/2009 Budget announced in June failed to deliver the funding levels required to provide adequate housing, falling short by $20.2million. "We cannot wait until next year's budget to get this funding. There is such a backlog of work to be carried out that by then these houses will have fallen down," Mr Ryan said. "Our plan is that the government takes this strike seriously and sees some sense."

A report by the Auditor-General's found that the sub-standard living conditions directly resulted in difficulties securing and retaining staff, consequently "affecting the ability to provide services in remote and regional areas".


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Two articles below but there are more -- e.g. here

Kevin Rudd's climate charade

It's just more of his renowned tokenism

The conjunction of the launches of ABC television's The Hollowmen and the Federal Government's response to climate change is spooky. The latter is starting to look a lot like the former, a "bold" response that will produce much activity but do little to address the problem or offend anyone too much. In public relations terms, this will make it a considerable success.

A few weeks ago, I suggested that the sort of prescriptions advocated by Ross Garnaut's draft report might harm the economy. But with the subsequent release of the Government's green paper by Senator Penny Wong, all of us - citizens and businesses - can sleep easy. There will be an emissions trading scheme, but, as some environmentalists have convincingly shown, it now looks like it will do little to reduce Australia's carbon emissions. The proposed measures are too modest, the exclusions and compensations too generous.

That's not to say there won't be a lot of talk and argument over the details: there will be enough marginal winners and losers for that. Indeed, the whole thing is a feast for the media and business lobbyists and parts of the legal and finance industries. But this activity should not be confused with reducing carbon emissions. The Government's policy is clear: do as much as is necessary to create the illusion of progress, but no more.

Not the least interesting thing about this is the shifting role of Professor Garnaut. He was brought onto the carbon train before the election to demonstrate Kevin Rudd's passionate commitment to fighting greenhouse emissions. But now Rudd is in government and Garnaut is pushing major action that might upset industry and voters, the professor is starting to look like an extremist. Before long, the Prime Minister will be able to position himself as the moderate and talk about saving us, not from climate change, but from Garnaut. It's a beautiful sidestep, in a technical sense, and one hopes the writers of The Hollowmen are paying close attention.

If the above seems a little cynical, consider two large pieces of circumstantial evidence for the insincerity of the Government's professed high concern for climate change. Kevin Rudd prides himself, perhaps above all else, on his respect for process in policy development. But in this case, good process is being ignored. Public discussion of the green paper will effectively stop in September, when submissions have to be lodged. Yet two of the key inputs into that discussion will not be available until October: Treasury's and Garnaut's calculations of the economics of climate change reduction. Professor Jeff Bennett, an economist at the Australian National University, has noted, "What that means is that the permit policy [already announced by the Government] is, at least to date, completely unjustified by any economic consideration of its benefits and costs." That doesn't sound like a Government genuinely committed to a logical and effective policy response.

Nor does the huge contradiction that exists between the Government's positions on climate change and immigration. Writing in the latest issue of People And Place, the demographer Bob Birrell points out that population is the factor over which government has by far the most control if it wants to slow down the increase in greenhouse emissions. The politics of reducing energy use significantly (for example, by making voters pay more for petrol) will generally defeat any government, but reducing immigration would be much easier. And yet net immigration is running at 180,000 a year, at which rate the population will rise to 31.6 million in 2050. The implications of this for Australia's carbon footprint are enormous, yet almost never discussed. Australians produce more greenhouse gases than any other nationality. Therefore on average, every immigrant, no matter where they come from, will increase their emissions by moving to Australia. Birrell notes there is a "dissociation between government aspiration and action", and he's not wrong.

We've seen this dissociation before. John Howard's government often used high rhetoric to proclaim its belief in the need to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the war in Iraq, a conflict of global importance. But our actual commitment to the great cause was (without any disrespect to those who did fight) embarrassingly slight. A reminder occurred this week with the publication of Running The War In Iraq (HarperCollins), a memoir by Australia's General Jim Molan, who spent a year as chief of operations of the allied forces in that unhappy country. At one point he reminds us there were 411 Australians out of a force of 160,000. At another he notes that the Americans have suffered about 4000 military fatalities. (Australia has suffered none.)

Molan told The 7.30 Report this week: "The Americans used to say [of Australia's modest involvement], 'if you're not here in Iraq to fight, what are you here for?"' The rules of engagement for our troops were, he said, "designed to minimise what the force did, the consequence of which was to keep the casualties down. And government makes that decision". In his book, Molan writes, "We in Australia luxuriate in what I describe as wars of choice and choice within wars: we choose the wars we will fight in, we choose the timing of our participation, . we choose the kind of operations we will conduct, and we choose when we come home."

The way things are unfolding, the war on carbon will be another war of choice. And it's the hollow men who make those choices.


Lonely voice of climate dissent declared valid

There is something odd about the ferocious amount of energy expended suppressing any dissent from orthodoxy on climate change. After all, the climate cataclysmists have won the war of public opinion - for now, at least - with polls, business, media and Government enthusiastically on board. So, if their case is so good, why try so fervently to extinguish other points of view? There is a disturbingly religious zeal in the attempts to silence critics and portray them as the moral equivalent of holocaust deniers.

Take the British Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, which aired on the ABC last year with an extraordinary post-show panel of debunkers assembled to denounce it. The one program which actually questioned the consensus on man's contribution to climate change, it has been singled out for condemnation and forensic dissection in a way no other program has, least of all Al Gore's error-riddled An Inconvenient Truth. This week, the British communications regulator, Ofcom, published a long report dealing with 265 complaints about perceived inaccuracy and unfairness in Swindle.

Despite crowing from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the ABC and others, Ofcom does not vindicate Swindle's attackers. In fact, while it declared itself unable to adjudicate on the finer points of climate science, it found the program did not mislead audiences "so as to cause harm or offence". Further, Ofcom defended the right of Channel 4 and the much-vilified producer Martin Durkin to "continue to explore controversial subject matter. While such programs can polarise opinion, they are essential to our understanding of the world around us and are amongst the most important content that broadcasters produce." Amen.

Ofcom also noted: "Although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate." It identified one factual error - a mislabelled axis of a temperature graph - which the program had already changed in later versions and which Ofcom described as "not of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence".

Ofcom nitpicked as hard as it could and Swindle emerged virtually unscathed. I wonder how a Four Corners episode would fare under such scrutiny. The two principal complainants, the oceanographer Carl Wunsch and Sir David King, Britain's former chief scientific adviser, were found to have been wronged - but only partially.

King claimed to have been misquoted by the atmospheric physicist Fred Singer, who told the program: "There will still be people who believe that this is the end of the world - particularly when you have, for example, the chief scientist of the UK telling people that by the end of the century the only habitable place on the Earth will be the Antarctic. And humanity may survive thanks to some breeding couples who moved to the Antarctic." Ofcom found King had not said the Antarctic would be the "only habitable place on Earth" but "the most habitable place on Earth". Big deal. However, he had not made the "breeding couples" comment, which was the invention of another cataclysmist, Sir James Lovelock.

As for Wunsch, Ofcom found the program's producers had not "sufficiently informed" him of its "polemic" nature, although they had told him their aim was to be sceptical and "to examine critically the notion that recent global warming is primarily caused by industrial emissions of [carbon dioxide]." In any case, after he complained, his interview was removed. Ofcom dismissed Wunsch's more serious complaint that his views on the "complicated" relationship between carbon dioxide and atmospheric temperature had been misrepresented. But it acknowledged "unfairness" to him in the way his comments were placed "in the context of a range of scientists who denied the scientific consensus about the anthropogenic causes of global warming".

Ofcom also dismissed all complaints about impartiality in most of the program dealing with science. But it found the final section on Africa lacked impartiality when it claimed Western government policies "seek to restrain industrial development [in the Third World] to reduce the production of carbon dioxide", thus restricting the availability of electricity in Africa and causing health problems.

As for the climate change panel's barrage of complaints, Ofcom found the program makers did not give the UN body adequate time to respond to allegations it was "politically driven"' and other claims, but the audience was not "materially misled so as to cause harm or offence". The Ofcom report (worth reading in full at is an embarrassment to the panel.

The fact is that, regardless of the definitive pronouncements made by politicians and economists, the science on global warming is far from finalised. Dr David Evans, a consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office for six years to 2005, is one of many insiders who have reversed earlier positions. "There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming," he wrote this month in The Australian.

Ultimately, the integrity of the scientific community will triumph, Evans has said. "The cause of global warming is an issue that falls into the realm of science, because it is falsifiable. No amount of human posturing will affect what the cause is. The cause just physically is there, and after sufficient research and time we will know what it is."

Until then, open debate is important. It is also wise to maintain a healthy suspicion of the zealots, who insist they have all the answers - and that Australia, which is responsible for 1 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, ought to wreck its economy to prove a point.



Two articles below:

Surgeons pulling out of pennypinching public hospital system

SURGEONS are pulling out of public hospitals' on-call rosters because of the "pathetic" pay - leaving patients waiting days for operations. Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president Ian Gough, himself a Queenslander, said Queensland surgeons were increasingly reluctant to be on-call because they felt under-valued - and that included pay issues.

Queensland surgeons say the issue is putting increasing pressure on public hospital beds and nursing staff because some patients, particularly those with trauma-related injuries, are having to wait longer for operations.

Professor Gough said that under Queensland Health's visiting medical officer agreement, the hourly on-call rate was between $7 and $11, depending on the frequency of on-call rostering. "During that time you may receive lots of telephone calls and have interrupted sleep. It has an effect on your family and social life," he said. "There has been a great deal of disenchantment among some surgeons and as a consequence, an unwillingness to continue to be on-call."

If a surgeon in Brisbane is called back to the hospital, the hourly rate increases to between $186 and $212 and relates to a doctor's seniority. Those working outside Brisbane receiver higher rates.

Professor Gough conceded that on-call surgeons were remunerated "reasonably well" when they were called back to hospital. However he said the overall on-call rates were insufficient incentive for many surgeons and called for a fee-for-service system to be considered. He said Queensland Health was relying on surgeons' altruism to be part of on-call rosters. "Surgeons don't have any incentive to be on-call other than their goodwill and wanting to care for the patients," Professor Gough said. "The money that's offered is actually very poor."

His comments were echoed by Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital trauma services director Cliff Pollard, who said that not paying surgeons sufficiently for being on-call was a false economy. "It's a big cost in terms of beds," he said. "Surgery can be delayed and patients spend longer in hospital. "We're not talking about time-critical patients, they get treated in Australia very well. "But with things like single limb fractures, you may have to wait sometimes a few days (to be operated on)."

An RACS spokeswoman said about 60 per cent of all surgeons in Australia operated only in the private sector. "The more who leave the public sector, the more pressure there is on the people who stay," she said.

Professor Gough raised the issue with Queensland Health reform and development division executive director Stephen Duckett at the RACS's annual Queensland branch meeting at Coolum recently. Professor Duckett accepted at the Sunshine Coast meeting that public hospital surgeons had "punishing" on-call rosters and said the pay issue was being examined. He said yesterday that Queensland Health did not have central data that reflected whether senior surgeons were pulling out of on-call work at public hospitals. Professor Duckett said Queensland Health was about to enter into enterprise bargaining with public hospital medical staff over pay rates. "Details of Queensland Health's position are not yet finalised," he said.


Some patients have to wait just to get on a hospital waiting list

More than 33,000 sick Victorians are waiting just to get on an official waiting list for treatment at public hospitals, the Opposition claims. They are in addition to almost 40,000 people already waiting for elective surgery on the State Government's official waiting lists. Documents obtained by the Opposition under Freedom of Information, and seen by the Herald Sun, show that in December last year 33,869 Victorians were waiting for an outpatient appointment. People must be assessed in hospital outpatient clinics before they can be put on a waiting list for surgery - meaning those who are yet to be assessed do not show up on the official elective-surgery waiting lists.

Liberal health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said public hospitals were being forced to manipulate waiting lists to avoid being penalised by the Government. "There are literally tens of thousands of patients languishing on the Government's secret outpatient waiting lists and thousands more who don't have appointments who are waiting to get on to these lists to see a doctor," she said. "We are now in the unconscionable position of having people waiting to get on to these lists in order to join the queue for elective surgery. In many cases these people are waiting years." The documents show that the "secret waiting list" grew by 8722 patients in just three months leading up to December 2007.


Stupid "safety" laws stop charity handing out food leftovers

FRESH food that could be redistributed to charities overwhelmed by needy families will continue to be wasted because of a state law. OzHarvest, a charity that operates food rescue programs in NSW and ACT, wants to expand into Brisbane but can't until the Civil Liabilities Act 1995 is amended to protect them from potential legal action. Business development manager Julie Claridge said the law - also known colloquially as the Good Samaritan Law - protects people who donate food to community organisations but does not cover OzHarvest as the distributor.

Ms Claridge said she had been in talks with the Department of Justice since January but would be increasing pressure with the aim to be in Brisbane by early next year. "We've had a favourable response and understand (the amendment) should go ahead, it's just a matter of when," she said.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Kerry Shine said the matter was still being considered but could not say when it might be resolved.

Victoria was the first state to introduce the provision in 2002, followed by NSW, and then Tasmania in July this year. SA and the ACT introduced Bills last month, which were expected to be passed soon.

Ms Claridge said an "incredible amount" of surplus food was available in capital cities that was otherwise destined for land fill and that could benefit disadvantaged people. "In Sydney we tap into such a small amount - just 1 per cent of the food that would be thrown away, we use to supply 140 charities," she said. "After World Youth Day, we collected 3000kg of food - apples, mandarins, lunch packs, fruit buns and pre-prepared meals like chicken tikka masala, that would otherwise have been dumped."

OzHarvest has five refrigerated vans in Sydney that collect excess fresh food daily from retail outlets, corporate offices, caterers and function centres, and redistributes it to charities such as youth shelters, women's refuges and those helping the homeless. An average of 75,000 meals are delivered each month.

Ms Claridge said the organisation hoped to start with one van and team with a community service in Brisbane, using their infrastructure and contacts to target areas of need.


Friday, July 25, 2008


Three current articles below

Conservative leader gets support on climate change policy

A COHORT of Queensland climate change sceptics will be Liberal leader Brendan Nelson's strongest allies next week. And the Coalition boss will need their help if he wants to back away from a 2012 deadline for emission trading. Senator Barnaby Joyce is the most forthright of the MPs growing increasingly hostile to an emissions trading scheme and claiming the jury is still out on the science.

National Party leader Warren Truss also appears to be siding with former Liberal Cabinet minister Kevin Andrews - a strong sceptic who is urging Dr Nelson to wait until other major polluters show their hand before settling on an ETS date.

Ron Boswell, Bruce Scott and veteran Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane have all consistently expressed reservations about climate change, while Liberals such as Andrew Laming don't want to comment on the issue until after next week's meeting.

But as federal Opposition frontbencher Joe Hockey was yesterday insisting, the Coalition wouldn't be forced into declaring an ETS date, Senator Joyce was calling for rationality to return to an issue with fundamentalist religious overtones. "And Garnaut has suddenly appeared as some sort of high priest," he said of the author of a draft report on an ETS scheme, Ross Garnaut. "Those who question are immediately attacked. It's all starting to appear a little Spanish Inquisitionish."

Senator Joyce said Labor had appeared to fall for a self-indulgent conceit in committing to a 2010 deadline. "And that is that the rest of the world cares what Australia is doing on the issue," he said. "Let's be honest here, the rest of the world doesn't give a toss what we're doing. They're not walking around Washington discussing an Australian ETS."

Senator Boswell said he and many of his colleagues wanted serious scientific proof of climate change before they started altering economic fundamentals to incorporate an ETS. "We're practical - we want to know what we're getting for our money," he said. Mr Truss has said any Australian scheme should move ahead hand-in-hand with other polluters. Dr Nelson had indicated earlier this month Australia should not move until other big polluters acted. But he modified his position to the 2012 deadline, which is supported by Opposition Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull and Environment spokesman Greg Hunt. Mr Hockey said the Coalition could not be expected to commit to a specific date until the Federal Government released more information.


Huge cost of Rudd's Green dream

FOUR out of five power stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, both coal-fired power stations in South Australia and several generators in NSW and Queensland could close down under an emissions trading regime designed to meet even a modest greenhouse reduction target. New modelling for the electricity industry finds that Australia could achieve cuts of 10 or 20 per cent in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 2000 levels - but only after a massive upheaval in the energy sector. Even the lower target of a 10 per cent cut would push the price of carbon emissions to levels that would close down 15 per cent of the nation's electricity generating capacity on the east coast and require $33billion in new investment in replacement clean energy generation, such as wind, solar, combined cycle gas turbine and geothermal power.

A 10per cent reduction target would result in a carbon price rising to $45 a tonne by 2020, the modelling found, pushing domestic power bills up by 24per cent, or an average of $250 a year. A 20per cent target would take the carbon price to $55 a tonne and push power bills up by 28per cent. Under an ETS, companies and industries that could not meet emissions-reduction targets - and were not exempt - would be forced to buy permits to continue polluting. Labor wants to create an ETS by 2010 but has not yet set the emissions targets that will underpin it.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia says the modelling, which it commissioned from analysis firm ACIL Tasman, proves the need for the Government to support players in the energy sector because it asks them to finance billions of dollars in new investment at the same time as government decision-making means existing plants are closed down early. "If the Government goes down this path, then it is vital that it offers support to recognise the impact on asset values so that investors can make new investments in cleaner generating capacity with confidence," ESAA chief executive Brad Page said.

The Government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, argued against any compensation to the electricity sector under an ETS. But the Government's green paper on an ETS, released last week, acknowledged the need for "a limited amount of direct assistance to existing coal-fired electricity generators to ameliorate the risk of adversely affecting the investment environment". The green paper says it would deliver this assistance through a new fund - called the Electricity Sector Adjustment Scheme - but gives no indication of how much money could be set aside in it. It also promises "structural adjustment" money to help workers and communities in hard-hit regions.

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd reassured the LNG industry that the ETS would not threaten billions of dollars in new investments in the sector, saying he was "confident there is a way forward".

The Government has announced a long-term target of a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2050, but it is waiting for detailed Treasury modelling before committing to an interim target for 2020. A 10 per cent cut would be at the lower end of expectations for a 2020 target, even taking into account government assurances that an ETS will be brought in gently.

The ESAA modelling confirms Victoria's Latrobe Valley will be by far the hardest hit by the new carbon price, with the Loy Yang B, Hazelwood, Yallourn and Morwell power stations likely to close and only the Loy Yang A to continue in operation. South Australia would lose both its coal-fired power stations - Playford and Northern. NSW, which is in the process of trying to privatise its electricity generation, would lose Redbank in the Hunter Valley, with Lidell under threat if the emissions-reduction target was set at 20 per cent. Queensland would lose the Collinsville station near Mackay, Callide B near Biloela and, under the 20 per cent target, also Comalco's Gladstone plant.

The modelling also shows that the wholesale price of power would rise steeply to meet the 10 per cent target, with the increased costs varying greatly between states depending on the extent to which they have to rebuild their generating capacity. In Tasmania, with its hydro generation capacity, the wholesale power price is predicted to increase by 25 per cent, but in Victoria the hikes could be up to 55 per cent, under a 10 per cent reduction. In South Australia prices would rise 35 per cent, Queensland by 50 per cent and NSW by 52 per cent.

The ESSA modelling says the federal Government will also need to invest at least $4.5billion in extra transmission lines to remote locations, where wind and geothermal power is generated, and in new gas pipelines.


Immigration must be cut to fight climate change - uni study

This is going to perplex Kevvy. He likes both immigration AND environmentalism

IMMIGRATION must be slashed if Australia has any chance of seriously tackling climate change, says a Monash University study. The report said Australia's high population growth would be a major driver of greenhouse emissions, and would counter tough government measures to reduce carbon output, The Herald Sun reports. But the Rudd Government and its climate adviser Ross Garnaut were ignoring the population issue at their peril, said the study, entitled Labor's Greenhouse Aspirations, by Monash's Centre for Population and Urban Research.

The nation's migrant intake is at record levels, with the Government recently announcing an increase of 37,500 places for 2008-09. Given current migration and fertility rates, the population will increase by at least 10 million to 31.6 million by 2050.

Monash researchers Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy used computer modelling to predict the effect of population and economic growth on greenhouse emissions. If no carbon trading scheme is introduced, Australian emissions will reach 797 million tonnes - or four times Labor's target - by 2050, the researchers found. Emissions would only fall to 502 million tonnes if the nation managed to cut carbon intensity levels by one per cent a year under a tough cap and trade scheme.

"The problem with radical decarbonisation proposals is the limited political feasibility of these measures," the authors said. "It is hard to understand why the population driver has been ignored in the recent debate, including the work of the Garnaut climate change review." The authors said that net migration would contribute to most of the 50 per cent increase in Australia's population over the next 40 years. "Like all Australians they'll be living at twice the standard of living of current residents if the Government's predictions for per capita economic growth are correct," they said. "Clearly, it's not possible to achieve the Government's target of 60 per cent reduction in emissions at the same time we add an extra 10 million people living at twice the current income level."

The authors called for immigration to be slashed, and the population stabilised at about 22 million by 2050. Prof Garnaut has predicted the population will reach 47 million by 2100. The Monash report, which appeares in the latest issue of university journal People and Place, will be released today.


Men too afraid to teach

WHERE have all the male school teachers gone? Figures obtained by The Bulletin reveal there has been a consistent decline in male teachers across the Gold Coast region, with females outnumbering males by almost four to one in the classroom. Poor salary and a negative perception of the industry has been blamed for the drop in the number of males taking up teaching.

Since 2003, there has been nearly a 2 per cent decrease in the number of full-time male state school teachers -- from 29.1 per cent to 27.2 per cent. But figures reveal males still dominate the hierarchy in teaching with just 53 female state school principals in the south coast region compared with 80 males.

Queensland Teachers Union President Steve Ryan highlighted two main reasons for the dearth of male teachers. "The level of salary to attract particularly males to the teaching workforce is very low," he said. "Males tend to look at engineering and computer work because there is more money." Mr Ryan said the salary for a beginner teacher was about $48,000 and ranged up to $72,000 for senior teachers.

"Then you've got a principal of large school of about 1000 kids who would be on something like $100,000 with probably more than 150 staff. "The thing is, if you were running a company of that size you'd be on much more."

Mr Ryan said the other issue was that male teachers felt 'very vulnerable'. "The ongoing negative reports and emphasis on pedophiles and sexual assaults gives the job a bad name," he said. "For males there's a problem if a little Grade 1 kid comes up and grabs them on the leg. "It's got to be about changing the attractiveness of the profession and the perception, because right now people think you can't be a male in the teaching profession because allegations can be made against you."

Mr Ryan said increases in the quality of people entering the teaching profession was an essential step to changing the industry's image. "We'd like to see more of the higher OP people going through because it's important to have good quality teachers," he said. "We need to have this perception that this is a rewarding career."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the department actively promoted teaching, particularly for primary schools where there were fewer male teachers. "Positive male teacher role models are very important, both in terms of educational and social impacts and in demonstrating to our students that teaching is a vital and rewarding profession," she said. "The issue of male teachers requires particular attention and is one of the challenges facing the department."

Education Queensland said the proportion of male primary school teachers was about 18 per cent, about 40 per cent at secondary schools and 19 per cent in special education. The gender breakdown of staff in all of the classified teaching positions in the south coast region including principals, deputy principals, heads of department, heads of special education services and heads of curriculum is 440 female compared to 267 male.

In a bid to increase male teacher numbers, the department instigated a Male Teachers' Strategy which it conducted between 2002 and 2005. The department said Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre data indicated an improvement in the number of males seeking teaching qualifications. "Since 2002, the number of males enrolling in an education course has increased significantly by 365 (49.8 per cent)," said the spokeswoman. But local universities enrolments do not reflect this figure. Bond University reported nine males and 31 females were currently enrolled in education courses. At Griffith University there are 1082 males out of 4205 students studying education this year.


Cairns: War hero's tragic wait

Insufficient capacity for emergencies set aside. Cairns has lots of ambulances but most were acting as glorified taxis. Sending one down the mountain range from far-away Kuranda is absurd

A World War II Digger had to wait more than two hours for an ambulance the day he died this week. Changi prison camp survivor Bob Mutton, who lived in the city on Sheridan St, endured a two-hour-and-five-minute wait on Monday while he struggled to breathe. He died hours after finally arriving at Cairns Base Hospital.

Stretched to the limit, the Queensland Ambulance Service dispatched a vehicle from Kuranda, 25km northwest of Cairns, after Mr Mutton's first ambulance was diverted to a "higher priority case" of a man having a seizure. It took 54 minutes for the first ambulance to be dispatched to 88-year-old Mr Mutton. The crew was then diverted four minutes into the job. After another 71 minutes, the nearest available ambulance arrived from Kuranda.

"We're appalled . to have to wait more than two hours for an ambulance can't be acceptable," an upset friend, who did not want to be named, said yesterday. "The sort of duress Bob would have been under waiting all that time doesn't bear thinking about. "This man served his country (and) spent three and half years in Changi prisoner of war camp. He paid his taxes right up to the end and he gets treated like this."

Queensland Ambulance Service assistant commissioner Peter Cahill yesterday confirmed the long wait, blaming it on the number of ambulances delivering patients to Cairns Base Hospital on Monday morning. "The remaining ambulances in the region were dealing with higher priority call-outs," Mr Cahill said. "An ambulance was unable to be dispatched until 11.38am. However, four minutes later this ambulance was diverted to a higher priority case."

Mr Mutton's doctor rang the Far Northern Ambulance's communications centre on a patient transport line at 10.44am, saying Mr Mutton was "frail, delirious, with laboured breathing". A worried friend rang the ambulance about 45 minutes later, saying Mr Mutton still had "rather rattly breathing" and asking when help would come. Mr Cahill said the Kuranda ambulance had to be stood down from another job to finally get to Mr Mutton.

Disgusted friends said their mate had been "pretty crook". "We'll never know whether a quicker ambulance would have saved him," one friend said. "But we know he wasn't treated right. And we'd hate for someone else and someone else's friends and family to go through that." Cairns RSL sub-branch president Peter Turner described the long wait as unacceptable. "It upsets me that this would happen to anyone, veteran or no veteran," Mr Turner said. "Delays like that are a huge concern."


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Union voices fears on carbon trade

AUSTRALIA'S biggest blue-collar union has raised concerns about the Rudd Government introducing a carbon emissions trading system without considering the likelihood of other nations lowering their emissions. The 130,000-strong Australian Workers Union yesterday cast doubt on Kevin Rudd's "go-it-alone" strategy, after convening a special meeting with executives from high-emitting companies in Sydney to canvass a joint approach to climate change policy.

AWU secretary Paul Howes said his union remained deeply worried about the impact of an emissions trading scheme on local jobs if the response of companies facing financial penalties under a carbon reduction scheme was to shift their operations offshore. Mr Howes said any scheme introduced for Australia should provide a special place for workers, even allowing valuable carbon permits to transfer to them if they were left unemployed after companies quit Australia. He said the union regarded its proposal as "carbon insurance" to allow displaced workers to sell permits to provide economic support or to be retrained for other occupations.

The AWU and its Queensland patriarch, Bill Ludwig, have provided key political support to Treasurer Wayne Swan over many years. Mr Rudd, who also draws his support from Queensland, will be keen to maintain the union's co-operation as well.

The union is worried about an arbitrary deadline of 2010 under Mr Rudd's policy for the introduction of a carbon trading system. While the union accepts an overall need to tackle carbon leakage and is careful not to directly criticise the Government at this stage, the AWU believes any Australian scheme must be compared with the international response. Of particular concern is the position of China, where carbon emissions are expected to jump from 19per cent to 37 per cent of global output by 2030 as a product of high economic growth.

In an official response to the Rudd Government's green paper on carbon reduction released last week, a position paper issued yesterday by Mr Howes urges the Rudd Government to "harness major emitters such as China" and only proceed with more ambitious carbon reduction targets in co-operation with other nations.

The AWU says it wants the Rudd Government to address concerns as a priority, and pointedly questions the purpose of proceeding and how emissions can be reduced globally if other nations do not take part. "No assessment has been made on how to (achieve), and the likelihood of achieving, a binding international agreement on lower carbon emissions including the major developing emitter nations, when that is precisely what is required to lower global emissions, whether or not an (emissions trading scheme) is implemented in Australia. "What are the strategies for engaging with China in particular on these issues?"

Mr Howes yesterday met business executives from exposed companies in steel, airlines, petrol refineries, cement, aluminium, plastics and packaging, in what is hoped to become a co-ordinated approach. Company executives leaving the AWU's headquarters were tight-lipped about discussions, but sources told The Australian they were deeply worried about the impact of a carbon trading system for businesses that were high emitters.

Mr Howes said afterwards his union had broad support for an emissions trading scheme, but was worried about the impact on trade-exposed and emissions-intensive industries. The experience of carbon schemes in the European Union, he said, showed that some companies took their free permits and still decided to operate offshore. No companies yesterday indicated plans to move offshore, but they also gave no undertakings.


New Zealand a 'giant transit lounge'

New Zealand has been described as a "giant transit lounge" after an analysis showed many of its immigrants ended up moving to Australia. Nearly 20 per cent of the 37,000 New Zealanders who crossed the Tasman last year intending to stay in Australia permanently or for at least a year were born outside New Zealand, the Dominion Post has reported. In 2003 the number of New Zealand citizens born overseas moving to live in Australia was 4,187, but this rose to 7,159 last year, the newspaper reported.

New Zealand has long been suspected of providing "back-door entry" to Australia because it has less strict immigration criteria and most Kiwis can visit, live and work in Australia without needing to apply ahead for a visa. Most of the people who last year moved to Australia after emigrating to New Zealand were born in South Africa (871) followed by India (696) and England (678).

New Zealand's Revenue Minister Peter Dunne, who leads the United Future political party, has described his country as a "giant transit lounge". "Our immigration and resettlement policy is not effectively encouraging people to make long-term commitments," he told the newspaper.

A spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship did not wish to comment. "Foreign policy is not a matter for this department,'' he said.


The NSW ambulance disgrace continues

Government bureaucrats running a health service are not only a disaster; Some of them are downright nasty -- as we see below:

Some ambulance officers had resorted to getting apprehended violence orders against colleagues because management had dealt so poorly with allegations of bullying and harassment, a parliamentary inquiry was told yesterday. Officials of the Health Services Union said members had no confidence in how the NSW Ambulance Service handled grievances. Some even accused it of being so aggressive towards complainants that it was itself harassing them.

The union officials were giving evidence at the inquiry into the management and operations of the service, which has been inundated with submissions about bullying, harassment and inadequate handling of complaints. The union's industrial manager, Dennis Ravlich, told the inquiry that some officers had been "reduced to seeking AVOs on an ambulance station".

Outside the inquiry, Mr Ravlich told the Herald he knew of "at least three or four" officers who had taken out AVOs against colleagues at their stations in the past five years because they felt so frustrated by a lack of action by management. "It's difficult to comprehend that the workplace had become that dysfunctional," he said. Another union official, Raymond Tait, told the inquiry that an eight-year complaint had only just been concluded but was now the subject of an unfair dismissal action before the Industrial Relations Commission. He told the Herald a complainant had been unfairly sacked last month over an unrelated matter.

Mr Tait said the service had kept secret its 2006 report into the eight-year-old complaint of alleged bullying. The complainant could only read the document but not keep a copy of it. And there was a condition that the person did not reveal its contents.

Mr Tait had told the inquiry earlier that the service's professional standards and conduct unit was "judge, jury and executioner" and rejected too many complaints, hoping they would just go away. The inquiry has received several submissions criticising the unit. It has been called an "absolute joke", likened to the NSW Supreme Court in terms of time delays, and referred to as "pathetic standards and cover up".

Mr Ravlich told the inquiry he was unsure whether bullying and harassment were more prevalent than in other comparable organisations. But he said that in dealing with complainants, the unit took "a rather aggressive approach towards staff . almost to the point of being harassing itself". In other evidence, the union told the inquiry it was not unusual for ambulance officers to work up to 14 hours without a meal break.

The officers' appearance before the committee followed a mass demonstration of more than 200 ambulance staff and paramedics who marched through Martin Place to Parliament House. The protesters demanded the State Government employ another 300 paramedics to ease pressure on staff. One officer at the rally, Warren Boon, of Camden station, said that in 2006-07, NSW ambulance staff had dealt with 1,052,000 cases. "The workload has gone from intense to nigh impossible," he said. "Fatigue is a chronic problem for staff and the shortage is affecting services to the public." He cited a recent incident in which he narrowly saved a cardiac arrest patient. "But if it had occurred any time in the previous six weeks, he would have probably died because of a lack of resources," Mr Boon said.

Ambulance officers were also having to work overtime to boost their modest salaries, he said, which were between $900 and $1000 a week for staff with 15 years' service.


Fire engines sent to cover for ambulances

FIRE engines are being forced to respond almost daily to ambulance call-outs with 250 assigned in the past year, according to Emergency Services. Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said 250 fire-engines were sent to triple-0 ambulance calls last financial year. Firefighters provided first aid or CPR at 208 of the cases while the remaining 42 cases involved assisting invalids.

Mr Roberts said fire service crews were not used as automatic first responders in ambulance call-outs. He said the cases represented only 0.4 per cent of all fire call-outs. "The reality is, however, that they are very often the first on scene where people have been injured," he said.

The figures were revealed in a parliamentary estimates hearing under questioning from Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone. Mr Malone said every Queenslander paying the $100-a-year ambulance levy deserved to see a Queensland Ambulance Service staffer if they called for medical assistance.


Rudd has a sense of humour

KEVIN Rudd gave us both faces of last year's election campaign yesterday -- the feel-good story of a successful appeal for political change, and the blooper tape as well.

Among the latter, the Prime Minister singled out: a dog that deposited its "very significant canine calling card" on stage during a campaign function in Adelaide; a blocked toilet on the press plane during a flight from Mackay to Perth; the lights going out in Townsville during a visit to a solar-powered school; and, most memorably, the elderly, wheelchair-bound woman in a Brisbane shopping mall who put a strange request to the would-be PM.

"She invited me to come close and put my hand on her fulsome bosom, only to reveal that to be the nesting place of her favourite pet marsupial," Mr Rudd said. "It was a terrified sugar-glider that obviously felt it had been trapped in a ravine somewhere in the Himalayas."

Mr Rudd was speaking in Sydney at the launch of Inside Kevin 07, a book about the federal election campaign by Christine Jackman, a senior writer with The Australian.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rudd's nutty climate scheme knocked on the head

The conservatives seem to have taken seriously the advice given to them the day before by the widely-read Andrew Bolt -- See immediately following the article below. Rudd's problem now is that the Greenies think his scheme is too little so they won't back it and the conservatives think it is too much so they won't back it -- in which case the scheme cannot get through the Senate

Kevin Rudd faces a delay in the introduction of his carbon emissions trading system until after the next election, with Brendan Nelson vowing last night that the Coalition will not accept a start-up date before "2011 at the earliest". The Opposition Leader told The Australian that the Prime Minister's plan to begin emissions trading in July 2010 was a threat to the economy and the Coalition would reject legislation allowing trading until it was clear whether China and the US would join a global pact to reduce their emissions. International talks aimed at creating a pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol on emissions reduction will not be completed until late next year following a meeting in Copenhagen.

Dr Nelson's warning came ahead of a meeting in Sydney today of a coalition of Australia's biggest exporters and the powerful Australian Workers Union aimed at considering alternatives to the Government's plans to address climate change, detailed in a green paper released last week. Today's AWU Climate Change Roundtable was convened by the union's national secretary, Paul Howes, and will include representatives of the LNG, cement and aluminium industries.

A growing chorus of exposed industries - including airlines, petrol refiners, LNG exporters, cement manufacturers and aluminium smelters - has voiced concerns in recent days that billions of dollars of investment risk being lost overseas. Their concerns tally with AWU fears that thousands of jobs would be lost on the tide of outgoing investment.

In a letter obtained by The Australian inviting employers to today's roundtable, Mr Howes says participation would serve to inform the commonwealth's final policy on the ETS. Opposition resources spokesman David Johnston also widened the gap between the major parties yesterday by insisting the LNG industry be offered free permits under the ETS.

Dr Nelson's comments on the timing of the introduction of emissions trading mean Mr Rudd faces the choice of agreeing to a delay or negotiating with the Greens for Senate approval for his plan. Government sources have made it clear Mr Rudd sees little chance of compromise with the Greens, who want his $500 million taxpayer-funded investment to research clean coal technologies scrapped.

Last night, Dr Nelson said there was no room for "extreme positions on either side" of the climate debate. "If Mr Rudd wishes to be saved from himself, I am here to help," he said. "He is proposing to bring legislation into the parliament before the Copenhagen meeting even occurs, which will determine what sort of shape the global response will take from 2012."

Dr Nelson said it was possible the Opposition would back emissions trading legislation with "responsible amendments". But his starting point was the absolute conviction that Australia should not embrace action that could damage its economy without knowing whether big emitters like China, the US and India would join a new global emissions reduction pact. "(Mr Rudd is) determined to do this from 2010 from my view without having due regard for the economic consequences of what he is about to do," Dr Nelson said.

"Mr Rudd is proposing to impose on Australia in about two years' time an emissions trading scheme which is still poorly developed. The economic assumptions underwriting it are yet to be developed, let alone tested, in an Australia in a deteriorating economic climate." Insisting the actions of the US, China and India were "the main game", he also said the Coalition wanted a guarantee that Mr Rudd's promised reductions in fuel excise to make up for increases in fuel prices continue indefinitely, not be reviewed after three years, as was the Government's proposal.

Mr Howes, who yesterday declined to comment on the AWU-convened meeting, has previously warned the Government's goal of having an ETS in place by 2010 would destroy local jobs. "The roundtable will bring together senior executives from a range of industries and peak industry organisations in the trade-exposed emissions intensive sector of the Australian economy that have a stake in the sector's future under an emissions trading scheme," Mr Howes wrote in his letter.

The Australian Aluminium Council, the Cement Industry Federation and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association confirmed yesterday they and some of their member organisations would attend the meeting. AAC chief Ron Knapp said he would be raising the "significant impact of the ETS on the economy and employment in this country". "The ETS doesn't change future global aluminium production expectations; it just changes the address of smelters and that's to the detriment of Australia."

CIF chief executive Robyn Bain said she would attend with representatives from member companies Cement Australia and Adelaide Brighton. "We're all in agreeance that the emissions trading scheme needs to deal with carbon reduction but ensure that industry - particularly manufacturing in Australia - is kept and has the ability to grow."

APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said the ETS meant Australia's LNG industry and its "capacity for assisting the world move to a lower greenhouse future will be seriously compromised and that means thousands and thousands of jobs - existing and new - will also be at risk".

Senator Johnston yesterday said the Opposition front bench would agree on Tuesday that LNG was a clean transitional fossil fuel and deserved free permits, despite falling outside the threshold for compensation set down by the Rudd Government in its emissions trading green paper. The front bench is "not going to take very much persuading", he said. "The alternative is to do what the Government is doing, which is to effectively say to the LNG industry, 'You should go and develop somewhere else where you don't have a carbon price ripping at your profitability'."

The evolving Coalition position widens the differences between the Coalition and the Rudd Government as Labor seeks Coalition support for its emissions trading regime in the Senate. But some in the Coalition believe it should differentiate itself from the Government even further.

Labor has said it understands the LNG industry's concerns and will talk to LNG producers before it reaches a final position on its scheme. But the Government is adamant that it cannot compensate all trade-exposed industries, or deliver full compensation to those it does help, because this would impose an intolerable burden on other sectors of the economy.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said government assistance to industry would have to be gradually reduced over time. "To do otherwise would be economically irresponsible - it would compromise Australia's efforts to reduce carbon pollution and place more of the burden on other parts of the economy," Senator Wong said after attending a meeting in Sydney to discuss the Government's white paper.

Also yesterday, Wayne Swan declared his pledge to use "every cent" in revenue raised through the ETS to help assist households and business would continue for the life of the Rudd Government.


If Michael Short can doubt, so can the Liberal Party

By Andrew Bolt

Michael Short, business editor of The Age, continues his assault on the warming evangelicals running the rest of his paper by publishing yet another article (this one by Professor Geoffrey Kearsley) finally telling Age readers the truth about global warming - that it stopped a decade ago:
There is much more yet to learn. My point is this: It may well be that human activity is indeed changing the climate, at least in part, but there is an increasing body of science that says that the sun may have a greater role. If it does have, then global warming is likely to stop, as it appears to have done since 1998, and if the current sunspot cycle fails to ignite, then cooling, possibly rapid and severe cooling, may eventuate. The next five years will tell us a great deal. In these circumstances, we should wait and see.

Short's campaign could prove critical to Kevin Rudd's future. Age readers are unlikely to have ever heard this heresy before, and will now be told it's OK to doubt. What's more, Short is clearly showing the Fairfax bosses what a real editor committed to restoring The Age's long-dead reputation for open debate would look like. He has put himself in the running to take over from editor Andrew Jaspan, a global warming fanatic who has tried instead to suppress debate and has just fired the only conservative columnist (contributer Jon Roskam) on the grounds that he's too well exposed. If Short replaces Jaspan and takes The Age off the global warming bandwagon, already being quietly deserted by The Australian, Rudd's hopes of marginalising sceptical scientists and inconvenient truths will be destroyed. The ABC can't sell Rudd's religion by itself.

But you see, of course, one last hurdle. The Liberals still do not have the courage of their lack of conviction in man-made global warming. Too scared by the media, they are going along with Rudd's insane emissions trading scheme and the global warming bandwagon. They are refusing to attack Rudd on his weakest spot. They will thus share with him the dishonor of having being conned by bad science and salvation-seekers. They will never be able to say: We warned you. We were right, and Labor once more wrong.

In short, they lack the courage of Michael Short. And they fail to heed this warning in Kearsley's article, which I repeat: The next five years will tell us a great deal. In these circumstances, we should wait and see.

Liberal MPs: There has been no warming for a decade. Dare to doubt the theory. Dare to wait and weigh the fresh science. Do not let Rudd drag you off the cliff with him.


Even the ABC is starting to give air to the sceptics it tried so hard to ignore or ridicule. Here is ABC Adelaide 891 interviewing Dr David Evans, who once helped the Australian Greenhouse Office build models predicting terrible warming:
The case that carbon emissions cause global warming is now entirely theoretical and it's all driven by computer models and computer models and theory aren't evidence. But it's worse than that - something else happened. By 2006 we had a new result. The signature of increased greenhouse warming is missing, and therefore, we know that carbon emissions aren't the main cause of the recent global warming.

(The satellites are) telling us the temperatures have been flat or slightly down since 2001.

I think we should do a lot further research on climate, on alternate energies, on clean coal; and we should probably plan an emissions trading scheme, but not implement it. I think instead we should wait to see what the big countries do. Wait to see what climate research produces and wait to see whether temperatures resume going up.

I would like the press and the Opposition to ... simply ask Penny Wong, as the relevant Minister - to ask - to show the evidence that carbon emissions cause global warming. We're about to change our economy radically so as to de-carbonise it. So, obviously, the onus is on the people who wish to do that, to say, well, why? Show us the evidence. But I think you'll find there is none; there'd be a bit of an embarrassed silence.


Public hospital emergency power fails

This is pretty disgraceful. Emergency systems should be tested regularly. This one obviously was not

Doctors and nurses had to ventilate patients by hand during a Sydney hospital blackout but its manager says no patients were at risk. Concord Hospital, in Sydney's inner-west, lost power for over an hour on Saturday and emergency generators for the intensive care unit and emergency department failed to kick in. However, the hospital's general manager Danny O'Connor said no patient treatment was compromised.

"Concord Hospital has a comprehensive emergency power supply system. Unfortunately in this instance a component of the system failed," Mr O'Connor said in a statement. "This led to power being interrupted to several wards for about one hour. "Patient treatment was not compromised while the interruption was resolved." Mr O'Connor said the faulty component had been replaced following the incident and the system had been retested and was functioning correctly.

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said Health Minister Reba Meagher needed to explain how such a "catastrophic failure" could occur in one of NSW's largest hospitals. "How is it possible for a contingency electricity supply to fail in the most crucial parts of the hospital - the intensive care unit and the emergency department," Mr O'Farrell said in a statement. "It's a tribute to the outstanding staff that no one died during this major failure."

The NSW opposition wants the government to review all emergency back-up electricity generator systems in public hospitals statewide. NSW Health declined to make any comment saying the statement from Mr O'Connor should explain what happened.


Army treats ill soldier as if he were well

They might have gotten away with this once but with the Rudd government in charge I think they are going to be in trouble. Depression is a serious and painful illness that can lead to death. Even in WWI the army recognized it-- under the name "shell shock"

A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder was hospitalised after his superior officers allegedly abused and humiliated him, threatened him with jail and "treated him like a dog". The alleged abuse - detailed in incident statements obtained by Fairfax Media - happened when Private Ted Tiessem was ordered to attend Lavarack Barracks in Townsville on July 8 to receive a revised medical assessment. His post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the result of a truck accident in Malaysia in 1993, which left five of his colleagues dead and Private Tiessem with severe head injuries.

Private Tiessem, who has 17 years' service, was commended by the army for his actions after the accident. His injuries have meant he has remained a private since the accident. His PTSD has been recognised by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is well known to his unit, 2 RAR. His treatment involves counselling, medication and not attending Lavarack Barracks unless necessary.

Private Tiessem's statement about what happened a fortnight ago when he was ordered to meet his commanding officer to be briefed about his medical status has been leaked to Fairfax Media by another defence official. According to the statement, Private Tiessem was approaching his commander's office with his civilian case manager when the battalion adjutant "yelled out: 'Private Tiessem, get your f---ing arse up here now' ". Private Tiessem says that when he asked not to be abused, he was told: "I don't care what you f---ing want; get your f---ing arse up here now." He says the abuse made him feel anxious and distressed, and he asked to return home.

"I felt deeply embarrassed that such offensive behaviour was being displayed in front of my case manager and wanted to protect her from such . behaviour," the statement reads.

In a further statement obtained by Fairfax, an army captain and friend of Private Tiessem recorded his subsequent conversation with his case manager. He says the case manager told him she had seen Private Tiessem being yelled at in an intimidating manner.

Rather than allow Private Tiessem to return home, the adjutant ordered a regimental police sergeant to escort him to his commanding officer's room. There, he was told by the regimental sergeant major that he was to be briefed about his medical assessment. According to his statement, Private Tiessem was then marched before his commanding officer and given a choice: "The hard way or the easy way". The hard way meant a trip to the army's holding cells. "I thought to myself, 'If I could go to the cells, at least this stupid process would stop; I would be able to get my medication and . rest."

The commanding officer then ordered the regimental police to escort Private Tiessem to the cells. On the way, he began shaking uncontrollably. After he was taken to the base's medical post, the regimental police were told by an army doctor that Private Tiessem was too unwell to be jailed and should be driven home. Instead, he was taken to his sergeant major's office. His statement reads: "He yelled at me, 'Do you have a chit (medical form) that says you can't stand up?' I responded, 'No, sir.' He said I could stand while he then tore strips off me too. I was blacking out and cannot really recall what he was saying to me."

Private Tiessem was told by another officer that he would be disciplined and must report to base at 8am the next day. "I was continually repeating, 'I just need my medication and need to go home.' I explained that I couldn't drive and I didn't know how I would get back in the morning. The company sergeant major told me, 'I don't give a f--k how you get here, but you better be here at 0800.' "

When he returned home that evening, another soldier took him to hospital, where he remained for three days. "I have a great deal of anxiety about my uncontrollable shakes and feel self-conscious when they are occurring . during the event, I felt I had been treated like a dog," his statement reads.

Private Tiessem's alleged mistreatment occurred almost a month after Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon wrote to another Townsville soldier, dismissing previous concerns that members of 2 RAR were mistreating soldiers with mental health issues. "A detailed unit level investigation . (has found) no evidence to support your claim that 2 RAR is making it more difficult for soldiers with mental illness to discharge," Mr Snowdon wrote.

A colleague of Private Tiessem told Fairfax that he was still shaken and wanted an inquiry. In a statement, Private Tiessem's wife says: "I felt deep anger towards those who ignored (army doctor) Dr Wong's medical advice and detained Ted for far longer than what was required. He . (has) severe (psychological) wounds . For these to be ignored is reprehensible."

Private Tiessem has been charged with insubordination for his actions on July 8. It is understood the charge partly relates to Private Tiessem not calling senior officers "sir". A Defence Department spokesman said Defence had no concerns about Private Tiessem's treatment and his "insubordination is subject to ongoing disciplinary action".


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zeg strikes again

Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just offered his take (visual and otherwise) on leadership speculation in the Liberal party and the job losses at Qantas.

Federal Green Paper 'too late' to save Great Barrier Reef

LOL. We have been hearing about the impending doom of the Barrier Reef for decades -- since long before the global warming scare. The reef has been there through many climate changes in the past and it will still be there when all of the current crop of doomsters are dead. The scares are nothing more than childish attention-seeking behaviour. I get tired of reiterating it but the reef already thrives through a very large temperature range and it in fact flourishes most where the climate is warmest. Expect zero honesty from an attention-seeking Greenie. Corals even thrive after A DIRECT ATOMIC HIT, in fact

THE Federal Government is being warned its Green Paper on emissions trading will not do enough to save the Great Barrier Reef from destruction. Leading environmentalists said Australia and other industrialised countries needed to slash emissions by 2020 if the tourism icon was to survive beyond the middle of the century.

The warning came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was urged to extend compensation for the emissions trading scheme to self-funded retirees. Everald Compton of National Seniors Australia said self-funded retirees needed extra help after their incomes were slashed by the dive in global sharemarkets.

The Government's Green Paper released last week repeated dire predictions about "mid-century destruction" of the Barrier Reef, which is estimated to generate about $1 billion a year. But Erwin Jackson of the Climate Institute said the Government's emissions trading proposal did nothing to ensure the future of the reef. "We don't know if this paper will help save the Barrier Reef," he said. "Countries like Australia need to reduce emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020." Tony Mohr of the Australian Conservation Foundation described the Green Paper as "slim pickings" for the protection of the reef.


Inconvenient truths for Kevvy's climate dreams

Behind the hype of the Garnaut Report and the Rudd Government's carbon emissions green paper lie some very inconvenient facts. First: a carbon system applied as now proposed will barely make a dent in the growth of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2020; it will not deliver a cut in emissions below today's levels, let alone below 2000 levels. Rudd is caught here by the Howard interest rate trap: it was not what the former prime minister said about interest rates under a Coalition government that mattered, it was what the voters thought he said, and when the rates rose again and again they punished him.

In Rudd's case, he has led the voters to believe he is going to deliver relief from global warming or, at the very least, a world-leading Australian example of how this can be achieved - and he can't. He can't, first, because no matter what is done here, the key impact of human-sourced greenhouse gases on the environment will be delivered elsewhere. Second, because delivering a massive cut in Australian domestic emissions through very high energy prices will make a slaughterhouse of the local manufacturing sector and deliver more than a million direct jobs, and perhaps as many indirect ones, to the block.

Nor can Rudd escape the political cost of undermining manufacturing by relying on the ongoing minerals and energy boom, heavily based on Chinese and other Asian demand for our resources, to be the key prop of the economy. As the eminent American economist, Jeffrey Sachs, at present visiting Australia, points out, countries over-reliant on exporting natural resources rarely show much economic growth.

The most inconvenient fact of all is to be found elsewhere: in China, where the direction of the global concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere during the next few decades is already being decided. China is matched by only the US in the size of its emissions. The growth of US emissions has slowed this decade, but the growth of Chinese emissions has been, and is going to continue to be, enormous. In this country, activists obsess over each new coal mine or coal-fired power station as if it signals the end of our world, but the Chinese are duplicating our entire coal-fired power capacity every four or five months. China added 88,300MW of new coal-fired generation in 2007. Australia's total grid-connected power capacity is 48,200MW, of which 28,500MW is coal fired.

The Chinese, to quote a paper delivered to the Asia Clean Energy Conference in Manila in June by Jianxiong Mao of Tsinghua University, Beijing, intend to build another 500,000MW between 2010 and 2020 while closing 4000 of their small, very inefficient coal plants. This program includes developing 120,000MW of renewable energy - four times what the Rudd Government's mandatory clean energy target aims to achieve - but 60 per cent of the new capacity will be coal-fired generation, their gases alone each year adding more than Australia's emissions from all sources to the atmosphere.

The Chinese have on order 200 coal-powered units as big as the dozen largest in use in NSW and 16 units bigger than the 750MW plant, Australia's largest, just commissioned in Queensland. This represents some $700 billion worth of equipment orders and barely half of what will be needed to meet Chinese 2020 capacity targets.

Because global warming is above all else a global issue, where the total of greenhouse gases in the planetary atmosphere decides what happens, even a suicidal decision in Australia to scrap all coal burners in the interests of showing the world a lead - cutting emissions by 180 million tonnes a year - would have no impact in the face of what the Chinese alone have already decided to do. Moreover, the Chinese, contrary to myth, are not doing nothing about emissions: they are engaged in a massive modernisation program that will improve their carbon intensity, but it will nonetheless add huge amounts of gases to the atmosphere.

Which leads to the question: what is Australia trying to achieve? When Sachs tried very politely on ABC Television this month to make the point that effective action requires first deciding on your target, then working out how to reach it most efficiently, he was, to quote a subsequent ABC Radio news report, "dismissed" by federal Government sources.

There is a raft of things Australia can, and should, do to deal better with its own greenhouse gas emission levels. An effective, regulation-driven approach to end-use efficiency is one. This month McKinsey & Company have released a study showing how the world can halve energy demand by spending about $US170 billion ($175 billion) a year....

It is necessary to adjust (and increase) the taxation system to fund these initiatives, which require large-scale community support as well as private investment, but this should be done in a straightforward and transparent fashion, not by inventing one of the world's most convoluted regulatory systems and myriad ways to avert its worst impacts by providing "get out of jail" cards to special interests while buying off voter rage through exempting petrol.

If there is one thing that is crystal clear after a week of the Garnaut Report, his "town hall meetings" and the green paper, it is that the Rudd Government is already knee-deep in a swamp of its own making on carbon policy, and deaf to advice to stop wading.


Rudd being nice to the conservatives

He needs their co-operation in the Senate

Former [conservative] deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been appointed Australia's first resident ambassador to the Vatican. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the appointment today while farewelling Pope Benedict XVI at Sydney airport. Traditionally, Australia's ambassador to Ireland has held responsibility for the Vatican.

Mr Rudd said today the government intends to recommend to the Governor General that Mr Fischer be appointed to the position. "The Australian Government will for the first time appoint a resident Ambassador to the Holy See,'' Mr Rudd said in a statement. "The appointment will mark a significant deepening of Australia's relations with the Vatican. It will allow Australia to expand dialogue with the Vatican in areas including human rights, political and religious freedom, food security, arms control, refugees and anti-people trafficking. "It will also provide an avenue for us to learn from each other's perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals and climate change.''

Mr Rudd said the appointment of a resident Ambassador also underpinned by Australia's commitment to inter-faith dialogue. "The Holy See has expressed support for Australia's efforts, within Australia and in the region, to facilitate greater understanding between people of different faiths,'' he said. "This will be the first time since 1973, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam established diplomatic relations with the Vatican, that Australia has appointed a resident Ambassador.''

The current ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See is Anne Plunkett. Mr Fischer will take up his appointment in early 2009.


Another snoring government "watchdog"

ASIC told Firepower 'could be a scam'. But bureaucrats get paid anyhow. Why worry?

AUSTRALIA'S securities watchdog was warned that the fuel technology company Firepower "may in fact be a scam" more than six months before it became a public issue, but allegedly chose not to investigate. Fairfax reported the allegation is raised in tonight's ABC TV program Four Corners, in which the former chief executive of Firepower also criticises the Australian Trade Commission, or Austrade, for its part in promoting and supporting the company.

John Finnin, who was a former senior trade official before joining Firepower, said almost $100 million was raised from investors, but when he had worked for the company he could only account for about $30 million "at best". Firepower investors included AFL footballers, diplomats, doctors, accountants, media figures and small speculators. Many bought the shares on the promise of a stunning sharemarket listing in London.

However, Mr Finnin said many of Firepower's alleged multi-million-dollar deals were never concluded, including a huge contract with Russian railways that was repeatedly presented to shareholders as a certainty. "We're talking about contracts across dozens of countries that we claimed to have: Pakistan, Romania, Germany, Russia. We were claiming to have contracts which we didn't have," Mr Finnin said. "They made further claims that they had supplied the Australian and New Zealand military (with products), which of course was incorrect."

Mr Finnin said the support Firepower had received from Austrade gave it a layer of credibility it should never have been afforded. "They were able to say they were being supported by the Australian government, which in essence they were," he said.

Four Corners reports that an accountant whose client was offered shares in Firepower made a complaint to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in May 2006 alleging it could be a scam. The commission said it was "taking no further action at this time".

The complaint was made at the height of investment euphoria in Firepower and at a time when the company was on its way to being the biggest sporting sponsor in the country. Its sponsorship portfolio included the Western Force Super 14 team, and would soon include the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team and the Sydney Kings basketball team.

In January last year, after questions were first raised about Firepower, ASIC began investigating the company. That investigation continues, although no charges have been laid.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Solar power realities

A comment by someone who knows from professional experience -- received via a reader. The report focuses on Tasmania, which is in roughly the equivalent latitude to Italy. So what is bad in Tasmania will be worse in Britain (for instance). As for Sweden or Canada, stop laughing!

I am one of those people who supply and maintain solar and wind power installations to power electronic systems at remote (unpowered) sites -- e.g. two way radios up on mountain tops.

Twenty plus years ago, a couple of us had a good look at the possibility of making a dollar or two out of flogging this emerging technology to the great unwashed. We didn't bother because it didn't stack up energy wise or financially. I admit the efficiency of the solar panels us mere mortals can afford has improved a bit since then (at least 8%) but the figures are still similar.

A loose look at the energy required to make the things verses the energy output of them during their average lifetime was not really surprising. The panel would return enough energy in the first year to smelt the aluminum in its frame and its mounting and transport the manufactured panel to us. We could not get energy figures for melting the silicon so the wafers could be grown and then cut up to make the semiconductors but overall it will be high so we guessed that it would take at least 100Kwh . This equates to 3 years output from the panel used up by the time it is delivered on site.

But it doesn't end there. Over the life of a set of panels the owner will probably need 3 or 4 sets of batteries. These are full of nice things like lead and acid and plastic and are very heavy. Then there is the magic box called the inverter. This is the box that converts the panel power up to the 230 volts mains power that we use. These are full of electronic things that take a lot of energy to make and have a reasonably short life span - say 10 years. You must include the energy costs for making and transporting these items to site in the overall energy that the solar panels must return during their lifetime. A battery pack of say 13kw h weighs in at approximately 500kg. So during the life of a set of panels you are going to have to transport 2 tons of them from (say) Sydney to Hobart and back again. Do the energy calculations on that one considering that the energy output per annum from each panel equates to about 4.5 litres of petrol.

I must qualify the above by saying that in our lovely clean green (work in the tourism industry or starve) state we don't get a lot of sun for large chunks of the year. When we are working out the energy budget for a solar site we allow an average of 3.5 hrs a day full output from the panels and have battery backup to allow for 14 - 28 days (site dependant) with no output. When the batteries are fully charged you can store no more so you effectively get no output from the panels. Therefore the extra output in summer is not usable unless you seriously upscale the battery capacity. Up in Queensland you can get away with less than half the number of panels for the same load. In drier climates panels seem to last a bit longer as well.

There are some interesting practical considerations that must be considered when using these things. It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem surprised to discover that a solar panel needs to get actual direct sunlight on it to give a worthwhile output. This can be a simple task of (wait for it - shock horror - sit down Rev. Bob in case you have a nasty turn) cutting down the trees to the height of the panels because the sun gets pretty close to the horizon down here in winter. Or if you have built your house on the southern side of a hill or taller building it is even simpler - you need to move the house or increase the number of panels to compensate. An extra $10k - $40k will usually suffice.

In Tasmania more than 50% of houses don't have a clear enough view north to make solar panels worthwhile and if you elevate them you begin to shadow the house to the south of you. This means you can never optimize the energy return from the panels. And what about our nice green leafy suburbs? When your northern neighbour's trees get high enough to shade your panels you lose output. Or if a leaf blows onto one of your panels the output goes down. (if you cover approximately 5% of the face of the panel the output will drop to almost zero.) The government will have to bring in draconian chain saw laws and you will have to have a photo license and a chainsaw safe to own one. Panels need to be cleaned regularly. Feathered airfoil excrement is especially effective in stopping them working.

Every time you need to have the system serviced the serviceman will use petrol in his van to get there. This will probably average using the equivalent energy output of one panel for a year for each trip and that does not count the energy required to make the van in the first place.

There is little doubt that in Tassie a solar installation as a collective item over its life is a net energy sink not a source. It is no different financially. My last electricity account for my workshop lists the cost as 18.5c per kwh or 21.4c including supply charge and for this my installation costs can be amortized over a 50 year life span. Over a 20 year life an $800 panel will return me 900kwh or $166.50 worth of electricity. Don't forget that out of the massive savings you have made there you must buy batteries, inverter, have it installed, pay the interest on the money you borrowed to buy the system and maintain it.

Note that this energy consumption would require 136 panels ($110,000.00), 14 day battery backup $13,500.00 (weight 1.6 tons, life 10 years), three phase inverter $15,000.00 (expected life 5 - 10 years). Interest alone would exceed $1,675.00 for the same period I paid the electricity authority $334.95. (Don't forget that if the batteries went flat and I had no electricity to run the workshop I would still have to pay my employees so a system failure could wipe me out. I would have to have a generating plant and/or duplicate equipment to allow for that. Even if you quadrupled the energy output from the panels the figures don't add up.

Maternity hospital shrinkage

Just what is needed now the birthrate has risen

EXPECTANT women in the Blue Mountains have been told that as of today they can no longer give birth at their local hospital because of staff shortages, and will have to travel to Nepean or Lithgow hospitals. This is despite the fact Nepean Hospital is struggling with midwifery shortages. A Sydney West Area Health Service spokeswoman has also confirmed Lithgow, with only low-risk maternity services, has just two postnatal beds. The Health Department did not start notifying women until the beginning of this month.

The recent Garling inquiry into public hospitals heard Blue Mountains Hospital in Katoomba - which can only take low-risk deliveries and has had no full-time obstetric service since August, 2004 - regularly sent women to Nepean Hospital or as far as Westmead Hospital to give birth. A Blue Mountains Hospital midwife, who did not want to be named, said that in the past few years not one woman had been sent to Lithgow to give birth. "We always send them to Nepean or Westmead. I know women [who need to be rebooked] will not go to Lithgow because there's no [comprehensive] maternity unit there and there's only a couple of beds," she said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the decision would put increased pressure on an already strained local ambulance and patient transport service. She said the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, and the member for Blue Mountains, Phil Koperberg, "must explain to Blue Mountains residents why staff shortages have been allowed to get so out of control . and when the birthing unit will be reopened," Mrs Skinner said. Birthing at Blue Mountains Hospital was shut in June 2002 due to staff shortages and resumed in April 2003.

A spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said there was a worldwide shortage of obstetricians and midwives. She said the Government had recently recruited obstetricians from Britain and Canada, and was also spending $46.4 million over the next four years on maternity services.

A local childbirth educator, Natalie Dash, said women were "shocked" by the decision and were planning a rally at the hospital today at 11am. "They're incredibly disappointed . if they wanted to birth in another hospital they would have booked in nine months ago," Ms Dash said. The hospital's general manager, Andrea Williams, said despite extensive recruitment efforts, there were still maternity service vacancies. "We've taken the decision to suspend birthing services to ensure the safety of mothers and babies," she said.


Forgotten Iraqi Christians

Below are excerpts from an article by a minister in the present Australian government. The previous government had similar concerns

"Even casual observers of the international situation would be aware of the conflict between Sunni and Shiite communities in Iraq. But what has achieved less prominence in the national and international media is the fate of other Iraqi minorities: Assyrians, Chaldeans and Mandaeans.

Mandaeans, followers of John the Baptist, have non-violence as one of the tenets of their religion. Any form of violence, even in self-defence, is forbidden. They have thus been particularly vulnerable to attack. The much more numerous Assyrians and Chaldeans have also suffered significantly. This group are descendants of the ancient Assyrian empire, but no longer have a nation state to call their own. They predominantly live in Iraq's north and are Christians.

It is hard to pinpoint the numbers of these minorities in Iraq. However, credible estimates put Assyrians and Chaldeans as 4 per cent of the population of Iraq, while they have constituted 40 per cent of the refugees leaving Iraq. Jordan and Syria have 2 million Iraqi refugees living within their borders, and they are not allowed to work. They live, by and large, in squalor, and they often rely on their children to bring in a little income. Thousands of children are being turned to crime to support their family.

It is estimated that there were 1.5 million Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq before the war; 600,000 are left, at most. Two thousand Assyrians and Chaldeans are still leaving Iraq every day. Churches have been bombed, priests and bishops kidnapped and murdered. Hundreds of thousands of Assyrian and Chaldean refugees live in desperate circumstances in Syria and Jordan. It is simply too dangerous for them to return.

There are of course, many millions of people from different groups around the world who face diabolical human rights and humanitarian catastrophes, all of whom deserve greater attention. However, in all the public debate about Iraq over recent years the Assyrian and Chaldean minorities have received scant attention from both governments and the media. Their plight is one of the untold stories of the narrative of post-Saddam Iraq. Their situation as minorities in Iraq has substantially worsened since the war.

As others have pointed out, the exodus of refugees from Iraq has been greater than that after the Vietnam War. But because the exodus has occurred quietly and to other Middle Eastern countries, as opposed to by boat, the crisis has become largely invisible. There is no monopoly of suffering in Iraq. But the suffering of these minorities has received scant international attention.

Of course, as a relatively small country on the other side of the world we are limited in what we can do to help. However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, has recently met two delegations of Assyrians and Chaldeans to discuss what more can be done, and he raised the issue with the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq on his visit last month.

More here

Imprisoned illegals in Australia are floating high

Many of these have been imprisoned for years -- since before the Howard government's crackdown on "boat people". Others are visa overstayers and failed "refugee" claimants

Immigration officials are adamant there is no drug problem in immigration detention centres; there is, however, an abundance of "unidentified white powder", "green vegetable matter", "liquid with alcohol scents" and numerous "unidentified tablets".

Amid reports last week that immigration detention centres were hotbeds of drug and alcohol abuse, the Immigration Department has issued figures on the number of prohibited substances seized in centres in 2006-07.

The 31 prohibited substances confiscated in seven centres across the country included 10 quantities of liquid - believed to be alcohol - 14 unidentified tablets, four quantities of ``green vegetable matter'' and three unidentified powders.

The powders included two quantities of an unidentified white powder, both found in Melbourne's Maribyrnong detention centre, and one quantity of brown powder, which Immigration officals believe was kava.

Sydney's Villawood detention centre topped the list, with 19 seizures. Maribyrnong had four seizures; Brisbane had three; Perth's two facilities had two seizures; Darwin had one; and there was one seizure at one of Sydney's residential facilities.

An immigration spokesman said seized items were not tested or positively identified by detention centre staff. Instead, suspicious items were handed over to local police. A spokeswoman for NSW Police refused to comment on the drug claims, citing "operational'' reasons.

Refugee advocates have said drug use in immigration detention centres is common. Ngareta Rossell told The Australian the drug problem in Villawood was concentrated in the so-called "stage one'', or maximum security area, of the centre. "It's nothing new,'' she said. "It's been going on for years.''


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Moronic response to overstretched hospitals

What about paring down the army of health bureaucrats and using the money saved to hire more medical staff? Does anyone NOT already know about GPs? People don't go to GPs because it is generally dearer and not available after hours

The New South Wales State Government has launched an advertising campaign aimed at reducing the pressure placed on hospital emergency departments. The Government says the initiative has been designed in consultation with emergency department staff.

They hope the program will encourage people to seek treatment from their GP, for non-urgent medical conditions, so hospitals can give priority to people needing emergency care. They have cited figures which show an 8 per cent rise in emergency department admissions with 2.3 million people attending emergency department in the past year. Only 34 per cent of those attending believed they really needed hospital care.

The Government hopes the initiative will help people consider how serious their condition is, and make the right decision about where to find treatment.


Bungling bank abets thieves

What happened to signature checking?? I'm glad that I have no accounts with ANZ. Note that the customer had to get newspaper publicity to get the bank to exhibit some decency. The bank should be prosecuted for negligence

They're incredibly brazen, quick and heartless - a two-woman team that has stolen more than $1 million from patients in Sydney's biggest hospitals, aided and abetted by banks. In most cases, the pair targets maternity wards, preying on women who have just given birth. After stealing their wallets, they use their victims' credit and key cards to empty their accounts, thanks to incredibly lax security by tellers at Australia's major banks. A police strike force has been set up to catch the thieves, who have robbed almost 200 people across Sydney in the past year. The robbers have struck at the Westmead, Nepean, Bankstown, Royal North Shore, Royal Women's, Sydney Adventist and Mater hospitals.

Detective Sergeant Roland Winter believes there are two separate two-woman teams involved in the scam. He said they worked fast, netting as much as $30,000 from a victim's accounts in the space of 45 minutes. The women have also begun to target gyms and school staff rooms.

Among their victims is Mary-Louise Lacey, who was robbed of $22,500 two days after giving birth to her son Angus at the Mater Hospital, North Sydney. When the mother of three left her hospital room briefly on January 17, the thieves struck immediately. Seventeen minutes later, they were at the ANZ Bank in North Sydney, posing as Ms Lacey. "If you go into a bank and say you've forgotten your PIN, if you can produce enough ID, you can change the PIN on the spot, which is what these women did,'' Ms Lacey said.

They handed the teller identification from Ms Lacey's wallet, including an unaltered driver's licence. Despite the photograph not matching, the teller allowed them to change the PIN on the keycard, which gave them access to Ms Lacey's five accounts. They then visited two other ANZ branches, filled in withdrawal slips and stole a total of $22,500.

The ordeal was made more distressing for MsLacey because it took her six weeks to get the money reimbursed. Instead of enjoying her new baby, she spent countless hours on the phone to the bank. "I was in a hospital bed and they told me I would have to come into the bank to verify my identity, yet they allowed two strangers to walk in and clear out my bank accounts in 45 minutes,'' she said.

Ms Lacey cancelled direct debits from the account but they continued for three months, resulting in overdrafts and bank fees of $500 that she said the bank had refused to waive. "It was a very stressful time and I would hate anyone else to have to go through it,'' she said. Ms Lacey warned new mothers to watch their valuables while in hospital. An ANZ spokesman told The Sunday Telegraph the bank would review the fees charged for the overdrafts.


Queensland Health turns lawyers on its staff

This organization is never out of trouble. It is clearly totally out of control. It should be abolished and started again with none of the old administrative staff rehired

QUEENSLAND Health is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars for law firms to fight complaints by hospital staff. State Government sources said high-powered barristers and solicitors were engaged in an attempt to get "intimidated and bullied" employees to back down. Some legal eagles cost up to $5000 a day to appear in courts and tribunals.

It was also revealed in Parliament last week that Queensland Health had spent more than $8 million on legal fees and settling claims made by staff and patients during the past two years. Another 274 claims were outstanding.

The department insider said staff who lodged complaints about minor matters, mainly related to pay and conditions, found themselves on the end of an expensive legal battle. Brisbane lawyer Susan Moriarty obtained documents under Freedom of Information that showed Queensland Health had paid almost $115,000 in legal fees in three recent cases. Ms Moriarty, who has represented several Royal Brisbane Hospital staff with claims or complaints, said Queensland Health was hiring private law firms to deal with complaints that should be dealt with by staff. "There are plaintive cries for more and more funding for hospitals, yet they have plenty of funding to go after their own employees," she said.

Leading law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth was paid $53,000 to represent Royal Brisbane Hospital Health Services District against a female hospital cleaner who was claiming $3500 in an impairment discrimination case. Ms Moriarty said the woman was seeking to cover the economic loss of losing weekend penalty shifts when she returned to work after surgery. After failed attempts at conciliation, the case was referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, before settling confidentially.

Another leading law firm, Clayton Utz, was paid $44,000 to investigate several allegations by a junior nurse who claimed she had been bullied by Royal Brisbane Hospital supervisors. Ms Moriarty said the woman's union advised her to lodge a complaint after she was asked to do work she was not trained to do. "Instead of conducting an internal investigation, they initiated an external investigation conducted by a private law firm," Ms Moriarty said. The six-week investigation ran to 18 months. Queensland Health eventually sacked the nurse.

In the third case, a Royal Brisbane Hospital cleaner, who had studied medicine overseas and had worked as a theatre wardsman interstate, claimed race and age discrimination after his applications for permanent theatre positions were rejected. Queensland Health has paid Corrs Chambers Westgarth $18,000 so far, with the matter still to be heard in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. "The big law firms have become nothing other than de facto human resources advisers to Queensland Health, at about $400 an hour," Ms Moriarty said.

Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said he was aware of cases where Queensland Health had become heavy-handed with its own staff. "It's Big Brother . . . a lot of issues could be resolved by normal staff negotiations and relationships," he said.


More crooked cops in Victoria

It must be getting hard to find any honest ones

A PROBE into possible criminal behaviour at a high level of Victoria Police has intensified with three reviews started. And in a radical bid to fix the corrupt culture, the force is trying to move part of the police IT section linked to irregular multi-million dollar blow-outs. Sources told the Sunday Herald Sun an internal corruption probe by the Ethical Standard Department was scrutinising all links to a corrupt senior police manager. The manager, who stepped down while under investigation, was recently convicted of obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

Senior sources said the corruption probe - which has been running for six months - could soon net more scalps. Victoria Police did not rule out further criminal charges.

A review of top management was in progress while Business Information Technology Services was under examination. Victoria Police was trying to separate and move the procurement division of BITS into a different part of the Flinders St headquarters. The move came after a police contract with IBM blew out by $85 million.

A Sunday Herald Sun investigation also found:

SOME police staff who were whistleblowers and informants in recent probes and audits felt victimised by colleagues and management.

TWO senior managerial positions for BITS section had recently been advertised.

THE restructure moves were rubbing staff the wrong way, with a potential industrial showdown looming.

Victoria Police spokeswoman Joanne Hammond confirmed an internal audit had identified "a range of matters around process". "The audit team is currently working with BITS management to rectify these issues," she said. In relation to criminal charges of police employees, Ms Hammond said the investigation was ongoing and would not comment further.

Victoria Police has been involved in scandals about IT contracts, computer fraud and database breaches. One senior manager was discovered with child porn links on his laptop, scores of mobile phones and other items were missing and financial record keeping was highly irregular. Workers with the police's technology partner IBM were also found with keys and security passes for police headquarters up to year after they left the company. Kickbacks to police employees from suppliers and embezzlement were also being investigated.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

UK retains ancestral visas for Australians

Australians with a UK-born grandparent will retain the right to live and work in Britain but visa conditions may be changed. The British High Commission says the UK government has decided not to scrap ancestry visas as proposed earlier in the year. Under the existing rules, Commonwealth citizens aged 17 and over can be granted residency if they can prove that one of their grandparents was born in Britain. Those awarded visas are allowed to work and then apply for citizenship after five years of residence.

The British government in February called for a debate over whether the UK ancestry route should be abolished. British high commissioner to Australia Helen Liddell today said the visas would be retained as a route to UK citizenship. "Ancestry visas are a tangible sign of our close, shared history. They give Australians a glimpse of their heritage and a gateway to one of the world's most innovative economies," Ms Liddell said in a statement. "Full details on how ancestry visas will work in the future are yet to be announced. For the time being, the current rules apply."


Schools in Australia and the USA compared

Australia and the United States have much in common--language, political institutions, the influence of British settlement, and, more recently, fighting together on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They also have a lot in common in the field of education.

Books like Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, and Diane Ravitch's The Language Police make clear how effective America's Left has been in its long march to take control of education, especially the curriculum, in an attempt to transform society. The Left has targeted education in Australia, too. Over the last 30 years or so, professional associations, teachers' unions, and academics in teacher-training institutions have consistently attacked more traditional, competitive curricula as elitist, socially unjust, and guilty of enforcing a Eurocentric, patriarchal, and privileged view of the world.

In 1983, Joan Kirner, who eventually became the state of Victoria's education minister and then its premier, argued that education had to be reshaped as "part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument for the capitalist system." More recently, the editor o! f the journal for the Australian Association for the Teaching of English argued that the John Howard-led conservative government's victory in 2004 was a result of the nation's English teachers' failure to teach young people the proper (i.e., left-wing) way to vote.

Currently, eight Australian states and territories have the power to manage what is taught in their schools, but the recently elected, left-of-center national government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is trying to develop a national curriculum. Such is the Left's control of education that the effort is cause for concern: any federally imposed curriculum will likely be ideologically driven and politically correct. During the early and mid-nineties, for example, the Commonwealth of Australia's left-leaning government developed a national curriculum so politically correct and dumbed-down that, after public outcry led by conservatives and the media, it was eventually rejected at a meeting of state, territory, and commonwealth education ministers.

Like America, Australia has both public and private schools. (As the German researcher Ludger Woessmann notes, one characteristic of stronger-performing education systems, as measured by international tests, is a muscular private-school sector.) On the whole, Australian private schools are more academically minded than their public counterparts, especially at the high school level. Private schools also have a better chance of escaping destructive curriculum initiatives like the "whole language" approach to reading instruction, as well as feel-good assessment systems that refuse to tell students that they have failed.

One striking difference between the United States and Australia, however, is that the Land Down Under doesn't need a formal school-voucher system like those in some American localities. In Australia, students attending private schools automatically receive funding from state governments and the commonwealth, with the amount of taxpayers' money received per student varying according to each school community's socioeconomic profile. While the figure never fully covers the cost of educating students (the average cost of educating a state-school student is $10,000, while the average government subsidy to private-school students is $5,000), private schools have become increasingly popular. In 1997, approximately 30 percent of students attended private schools; by 2007, the figure had grown to approximately 34 percent. Surveys suggest that parents choose private schools because they have a strong academic focus, better reflect parental values, and promote excellence.

While private schools must register with the government and conform to regulations in areas like health and safety, teacher certification, and financial probity, they enjoy flexibility when it comes to curriculum and staffing. They have been particularly effective in more affluent, middle-class areas, where they have forced government schools to promote a more disciplined and academic environment.

The curriculum debate now revolves around questions of increased testing and accountability, teacher performance, and developing a national curriculum in order to become more internationally competitive. However, since we have left-of-center governments at all levels--state, territory, and commonwealth--I fear that future education policies will be premised on statism, instead of opening schools to the type of accountability, choice, and competition represented by the market. Further, the commonwealth's minister for education, Julia Gillard, defines the purpose of education in terms of its utilitarian value, by linking it to increasing productivity. No one disputes the importance of economic growth, of course. But it's vital that we don't lose sight of the broader cultural, spiritual, and ethical value of education as well.


Teacher quality getting some attention

They'll be pissing into the wind until they do something effective about the discipline problem, though

TOP university graduates would be aggressively recruited and given financial incentives to work in some of the nation's toughest classrooms, under Federal Government plans to boost teaching quality and revive interest in the profession. Education Minister Julia Gillard is also examining ways to track students and give parents unprecedented information on school performances in what she described as a "new era of transparency" for the public and private education systems.

With a third of serving teachers aged over 50 and university entry scores for teaching courses as low as 60, Ms Gillard last night called for the "urgent" creation of a national scheme to recruit talented graduates - from any field of study - to work in the most challenging schools. "We need to re-establish in Australia something that the labour movement has long recognised: that there is no higher vocational calling than teaching," said Ms Gillard, speaking at a John Button lecture in Melbourne last night.

She said she wanted to examine two contentious but successful international programs: the Teach First initiative in Britain, and the Teach for America scheme in the US. Under these programs, graduates are aggressively recruited and offered financial incentives to teach in struggling schools. They get access to accelerated teacher training and intensive mentoring from business and community leaders, and sign on to work in the system for about two years.

State Education Minister Bronwyn Pike endorsed the idea last night, having signalled in December that she was considering the Teach First program for Victoria.

But teachers called for better wages to back the rhetoric. "We need to see the necessary respect and valuing of the profession . which doesn't happen with words alone," said Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos.

In a wide-ranging speech, Ms Gillard said she wanted more detailed school-by-school data showing the socio-economic make-up and numbers of disadvantaged children. The minister also:

* Said perceptions of teaching would improve if top teachers were rewarded, in comments interpreted by some as another example of the Government's shift towards performance pay in schools.

* Rejected suggestions that differences in student results could be explained solely by socio-economic status.

* Said it was wrong to believe the education system could be divided into two groups: disadvantaged public schools and highly resourced non-government schools. "There are schools that struggle with limited resources, trying to serve disadvantaged communities, in both groups," she said. "I specifically reject the proposition that the only way to debate differential need in our school system is through the prism of the public-private divide."

Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair said he was "absolutely all for" collecting data on individual students to identify learning difficulties, but raised concerns about comparing schools. "We all know that you can't compare a Balwyn high school and a Broadmeadows high school because you have a completely different clientele," he said.

Shadow education minister Tony Smith said the Coalition's attempts, when in government, to reform the profession had been "consistently blocked by teachers' unions and state governments".


Corruption in Australia's immigration representatives overseas

Employing local Muslim Arabs to represent Australia in the Middle East was certainly a "courageous" decision (Courageous in a "Yes Minister" sense). Australia's current Leftist administration doesn't care, though

Former immigration minister Kevin Andrews instructed his department to lift the intake of Christian refugees from the Middle East. Mr Andrew's instruction was in response to what he saw as a pro-Muslim bias created by corrupt local case officers.

The Weekend Australian says Mr Andrews was so concerned about the extent of corruption in Middle Eastern posts - despite the allegations being investigated and dismissed by his own department - that he wrote to then Prime Minister John Howard advocating a $200 million plan to replace local employees with Australian staff in 10 "sensitive" countries, including Jordan, Iran and Egypt. Opposition immigration spokesman Chris Ellison said yesterday this remains Coalition policy. "We do not want discrimination or bias occurring ... and that's why I believe it is appropriate that our sensitive overseas posts, such as those in the Middle East, are staffed by Australians," Senator Ellison said.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said there were no substantiated cases of anti-Christian discrimination in Australian embassies and no plans to replace "Islamic locally engaged staff" with Australian officials.

An investigation by The Weekend Australian has discovered Mr Andrews was petitioned by the Australian Christian Lobby to address alleged religious discrimination against Iraqis. Before losing office in the November 2007 election, he ordered the number of Christian Iraqi refugees to be increased by 1,400 for 2007-08, almost doubling the previous year's Iraqi total of 1,639. "Put it this way, it was made very clear to the immigration department that more Christian refugees were wanted," a Howard government source said.

In his letter to Mr Howard in August last year, Mr Andrews, a devout Catholic, proposed significant changes to the refugee selection process. In the letter, seen by The Weekend Australian, Mr Andrews accused the case workers in Australian embassies of fraud and bribery when processing migration applications. Such posts are predominantly staffed by local workers. He said this raised "considerable security risks".

Mr Andrews named 10 countries - Pakistan, India, United Arab Emirates, China, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Russia and Egypt - in which the posts should be staffed exclusively with Australian departmental officers. The non-Muslim countries named by Mr Andrews are understood to be less riddled by religious discrimination and more so by corruption, a source told The Weekend Australian.


Friday, July 18, 2008


Now that Australia's new centre-Left Prime Minister is has pushed climate policy to the top of the national agenda as a convenient mask for his lack of any new ideas, the debate over "Greenhouse" is very lively in Australia. And, thanks to the Murdoch press, skeptical viewpoints are occasionally getting a good airing. Two of the three articles on the subject reproduced below are particularly powerful

Top Australian Greenhouse expert now a skeptic

By David Evans

I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector. FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I've been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects. The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" There has not been a public debate about the causes of global warming and most of the public and our decision makers are not aware of the most basic salient facts:

1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it. Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever. If there is no hot spot then an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming. So we know for sure that carbon emissions are not a significant cause of the global warming. If we had found the greenhouse signature then I would be an alarmist again.

When the signature was found to be missing in 2007 (after the latest IPCC report), alarmists objected that maybe the readings of the radiosonde thermometers might not be accurate and maybe the hot spot was there but had gone undetected. Yet hundreds of radiosondes have given the same answer, so statistically it is not possible that they missed the hot spot. Recently the alarmists have suggested we ignore the radiosonde thermometers, but instead take the radiosonde wind measurements, apply a theory about wind shear, and run the results through their computers to estimate the temperatures. They then say that the results show that we cannot rule out the presence of a hot spot. If you believe that you'd believe anything.

2. There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None. There is plenty of evidence that global warming has occurred, and theory suggests that carbon emissions should raise temperatures (though by how much is hotly disputed) but there are no observations by anyone that implicate carbon emissions as a significant cause of the recent global warming.

3. The satellites that measure the world's temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980). Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the "urban heat island" effect: urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer, due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars, houses. Satellite data is the only temperature data we can trust, but it only goes back to 1979. NASA reports only land-based data, and reports a modest warming trend and recent cooling. The other three global temperature records use a mix of satellite and land measurements, or satellite only, and they all show no warming since 2001 and a recent cooling.

4. The new ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect.

None of these points are controversial. The alarmist scientists agree with them, though they would dispute their relevance. The last point was known and past dispute by 2003, yet Al Gore made his movie in 2005 and presented the ice cores as the sole reason for believing that carbon emissions cause global warming. In any other political context our cynical and experienced press corps would surely have called this dishonest and widely questioned the politician's assertion.

Until now the global warming debate has merely been an academic matter of little interest. Now that it matters, we should debate the causes of global warming. So far that debate has just consisted of a simple sleight of hand: show evidence of global warming, and while the audience is stunned at the implications, simply assert that it is due to carbon emissions. In the minds of the audience, the evidence that global warming has occurred becomes conflated with the alleged cause, and the audience hasn't noticed that the cause was merely asserted, not proved. If there really was any evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming, don't you think we would have heard all about it ad nauseam by now?

The world has spent $50 billion on global warming since 1990, and we have not found any actual evidence that carbon emissions cause global warming. Evidence consists of observations made by someone at some time that supports the idea that carbon emissions cause global warming. Computer models and theoretical calculations are not evidence, they are just theory.

What is going to happen over the next decade as global temperatures continue not to rise? The Labor Government is about to deliberately wreck the economy in order to reduce carbon emissions. If the reasons later turn out to be bogus, the electorate is not going to re-elect a Labor government for a long time. When it comes to light that the carbon scare was known to be bogus in 2008, the ALP is going to be regarded as criminally negligent or ideologically stupid for not having seen through it. And if the Liberals support the general thrust of their actions, they will be seen likewise.

The onus should be on those who want to change things to provide evidence for why the changes are necessary. The Australian public is eventually going to have to be told the evidence anyway, so it might as well be told before wrecking the economy.


Evidence doesn't bear out alarmist claims of global warming

Andrew Bolt tells Kevin Rudd stuff the Ruddy one does not want to hear. No Leftist wants to have their current best toy taken away from them

THESE are the seven graphs that should make the Rudd Government feel sick. These are the seven graphs that should make you ask: What? Has global warming now stopped? Look for yourself. They show that the world hasn't warmed for a decade, and has even cooled for several years.

Sea ice now isn't melting, but spreading. The seas have not just stopped rising, but started to fall. Nor is the weather getting wilder. Cyclones, as well as tornadoes and hurricanes, aren't increasing and the rain in Australia hasn't stopped falling. What's more, the slight warming we saw over the century until 1998 still makes the world no hotter today than it was 1000 years ago. In fact, it's even a bit cooler. So, dude, where's my global warming?

These graphs should in fact be good news for the Government and all the other warming preachers who warned we were doomed by our gases, which were heating the world to hell. Now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd can at last stop sweating about the warming terrors he told us were coming - the horrific droughts, the dengue fever, the malaria, the devastation to our land and economy. And he can announce that, hey, emergency over for now. His emissions trading scheme will go into deep freeze while he checks this good news.

As for his promise this week to make your power bills go up $200 a year to stop global warming? His promise to make even food more expensive? To put gassy companies out of business, and their workers out of a job? Cancel all that. As you were, soldier. Good news has come from the front.

But now you can see why these graphs terrify Rudd, who has never admitted to a single fact they contain. You think he dares admit he panicked you for no good reason? Wasted countless millions of dollars?

Yet the facts are stark: The world simply isn't warming as he and his pet scientists said. That's why 31,000 other scientists, including world figures such as physicist Prof Freeman Dyson, atmospheric physicist Prof Richard Lindzen and climate scientist Prof Fred Singer, issued a joint letter last month warning governments not to jump on board the global warming bandwagon. "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate."

That's why Ivar Glaever, who won a Nobel Prize for Physics, this month declared "I am a sceptic", because "we don't really know what the actual effect on the climate is". And it's why the American Physical Society this month said "there is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution."

So let me go through my seven graphs that help to explain why even Nobel Prize winners question what Rudd keeps claiming -- that man is warming the world, and dangerously. The main graph is from the Hadley Centre of Britain's Meteorological Office and one of the four bodies measuring world temperature. As you see, since 1998 -- an unusually warm year thanks to the "El Nino" pool of warmer water in the Pacific -- the world's temperature dropped back to a steady plateau, followed by a few years of cooling.

The second graph confirms both the halt in warming, and then cooling. It's from another of those four bodies, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which monitors the troposphere -- from the ground to 12km altitude. Only one of the four, in fact, claims temperatures are still rising. That's NASA, whose program is run by Dr James Hanson, Al Gore's global warming adviser and a controversial catastrophist whose team's reworking of data has been heavily criticised for exaggerating any heating.

But before I go on, a caveat: This recent cooling doesn't disprove the theory that man is warming the world. Ten years is too short to be sure of a trend. Natural factors may for now be countering the effect of our gases. Then again, the theory that man has warmed the world is based on a rise in temperature over a period that's not much longer -- from just 1975 to 1998. And the computer climate models that scientists use to predict catastrophic warming a century from now somehow never predicted a cooling that's happening right now. And these are the models Rudd is betting on with our jobs and cash.

The third graph shows another surprise those models never predicted: the seas have stopped rising. The waters have crept up for at least 150 years, since the world started to thaw from the Little Ice Age, and well before any likely man-made warming. But the climate models predicted that a big rise in emissions from all those cars, power plants and factories since World War II would cause an equally big rise in the seas, swelling them as much as 59cm by 2100. This wasn't scary enough for alarmists like Al Gore, though, who claimed whole cities could in fact be drowned under 6m of ocean.

But the satellites that have checked sea levels since 1992 find the seas have instead fallen over the past two years. Again, this could be a blip. But it isn't what the models predicted.

The fourth graph seems to confirm a cooling. Forget media scares about a melting North Pole; sea ice has grown so fast in the southern hemisphere there is now more ice in the world than is usual, says the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Graph five punctures another scare. No, global warming hasn't given us more cyclones - or more tornadoes or hurricanes anywhere. Nor is their proof that cyclones are getting worse, says the American Meteorological Society. And warming hasn't stopped our rain, either, despite media hype about a "one-in-a-100 year drought". See the Bureau of Meteorology records in graph six. It's just bad luck that the fickle rain now tends to fall where it's not needed most.

And, please, can we drop that old fiction that the world was never warmer? It's a false claim made popular by a 2001 report of the IPCC, the United Nations' climate group, which ran a graph, shaped like a hockey stick, claiming there was no warming for millennia until humans last century gassed up their world. In fact, that "hockey stick" is now discredited, and last year Dr Craig Loehle, of the US National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, argued that using tree rings to work out past temperatures was clearly unreliable. He instead produced a graph - No. 7 - of past temperatures using all other accepted proxies.

You see his results (which for statistical reasons stop at 1935): they show humans lived through a medieval period that was warmer than even today. This was a period that historical accounts confirm was so warm that Greenland farmers grew crops on land now under snow, and British ones grew grapes.

But I repeat: the world may yet warm again, and soon, although scientists at Leibnitz Institute and Max Planck Institute last month predicted it won't for at least another decade. If at all, say solar experts worried by a lack of sun spots.

But even if none of my graphs disproves the theory that man is causing dangerous warming, they should at least make you pause. They should at least make you open to other theories of climate change, like that of Dr Henrik Svensmark, head of Denmark's Centre for Sun-Climate Research, who thinks changes in cosmic rays, which affect clouds, may explain much of the recent warming. And now the cooling, too.

But, above all, when that man with the sandwich board comes tugging at your sleeve again, shouting, "Quick, help me save the world - or die", hang on to your wallet, friend. Give that urger my seven graphs instead, and ask him how many more years of no warming will it take before he admits it really is too soon to panic.


Climate policy a blow to Australia's huge natural gas industry

MORE than $60 billion in planned LNG investments are likely to be shelved because the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme is "backwards" and penalises exports of the clean gas, according to Woodside Petroleum chief Don Voelte. Mr Voelte told The Australian the carbon pollution reduction scheme, unveiled by the Government on Wednesday, would make it impossible for two $30billion West Australian offshore LNG projects to go ahead. "This emissions trading scheme will knock planned projects with relatively high CO2 emissions right off the block - you can start with (Chevron's) Gorgon (project) and (Woodside's) Browse (project) and keep on going," he said.

Mr Voelte said the $15 billion LNG export industry was unlikely to qualify for any free permits under the Government's compensation formula for trade-exposed industries, in part because of efforts the industry had already undertaken to reduce its carbon emissions. He said this outcome was "backwards" because LNG was part of the global solution to climate change, and replaced energy sources at least four times dirtier in the countries to which it was sold.

The LNG industry's concerns came as Kevin Rudd indicated he would try to sideline the Greens and would instead court Brendan Nelson for Senate backing for his carbon emissions trading scheme - dismissing Greens' demands for a phase-out of coal-fired power generation as unrealistic. Labor sources confirmed the Government saw little prospect of winning Greens support for its scheme, which includes plans for compensation for coal-fired power generators. As the Greens attacked the plan and demanded more public investment in renewable energy sources, the Prime Minister called on the Opposition to become "responsible partners" in addressing climate change.

In at least two of a series of interviews he conducted to explain the green paper released on Wednesday, Mr Rudd ignored direct questions about whether he could negotiate for Greens support in the Senate. Instead, he said he wanted Liberal Party backing, without which he would have to rely on the Greens, Family First and independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon.

The Government has said it will allocate up to 30 per cent of emissions permits to industries with international competitors not exposed to a carbon price, identifying eligible industries through a formula that calculates tonnes of emissions per million dollars in revenue.

Analysis by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and by Deutsche Bank experts confirmed Mr Voelte's calculation that LNG would not qualify for permits under the Government's proposed formula. "We do not believe we will be included as an emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industry - that we will fall just below the cut-off, which will mean all the worst emitters will be given a free ride, and clean fuels like LNG will have to bear the whole burden," Mr Voelte said. "We spent hundreds of millions over recent years to clean up our plants, we won all these greenhouse challenge awards. and now we are thinking we should have just left ourselves dirty, because we're going to come in just under the curve. "This emissions trading scheme is going to get the wrong answer - it's going to hit our returns and stop our new projects going forward, when we are part of the global answer." Asked what he intended to do about the problem, Mr Voelte said: "We have booked a lot of plane tickets to Canberra."

APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson echoed the warning, saying: "Unless LNG receives the treatment it must have, not only is the ability of the industry to grow and invest here ... affected, it will also affect our ability to assist the Asia-Pacific region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions for the longer term."

The Government is also at loggerheads with the Greens over the future of the coal industry in the nation's energy generation. It believes successful deployment of "clean coal" technology - which would ensure the coal industry's future - is vital, and has created a $500million clean coal research fund to commercialise the technology, which eliminates carbon emissions from burning coal by capturing the carbon and storing it underground. But Greens environment spokeswoman Christine Milne told The Australian yesterday her party opposed any public money being spent on clean coal research, and instead wanted investment in renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Senator Milne said average Australians backed her party's position ahead of that of "the greenhouse mafia, the Opposition and (Resources Minister) Martin Ferguson". "The coal industry is largely owned overseas and has made mega-profits from polluting the atmosphere through the commodities boom," Senator Milne said.

As Mr Rudd hit the airwaves yesterday, he made clear he saw little value in attempting to meet the Greens' demands. Asked whether he was prepared to talk to the Greens, he did not even refer to the party. "My appeal is directly to the Liberal Party to ... be responsible partners in the future economic direction of Australia," he told Sydney radio 2UE. "The Liberals have got some serious soul-searching to do on this question in terms of acting responsibly."

In an interview with Sky Television, the Prime Minister was asked about the Greens' criticism, and whether he would stick to his guns in the Senate. He again ignored the Greens, saying: "On the Senate, I think there's going to be a huge national spotlight trained on the Liberals. "Are you going to be responsible partners in this country's long-term economic future or are you just going to walk away and play opportunistic, short-term politics?"

Wayne Swan said government support for clean coal technologies was critical. "As an exporter of coal, we've got a huge interest in developing the technology that captures the carbon," the Treasurer said. The Coalition appeared to be open to negotiations, with Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull stressing that the Opposition was not opposed to emissions trading, although it had differences with the Government on timing. "We have got to see what the measures are," he said. "There is a big issue here about getting it right. This is not an issue, a question, of who is more committed to the environment than anybody else."

However, Mr Turnbull described as absurd the Government's decision to delay the release of Treasury modelling on the ETS until after the date at which submissions closed for comment on the green paper. "You cannot seriously ask people to make submissions about options for an emissions trading scheme when they haven't got any of the financial modelling," he said.


Huge public medicine failure: Children wait years for ear, nose and throat procedures

HUNDREDS of Queensland children are waiting up to four years for ear, nose and throat surgery, surgeons say. ENT specialists say the long wait puts them at serious risk of behavioural and learning problems. Specialists say the wait for an outpatient's appointment at Mater Children's and Royal Children's hospitals in Brisbane is about two years. Queensland Health's own figures show that as of April 1 this year, 400 children were waiting for category 3 ENT surgery at the two hospitals.

Research has found children who have untreated ear infections in their early years are at risk of becoming truants and doing badly at school. Yet they can be easily treated by inserting grommets - tiny tubes that give the middle ear a chance to recover from recurrent infection. Other children require operations to remove tonsils or adenoids to improve sleeping and concentration at school.

ENT surgeon Chris Perry conceded the State Government had started to make inroads into elective surgery waiting lists for children through its Surgery Connect program public operations performed in private hospitals. Queensland Health figures reveal Surgery Connect has cut the waiting list by about 10 per cent. The Government expects the program to be able to treat about 45 children with ENT problems each month.

However Associate Professor Perry said Surgery Connect was only a BandAid solution. "I don't want to embarrass the Government," he said. "I think they're trying to do something about it. "But we think Surgery Connect is counter-productive to the development of public hospitals. "They should be spending the money to fix up public hospitals."

Professor Perry said he had a "duty to help these kids" by operating on them via Surgery Connect but he hoped Queensland Health did not intend to make the program permanent. "It's work that needs to be done at night time, when everybody's tired, including surgeons, or on weekends, and that cuts into family time," he said. Surgeons would prefer to see the Government set up elective surgery theatres in public hospitals to "quarantine" non-urgent cases from emergencies. Because of the huge increase in demand on public hospital emergency departments, elective surgery lists are sometimes cancelled because of the more urgent cases.

Specialists raised the issue with Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' annual state meeting at Coolum, on the Sunshine Coast, at the weekend. Mr Robertson acknowledged the Government needed to do better by treating children in a more timely manner. "I want to see an improvement in wait times for children," he said. He said he would consider creating elective surgery only theatres for children but he said Surgery Connect was probably here to stay. "My personal view is that it would be irresponsible ... where we can identify capacity in the private sector, not to use that capacity if it means that we increase our throughput," Mr Robertson said.


But there's plenty of money for the health bureaucracy

QUEENSLAND Health bureaucrats have spent more than $800,000 travelling the world over the past two years, a budget estimates committee heard. The hearing was today told non-clinical staff made 69 overseas trips in 2006-07 at a cost of $364,546, and 67 trips between July 1, 2007 and May 31, 2008, at a cost of $464,809. The trips included five senior bureaucrats taking an $80,000 two-week visit to US and UK hospitals in November 2006, and a $50,000 trip for two senior bureaucrats to join Health Minister Stephen Robertson on a tour of facilities in the US and Canada in August 2007.

Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said Queenslanders on hospital waiting lists were entitled to ask why they didn't come first. "With such an urgent need for new hospital beds to be delivered and for waiting lists to be tackled, Queenslanders will be wondering why senior health bureaucrats are spending so much time touring hospitals in other countries," Mr Langbroek said in a statement.

Mr Robertson said overseas travel arrangements were under review to ensure taxpayers got value for money from health staff attending conferences and recruitment fairs. "I think it's appropriate every now and then to review that travel budget to ensure it is being used appropriately," he told reporters in Brisbane today. "I'm always worried when I see expenditure going into areas that don't have a direct effect on good patient outcomes. "Just as I look at travel every now and then, I look at other areas of administration to see if there are ways that we can save money and redirect those funds into front-end services."


Extreme leniency towards extreme traffic offences

Why should anyone have any respect for the law if this is what the law is?

A magistrate has opted against recording a conviction against an unlicensed teenage hoon who led police on a high-speed chase in a defective car. Beenleigh magistrate Joan White yesterday fined Nikol Maksuti, 17, $1000 after he pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a vehicle, unlicensed driving as a repeat offender and driving a defective, unregistered and uninsured car.

The magistrate's decision comes less than three weeks after her son, who has an appalling traffic history, received a $750 fine in the same court for a swag of traffic offences. On July 1, Jeffery White, 23, was fined $750 by Beenleigh magistrate Peter Webber for driving without due care while unlicensed, failing to wear a seatbelt or obey a stop sign and obstructing police. He also was disqualified from driving for six months.

And on Monday, acting Holland Park magistrate Chris Callaghan decided against disqualifying the licences of two hoons with appalling traffic histories after they took part in a slow "rolling blockade" before an alleged race on Brisbane's Pacific Highway.

The decisions come despite a crackdown by the State Government and police and the issue of hooning on Queensland's roads prompted calls by a senior surgeon for law-breaking motorists to be shocked into driving responsibly. Princess Alexandra Hospital surgical director Daryl Wall said hoons should be forced to watch their cars crushed in front of their eyes. "That would be a very powerful force," he told The Courier Mail.

Prosecutor Joanne Mills told the Beenleigh Magistrate's Court that Maksuti was caught driving at 110km/h in a 50km/h zone at Waterford West about 10.40pm on May 17. Senior-Constable Mills said Maksuti, who was driving a defective and unregistered car, had never held a driver's licence and twice tried to avoid arrest by speeding away from police. She said at one point Maksuti turned off the car's headlights and came to a skidding halt before fleeing.

Ms White told Maksuti he needed to understand it was a privilege to hold a driver's licence and to think himself lucky she did not record a conviction against him. She also disqualified him from driving for six months. [Since he hasn't got a licence anyway, what does that mean?]


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wow! Reformation Christianity still lives in Sydney

It's just sentimentality on my part (although my own background is Protestant fundamentalist, I am an atheist and brought my son up as a Catholic) but I must admit that I still do enjoy smelling a whiff of the old fire and brimstone in the article below by immensely-influential Sydney Anglican clergyman Phillip Jensen. Beliefs such as his have transformed the world

Roman Catholicism is a very diverse thing and what you see in the Philippines is not necessarily what you see in the streets of Sydney. It has a Protestant face in the Protestant world. Recently we've been getting into the Stations of the Cross here in Sydney with World Youth Day in 2008, but not all 14 Stations of the Cross are going to be done, only I think eight of the Stations of the Cross - I can't remember the exact number.

The ones that are going to be done are the ones that are in the Bible, but the extra ones, like Veronica, well they're not in the Bible. They're not going to be done in the streets of Sydney. Now in one sense it is because they haven't got time, space and energy to do all of them, and in one sense it is out of courtesy to Protestants that they choose to leave out the ones that are not in the Bible.

But if Martin Luther came into Sydney and saw Roman Catholicism and its Stations of the Cross, he'd say, "Ah, they've cleaned up their act." So there are certain aspects of Catholicism in the Protestant world which are much more acceptable to where Luther would have been.

But no. Things are actually worse than in Luther's day because since Luther's day the Roman Catholic Church not only calcified itself explicitly against justification by faith alone, or the authority of the scriptures alone, or salvation by grace alone, etcetera; not only calcified itself against that back at the Council of Trent but since then you've had the Vatican I Council in 1870, which clarified the idea that the Pope can speak infallibly.

A faithful Roman Catholic would say, "Well, they're just saying what we've always believed," but in fact it was not until 1870 that it was ever said that this is really what the belief is. Since then we're not too sure how often the Pope has spoken infallibly but the one occasion on which everyone agrees he did was in the 1950s when he declared that Mary had been bodily assumed from the grave. Well, that's not in the Bible anywhere. And why would she be bodily assumed from the grave? It's all part of the Maryology that has come in. It has also identified the immaculate conception of Mary; that is, that Mary was without sin. Well, that's nowhere in the Bible.

So since the Reformation we've had the infallibility of the Pope, the sinlessness of Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary. These things show you that Roman Catholicism has moved since the Reformation - but it has moved further away from us, not closer to us.

NOW in Vatican II there was an opening up - people were "separated brothers" and things like that - but with all due respect to the genuineness of their attempts to be more ecumenically open - and certainly I'm appreciative of the sense of which we can live in a tolerant acceptance of each other - it was only a year or two ago that the Pope made quite clear that the Anglican Church, Presbyterians, are sects, cults; we are not the true church.

So you can't get salvation through us; you are moved into fairly serious deviation. And so Protestants can be very warm and fuzzy towards Roman Catholicism but it's not actually reciprocal. We are not really seen as God's people in Christ Jesus because the Pope is seen as the vicar of Christ. Now from a Bible-believing point of view, that is an appalling blasphemy because the Holy Spirit is the vicar of Christ.


No nonsense about Muslim taxicab drivers in Queensland

Company fires them if they object to dogs -- unlike the constipated proceedings in the USA

Some Muslim taxi drivers are refusing to carry blind and disabled passengers with guide dogs - because their religion tells them the animals are "unclean". Brisbane's Yellow Cab Company has been forced to sack drivers over their conduct towards passengers with assistance dogs. Bill Parker, general manager of the firm, said the behaviour would not be tolerated and penalties will be imposed if drivers disobeyed. The company has produced a booklet informing drivers of their duty towards blind and disabled customers with dogs.

Islamic Council of Queensland president Suliman Sabdia said dogs were considered a health risk for Muslims but "to use religion as a reason to refuse blind and disabled passengers is unjustified".


"Into the Deep Green Yonder"

A response to the Rudd government's Green Paper on Climate Change by Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition:

The Government Green Paper completely ignores the main question - should Canberra try to control the weather, or is it better to foster a strong Australia able to cope with whatever climate change brings us? The Government also justifies the need for action on completely worthless long term forecasts of Australia's weather.

Not even the IPCC claims an ability to forecast the weather beyond a few days, but the CSIRO has sullied its reputation by pretending they can project temperature and rainfall 30 years into the future. Why have they not revealed the calculations for these predictions? In the corporate world, anyone making such wild unsubstantiated claims would be quickly disciplined by the regulators. Public figures who repeat and embellish these scaremongering prophecies lack common sense and should also be called to account. The only credible weather forecast for such a long period is "It will Fluctuate".

Minister Wong obviously believes that if we give her enough powers to tax and regulate, she can change the world's weather. This belief is as silly as the CSIRO weather forecasts out to 2040. Man has never been able to control the weather and there is no credible evidence that his activities have caused unusual weather. In fact, despite all the hot air about carbon emissions, the world has not warmed since 1998 and has been cooling for the last 6 years. Moreover, we have had extreme droughts, floods, ice ages and global warming long before man started using coal and oil.

Minister Wong should make sure Australia has the industrial ability and economic strength to cope with any adverse weather that occurs, be it floods, fires, droughts, snow, heat, cyclones or tsunamis. Poor people cannot cope with Climate Change and the Rudd/Garnaut/Wong carbon taxes will make every Australian poorer.

This Deep Green Paper should be recycled and replaced by an enlightened White Paper outlining how to make Australia strong and prosperous. This will provide the best insurance for our children against any climate change.


Global warming not such a moral dilemma after all, it seems

One Wong doesn't make it right

HERE'S a question: what happened to the great moral dilemma of our time?

Scientists have been imploring us to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change caused by human behaviour. Economists such as Ross Garnaut say the same. So does the Prime Minister. He has said any number of times that this is the great moral issue of our time. If that's right, then surely we have to change our behaviour, emit less carbon, and save the planet from global warming. Simple, really. Now, it turns out that when an emissions trading system is introduced, petrol excise will be cut on a cent for cent basis to spare drivers the indignity of higher petrol prices. In other words, we can keep driving our cars, pumping the carbon into the atmosphere that is warming the planet.

Surely a politician who genuinely believes that climate change is the great moral issue will have the honesty to say: we are so committed to the science of climate change that you, the people of Australia, including the working families, must change your driving habits and wear the costs of mitigating climate change? But no. Not yet. Political expediency trumps all.

The problem with collecting buckets of dollars from an emissions trading system and showering that cash over consumers and businesses (to spare consumers higher costs) is that it kind of defeats the purpose of an ETS. An ETS is meant to alter behaviour through price signals. There is every indication that the ETS proposed by the Rudd Government will blunt the signals to the point where we don't change our behaviour.

It's easy enough changing a carbon emitting light globe to a friendlier version. No one needs a price signal to do that. Just a clean, green conscience. But changing behaviour? Steady on. That's a different thing, it seems. Yet, if we are serious about climate change, isn't it about time the Rudd Government came clean on the need for people to bear the real cost burden so that they do start to alter their carbon emitting actions?

Of course, the reason you won't hear a politician tell us that we need higher fuel prices to convince us to drive less, or drive smarter cars, is that climate change is not the big moral dilemma of our generation. It's more like the great political dilemma as the Rudd Government tries to look serious about climate change without hurting voters too much before the next election. That was pretty obvious when the Government leaked some details before the official release of the Green Paper so that the first thing people would read in newspapers across the nation was the plan to cut petrol excise tax.

It's all in the timing, you'll notice. Even more importantly, a deliberately feeble version of an ETS will be up and running by 2010. July 2010, in reality. And even that start date is now carefully framed as an "aspiration". With many predicting that the Rudd Government will go to an early election - some are predicting as early as late 2009 - consumers won't feel the heat of an ETS until well into the next election. If carbon is priced at a nice low price - say $10 a tonne - consumers won't notice much at all. Come then next election, they will be lulled into thinking this ETS thing is not such a big deal. And Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is saying there is no unlimited promise on cutting fuel excise - but heck, the petrol cut will extend to 2013. Is that yet another election before an ETS is given any real teeth to change our behaviour?

If so, then Wong and Rudd will have exposed the con of their great moral dilemma. Explaining their hypocrisy to voters is their real moral dilemma.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nonsensical emissions trading scheme unveiled

Good ol' Rudd tokenism again: Large political compromises ensure that it will have negligible effect on carbon emissions. All it will do is generate another nice little bureaucracy to administer it

Motorists are guaranteed petrol price relief for just three years under an emissions trading scheme unlikely to have any short term effect on greenhouse gas emissions. The Rudd Government has opted for a softly, softly approach which will likely lead to an increase in the cost of living of less than one per cent. Its options paper on emissions, released in Canberra today, will see Australia ease into a relatively gentle scheme on July 1, 2010. This approach is good news for industry and means there will be a limited impact on household budgets - but it's not likely to lead to deep cuts to greenhouse emissions in the short-term.

The key points:

Scheme will probably add less than 1 per cent to the cost of living.

Petrol will be included, but there will be no net price increase because the fuel excise will be cut.

Pensioners, carers and seniors will have their payments increased to make up for price rises.

Other low-income earners will get tax breaks and increased allowances to make up for price rises.

Middle-income earners will get some financial assistance.

Scheme to start on July 1, 2010.

Free "permits to pollute" will be given to big polluters who export their goods; 90 per cent of their emissions will be for free.

Twenty per cent of the scheme's permits will be given out for free.

Coal-fired power stations will get cash payments to compensate for increased costs, and develop clean coal technology.

Petrol will be included in emissions trading, but the fuel excise will be cut so that there is no net increase in price. The decision to cut the petrol excise so that emissions trading does not push up prices - which was first proposed by the federal opposition - flies in the face of advice from the government's hand-picked climate change adviser Ross Garnaut. He urged against an excise cut last week, saying the price of petrol should rise to send a signal to the market to use less. The government says it will review the excise cut after three years. Fuel taxes on heavy vehicle road users will also be cut.

As expected, electricity is included in the scheme, as is throwing out rubbish to landfill, while agriculture is out until at least 2015. The options paper forecasts the cost of living will rise by 0.9 per cent due to emissions trading, meaning the average price for a basket of goods will rise by 0.9 per cent in the first year of the scheme.

Low-income earners will be given cash payments to make up for those price rises. Pensioners, carers and seniors will have their payments increased, and other low-income earners will get tax breaks and increased payments from the government. The scheme also aims to placate middle-income earners, who will get financial assistance.

Emissions trading seeks to tackle climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions. Big emitters have to buy "permits to pollute", which they can trade between them, so the market sets the price. The government has taken on board industry's concerns about the scheme, responding with a relatively generous support package. Big emitters who export much of their product - such as aluminium smelters - will be all-but exempted from emissions trading at the start. They will be given free "permits to pollute" to cover 90 per cent of their emissions. In all, 20 per cent of the scheme's permits will be given out for free, rising to 30 per cent once agriculture is included.

Coal-fired power plants will be compensated with direct payments from the government, including to develop clean coal technology. And there's a win for the forestry industry - companies who plant trees can qualify for carbon credits, but companies who chop down forests don't have to pay.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong made reference to the gentleness of the scheme, saying it was not possible for Australia to lead the world on climate change. "After so many years of inaction, it is impossible for Australia to be in front of the world in tackling climate change," Senator Wong said today as the options paper was unveiled. "A greater risk is being left behind a world of emerging economic opportunities."

She stressed the importance of protecting the economy and the national interest. "In this green paper, the government has sought to strike the right balance, on the basis of economically responsible policy in the national interest." The government will release its final plan for emissions trading, along with draft laws to start the scheme, in December this year. The options paper does not include hard facts on the cost of emissions trading, but gives a big hint, basing key calculations on a carbon price of $20 a tonne.


Sea of the young and devout swamps dormant Sydney dockland

(See Zeg's cartoon and commentary on the Leftist protests against the Pope here)

For five days it will stand as the biggest religious festival Australia has seen: 4000 priests, 418 bishops, 26 cardinals and more than 150,000 pilgrims celebrating mass together on the Sydney harbour foreshore. Catholics from around the world yesterday transformed a long-dormant section of Sydney's docks into a sea of waving national flags, cheering, singing and crying young pilgrims. They gathered to hear the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, celebrate mass as the sun set on a magnificent winter's day.

Although record-breaking, their number will be dwarfed by the expected 500,000-strong congregation who will attend the papal mass on Sunday at Randwick racecourse, in Sydney's east.

Kevin Rudd welcomed the pilgrims in several languages, and with a broad Australian "G'day". "Too often in the history of the world, when young people travel in great number to other parts of the world, they do so in the cause of war, but you here today are here as pilgrims of peace," the Prime Minister said.

The Barangaroo site was full an hour before Cardinal Pell and a crowd of bishops took to the stage at 4.30pm and police were forced to turn thousands away. Following the greetings, and the welcoming ceremony by indigenous singers and dancers, a hush came over the crowd. Cardinal Pell welcomed the pilgrims to Sydney, speaking in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English before his homily. He said young Catholics should struggle against their "fat, relentless egos" and commit themselves to their fate. "Following Christ is not cost-free, not always easy, because it requires struggling against what St Paul called 'the flesh' - old, fat relentless egos,old-fashioned selfishness," he said. "It is always a battle, even for old people like me."

The mass combined the old and the new - a new musical setting, the Our Father said in Latin, a choir of 300 and an orchestra of 80 young people.

Rachel Karuana, 20, from Kenya, described the mass as one of the most emotional experiences of her life. She said the pilgrimage to Australia took her four days, four plane trips and many more bus rides. But being here among other young Catholics had made the journey worthwhile. "This is so big, I don't have words," she said. "Faith is something you need to make work and this is what I'm doing being here."

Standing nearby, with white ochre drying on his skin, Derek Lynch, 21, waited nervously to go on stage. The indigenous dancer from the Kurruru Youth Performing Arts Group in Adelaide said it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. "It's huge - something the entire world's going to be focusing on," Lynch said.

Eight pilgrims addressed the crowd, speaking of their experiences at previous World Youth Days, telling the crowd of their life-changing moments and encouraging their fellow pilgrims to be proud of their faith and to speak up for what they believe in. Katrina Alvir, a teacher from Sydney, told pilgrims that it wasn't always easy to be open about her Catholic faith. She said being a Catholic in Australia sometimes meant "keeping your mouth shut and keeping your love of God inside yourself".


Eco-protest is powered by hypocrisy

Comment on a recent Greenpeace stunt at Swanbank power station

GREEN is the new black. If you're not totally environmentally cuddly by now, you may as well check your re-usable grocery bags at the door. You know the ones we're talking about: those thick plastic bags that allegedly replace the thin plastic bags, which is why every second bugger at the checkout queue has a box of plastic bin-liners secreted in the trolley among the dunny paper, cat food and instant noodles.

The sky is, after all, falling. We're running out of oil. But how did the Greenpeace "go solar" protesters get out to Swanbank? Did all 15 catch the train (which in Queensland runs on electricity generated by burning coal from places like Swanbank)? Maybe they drove in a car-share arrangement, consuming numerous litres of highly processed fossil fuel in the process. Or maybe the proverbial pushbikes the three Sydney protesters rode up on were taken for a canter.

If that were the case, then what a shame that those bikes are probably made of metal extracted from Australian iron-ore mines, plastics sourced from Bass Strait oil, and manufactured using coal-fired electrical power.

Another question for the go solar protesters: How many photo-voltaic cells (produced, by the way, in factories using coal-fired power and petrochemicals) do you have on the roofs of your homes? Or is that all a bit expensive?

Maybe that's a bit unfair. But given your passion to go solar perhaps you wouldn't even have electricity hooked up, just in case some fossil fuels might have suffered in the course of its production. After all, candles are perfectly good illumination in the lounge room while you sit on the treadle to power the dynamo that powers the television (produced with yet more dirty power and petrochemicals) so you can watch yourselves on the 6pm news.

And where do these galahs who were scaling the chimneys last week think the steel and hi-tech apparatus for their climbing equipment came from? It didn't grow on avocado trees. And, of course, being true believers in the cause, none of them would use computers (that requires electrical power and the bastards are made with nasty stuff like plastic) or mobile phones, would they? Mobile phones (more petrochemicals and metals and requiring transmission towers) are the devil's own tool.

Don't fear climate change, don't fear pollution, just retain a healthy cynicism when it comes to the crusaders. Hypocrisy and self-righteousness are the enemy.


Synfuel is the solution Australia needs now

Synthetic fuel from coal and natural gas is already well-established and widely used in South Africa. Why not in Australia? Australia has huge amounts of coal and natural gas

The most critical problem we now confront is not global warming or how to tax emissions, but providing enough affordable fuel to avoid severe recession before alternative energy can become reality. The Lucky Country faces a choice between disaster and a unique opportunity.

Oil supply

Over the past two years climate all over the world has inexplicably begun a pronounced cooling. This is contrary to all expectations from global warming theory and growing other evidence is also indicating that the threat has been overestimated. However, the obsession with catastrophic climate change seems to have distracted attention from a much more certain and immanent danger. The oil supply vital to the entire economy is not keeping up with increasing demand while presently all focus is on renewable energy solutions that will require decades to develop and implement.

Consider just a few key facts about oil:

production is already in decline in some 50 nations; new discoveries have steadily declined for several decades and are far below depletion rates; oil exports are decreasing in most exporting nations as their own domestic demand increases; refining capacity has not kept pace with demand due to environmental restrictions and investment concerns over future supplies of crude; most existing refineries are designed for light sweet crude the supply of which is rapidly declining; future oil will increasingly be heavy sour crude which only a minority of existing refineries can use; the major producers have no reason for massive investment to increase production. The value of their remaining reserves is rapidly appreciating. Increased production would reduce prices and accelerate depletion. Expensive infrastructure for increased production would soon end up excessive to declining reserves.

Growth in demand, shortages and further price rises will slow the global economy for the foreseeable future. Fuel intensive sectors such as primary production, transport and travel will be hit especially hard.


Viable alternative energy is still decades away. Using commercially proven technology synthetic fuel from coal and gas could supply all our needs here in Australia at much less than the current price of fuel from oil. Only emission restrictions on CO2 stand in the way. "Clean" renewable technology is decades from becoming commercial.

The Australian economy is in a vulnerable position. Manufacturing is in decline and, at 13 per cent of GDP, is among the lowest in the developed world. The trade balance remains in chronic deficit even with the mineral boom. In April it became positive for the first time in six years but in May it was in deficit again, chiefly because of rising oil prices. Foreign debt is growing at twice the rate of the economy. It is now about 60 per cent of GDP, the highest in the developed world.

High commodity prices normally last only a few years before increased production, spurred by high prices, brings them down again. An end to the boom will result in a fall in the exchange rate of the Australian dollar, an even worse trade deficit and a crippling increase in the cost of foreign debt. An economy not dependent on imported oil would be a huge advantage.

Australia's portion of global CO2 emissions is about 1.4 per cent or just six months' growth in China's emissions. Natural uptakes of CO2 over Australia's land and Exclusive Economic Area of surrounding ocean absorb much more than this. Our net contribution to global CO2 emissions is already negative. Whatever we do or don't do will be trivial to the global situation, either in quantity or even as an example. Why cripple the economy for an increasingly doubtful theory?

The opportunity

Global warming is a distant and uncertain possibility of a problem that most likely does not even exist, at least in the catastrophic form being predicted. It can only be meaningfully addressed by developments that will require decades to become effective and which, in any event, must be undertaken even without the threat of warming.

Severe economic hardship because of fuel costs and shortages, however, is an imminent probability. This could be greatly alleviated if not avoided altogether by development of our own liquid-fuel supplies. It would be far easier to do this now in a time of prosperity than trying to do it in a recession. Having such capacity already in place might well even avert a recession here altogether. Being energy independent would be a huge competitive advantage in a time of high energy costs and shortages everywhere else.

Although precaution in the face of uncertainty is sensible, the realm of hypothetical risk is limitless. Many perceived risks turn out to have no reality. Remember the Y2K millennium bug scare? We cannot build fortresses against every shadow of doubt. Precaution too is not without its own attendant risk. Any proposed precautionary measure must be weighed against alternatives as well as consideration of its own consequences.

Obsessing over distant uncertain risks, while ignoring immediate consequences, is poor precaution. For Australia, drastic cuts in carbon emissions to prevent global-warming is to climate what anorexia is to obesity.

The proposed carbon taxes will achieve only a vast new windfall for government, large cost/price increases and economic recession with little or no actual reduction in emissions beyond what is effected by economic decline. Emission trading is set to become a huge new non-productive industry of wealth redistribution with a negative net outcome.

The world is headed for an energy crisis with consequences we have not even begun to appreciate. Australia is better positioned to cope than any other nation. For us synfuel is eminently practical and regardless of the ultimate reality of climate change will have negligible effect on the global outcome. The only thing holding us back is blind adherence to an ill-founded belief that daily becomes more hysterical, in denial of conflicting evidence, contrary to sound science and detached from climate itself.

The choice is unambiguous. We can either adhere to the dogma of the eco-cult and suffer immense self-inflicted hardship or take a clear path to future prosperity. Seldom is the way forward so obvious. One way takes a detour through Jonestown the other goes down Easy Street. The political leaders who recognise this and present it to the electorate will be the next government.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

PM's $5bn green gamble against Treasury advice

By Piers Akerman

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd is set to announce a controversial $5 billion scheme to slash carbon emissions. The plan, which will call for carbon to be captured and stored in forests and oceans, will be outlined in the Government's discussion paper on its planned emissions trading scheme to be released tomorrow, Treasury sources said. But the same sources said the Rudd Government would be going against Treasury advice if the expensive scheme to store carbon in the seabed or in deeply submerged subterranean strata went ahead.

They said Treasury had warned against announcing such a proposal because the carbon sequestration technology was largely untried. "This is another theoretical approach to a problem," one source said. "Not only is it very costly, no one knows whether it is a realistic storage solution for carbon emissions. "The Rudd Government appears determined to proceed, however, even though Treasury asked that, at the minimum, it refrain from taking such action until after next year's UN summit on climate change in the Danish capital Copenhagen meeting, when it will be seen what measures other developed nations may take." The use of so-called "carbon sinks" can take the form of storing carbon in plants and soils, oceans or buried in deep rock deposits.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson is on the record as saying there are good arguments for implementing carbon sequestration. Mr Ferguson said sequestration would encourage investment and commercialisation of the technology, which was a safe way to allow continued carbon-based power generation with reduced environmental impact. His draft sequestration legislation sets up a framework for access to Commonwealth waters, defined as beginning three nautical miles offshore, as well as multiple-use agreements allowing the continuation of other commercial activities such as fishing and oil drilling. He said Commonwealth body Geoscience Australia had identified numerous sites where greenhouse gases could be stored. And he nominated high-carbon emission areas of Victoria, Western Australia and southern and central Queensland as having "adequate storage capacity nearby".

The carbon storage row comes after Mr Rudd previously ignored Treasury advice, and that of three other ministries, when he pushed ahead with the Government's FuelWatch program. In Opposition, he was critical of the Howard Government for ignoring Treasury and pledged that his government would be more receptive to advice from its bureaucrats.

Treasury is not the only body concerned at the possible effects of the Government's Green Paper on climate change. Australia's largest trade union, the Australian Workers Union, has released a report that predicts 15,000 jobs could be lost in the aluminium sector alone if the penalties contained in the ETS drive the industry offshore. AWU national secretary Paul Howes said regional communities and economies would be crippled at a potential cost of up to $1.12 billion. "We know, by keeping good jobs in industries like aluminium smelters and refineries here in Australia, we are actually helping in the battle against greenhouse gases," he said.

Environmentalists, however, say that Australians would not suffer if the aluminium sector closed and the industry went offshore to more modern plants. Climate Institute chief John Connor told the ABC yesterday that many foreign aluminium smelters were more efficient.

Farmers also expressed their concern that the discussion paper might pick an "arbitrary" date for the inclusion of agriculture in an ETS.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson will cut short his week-long holiday to lead the Opposition's response to the Government's climate change Green Paper.


Insane hours: One in three medicos risks patients' lives

ONE in three doctors admits they have put patients at risk by working exhaustive hours to prop up Victoria's ailing health system. And more than 80 per cent say medicos in general work too many hours and are under so much stress that the safety of patients and doctors is being compromised. A Herald Sun survey of Victorian doctors also revealed half had considered quitting due mainly to stress, long hours and excessive workloads.

Almost 90 per cent of doctors said there were not enough of them to adequately care for the health needs of Victorians. "We are dangerously tired, overworked and stressed, and patients are suffering and dying from errors borne of pure exhaustion," one doctor said. Another said: "Hours are ridiculous. Working 12 days straight is idiotic and guarantees serious medical errors with fatal consequences." The findings are based on the responses of 1787 doctors who took part in the Herald Sun poll.

The survey also revealed:

MOST doctors believe hospital emergency departments are in crisis.

MORE than 90 per cent say it is unacceptable that more than 45,000 patients were left waiting on hospital trolleys for more than eight hours during the last six months of 2007.

ABOUT 80 per cent say already swollen hospital waiting lists for elective surgery will get longer before they get shorter.

SEVEN out of 10 doctors say patients are losing faith in the public health system.

MORE than 80 per cent say public hospitals will continue to fail their performance targets unless they receive a massive injection of cash from the Government.

The poll showed 47 per cent of Victorian doctors work more than 50 hours a week and 8 per cent work more than 70 hours. Thirty-one per cent of doctors admit they have compromised the care and safety of patients by working excessive hours. And 47 per cent of doctors who work more than 70 hours a week admit to putting their patients at risk.

The strain drove one doctor to write: "I constantly reconsider my options. You asked whether I have considered leaving the medical profession in the last three years - of course. Daily. And unless things change soon, I most likely will."

About 40 per cent of doctors seeking counselling from the Victorian Doctors Health Program are struggling with issues of stress and fatigue. "When you are fatigued, you can't see the wood for the trees to make decisions," director Dr Kym Jenkins said. "I know a significant proportion of the people I see here who are stressed are worried they might have made a mistake. "When people feel they might be compromising patient care it can be anything from not having done their paperwork before the knock-off, to being worried about a major incident."

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Doug Travis said the Herald Sun survey brought to the public's attention the every-day realities encountered by doctors. "We do not have the capacity in our public health-care system to give Victorians the care they need right now, today. That is beds, nurses, doctors and emergency departments," he said.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the Government was negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement with the AMA to balance increased doctors' pay while leaving enough money to improve the health system. "We value the feedback of our hospital doctors and recognise the vital work they do in making the state's public health system one of the world's best," he said.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the Government must confront issues raised by the survey. "The huge pressure on our doctors is further proof that Labor has abandoned Victorian public hospitals," he said.


Jewish obesity under attack

Having seen the snacking ladies at Rose Bay, I think I know what this is all about

Kosher food can stack on the kilos. So says the rabbi who has launched a diet challenge to Australian Jews: lose 1000 kilograms in 12 weeks. Rabbi Mendel Kastel is publishing a diet online this month that comes with kosher recipes, a kosher conversion guide, personalised menus, exercise plans and tools to set goals and track weight. "Bagels, chopped liver, matzo balls, schmaltz herrings - there are things in a kosher diet that make us put on weight," he said. "Rather than a white bagel, try a wholemeal one."

As head of the Rabbinical Council of NSW, Rabbi Kastel has sent a message out to rabbis across Australia to challenge their communities. Corporate sponsorship in the form of a dollar for every kilogram lost will be directed to the Jewish House, a crisis housing agency. "We aim to lose about a kilo a week. So we're looking for 100 people to lose 10 kilos each. And the more, the better," he said.

Rabbi Kastel said he did not know if Jews were fatter than other Australians, but he said they needed to be aware of the importance of eating well, drinking moderately and getting regular exercise. The rabbi has been road-testing the program for the past five weeks and said he has shed six kilograms. "Just 20 kilograms to go."

Under Jewish law people should eat only kosher food. Meat, for instance, must come only from animals that chew the cud and have cloven hoofs, such as cows. And they must be killed in a particular way, removing as much blood as possible.


Bullying in Australia's government schools forces many families into home schooling

PARENTS of both bullying victims and expelled bullies are turning to home schooling in a bid to salvage an education for their children. There are now an estimated 22,000 students learning from home in Queensland, double the number counted by a government working group in 2002.

The bullying epidemic in the state's schools is behind the increase, according to the Home Education Association. Association spokeswoman Colleen Strange said it had become the last resort for both the bullied and their bullies. "It's disturbing. I even have teenagers contacting me saying, 'Please talk to my mother and tell her what she has to do because I can't spend another minute in that school'," Ms Strange said. "I even have people who have been excluded from school for bullying contacting me. They have no choice, they have to be educated somewhere."

Home education is a "lawful alternative" for students of a compulsory school age, but Education Queensland sets out strict guidelines. Those wishing to go to university have to sit a special tertiary admissions test.

Last week's Sunday Mail investigation into bullying in Queensland schools sparked a huge response from readers. One Brisbane mother was driven to release details of a diary she kept of the daily trauma suffered by her disabled son at the hands of classmates. She was one of hundreds of readers who contacted The Sunday Mail following our report, which found up to one in six Queensland schoolchildren were victims of schoolyard abuse and 70 students, some as young as five, were suspended every day for assault.

The mother said her 14-year-old - who has autistic spectrum disorder, which affects his social and communication skills - had been subjected to a decade of physical and mental attacks, which left him reclusive and on anti-depressant drugs. "It started from Day One, they didn't give him a chance, they didn't give him a go," the mother said "His disorder means he can't socialise properly, anyway, and now almost every single day he comes home crying. He has no self-esteem. "He says, 'Mum I can't take it any more, I just can't do it any more'. And that is heartbreaking, really heartbreaking."

For the past 18 months the mother - whose identity has been withheld to protect her son - has kept a diary of every incident involving her son. She said "there is not one single day where something hasn't happened". The abuse began with name-calling and escalated to him being grabbed around the throat and choked, beaten with a mallet in manual arts, punched in the genitals and hit with a rock.

The mother said she had pleaded with school authorities and even confronted her son's bullies, and now had no choice but to join thousands of other Queensland families who were rejecting mainstream education in favour of home schooling. "If he stays where he is it will be devastating," she said.

Parents and children who contacted The Sunday Mail said they felt powerless to deal with the situation. "I now believe that the only way to stop the bullying is for my son to stand up to them, but the problem is that he doesn't know how to be physically violent. Oh, and by the way, he is only nine years old," one email revealed.

Another parent said her daughter had attempted suicide: "Four years onwards, many counselling sessions later, two suicide attempts, my daughter is barely living. She was a bright, caring, talented musician. This is sadly the cost to families left to deal with the effect of senseless degrading of a human being."


New cartoon blog from Sydney

The work of conservative Sydney cartoonist "Zeg" is little known so far.

I think his drawing is so brilliant, though, that I have started a new blog to record his cartoons as he does them -- with his permission, of course.

See here

Let's all hope he cracks a job at one of the big papers soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Kevin Rudd has no policy ideas that might actually improve the lot of Australians generally so he constantly resorts to tokenism. And global warming is the BIG bit of tokenism for him. There is no pretence that his proposed climate policies will make any discernible difference to the climate so the only rationale is that Australia will be "setting an example" for India and China. That India and China are likely to be influenced by Australians cutting their own throats is laughable, however. The Indians and the Chinese will cetainly be laughing. Nonetheless, Don Quixote Rudd seems set on his nonsense so there is much discussion of the policies concerned. Three current articles below

Climate cure more costly than the disease

DEMOCRACY, as Arthur Balfour said, is government by explanation: but the explanations must be good ones. The Garnaut report was to explain the basis for the Government's climate change policy. Unfortunately it leaves open more questions than it answers. This is because the encyclopedia Garnaut and his team have produced does everything except what it was supposed to do: cost a target for greenhouse emissions reductions. That, we are told, will come later, with the delay being due to difficulties in the modelling of emissions reductions and their economic costs.

That a delay would occur is hardly implausible. But given that the primary purpose was to present those estimates, why didn't Garnaut simply delay the completion of his report? Surely the public, having ordered the steak, would hardly find it satisfactory to be served only the vegetables, with a promise that the steak would come with dessert?

The failure to present any estimates of the cost of emissions reductions is important because it makes the report unbalanced. Working on the principle that a risk perceived is a risk indeed, the damage climate change could cause is explained at length, but there is no corresponding discussion of the costs and risks involved in action to prevent climate change from occurring.

The absence of costings lets the report off the hook. Since it doesn't weigh up the probable costs and benefits to Australia of alternative policy options, it isn't forced to grapple either with the likelihood of effective international agreement actually being reached or with the consequences of implementing an ETS if it isn't. As these risks, and the costs of going ahead regardless, are not properly weighed in the balance, the report too often reads like a call to arms, rather than objective policy analysis.

This feature of the report is accentuated by its one-sided presentation of material. Nowhere is this clearer than in the report's discussion of the harm climate change could do the living standards of future generations of Australians. Estimating the extent of that harm is fraught with judgments and assumptions, and some will think the report understates the costs, while others will think the opposite.

But what is important about the report's estimate is the one thing the report never mentions: which is that it is hardly a huge number. If one accepts the report's estimates of the real income loss consequent on adverse climate change, then fully offsetting that income loss would require putting aside each year an amount that would be about 0.7 per cent of Australia's GDP in 2008, and which would decline to less than one-third of 1 per cent of GDP by mid century. This assumes a real global rate of return on investment globally of 6 per cent, which is reasonable by historical standards and consistent with the strong economic growth projections set out in the report.

Given a government committed to a budget surplus in the order of 1.5 per cent of GDP over the economic cycle, this level of saving could be achieved with little or no sacrifice to consumption. Indeed, one could readily double the report's estimate of the loss (say, to even more fully reflect non-monetary losses) without that conclusion being in any way undermined. This is important not only because it puts the issue in perspective, but especially because it sets a ceiling on the acceptable costs of an ETS.

Any ETS that costs us more than the precautionary savings set out above would be difficult to justify, as it would impose a larger sacrifice than needed to preserve future living standards. Indeed, given the risk that our own abatement efforts will have little consequence, and that global agreement will not be reached or will prove ineffective, the amount we should be willing to spend on an ETS ought to be even lower than that ceiling, thereby freeing up some income for the precautionary saving we will need should harmful climate change occur. The report could and should have explained this much, but it doesn't. Nor does it explain as directly as would have been desirable the consequences of its preferred approach to allocating permits globally, which is on a per-capita basis.

Australia will continue to have a very small share of world population and hence, under a per-capita allocation, would obtain a small share of global emissions permits. At the same time, our comparative advantage means that we should specialise in emissions-intensive industries, such as agriculture, minerals and energy. Given per-capita allocation of emissions permits, to do so we would have to buy permits from overseas, which would partly transfer to foreigners the gains from our resource endowment.

Perhaps this wealth transfer is desirable; but it is no less desirable for the public to understand that such a wealth transfer would occur, potentially on a very significant scale, were the report's recommendations accepted.

This tendency to understate problems with the preferred approach is also apparent in the report's treatment of the transition to an ETS. The report acknowledges that there may be a case for a "slow and low" start, with a capped emissions price being set for a two-year period. What it does not explain is why the uncertainties that make such a gradual start sensible would be materially reduced after merely two years. By the end of 2012, it will still not be clear whether an effective global regime will come into place; and even the response of the Australian economy to an ETS will remain highly uncertain, as the adjustment processes will take many years to work. In the meantime, new shocks will emerge, as the world economy itself continues to change.

All of these uncertainties are best dealt with by retaining a capped carbon price that reflects the benefits of abating later rather than now. Such a capped price would ensure that even after 2012 the costs of any abatement do not exceed the benefits, which especially in the near term, are likely to be very modest. Yet this too the report does not confront, other than by assuming that uncertainties will melt away.

Finally, there are the instances where there is at least the semblance of partisanship. Garnaut's response to calls from the Opposition for the fuel excise to be reduced should an ETS be imposed is a case in point. Any such reduction, he suggests, would send the wrong signal to developing countries, especially those which continue to heavily subsidise fuel consumption, and would in any event be economically unjustified.

However, there is no more virtue in unduly taxing a commodity than there is in unduly subsidising it: both distort relative prices and reduce efficiency. Fuel prices are already trebly taxed: by the excess mark-ups arising from the OPEC cartel, by the fuel excise and by the GST. Compounding the distortion by adding a fourth tax, without adjusting the others, would be both inefficient and inequitable.

In short, this is a report that costs the problem, but says little or nothing about the costs of its proposed solution. As for its proposed solution, it does not even seek to systematically compare it with alternatives: rather, it acts as if the only options were complete inaction on the one hand, or its version of an ETS on the other. And for all of its 500-plus pages, it is at times uncomfortably thin on analysis, appealing to fears and hopes rather than likelihoods and realities.

Yet the policy decisions the report calls for are of huge consequence: they cannot be made on the basis of romanticism and generous impulses. To claim those decisions must be made immediately is as reckless as it is nonsensical: rather, what is needed is a far more careful testing of the facts. That the Opposition has been debating these issues is therefore hardly worrying; what would be terrifying is if the Government were not to. For without such a full debate, the greatest threat to Australia's future prosperity will lie not in the climate, but in ourselves.


A climate backdown of sorts

Top 1000 polluters only to need permits

Penny Wong has assured businesses they will not face a GST-style red tape tangle when the Rudd Government introduces its planned emissions trading scheme (ETS) to tackle climate change. The Climate Change Minister revealed yesterday only the 1000 biggest polluters of the business world - such as power companies - would have to purchase emissions permits under the system, The Australian reports. But she also insisted the ETS, the subject of a green paper to be released on Wednesday, would encompass the entire economy.

Senator Wong's comments came as the Make Poverty History movement called for the Government to create a new migration category for climate change refugees - Pacific Island residents whose homes are likely to be inundated by rising sea levels.

The Climate Institute think tank also released a report warning that Australia needed to do much more on energy efficiency to maximise its response to climate change.

Senator Wong's long-awaited green paper will give the first real indication of the detail of the Government's ETS plan and will come less than a fortnight after its climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, released a draft report recommending a comprehensive scheme to begin in 2010. Government sources said it would focus not only on emissions trading, but would cover a broader agenda as part of a carbon pollution reduction scheme.

Interviewed on ABC television yesterday, Senator Wong said the Government would put a limit on permitted carbon pollution and issue permits up to that limit to big polluters.


Big labor union challenges Rudd on climate policy:

Keep energy and resource jobs in Australia to cut global greenhouse: AWU

Up to 15,000 Australian jobs could be under threat, Australia's biggest energy and resource union, the AWU warned today. Australian Workers' Union (AWU) National Secretary, Paul Howes, said that industry, government and unions need to look at ways we can 'green' our energy-intensive and export-oriented industries - so that we can keep good jobs here and not go to overseas markets, like China or Brazil or India.

AWU wants Regional Australia in Climate Change debate: The AWU leader warned that this national community debate cannot just be concentrated in the capital cities - but must also involve the regions. " Professor Garnaut undertook a national tour of Town Hall meetings to speak directly to the public after he released his Draft Report. " That was good. But all the meetings were in capital cities. Our economy today depends on the industries and jobs in Regional Australia - where the energy and resources sector is based. " The people in Regional Australia will suffer the hardest hit - especially if we are wrong-footed on climate change. The AWU is not prepared to abandon the regions. These jobs in Regional Australia are integral to the future well-being of our nation."

How AWU jobs can help in the battle against greenhouse gases: Paul Howes went to Geelong in Victoria to launch this major 32 page analysis the AWU commissioned from Per Capita, an independent think-tank committed to developing a progressive Australia. The Per Capita report, released today suggests ways that we can keep these good jobs here - and help these energy-intensive industries become more environmentally friendly.

" We know by keeping good jobs in industries like these smelters and refineries here in Australia we are actually helping in the battle against greenhouse gases," AWU National Secretary, Paul Howes, said.

"The Federal Government must help these industries to clean up their act, and bring in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage . If we do that then decent, well-paid, secure jobs will not be lost to Australia - and taken off-shore to countries like China, India and Brazil whose pollution levels are far-far higher than we have here in Australia.

" For every tonne of alumina made here in Australia we have 50 per cent less emissions than the same tonne made in China. So if this industry shifts to China because of Climate Change imposts we only worsen global pollution," Mr Howes said.

Report shows we can generate significant green job opportunities by keeping energy and resource industry alive: Key recommendations in the Per Capita report call for:

* Government to consider providing partial exemption for five years, or a temporary exclusion from ETS, or a discount on carbon market price.

* Aluminium industry aggressively investing in developing own carbon-neutral energy resources which would themselves generate significant job opportunities.

* Industry to meet future demand growth through efficiency gains.

* Government offers income tax credits to stimulate job creation.


Another huge public hospital disgrace

W.A. hospital ignores teen with severed fingers. He should have gone into surgery immediately!

A TEENAGER whose fingers were severed in a workplace accident waited 28 hours for a bed at Royal Perth Hospital's emergency department. McKenneth Atkinson, 19, an apprentice mechanic from Pinjarra, was brought to RPH by ambulance about 3pm on Thursday. He waited in the emergency department with parts of his severed fingers on ice until Friday night. And after more than a day he was finally given a ward bed and prepared for surgery, only to have that delayed.

He was finally transferred to the Mount Hospital for surgery at about midday on Saturday. The teenager's father, Colin Atkinson, told The Sunday Times he was upset by the delay. "He had been waiting in emergency for about 28 hours before they shifted him into the hospital,'' Mr Atkinson said. "I couldn't believe how pathetic our public health system can be. He was taken down to theatre late Friday night and they had him all prepped and ready to go. "Then they had another trauma (victim) come in and he got pushed back into the ward.''

A spokesman for RPH apologised for the delay. "The hospital is sorry about Mr Atkinson's wait for a ward bed,'' he said. "The patient was not able to be moved to a ward sooner because the hospital was experiencing heavy demand for beds. [A heavy demand that happens EVERY WINTER!!! So there is no excuse for not being prepared] "On Thursday, we experienced a very high number of surgical cases at that time, but all the time he was with us in the emergency department his condition was monitored.''

On Thursday, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital was forced to make a similar apology when it was revealed a blind war veteran waited almost a day for a bed. Edward Webster, 80, waited more than 17 hours at the hospital despite having a letter from his GP saying he needed urgent treatment.

Australian Medical Association spokesman David Mountain was not surprised by reports of emergency patients waiting more than 24 hours for a bed. "It's symptomatic of how congested and overcrowded our departments are and how long people have to wait to get to a definitive bed,'' Dr Mountain said. "These sorts of cases, or very long delays, are extremely frequent in our departments now.'' Dr Mountain said emergency patient care was being jeopardised by the long delays.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Disastrous NSW ambulance management

After a distinguished 30-year career, which included bringing Kerry Packer back to life, Bill Taylor quit the NSW Ambulance Service in 2006, fed up with an entrenched culture of bullying and discrimination. He personally knew five officers who committed suicide and one who attempted suicide, and he had the grim task of arranging funerals for others.

Last week, as a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the strife-torn service got under way, Mr Taylor said of his fallen colleagues: "They see no other way out because of the lack of support by the persons appointed by the service who are supposed to look after its members. "I used to organise the funerals for officers who died in Sydney either from suicide or accidents. [The Ambulance Service] would make a show of caring by paying for the funeral and getting the band to play but then it's swept under the carpet."

The upper house inquiry, chaired by Liberal MLC Robyn Parker, has received more than 100 submissions from officers alleging bullying and harassment within the service. Some, citing victimisation by colleagues, have linked their personal mistreatment to forced stress leave, resignations, clinical depression and, in several cases, suicide attempts of their own. Almost without exception, the officers insist their complaints, warnings or cries for help fell on deaf ears or were swept under the carpet by senior management. "The majority are about terrible bullying and harassment that has gone on for years and is driving people to do terrible things. Their psychological health is damaged. For some their whole lives are damaged," Ms Parker said.

The inquiry heard Christine Hodder, 38, endured years of torment at her station in Cowra before she hanged herself in 2005. Her former supervisor, Phil Roxburgh, has accused management of being "grossly negligent and dismissive" of her plight, while the service's professional standards unit found no one accountable for her death. The Sun-Herald has learned that the officer sent to Cowra to replace Ms Hodder also complained of being bullied after he revealed the two had been high school mates in the state's north. He left work on stress leave in August, 2006 and remains on leave. Chris Pollard, the senior Newcastle officer posted to Cowra as Mr Roxburgh's replacement in January, 2006, lasted several months before he too moved on, allegedly after being subjected to intimidation.

Mr Taylor - who used a defibrillator to revive Mr Packer after he suffered a heart attack at a polo match in 1990 - made a submission to the inquiry. He said he was bullied from his first day of training at a station, with the older officers telling him, "We don't like you. We're going to fail you." The final straw was the incompetence and bullying by a male officer at Tanilba Bay, which contributed to two officers taking stress leave. "I would take sickies so I didn't have to work with him and then I decided I had to retire," Mr Taylor said.

The Health Services Union has backed the claims, pointing to widespread disaffection with the Ambulance Service's internal investigations, many of which it says are "prejudicial in nature, inconsistent in application and protracted in duration". It has also called for a comprehensive plan to make sure all ambulance workplaces are free of persecution.

At an openly hostile statewide meeting last September, 500 officers had expressed "absolutely no confidence" in senior management "and in particular, the current chief executive", union chief Michael Williamson said. Testifying before the inquiry, NSW Ambulance Service chief executive Greg Rochford acknowledged there had been strong criticism of the service's ability to resolve disputes and address workplace behaviour issues. He said much was being done to simplify and speed up procedures and improve interaction between managers and front-line staff.

NSW Director-General of Health Deborah Picone said the service had a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment. More than 400 managers were expected to be retrained in its implementation by the end of next year and a taskforce had been set up.


Patients to grow spare body parts

HEART disease patients could grow "spare body parts" with a radical technique being developed by Melbourne engineers. Swinburne University scientists are poised to put on trial world-first technology that may see entire organs cultivated from just a few human cells. First on the agenda are heart valves that Prof Yosry Morsi believes his team can grow - and have transplanted into humans - within five years. The breakthrough may help up to 6000 Australians a year, revolutionising the surgery that repaired Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's heart about 15 years ago.

Prof Morsi said he believed that the technique might make artificial valves and "tissue" versions from humans, pigs and cows redundant. "We are trying to copy nature," he said. "We'd be using a patient's own cells, so their body is not going to react it."

The key to the technique, which could be tested on animals within a year, is "scaffolding" modelled on a patient's real heart. A cell from the patient's heart is put into the scaffolding, which is left in a machine that simulates human heart conditions. Cells multiply, growing into a replica of the original within 12 weeks. "While we are creating this living tissue, we are subjecting it to exactly the sort of pressures it will be under (in the body), like the pressure of blood flow," Prof Morsi said.

Though other scientists around the world are also in the race to successfully "grow" human organs, it is Swinburne's techniques that put it on track for the big breakthrough.

Prof Frank Rosenfeldt, head of The Alfred's cardiac surgical research unit, said Prof Morsi's work could revolutionise the common but complicated operation. "If a human heart valve can be grown using the patient's tissues, this would be a great advantage," he said. "It would be a living tissue, which might even regenerate and repair itself."

Like Mr Rudd, Melbourne grandfather Bill Wade was given a tissue valve and is enjoying a new lease on life. He was transplanted with a pig's valve - Mr Rudd had a human donor - at The Alfred in February. "I'm happy with this, and they've said it will last 10 to 15 years before I need a replacement, maybe longer," said Mr Wade, from Sandringham. "But if I had the choice (to grow) my own valve, that would just be amazing."


Safety warnings a new chapter for fairytales

TEACHERS are being urged to give children safety messages after reading them fairytales warning not to copy characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and Hansel and Gretel. A new child protection curriculum being implemented by the Education Department also requires teachers to refer to children's "sexual parts" and use their correct anatomical names with children as young as three.

Child development experts have backed the measures, but critics believe they are an example of political correctness overkill that could turn children into "little nervous wrecks".

Parents across SA are being briefed on the impact of the new curriculum, which aims to teach children from preschool upwards the early warning signs of being unsafe and recognising abuse.

Teachers have been trained to be wary of storybooks in which characters put themselves at risk - and to respond by offering safety messages. For example, children would be warned not to talk to people they don't know as Little Red Riding Hood did with the Big Bad Wolf; not to walk around unsupervised like Goldilocks; and not to enter unknown houses like Hansel and Gretel. Popular modern books would also face scrutiny. The picture book Pig in the Pond, in which a farmer strips off to have a swim on a hot day, would be followed by explaining that it would be inappropriate to undress in front of someone you did not know.

Emeritus Professor of Child Development at UniSA, Professor Freda Briggs, who was consulted in the curriculum's development, supported the measures, calling for them to be implemented nationally. "This is about appropriately empowering the child," she said. "Kids are talking about sex at age five now. It's so in-your-face, I'm afraid that innocence is gone. They are sexualised younger and younger. "We need to use correct body terms because by giving children silly names or names that only the family understands, you're telling your child that you can't cope with talking about it. How does a child get help if nobody understands?"

But Australian Family Association spokesman Jerome Appleby said the measures - the first update to the child safety curriculum in more than 20 years - encroached on the domain of parents. Putting safety messages on fairytales risked frightening children unnecessarily. "You don't want to scare children too much and create an environment of fear," he said. "We don't want to create little nervous wrecks. "Parents are best placed to determine how much they need to tell their children and at what age."

Mr Appleby said teaching young children about the correct names for their "sexual parts" would contribute to the early sexualisation of children. "This will destroy the innocence of children too early," he said. "I don't think it's appropriate for very young children. They aren't ready for those sorts of adult concepts and it's a sad indictment on society."

Social commentator David Chalke said drawing modern morals from fairytales was fine, if stories or characters were not altered. "A lot of nursery tales are cautionary tales in their original sense, so I don't see a problem with making it relevant to today," he said. But Mr Chalke said it was "political correctness overkill" to introduce pre-schoolers to sexual concepts. "This is bureaucratic meddling; it's absurdity and it smacks of overkill," he said.

"To me, this is education bureaucracy getting above itself. "The heavy hand of the state is impinging on the parent-child relationship. They are saying that you must be correctly programmed from the age of three. We're talking about children who can neither read nor write. Leave the pre-schoolers alone."

Federation of Catholic School Parent Communities spokeswoman Ann Bliss said it was positive for pre-school teachers to incorporate safety messages into fairytales. "It's a good compromise. We're not throwing the fairytales out but we're engaging in conversations with our children, keeping them safe," she said.

In an emailed response, an Education Department spokesperson said: "There's no easy way to deliver a message about such a sensitive topic, and that is why the State Government enlisted the advice and assistance of local child protection experts in developing the program. The curriculum is taught in a way that is relevant and appropriate for each year level, and includes the use of anatomically correct and respectful language."

The Keeping Safe program was developed in conjunction with SA Police, Family and Community Services, the Australian Education Union, the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.


Mathematics teaching dumbed down

STUDENTS are being taught maths at the most superficial level by teachers rushing to pass on the basic skills while shying away from complex ideas. In yet another example of children being failed by national school curriculums, a special report for the state leaders finds maths teaching is failing students by setting the bar too low.

The National Numeracy Review report, released to The Weekend Australian, criticises the national benchmarks in maths, which assess students against minimum standards rather than requiring a desirable proficiency. "The implication (is) that minimum standards are good enough, at least for some students," says the report on numeracy commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments. "All students and their families, however, have a right to expect high-quality - not minimum - numeracy outcomes from their schooling."

The review committee, chaired by the former head of the NSW Board of Studies Gordon Stanley, says the time spent teaching maths in classrooms has decreased over the past decade, yet students are expected to learn about a greater number of mathematical concepts. "Curriculum emphases and assessment regimes should be explicitly designed to discourage a reliance upon superficial and low-level proficiency," the report says. It recommends phasing out the streaming of students according to their ability, citing research that says it has little effect on achievement. "It does produce gains in attainment for higher-achieving students at the expense of lower-attaining students," it says.

The report recommends that all teachers, regardless of their intended speciality, be trained as numeracy teachers and maths be taught across all subjects. The report says primary school students should spend five hours a week and high school students four hours a week on maths and numeracy, including time spent learning maths in other subjects. The report also suggests introducing specialist maths teachers to work shoulder-to-shoulder with other teachers, particularly those without specialist training in maths teaching. It says students from the early years of school should be given complex maths problems and the language of maths should be explicitly taught.

The review was commissioned by the human capital working group of COAG to review international research about teaching maths and advise ways in which teaching standards could be improved. The report says literacy has received enormous attention and resources in recent years but numeracy provides a bigger challenge for schools. It uses the term numeracy, as opposed to maths, to describe the mathematical understanding required in today's workplace, defining numeracy as the capacity to bridge the gap between maths and the real world. "The mathematical knowledge, skill and understanding people need today, if they are to be truly numerate, involves considerably more than the acquisition of mathematical routines and algorithms," it says.

The report cites research that says Australia suffers from a "shallow teaching syndrome". Compared with other high-achieving countries in international maths tests, Australian schoolrooms have the highest percentage of repetitive problems and the highest percentage of problems of low complexity.

While the new national numeracy tests introduced this year will assess students against levels of proficiency, previously students were only judged against a benchmark set at the minimum level of knowledge required to progress through school. "They do not describe proficiency in numeracy or even the minimum standards that the community expects from Australian schools," it says.

The low standards expected of students are compounded by remedial programs targeting students failing to meet those minimum standards rather than aiming to assist all students to acquire some proficiency. "The rush to apparent proficiency at the expense of the sound conceptual development needed for sustained and ongoing mathematical proficiency must be rejected," it says. "From the earliest years, greater emphasis (should) be given to providing students with frequent exposure to higher-level mathematical problems rather than routine procedural tasks, in contexts of relevance to them."

Part of the problem facing schools is trying to teach more maths in less time, with some evidence suggesting the class time spent on maths has diminished over the years. One study estimates a Year 4 student in Australia spends about 250 minutes a week and a Year 8 student 210 minutes a week on maths. The report recommends primary school students spend 300 minutes a week and high school students 280 minutes a week on maths.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

The dreadful peril of salty sausages

What utter nonsense. Our blood is roughly as salty as seawater so any idea that salt is a problem for us is just do-gooder claptrap. If we can't handle salt, we can't handle anything. People on salt restricted diets in fact die SOONER!

The iconic Aussie sausage sanger has been hauled over the coals for its "extreme salt content" in a new review showing the bread and everything inside it blows sodium guidelines. The product review found that one single sausage sandwich at a barbecue contains an adult's daily recommended dose of salt, and double that suggested for a child.

Researchers reviewed almost 200 sausage, bread and sauce products found on supermarket shelves and found the vast majority exceed acceptable salt levels set in the UK. Just two per cent of 44 sausage and hotdog brands and 16 per cent of the 43 white bread products met the guidelines. There were huge content variations across products, with some sausages containing over three times as much salt as others, the researchers said. Dozens of tomato and barbecue sauce brands also were checked, with more than half failing to make the cut.

"That's an incredible salt overload on its own, let alone with everything else you eat in a day," said Dr Bruce Neal, research director at The George Institute for International Health in Sydney. "I know it's an icon of the Australian diet but if people knew what they were eating and what it's doing to their health they might well think twice about it."

Anecdotal evidence suggests the average Australian adult consumes about nine grams of salt a day, well above the six grams recommended for good health. The new review suggests the six-gram threshold would be met by one sandwich, bringing with it increased health risks. "There's very clear evidence that eating more salt pushes your blood pressure up and that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack," Dr Neal said. "You're obviously not going to fall dead as you bite into the sausage but you're going to pay for it down the track."

The study was released today as part of a national campaign to cut salt levels in food at home and in restaurants and supermarkets by 25 per cent over five years. The Australian Food and Grocery Council has lent support to the campaign, and several big brands like Coles, Kellogg and Unilever have begun efforts to reduce salt content in products. "The government now needs to make salt a national health priority and lead negotiations on maximum salt targets for different products," said Dr Neal, who chairs the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health.


Australian schools ignoring the Holocaust

The Left has now reverted to its prewar antisemitism so this omission from Left-dominated curricula is no surprise

An obsession with Australian history in curriculums has left students able to leave school without knowing that the Holocaust occurred. In a speech to high school principals, NSW education department head Michael Coutts-Trotter regretted the omission of the Holocaust from the state's mandatory history course. "I discovered for the first time about a month ago that you can get through compulsory schooling in NSW and never know that the Holocaust, the destruction of Jews in Europe, actually happened," he said. "You will know a lot about Don Bradman, and that's terrific. But I think to live life, you need to know the Holocaust happened."

The only mention of the Holocaust in the NSW syllabus for Years 7-10 is in the beginning, with the rationale for the course starting with a quotation from a Holocaust survivor about the importance of learning history. Compulsory history or social studies courses for schools in the other states also fail to mention the Holocaust.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Board of Studies said the history course for Years 7-10 had a lot to cover and the board did not want to overcrowd the curriculum. "There are opportunities to study the Holocaust and its consequences in a number of ways in both mandatory and elective history," she said.

Asked about those opportunities, the board pointed to the website of the Sydney Jewish Museum, which highlighted links to NSW syllabuses. The museum suggests it could be the subject of a site visit, compulsory for Year 9 students, and for Year 10 students looking at post-war Australia to the 1970s, it suggests examining the contribution of Jewish migrants.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said yesterday it had been concerned for some time about the omission of the Holocaust from school history, and was working with the education department and the board of studies on the issue. Board chief executive Vic Alhadeff said the Jewish community regarded as essential the signposting across the curriculum of issues relating to discrimination, racism and genocide, including the Holocaust. "It is indeed possible to complete 13 years of schooling in NSW without having studied the Holocaust," he said. "This is a matter of great concern to the Jewish community, which works towards social cohesion as a matter of principle."

Wollongong University professor of history and politics Gregory Melleuish said the nation had become increasingly obsessed with Australian history over the past 10 or 15 years. "So we tend to look at things like World War I and II as Australia's involvement rather than what was at stake, why did it occur and what was going on," Professor Melleuish said. "Part of the problem of doing it from the point of view of Australia is students get the perspective that Australia saves the world."

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the Government had asked the National Curriculum Board to develop a rigorous world-class curriculum for all students in four initial areas, including history.

Opposition education spokesman Tony Smith said it should not be possible for a student to leave school without being taught key events such as the two world wars, the Holocaust and the Cold War.


Infection alert as dangerous superbugs hit South Australian public hospital

SUPERBUGS are on the rise at Royal Adelaide Hospital and some patients are carrying two different strains. Fifteen patients are now colonised with vancomycin-resistant enterococci, three times as many as there were in May. Four more patients have two different strains of antibiotic-resistant bugs, VRE as well as MRSA or golden staph. VRE has forced ward closures interstate, while golden staph kills about one person in five. SA Health confirmed the cases yesterday.

The other main metropolitan hospitals have no recorded cases of VRE, except the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has had one case. Communicable Disease Control Branch director Dr Ann Koehler said there were no ward closures in SA. "VRE and other bacteria such as MRSA are becoming more common causes of healthcare-associated infections in SA and other states across Australia," she said.

Dr Koehler said the department had infection control teams supporting hospital workers and patients, but emphasised visitors had a role to play in reducing infections. "We can't stress enough the importance of visitors to our hospitals to follow simple and effective hand hygiene steps to stop their spread," she said. SA Health has taken actions to control the infection spreading, such as:

DAILY meetings of a VRE response team, increased staff education and frequent communication with relevant staff.

ENHANCED cleaning in identified wards.

ENVIRONMENTAL monitoring and active surveillance of groups at risk of colonisation.

FOCUS on hand hygiene, and compliance with precautions such as single-use gloves and gowns.

VRE does not normally cause illness, so patients are said to be `colonised' rather than infected. It can be a risk to patients with compromised immune systems.


Kevin Rudd's carbon war may be good politics for him

Both the following speakers are Australian politicians. One is announcing an increase in the war effort in World War II. The other is talking about climate change. Spot who's who.

"No longer can this nation rest upon the basis of the ordinary way of life, of conducting business in the way we did, of working the way to which we have been accustomed. The [current crisis] has put an end to that period in our history."

"The penalty clause for us not acting is almost unthinkable . This country is on the verge of cataclysmic times, such as the human collective experience has never known."

You can probably tell the difference because of the hysteria in the second quotation. Prime minister John Curtin and his generation did not do hysteria, at least not in public. Senator Bob Brown (in the second quotation, from his address to the National Press Club this week) and many of his colleagues don't only use hysteria, they get elected on its back.

The rhetoric surrounding global warming is drawing increasingly on notions of religion and war. As has been often noted, environmentalism in its more extreme forms is deeply appealing to those of us with a need to believe in something, but who have decided that science has killed off Christianity. Brown, with his apocalyptic talk of cataclysm, exemplifies this. Ross Garnaut's use of the term "diabolical" when presenting his report pressed the same button. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse certainly get a good gallop in the report, with predictions of war (geopolitical instability), famine (collapse of agricultural productivity), pestilence (dengue fever) and death (all the above, plus heat-related fatalities).

ABC TV's political editor, Chris Uhlmann, picked up on the religious element in the carbon crusade on Insiders last Sunday. Speaking, he said, as a former seminarian, "one of the things that strikes me most strongly about this debate is its theological nature - and that's essentially that we have sinned against the environment, that we are now being punished and the only way we can escape that punishment is to wear a hair shirt for the rest of our lives".

Uhlmann said that while he was willing to "sign up" to climate change, "I do not believe every proposition that's been put. When the weather department can tell me what the weather is going to be like next Friday with any certainty and Treasury can get within a million dollars of what the surplus is going to be next year, I'll believe an economic model that marries those two things and casts them out over 100 years. I'll make one prediction - that whatever number Garnaut puts on where we'll be in 2100, it will be at least a trillion dollars either way wrong."

Turning from religion to war, it's not hard to see why politicians might be attracted to the military connotations of a carbon crusade. Wars, after all, are usually good for democratic governments, who see their support go up in the early stages of the conflict because in the public mind the ruling party's interests have become the same (at least temporarily) as the nation's. This phenomenon has been widely noted, and forms the basis for the rather splendid novel American Hero by Larry Beinhart, and the 1997 film version, Wag the Dog.

Wars have proved so useful in attracting or maintaining voter support that the war model has been extended into non-military zones by politicians around the world, with inventions such as the "war on drugs" and the "war on obesity". But the war approach, whether military or not, presents dangers. John Howard in his "war on terror" took Australia into Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction that proved to be non-existent. Time will tell whether Kevin Rudd, in his "war on carbon", ends up harming another nation (in this case our own, by damaging the economy) in pursuit of another illusory danger.

Still, there will be lots of press releases and photo stops along the way, and Rudd will get the opportunity to talk at plenty of televised gatherings of international leaders, something he seems to enjoy very much. Already you can see the heads of powerful nations giving Rudd that nervous look Howard attracted at these gatherings. He, too, would approach them with one hand ready to pat them on the back, the other grasping theirs in a remorseless handshake for as long as the cameras were pointing the right way.

While it might be argued that Iraq got Howard in the end, it provided him with a lot of benefits along the way, and not just photo sessions with the American president. It made Australian politics and the thousands who earn their living from it (yes, including journalists and commentators) feel important. Another useful result was that many on the right felt it was inappropriate to criticise the government for other things (such as its betrayal of much of the liberal policy agenda) in a time of crisis. And the left became so excited they became obsessed by minor issues such as David Hicks, instead of domestic matters of substance.

The benefits of the Iraq war couldn't last for ever, of course. But they helped John Howard have one of the longest runs of any Australia prime minister. If carefully managed, the war on carbon could do the same for Kevin Rudd.


Friday, July 11, 2008


Three articles below: Just one day's worth

Nasty Leftist politician jealous of private PET scanner

Builders in the middle of installing a life-saving PET scanner were ordered to leave the Hobart Private Hospital or risk breaking the law. Health Minister Lara Giddings said the scanner did not have her approval. MIA Tasmania says it spent five years and several million dollars obtaining approvals and training specialists to use the Positron Emission Tomography scanner -- the only one in Tasmania. It has approval letters from the Department of Health's health physics unit and the Royal Hobart Hospital. The scanner is due to be ready for patients next month.

"On Monday we were told we had to get ministerial approval. The previous approval was retracted," said Mark Simpson, general manager of Regional Imaging which owns MIA Tasmania. He said Healthscope, which leases the building from the State Government, was forced to tell them to leave. "We intended this scanner for use for public and private patients statewide," Mr Simpson said.

Tasmania is the only state without a PET scanner -- which measures how far cancers have spread and helps determine whether to operate or not. Hundreds of Tasmanians each year travel to scanners interstate. PET can help diagnose Alzheimer's, epilepsy and heart disease. But the Federal Government promised late last year to buy a scanner for Tasmania -- right next door in the RHH. The public plan is expected to take three years or more.

However, Ms Giddings said the State Government had not approved the MIA scanner. "The Hospitals Act is designed to ensure the safety of patients is protected when additions or alterations are made in private medical establishments," she said. She told estimates hearings last month she had not issued the licence to MIA.

Mr Simpson said if such approval was required, it had not been so for all the other equipment they had brought in. PET is a sub-branch of nuclear medicine. MIA provides all the RHH's nuclear medicine reporting services.

"This move could deprive seriously ill Tasmanians of an important diagnostic tool and beggars belief," said Liberal health spokesman Brett Whiteley. Greens leader Nick McKim said Tasmanians needed access to PET scans sooner rather than later, something Ms Giddings should be facilitating.


W.A.: Blind war vet, 80, 'waited 20 hours' for hospital bed

No capacity in the system for coping properly with upsurges in demand -- WHICH HAPPENS EVERY WINTER!

An 80-year-old war veteran was forced to wait nearly 20 hours overnight for a bed at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital emergency department, his wife claimed today. Edward Webster from Bedford was brought to SCGH emergency department by ambulance yesterday afternoon about 3pm for a bone marrow test. It was at the urging of his GP.

His wife, 76-year-old Helen, said she left him at the hospital at 9pm. At the time he was still waiting in a wheelchair. When Mrs Webster returned early this morning she found out he had still not been admitted to hospital for a bed. He was yet to be given a bed at 10.30am today, but is believed to have been admitted into a ward just before 11am.

Mr Webster suffers from a leukaemia-like blood disorder known as myelofibrosis. He is also blind. "He is still in emergency right now," Mrs Webster told Perthnow just after 10am. "He has not been admitted to hospital."

SCGH executive director Dr Amanda Ling refused to comment on Mr Webster'r ordeal, but conceded there were a "significant number of patients" in the hospital's emergency department yesterday afternoon. She said a high demand for inpatient beds had caused delays for some patients. "We do not comment on individual patients -- all patients have a right to medical confidentiality," Dr Ling said. "On Wednesday evening, there was a significant number of patients in the emergency department including three patients with life-threatening conditions which meant patients with less serious conditions waited to be seen by a doctor. "Every patient who presents to the emergency department is triaged by a senior nurse when they arrive. Patients with serious conditions are treated ahead of those with less serious conditions.

"If a patient needs to be admitted to hospital, they will be transferred to a ward as soon as a bed becomes available. Every patient in the emergency department is monitored closely throughout their stay. "We are currently experiencing high demand for inpatient beds which has caused delays for some patients. "Our staff work very hard to ensure every patient receives the very best care throughout their stay. We are more than happy to fully investigate any concerns patients or their families have about their care if they alert us."

A frustrated Mrs Webster rang 6PR talkback radio station this morning to report the situation concerning her husband. She said she had now been told by hospital staff that her husband would most likely be transferred to Hollywood Private Hospital. "I'm angry and very upset," Mrs Webster said. "I'm not angry with the hospital. I am angry with the Government. He's a war veteran. For him to be treated like this is just not right." Mr Webster served in the peace keeping corps in Japan following World War II.


Health levy plan to `hurt poorest'

The Catholic Church -- the nation's biggest operator of hospitals after state governments -- has warned Kevin Rudd that his move to lift Medicare surcharge levy thresholds will hammer the battlers he wants to help by choking already stressed public wards and lengthening surgical waiting lists. In a devastating critique of one of the Prime Minister's main 2008-09 budget initiatives, Catholic Health Australia has used government data to warn the change will lump public hospitals with a $400 million burden of providing an extra 200,000 procedures in the next 12 months, The Australian reports.

CHA also predicts elderly people seeking hip and knee replacements will be among the hardest hit and that the changes will trigger an unavoidable 10 per cent increase in private health insurance premiums next year. "The CHA review has found specific impact on low- and middle-income earners -- the group the proposed threshold changes were in fact designed to assist,'' says a submission the organisation lodged yesterday with the office of Wayne Swan. "Patients in both public and private sectors will be adversely impacted by the likely fall in private health insurance membership, but it is low- and middle-income earners who will bear the brunt of the new pressure that will be placed on the public health system.''

But the Treasurer last night defended the changes, saying the increase in thresholds was designed to provide relief for families facing the tax, originally introduced by the Howard government to target high-income earners but never indexed. In the budget handed down in May, Mr Swan announced an increase in the income thresholds at which people without health insurance face an extra surcharge worth 1 per cent of their income.

The income threshold at which single people would be liable to pay the surcharge will rise from $50,000 a year to $100,000. Couples will face the surcharge if their combined income exceeds $150,000 -- up from $100,000. Treasury modelling suggests the change will encourage 485,000 people to abandon their health insurance because they will no longer face the penalty of the surcharge. Legislation enshrining the changes was sent to a Senate committee by the Coalition-controlled Senate last month and will be reconsidered next month.


Australian Dire Climate Change Predictions Just a Fantasy?

Post below recycled from Agmates, an Australian rural publication

Last weekend Senior weather forecasters Predicted the best soaking rains for 2008.

"We've been watching several computer simulations for the past few days and they are indicating that some of the best rain for 2008 is likely next week, and this is forecast to fall over some of our worst drought affected areas," Mr Whitaker said in a statement.

"Widespread rainfall totals of 25 to 50mm are likely over large areas of western Queensland, western NSW, northern Victoria and South Australia from Monday to Friday.

Well this is where the rain fell.

Rainfall to 10th July

The map above is from the Bureau of Meteorology from the 1st to 10th of July. Areas that received over 25mls (1 inch) are green. You can see for yourself how accurate these prediction were just a few days out. They were wrong - what a surprise.

Apparently the scientists can’t be accurate 3 days out, but 30 years from now they can. What a ridiculous assumption / conclusion that is.

Each day we hear of the dire predictions for our rainfall and temperature in 20-30 and 50 years time. We are expected to take this computer modeling seriously (and unbelievably State and Federal governments are) when they aren’t even remotely accurate just days ahead.

Climatologist Stewart Franks an expert in hydro-climatic variability at the University of Newcastle in NSW said scenarios set out by Ross Garnaut in his Emission Trading Scheme recommendations were simply wrong. He said

“The whole idea that you can say that by 2030 or 2040 rainfall will be a certain percentage less is a complete nonsense because it ignores the natural variability,”

Read all that Stewart had to say in an article in this weeks Australian Newspaper. Garnaut scenario ’simply wrong’

New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa caused a stir this week when he called parts of Professor Garnaut’s report “Chicken Little arguments” (You know -The Sky is falling”) In his column in the Australian he says:

“For example, claims from some quarters that the Great Barrier Reef would be destroyed if Australia, which emits less than 2 per cent of global greenhouse gases, does not adopt an ETS are patent nonsense.

Chicken Little arguments are no substitute for getting right the important details on issues of far-reaching consequence.”

Photo 2: Below is a BOM map showing the % of rainfall received across Australia for the last 2 years compared to the mean.

Photo of BOM rain percentages

Federal agriculture minister Tony Burke (pictured below) earlier this month released a joint assessment by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO. In particular, the study found exceptionally high temperatures would occur almost yearly, while low rainfall would almost double in frequency from current figures. He said:

Photo of Tony Burke“While this is a scientific report, parts of these high level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report.”

“What’s clear is that the cycle of drought is going to be more regular and deeper than ever.”

Minister Burke even though he was being serious is quiet correct. It is just science fiction.

Finally, lets keep it all in a bit of perspective. Heres the BOM map showing the area of Australia that is in drought for the last 2 years. To paraphrase Stewart Franks - we have seen it all before and we’ll see it all again. The good seasons and the bad.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Three current articles below

Greenie paradise not so good when you try to live there

The Daintree is a beautiful unspoilt jungle area that the Greenies love -- but Greenies want to have their cake and eat it too. They hate modernity until they have to do without any of it

Daintree resident Neil Hewett's family uses gas to cook and heat water and there is no airconditioning to beat the far north Queensland tropical heat. Electricity is used only to run small appliances and a TV. But Mr Hewett still faces a weekly fuel bill of $170 to run generators that supplement the solar and hydro power electricity produced on his property. And the refill price of a gas bottle is $150. All up, it cost him $70,000 to become power self-sufficient as required by the State Government, which refuses to send electricity north of the Daintree River.

About 675 residents live there in 450 homes, and every home generator is spewing carbon dioxide into the surrounding World Heritage-listed environment where development has been restricted to maintain its pristine state. Locals have to run diesel and petrol motors because, with 5.5 meters of rain a year and 265 cloudy days a year, solar generation is unreliable.

Now, with diesel approaching $2 a litre, locals want the Government to relax its ban on reticulated power. According to Mr Hewett, conditions set by the state and federal governments for eventual access to the equalised tariff system that applies to other Queenslanders have been met.

Ten years ago, in a bid to stop development between the Daintree and Cape Tribulation, authorities decided on a $41 million buyback of some of the land that had been bought for homes. Established houses at Cape Tribulation, Cow Bay, Diwan, Cooper Creek and Thornton Beach were exempt. According to the deal, the buyback would trigger provision of electricity. With the buyback successful and the area further protected by new government iconic estate legislation, locals want the ban lifted.

In October, Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said he would take the matter to Cabinet but nothing has eventuated. Mr Hewett, who operates a forest walking business, said the ban was originally intended to stop developers who wanted to exploit a "great treasure". "But that legitimacy no longer exists," he said. "The development issue has been resolved. It is time the Government did something special for the Daintree."

But Mr Wilson was unsympathetic, saying: "We are not about to bulldoze through ancient rainforest to put in powerlines north of the Daintree River. "We are talking about world-famous, World Heritage-listed rainforest and everyone would want it to stay that way."


Jobs 'at risk' from climate plan

OIL giant Mobil could be forced to close its Melbourne refinery when the Rudd Government introduces a carbon emissions trading scheme. The closure of the refinery, which supplies half of Victoria's fuel needs, would cut competition and could push up petrol prices.

Company executives believe the refinery, which employs 350 people, could become unviable because of competition from overseas facilities that do not have to pay to emit greenhouse gases. Under emissions trading, ExxonMobil will have to buy permits allowing it to emit carbon gases.

ExxonMobil Australia chairman Mark Nolan said yesterday the company would struggle to deal with the extra costs. "If you put a carbon price on Australian petroleum refining we'd find it very difficult, if not impossible, to recoup any of those costs because the price of petroleum products in Australia reflects the regional market," Mr Nolan said. "What we've said to Prof Garnaut and others is that it would be very difficult for domestic refineries, such as our Altona plant, to compete on a level playing field unless government recognises that refining is an emissions-intensive, trade-exposed sector." Mr Nolan said an ETS might also make it more difficult for the company to develop new liquid natural gas projects.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday the Government would consider industry concerns as it developed the trading scheme, due to start in 2010. "We understand there are various industries we have to be very mindful of, and obviously these issues will be canvassed in the Green Paper," Senator Wong said. "But what's important here is this: climate change is facing us, it is coming at us." [No sign of it for the last 10 byears but let's not quibble!]

Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said companies subject to international competition, such as ExxonMobil, should get free carbon emission permits from the Government. "We're very keen to see a free allocation of permits for Australian producers to ensure that producers can make changes to their processes to lower their emissions, but also to produce goods Australia needs," Mr Howes said.

He said that there was no point in Australian refineries closing if they were replaced by facilities overseas that had lower environmental standards. [Logic for a change]


Costly tokenism of climate scheme

When Garnaut said Australia had a diabolical problem he wasn't referring to rising sea levels or receding glaciers. Rather, it was the dilemma of needing to tax industry for carbon dioxide emissions when the emissions of this country alone can have no meaningful effect on the global problem of climate change.

The abject failure of the G8 this week to convince developing countries China and India to reduce their emissions is portent. Just as Australians can argue that their emissions have no material effect, developing countries contend, with great validity, that they didn't cause the problems in the first place - and in any event, their per capita emissions are far lower than the G8 averages!

Despite his swelling chorus of critics, Garnaut's work is substantial. There is nothing new in it, no blinding insights, but it is a solid assembly of all the critical issues and hypotheses on climate change. It spans the global effects and costs of droughts and floods to the economic impacts of a carbon trading scheme.

The Canberra professor already has his fierce critics. And the voices of dissent will rise further as industry and its vested interest groups gird their loins for the lobbying battle which lies ahead.

The most relevant criticism of the work is that it fudges on the notion that the consequences of climate change - from bleaching corals to melting icebergs _ somehow hinge on what Australia does to combat carbon emissions. What is it that Australia can do to reverse, or even slow emissions growth globally? Nothing of substance.

We are assuming here - notwithstanding what seem to be even more shrill cries of conspiracy from the climate change sceptics - that the overwhelming body of scientists and assorted experts have it right. That is, that human activity is warming the planet and something needs to be done about it. There is no swindle. Even assuming the flat-earthers have a prospect of being right, the risk of doing nothing would be too high.

Still, the argument that we urgently have to do something undermines the credibility of Garnaut, in a sense, as the effect of Australian activity has a negligible effect on global emissions. If we accept that the world has to do something urgently, that's fair enough, but even with no effort from Australia, the world could fight global warming quite nicely on its own.

Australia may dominate in cricket but not carbon emissions. Six countries and the European Union alone account for three-quarters of the world's emissions. Those are the US, China, Russia, Japan, India and Indonesia. Australia, contributing less than 2% to emissions, despite our high per capita carbon count, is not among them. We can only add another 100 million tonnes to the global 40 billion tonnes of carbon emissions assuming 2% growth over the next decade.

Does this mean it is useless for Australia to bother doing anything? This is where the debate gets philosophical. Is symbolic action worth the cost? Is there a case for Australia being a global champion of the climate cause? Would it not be a tad hypocritical, even under a new government, to hop up and move straight from the back of the classroom to the front row and start lecturing the teacher? Exaggerating our place in the global order at the expense of our own industry may be a mere vanity.

Let's not forget that one important aspect of the Rudd Government's victory at the polls last year was the Labor Party's pro-Kyoto stance. Rudd has a green mandate, a mandate to effect change, to make the hard decisions. Now the ramifications of this mandate are becoming disturbingly clear - and they are the high costs to industry of an ETS. This is where Kevin Rudd's other duties, to run the economy and look after workers, will come into sharp relief against his green mandate.

The overwhelming cost of the ETS will fall on coal, steel, power generation and mining sectors. Agriculture too, if not exempted. The rub is that these sectors not only deliver a disproportionate slice of the national income but also keep a lot of ''working families'' in work. What Garnaut recommends is a wholesale restructuring of our economy to respond to the climate change crisis. The impact of this, contend his detractors, would be destructive on local economies. In any case, India and China would still be pumping out the equivalent emissions while benefitting from the hole left by an Australian resources competitor. We will be hearing a lot of the ''if it's not us, it'll be somebody else'' logic.

Clearly, the line needs to be drawn between transforming Australia into a sustainable economy and not needlessly blowing up local economies and putting people out of work. This will be a nightmare for politicians who will blow up votes whatever policy or course of action they take....

More here


Two current articles below

NSW Ambulance bureaucracy indifferent to staff welfare

Not exactly a surprise

AMBULANCE management had been "grossly negligent and dismissive" in handling complaints by a female officer about bullying at Cowra before she eventually committed suicide, her former supervisor has told a parliamentary inquiry. The Herald has learnt that no women have been appointed to the Cowra ambulance station in the three years since the first and only female officer there, Christine Hodder, hanged herself in her backyard after allegedly enduring years of bullying and harassment by up to seven male colleagues.

An internal investigation by the NSW Ambulance Service after Mrs Hodder's death in 2005 recommended a male replace her and that no female be hired there for six months. There were 24 recommendations "to address better management of harassment and bullying" but no officer was disciplined after the investigation.

Mrs Hodder's former supervisor, Phil Roxburgh, said his complaints had fallen on deaf ears. He told the inquiry he was fed up with the "harassment, bullying, and intimidation which still continues unabated in the service, coupled with management's dysfunctional handling and empty posturing concerning these occurrences".

Yesterday Mr Roxburgh told the Herald he had received more than 100 emails of complaints after sending a group email in April expressing concern about bullying. "I couldn't do anything for Christine and myself - it's too late for that - but I'm hearing of people who have received some very bad outcomes from management," he said. "It's like water torture. You're left to hang and hang. I've got a couple of people who are on the verge of suiciding."

Mr Roxburgh had supported Mrs Hodder while she was at Cowra but he was also victimised and went on stress leave in October 2004, he told the inquiry. He said the professional standards and conduct unit "patently failed to respond in a timely and appropriate way" despite his warnings. He had also raised concerns with human resources, rehabilitation, and the state superintendent, and had even tried to speak to the CEO of the service, Greg Rochford, but "this fell on deaf ears". He accused the head of the conduct unit, Marion O'Connell, of being "very aggressive" when he criticised the internal investigation.

Mrs Hodder's mother-in-law, Carolynn Hodder, and Mr Roxburgh each told the inquiry that the then assistant operations manager leaked a complaint from Christine Hodder about a man whom she suspected had urinated "all over" her toilet. "Things at the station became explosive - [the accused person] became very verbally abusive towards her and he told Christine, 'See I told you. You have no chance seeking help from anyone above or the union as we will find out,' " Carolynn Hodder told the inquiry.

Mr Roxburgh told the inquiry the assistant operations manager had since been promoted. Christine Hodder had worked before as an ambulance officer at Canowindra and Grenfell and had got on well with her fellow officers. She had been an army medic for six years. Mr Roxburgh, who now works at Moruya ambulance station, said Mrs Hodder was victimised because she was a woman. "My colleague's problems were, first and foremost, that she was female and to exacerbate this she was intelligent, a good officer and her patients loved her," he wrote. "The constant harassment, bullying and intimidation by the staff, the callous indifference, inaction and abandonment by the service. all contributed to tipping the scales."


Hospital urgent waiting list blows out

Gold Coast Liberal MP John-Paul Langbroek has blasted the State Government for not seeing the "sickest" patients first at the Gold Coast Hospital. Langbroek, member for Surfers Paradise, said Category One elective surgery patients, which are those requiring the most urgent attention on waiting lists, had almost doubled in the past 12 months. Figures released by Queensland Health indicate there were 25 people on the Category 1 waiting list last July and 58 in April this year.

"What this shows is our sickest patients are waiting far longer for treatment than they should be," Langbroek said. "The Gold Coast Hospital is struggling to cope with the demand." "As a result, our waiting lists are getting longer and patients are getting sicker as they are forced to wait for vital surgery."

However, a Government spokesman said the figures Langbroek was quoting were out of date and the latest figures, which will be released soon, show Gold Coast Hospital had only 23 patients on the Category 1 list. He did concede that numbers for Category 1 list at some hospital had risen. The figures show Category One patients almost doubled but there had been a decrease in categories 2 and 3. On July 1 2007, there were 205 Category 2 patients and 213 Category 3, while on April this year there were 176 and 168 respectively.

Langbroek said the Government was not making all categories a priority. "The bottom line is we shouldn't have to sacrifice one wait list for another, said Mr Langbroek. "The Government is spending record amounts on health. Patients should have no problem getting their surgery on time."

During the same period, Category 1 waiting lists numbers had increased at Bundaberg, Cairns Base, Caloundra General, Hervey Bay, Innisfail, Mackay Base, Maryborough Base, Nambour, Princess Alexandra, QEII, Rockhampton and Royal Children's hospitals.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Vin ordinaire report

After the fuss that the do-gooders kicked up about it, I thought I should try some of Dan Murphy's $2 wine. I bought a couple of bottles yesterday -- a shiraz and a chardonnay. Anne made us quite a nice moussaka for dinner (recipe here) so I opened the shiraz first. I am afraid that it was tres ordinaire -- with a definite barnyard taste. I tipped most of it down the sink.

So then I opened the chardonnay and was surprised to find it perfectly passable, with quite a pleasant fresh taste. I would not be embarrassed to serve it to guests. I don't plan to buy any more of it as I am rather fixated at the moment on Tyrrells verdelho and Taylors Promised Land unwooded chardonnay but if anybody is a bit short of the shekels these days, stocking up on the chardonnay would not be a bad decision -- though tastes do differ so try it for yourself first. Maybe I just got a rare good bottle.

Climate change delusion a real problem

By Andrew Bolt

PSYCHIATRISTS have detected the first case of "climate change delusion" - and they haven't even yet got to Kevin Rudd and his global warming guru. Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Joshua Wolf and Robert Salo of our Royal Children's Hospital say this delusion was a "previously unreported phenomenon". "A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne with an eight-month history of depressed mood . . . He also . . . had visions of apocalyptic events."

(So have Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery, Profit of Doom Al Gore and Sir Richard Brazen, but I digress.)

"The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people through exhaustion of water supplies."

But never mind the poor boy, who became too terrified even to drink. What's scarier is that people in charge of our Government seem to suffer from this "climate change delusion", too. Here is Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday, with his own apocalyptic vision: "If we do not begin reducing the nation's levels of carbon pollution, Australia's economy will face more frequent and severe droughts, less water, reduced food production and devastation of areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu wetlands."

And here is a senior Sydney Morning Herald journalist aghast at the horrors described in the report on global warming released on Friday by Rudd's guru, Professor Ross Garnaut: "Australians must pay more for petrol, food and energy or ultimately face a rising death toll . . ."

Wow. Pay more for food or die. Is that Rudd's next campaign slogan? Of course, we can laugh at this - and must - but the price for such folly may soon be your job, or at least your cash. Rudd and Garnaut want to scare you into backing their plan to force people who produce everything from petrol to coal-fired electricity, from steel to soft drinks, to pay for licences to emit carbon dioxide - the gas they think is heating the world to hell.

The cost of those licences, totalling in the billions, will then be passed on to you through higher bills for petrol, power, food, housing, air travel and anything else that uses lots of gassy power. In some countries they're even planning to tax farting cows, so there's no end to the ways you can be stung.

Rudd hopes this pain will make you switch to expensive but less gassy alternatives, and - hey presto - the world's temperature will then fall, just like it's actually done since the day Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth.

But you'll have spotted already the big flaw in Rudd's mad plan - one that confirms he and Garnaut really do have delusions. The truth is Australia on its own emits less than 1.5 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide. Any savings we make will make no real difference, given that China (now the biggest emitter) and India (the fourth) are booming so fast that they alone will pump out 42 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases by 2030. Indeed, so fast are the world's emissions growing - by 3.1 per cent a year thanks mostly to these two giants - that the 20 per cent cuts Rudd demands of Australians by 2020 would be swallowed up in just 28 days. That's how little our multi-billions of dollars in sacrifices will matter.

And that's why Rudd's claim that we'll be ruined if we don't cut Australia's gases is a lie. To be blunt. Ask Rudd's guru. Garnaut on Friday admitted any cuts we make will be useless unless they inspire other countries to do the same - especially China and India: "Only a global agreement has any prospect of reducing risks of dangerous climate change to acceptable levels."

So almost everything depends on China and India copying us. But the chances of that? A big, round zero. A year ago China released its own global warming strategy - its own Garnaut report - which bluntly refused to cut its total emissions. Said Ma Kai, head of China's powerful State Council: "China does not commit to any quantified emissions-reduction commitments . . . our efforts to fight climate change must not come at the expense of economic growth."

In fact, we had to get used to more gas from China, not less: "It is quite inevitable that during this (industrialisation) stage, China's energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be quite high."

Last month, India likewise issued its National Action Plan on Climate Change, and also rejected Rudd-style cuts. The plan's authors, the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change, said India would rather save its people from poverty than global warming, and would not cut growth to cut gases. "It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of wellbeing to its people." The plan's only real promise was in fact a threat: "India is determined that its per capita greenhouse gas emissions will at no point exceed that of developed countries."

Gee, thanks. That, of course, means India won't stop its per capita emissions (now at 1.02 tonnes) from growing until they match those of countries such as the US (now 20 tonnes). Given it has one billion people, that's a promise to gas the world like it's never been gassed before.

So is this our death warrant? Should this news have you seeing apocalyptic visions, too? Well, no. What makes the Indian report so interesting is that unlike our Ross Garnaut, who just accepted the word of those scientists wailing we faced doom, the Indian experts went to the trouble to check what the climate was actually doing and why.

Their conclusion? They couldn't actually find anything bad in India that was caused by man-made warming: "No firm link between the documented (climate) changes described below and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet been established." In fact, they couldn't find much change in the climate at all.

Yes, India's surface temperature over a century had inched up by 0.4 degrees, but there had been no change in trends for large-scale droughts and floods, or rain: "The observed monsoon rainfall at the all-India level does not show any significant trend . . ."

It even dismissed the panic Al Gore helped to whip up about melting Himalayan glaciers: "While recession of some glaciers has occurred in some Himalayan regions in recent years, the trend is not consistent across the entire mountain chain. It is, accordingly, too early to establish long-term trends, or their causation, in respect of which there are several hypotheses."

Nor was that the only sign that India's Council on Climate Change had kept its cool while our Rudd and Garnaut lost theirs. For example, the Indians rightly insisted nuclear power had to be part of any real plan to cut emissions. Rudd and Garnaut won't even discuss it. The Indians also pointed out that no feasible technology to trap and bury the gasses of coal-fired power stations had yet been developed "and there are serious questions about the cost as well (as) permanence of the CO2 storage repositories".

Rudd and Garnaut, however, keep offering this dream to make us think our power stations can survive their emissions trading scheme, when state governments warn they may not.

In every case the Indians are pragmatic where Rudd and Garnaut are having delusions - delusions about an apocalypse, about cutting gases without going nuclear, about saving power stations they'll instead drive broke. And there's that delusion on which their whole plan is built - that India and China will follow our sacrifice by cutting their throats, too. So psychiatrists are treating a 17-year-old tipped over the edge by global warming fearmongers? Pray that their next patients will be two men whose own delusions threaten to drive our whole economy over the edge as well.


Nutty Leftist "terror studies"

Why are these clowns funded when medical schools are greatly underfunded for the demand on them?

University departments dominated by so-called critical terror studies are consigning themselves to ever greater irrelevance, according to security analyst Carl Ungerer. Dr Ungerer, who left the University of Queensland in January to join the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said security agencies were open to outside advice and "deeply interested in engaging with the academic community". But he said policymakers could see no value in critical terror studies, which in its hostility to sovereign states implied a moral equivalence between terror and counter-terror and even blamed open societies for the rise of religious extremists.

"So, the traditional policy analysis work is now being done by ASPI and the Lowy Institute and the Kokoda Foundation and others," Dr Ungerer said. "If any point comes across strongly since I've been here (in Canberra), it's the way in which the gap between academe and the policy community has widened, which is interesting because the Rudd Government is tapping a wide range of voices. "(But) in the security field they're just not interested in these critical theory ideas. It offers them absolutely nothing to be told that we need to rethink sovereignty or that (terror is) our fault."

In 2006 Dr Ungerer and UQ colleague David Martin Jones first spoke out against the rise of critical terror studies. They said the policy implication of this emerging discipline was "radical pacifism". This week Dr Ungerer described as "eyebrow raising" the February appointment of critical theorist Anthony Burke to the University of NSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy. "The lecturers at ADFA are teaching the next generation of military leaders," Dr Ungerer said.

Speaking from Israel, Dr Burke, the author of Beyond Security Ethics and Violence: War Against The Other, said he did not oppose "controlled and measured" use of military force. He said nation states were ambiguous since they could provide citizens with security as well as subject them to abuse. Some state actions -- such as Israel's approach in the "occupied territories" and possibly the sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- were similar to terrorism in that they targeted civilians and sought to inflict suffering and fear for a political purpose, he said. Dr Burke said critical terror studies was a new discipline with lively internal debate. To say it dominated academe was "a neoconservative, highly culture wars-type argument".

Soon after the September 11 attacks, Dr Burke wrote: "These events have brought enormous levels of organised military violence -- intensifying Israeli Defence Force operations in Palestine, the war on Afghanistan and sabre-rattling against Iraq -- but also quasi-military, normalised patterns of violence and coercion in the form of domestic security, surveillance, and the 'deterrence' of asylum-seekers."


Yet another DOCS meltdown

The Department of Community Services arranged for a 13-year-old to see a doctor for the pill after she spent three days living with an 18-year-old boy. While enabling Lauren Ryall to get birth control, the same department failed to file a missing persons report with police when it lost her two weeks ago because the department was not her "next of kin". DOCS staff had abandoned Lauren at Parramatta train station on June 23 with money to buy a ticket home to the South Coast but she instead fled to the home of a teenager in Cronulla.

A day after she was found by police, her case worker took her to a doctor at a women's health clinic in Wollongong where she was prescribed the pill, which required the permission of a guardian.

Lauren's outraged mother Judith Meredith, who suffers from a mental illness and volunteered her daughter into care, said she would never have granted Lauren permission for the pill because of her age. "The exact words were, 'We're placing Lauren on the pill' and then she (Lauren's DOCS case worker) asked how I felt about it," Ms Meredith said yesterday. "I said it is going to stop an unwanted pregnancy but it won't stop STDs . . . they are promoting promiscuity. They told me they were taking her for a medical. The decisions have been taken out of my hands. People need to know DOCS is a joke."

Medico Legal director for the Australian Medical Association Sarah Bennett confirmed a girl of Lauren's age would need the consent of a parent or guardian for a doctor to prescribe the pill. DOCS said Ms Meredith's permission had been obtained for the appointment and that the case worker stayed outside the consultation room. "When the teenager subsequently emerged, she had been prescribed a contraceptive pill," DOCS said.

A spokeswoman said the case worker had sought Ms Meredith's permission after Lauren was prescribed the pill. "Police have investigated an allegation that this teenager had underage sex and DOCS has referred subsequent allegations to police," DOCS said.


Pop off, Popov

Answers wanted on suspect surgeon and lazy medical regulators

A patient whose surgery was allegedly botched by a doctor accused of a string of negligent operations has demanded to know why he was allowed to continue to practise. The woman said the operation by Ivan Lubenov Popov turned into her "worst nightmare".

The doctor has recently been referred by the Medical Board of Queensland to the Health Practitioners Tribunal over alleged professional negligence regarding surgery and medical procedures on seven women over 10 months. The obstetrician and gynaecologist, who worked at Caboolture Hospital and is believed to have moved to South Africa, is alleged to have lied to patients and misled staff about his procedures to cover up surgical mistakes and potentially illegal operations between July 2006 and May 2007.

One woman had an ovary removed by Dr Popov, who allegedly lied to her about the reason for the procedure. Another alleged victim, who asked not to be named because of possible legal action, demanded to know who was watching over Dr Popov when he was supposed to be watching over her. "I am devastated and disappointed with myself that I really didn't do anything earlier, but I was just too traumatised," the woman said. "It has taken me such a long time to recover. I still experience pain. "For a surgery that should have been a safe and pretty much problem- free surgery, it really did turn into my worst nightmare."

She said she felt betrayed and questioned Queensland's Health culpability. "I wonder why surgery was allowed to go ahead with me. Wasn't there someone that was senior to him, who would have checked my history?" she said. "Was it really just up to him - just one person? And that is scary if that is the case."

Queensland Health said in a statement that Dr Popov was referred to the Ethical Standards Unit in 2007. "Dr Popov resigned before Queensland Health's action was finalised," it said. Dr Popov left the hospital last July but did not resign until six weeks ago. "The Health Practitioners Tribunal will determine whether the significant adverse medical events which occurred were the result of inappropriate clinical practice or by circumstance beyond the doctor's control," the statement said.

Restrictions on Dr Popov were only imposed by the Medical Board of Queensland last month -- after he resigned and other investigations were completed. A tribunal date is yet to be set to hear Dr Popov's case.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Australians unhappy?

I don't suppose many people take seriously reports such as the one below but in case they do, perhaps I should say that I don't believe the results at all. All the Australians I meet seem to be cheerful and friendly folk whereas the British are a chronically gloomy lot. Yet the survey below would have you believe the opposite. I suspect poor sampling. It was probably phone polling. With Australia's benign climate and strong outdoors orientation, maybe it was mainly gloomy losers who were at home to answer the phone in Australia. And maybe it was only rich and happy people who could afford a phone in Puerto Rico and Columbia

AUSTRALIA is 22nd in a survey of the world's happiest nations - one place below Britain and seven behind New Zealand. Denmark, with its strong welfare system and social equality, was the happiest country, University of Michigan researchers found.

Zimbabwe, torn by political and social strife, was the least happy, while the world's richest nation, the US, ranked 16th. Puerto Rico and Colombia came after Denmark, followed by Northern Ireland, Iceland and Switzerland.

Overall, the world was getting happier, the survey found. Increased happiness from 1981 to last year was detected in 45 of 52 countries analysed.


Leftist puritans rife in the Australian government

From which circle of hell did all these finger-waggers spring? Never have I seen so many preachers so keen to bully others for their own "good". Last week it was Health Minister Nicola Roxon (again) in her Sass and Bide hairshirt, this time warning smokers they may soon need a permit to puff. A licence for cigarettes, Roxon says, is "one of the types of things" her health taskforce may tell her to impose.

Have these people gone mad? Strained a tolerance muscle in their Pilates class? For the first time I feel the temptation to light up a cancer-stick. Indeed, I couldn't think of many nobler causes for which to lay down my wheezing life.

A new breed of puritans is upon us and growing far too puffed up themselves. It's increasingly urgent they be resisted. Consider what plans they've already unveiled to cramp your life and set it to their stern order. Sprinklers on your garden? Banned now for years - to "save" country rivers from the new dams that these concrete greens find hideous, or would if they ever drove out to see one.

Mockery of someone's faith? Also banned, under hate-speech laws - to "save" the too-tender ears of tolerance tut-tutters too intolerant to show tolerance themselves.

Plastic bags to lug home your shopping? To be fined with a 25 cent levy - to "save" the planet from a plastic that smug green baggers find capitalistically crass.

Pre-mixed drinks? Hit with a new alcopop tax - to "save" teenagers from a drink that these pinot preachers find sick-makingly sweet.

Petrol? To be made dearer by an emissions trading scheme - to "save" the planet from a warming that these car-haters and salvation-seekers won't admit halted a decade ago.

Cramp, crimp, crush, ban. Designer sackcloth for everyone. Good heavens, so drunk on bans are these people - drunker than any alcopopper - that a forum of St Kilda residents last week even suggested locals be made to wear ankle bracelets so that visitors could be detected after dark and thrown out. Yes, true, I'm afraid. What next: microchip owners of airconditioners?

Judge the censorious mood from this homely planet-saving advice in last month' edition of the Rural Women's Network Newsletter: "At Easter, we avoid foil-wrapped chocolate eggs by having our kids paint hard-boiled eggs and stones . . . For my daughter's sixth birthday last year we took a tribe of children on a nearby bushwalk and had a rubbish-collecting competitions." Stones for Easter eggs? Rubbish collecting for a little girl's party? This isn't meant to save a planet but to impose someone's joy-killing morality.

It's not just a madness confined to Australia, of course. The Left in every English-speaking land is now indulging its inner totalitarian. How mad is the mood? Here's another measure: America's Democratic Party says its national convention to endorse Barack Obama as its presidential candidate must be the "greenest convention in the history of the planet". So it's not only banned fried food and insisted on organic, but ordered that every meal served to delegates be nutritiously vibrant, including "at least three of the following colours: red, green, yellow, blue-purple, and white". When strangers hover over your plate, demanding you eat not only your greens but your purples, yellows and whites, both of you have a problem.

Actually, everyone does. I mean, if that's the bossing that Democrats inflict on each other, what might they do to everyone else once in power? Good question, and in Australia we already have the scary answer to what our own elite would do to us.

Finger-waggers, as you know, are most commonly found among the "intelligentsia" - famous for producing mega-theories to excuse sticking its nose into other people's business. Think, say, of communism, fascism and now global warming. Ever since the French Revolution we've known that such people are best kept well away from power. But, alas, earlier this year 1000 of the "best and brightest" of this very class, plus a few token conservatives, were instead summoned by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to come to Canberra and tell him how to run the country.

I knew this would end in tears. Read these people's final report, released a month ago, and tremble. Or laugh. It's a Mein Kampf for meddlers - a defence of for-your-own-good bullying that is startling in its contempt for our right to decide for ourselves not just how to live, but even what to eat. What? People deciding for themselves? Buying their own stuff? "We don't realise how insidious this individualism is," chorused our "best and brightest". "Individuality trumps community at every turn" when we really "need to move from individualism to community focus".

Even what people eat should be seen as a decision best made not just by individual diners, but with "the emphasis on collective responsibility". Of course, some party pooper at Rudd's summit must have coughed nervously, because the report goes on: "A view was put forward that this type of approach to policy and program implementation would risk the notion of a 'nanny state' and overrestriction of behaviour . . ." But damn it: "It was felt . . . that health promotion must not succumb to these pressures."

Why not is not explained. It is enough that our "best and brightest" disapprove of what you do. So, having given themselves licence even to dash the chips from your mouth and the slurpee from your hand, off they go, thinking up fresh ways to bully you into living the life of their jackbooted dreams.

Here's just some of the bans and new by-laws their 2020 report urges on Rudd: "A junk-food tax"; "a 2.5 cent increased tax on each cigarette"; "abolishing cigarettes and alcohol brought into the country duty-free"; "more stairs in workplaces to encourage people to avoid using the escalators"; "price foods according to their carbon costs"; and "educating the 'white' population on indigenous culture".

Making people suffer is actually good: "Cities should become car-unfriendly." Making them go without is the whole idea: "Don't just buy green, buy less." And having to force them to obey is no problem: "We need . . . accountability mechanisms to reduce their consumption", plus "levers" such as "taxation, incentives (positive and negative) and regulation". You can hear them drooling over that, no?

Here are bullies who dream of interfering even with your right to buy musical instruments, demanding we "move from buying to hiring", and adding: "Examples are pianos . . ." Pianos, but not didgeridoos, of course.

It's hard to believe our allegedly finest minds could still think like this not two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Somehow, these are people who must have read George Orwell's grim 1984 as not a warning but an inspiration. When Orwell wrote of his poor hero being forced "to join in compulsory exercises following the instructions given by a woman from the telescreen", our intelligentsia must have thought: "Great idea! Let's tell Rudd!" And, sure enough, the report recommends that "half an hour of physical activity (be) built into sedentary jobs". Oh, what a kick, to force millions to run on the spot.

Who unleashed these salon Stalinists? These health fascists? These warming commissars? Who let them loose to flog us sinners into living lives more holy, by their grim creed?


No strings school funding 'a failure'

GIVING disadvantaged schools extra money without tying it to specific interventions fails to lift the performance of students from poorer backgrounds. A review of funding programs designed to overcome social disadvantage says current arrangements are failing to reduce or neutralise the effects of a child's background on their achievement at school.

The study by University of Melbourne researchers contains a lesson for the federal Government in pursuing its education revolution, and its commitment to fund schools according to the needs of their students. Education Minister Julia Gillard has proposed a new funding agreement with the states and territories to fund schools according to the socio-economic status of their students. The study underlines the importance of funding being tied to programs designed to tackle problems identified by the school. One of the review's authors, Stephen Lamb from the university's Centre for Post-compulsory Education and Lifelong Learning, said merely allocating resources to schools without a clear idea on how they would or should be spent, fails to improve student performance. "It's an ongoing problem around the world," he said. "It's no use just handing over money to schools; in fact, you could be putting out good money after bad. We need to work out what works and fund that."

The review was conducted into the equity programs run by the NSW Government that are intended to close the gap in achievement between students from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds. Among the programs reviewed was the general equity program, called the Priority Schools Funding Program, which targets 21per cent of the most socially disadvantaged students, giving extra resources to about 25per cent of the state's schools.

The PSFP received about $20 million of commonwealth funding in 2004, with the state Government providing an additional 280 teachers to those schools. The review also analysed a pilot program called the Priority Action Schools Program, which gave 74 disadvantaged schools between $100,000 and $400,000 each. The PSFP hands money to the schools to spend how they see fit, with all schools receiving the same amount regardless of the level of disadvantage. But schools received funding under the PASP only after identifying strategies to address specific problems in their schools, linking the money to programs that then had to be monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness.

Comparing the results in literacy and numeracy tests and the Year 10 School Certificate between disadvantaged schools on the different programs, the review found that non-PASP schools tended to experience falls in the mean levels of student achievement in literacy and numeracy tests. In contrast, PASP schools tended to experience gains, and in some cases the change in achievement was statistically significant.

The report says the main approach to addressing social inequality in public schools in NSW in the past is largely based on fiscal compensation. "The assumption is that money is necessary and sufficient to improve the quality of schooling in disadvantaged areas," it says. "This leads to a situation in which there is little accountability from schools, and little control over how schools use the funds and whether or not they are employed to develop programs that target the needs of the students."


Overstretched doctors turning away 'chronic' patients

When there are heaps of people wanting to get into medical schools, a doctor shortage is just plain government negligence. Why is money being spent on useless "postmodern" courses when funds for medical education are so limited?

STATE capitals are feeling the brunt of the nation's doctor shortage, with GPs in these previously well-served areas shutting their doors to new patients due to overwhelming demand. In some cases, patients are having to travel 20-30km from their homes to find a doctor who can see them. Some GPs are using fees to dampen demand, charging as much as $100 for an in-surgery consultation after 6pm.

Although governments for years deemed the doctor shortage to be a largely rural phenomenon, an analysis of GP statistics shows doctor headcounts are falling hardest in metropolitan areas, which have so far been largely overlooked by medical recruitment incentive programs. Workforce data for Australia's 115 locally based divisions of general practice shows that in at least parts of all mainland state capitals, the number of GPs and the number of services they provide annually have both fallen between 1995-96 and 2005-06.

At the same time, there has in almost all cases been a huge jump in the proportion of GPs in each division aged over 55, raising the prospect that the doctor shortages in the affected areas will worsen when large numbers of GPs start to retire.

In the Central Sydney division, the GP headcount fell from 680 in 1995-96 to 590 nine years later, while the population grew. The number of services provided by GPs in those years also fell, from 2.7 million to 2.4 million. Similar patterns were seen in at least six other Sydney divisions, while headcounts in many rural NSW divisions rose. Headcount falls were also seen in the ACT, at least eight divisions in Melbourne, two in Brisbane, four in Adelaide and three in Perth.

The real impact on the workforce would be bigger, because the trend towards more women qualifying as doctors has led to a reduction in the overall numbers of hours worked, as women are more likely to work part-time.

Perth GP Tim Lipscombe closed his books to new patients seven months ago, as have about half the doctors in his nine-GP practice. "I wasn't able to service my own patients and I was being inundated by patients with relatively complex chronic diseases who were coming from other practices that had closed," Dr Lipscombe said. "There are a lot of doctors around here near retirement age, who I have heard on the grapevine will be retiring soon. I'm not sure what's going to happen - it's pretty scary."

A practice in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, said some patients came from as far away as Ipswich or after ringing "six other centres and are unable to get in". "I know a couple of practices whose standard consultation is about $65 - and certainly out of hours, anything after 6pm is a lot dearer, around $100," said the reception supervisor, who asked not to be named.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the shortage of GPs was "a real issue right around Australia". "This is an issue we're determined to tackle," she said. "The increasing number of doctors coming on-line over the next few years should make a difference, but we need to do more."


Monday, July 07, 2008


Australian Prime Minister Kevin "Tokenism" Rudd is trying to do something significant for a change but he has no ideas of his own so has jumped on the Greenie bandwagon and wants to pass laws to stop global warming! The huge costs and total futility of what he proposes have however caused some people to sit up and take notice. In setting out detailed proposals for new laws, Rudd relies heavily on the "Garnaut Report" -- a piece of conventional Warmism that he commissioned from a tame economist. That report has been particularly criticized. Six current articles below

Garnaut climate report - Three Key Questions that were Ignored

An Australian Group of Global Warming Sceptics today claimed that the Garnaut Report had totally ignored the three key questions in the debate. The chairman of The Carbon Sense Coalition, Mr Viv Forbes, said that the major question is a scientific one: "Have man's emissions of CO2 caused unusual global warming or done harm to the world environment?" An increasing number of scientists all over the world are very clear on this and their answer is a resounding "NO". For starters see the Oregon Petition and the Manhattan Declaration

It is irresponsible for the government to get this far without having an independent enquiry on the science, a fundamental first step in a rational due diligence of this massive economic intervention.

"The second question not considered by the Garnaut Report is "What are the full costs and benefits likely to accrue to Australians if we embark on this course?" This major question is avoided by explanations of "no data" or "the modelling is not completed".

"Already we are seeing the costs associated with misguided policies designed to reduce Global Warming: a world shortage of food cause by diversion of land from food production to ethanol; power shortages and blackouts as power station construction is deferred; soaring prices for gas as people are coerced to convert from one carbon fuel to another; shortages of refined diesel and petrol as refinery construction is delayed; and instability and losses in financial markets concerned about the future cost of travel, transport, energy and food."

"But nowhere have we seen estimates of the total cost of all the taxes, disruptions, shortages, cost increases and unnecessary investments associated with all the emission permits, ration coupons, energy mandates, trading schemes, quotas, bureaucracy and approvals."

"The third key question not considered by Professor Garnaut, is "Is it politically likely that rest of the world will adopt these draconian mitigation policies, or will Australia and New Zealand be left hanging like dead dingos on a barbed wire fence?"

"No democracy will accept the costs and disruptions envisaged to achieve the fairy-land goals for cuts in carbon emissions. Therefore this whole mitigation scheme must fail and will eventually be abandoned, but only after causing huge costs."

"The rejection of green taxes in recent UK by-elections, the defeat of the Emissions Trading proposals by the US Senate, the revolt about electricity prices among German politicians, the worldwide food riots and the truckie blockades all over Europe should surely warn our worldly-wise PM that this decision is just too hard, even for him."

"Even if we faced more global warming, which is the better way to go - prepare to adapt, or try to change the world and its climate? Is adaptation or mitigation the sensible policy?"

"The climate is always changing and will continue to do so no matter what Professor Garnaut and Minister Wong say or do about it. Our ancestors have survived massive climate change - floods of Biblical dimensions, storms more violent than Katrina, volcanism to dwarf Krakatau, Saharan droughts, seas that evaporated and then flooded back and flourishing greenhouse forests followed by glacial ages of ice."

"Many species and individuals died in the periodic ages of chaos but our ancestors adapted and survived. They went on to thrive in the occasional warm, moist, calm periods like today. (Incidentally, polar bears also managed to adapt and survive periods warmer and colder than today.) The best we can do today is to make sure we have the financial and industrial resources to cope with whatever the climate has in store for us."

"And if Mother Nature has another Little Ice Age in store, that will cause more damage than any one of the 23 different computer generated global warming predictions from the Mis-fortune Tellers at the IPCC."


Kevin Rudd faces climate revolt from state Labor governments

KEVIN Rudd has been warned against rushing ahead with a carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS), with a union boss saying workers should not lose their jobs just so the Prime Minister can keep his. Mr Rudd is facing a savage backlash from unions and state Labor over the timing of an ETS, which was the centrepiece of the Garnaut Review into how Australia should tackle climate change. The scheme would raise billions of dollars for the Government through the sale of pollution permits.

As the Prime Minister conceded yesterday that rising electricity, food and petrol prices were an inevitable consequence of the scheme, he pledged that the Government was mindful of the risks to family budgets and to jobs. But Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes has accused Mr Rudd of being "hell bent" on introducing the ETS by 2010 just to keep an election promise, despite the danger of forcing jobs offshore. "I would rather see that period of time dragged out a bit to ensure that there aren't any errors in the design," he said. "If we ensure that the adequate levels of compensation and recognition are given to industries so that they are given ... time to clean up their act ... then no job needs to be lost. In fact, jobs should be created."

The Federal Opposition has also said the ETS should be delayed to ensure it was done properly. Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull has said the scheme would be "half-cocked" if introduced on the government's timetable. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said today the environment would be no better off with a rushed scheme. "Mr Rudd is taking Australia way out in front of the rest of the world and in doing so places significant risk on the Australian economy ... for no environmental gain at all," he said on ABC radio. "The rest of the world, particularly the big emitters, will not yet be ready (by 2012)."

In his attack on the Garnaut report, NSW Treasurer Michael Costa has backed free permits for electricity generators, saying today in The Australian that "Chicken Little" warnings about the dangers of climate change are no substitute for a rigorous economic and scientific debate.

Mr Howes said an ETS would be little more than a trade tariff "against ourselves" if high-polluting countries such as China and Brazil were not taking similar measures.

In his draft report, released on Friday, Professor Ross Garnaut said Australia would be hit harder by climate change than other countries would be - and therefore needed to act now. But he also said the government should pressure other polluters to follow suit quickly.

Mr Costa warns that while the states support the implementation of an ETS, the risks to the economy are severe if the Rudd Government gets it wrong, citing the children's fable of the hen that thought the sky was falling after being hit on the head by an acorn. "Chicken Little arguments are no substitute for getting right the important details on issues of far reaching consequence, but Professor (Ross) Garnaut himself has said his detailed economic impact modelling won't be available until August," he writes. "For example, claims from some quarters that the Great Barrier Reef would be destroyed if Australia, which emits less than 2 per cent of global greenhouse gases, does not adopt an ETS are patent nonsense."

The Government also faces growing calls to offer free permits to polluters to stagger the impact of putting a price on carbon, or embrace the Howard government option of a safety valve system that would place an effective cap on the price of carbon, allowing polluters to pay a fine rather than buy more permits once a certain price for carbon was exceeded.


Emissions Trading Scheme Will Kill Family Farms

Forget all the arguments about global warming being real or not. It's too late for that. What is real is that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is hell bent on introducing an Emissions Trading Scheme to prove to the world what a good global citizen Australia is, regardless of the consequences to our economy.

What the main stream media have missed in the flood of coverage is the potential devastation to rural Australia the emission trading scheme will be. Agriculture will not be a `covered' industry, you can back that in.

That is of little consequence. What it does mean is that an emission trading scheme will dramatically increase the cost of every farm input. Farmers unlike power stations and fuel refiners have zero ability to pass those costs on.

AgForce President Peter Kenny tells us that the modeling AgForce has done has shown that farm input costs will increase by 15-40% depending on the industry. Livestock producers are at the lower end of the scale with grain croppers and intensive industries at the high end.

This coming on top of a record year of AgFlation will be the death knell for many smaller farmers. New South Wales Farmers Federation President Jock Laurie recently told us that they believe AgFlation based on the 4 major farm inputs - chemical, fertiliser, diesel and interest rates is running somewhere between 60 and 80%. Jock said that they were waiting on modelling to be completed to come up with the final figure.

It is up to the National Farmers Federation as the peak farmer lobby to put farmers case before PM Rudd and his team. If they are not able to secure some relief for farmers from the burden of the emissions trading scheme we will see the greatest upheaval in rural Australia in our history. Family farms will be sold into large corporate farming ventures. Corporates with massive dollars behind them will be able to survive as they can operate under the efficiencies of sheer size & scale.

Corporate farming operations however do little or nothing for rural communities many of which will shrivel and eventually die under such a scenario. When a corporate operates a farming enterprise that was once operated by say 10 smaller family farms they do it with a skeleton permanent work force supplemented by `fly in' contractors. Infrastructure and services such as schools, hospitals, doctors, chemists and service businesses in these small communities depend on farming families. Without them these communities have no future.

So forget worrying about the 3 million people who may lose their jobs in the Energy sector, and power stations closing down. Those industries can pass their cost of emission permits onto consumers.

Be worried, very worried about yourselves and the 1,000's of other family farms that simply will not be viable as the manufacturers of every farm input, steel, timber, rubber, water, electricity, machinery, chemical, fertilizer, diesel, power etc pass those costs onto farmers who have no ability to pass them onto their customers.


Garnaut scenario 'simply wrong'

CLIMATE change sceptics have attacked the Garnaut orthodoxy that without immediate action to slash greenhouse gas emissions, Australia will suffer "diabolical" consequences. Rejecting predictions that the Great Barrier Reef would be destroyed and rainfall patterns radically altered without immediate moves to cut carbon emissions, climatologist Stewart Franks said scenarios set out by Ross Garnaut were simply wrong. "The whole idea that you can say that by 2030 or 2040 rainfall will be a certain percentage less is a complete nonsense because it ignores the natural variability," he said.

Professor Franks, an expert in hydro-climatic variability at the University of Newcastle in NSW, said Australia's current drought had nothing to do with increased carbon emissions, but was instead caused by natural rainfall events. "We have these incredibly dry periods that can last for decades, and we then have these similar decades that are wetter than average. This is all due to El Nino and La Nina," he said.

Professor Franks said although Australia was very dry, it had more water per capita than any other country in the world. "It's a question of how we manage that water, and we've been particularly bad at managing the Murray-Darling Basin," he said. Professor Franks said an emissions trading scheme would achieve nothing. "The truth is that there will be a lot of pain for absolutely no gain," he said.

But even those who accept Professor Garnaut's predictions about the impact of current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are not convinced that an emissions trading scheme in 2010 is the best solution. Concept Economics executive director of analysis Brian Fisher said he did not question the science underlying Professor Garnaut's draft report, but it was futile "cutting the throats of the Australian export industry" unless the rest of the world also agreed to take action on their carbon output. "Having an emissions trading scheme in Australia will not save the Barrier Reef. What we need is full global co-operation," he said.

Dr Fisher said the best way to combat global warming was to persist with multilateral negotiations. "None of these things happen in a day," he said. "I think, frankly, we've got another 10 hard years of negotiation before we make the sort of progress we need to have both the developed and developing countries on board."

Dr Fisher backed Professor Garnaut's view that Australia should invest heavily in clean technology. "But unless there can be proper account taken of the impact on competitiveness of trade-exposed industries, all we're going to do is reduce Australia's welfare, reduce jobs in Australia, and basically make little or no contribution to solving the problem," he said.

ITS Global principal Alan Oxley said Professor Garnaut was wrong to suggest the problem required urgent action. "The argument has no basis - we do have the luxury of time. It's a 100-year problem," he said. "This is something we should be beginning quite gingerly." Mr Oxley, a former Australian ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, said there was no point in Australia acting faster to cut its emissions than the rest of the world. "At this point, we should be somewhat experimental, and just see how it goes," he said.


More BOM nonsense

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology are Warmist true believers. Predicting widespread drought as a result of warming shows how dishonest they are. Warmer seas evaporate more and lead to MORE rain

A DIRE new scientific report predicts severe droughts and a tenfold increase in the number of extremely hot days in Australia. The Federal Government, which commissioned the nation's top scientists to compile the report, described the predictions as "like a disaster novel". "Exceptionally hot years are likely to occur every one to two years on average over the period 2010 to 2040," it warns.

Released just days after the Garnaut report on climate change and emissions trading, the report predicts devastating consequences for farming and the environment. It suggests that in the next 20 to 30 years, droughts will be far more frequent and severe across Australia, with South Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin and Western Australia faring worst of all.

The conclusions cast yet more doubt on the slow pace of reform of water use in the Basin after governments last week refused to free up water trading between regions or to accelerate a 10-year water licence buy-back program. The report says a 10 per cent drop in mean annual rainfall across most of Australia is possible, leading to a tripling of the risk of "exceptionally" low rainfall in SA.

Independent scientists and climatologists at the CSRIO and the Bureau of Meteorology compiled the "Drought: Exceptional Circumstances report. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke yesterday released the report and said the outlook was extremely worrying. "While this is a scientific report, parts of those higher-end predictions read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report," he said. "When we talk about extreme temperature, the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology have found that events of extreme temperature that used to occur once every 20 to 25 years are now likely to occur once every one to two years, as we move towards the year 2030. "South Australia and the Murray-Darling Basin region are among the worst affected regions in Australia."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the report as "very disturbing". "When it comes to exceptional or extreme drought, exceptionally high temperatures, the historical assumption that this occurred once every 20 years has now been revised down to between every one and two years," he said. "Now this is a serious revision of the impact of climate change on drought."

The study divided Australia's agricultural regions into seven areas. SA and the southern half of WA were treated as one giant region designated "SW WA". It found under more extreme scenarios, drought declaration - the first stage in securing emergency financial assistance for farmers - was likely to be necessary four times as often and across much bigger areas. "Declarations are likely to be triggered about twice as often (at least four times as often in SW WA) and over double the area (quadruple the area in SW WA)," the report concludes.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Ben Fargher said it was clear from this study and Professor Garnaut's work more needed to be done to protect farmers. "Both reports highlight how exposed agriculture is to the risk of climate change," he told The Advertiser. "We agree there is a big risk, I mean we are working with the climate every day so no one feels more exposed to the risk than the people working in the climate."

He said the challenge now was to design policy to manage growing risks. This included dramatically increasing research and development in climate change, spending more on adaptation strategies, the use of drought-resistant species of plants to get "more crop from each drop", including greater use of genetically modified species.

The report's authors said the sheer frequency of drought and extreme temperature years effectively rendered useless the existing system of drought assistance. "In summary, this study suggests that the existing (emergency funding) trigger definition is not appropriate under a changing climate," they said. "Future drought policy may be better served by avoiding the need for a trigger at all."

The study follows the widely anticipated Garnaut draft report into the economic impact of climate change and the benefits of an emissions trading scheme. Professor Garnaut found the cost of doing nothing strongly outweighed the costs of establishing an ETS even if it meant petrol and electricity costs would rise. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is due to release a Government discussion paper next week at the National Press Club in Canberra.

While Labor's criticism of the previous Howard Government was almost fanatical regarding taxpayer-funded advertising, Senator Wong yesterday hinted that a big advertising campaign could be in the offing to help sell an emissions trading scheme. "We do have to ensure that people understand what the emissions trading scheme will do, what climate change will mean," she said. "This is an enormous and complex policy challenge, so of course, the Government does have a responsibility to ensure the community is there."


Garnaut failed on science and economics

By Piers Akerman

TAXPAYERS should ask Professor Ross Garnaut for their money back: his report is little more than a fearmongering document designed to bolster the age-old socialist agenda of wealth redistribution. It fails from the basis of science and it fails from the basis of economics but it will, however, warm the hearts of the anti-capitalist doom merchants of Europe and inner-urban branches of the Labor Party with its prognostications. Nostradamus would be proud.

Like all who have signed on to the view that humans are responsible for global warming, Professor Garnaut cites the IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) projections on the rate of climate change as coming from a scientifically based consensus. This is complete rubbish. The only consensus was between bureaucrats who wanted to agree to a number, the energy-rich Saudis wanted a low number, the energy-deficient Europeans wanted a low number, and they struck a deal which is the basis of Professor Garnaut's consensus.

Starting with that humbug, he then segues to Australia and, with the arrogance of a Belinda Neal, proposes that Australia should be the global leader in a fight against climate change. King Canute could teach him a thing or two about humility but, then again, Professor Garnaut was handpicked for his task by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the master of agenda control.

The world is coming to an end, he says; Kakadu will be inundated, the Great Barrier Reef will die, the Murray-Darling river system will dry up unless we act now. Oh, sure. But where does he conjure up this fantasy from when the IPCC's own temperature projections are already falling over? Taken over the past 10 years, the trend line for temperature is flat. If taken from 2001, the trend shows global temperatures falling. It is as if he is suffering from some cognitive dissonance. Even the thousands of Argos robots which bob up and down through the ocean levels have measured no increases in temperatures as they sample at different depths.

Professor Garnaut's appearance at the National Press Club on Friday revealed him to be the bureaucrat's bureaucrat, which may be why our uber-bureaucrat Prime Minister fell for him in the first place. He is not, however, as polished as Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes, Minister. Sir Humphrey would not, for example, have insinuated that the adoption of a new tax on industry would make rain fall on the Murray-Darling basin.

He would not have made the mistake of sending out a report which pointed to lower dam levels in the Perth region - which Professor Garnaut blamed on climate change - when those directly engaged in the West Australian water industry know that there is less run-off into Perth's dams now because of the regrowth in the once-cleared catchment area. Professor Garnaut and his team weren't able to model many important factors because of shaky data, yet he expects us to believe that his predictions of catastrophic consequence should be immediately acted upon.

A few weeks ago, Mr Rudd was congratulated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his support for multilateralism (the failed UN, that is), and Professor Garnaut is also a believer in such institutions, yet he believes that it is imperative that Australia take immediate action on climate change so our nation can be a role model for our neighbours. Who knows where they teach this stuff, but the notion of anyone of the failed states in the Pacific, or our great Indonesian neighbour to the north, deciding that we are role model in this or anything is so laughably arrogant that it defies description. Only a basket-weaving Balmain boy scout could possibly believe that other nations would willingly plunge into economic decline because Australia had set the lead.

The biggest environmental crisis facing us today is the collapse of the Murray-Darling system which has little to do with climate change and everything to do with bad political decisions on water use. The Rudd government and each of the Labor states put that in the too-hard basket last week and pushed it off for another committee meeting to decide what committee should decide on what action.

Senator Penny Wong, who has shown herself to be nothing more than a more eloquent version of her assistant minister, Peter Garrett, and just as useless, says Professor Garnaut's report demonstrates that Australia must act on the climate issue. Any reading of this irresponsible report would demand that any action be cautiously approached and taken only after exhaustive research, not Ruddite back-of-the-envelope modelling based on flawed inputs.

As for the haste, help me, what a joke. One bushfire, one volcano, one cyclone would destroy in seconds any efforts of a vastly greater magnitude than Australians could physically undertake over 50 years.

Perhaps Mr Rudd wants this report to artificially stampede Australians, to distract them from their more pressing economic problems - who knows? But it is worth recalling that the last major economic reform this nation underwent, the introduction of the GST (opposed by Labor and Mr Rudd in particular, until he won office), was sold to the public over 17 long years, by Labor Treasurer Paul Keating, Coalition Opposition leader John Hewson and Prime Minister John Howard. The public knew what it was getting.

Professor Garnaut throws up promises of disaster and hopes to generate a wave of fear which would force the Government to take some action. Forget it, and forget the notion that our near neighbours would line up to cut their economic throats just because we willingly plunged into recession to assuage the guilt of a gathering of gullible Gaia followers in Canberra.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

DANGEROUS FAD! Water and workouts to become compulsory for NSW toddlers

What a picnic for lawyers the first time a toddler gets seriously hurt as a result of this nonsense! It looks like the kids are to be given lots of water one way or another but THAT IS DANGEROUS EVEN IN ADULTS -- to the point of death. And quite small amounts of water given to children can lead to water intoxication, resulting in brain damage. See also here, where it speaks of an "epidemic" of water intoxication among U.S. children. Blasted know-nothing faddists!

Children as young as three will undergo compulsory exercise regimes of up to two hours every day in preschools. The New South Wales Government's anti-obesity program also phases out junkfood with kids now drinking watered down juices and low-fat milk and parents receiving a list of recommended foods for their children's lunchboxes. Star jumps, action-singing songs as well as catching, jumping and running are just some of the exercises included in the roll call of daily activities.

The Munch 'n' Move blueprint aims to bring down the rocketing rates of childhood obesity [Utter rubbish! Obesity peaked in the late 1990s] in NSW with one in five preschoolers now either overweight or obese.

Nearly 1000 preschools will implement the new healthy lifestyles policy within the next 18 months, with childhood teachers in 14 centres receiving their initial training this week. "We do music and movement every day but this program also encourages us to do more structured exercise outside where we are teaching children the finer points in jumping, running, hopping, galloping and fundamental movement skills," said educator Vicky Smith from Five Dock preschool, which is implementing the program.

NSW Health's Centre for Health Advancement director Liz Develin said once the preschools were completed the program would be rolled out in long-day care centres. She said that while some parents might question the need to force active three-year-olds into exercise, Ms Develin said recent research showed 89 per cent of children aged four to five spend more than two hours watching a screen every day. "A lot of three to five-year-olds have started these bad habits early," Ms Develin said. [PROVE that it's a bad habit!] "If children are well equipped in fundamental movement skills they are more likely to participate in physical activity and sport later - they'll have the basic skills of how to run, throw and jump rather than just running around erratically."

Early childhood teachers will receive a 188-page manual outlining the details of the new exercise and food program, which includes giving children water rather than fruit poppers and cordials so that kids don't develop a sweet tooth. It also recommends limiting giving juice to once a day and to the 100 per cent variety, which is then diluted by water by at least half, and suggests reduced-fat milk for children over two.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher said the program was devised to combat the growing number of overweight preschoolers as well as educate parents. "There is clear evidence that the number of people who are overweight or obese is increasing," she said. "By the time NSW children reach kindergarten nearly 18 per cent of them are either overweight or obese."



Three current articles below:

NSW paramedics being worked to death

An inquiry into the New South Wales Ambulance Service has heard many paramedics feel so stressed and overwhelmed by their workloads they are contemplating suicide. The Upper House inquiry has heard Three in Four ambulance officers feel over worked in the job, while a number of submissions have raised serious concerns about bullying.

Phil Roxbrough, Ambulance station manager in Moruya on the NSW south coast, told the hearing bosses needed to do more to address the problems associated with stress. "I hear stories from so many people who have come so close to attempting suicide or have gone through some really horrific experiences and someone needs to be a voice for these people, to care for these people," he said.


Tasmanian public hospital bed shortages

Ongoing pressures at the Royal Hobart Hospital have surfaced again with staff and patients reporting issues across a number of departments yesterday. Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Neroli Elis said up to five ambulances were ramped outside the Emergency Department yesterday because of a drastic shortage of staff and beds. She said one patient in emergency had arrived at 8pm on Thursday and had not received a bed by 4.30pm yesterday. It follows an emergency meeting between staff and management last weekend after complaints that emergency patients were being left to wait on trolleys in corridors for up to 36 hours before beds were found.

Ms Ellis said the hospital was admitting elective surgery patients in order to meet its Commonwealth targets while emergency patients were left in crowded waiting rooms.

RHH spokeswoman Pene Snashall said the emergency department had not been abnormally busy. "I cannot find any evidence to substantiate their claims," Ms Snashall said. "The individual patient they refer to is not in (the emergency department) -- not on a trolley -- she is actually in the short-stay facility of ED under the care of neurosurgery specialists. "It is mischievous to suggest this person waiting in a waiting room or sitting in a chair for that amount of time."

Meanwhile a pregnant woman rang the Mercury yesterday to complain of overcrowding in the antenatal ward. "There are some very tired ladies here with heavy bellies and children running around and there are no seats for anyone," the woman said. "Staff have said we can look forward to a wait of one to two hours."

Last week, RHH chief executive Craig White admitted conditions in the hospital's maternity outpatient clinic were unsatisfactory but said there were limited options for improvement because of space constraints in the ageing hospital.


Bulgarian doctor repeatedly botched surgery

While the regulators sleepwalked about it

A doctor accused of wrongly operating on patients and lying about the mistaken removal of a woman's ovary has just re-registered to practise. Dr Ivan Lubenov Popov is alleged to have lied to patients and misled staff about his procedures in an attempt to cover-up botched and potentially illegal medical procedures.

Documents filed to the Health Practitioners Tribunal registrar reveal a string of women have suffered complications and heartache since December 2006 because of the alleged negligent practices of the obstetrician and gynaecologist, who worked at the Caboolture Hospital. In one case he allegedly removed a woman's ovary that was meant to be preserved during a hysterectomy, and while admitting the surgical mistake to his superiors, continued to lie to the woman about the reason for its removal.

Four other women suffered complications following "inappropriate" surgery, which the Medical Board of Queensland claims should not have been performed at a provincial hospital given the women's medical history and potential for the operations to be complicated. In another case he is alleged to have consented to a medical procedure on a pregnant woman which he knew would result in a termination of her pregnancy, which she had earlier told him was unwanted.

But the Medical Board of Queensland said a termination was outside Queensland Health guidelines and Dr Popov deliberately tried to obfuscate the intent to perform the termination and misled his superiors and colleagues in the case.

The obstetrician is accused of negligence in a seventh instance, when he left a woman in labour with twins under the supervision of junior staff only, after ordering the top-up of an epidural. Dr Popov was able to continue his alleged cowboy operations on patients until he left his practice in July last year. It took another 11 months for the Medical Board of Queensland to place restrictions on his practice. It has now lodged action in the Health Practitioners Tribunal to have disciplinary action taken against him.

Dr Popov has re-registered to practise as a doctor from July 1 this year. But Queensland Health said he was no longer working for them and under Medical Board of Queensland guidelines, he has not been able to practise privately since the middle of last month. Queensland Health has also referred the matter to the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

Spokesmen for both Queensland Health and the Medical Board of Queensland said they were unable to provide any more information on the doctor, who is understood to have moved to South Africa. Lawyers listed as a contact for Dr Popov in a Medical Board of Queensland document last month said yesterday they no longer represented him and were unable to assist with any further information. Neighbours at his last known address at Redcliffe said Dr Popov packed up and moved to South Africa last week. Dr Popov received his Diploma of Medicine from a University in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1990.



AUSTRALIA risked tarnishing its reputation with international investors if an emissions trading scheme was implemented too swiftly, destroying the value of existing power assets, TRUenergy managing director Richard McIndoe says. "Given that Australia is really going out on a point on this matter ... to introduce a high (carbon) tax immediately would be fraught with risk," Mr McIndoe said yesterday. "I think you'd see significantly less appetite from international investors in (energy) assets because they'd see a huge level of sovereign risk in investing in the electricity sector in Australia."

A discussion paper issued by Mr Garnaut in March sparked an outcry by recommending that all carbon permits be auctioned from the outset, without any free permits for trade-exposed and energy-intensive industries.

Australian lawmakers want to create a market-based emissions trading system that caps the amount of carbon dioxide that power generators can produce. If companies emit more than their cap allows, they would have to buy carbon permits from companies that have a surplus. The theory is that this so-called cap-and-trade system gives companies a financial incentive to clean up.

But for a generator and retailer like TRUenergy, a unit of Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings, the consequences of an emissions trading scheme could be dire. Mr McIndoe said brown coal generators in Victoria alone could see the value of their existing generation assets written down by as much as 90 per cent, or $12 billion, as an emissions trading scheme made them costlier to run than cleaner alternatives. "Clearly, if you have to write that off your balance sheet, it's going to cause some major financial impairment," he said.

More here

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The good old ocean acidity scare gets another outing in Australia

The writers below DO NOT believe in global warming. They only say they do. Why? Because warmer oceans are capable of holding LESS CO2. Open a bottle of Coke when it is warm and see how the gas surges out if you doubt it. And if the oceans have less CO2 in them, they contain less of the carbonic acid that the CO2 becomes while in solution! So the oceans would have a REDUCED tendency towards acidity under warming. The fact that corals etc. have survived much warmer periods in the earth's past is also conveniently not mentioned.

Now that Ross Garnaut's draft report has been released, most of the climate change debate in Australia will focus on the economic effects of any emissions trading scheme. However, there's another carbon problem, which will profoundly affect our oceans, that has received scant attention beyond a small band of marine scientists and is largely independent of global warming. The public, aware of the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, doesn't know of its function in acidifying the oceans and the hundreds of years that would be required for recovery.

Ocean acidification refers to the natural process whereby carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea, forming a weak carbonic acid. The ocean is a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and has absorbed about 48 per cent of the CO2 emitted by human activities since the pre-industrial age. A recent report from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre claimed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest level in 650,000 years, and possibly 23 million years, and half has been dissolved in the oceans, making them more acidic.

Australia has a direct stake in the ocean acidification problem: it will affect every part of our marine environment. And our offshore estate has just become a lot bigger. Three months ago the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, while not accepting all bids, recognised Australia's claim to the continental shelf where it extends beyond our exclusive 200 nautical mile economic zone. This is a vast oceanic area: 2.5 million square kilometres, or 10 times the size of New Zealand and 20 times the size of Britain.

Rising levels of acidity in the oceans surrounding Australia could have a profound impact on marine industries and dire consequences for many Pacific Island communities, presenting strategic and humanitarian challenges.

Mounting levels of CO2 in the Southern Ocean has caused deep concern among scientists studying the long-term productivity of the world's oceans. Under conditions of increasing acidification, parts of the oceans will deteriorate and progressively become uninhabitable for certain types of plankton, central to the ocean food chain, and coral structures. The Southern Ocean is particularly important because it is very efficient at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere: it's here where the first effects are being felt.

Ocean acidification is likely to have a cascading effect, reaching parts of the food chain such as fish and shellfish. Marine researchers are saying that a business-as-usual scenario of CO2 production will ultimately result in destruction of marine life on an enormous scale. Some shell-forming species will struggle to maintain or reproduce their vital shell structures and skeletons, which will have a direct effect on the ocean food web. Some species will decline, others will be displaced or will disappear, and patterns of fisheries will change, potentially threatening the food security of millions in the Asia-Pacific and damaging Australian fisheries economically.

Another study identified ocean acidification as a primary causal factor in common reef fish getting lost at sea during a crucial stage of their development. And rising acidification could also interfere with the respiration of fish, the larval development of marine organisms and the ability of oceans to absorb nutrients and toxins.

Coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef, which are hot spots of biodiversity, will suffer. Acidification will weaken coral structures and stunt coral growth, leading to a significant decline by the middle of this century. This will deprive parts of the Australian coastline of a natural protective barrier against the ocean, leading to greater threats from storm activity and cyclones.....

As the debate about who wins and who loses in the future Australian emissions trading regime intensifies, we should remember that with ocean acidification there will only be losers. Discovering the ecological effects of our souring oceans requires urgent action.

The authors above: Anthony Bergin is director of research programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Ross Allen is a research analyst at ASPI. The above are their personal views. It looks like both of them reply on others for a knowledge of chemistry and physics

More here

Victorian rapist stays anonymous

The identity of a rapist will remain a mystery to the community after a judge yesterday rejected an application for him to be identified. In May the Sunday Herald Sun launched legal action seeking to reveal the identity of the serial rapist and pedophile. In the County Court yesterday that action was refused after the judge ordered the rapist -- who can be referred to only as "the respondent" -- become the subject of a 15-year extended supervision order under new state legislation.

After a day of expert evidence on behalf of the rapist on Thursday, Judge Margaret Rizkalla yesterday deemed suppression of his identity and psychiatric reports would best serve the interests of the community. The judge said the public interest was "clearly balanced in favour of a suppression order, which would allow . . . the protection of the community [HOW??] and treatment and rehabilitation of the offender to be realised". The Herald & Weekly Times argued that any suppression orders were premature.

The judge said: "This submission, even if accepted, does not address the issue of any adverse emotional and psychological effect on the respondent [WHAT ABOUT THE EFFECT ON HIS VICTIMS??] if material is published, which in turn has the potential to affect the efficacy of treatment and rehabilitation -- which are the safeguards which the legislation relies upon for the protection of the community." [Relying on rehabilitation!! What a joke! That's the last thing you could rely on]

Crime Victims' Support Association president Noel McNamara scoffed at the suppression order. "People in the community are entitled to a fair go by having a fair idea who these people are and where people like this bloke are living at any given time," he said.


Cairns: Australia's relaxed tropical resort city

No shock, horror about topless women just a few minutes' walk from the city centre

The topless sunbaking area at the Esplanade Lagoon is here to stay, despite fears it is drawing pervs and creeps into the city. As debate continues to rage over whether women walking around the city are increasingly being ogled, whistled at and subjected to lewd remarks, Lagoon regular Renny Dagostino said a stricter dress code at the popular swimming and sunbaking spot would help clear out many of the undesirables.

But Cairns Mayor Val Schier said while she understood there were objections to topless sunbaking at the Lagoon, she stood by previous mayor Kevin Byrne's decision five years ago to set aside the northern grassed area for that purpose. "I certainly have had feedback that some families and others don't frequent that area because they are not comfortable with nudity and it is certainly offensive to them," Cr Schier said. "But, at the same time, the majority of people do accept it these days. "We get very few complaints, maybe because most people have either accepted it or they just go elsewhere. "Personally, I'm relaxed about it."

Regarding complaints of sexual harassment of women on city streets, sparked by 24-year-old inner-city restaurant worker Karissa Harris's concerns in The Cairns Post on Tuesday about being constantly subjected to lewd remarks, Cr Schier said no form of rudeness should be tolerated. But as for wolf-whistling, she said she couldn't see the harm. "Despite my advanced age, I still do get some whistles now and then and generally it brings a smile to my face," said the 58-year-old. "Obviously, there is a point where you draw the line but if it's done in a friendly way, I don't take offence."


Government protecting AIDS criminal

Victims charged $35,000 in HIV case

The South Australian State Government is demanding victims of alleged HIV sex predator Stuart McDonald pay up to $35,000 to access crucial information about him, court documents say. Lawyers for a man suing the state over his alleged HIV infection accused the Government of threatening victims with "financial ruin" to stop them pursuing compensation claims. They said demands of $35,000 just to inspect documents were "outrageous".

The Victorian man and another alleged victim have launched District Court claims. They argue authorities failed to properly supervise Mr McDonald when he was subject to a Health Department control order. Mr McDonald, 42, is alleged to have "deliberately and recklessly" infected eight men with the HIV virus between January, 2005, and mid-2006.

One claimant's lawyer, Leo Redden, wrote to the Crown Solicitor's office seeking access to documents from the Health Department and a Sexually Transmitted Diseases clinic relating to Mr McDonald's control order. A letter from the Crown Solicitor's office said there were "approximately 2000 documents potentially within the scope of your request." "This would amount to some 170 hours' work. The cost, therefore is likely to be in excess of $35,000," it said. "Could you please confirm your client is aware of this and is agreeable to pay the relevant costs."

In a strongly worded reply, Mr Redden accused the state of using threats against his client. "The suggestion that (my client) and others could each be liable to the State of South Australia for an amount of $35,000 is outrageous and appears to be nothing more than (a) ... threat, designed to dissuade our clients from pursuing their legal entitlements," he wrote. "It is aimed at allowing a powerful litigant such . . . to threaten financial ruin to members of the public."

The alleged victim, 31, who lives in Melbourne, claims to have been infected by Mr McDonald after they met on an internet dating site. Prosecutors have alleged Mr McDonald infected eight victims after meeting them through the Gaydar website - at the same time he was subject to the control order.


Rudd's Fuel Botch

One result of rising global fuel prices has been the long list of bad policy ideas trotted out to try to ease the pain. Now Kevin Rudd is making his own humble contribution: FuelWatch. The Australian Prime Minister's proposal, currently under consideration in the Senate, would require service stations to set their prices only once every 24 hours. At 2 p.m. each day they would report their next day's price to the government, which would post the information on a Web site that afternoon. The price would take effect at 6 a.m. the next morning, and any change - up or down - would be forbidden until the next period.

Studies of a similar program in the state of Western Australia have found minimal benefits to consumers. Critics argue that prices don't fall as far under the system as they otherwise would during "soft" days in the retail market. Intraday price-setting is complex, involving factors as varied as changing traffic patterns, current supplies and the time of the next delivery. The Rudd plan would bar retailers from responding immediately to market signals. The danger is that retailers will set prices unduly high in the fear that if they mistakenly set a price too low they won't be able to fix their error for 24 hours.

As for the second component, the government information service, the private sector is already doing that anyway. Web sites, radio stations and newspapers all alert consumers to cheap petrol. FuelWatch would be more comprehensive, but it's not exactly filling a vacuum. Oh, and Australians are already showing signs of driving less and buying more efficient cars - another market response.

The problem in Australia, as elsewhere, is rising fuel prices. Meddling in an already complex market won't fix that, and carries a big risk of making things worse.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Vin ordinaire comes to Australia and the wowsers are fuming

France has had very cheap rough red like this for centuries without degenerating into a mass of drunks so why is it a problem for Australia? The only difference is that the Australian drop is a lot less ordinaire. Dan Murphy's cleanskins are pretty good

Health advocates want the price of alcohol capped at a minimum with a major liquor chain now selling bottles of wine for just $2 a bottle. Liquor giant Dan Murphy's promotion means its cleanskins are selling for 25 cents per standard drink.

Health campaigners say grog discounting has gone too far and insist a government-imposed price minimum should be considered. The Australian Drug Foundation's alcohol director Geoff Munro said heavy drinkers consumed more as prices fell. "It's not appropriate to treat alcohol as though it belongs in a $2 shop,'' Mr Munro said. "It's now cheaper than water.'' "This indicates that goverments should explore introducing aminimum price for alcohol.''

Wine has a 13 per cent concentration while alcopops - which have been hit with a controversial new tax - have concentrations of between five and nine per cent.

Mr Munro said cheap drinks encourged excess consumption. "Heavy drinkers will drink more as the price comes down,'' he said. "To be selling bottles of wine for less than $2 is going to encourage heavy drinkers, and possibly underage people, to consume more.'' "The price will make wine much more attractive to young people and we need to monitor that situation given that alcopops have increased in price with the tax.''

In Britain, a major supermarket chain had called for a floor price on booze, saying it is the only way to stop competitive discounting among retailers. Scotland is planning a floor price per unit of alcohol, based on concentration, to beat its binge drinking problem.


NOTE for overseas readers: "Wowser" is a traditional Australian term for temperance campaigners and killjoys of all sorts. Their headquarters used to be the Methodist church but Australia wisely abolished that church a quarter of a century ago. Such people now seem to infest the Salvation Army

Climate scheme would cost plenty

Fuel prices would skyrocket under new plans to tackle climate change. However, poorer families would be cushioned from the full impact. The government's climate change guru, Professor Ross Garnaut has called for transport to be included in an emissions trading scheme, setting the stage for fuel prices to spiral far beyond those caused by the current oil crunch.

The distinguished economist today released a draft report he prepared for the federal and state Governments on climate change and the introductions of emissions trading. Prof Garnaut said low-income families should be compensated for higher fuel and power costs when the scheme was introduced. He also said the Government should make payments to emissions-intensive industries which could lose jobs overseas if they had to cope with higher costs.

Under emissions trading, a cap will be placed on the amount of carbon which can be emitted into the atmosphere. Companies will be able to purchase and trade permits which allow them to emit carbon gases. Prof Garnaut said as many industries should be included in the scheme as possible, including transport. He said the money the Government earned from the scheme should be spent on compensating low-income households and business.

``The direct price effects of the emissions trading scheme will be regressive,'' Prof Garnaut said. ``The effects will fall heavily on low-income households, so the credibility, stability, efficiency and longevity of the scheme require the correction of these regressive effects by other measures.'' Prof Garnaut said the coal industry should be given support to reduce carbon emissions and to develop technology which buried carbon gasses under ground.

He said international cooperation on fighting climate change was essential. ``The weight of scientific evidence tells us that Australians are facing risks of damaging climate change,'' Prof Garnaut said. ``The risk can be substantially reduced by strong and early action by all major economies. ``Without that action, it is probable that Australians, over the 21st century and beyond, will experience disruption in their prosperity and enjoyment of life, and to long-standing patterns in their lives.''


Greenie laws harming agriculture

Brooke Milini is the third generation of his family to work at the Tully sugar mill and wants his children to have the opportunity to become the next generation. But as a worker and a union shop steward, he is worried about the impact of new laws to fight greenhouse gas emissions on his children's future jobs, his job and the jobs of fellow union members.

On the eve of the release of the Garnaut report on greenhouse gas emissions and as cabinet considers how to include agriculture in an emissions trading scheme, the threat to Mr Milini already exists. The National Farmers Federation warned yesterday that rigid and short-sighted greenhouse gas emissions rules could place agriculture "in serious jeopardy".

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union shop steward agrees with the NFF that an over-emphasis on reforestation to combat greenhouse gases could lead to reduced food production just as the world faces shortages and rising commodity prices.

Tax breaks for forests grown as "carbon sinks" so that greenhouse gas emitters can buy credits to offset emissions are alienating agricultural land and have been blamed for reducing water flows into the Murray-Darling river system. "The forests are expanding because of tax breaks and there's less land now for growing cane," Mr Milini said yesterday. Investors could afford to pay high prices for land to grow forests because of the tax advantages and outbid cane farmers. "Other crops are affected around here, bananas and other food, but it's mainly a threat to cane growing," he said.

In the past 18 months, 12 per cent of the cane paddocks in the Cairns region have been lost to managed-investment forestry schemes. With new laws passed last week encouraging even more forestry investment, the alienation of arable land is a trend sugar millers and farmers fear will end their industry. It is estimated the new laws, proposed by the previous government as evidence of action on greenhouse gas emissions, would lead to 81,500ha being sown as new carbon sink forests by 2011 when the Howard ETS was to come into being. "I have three children and I'd like them to be able to think about getting a job in the mill, which supplies a lot of work for the locals," Mr Milini said. "I'm worried about them and my union members. It's something that's always in the back of your head."

Yesterday, the NFF warned that wider food production here could be threatened as agriculture is included in an ETS under the Kyoto Protocol provisions, which "emphasise reforestation as the primary tool for sequestering carbon". "As the need for food production grows expotentially, we must ensure farming is not hamstrung in the process," NFF president David Crombie said. "It is imperative the international rules dictating Australia's ETS - determining domestic climate change policy and carbon markets to ensure compliance with the international policy regime and a future global carbon market - take full and reasonable account of Australia's needs," hesaid.

Nationals senator Ron Boswell said yesterday the failed Howard government forestry proposals demonstrated the need to get an ETS right.


Fantasizing woman meets reality

She was probably unattractive and sought an escape from that

Amid a chaotic swirl of people, car horns and dust, the donkey carrying Tanya Louise Smith slowly approached a place a world away - and civilisations apart - from anything she had experienced in the suburban calm of Sydney: the Gaza Strip. Almost three months pregnant and no doubt feeling the effects after her long journey from Yemen, Ms Smith, 20, was about to enter a place where few young Australians had ventured.

The Muslim convert's odyssey from Sydney had taken her to the ancient city of Sana'a, in Yemen, where she met and married a Palestinian from Gaza and immersed herself in Islamic studies along with a small group of similarly devout Australians. But when Gaza-based militants blew up the border wall with Egypt in mid-January, a door into another world was opened to foreigners for the first time in decades. Within hours of the border breach, tens of thousands of people were on the move across Arabia - Palestinians marooned outside the strip for years, would-be jihadis wanting to take up arms against neighbouring Israel, adventurers, MPs from other Arab states, and a lone Australian woman in search of her in-laws.

Ms Smith's husband, Ahmed, had sent her to his birthplace so his parents could support her during her pregnancy. He planned to join them two weeks later, after finishing his studies at the al-Imam University in Sana'a. But the border was sealed within days of being breached. Ahmed was locked out. Ms Smith was locked in.

For the next four months, she remained with her in-laws and their extended family in a modest Gaza district in the northern region of Sajaya. She maintained a puritanical lifestyle as a devout Salafist Muslim, moving from the bathroom to her bedroom behind vanity screens and mixing only with a handful of people outside the family home. "I saw her most days she was here," said her uncle, Abu Darwiche. "But I would not recognise her if I saw her in Australia, because I never once saw her face." Ms Smith's mother-in-law cannot say exactly when it was, but sometime around March their new family member became even more reserved, retreating to her room, from where she would usually emerge only to eat.

On March 1, Israeli forces launched a large offensive into northern Gaza, aiming to put an end to rocket fire into nearby Israeli communities. In three days of fighting, more than 110 Gazans were killed, many of them militants. Sajaya was only a few blocks back from the front line of the conflict, and the sound of battle reverberated through its streets.

In Sydney, the young Australian's mother, Louise Smith, was beside herself. "She called many times and Tanya used to lock herself in her room and talk on her computer," said her father-in-law, Abu Mohammed.

Abu Mohammed's sister Hayat added: "Whenever her mother called her, we would try and comfort her. We know how a mother feels in these sorts of situations. My father would kiss her on the head and he said to her, 'You are my daughter'." The family took the 20-year-old for regular check-ups and say they regularly took peaches and apricots to her room. But by early April, they were seeing even less of her in their living room.

On April 17, Abu Mohammed took a phone call from Tel Aviv. "A lady called saying she was from the Australian embassy," he said. "She spoke Arabic very well and said, 'We respect your traditions and customs; we would just like to make Tanya's stay in Gaza legal. Can you please bring her to the Erez crossing (the only passenger crossing into Israel) and we will sort out her paperwork'. "I took her there myself and kissed her on the forehead as sheleft. I waited there from 11.30am until 7pm. We never saw her again."

After four months in Gaza, Ms Smith was taken by an Australian embassy official to Ben Gurion airport, where she boarded an El Al flight to Sydney, her Arabian odyssey over. "We have tried to call her many times, but her family always says she is tired, or sick," Abu Mohammed said. The family she left behind is still asking why, while her husband, marooned in Yemen, is pining for the wife he barely knew and their unborn child.

"He tells us many times that we have destroyed his life," said Abu Mohammed. "He says we should never have let her go. Now how can he go to Australia and look after his child? "The main thing that is upsetting us is she is pregnant," added Hayat. "If she wasn't, we would say OK, this happens in life. But can you imagine her having a child in Australia by herself? "For a full month we were crying after she left. She wanted to live in the apartment alone. And culturally and Islamicly, we could not let her do that."

She said the family was very loyal to Ms Smith and treated her well. "Another reason we were so proud of her was she was Christian, then became a Muslim," she said. "We said to her: 'Your father has a farm and you are leaving Australia to come here. God will reward you for your sacrifices.' "We asked her: 'Would you like to go back?' She said: 'I really miss Australia, but it is a kafir (unbeliever) land.' "She had no family here and she was deprived of her husband so we wanted very much to make her feel comfortable. It was important that she have a good image of Islam and how Muslims treat people."

In December 2006, Ms Smith, from Winston Hills in Sydney's northwest, posted a note on an Australian newspaper's website explaining why she had converted to Islam. "To share and enjoy the life and love of a relationship that is not managed by fear and abuse, especially not abuse that is cloaked in the name of any religion," she wrote.

"As a Muslim woman I am free from any abuse because of my religion - Islam. It is because of my Islam that I don't live infear of a husband that comes back every night to bash me untilI'm black and blue, and then rape me." The posting went on to blame alcohol - banned in Islam - for most domestic violence. "It is because of Islam that I am empowered as a woman and not sexually exploited by man, I dress for God and not for man," she went on. Islam did not permit women to be used and abused to sell alcohol and bubblegum, she wrote. "That's why I am one of many converts to Islam and that's why Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world amongst women."

Ms Smith defended her religion on the newspaper website. "Islam liberated women 1500 years ago," she wrote. "We have enjoyed the freedoms and rights of keeping our last names as we are not the property of our husbands, we have had the right to vote before the women's liberation movement in the last century, the right to keep our own money, choose who I want to marry, have the right to inheritance, run a business, the right to be protected and maintained by our husbands regardless of how rich I am."

Yesterday, in a suburban street in western Sydney, Ms Smith's father refused to comment, preferring to first contact his daughter to decide on a response. Later, Clyde Smith telephoned to say: "Tanya would like to say that we have no comment to make regarding the alleged story."

It is understood the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra was aware of Ms Smith's situation in Gaza, and that Australian diplomats made representations to Israel and Egypt on her behalf. The matter was resolved within 10 days and the department's file on her closed.

It all began a few years ago. Ms Smith first arrived in Yemen in October 2006, and quickly settled into a community of pious Islamic Australians studying Islam and Arabic in Sana'a. Among the expatriates were Mohammed bin Ayub and Abdullah bin Ayub, the sons of the alleged former leader of Jemaah Islamiah in Australia, Abdul Rahim Ayub. The two men were arrested along with a third Australian, Marek Samulski, as part of a broad anti-terror sweep by Yemeni and British authorities. The trio was held for more than two weeks, but were later released without charge and asked to leave Yemen with their families. Samulski is living in South Africa with his wife, while the Ayubs and their families are believed to have travelled to Dar-es-Salam and then to Lebanon.

Ms Smith's Palestinian in-laws say she converted to Islam four years ago, and she was awarded a certificate of Islam from the Yemeni Government last year.

Regardless of her travails in Gaza, Ms Smith has apparently remained committed to Islam since returning to Australia, and she has consulted a fundamentalist Salafi imam.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Police goons again

A BRISBANE grandfather, whom police pinned to the ground when they arrested him, is at the centre of calls for Police Minister Judy Spence's sacking. Bruce Rowe, 67, was pinned to the ground and kneed when arrested for being a public nuisance. Now the case has sparked calls for Ms Spence to be stood down over the way police treated him.

The Queensland Court of Appeal last week quashed the conviction of Mr Rowe, whose arrest under the state's controversial "move-on" laws, attracted substantial public attention in 2006 after it was captured on video. The video showed four officers pinning the elderly man to the ground, one repeatedly kneeing him in the leg.

The incident arose after Mr Rowe objected to being asked to leave a public bathroom in the Queen Street Mall. He had gone to the bathroom to change into warm clothing to set up "camp" on the Goodwill Bridge for the night. However, the Queensland Court of Appeal last week overturned Mr Rowe's conviction and the case is being hailed by civil libertarians as proof police need to review how they use the so-called "move-on" powers.

Writing in today's Courier-Mail, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Peter Applegarth has called for Premier Anna Bligh to sack Ms Spence for failing to act since Mr Rowe's case first came to light. "It is time for the Police Minister to take political responsibility for a system that trains and encourages police to use excessive force in arresting people like Mr Rowe," Mr Applegarth writes.

Mr Rowe, who became homeless after he "fell apart" following the death of his wife from breast cancer five years ago, said yesterday he would never again trust the police. "I lived so dangerously for so long on the streets and the only people that harmed me were the people meant to protect me," Mr Rowe said. He is now off the streets after a "kind" stranger provided him with free accommodation at Woolloongabba.

Ms Spence said yesterday she had asked police for a report on the Court of Appeal ruling and whether there were any implications for training and procedures.


Fixed plane had 60 defects - union

Unions are inclined to exaggerate but this one does sound bad

A plane returned from overseas maintenance last week with 60 defects that should have been fixed, including a galley that was not bolted in, a senate inquiry into aviation safety has been told. The inquiry is assessing the effectiveness of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's (CASA) management and regulations and ways in which its rules could be tightened.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), which represents the industrial, technical and professional interests of engineers and other maintenance workers, told senators the quality of overseas work was not up to standard. It cited the example of an aircraft that returned from overseas last week with 60 defects that should have been fixed. "That aircraft has had faults such as earth wires not being connected which caused an electric shock to flight attendants in the galley," ALAEA senior industrial officer Gary Norris said. The work had been signed off by the airline, which had implemented a customer inspection requirement in its commercial contract, he said.

"Upon further investigation we were advised by our members, and we haven't had the documentation to verify it but we had been advised that, effectively, the securing bolts for the actual galley assembly may not have been secured," he told the inquiry. "And we're looking at a mass of approximately 300 kilos in an aircraft that hasn't been secured properly.

"This is a major concern in that the paper system that, in fact, the airlines rely on to ensure the work's done, is not making the link to the practical application of that paperwork." ALAEA spokesman Stephen Re, who gave evidence on behalf of engineers, said it highlighted concerns with the accreditation of overseas facilities. Mr Re said evidence suggested there was no process for the aviation authority to go to look at a plane being worked on in an overseas facility.


Australians in Britain returning home

They are the boomerang migrants. Thousands of Australians who settled here are returning down under to escape the UK's economic slowdown and its spiralling cost of living. The Australian authorities have seen a 50% jump in the number of their citizens returning home from Britain since the credit crunch last summer.

Experts say that rising numbers of migrants from Poland, India and Nigeria are also quitting the UK for better jobs and the hope of a higher standard of living back home. Analysis this weekend has shown that the cost of running a family has grown by more in Britain than in any other country in the western world.

The exodus of foreign workers is already harming the building industry and causing alarm in the Square Mile. According to figures kept by the Australian government, 2,600 of their citizens have been returning home each month since last June. That compares with 1,750 a month between 2000 and 2005. Many Australians have been enticed back to their homeland by job opportunities created by a punchy economy that has grown by 3.6% over the past year.

The impact is likely to be much more serious than in previous decades when many Australian migrants to Britain were young travellers content to pull pints. The majority of Australians working in the UK are now employed in financial services and other professions, according to TNT, the magazine for Australians working in Britain.

Jason Cartwright, a director of Link Recruitment, an international employment agency, said the UK was already suffering a "brain drain" of Australian workers from the City. "In the UK's financial services sector, hiring freezes are increasingly common - but opportunities abound in the Australian market," he said. "There is also a belief that Australia is a safer bet while the credit crunch runs its course."

By contrast, City firms in London are expected to shed 6,500 jobs this year, with the economy predicted to grow by 1.7% - its lowest rate since 1992. On Friday, official figures showed that economic growth halved to 0.3% in the first quarter of this year. The Australian dollar hit an 11-year high against the pound in May, meaning Australians' sterling earnings have fallen by 21%in dollar terms over the past year.

Wiriaya Plukavec, 31, came to London from Sydney two years ago to work as a credit controller in the City. She plans to return home in the next few weeks. "I was going to stay another year but just got fed up with the cost of everything going up - bills, food, toiletries, rent, going out - everything," Plukavec said. "Life will just be a whole lot cheaper back in Sydney . . . and the weather will be better."

Chris Hurd, an Australian film-maker, returned to Sydney three months ago after a decade in Brighton. Hurd, 45, and his wife found new jobs easy to find. "We could never have raised a family in London - the cost is prohibitive," he said. "You can't get a rudimentary education in England without paying a fortune."

Nicola Brennan, 35, moved back to Melbourne earlier this year after 10 years working as an accountant for an investment bank. "My husband and I decided to return to Australia because we felt it was a much better place to start a family," she said.

Research published this weekend by the Economic Research Institute think tank shows that the annual housing, food, travel and other costs of a typical middle-class family of three in London has soared to 38,880 pounds - an increase of 2,160 in four months, a bigger rise than in any other main western city. The same standard of living now cost 32,706 in Sydney and 28,664 in Los Angeles.

There are no precise data on the number and nationality of migrants who have left over the past year; however, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the left-leaning think tank, has surveyed hundreds of migrants of all nationalities about their plans to leave. It calculates that half of the estimated 1m Polish plumbers, builders and other labourers who have arrived in Britain over the past four years have now returned home.

Britain's worsening economic climate is expected to drive more migrant workers back to their homelands. The cost of all foods have risen by an average of 6% this year, but the price of staples such as milk, butter, eggs, pasta and bread have risen by as much as 60%. Petrol prices have risen by 22%.

Government figures published on Friday showed that British savers tucked away 2.6 billion in the first quarter of this year - down from 7 billion on the final three months of last year.


Victorian government ignores Greenie hysteria

New $750 million coal-burning power station

Just two days before the Garnaut report on climate change is handed down, the Victorian Government has given the go-ahead to a new brown-coal power station in Latrobe Valley. Environmental campaigners said it was "complete madness" to approve the $750 million plant, but the Government said the station would use new technology that would slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is a joint venture between consortium HRL and Chinese power giant Harbin Power, and will receive funding of $100 million from the Federal Government and $50 million from the Victorian Government. Expected to begin operating in 2012/13, it will aim to boost Victoria's power capacity by just under 5 per cent.

"The $750 million HRL plant will use technology which has been developed right here in Victoria and is part of the new generation of clean coal power stations designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions," said the Energy Minister, Peter Batchelor. "The project uses a process called integrated drying gasification combined cycle (IDGCC) which can reduce emissions of CO2 from brown coal-fired power generation by 30 per cent and reduce water consumption by 50 per cent, compared to current best practice for brown coal power generation in the Latrobe Valley."

Greenpeace energy campaigner Simon Roz said investing in coal-fired power at this time was "complete madness" and a step back for Victoria. "It shows we have a long way to go before governments take the issue of climate change seriously," he said.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The latest school tyranny: Obsessive Principal tries to impose his hangups on little kids

Little children do have a faint but distinctive smell. You can smell it if you walk into any primary school. This principal obviously doesn't like it. The school's website makes a point of not giving the Principal's name but the Education Dept. advises that it is Mr Keith Graham. He should get a job where he does not come in contact with those pesky kids. Kids are harassed enough already with "obesity" campaigns etc without adding this latest hatred of normality to their burdens

Children as young as five have been told to wear deodorant to school -- and re-apply once a day. The edict was in Chatswood Hills State School's June 13 newsletter under the title "personal hygiene".

"Please remind your children that, although it is winter. it is still necessary to apply deodorant in the morning and reapply once during the school-day," the newsletter read. "Aerosols are not permitted but rollon brands are encouraged."

The Albert & Logan News spoke to parents, who found the request "odd" and 'weird", while Queensland University of Technology child psychology lecturer Dr Marilyn Campbell said it was "laughable". Dr Campbell, a teacher for 20 years, was shocked. "I haven't heard of such rubbish in my life," she said. "You have to be joking, asking them to reapply during the day. "I don't need to do that and I doubt children would."

Dr Campbell said she had concerns about anxieties such a request could bring. "Will this lead to pretend shaving for the boys, or make-up for the girls?" she said. "I don't think it is right; totally unnecessary. "It's making (pupils) super clean, restricting them from their normal experience."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said in a statement that the health and wellbeing of staff and students at all Queensland state schools was the department's priority at all times. "Students wearing deodorant is a parental decision and Education Queensland has no policy enforcing its use," she said. "Schools may become involved if there is an issue related to student hygiene or if the issue is impacting on students' social and emotional development, but this is done at a local level, as the need arises." She said schools may also offer reminders to deal with the issue "holistically and sensitively", so individuals were not singled out.

What did Chatswood Hills State School parents think of the statement requesting them to make sure their children wore deodorant? The Albert & Logan News asked 20 parents if they were "comfortable" or "uncomfortable" with the edict. Fourteen said they were uncomfortable, while six said they were comfortable. Only a few of the parents polled were willing to comment publicly. Mother Ali Richards said she agreed with the advice in the newsletter, but thought the school could have worded it better. "It makes it sound like every kid is smelly -- it is generalising every kid," Ms Richards said. "It is up to the parents to teach kids that stuff, not the school." She said she would not instruct her child to reapply during the day, leaving the decision up to the child.

Parent Mitko Kostovski said he thought the school's request was a "bit weird" "If they (children) do wear it, they won't reapply -- they are too busy playing," Mr Kostovski said. One mother, Jaimie Byrne, said she supported the idea and had no problems with the Chatswood Hills school's request. "It is a good thing I think," Ms Byrne said. "I think it could help the kids to stop some getting bullied if they do have body odour." Ms Byrne said her child, who was in Year 5, was given a hygiene talk, which she understood was more for the comfort of the class.

The article above by DANIEL TANG appeared in the "Albert & Logan News" of Friday, June 27, 2008

Amazing: Global warming questioned on popular TV show

Channel 9s "Sunday" show. Video links at the source given below

The theory of anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming has become an unchallengeable fact, a piece of black letter law almost unique in the world of science.

Proponents of the theory say the time for scientific debate is over. It would irresponsible to fund any further research into counter views on the relationship between elevated levels of carbon dioxide and a rise in temperatures since the mid-1970s.

It's regarded as career suicide for scientists to advocate any counter view of the causes of global warming, let alone deny the orthodox consensus view as adopted by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

However, there is a school of thought that our knowledge of climate systems is as yet insufficient to be so conclusive on the causes of global warming.

Today Sunday examines the political consensus building that has portrayed global warming as the most urgent crisis humankind has ever faced.

Skeptics point to the gaps in the knowledge base and the flaws in the measurement of vital climate and weather data upon which the consensus is based.

Social researchers also highlight the dangers of conducting science as a form of religion, divided into believers and deniers.

They warn that as governments prepare to make expensive policy decisions, such as carbon emissions trading schemes, this consensus may not reflect the best science.

Source. Andrew Bolt comments here


PRESSURE over a new greenhouse gas regime and the looming Garnaut report on emissions trading is fuelling the deepest cabinet divisions over policy and politics since the election of the Rudd Government. Concerns are being aired about the possibility of the Government missing its starting deadline of 2010 for the emissions trading scheme and political backlash over rising costs and compensation for people and businesses affected by the scheme.

As part of the cabinet discussions, consideration is being given to subjecting Australia's entire food production industry - including cattle, sheep, pig and grain growing - to the fulleffects of the new carbon pricing system.

Cabinet and its climate change subcommittee have been sitting every day this week, sometimes almost to midnight, to decide how greenhouse gas producers, including the petrol and agriculture sectors, should be hit with a new carbon price. The cabinet has also been concerned with whether the extremely complex legislation to start an emissions trading scheme can be introduced, as promised in the election, from the middle of 2010.

And as US audiences at the annual Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Washington were told that the Rudd Government could become a "oncer" because of the impact of an emissions trading scheme, cabinet is becoming more pre-occupied with the political backlash over climate change measures. The Australian reported yesterday that union leader Paul Howes and former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr told the Washington meeting that Australia should consider nuclear energy as an option to cut greenhouse gases in 10 to 20 years' time.

Cabinet met again yesterday - after several meetings since last week - to discuss the ETS. Cabinet discussed whether price relief for petrol should be provided through an excise cut and when to include agriculture in the greenhouse gas reduction system. Under an ETS, industries that cannot meet greenhouse gas reduction targets will be forced to buy carbon permits, with the costs likely to be passed on to customers in the form of higher bills for services such as petrol and electricity. For every industry that is made exempt - or is given free carbon credits to continue polluting - the burden for cutting emissions is likely tofall more heavily on other industries.

Parliament has been divided this week over whether petrol should be included in an ETS, with Labor and Coalition accusing each other of internal confusion over the issue.

Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong have this week reiterated the Government's determination to set up the ETS in 2010 - before the next election. But as complexities of technical measurement - such as livestock emissions - and the political ramifications for industry exemptions and compensation for consumers grow, there is concern the deadline may not be achievable. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was personally confronted on talkback radio with demands to explain the ETS and to take action on petrol prices.

The Opposition continued to concentrate on the impact on petrol prices of an ETS, which will set a price for carbon that will push up costs for energy-intensive industries, such as coal-fired electricity generation and aluminium, and transport if petrol is included.

Mr Rudd, the Treasurer and Senator Wong all refused yesterday to give any detail on the design of the ETS and all distanced themselves from the greenhouse gas emissions report the Government has commissioned from Ross Garnaut, which will be released next Friday. Senior government ministers fear the Garnaut report will adopt far more extreme proposals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions than the Government intends to publish in its own interim "green" paper in three weeks' time, inflaming public concern about threats to jobs and higher costs.

On petrol prices, Mr Rudd told the radio station 3AW that "if you act on climate change and you act on the price of carbon through an emissions-trading scheme, it does effect the price of energy and the price of oil". "The key question is, on the way through, how do you best support and compensate working families, working Australians, pensioners, carers, to deal with any price adjustment," the Prime Minister said. He said petrol costs were being considered, but would not say how relief would be delivered to motorists.

Senator Wong said the ETS would be introduced in 2010 because it was an election commitment. But it would not be introduced "regardless of cost". Part of the Government's task was to convince people that higher prices caused by the introduction of a carbon price would mean lower costs in the long term. "Taking early and responsible action will be more cost effective in the long run for Australia," she said. The minister said Professor Garnaut was "an important contributor to government thinking" and "an esteemed economist with a strong history of reform" but he was independent. "Just as he's independent so too the Government has to make its decisions," she said. "This is hard economic reform."

Some of the cabinet discussions concerned the issue of which agricultural sectors should be included in the ETS, and whether they should be put into the first or second phase of the new system. Mr Swan refused to talk about details of the cabinet discussions on the ETS, and said there would be a discussion of all issues related to an emissions-trading system. The Treasurer ruled out calls from Mr Howes, the Australian Workers Union national secretary, and Mr Carr to consider nuclear energy. Asked yesterday about the possibility of Labor embracing nuclear power, Mr Swan said: "No, a capital N-O".

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said yesterday the Coalition continued to support a 5c cut in petrol excise. The Coalition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the Opposition had set out to establish a petrol price policy in relation to an ETS that meant there was "no net rise in new petrol taxes".


"Innovative" ambulance computer system fails yet again

We were orginally told it just needed oiling (or some such)

THE statewide rollout of the Emergency Services computer system has been put on hold after it went offline for a fourth time. Again ambulance and fire officers were forced to write incoming jobs on a whiteboard.

Yesterday morning's crash was the worst to date. All but two ambulance and fire communication centres were left without their computers for more than two hours, from before 3am until after 5am. Three previous system failures were put down to human error and the Department of Emergency Services said "early advice" was that human error was again to blame.

However Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the system's rollout to the remaining Central and South-eastern regions would be "put on hold" pending advice from the system's American supplier, who had been asked to analyse yesterday's outage. "I am advised that triple zero telephone and emergency services radio communications were not affected by this incident. Communication centre staff dispatched ambulance and fire crews using a manual back-up system," Mr Roberts said.

Fire officers have been highly critical of the new system, which they say has only been "half implemented" by the department making it ineffective. "The system is meant to locate the closest vehicle to an incident and dispatch that vehicle. But they're yet to install the automatic vehicle locaters in our trucks so it can do this," an officer said.

He said vehicles from two or three stations away were being sent to jobs instead and even driving past these manned stations on the way. "The most ridiculous example we had was when the computer tried to dispatch a vehicle from Capalaba station to a job on the Sunshine Coast," the officer said.

Fire communications centre staff have also raised concerns about screen freezes in the new system which can take valuable seconds off a job. "You're trying to talk to a coms centre operator and they're like, `Oh, wait a minute, the screen's frozen'. It happens every time," the officer said.

Mr Roberts said the "state of the art" computer-aided dispatch system was in use in communication centres across the world, including Australia and all of New Zealand's emergency services. "DES remains confident that its full implementation will result in improved response to calls for service from the community," he said.


Through other eyes

UNLV basketball player Kendall Wallace is providing occasional postcards from the team's six-game tour of Australia. An installment below. His comment about prices being much higher in Australia than in the USA echoes my own experiences. The official exchange rate for the US and Australian dollar is about 1 to 1 so that is not the problem. Taxes, import duties and labour laws are probably the main problem. And Australia does not have cheap Hispanic labour -- JR

On Thursday, we went to the Sydney Opera House, which may be the most famous structure in the world. There was an architectural contest to see who could come up with the best design. The man who won pushed the limits of architecture. The plan originally was supposed to cost $2 million, but the project ended up costing more than $100 million.

To raise the extra money, the city of Sydney had a lottery, which raised it easily. The tour we took was informative and interesting.

The basketball games finally have started, and, after getting that first game out of the way, our team has beaten a solid team from Illawarra (on Friday), and (Saturday) we beat a professional team from West Sydney called the Razorbacks. They had only one person under 6 feet 5 inches. It was a tough comeback win.

Over the last couple of days, there has not been anything planned for the team, so we have been at some of the cool places around the town.

We found a cool bowling alley and ultra-lounge in a place called Darling Harbour. We went over there for a couple of hours and had some competitive games of bowling, with a whole lot of trash talking.

One thing about being in Australia is that nothing is cheap here, and you will not find a meal under $7. Not even at McDonald's, which seems to be popular here. McDonald's doesn't have a "dollar menu" here. In the U.S., you can get a double cheeseburger for a dollar; in Australia, a double cheeseburger is $3.75. I have tried to save my money, but I've realized that isn't possible here.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A law firm to keep away from

A senior solicitor with Keddies Lawyers charged three clients from the same family almost $600 to travel less than two kilometres between Redfern and the CBD for a conference.

Mohammed Tariq, who received head, neck and back injuries in a collision near his western Sydney home on the night of January 11 last year, was also separately billed $60 for a welcome letter from the firm after he decided to sue for compensation. His lawyer, Philip Scroope, who bills in 10, six-minute units at $490 an hour as one of the firm's accredited personal injury specialists, also charged $49 to read an electronic "thank you" e-card Mr Tariq had sent him. A further $49 was charged for an email Mr Scroope had sent colleagues seeking an Indonesian translator and $49 more went on the bill for the email advising the Indian-born Mr Tariq, an accredited interpreter in Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, of Mr Scroope's coming holiday.

Liability for Mr Tariq's injuries was admitted early in his 12-month involvement as a client of the state's largest firm specialising in personal injury cases. He had claimed against NRMA, the insurer of a car driven by a P-plate driver that collided with him. On February 21 this year, the day his case settled at a conference at Keddies's Civic Tower office in Goulburn Street, the firm charged more than $8000 for work on the cases of Mr Tariq, and the separate claims for nervous shock of his wife and daughter - who declined to be named.

Included in that amount were separate billings of $490 for a pre-conference meeting at the firm's Redfern Office, $98 each for Mr Scroope's 1.9-kilometre journey to the southern part of the CBD, $490 each for the conference at which all three cases were settled, another triple $98 charge for the trip back to Redfern and $245 charged to each for a post-conference meeting held with all three present.

Mr Tariq's wife and daughter - who did not attend the settlement conference - were also billed $98 each for a call Mr Tariq made to them from his own mobile phone during which they agreed to offers of $45,000 and $75,000 respectively, in settlement of their nervous shock claims.

The Tariqs have complained to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner about overcharging. They are determined to claw back some of the more than $117,000 charged in total for their legal costs and other expenses.

Keddies has been the subject of allegations from former clients, some of whom have received reimbursements totalling more than $500,000 after complaining formally about alleged overcharging. The firm has repeatedly denied allegations of overcharging, stating its confidence that all complaints before the legal regulator will be dismissed.

Since a Herald investigation into claims against the firm, published last month, revealed a group of more than 25 clients had made formal complaints over the past 18 months, some have been dismissed. During the past two weeks it is understood that more complaints have been lodged with the commission.

Mr Tariq, who told the Herald he was stressed and confused when settling his compensation claim on February 21, admits to outbursts of emotion, frequent anger and threats of violence as part of an ongoing accident-related psychiatric condition following his brain injury and his strong medication for mood stabilisation and pain relief. He has written to his state parliamentarian, Diane Beamer, the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos and the shadow attorney-general, Greg Smith, about his Keddies experience.

Letters of complaint were also sent last week to the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, and the Law Society of NSW. Mr Tariq now intends to apply for a Supreme Court costs assessment of the three bills for which the Keddies professional costs alone totalled more than $100,000.

When the Herald asked to put some of Mr Tariq's claims about his family's bills to Mr Scroope, a spokesman for the firm said it would leave them to the legal regulator and costs assessor "to examine and pass judgment on with the benefit of all of the material that will be before them".

An "extremely angry and disappointed" Mr Tariq has known Mr Scroope for more than a decade and said he had a panic attack when, after compulsory payments were deducted from his $400,000 gross settlement, he found that legal costs and expenses were nearly $86,000 (reduced from more than $100,000). He agreed that they were within the range estimated in his signed costs agreement with the firm.

Keddies organised for him to take out a loan to cover his initial medical costs. He repaid the $13,445.22 owed on his loan from his settlement money, but Keddies deducted $1200 more for treatment expenses. Unable to work since the accident, Mr Tariq was left with just over $250,000 for treatment for the rest of his life. After protesting - shirtless - outside the Keddies Lawyers Redfern office in March, he received two refunds totalling $11,987.62. Half of this amount was described on his bill as a refund from the loan company.

His daughter, on whose behalf he had complained, was also reimbursed $4488.61 in addition to the $46,000 she received net after compulsory deductions, legal costs and medical and other expenses were taken out of her $75,000 settlement. Mr Tariq's wife paid more than $15,000 in legal costs and expenses from her $45,000 total settlement.

"I am not going to stop until justice is done," Mr Tariq said yesterday, vowing to continue his protests outside Keddies's offices in Redfern, Ashfield and Liverpool as well as their new Wollongong and Brisbane offices.


Beware green zealots

A fanatic, George Santayana famously said, is someone who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim. With July shaping up as climate change policy month, a good dose of fanaticism seems likely to come our way. Nowhere is the fanatic's touch more apparent than in the confused notion of an emissions reduction budget, the idea that there is a fixed quantum of emissions reduction we should achieve by a given date, with the result that if we reduce a bit less in one area, we will have to reduce by more elsewhere.

Reducing Australia's greenhouse emissions is not a goal in its own right; it is merely a way of trying to deal with the risks of potentially harmful climate change. How much we should devote to that goal depends on the costs and benefits involved. If the costs increase relative to the benefits, only the fanatic redoubles his efforts.

The fallacy involved is manifest in the debate about how trade exposed, emissions-intensive activities should be dealt with. It has become increasingly evident that if Australia, acting unilaterally, imposes a carbon tax on these activities, global emissions will not be reduced. Rather, they will simply shift to other countries, decreasing our welfare (as we have a comparative advantage in those activities) and welfare worldwide. As a result, without an international framework that would prevent emissions flight, putting a carbon tax on trade exposed, emissions-intensive activities serves no useful purpose.

Now, a rational person, faced with that fact, adjusts the target to reflect the greater cost of achieving it. If the target that would have been set in a world where emissions flight could not occur were to reduce emissions by, say, 20 per cent through a period of years, that person, faced with the reality of an emissions flight risk, would discount that target to some lower level.

In contrast the fanatic, acting as if the target had come from God, leaves the target unchanged and, if anything is conceded to the activities that could most readily move elsewhere, inflicts greater punishment on those that have the least scope to escape their clutches. This response is doubly perverse. To begin with, the economic cost of achieving any given emissions reduction target increases more than proportionately with the severity of the reduction being sought: doubling the target inflicts more than twice the cost. As a result, increasing the extent of the reduction sought from those activities that are least footloose makes the cost of any overall reduction all the greater. These added costs then are compounded by an increased distortion in resource allocation between the activities that are exempt and the now more heavily taxed ones that are not.

There is an additional, deeper reason the fanatic's response is perverse. The problem of emissions flight merely highlights the absence of an effective and comprehensive regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of such a regime, abatement in Australia, no matter how great, will have no direct impact on the risk of harmful climate change. The only reason for undertaking that abatement is the possibility that it will assist such a regime to come into place. However, whether abatement in Australia would have a "demonstration effect" internationally, and if so to what extent, is highly uncertain. Even if such an effect did exist, there is little reason to think the effect will be much greater if we pursue abatement at home with greater intensity.

As a result, a rational decision-maker would give the possibility of such an effect a low weight and one that justified an abatement effort that was, at most, modest.

This is all the more so as increasing the extent of present abatement reduces our ability to respond should an effective international regime not come into place. In that event, if those concerned about climate change are correct, we would have to invest in ways of living that are less vulnerable to unfavourable climatic conditions. Our capacity to undertake those investments without painful reductions in consumption depends on our wealth.

As a result, if there is a likelihood that harmful climate change will nonetheless occur, we should be responding not by reducing our incomes but by increasing them and accumulating precautionary savings. In that scenario, bearing greater abatement costs now will not reduce costs in the future but merely increase the future pain.

The desirability of focusing on raising our capacity to adjust by increasing incomes is made greater by the distribution of the costs and benefits of the various options.

At best, pursuing "demonstration effects" makes the world as a whole better off if it succeeds; but if it fails, its only consequence is to make Australians poorer.

In contrast, increasing our wealth so as to increase our capacity to innovate and adjust, should such adjustment be needed, seems highly likely to make Australians better off regardless of the ultimate outcome.

The case for abatement beyond a very modest level, consistent with a low carbon tax, therefore seems economically untenable. Moreover, anything that makes the marginal costs of abating now higher, or the community's willingness to bear those costs now lower, should induce us to reduce our overall abatement effort rather than sticking by some inherently arbitrary target.

Consequently, a heavy burden of proof should be placed on those who advocate ambitious fixed targets to be pursued with the ferocity of latter-day Savonarolas.

Reducing emissions is not an act in a morality play but a decision that has to be made by trading off benefits and sacrifices. Moreover, the community must be given a full opportunity to assess those benefits and sacrifices and decide whether they are worth bearing.

As a result, whatever recommendations are made by the Garnaut review or the Government's green paper must be backed by estimates of those recommendations' costs, and the modelling underpinning those estimates needs to be fully disclosed. If all we get is moralising waffle, the community will legitimately conclude that this particular emperor has no clothes. Should that occur, the Government will have no one to blame but itself when its proposals run into strong and sustained opposition.


Public hospitals slower to see patients

Public hospital emergency departments are seeing a smaller proportion of patients within the recommended time than they did eight years ago - and the federal Government has admitted that "much work lies ahead" to fix the system. More than 6.7 million people sought treatment at Australia's emergency departments in 2006-07 - the equivalent of one-third of the population - and 30 per cent of these patients were not seen within the minimum recommended times laid down by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine.

The figures, contained in the latest annual State of Our Public Hospitals report released by the federal Government, have prompted a chorus of protests from health organisations who say it shows the system has been starved of funds, even though overall spending on hospitals hasnearly doubled over the past decade.

Releasing the report yesterday, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said it illustrated "11 years of Liberal neglect". She said all states and territories except NSW were seeing a smaller proportion of emergency patients punctually in 2006-07 than they were eight years previously, in 1998-99. Over the same time frame, the number of people presenting to emergency departments rose by 34 per cent, up from five million in 1998-99.

The report showed there were 4.7 million admissions to public hospitals in 2006-07. Ms Roxon said the latest report showed admissions were growing by about 3 per cent a year - more than double the rate of population growth - and hospitals were "under severe strain". "While it will take time to turn around a decade of neglect, the Rudd Government is determined to deliver dramatic improvements in healthcare," she said.

The proportion of elective surgery patients seen within recommended times in 2006-07 ranged from 68.6 per cent in the Northern Territory, and 67.6 per cent in Tasmania, to 85.9 per cent in NSW. Longest waits are for knee replacement (162-day median wait), a type of nasal surgery called septoplasty (113 days) and hip replacement (106 days).

Between 1998-99 and 2005-06, the amount of commonwealth money provided for state hospitals rose from $6.1 billion to $9.2 billion. But over the same period, that money as a proportion of the total spending on state-run hospitals fell from 48.1 per cent to 42.7 per cent.

Yesterday's report also showed continuing increases in some states in the proportion of same-day procedures, and decreases in average lengths of stay. Both are techniques hospitals can use to cope with an ever-growing stream of patients needing treatment.

Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua said the report was "a wake-up call to the governments of Australia" and that doctors and regular patients "have known for a long time that our public hospitals are at breaking point".

Prue Power, executive director of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, called on the Government to increase its share of total hospital funding from its current level of 42 per cent. The annual indexation also needed to be raised from the "inadequate" current rate of 1.7per cent.


Modern kids happiest in history - report

They may be fatter, glummer and living under clouds of global terrorism and climate change, but children today are more emotionally stable than 20 years ago. Despite rising rates of childhood obesity and depression and more older, working and single mothers, there's no evidence Australian children have more problems than they did in the 1980s.

Parallel studies by the Australian Institute of Family Studies reveal that two decades ago, children were less sociable, less persistent and more intense than those today. Two studies comparing temperament and behavioural issues among toddlers and young primary schoolers, then and now, show children growing up with hip-hop and computer games in the new millennium are probably better socially adjusted than those raised watching Madonna on MTV and riding bikes around neighborhood streets unbothered by stranger danger.

The twin studies, of almost 2500 children from 1983-1990 and about 10,000 children since 2004, found many more two to three-year-olds had trouble falling asleep 20 years ago, and showed greater signs of aggression and destructiveness. And although behavioural problems among six to seven-year-olds were very low in both eras, significantly more kids of the '80s suffered from worries and fears as well as conduct problems such as restlessness, fidgeting, fighting and disobedience.

Children's school report cards revealed the biggest generational differences. Anecdotal evidence from experienced teachers suggested children behave worse at school now than they did 20 years ago. [The erosion of discipline is the main susppect there]


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