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

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


31 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that dinosaurs still walk among us -- in the form of the NSW Labor Party

Latest poll suggests that Australians are beginning to realize that Julia is just a bungler too

Kevvy in a skirt

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has taken a battering in the latest opinion poll which shows the Coalition would win the election if it was held now.

Support for both Ms Gillard and Labor has fallen dramatically while the Opposition has taken the lead in the Nielsen poll that was published in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday.

The Coalition is now ahead of Labor on a two-party preferred basis - 52 per cent to 48 per cent, a 6 percentage point swing against the Government since the last Nielsen poll a week ago. Labor's primary vote has plummeted 6 points to 36 per cent while the Coalition's primary vote has risen 4 points to 45 per cent, the poll shows. Ms Gillard's popularity has even fallen among women, with her 58-42 lead over Mr Abbott narrowing to 49-51.

Her approval rating fell 5 points to 51 per cent and her disapproval rating rose 6 points to 39 per cent. Mr Abbott's approval rose 6 points to 49 per cent and his disapproval dropped 6 points to 45 per cent. On the question of preferred prime minister, Ms Gillard's 21-point lead plummeted by 13 points to 49-41.

On a positive note for the Government, 69 per cent believe it will win the election while only 21 per cent back the Coalition.

Meanwhile, Ms Gillard has been accused of sending a former bodyguard and junior staff member to attend highly sensitive security meetings on her behalf.

In another damaging leak for Labor, sources have reportedly told The Weekend Australian that when Ms Gillard was deputy prime minister she regularly failed to attend cabinet's national security committee meetings. It's reported that she sent staffer Andrew Stark in her place.

A spokesman for Ms Gillard told the newspaper that Cabinet confidentiality meant she could not defend herself against the allegations.

Former Coalition foreign minister Alexander Downer said Ms Gillard's reported behaviour was scandalous. "The NSC takes decisions on life and death and is no place for a junior staffer," he said. "Such actions are scandalous."


More simple-minded Green/Left nonsense exposed

Energy star ratings in disarray and the Gillard government has no reply

LABOR'S push to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of energy efficiency schemes was yesterday dealt another blow when building industry heavyweights discredited the star ratings being applied to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Investigations by the building industry have found that the mandatory star ratings scheme is inaccurate and fundamentally flawed.

The Housing Industry Association and Master Builders Australia yesterday joined scientists in calling for urgent action by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to resolve problems that are potentially having an impact on more than 100,000 houses built each year.

They said owners were not aware that mandatory software tools -- used to calculate whether a planned new house could achieve the minimum five-star energy efficiency rating necessary to obtain approval for construction -- gave vastly different results for the same house under identical conditions.

It is another setback for the government while it is still trying to quell criticism after the shelving of its emissions trading scheme, the disintegration of the home insulation program and green loans scheme, and the subsequent findings that both were fatally flawed, costing lives and taxpayers' money due to poor planning and execution.

It also comes after Labor's latest environmental announcements -- the 150-person citizens assembly to forge a national consensus on action on climate change and the cash-for-clunkers green car replacement scheme -- were widely criticised.

Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said last night that the government could not get its environmental programs right. "We saw that with pink batts, green loans and cancelled solar programs," Mr Hunt said. "They need to explain why home owners and builders face this confusing and potentially costly mess. "They should release all material on this to the public before the election."

Flaws in the star rating system emerged after industry bodies, private companies and scientists commissioned independent studies showing significant variations were being calculated by the three different software tools when tested on identical dwellings. The results show that the three software tools, including the original model designed by the CSIRO, were inherently unreliable.

The star ratings system was rolled out nationally several years ago and recently extended to older houses. The findings mean that in some cases houses that should be failing the energy efficiency test are being approved and built, while identical houses are going back to the drawing board for changes and costing their owners more time and money to get right.

It also means the stated objective of the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions in houses is in serious question.

Faulty software tools will have a greater impact from next year when the federal government's national energy strategy requires all homes being sold or leased to be star-rated and for the rating to be disclosed. Older dwellings, which will not achieve the five- or six-star minimum, may be punished financially by buyers and tenants.

The findings add weight to the concerns of energy efficiency experts that star ratings are a multi-billion-dollar debacle.

Peter Jones, chief economist of Master Builders Australia, said yesterday: "We have independent expert evidence showing us this is a real concern and it needs to be brought to light and addressed. "There are unacceptable differences between the star ratings produced by the software tools when assessing the same house. "We are drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'Look, the research is overwhelming now; something must be done', Mr Jones said.

The authorities need to come up with a solution so that consumers can be confident in the star ratings and the tools. "As builders, we do not really care (what the tool is) but we think it is bad policy when it is not working properly."

Housing Industry Association senior executive director Kristin Tomkins said the association's independent testing, which showed significant differences in energy ratings, including a variation of 3.2 stars for the same Brisbane house, were troubling and undermined the scheme's credibility. She said builders and home owners needed confidence in the mandatory energy efficiency programs that cost them time and money.

Industry sources called for an Australian Competition & Consumer Commission investigation and said some savvy energy assessors were "gaming" the star ratings and making a mockery of the scheme by switching software tools until one delivered the required result.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, which has recently joined the CSIRO in investigating problems with the gauges, has said it was "premature to say there is any significant impact on overall house ratings or compliance costs".

A department spokesman did not return The Weekend Australian's call yesterday to respond to the findings. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong declined to comment.


The NSW Labor government in typical form

School maintenance canned so Kristina Keneally can pay for heaters -- but schools typically have high maintenance requirements so this just cannot be done without further public outcry. That dangerous heaters continued to be installed after many warnings is also amazing. There is no doubt about the need for a fix of them

TEACHERS are up in arms over a decision by the NSW Government to defer or drop critical public school maintenance to pay for a minister's promise to replace all unflued heaters.

Last week, education bureaucrats were told funds used to fix broken pipes and holes in fences would be put on hold to cover the new heaters.

The latest embarrassment for the Government comes with Premier Kristina Keneally calling an emergency Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where she has asked all ministers to come up with five new ideas each to fix the state.

The NSW caucus is believed to be not happy with Ms Keneally and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal's performances.

Several ministers are complaining behind the scenes about alleged abusive behaviour by Mr Roozendaal towards other ministers and concern he has too great a role in running the government.

Some senior Labor sources say the Education Minister Verity Firth should resign and concentrate on winning her seat of Balmain after she was publicly humiliated over the heaters issue by Ms Keneally and Mr Roozendaal.

Ms Firth was reprimanded by the Premier and Treasurer after saying on Tuesday the Government was going to replace 50,000 heaters at a $400 million possible cost, without Cabinet approval.

Ms Keneally's handling of the Firth issue caused anger in caucus, with some MPs considering installing John Robertson in the Lower House before the election, possibly even to become leader.

A senior federal source argued the Gillard Government could not announce a major NSW transport project during the election campaign because "no one would believe" any promise involving the State Government.

Powerbroker Graham Richardson said yesterday: "The [Keneally] Government obviously isn't doing enough, you don't get a 25 per cent swing in [the Penrith] by-election, the biggest swing in history, if you are doing enough."

Principals were told this week urgent repairs for problems like broken pipes and holes in fences would be put off.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Verity Firth said some maintenance funding would be "reprioritised", resulting in delays of up to six months.

School asset managers were told on Wednesday afternoon the money would be redirected to pay to replace unflued "low-NOx" gas heaters in 100 schools.


Another dysfunctional NSW government hospital

And they are not even honest enough to admit their problems

On the same day two burns victims were forced to wait more than 90 minutes to be treated at Liverpool Hospital a syringe bin in the emergency department's waiting room toilets was overflowing.

Mounted on the wall, the disturbing sight was enough to prompt Martin Huismann to take a photo and contact The Daily Telegraph. The freelance cameraman used the toilets on Thursday - the day two men had to wait on stretchers after suffering burns to their face and hands because there were no beds available.

About 10 ambulances queued outside the department with others advised to take patients to other hospitals because of a backlog.

"I ran in to use the toilets and saw it so I took a photo," Mr Huismann said. "I was pretty shocked and it's disturbing when you think about it that if a kid saw that or tried to reach it."

A hospital spokesman yesterday initially attacked the validity of the photo when asked to respond to questions by The Daily Telegraph. Later a statement from general manager Anthony Schembri said: "The toilets are inspected and cleaned regularly each day by allocated hospital cleaning staff. "Should a container be seen to need emptying, staff immediately arrange disposal."

Mr Huismann said he had no reason to fake the photograph. "I was in there for two minutes ... I did my business, saw the bin and took a photo. I wouldn't have had time [to fake it]," he said. "I thought it was pretty shocking that in a public toilet in a hospital you have needles spilling out of the bin."

Opposition Leader and acting health spokesman Barry O'Farrell said it was evident that cuts to frontline staff were affecting the running of hospitals. "It's simply unacceptable to have hospital staff and members of the public at risk of a needle stick injury because the Keneally Labor Government fails to clean toilets regularly enough," he said. "These are the risks which will occur when the Keneally Labor Government cuts frontline staff and fails to adequately resource hospitals."

Under NSW Health's policy, all hospitals must provide a sharps bin. A spokeswoman said there were strict protocols in place for the cleaning of the units, which were kept out of children's reach.


30 July, 2010

Seaweed smothering Great Barrier Reef?

This is an old, old claim -- but the reef is still there

SEAWEED is choking the Great Barrier Reef and killing coral, new research has found. Scientists in one of the largest studies of water quality pollution on the reef yesterday revealed the shock impact on the $1 billion-a-year tourism drawcard.

Poor water quality on the reef due to run-off, nutrients and high turbidity was increasing the amount of seaweed and reducing biodiversity of corals, the study found.

Hot spots include the inshore reef north of the Burdekin River and the entire Wet Tropics zone from Townsville to Port Douglas.

"Seaweeds are a natural part of the reef," said Australian Institute of Marine Science coral reef ecologist Dr Katharina Fabricius. "But what we don't want is billions of algae smothering coral. "Choking is a loaded term but when seaweed abundance becomes too high there is no space left for coral to grow."

The study has just been published in the authoritative scientific journal Ecological Applications. It used data collated from 150 reefs and at more than 2000 water quality stations across the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park since 1992.

Principal investigator Dr Glenn Death said seaweed cover increased fivefold under poor water quality. "The diversity of corals was also affected, decreasing in poor water quality," he said. "Currently, the water on 22 per cent of reefs - about 647 reefs - on the Great Barrier Reef does not meet water quality guidelines."

The study predicts that if water quality was improved in these areas, seaweed would be reduced by more than one-third and the number of coral species would bounce back by 13 per cent.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park extends 2000km along the northeast Australian coast and covers 345,000sq km.


Why Labor can't stop the boats

Should the Gillard government be re-elected, the boatpeople issue will continue to plague it and Labor's internal divisions will come much more strongly to the fore.

There is no equivalence between Gillard's proposed regional processing centre in East Timor and Abbott's proposed centre on Nauru. For a start, the geography is radically different. No one will intentionally sail to Nauru. It's just too far away.

Secondly, its purpose is designed to prevent people-smugglers from being able to achieve for their clients the ultimate prize: permanent residency in Australia. It is only about solving the Australian problem. Illegal immigrants would be sent there and processed. They would be treated humanely and all their human rights observed. They would be free to go to any country that would have them, or free at any time to go home. Of course there is a small element of semi-bluff. If the boats stopped absolutely, then a future Abbott government might decide, as the Howard government did, to exercise a special act of generosity and allow some of the people to come to Australia. But that would only be after some years, and after the boats had absolutely stopped.

At the same time, an Abbott government would institute temporary protection visas without family reunion rights. Despite the braying and self-regarding protests of the Malcolm Frasers and Julian Burnsides and others in their camp, TPVs are completely consistent with the 1951 Refugee Convention. According to a recent speech by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, there are about 16 million refugees today. The vast majority of these will not be resettled anywhere, but will ultimately go home. Temporary protection is the norm.

This is not a question of compassion. This column has always supported a big immigration program, bigger than either of the main parties now supports, including a substantial refugee component. But it also supports an orderly program in which Australia chooses who gets to live here. The government's soft policies on boatpeople, and its formerly high rate of acceptance of boatpeople as genuine refugees, has encouraged many thousands to get into boats. According to the opposition, perhaps 170 people have drowned in the process. That's not compassionate.

Gillard's proposal for a regional processing centre in East Timor is entirely different from Abbott's proposal for Nauru. Her insistence that the centre has to be located in a country which is a signatory to the 1951 convention is nonsensical. Most of the refugee camps from which Australia took Indochinese refugees in the 1970s and 80s were located in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which were not signatories to the convention. Similarly, many countries that are signatories, such as Singapore, do not take any refugees for resettlement. Another convention signatory, China, has been known to force genuine refugees back to North Korea. Being a signatory to the convention is completely meaningless.

Moreover, any centre established in East Timor would become a plaything in East Timorese domestic politics, and inevitably a point of leverage for any East Timorese government in its relationship with Australia.

But most significantly, as this column has previously pointed out, it would be positive magnet of enormous power, attracting boatpeople from far away. In the joint press conference between Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Australia's Stephen Smith, it was clear the Indonesians have absolutely no enthusiasm for this crazy idea at all. Natalegawa, the most diplomatic and helpful of men, kept stressing that the region should not focus on establishing this centre, and even less should it focus on the putative centre's location.

The Rudd-Gillard government policies that have resulted in so many boatpeople coming to Australia have been a huge headache for Jakarta. Indonesia was a significant beneficiary of the Howard government stopping the flow of boatpeople.

It is absurd to slander the Australian people for being concerned about this unregulated flow of people, mostly from Afghanistan, the nation with perhaps the broadest and longest tradition of Islamist extremism. Some estimates are that all up 10,000 boatpeople will arrive this year.

Until recently, 95 per cent were being granted, almost automatically, refugee status and permanent residency in Australia. Say next year there are 10,000 Afghan boatpeople and they are all accepted into Australia. With permanent residency there would come family reunion rights. Say then that each brings even three relatives over time. That would be 40,000 Afghans who were never part of a considered immigration program. It is entirely reasonable for the Australian people to be concerned about this.

Given her strong rhetoric but meaningless policies on this issue, Gillard could well get back into government and deliver nothing in the way of stopping the boats. This could set her up for a public reaction, as occurred against Kevin Rudd, that she promised much and delivered nothing. On the other hand, to actually stop the boats she will have to take measures that the bleeding heart section of her party will hate. This issue will run and run.


Why big families 'bring lots of happiness'

SIZE does matter for many Australians aged over 30 who say the more children they have, the happier they are.

Proving that the bigger is better theory is correct - at least when it comes to family - the AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report, released today, found 40 per cent of people aged over 30 with four or more children were very satisfied with their life overall.

This compares to 28 per cent of people aged over 30 with one child and 27 per cent with no children.

Australian Institute of Social Research executive director John Spoehr said the findings reflected the rewards of having children. "I think there's a lot of pressure initially, but when you look at the whole picture, having kids brings an immense joy to your life, it balances everything out," he said.

Australians are also among the most content in the world, according to the findings, finishing equal third with the US and Sweden, in a comparison of life satisfaction levels in OECD countries.

Australians had an average score of 7.9 out of 10, behind only Ireland, Norway and Denmark (equal first) and Finland and Canada (equal second).

"Australia fared very well in the Global Financial Crisis," Mr Spoehr said. "That's why we'd rank pretty highly in the happiness stakes."

Other results showed more men were satisfied with their relationships than women and people who did not own their own home had lower overall life satisfaction.

Adelaide's Peter Newall and wife Narissa agreed having four children - sons Riley, 6, Cooper, 5, and 18-month-old twins Poppy and Lyla, made for a "fun, happy" brood.

"It's definitely a bit of a juggling act and by the end of a long day we're all very tired," he said. "But I wouldn't change it for the world. Having four children is wonderful."


Aboriginal family gets $3.2m payment for prison van death

I suppose this is better than nothing but it is a disgrace that nobody has been held responsible for killing the guy. Surely a charge of negligence could be made to stick, if not manslaughter. It should have gone to a jury instead of being prejudged. Just more West Australian corruption

THE family of an Aboriginal elder who died of heat stroke in the back of a prison transfer van have been awarded a $3 million ex-gratia compensation. The ex-gratia payment comes on top of the $200,000 interim payment they received. The West Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter today revealed the details of the compensation payment, Perth Now reported.

Mr Ward, an elder whose full name cannot be used for cultural reasons, died of heat stroke in the back of the van on the way from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in WA's Goldfields region in January 2008.

Late in June WA's Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath visited Mr Ward's widow Nancy at Warburton in the Central Desert and told her charges would not be laid over his death.

He told her there was no reasonable prospect of conviction if charges were laid against the two security guards employed by the security firm GSL, now known as G4S.

Mr Ward's family were said to be distraught over the decision, which sparked protests in the city.

A broken air conditioner in the back of the van forced Mr Ward to endure temperatures of more than 50C during the four-hour non-stop journey. He was being driven to Kalgoorlie to face a drink-driving charge in court.

Last year WA Coroner Alastair Hope found the Department of Corrective Services, security officers Graham Powell and Nina Stokoe transporting Mr Ward and their employer had all contributed to Mr Ward's death. Mr Hope referred the case to the DPP because he believed a criminal offence had been committed.

But Mr McGrath defended his decision not to prosecute, saying a thorough investigation found no one had been criminally negligent. "I'm acutely aware that the death was tragic, avoidable and rightly creates outrage in the wider Australian community," he said. But he said he had to dispassionately apply the law of WA in determining if there should be a criminal prosecution.


29 July, 2010

Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (1)

They no doubt fear public outrage if the true extent of lawlessness became known

ATTEMPTED assaults on three women in one day and less than 1km from where a woman was abducted and raped have been kept secret by police. The incidents happened within hours of each other close to Queens Park, in the Eastern Suburbs, the scene of a horrific April 29 attack by two men that only became public after the victim spoke to The Daily Telegraph. Despite three similar incidents in one day - July 6 - police did not make them public.

Suzanne, one of the women chased by a man in one of the latest incidents, said people had a right to know. "Just because I or one of the other girls was not raped doesn't make our story any less significant," she said. "The police investigating my report have been fantastic but I think it's important things like this are made public.

"While I was in the police station giving my statement police told me other women had reported the same thing, all between 6pm and 10pm. "In one case police said a man tried to get a woman into a car."

Police confirmed three women made statements saying that on July 6 they were watched or followed by men near York and Birrell Sts, adjacent to Centennial Park.

"Detectives have canvassed the area, sourcing CCTV footage locally; unfortunately none shows the men described," a police spokeswoman said. "The descriptions of the men vary. Police regularly issue warnings regarding personal safety however at this time, the intentions of the men are unknown and there's no evidence that any of the incidents are linked."

Suzanne said the fact the descriptions were different was even more frightening as it could mean the men were working in pairs. Soon after her ordeal Suzanne letter-dropped the area warning locals. "People need to be informed. It is dark around that area with poor footpaths and hardly any lighting," she said.

In her police statement, Suzanne detailed how the man appeared to be feigning talking on the phone when she saw him about 6pm. "When I was near York Place I saw a male standing on the other side of the corner on the footpath in the dark and I think he might have been on the phone," she said.

When she again looked back at the man, he was running towards her. "I started to run and headed towards the middle of the road where the cars were. I was running into my unit block and I looked behind and he was still running at me." On April 29 , young mother "Caitlan" was abducted and raped in nearby Queens Park.

A Daily Telegraph investigation showed police were keeping serious crimes hidden for days or weeks if they were releasing them at all. In one week in March, 11,508 of the 31,536 reports were listed as "check bona fides or concern for welfare" - terms which cover anything from murder to kids hanging on a street corner.


Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (2)

WAVING a sawn-off shotgun and a 20cm knife, two men threaten the lives of drinkers and staff at a Sydney pub - the third time in 17 days.

Sick of being a victim, one patron fights back and, despite having his arm broken with a chair, his head split open by a wine bottle and being stabbed in the stomach, he unmasks a robber.

And it was his bravery that could provide the key to solving the crime, as the robber's face was caught on CCTV.

Yet, despite the obvious benefit, the images of Tuesday's robbery at the Stella Inn in Tempe were not publicly released by the NSW Police's multi-million-dollar media unit yesterday.

Instead it was the Stella Inn's manager who gave the footage to The Daily Telegraph.

"People should know there are bad guys out there running around with guns and see how frightening it is," said the manager, who did not wished to be named. "One bloke who saw the last robbery fought back and while I would tell people not to do it, his bravery and toughness means we can see the face of one of these guys.

"This is a real locals' pub and until the last three weeks we have always felt safe here. We are now increasing security patrols, cameras and time delayed safes.

"We have to make the customers feel safe again. The best way of doing that is to have these guys caught."

The Stella Inn was robbed on July 10, 21 and 27.

"Police don't think they are done by the same guys - and I agree - but something is going on," the manager said. "We were robbed last Wednesday. Just 20 minutes earlier the same guys robbed the Bankstown Hotel and a shot was fired."

The manager did not want to be critical of front-line officers, instead criticising the force's policy makers.

"They [police officers] have a really tough job but there seems to be a policy of keeping things quiet when in fact it should be made public," he said.

"If you look at the video it's obvious these guys know what they are doing."


Transport Workers Union fined $35,000 for unlawful baggage handler strike

Good to see that there is still some restraint on union coercion

THE Transport Workers Union has been fined $35,000 after it was found to have organised unlawful industrial action by Qantas baggage handlers.

The fine, handed down by the Federal Court in Adelaide last week, was given in the first case initiated against a union by the Fair Work Ombudsman since the tribunal came into effect.

Up to 19 domestic flights in Melbourne and Adelaide were delayed in the December 2007 strike. Around 130 baggage handlers walked off the job at Adelaide Airport over fears jobs would be outsourced as a result of a planned review of services.

Fair Work argued the strike was illegal because it occurred before a 2008 enterprise bargaining agreement with the baggage handlers expired.

Justice Anthony Besanko called the breaches "serious and deliberate". "The Adelaide strike resulted from encouragement by a high-ranking official of (the TWU)," he said. "In those circumstances, a substantial penalty is called for."

The result comes days after the New South Wales workplace relations tribunal forced plane refuellers from the Australian Fuel Association, which is part-owned by Qantas, to return to work after banning striking for the next month. The refuellers are striking over a pay dispute for casual workers.


Australian parents not consulted over refugee pupil plan

This is treating them as if they have already been accepted as permanent residents. Will the schools have to hire Afghan interpreters?

UP to 60 asylum-seeker children will be enrolled in Darwin schools in a move that has angered some parents who claim they weren't consulted.

The Immigration Department yesterday confirmed it was in discussions with Northern Territory education officials about getting the children, most of them Afghans, a proper education. A spokesman said it was important for their development that the children attend school.

But some parents have reacted angrily to the move, saying they were not consulted and that school resources were diverted to make way for the influx. One parent told ABC radio he only heard about the plan after receiving an email addressed to the Anula school council.

"We found out through the back door," he said. "We were told nothing. The school council organised a meeting the previous Monday. The department never came to us to explain anything. No one's consulted anyone."

While the Immigration spokesman said it was too early to say which schools would be involved, NT Education Union's Adam Lampe said he was advised last week that Anula Primary School and Sanderson Middle School had been selected to receive the children.

Anula principal Karen Modoo declined to discuss the proposal and directed calls to NT Education where the executive director of school education, Alan Green, said there would be community consultation and that only schools with room and dedicated English programs would be considered. "There's no question of us cramping kids into Anula or any other school," Mr Green said. "They'll only go there if they fit."

Mr Lampe said educating the asylum-seeker children was a "great initiative". "These kids need to be taken care of," Mr Lampe said. "It's being federally funded so there are no negatives here."

But while both Anula and Sanderson have an intensive English unit that each caters to about 100 students, Mr Lampe said more teachers would have to be recruited from interstate.

A spokeswoman for NT Education Minister Chris Burns rejected suggestions the move would put Territory schools under strain.

Asylum-seeker children have previously received schooling on Christmas Island and in the remote West Australian town of Leonora, where officials say they have settled in well.


Julia Gillard's old car trade-in plan ripe for corruption

Worth $2,000?

THE biggest question to ask about Julia Gillard's plan to give people $2000 for trading in their old bombs for newer, more fuel-efficient cars is: Who will be the first to rort it and how will they do it?

A second is whether this expensive vow will serve any useful purpose except appealing to voters with crummy cars?

But first, just how rortable [corruptible] is this scheme going to be? Just think, a bucket of nearly $400 million of Government money placed in the vicinity of people trading in used cars.

Even without resorting to stereotyping, that sounds risky, especially given the Labor Government's recent, breathtakingly botched home-insulation scheme.

This time will be different, insists Gillard. "The scheme will be ... protected by rigorous anti-fraud and compliance provisions," the Labor Party says in its new policy. But then it would say that, wouldn't it?

Read on and you discover the Government appears not to have allowed even one cent for administering this program, let alone policing it. It wants 200,000 cars taken off the road at a bonus of $2000 a car. That's $400 million, even more than the officially declared cost estimate for the scheme of $394 million.

That means, in turn, if this Australian-badged version of the US "cash-for-clunkers" program ever gets off the ground, it could cost us far more than currently forecast.

Cost aside, if overseas experience is a guide, the opportunities for crooks to scam such a scheme are many.

In the US, identity theft fraudsters began launching bogus, official-looking websites inviting consumers to "pre-register" for the program even before President Barack Obama signed it into law a year ago.

The problem was bad enough for the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public warning.

In England, which launched its own scheme last year, traders and consumers were warned about crooks stealing log books and using them to trade in stolen vehicles cloned to match log details.

And, in Germany - where drivers were paid $2500 ($3600) to scrap their old cars for new ones - an estimated 50,000 clunkers were illegally sold again, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe. That won't happen here, insists the Government.

Here in Australia the plan is to scrap all traded-in vehicles. But first a new Gillard Government will need to "prescribe the scrapping requirements following consultation with industry to ensure they are consistent with the environmental objectives of the program".

Although it is hard to know exactly what this might mean, once again, no cost is assigned to this process of consultation, scrapping, monitoring, inspections and so on.

In the car-making economies of Europe and the US, the local versions of these schemes were sold first and foremost as economic stimulation plans for struggling local car industries. And, to the extent sales soared, they were successful.

The US "cash-for-clunkers" scheme was shut down last August after barely two months, following much higher-than-expected public interest. More than 690,000 trade-in vouchers were issued, which translated into one of the largest two-month spikes in car sales on record.

The economic benefit of such temporary sales boosts is harder to calculate and depends on assumptions about what level might have occurred without the stimulus, and how much the blip cannibalises future sales.

The best Obama's Council of Economic Advisers could come up with was that: "The program can be expected to have produced a noticeable impact on GDP growth."

But here in Australia, the scheme is being sold as an environmental initiative that will, theoretically at least, reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 1 million tonnes by getting older, less-efficient vehicles off the road.

It is an expensive way to cut emissions. The scheme prices carbon at $394 a tonne - even before making assumptions about administration and policing costs - which compares to something under $30 a tonne if you plant trees. But, of course, trees do not vote.

Perhaps Gillard should have come clean and just told us this expensive new program really was nothing more than a re-badged industry support scheme designed to bolster Australia's domestic carmakers (and win support of car-owning voters looking to trade up.)

But, even in this role, this is hugely inefficient. The international experience has been that most of the dollars spent on new vehicles head straight overseas to the Japanese and Korean carmakers with the smallest and most fuel-efficient cars, although, granted, some must go to local manufacturers.

But back to the scammers. Last August a suspected hit-and-run driver in Arizona allegedly tried to use the "cash-for-clunkers" program to offload his bloodstained BMW 325i by claiming the blood and dents were caused by a pig he hit in the desert. No one believed his story. Gillard is clearly hoping voters will believe hers.


28 July, 2010

Wrongly taken girl denied visit with dying dad

There seems to be no limit to DOCS evil

A FIVE-year-old girl wrongly removed from her parents was denied a visit with her dying father, even after the Ombudsman ruled DOCS bungled the case. In a horror start to her life, the girl has suffered from cancer, lost her father and spent more than two years separated from her family because of decisions that should not have been made.

DOCS will be forced to pay compensation to the family of the Sydney girl, who had never been abused or neglected.

Community Services Minister Linda Burney was notified of the case in September and this month did not override her department's decision to prevent the girl from travelling to Taiwan for her father's funeral. Yesterday she said the case was before the court until February and that it was "inappropriate for me to intervene."

Deputy Ombudsman Steve Kinmond found the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was removed after a DOCS case worker made "significant errors in her interpretation" of an interview with the girl's teenage sister.

DOCS wrongly and repeatedly told the Children's Court the teenager had claimed her brother had sexually abused her and that their mother had failed to act. Police were notified of the claims and never pursued action against the boy.

Mr Kinmond found the teenage girl's statements were "misconstrued when given to [the mother] and the Children's Court."

Errors repeated to government departments and in affidavits led to the mother being tagged as "non protective of children, unwilling to believe [her eldest daughter] and dishonest".

After her children were removed the mother admitted to disciplining her teenage daughter with a bamboo cane, leading to a conviction for assault.

Mr Kinmond found the errors were crucial in the removal of the woman's youngest child who had been diagnosed with a neuroblastoma and treated with chemotherapy when four months old.

His report was handed to DOCS on March 30 but just weeks later when the girl's father was dying of cancer, DOCS refused to let the girl's mother take her to Taiwan for his funeral. "DOCS has a hard job. I understand many children need to be removed. That was not the case here; it has been a total miscarriage of justice," Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Pru Goward said.

DOCS has offered an "unconditional apology" to the mother and wrote "it is clear information wrongly summarised from an interview was relied upon in court."


Woman locked out of hospital while about to give birth

It was a preterm, too, which should have had expert attention throughout

A SYDNEY mother was forced to give birth in a hospital carpark after staff at the delivery unit failed to respond quickly enough.

Padstow’s Melissa Synnerdahl gave birth to daughter Destiney in the front seat of her car at Canterbury Hospital carpark after staff failed to respond to pleas by her husband to gain entry.

Scott Hicks was forced to deliver their 2.5kg baby, which was three weeks premature, in her Commodore on Wednesday at 10.30pm. But it was only after the 25-year-old woman gave birth that doctors came to her aid.

A Sydney South West Area Health Service spokesman said Canterbury Hospital has apologised to the family. “While the switchboard and birthing unit entry bell were working well, a temporary breakdown in communication caused a delay in attending the mother’s birth,” he said. “The hospital is reviewing the circumstances of the incident and putting additional measures in place to ensure it is avoided in the future.”

But Mr Hicks said doctors didn’t apologise for not coming to their aid instead telling them after the birth “they were busy with another emergency delivery”.


What DOES she believe in? (If anything)

JULIA Gillard has spent her first media conference in Adelaide defending herself against damaging internal leaks that she opposed the paid parental leave scheme.

But she has attempted to make a virtue of the fact, teling a media conference in Adelaide she closely scrutinised the policies because of their $50 million cost to taxpayers. "I looked at them from every angle, I held them up to the light, I asked every question," she said. "I wanted to make sure that they were affordable."

Ms Gillard admitted she was "angry" at a leak, to Channel Nine journalist Laurie Oakes, that she opposed the pension rise and paid parental leave in cabinet.....

She denied she'd argued against the pension rise because older voters did not support Labor, saying she had never put politics above policy.

Ms Gillard said she was not the kind of prime minister that would sign off on $50 billion worth of expenditure without asking questions. "I'm not a soft touch," she said....

Ms Gillard refused to discuss what happened in Cabinet but described the pride she took in both signature measures - measures she has heavily promoted since becoming Prime Minister.

"I was very proud to be a member of the Labor team that delivered these two historic achievements - delivering a better deal for pensioners and supporting parents to spend more time with their babies," she said. "Pensioners and families deserve more support, and this government has acted to give them that support."

Oakes quoted Government sources as telling him Ms Gillard argued in Cabinet the idea that paid parental leave was a political winner was "misconstrued". People over child-bearing age and stay-at-home mums would resent it, she was quoted as saying.

On pensions, Ms Gillard was said to have questioned the size of the $14 billion increase. While not opposing it, she was reported to have observed that elderly voters did not support Labor.

Under the Government's scheme, eligible parents are entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave paid at the federal minimum wage from January 1.

Mr Abbott said the claims showed voters could not be certain whether Ms Gillard was telling the truth. "(That) shows she is a very smooth talker, but you can never be sure whether she believes what she says," Mr Abbott said.


False rape claim exposed in Sydney

These are a dime a dozen in Britain but are much less common in Australia. These "her word against his" prosecutions should never proceed in the first place. Females are quite good at lying and often do. When they are caught out they should face the same jail sentence that the man would have got

A MAN'S business and reputation are tainted, a young woman's HSC and mental health are in tatters and prosecutors have been ordered to pay more than $30,000 in legal costs for a bungled rape investigation on Sydney's northern beaches.

But it could have been worse still, if not for the trove of secrets stored in one of the world's most popular mobile phones. In what may be the first time an iPhone's elephantine memory has saved someone accused of a serious crime, deleted data retrieved by a leading surveillance expert appears to have led to the dropping of five rape charges against a Sydney man.

Robert*, in his 60s, was a property manager to the rich and famous and a dog breeder. Jessica* was the 18-year-old daughter of a friend, who never knew her father and dreamed of working with animals.

Their friendship blossomed as they spent mornings training his prize German shepherds. He gave her a $20,000 dog. For three months, they had sex repeatedly en route to dog shows and at a Whale Beach mansion where Elle Macpherson has stayed.

In August last year she accused him of rape. It was - and remains - a case of his word against hers.

Robert lost a job with the Catholic Church, from which he had earned more than $100,000 over the past three years, and was told he could no longer worship there.

The investigating officer, Detective Senior Constable Karen Hennessy, seized the $20,000 dog, saying it was relevant to the investigation.

The only thing standing between Robert and five sentences of up to 14 years were the messages from her on his iPhone, which he had deleted to conceal the relationship. Robert's lawyer, John Gooley from Collins & Thompson solicitors, commissioned Gary Coulthart, a former covert operations policeman and ICAC surveillance expert, to plumb the depths of Robert's iPhone.

Mr Coulthart retrieved more than 300 deleted texts and phone calls from the alleged victim, some of which appeared to undermine the allegations. Prosecutors later withdrew the charges and have been ordered to pay $30,056 of Robert's legal costs.

"Without the ability of Coulthart to drag the content out, a man's life may have been ruined," Mr Gooley said. "[iPhone evidence is] a bit like DNA. It can work both ways."

From a cohort of about 20 people in Australia with the equipment and know-how to do this sort of forensic work, Mr Coulthart said it was the first case he had seen in which an iPhone investigation commissioned by a defence lawyer has led to charges being dropped.

"Usually [when] you get engaged by the defence and they say, 'This person says they didn't do it', you find evidence that they have done it," he said.

Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since 2007 but few users know how much information they collect. The keyboard logging cache means an expert can retrieve anything typed on it for up to 12 months. Its internal mapping and "geotags" attached to photos indicate where a user has been.

An iPhone has up to 32 gigabytes of data that can be "imaged" or decoded with the right equipment, Mr Coulthart said, even if it has been deleted.

Robert wants police to investigate Jessica for causing a false investigation and is considering civil action against the police and the church. "It's put huge pressure on my home life and on my business," he said. "I had to go through the denigration of being charged and I've never been in trouble in my life."

Jessica did not want to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said it withdrew the charges because the victim did not want to proceed and that "the brief of evidence had not been given to the ODPP at the time this matter was withdrawn".

A police spokeswoman said that, for operational reasons, it was inappropriate to comment except to say that the alleged victim had told police she did not wish to pursue the matter.


27 July, 2010

More child abuse from the NSW government's notorious DOCS tentacle

Government "child protection" at work! And the doctors who were complicit in this pointless abuse are just as guilty

It was a decision no parent should have to make. When Mark and Dianne Westley were told their daughter Sarah was dying from a rare cancer, they refused chemotherapy - hoping to give her the best quality of life in the time she had left. But that choice was taken from them.

The Department of Community Services made Sarah a ward of the state and forced chemotherapy on her - a decision the Westleys said had a devastating impact on their daughter in the last months of her life.

Six years after Sarah's death the Westleys have now spoken against the DOCS intervention that they call an "incarceration", one of almost 7000 such decisions made every year to allow medical procedures on children.

"The forced treatment was a complete failure," the couple from Gloucester, north of Newcastle in New South Waels, said in a statement. "It was only after Sarah died that we got hold of the medical records and found out that Sarah already had late-stage cancer when she was first diagnosed and she was terminal when they forced her into having the painful treatments."

The Westleys relived their nightmare in the book Sarah's Last Wish, telling how the deadly ovarian tumour was first misdiagnosed as a pregnancy when their daughter was just 11.

They said their decision to refuse chemotherapy was only made after they found out as much as they could about the rare cancer.

"The authorities incarcerated Sarah in two NSW hospitals for most of 2003, where she was forced to have continuous rounds of chemotherapy for many months," the Westleys said. Between hospital visits Sarah was forced to attend school and, at times in the two years before her death, her parents were restricted to just two hours with their daughter each day.

DOCS figures showed in 12 months in 2008 and 2009, caseworkers acted on 6791 cases classified as "medical treatment not provided".

A spokeswoman said the cases could be as simple as chronic head lice or an untreated broken bone to parents refusing their child a blood transfusion for personal or cultural beliefs. "It is estimated that Community Services would receive approximately two cases each year in which parents refuse medical treatment for their child on the basis of cultural or personal beliefs," she said.

"In these matters, Community Services only intervenes based on expert medical opinion that a child or young person could be seriously harmed or even die without medical treatment."

In one case DOCS took a mother with an infectious disease to the Supreme Court to obtain an order for her child to be vaccinated.


Labor Party told its soft immigration policy 'pulling' the boats of illegals

IMMIGRATION authorities were warned the government's high success rate for refugee claims was acting as a "major pull factor" that encouraged boatpeople to make the voyage to Australia. Senior government sources have told The Australian the government was warned to brace for an influx of between 5000 and 10,000 boatpeople this year.

It is understood the government was told, before it announced its freeze on new asylum claims, that Australia's success rate for claims was "out of whack" with the rest of the world and was encouraging people-smugglers.

In the early part of this year, the "recognition rate", or success rate, for Afghan asylum-seekers was above 90 per cent. Senior government sources have told The Australian that the warning was contained in a document sent to the Rudd government prior to April 9, when it froze new Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims.

"It said our recognition rates were completely out of whack and this was a major pull factor," a senior government source familiar with the advice told The Australian.

Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have vowed to get tough on border security, with both promising to open offshore processing centres in third countries if they win the election.

Since the boats began arriving in late 2008, the government has consistently blamed instability abroad as the main cause of the surge. In October, Kevin Rudd blamed "huge push factors" in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka for the rush of boats. "Countries around the world are dealing with the same challenge," Mr Rudd said.

But the warning is the clearest evidence yet that domestic policies have been a major factor in pulling boats to Australia's shores.

It also suggests that for months, government agencies have been working at cross purposes, with the Immigration Department contributing to the very problem other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police and the Customs Service and Border Protection Command, have been working to curtail.

The document compared Australia's recognition rate, or success rate for new refugee claims, with those of the US, Canada and particularly Europe.

It concluded Australia was running an exceptionally generous refugee program that was acting as a magnet for boatpeople. "A lot of work was done on (the document)," the government source told The Australian.

It is understood that, while the document warned about the high approval levels, it did not explicitly recommend a cut to the rate. "Essentially, what it was about was that we need to address this by providing to decision-makers better advice, more accurate advice," the source said.

Up until six months ago the success rate for Afghan asylum-seekers, who have made up more than half the total number of unauthorised boat arrivals since late 2008, was 95 per cent. It has since fallen to 30 per cent. The drop has left most Afghanistan country experts baffled as they say it has not been matched by a corresponding improvement in security.

The source said official government estimates had predicted between 5000 and 10,000 unauthorised boat arrivals this year. So far, 4067 asylum-seekers and crew have arrived in Australia by boat this year. On current trends, 2010 will set a new record for boat arrivals, eclipsing the 5516 asylum-seekers who arrived in 2001, the year of the Tampa crisis.

The government advice appears to have been acted on, with the success rate falling rapidly since the beginning of the year.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Howard government also recognised Afghan asylum claims at rates of around 95 per cent from 1998-99 to 2000-01.

But he said last month the Afghan refusal rate exceeded 70 per cent. "If upheld at review, this increasing rate of refusals will result in many more people being returned to their homeland," the spokesman said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the document, saying it did not discuss advice sent to ministers. And last night a spokesman for the Immigration Department said it would not discuss "advice or interdepartmental information-sharing". "Having said that, this in no way confirms the claims made or that such a document exists," a spokesman said.

However, The Australian has been told high recognition rates have been an issue within government for some time, with those responsible for border security arguing they are acting as a magnet.

The plummeting refugee success rate has coincided with the government's announcement in April that it was freezing new asylum claims in order to assess evolving circumstances in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. But the extent of the drop, as well as its timing, has given rise to wider questions about the integrity of what is supposed to be an objective refugee selection process.

Refugee Council president John Gibson told The Australian last week there was no way the current success rate reflected the current conditions in Afghanistan. "In terms of Afghans, there is a question mark over the integrity of the process," Mr Gibson said.

Some sources in the refugee sector have suggested the government was approving refugee claims at high rates to avoid a bottleneck in the Christmas Island detention centre.

In April, the Rudd government belatedly announced it would be forced to transfer people to centres on the mainland, because of chronic overcrowding on Christmas Island, which had been expanded from its original capacity of 400 people to about 2500.

In comments sent to The Australian last week, Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe "categorically denied" claims the high success rate was driven by a desire to move people quickly through the Christmas Island detention centre, or that it was subject to political interference.

"Any such suggestions are baseless and totally without foundation," Mr Metcalfe said.

He said new country information for Afghanistan had been prepared in February. But the department has refused to release the updated country information it is using as the basis of the tougher assessments, despite promising to do so in April.

The Department maintains it will release its guidance notes for Afghanistan when they have been "finalised". Afghans are easily the largest category of asylum-seekers to arrive in Australia. Immigration Department figures show more than 3797 Afghans have arrived since the current surge in boat arrivals began in late 2008.


Anti-vaccination fanatics in Australia

When their four-week-old baby daughter Dana died from whooping cough Toni and David McCaffery sought love and healing to ease their grief.

Instead, they say they were subjected to a campaign of harassment and abuse at the hands of anti-vaccination campaigners, a group who were yesterday labelled a serious threat to the public's health and safety.

The Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against the Australian Vaccination Network after it refused to display a disclaimer on its website to inform readers its information should not be taken as medical advice.

Earlier this month the commission investigated the network, run out of Bangalow on the north coast by Meryl Dorey, and found its website presented incorrect and misleading information that was solely anti-vaccination and quoted selectively from research suggesting that vaccination may be dangerous.

Its investigation was sparked by two complaints, one from Toni and David McCaffery, whose four-week-old daughter Dana died from whooping cough last year.

The couple, from Lennox Head, allege they were subjected to months of harassment and abuse by Ms Dorey and anti-vaccination campaigners, accusing them of lying about the cause of their daughter's death. They received anonymous letters and emails that said whooping cough was not fatal and vaccinations were not needed.

Mrs McCaffery, whose daughter was too young to be vaccinated when she caught whooping cough, said Ms Dorey also tried to get her baby's medical records from the hospital without permission. "Instead of love and healing in the weeks after Dana's death, we got ugliness … it has been terrible," she said.

Mrs McCaffery also complained that Ms Dorey had quoted misleading statistics, spread misinformation through seminars and the internet, and gave poor telephone advice.

The second complaint against the network was made by Ken McLeod, a member of a group called Stop the AVN. He said Ms Dorey had claimed that meningococcal disease was harmless and "hardly kills anybody"; that vaccination was being used to spread AIDS in Third World countries; and homeopathy could take the place of vaccination.

His group now wants the state government to apply for a court injunction against the network and have it closed down. The group's website says Ms Dorey believes "vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the 'illuminati' plan a mass cull of humans".

Ms Dorey did not return calls yesterday but issued a statement on her website which said the HCCC's recommendation was "laughable" and she was seeking legal advice.

"Nobody would expect nuclear safety advocates to issue statements on the benefits of nuclear power; Greenpeace to make films on the pleasures of killing and eating whales … Why then should we be expected to make statements we don't believe are factual and that are not supported by the medical literature?

"If the AVN is expected to show both sides of this issue, why aren't the medical community and the government likewise cited for their lack of disclosure on the risks and ineffectiveness of vaccines?"

A spokesman for the HCCC said it could take no further action but it was disappointing the network was refusing to make its position clear.


Pithouse the shithouse again

For background, see here. Still no action against him

Wrong-way Magistrate Richard Pithouse cleared the way for a disgraced barrister colleague to get his gun licence back - a move that has worried the barrister's former wife.

And the potential conflict of interest in Mr Pithouse presiding over an earlier hearing involving the barrister colleague prompted one court onlooker to make a complaint to the Chief Magistrate about Mr Pithouse.

Ballarat barrister Graeme Jackson lost his gun licence after a court found him guilty of a string of criminal offences and police seized three guns from his house. Jackson was found guilty last year of seven counts relating to falsifying documents, including forging his wife's signature on tax cheques.

Last month he returned to court to try to get his gun licence back and appeared before his old family law colleague, Richard Pithouse. He applied to court to be deemed a non-prohibited person in relation to a firearms application, the court listing shows. Magistrate Pithouse heard the application and granted it.

Mr Pithouse heard the firearms application the same day he accidentally went to Ararat courthouse, not Ballarat, and then offended a sex assault victim by scrapping her heartfelt victim-impact statement.

He also presided over the first two court hearings of Mr Jackson's criminal charges last year. Lawyers said it may have been more appropriate for Mr Pithouse to have excused himself from sitting given the potential conflict.

Jackson said he and Mr Pithouse knew each other from the Ballarat court and Jackson had previously been briefed by Mr Pithouse's firm.

A police operation focused on Jackson raided properties at Ballarat, Horsham and Melbourne in which computers, guns and documents were seized.

Jackson was reprimanded by the Legal Services Commissioner for sledging a woman in court, but denied the woman's claim he also assaulted her. The wife, who the court heard was a victim of forgery, is now Jackson's third ex-wife. Her friends have said she is still shocked and bewildered by the actions of the man she once loved and is concerned by his recent moves to get his guns and licence back.

But Jackson said he was a hunter and though he had received several threats - including shotgun shells being left at his office - the guns were not for personal safety.

Chief Magistrate Ian Gray said no additional action was being taken against Mr Pithouse despite several complaints against him.


26 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG cannot see that Julia's "cash for clunkers" scheme will achieve anything at all -- other than to mollify the Greenies.

No lessons learned from a similar messy policy in America, apparently. But the Left never learn.

An Australian professor of political science says the Warmists were proven right by the various sham "Inquiries" so far launched into their notorious actions

The pathetic peroration below was published in a Left-leaning Australian daily. Note that, as usual, it is all "ad hominem", which again shows what pathetic souls Warmists are: just clinging to one-another for support.

No interest in "The science" is apparent below, of course -- such as the fact that the "decline" (in 20th century temperatures as measured by tree rings) hidden by Phil Jones & Co. completely invalidates the measures of past temperatures that Warmists have always relied upon.

But I suppose it is a big ask to expect an expert in in political science to know any real science

The author below is Rodney Tiffen. Tiffin is a light meal. A very light meal in this case, I would suggest

Chances are, you have not heard much about Climategate lately, but last November it dominated the media. Three weeks before the Copenhagen summit, thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were published on a Russian website.

The research institute was a leading contributor to the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and some of the leaked emails showed the scientists in a poor light.

The scandal was one of the pivotal moments in changing the politics of climate change. What seemed close to a bipartisan agreement on an environmental trading scheme collapsed with Tony Abbott's defeat of Malcolm Turnbull. Within months the Rudd government lost its nerve on what the former prime minister called "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time".

By casting doubt on the integrity of the scientists, Climategate helped puncture public faith in the science, and probably contributed to Labor's political panic. The echo chamber of columnists reverberated with angry and accusatory claims. In Australia, Piers Akerman said: "The tsunami of leaked emails . . . reveal a culture of fraud, manipulation, deceit and personal vindictiveness to rival anything in a John le Carre or John Grisham thriller." Later he wrote: "The crowd that gathered in Copenhagen were there pushing a fraud."

Andrew Bolt thought that "what they reveal is perhaps the greatest scientific scandal" of our time. "Emails leaked on the weekend show there is indeed a conspiracy to deceive the world - and Mr Rudd has fallen for it."

Miranda Devine wrote: "We see clearly the rotten heart of the propaganda machine that has driven the world to the brink of insanity."

The ramifications of Climategate were immediate. The climate unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, was forced to stand down. Three inquiries were set up to examine the scientists' conduct.

The first, a British House of Commons select committee, reported in March that the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and the CRU remained intact. The second, a science assessment panel, set up with the Royal Society and consisting of eminent British researchers, reported in April.

Its chairman, Lord Oxburgh, said his team found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever" and that "whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly".

The third, set up by the university itself, published its 160-page report two weeks ago. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of the CRU scientists, "we find that the rigour and honesty [of the scientists] as scientists are not in doubt". Importantly, it concluded: "We did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments."

In other words, nothing in the emails undermined the research of the climate scientists. Like the other two, the inquiry found aspects of the scientists' behaviour that fell short of professional standards - "failing to display the proper degree of openness".

What might seem the most damning was the way Jones dealt with freedom of information requests, but context makes his behaviour more understandable. In July last year alone, the CRU received 60 FoI requests. Answering them would have been too much for even all the unit's staff time. In a matter of days, it received 40 similar FoI requests, each wanting data from five different countries - 200 requests in all. Jones concluded the unit was subject to a vexatious campaign.

While not fully excusing their behaviour, one has to appreciate the embattled position of scientists who received a steady stream of obscene and abusive emails and constant public attacks on their integrity.

After the leaks, Jones, now reinstated, received death threats and said he had contemplated suicide.

You might imagine the media would be keen to report on authoritative conclusions about allegations it had found so newsworthy in December. But coverage of each of the reports has been non-existent in many news organisations and in others brief or without prominence.

At best, the coverage of the inquiries' conclusions added up to a 20th of the coverage the original allegations received, which leaves us to ponder the curiosities of a news media that gets so over-excited by dramatic allegations and then remains so incurably uninterested in their resolution.

The newspapers that gave greatest play to the allegations tended to give less attention to the findings. The columnists who gave greatest vent to their indignation have not made any revisions or corrections, let alone apologised to the scientists whose integrity they so sweepingly impugned.

Even at the time, it was clear much of the coverage was more attuned to maximising sensation rather than to reporting with precision. The sheer number of leaked emails, for instance, was sometimes taken as proof of the scale of the scandal, as if they were all disreputable. In fact, only from a handful could anything sinister be conjured.

It is a common criticism of the media that it prominently publishes allegations, but gives less coverage to the prosaic facts that later refute them. But rarely is the disproportion so stark. Rarely has such an edifice of sweeping accusation and extravagant invective been constructed on such a slender factual basis. Rarely does it do such damage.


Despite the gloss, Julia Gillard is just another phony

FOR the whole of her political life, Julia Gillard has been a member of Labor's Left faction.

This has not been a youthful indiscretion, as she remains a committed member of that faction even today. She is the first Left leader of the federal Labor Party in my lifetime. Not that anybody in the Canberra press gallery seems to have noticed. As they sleepwalk through her small-target policy announcements on a daily basis, no one in the press gallery seems to have asked the question as to why Gillard is in the Labor Left.

The policy decisions of the left-wing of the ALP have been consistent ever since I was at university in the late 1970s. On the economic front they have always believed in higher taxes and big government spending programs. Some supported death duties, capital gains taxes on the family home and cuts to government funding to non-government and Catholic schools. They were strongly opposed to privatisation and never had a problem with deficit budgeting.

On the foreign policy front, the Left was afflicted with a virulent strain of anti-Americanism. It disliked our traditional ties to Britain and clouded its hatred of Israel by pretending that its main Middle East foreign policy objective was Palestinian self-determination. On the industrial relations front, the Left strongly supported centralised wage fixing, compulsory unionism, wildcat strikes, pattern bargaining, the use of picket lines and unlimited union right of entry.

Now which of these traditional policies of the Left does Gillard believe in? Remember, she has been a member of this faction for three decades. What is it about these policies that attracted her to the Left, where she remains today?

In many respects the Gillard of today is unrecognisable from the person just three weeks ago. Now she prattles on about getting old bombs off the road, lassoing the unsuspected and bussing them to Canberra for a year-long lecture on climate change, and she now worries about deficit budgets. The truth is that Gillard today is, like Kevin Rudd, a total phony and a policy fraud. Gillard's strategy is to try to win the election on her personality, hoping like anything that no one will ask what she really believes in.

It is said she is popular among women, although if a ballot had been taken against Rudd, Jenny Macklin, Maxine McKew, Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek would have all voted against her for factional reasons. Yes, let's have Australia's first female prime minister, unless she is in the other faction.

The real problem for Gillard is not only that she is pretending to be something she is not but that, like Rudd, she is herself a prisoner to the caucus. Rudd was in his own faction, which didn't number too many. In the end, as soon as the Right decided to remove him, he didn't even have the numbers to put up a credible showing.

Some suggest his support was about 30 out of 110, made up of a few Queenslanders, a number of people to whom he'd grown close as a result of them winning in 2007, and the usual array of disgruntled, disaffected and disillusioned MPs that make up any parliamentary party irrespective of its political colour. Oh, and add to that some opponents of Gillard's from her own faction, such as Anthony Albanese.

The truth is that Gillard, like Rudd before her, is not part of the majority grouping that makes up the caucus. In replacing Rudd with Gillard, the Right has repeated the failed experiment of NSW where it installed Nathan Rees, a member of the Left faction, with disastrous consequences. On his way out the door, Rees took aim at those nasty factional powerbrokers who'd been kind enough to install him in the first place.

Irrespective of the election outcome, it is blindingly obvious that history will repeat itself in the federal parliamentary Labor Party at some time in the future.

That is to say a member of an enemy faction (Gillard) will be replaced by one of the Right's own favoured sons when the time comes. The answer as to who that will be is also obvious: the Victorian federal member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, who is the Labor Party's natural leader.

Rudd's demise was for a whole host of reasons, chief among them that he believed his deputy would never attempt to remove him. Had he been politically awake during the last few months of his prime ministership, Rudd would have been aware of the threat to his position. As of June, the only real threat to this position was in the form of Gillard.

Rudd had every reason to remove Peter Garrett on the grounds of political incompetence but he also had every political justification for sacking Gillard for her manifestly incompetent handling of what became known as the Building the Education Revolution scandal. This may sound a little far-fetched, but had he done so, he might still be leader today.

Remember, many in the ALP still regret the fact that Gough Whitlam didn't sack John Kerr, before Kerr sacked him. Still, Gough couldn't complain. Bill Hayden did ring him from a phone box not far from Yarralumla, but to no avail. Rudd's supporters were assuring him the day before the challenge that caucus was rock solid for him. No wonder Labor dumped him.


Leftist "compassion" at work again, in its usual destructive way

170 dead would-be immigrants since Australia's "softer" policies towards boat-borne illegals

Former coalition immigration minister Philip Ruddock says about 170 asylum seekers headed for Australia have died since the federal government changed Australia's border protection policies.

But Mr Ruddock, who served as immigration minister under the previous Howard government, wouldn't directly blame Labor for their deaths. "We believe that 170 people have lost their lives since Labor relaxed the policies here in Australia," he told ABC TV on Monday. "I'm saying that they were encouraged to get in boats again because of policies being changed."

Mr Ruddock said all the measures the coalition put in place to combat unauthorised boat arrivals - including offshore processing - needed to be implemented again to stem the flow.

The Liberal backbencher said it didn't matter where offshore processing actually took place, so long as the disincentive existed.


A conservative political candidate to keep an eye on?

THE woman trying to unseat dumped prime minister Kevin Rudd launched her election campaign in sky-high pink stilettos and a thigh-skimming dress.

Blonde one-time barmaid Rebecca Docherty tried to avoid the cameras when she was named as the Liberal National Party candidate for the Queensland seat of Griffith last week. However, the 30-year-old dressed in head-to-heels designer clothes for an article in Grazia magazine, which hits newstands today.

"I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. I used to buy the glossy magazines just to look at the pictures," she said. "I love high fashion but I can't afford it."

Ms Docherty's flamboyant campaigning style contrasts with Mr Rudd's more down-to-earth, intellectual and sometimes "boring" style but she is unlikely to unseat him. Mr Rudd holds Griffith, the safest Labor seat in Queensland, by a margin of 12.4 per cent. He is expected to retain the seat.

Ms Docherty said she was underwhelmed by the appointment of Ms Gillard as Australia's first female leader. "I'd never want to be judged on my gender," she said. "I'd want to be judged on whether I'm good at what I do."


25 July, 2010

Australia's conservative coalition plans to slash immigration

Australia's immigration levels are unsustainable and will be slashed under a coalition government, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. The coalition would cut the annual migrant intake from the current level of 300,000 to 170,000 in its first term of government, he said. "Three hundred thousand is just not sustainable," Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

The plan was separate from the asylum seeker issue. Mr Abbott said skilled migration programs would continue. "We will maintain, though, various employer-nominated categories because it's important that business has the skills as a people that it needs," he said.

Mr Abbott, who was born in London in 1957, said he was a migrant himself. "The coalition parties are pro-immigrant parties but it's very important that our immigration program has the support of our people and that is what this policy is designed to do."

Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said a coalition government would restore migration growth to the long-run average of 1.4 per cent, down from the two per cent now and slightly higher than the global average of 1.2 per cent. Cutting the intake would preserve the quality of life for future generations of Australians, he said.

"That was the fundamental dishonesty of the prime minister last week," he said. "If she doesn't like our number, she should say so. If she thinks our number is too low or too high, she should say what her number is."

Asked what a coalition government would consider as an acceptable population level for Australia, Mr Abbott said it would be "a lot lower" than the 36 million by 2050 figure nominated by former prime minister Kevin Rudd. "We would be guided, not ruled, by a white paper which we would commission shortly after coming to government, which would inform decisions that would be announced at some time next year."

Mr Abbott said a coalition government would take advice from a productivity and sustainability commission about the compatibility of population levels with economic and environmental sustainability. "But it will always be the government responsibility to set the number," he said.

The opposition leader said Prime Minister Julia Gillard was keen to talk about population but not be honest about the role of immigration in the debate. "You cannot have a population discussion without also having an immigration discussion," he said.

Mr Abbott challenged Ms Gillard to nominate an alternative figure if Labor did not agree with the coalition's intake target.

Economic forecaster BIS Shrapnel has said annual net migration from overseas - which includes permanent migration and longer-term but temporary stays - will fall from 298,900 over the year to June 2009 to 240,000 over the year to June 2010, then to 175,000 in 2010-11 and 145,000 in 2011-12. BIS Shrapnel said the slowdown reflected a slackening in the job market and fewer enrolments by foreign students.

Mr Abbott said he was "all in favour" of Australia selling education to overseas students. "But what I don't want us to be doing is selling immigration outcomes in the guise of selling education," he said.


Child sex accused priest OK to work with kids??

Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

A PRIEST stood down by his church over allegations that he had sex with a teenage boy has been handed a blue card to work with children by a Queensland tribunal.

The man, now in his 50s, lost his licence to officiate as a priest when he was found unfit to hold Holy Orders, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told during an application hearing last month.

It was alleged that the priest, then a parish curate in his 20s, had sex with a boy aged from 16 to 18 on several occasions, showed him pornographic images and took him to a sex shop.

The Sunday Mail has been prevented from identifying the priest after his solicitors sought a non-publication order from the tribunal late Friday.

The case follows revelations last week that seven Queenslanders denied blue cards because of criminal convictions later won them back after appeals to the tribunal.

The tribunal heard that the boy had been a parishioner and his parents had left him in the care of the priest while they went overseas on a holiday. Some of the sexual acts allegedly occurred when the priest stayed with the boy at a motel and at a caravan park. Police investigated after a complaint was received, but no charges were laid, the tribunal was told.

However, after a recent church investigation into the allegations ruled that "sexually inappropriate behaviour" had occurred, the Board of Professional Standards decided he was not fit to hold Holy Orders due to the gravity of the breach of trust. The Commissioner for Children and Young People then cancelled his blue card.

The priest is entitled to an automatic review of the church decision, which is under way, but he has not been able to officiate in his former parish.

He had held a blue card, allowing him to work or volunteer with children, since 2007.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which heard the former priest's appeal over his blue card, said the allegations were not contested in the church proceedings.

A forensic psychiatrist, giving evidence to the tribunal, said that there had been no indication of deviance since the time of the allegations and the priest was not a risk to the community.

He said assuming the alleged events had occurred, "it was likely to be an experimentation of early adulthood, part of the 'craziness of the age group' ".

After hearing evidence from another priest and parishioners, the tribunal found, on balance of probabilities, there was not an unacceptable risk of harm to children and ordered that the priest be given a blue card.

It found the protective factors, including that over the past 28 years he had led an "exemplary life of altruism and service", outweighed the risks. The Children's Commissioner can appeal.



Four reports below -- from just two days!

Killer overseas doctor sentenced to seven years in jail

FORMER Bundaberg Base Hospital surgeon Jayant Patel has been sentenced to seven years in jail for the deaths of three patients.

He was also sentenced to three years jail, to be served concurrently, for causing grievous bodily harm to a fourth patient.

Patel was not declared a serious violent offender and will be eligible to apply for parole in three-and-a-half years.

Justice John Byrne this afternoon sentenced Patel after the disgraced doctor was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm. On Tuesday Patel was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm as a result of operations he performed at Bundaberg between 2003 and 2005.

The jury had deliberated for six-and-a-half days and a further 48 hours before delivering guilty verdicts to the manslaughter of Gerry Kemps, 77, James Phillips, 46, and Mervyn Morris, 75. It also found Patel had caused grievous bodily harm to Ian Rodney Vowles, 62.

Kemps and Phillips died after oesophagectomy operations while Morris died after a major operation on his colon. Vowles allegedly had a large part of his bowel wrongly removed.

Mr Martin gave an outline of Patel's background as a doctor in India and then the USA where he eventually lost the right to practise in New York and then was put under a stipulated order in Portland, Oregon.


Dodgy doctors in government hospitals still

ROGUE doctors have been caught working throughout the state without proper paperwork and their own insurance as Queensland Health continues to struggle to put the Jayant Patel scandal behind it.

The Sunday Mail can reveal some medical officers and general practitioners were recently busted for failing to obtain credentialling to work at hospitals in the state.

Credentialling is an administrative system different to registration that allows travelling doctors to move around the state with authority to do different types of work at different hospitals.

A briefing provided to Health Minister Paul Lucas after the first quarter of this year showed two doctors were also caught without the proper registration.

The briefing showed 20 people failed to have the correct credentialling, including 15 general practitioners working at an aged care home in Brisbane. They did not have the proper indemnity insurance. A further two medical officers were caught on the Darling Downs, one in Townsville, one each in the Metropolitan North and South districts, and one in the South West district.

"In all cases no harm is reported to have occurred," the brief said.

In the first unregistered case, district management only found out in February about the medical officer after his hospital found the error in September last year. The medical officer had been registered in other states, but not in Queensland.

In the second case, the doctor was stood down after it was found registration had expired because of a delay processing exam results.

Queensland Health failed to respond to inquiries on Friday. The Opposition's health spokesman, Mark McArdle, said the failures showed the department had not learnt from the past, notably the killing of patients by Patel. "You have to ask why is this still happening?"


Coroner slams NSW state hospitals

THE same fatal mistakes are made again and again in hospitals because recommendations made after one death are not followed across the state, former NSW deputy coroner Carl Milovanovich said yesterday.

Twenty months have passed since an inquiry into NSW hospitals and Mr Milovanovich still has concerns about patient treatment. "The one thing that I have constantly encountered as a coroner was the repetition of the same mistakes," Mr Milovanovich, who was delivering a paper to the Australian Lawyers Alliance Medical Law Conference in Sydney, said. "There is no doubt systemic problems will exist in an organisation as large and as diverse as the NSW health system."

Mr Milovanovich presided over the Vanessa Anderson inquest. In 2005, the 16-year-old was taken to Royal North Shore hospital after being hit on the head by a golf ball. She died two days later. He found she died because of "systemic failures" at the hospital and the inappropriate administration of pain relief.

The inquest sparked the Garling inquiry, which concluded in late 2008 and resulted in 139 recommendations into acute care in public hospitals.

Mr Milovanovich said coroners must take great steps to deliver their findings into preventable hospital deaths to the highest level in state government. "The area health services are all separate little administrative units and they don't talk to each other and that's one of the problems," he said. "There's no guarantee that a recommendation that might have resulted from a death at Wagga will be implemented in an area health service at Lismore."

He acknowledged the findings of the Garling report and said an individual practitioner's mistakes reflected a larger issue. "We have dedicated and caring professionals working in the health system and their failings are invariably associated with the lack of resources, equipment and experienced staff and overriding budgetary constraints," Mr Milovanovich said. "Almost every medical or hospital death I've examined would fall into one of these categories."

During the question and answer session, he agreed there was still a lack of holistic patient care in the public hospital system. "The parameters end according to the carer's level of expertise or professionalism and they don't take that extra step of communicating to the next level. That seems to be an emerging problem," Mr Milovanovich said.


Hospital food fails those too ill to eat it

Hospitals will be forced to show they are preventing malnutrition in their patients or else lose their accreditation after continuing concerns about how vulnerable patients are fed.

Elderly patients who stay are hospitalised for long periods are dying from malnutrition because hospitals do not currently consider food part of clinical care, said Claire Hewat, the chief executive of the Dietitians Association of Australia.

And nearly two years after the Garling inquiry heard elderly people were "starving" in public hospitals, some NSW patients were still left unable to open and eat their food.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards will include a nutrition standard in its Evaluation and Quality Improvement Program, to be implemented in January, which Mrs Hewat hopes will improve hospital nutrition. It will apply to more than 1200 public and private hospitals and healthcare organisations across the country.

There were no national standards on nutrition in Australia, and not all hospitals had good standards, said the council's chief executive, Brian Johnston. "Clearly this can improve and will with the introduction of the new criterion," he said.

Karen Walton, a lecturer in health sciences at the University of Wollongong, specialises in nutrition support for the elderly. She said some hospitals in NSW had programs where food service staff open food and beverage packages. "It's still a significant issue, but [the programs show] things are starting to move in the right direction," she said.

If family members were concerned about elderly relatives they should try to visit them at meal times. "But if they can't be there, they should make sure that nurses and other staff know that their relative may need assistance and encouragement," she said.

Robin McLennan said her mother was in Mona Vale Hospital this month after hip surgery, when on two occasions food was delivered to three elderly patients in the room who were left unable to open or eat it. "I was helping mum [and] from the bed near my mother comes a little voice asking for help, too. So I took off all the lids, and cooled the hot soup and raised her bed," she said. "Then the other old lady started calling out, 'Help me, help me please'."

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said there were not enough staff in public hospitals to ensure that elderly patients ate their food. "Patients need to be able to access their meals and hospital staff need to have the time to assist those patients that require help," she said.

A spokeswoman for Mona Vale Hospital apologised to Ms McLennan and her mother. She said a food services assistant was provided to help patients eat their meals and the hospital was investigating the incident.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said Health Support Services, which provides food to Mona Vale Hospital, was reviewing the quality and consistency of food services in public hospitals and had been in contact with the packaging industry about introducing containers that were easier to open.

The Garling inquiry, which examined acute care services in NSW public hospitals, was told that one in four elderly patients became malnourished during their hospital stay and that meals were not nutritionally sound for those admitted long-term.

Nurses complained they did not have enough time to ensure patients ate their meals and there was little monitoring of fluid and food consumption.

Dieticians also complained that many food items, presented in plastic containers, went uneaten because they were packaged in a way which made them appear inedible.


24 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks Rudd has now got what he wanted with the offer of a United Nations job

Navy tensions over boat people

OVERWORKED Navy patrol boat crews have been told to brace for an election influx of eight to 12 illegal boats carrying between 300 and 800 passengers.

The nation's fleet of interceptor vessels has been warned of ships in waters around Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef.

This comes as Navy chiefs launched an urgent appeal for reservists to go to Darwin to relieve patrol boat crews. Many of the sailors, and their families, are so fed up that they openly support Opposition policy to turn boats around and reinstate temporary protection visas.

On any given day eight of the 10 Darwin-based Armidale Class patrol boats are at sea on boat people duty.

"We will do it, but it will be a s*** fight," one sailor said. "There will be children overboard, sewing lips, jumping, fighting and we will need SAS and infantry with riot batons and shields to turn them back."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday announced a $93 million package to boost border security. He said the Coalition would restore the $58.1 million Labor cut from a security screening program at Australia's ports and airports and add another $35 million. "You can trust the Coalition with border security. You can't trust Labor," Mr Abbott said.

A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said both sides of politics regarded border protection as a key priority. "The Government has invested more than any previous Government in strengthening Australia's border security," he said. "Over the past two budgets, Federal Labor has committed more than $1.8 billion to strengthen border and aviation security. "We have invested in eight new patrol vessels with improved surveillance and response capability -- strengthening our Border Protection Command, which already has 18 vessels and 18 aircraft."

The high level intelligence provided to sailors and passed to The Daily Telegraph this week is so detailed it includes the names of each smuggling venture, the identity of the people smuggler involved and that most passengers will be men aged between 17 and 45. "We are getting intel on when they leave and expected to arrive, but Indonesia is not acting to stop them," a sailor said.

Sailors have also been warned about a change of tactics by people smugglers, who are broadcasting fake distress calls just outside Australian waters to avoid severe penalties under the Migration Act.

Commanders have been ordered to intercept any vessel outside Australian waters and ask the skipper where he is headed. The latest FRAG (fragmented operational order) issued to commanders at sea on Thursday told them how to deal with vessels outside Australia's 12-mile zone.

"In the event you suspect the vessel to be a SIEV [suspected illegal entry vessel] you need the master to say that they require assistance to come to Australia," the orders said. "However, you are not authorised to lead their answer. Questions on the lines of 'Where are you going?' [and] 'Do you need assistance to get there?' should be appropriate."

In one case a patrol boat went to the aid of an Indonesian vessel in "distress" outside the 12 mile zone, took 70 asylum seekers off it, then provided it with fuel and watched it steam its way back to Indonesia.

People smugglers are using global positioning systems to accurately calculate their position and staying outside the migration zone, before calling friends in Australia or dialling the emergency triple-0 number to request assistance as "stranded mariners" and not illegal vessels.

This year alone 81 illegal boats have arrived carrying 3854 people, or an average of 48 passengers each. SIEV number 172 arrived this week, taking the total since July 2009 to 138 boats.


National broadcaster picks sides while the 'editor-in-chief' watches on

AT the end of this five-week election campaign, the ABC will study its performance and, if past reviews are a guide, the broadcaster will conclude it was fair to both major parties.

Others will point to examples where one side got coverage and the other did not. For example, on the first full day of the ABC's new 24-hour news station yesterday, the broadcaster failed to put Tony Abbott live to air to announce the opposition's policy on border protection, opting instead to run a story about cane farming.

By contrast, when Julia Gillard gave her speech on climate change yesterday, ABC News 24 was there. The whisper around town is that even ABC boss, Mark Scott, wants to know how this could be allowed to happen on the station's first day. Sky News showed both events live. In the first week of the election campaign, ABC "editor-in-chief" Scott has much to chew on. The broadcaster is a giant organisation with a $900 million budget and 1000 journalists.

These figures have provided ammunition to critics, including commentator Margaret Simons, who isn't alone in complaining the ABC doesn't break many stories for that kind of coin. In January, she wrote: "When did Aunty last consistently break major news stories? Can we have a list, please? I'd be glad to publish it."

Sydney Institute director Gerard Henderson has added a new segment to his Media Watch Dog column "devoted to ABC chairman Maurice Newman's suggestion (in March) that a certain 'group think' might be prevalent at the ABC". Henderson fills the spot each week with examples of ABC journalists talking to people who agree with each other, with no dissent. This week Newman has re-entered the fray, telling The Weekend Australian in Beijing on the night of ABC's new station launch "things are improving" at the ABC, but the problem is not yet solved.

"This is not a five-minute exercise, changing culture and changing attitudes and so on," he says. "These are things that take time." He says Australian media generally displays a "lack of intellectual curiosity" and that reporters tend to "accept a point of view without doing the necessary research, without stepping back and judging whether or not conventional wisdom is always correct".

But Newman notes that the ABC, as a taxpayer-funded organisation, is "required by our charter to walk both sides of the street and be balanced and all those good things. That is really the contract we have and it's important that we fulfil that obligation." So how is it doing?

ABC News 24 chief Gaven Morris yesterday confirmed a snag with the Abbott press conference, saying it was not able to establish the live link to the speech, so "rather than crashing into it and missing the key part of the announcement, we decided to record the full event and play it back in the proper context".

But this week, the first of the federal election campaign, some have questioned the way Kerry O'Brien -- one of the long-serving ABC old guard -- has handled two major interviews.

O'Brien interviewed Julia Gillard on day three of the campaign. He did not ask a single question about Building the Education Revolution, the multi-billion-dollar scheme to upgrade the nation's schools that has been plagued by waste and rorts, despite the fact that Gillard, before she became Prime Minister, was the education minister. He did not ask about the failed home insulation scheme, either.

O'Brien did ask about the failed East Timor solution, putting the question this way: "You seemed to show inexperience in the way you handled your attempt to persuade East Timor to embrace a regional refugee centre for asylum-seekers. How do you persuade Australians that you're a safe pair of hands on all those very tricky foreign policy issues?"

O'Brien was a touch more aggressive on Gillard's constant use of "moving forward", saying: "Paul Keating's speechwriter Don Watson says the way you're already endlessly repeating slogans is treating voters like imbeciles, trying to train them like dogs." But he ended on a gentle note, saying: "Last question: You've spent time talking about your strengths; nominate a weakness that you are aware about yourself?"

She replied: "I've been known to make the occasional joke where media friends like you, Kerry, haven't necessarily shared in the joke or shared in the humour."

O'Brien's interview with the Coalition's Joe Hockey was somewhat different in tone. Hockey stood in for his leader, Tony Abbott, after Abbott decided not to miss the opportunity to front a commercial audience as a guest on Hey Hey It's Saturday. O'Brien began by telling the audience: "After interviewing Julia Gillard on Monday, we were hoping Tony Abbott would be available last night or tonight to balance the scales. Mr Abbott couldn't make it tonight. He's on another television program called Hey Hey It's Saturday with Daryl Somers on their Red Faces segment. So his shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, is here now to fill the breach."

He then turned to Mr Hockey and said: "I understand you were complaining today about Labor trivialising this election campaign. But before we get to that, are there any Paris Hilton lines you want to share with us tonight?"

The difference is obvious, even without audio. Hockey defended his leader, saying: "No, Kerry. And I think you're wrong also about Tony Abbott. I'm sure he's prepared to come on your program."

O'Brien said: "He's agreed to come on next week. It's a pity he couldn't be here . . . So the point about trivialisation: what is it?"

O'Brien ripped into Hockey about the opposition's decision to bury and cremate Work Choices, and to support Labor's industrial reform, saying at one point: "I suggest to you that it defies credulity."

One of the most vocal critics of the ABC is a former staff member, Kevin Naughton, who worked at the ABC for 16 years, covering 10 state and federal elections. Naughton, who was media adviser to former SA Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith, told The Weekend Australian yesterday: "The ABC has always publicly defined itself as balanced. It does so, because that's what its editorial guidelines demand of reporters and broadcasters.

"The reality is different. ABC newsrooms get very nervous when the Liberal Party looks a winning chance and they get angry when Liberal governments retain power.

"One classic example was the clarion call of 1996 when a flustered senior current affairs producer exhorted the troops to get stuck into the Libs because, 'we could lose this thing . . . Keating could lose'.

"Programs such as The 7.30 Report are built on a Labor culture of ALP for the workers (including struggling journos), and Kerry O'Brien didn't disappoint when he gave honeymooning PM Julia Gillard a nice run on Monday night."

Of course, O'Brien is more than two interviews: prior to this campaign, he is credited with his tough interview of Kevin Rudd over the failures at Copenhagen, prompting a fiery Rudd to hit back about the treatment he was getting from "7.30 Reportland". He followed it up the following week with a stinging interview with Abbott. The Weekend Australian this week asked Media Monitors to analyse the coverage ABC TV accorded former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser when news broke he'd quit the Liberals, and compare it with this week's coverage of former Labor leader Mark Latham dumping on Labor.

The results are shown in the chart and the difference is stark: the ABC reported Fraser's move with three times the enthusiasm it showed for Latham dumping on Labor. True, a leader and former PM quitting a party might be seen as a bigger story, but in the context of the last month's events in Canberra and Latham's contributions from the sidelines, was the Fraser story more important by a factor of three?

In a statement to The Weekend Australian yesterday, the ABC said: "Our editorial standards are clearly articulated. Our editorial performance is under constant evaluation and review by our divisional heads and the managing director. It is discussed at the board.

"The ABC recognises its special role in the Australian media and appreciates its performance is open to criticism and evaluation including by its own programs. Audiences will make up their own minds and audiences constantly turn to the ABC for intelligent, informed discussion." It had no comment to make "on the recollections of one former staff member of events a decade and a half ago".

Newman did not attend this week's flash launch and party for the new, 24-hour news channel. He was in Beijing on other business. He supports the development, and wants the news presented there to be unbiased, too.

So far, so good: one of the ABC's newish recruits, Chris Uhlmann, broke a story damaging to Labor that led news bulletins for a day, no mean feat in an election campaign.

He and colleagues Ali Moore, Annabel Crabb, Leigh Sales and others are part of a new generation of ABC talent. They haven't yet muscled their way into the big jobs, but surely that day is coming.


The story a judge wanted banned

Victoria does seem to be the censorship capital of Australia

TODAY, The Weekend Australian is giving Victorians a story a judge didn't think they were intelligent enough to read.

Two months ago, this newspaper was forced to withdraw 70,000 copies of The Weekend Australian Magazine from circulation in the state, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, because Supreme Court judge Lex Lasry believed one article would influence the trial of Victorian man Robert Farquharson for the murder of his three sons.

While the rest of the nation read the May 22 article by Caroline Overington -- which focused on an unrelated child murder and did not mention the Farquharson case -- a hastily arranged suppression order meant Victorians missed out.

Today, we are providing all Victorian readers with a copy of the disputed magazine -- as well as the regular magazine published this weekend -- so they can make up their own minds as to whether the article would have prejudiced Farquharson's chances of a fair trial, as Justice Lasry believed.

The order reinforces Victoria's growing reputation for closing its courts to the media and, as a result, the public. There is, says state opposition legal affairs spokesman Robert Clark, "clearly a problem with suppression orders in Victoria".

On Thursday, a jury found Farquharson guilty for the second time of the 2005 murder of his three sons by driving them into a dam. The verdict lifted the suppression order imposed by Justice Lasry, at the request of Farquharson's defence counsel, on the Overington article.

The expiry of a separate ban, this time imposed by the Victorian Court of Appeal, means readers in that state can also be told about the extraordinary legal battle by free speech advocate Julian Burnside QC to overturn Justice Lasry's order. With just 30 minutes' notice, Mr Burnside rushed into the Victorian Court of Appeal on May 21 to seek leave to appeal against Justice Lasry's order. This rare after-hours challenge ended in defeat at about 8pm on the night before the magazine had been due to appear.

The suppression orders had been imposed because Justice Lasry considered that the magazine's cover story about a murder in South Australia could influence the jury dealing with the Farquharson trial in his court.

The legal battle over the magazine was initiated by Farquharson's counsel and the suppression order was granted even though prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC withdrew his support for the order after reading the article. "We've read the article and there's nothing in there that could possibly prejudice a fair trial in this case," Mr Tinney said.

Mr Clark said suppression orders in Victoria were issued far too frequently and the approach of the state's judges needed to be brought back into line with the rest of the country.

However, this comes soon after the attorneys-general of all states -- including Victoria -- agreed in May to uniform draft legislation that would dramatically expand the grounds on which judges could issue suppression orders.

Media lawyer Justin Quill warned that the draft scheme would allow judges to issue suppression orders on a new "public interest ground". Mr Quill said this potentially cleared the way for suppression orders to protect the privacy of those before the courts.


Multiculturalism protects a vicious assault

Samoan man convicted of smashing a man's jaw for allegedly disrespecting his sister -- but no jail

A SAMOAN national has narrowly avoided being immediately sent to jail for smashing the jaw of a fast food worker who was "culturally disrespectful" toward his younger sister.

The Brisbane District Court was told Sanervie Sautia landed a single punch to the face KFC employee Robert Hirsch, 20, and breaking his jaw in two places at the fastfood chain's Inala store, 15km west of Brisbane, on April 16 last year.

Sautia, 23, was today sentenced two years' jail, but released on immediate parole, after pleading guilty to one count of grievous bodily harm.

Lawyers for Sautia argued it was considered unacceptable in Samoan culture for a person to disrespect or insult a woman. Barrister Tim Ryan said his client "never intended" to harm Mr Hirsch, but confronted casual KFC employee over having called his sister a "f***head.’’ "In the Samoan culture it is unacceptable to disrespect females," Mr Ryan said.

The court was told Mr Hirsch allegedly made the "insulting" remark while working with Sautia's sister - also then employed by KFC.

Prosecutor Rob Glenday said Mr Hirsch had been sitting on the KFC store's loading dock, on a break, when he was approached by Sautia about 2.30pm. Mr Glenday said Sautia confronted Mr Hirch saying: "What's you name bro? So you was the one going off at my sister."

Mr Hirsch replied: "No way." The court was told Sautia told Mr Hirsch to never "f***ing talk to my sister like that" and punched him once in the face.

Mr Glenday said Mr Hirsch was later taken to hospital and required surgery to insert three metal plates, to secure his jaw, and 35 internal and two-external stitches. Mr Hirch was forced to "eat through a straw" for numerous weeks after the attack, the court was told. "(This was a) mindless act of aggression against (Mr Hirsch) while he was sitting down at work," he said.

Judge Richard Jones, in sentencing Sautia, said the attack may have been triggered by a cultural "slight", but that it was an unacceptable act of violence.

"It is a most serious offence and is all too prevalent in society today," Judge Jones said. "(Mr Hirsch) worked with your sister at the Kentucky Fried Chicken premises ... and insulted your sister ... using coarse language. "It appears among Samoan culture ... to insult a woman is a significant slight indeed. "It may provide an explanation, but no excuse."


23 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that the liaison between Bob Brown and Julia is pretty disgusting

Julia Gillard wants climate change action linked to summit of 'ordinary Aussies'

This is probably just a delaying tactic but the more delay the better

ABOUT 150 ordinary Australians would be randomly chosen to develop the nation's response to climate change under a re-elected Gillard Government.

Julia Gillard will today pledge to set up a Citizens' Assembly to spend 12 months examining the evidence on climate change, the case for action and the consequences of putting a price on emissions. In a speech in Brisbane, the Prime Minister will try to convince voters that she has learnt from Kevin Rudd's mistakes. She will say she will lead the debate and Labor is committed to revisiting a price on carbon pollution but not until at least 2012.

First she wants to take the community along and build a nationwide agreement ``like the kind of consensus we have about Medicare".

In an important development designed to give business certainty over future investment decisions, big pollutors would be encouraged to start cutting their emissions now.

About 150 community representatives from a range of ages and backgrounds would be randomly chosen to take part in the panel which appears similar to Mr Rudd's 2020 summit talkfest, where he invited movers and shakers from across the nation to discuss ideas for the future.

Critics of that process said it produced little beyond opportunities for Mr Rudd to be photographed with invited celebrities and business leaders.

``They would be voluntary participants, but selected through the census/electoral roll by an independent authority," Ms Gillard says. ``If I am wrong, and that group of Australians is not persuaded of the case for change, then that should be a clear warning bell that our community has not been persuaded as deeply as required about the need for transformational change."

But she says she will not allow the nation ``to be held to ransom by a few people with extreme views that will never be changed".

An independent expert panel, a Climate Change Commission, would be set up to review the science of climate change.

The electorate's love affair with Mr Rudd began souring in April when he shelved the Emissions Trading Scheme after it twice failed to pass the Senate, and domestic and global support crumbled.

Businesses would also be rewarded for taking early action on reducing pollution. Industry would be marked against their 2006-07 emissions levels, so those reducing pollution between now and when a carbon price is introduced would receive more industry assistance.


Secretive web-snooping plan by Australia's Leftist Federal government

The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians' web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear it could cause "premature unnecessary debate".

The government has been consulting with the internet industry over the proposal, which would require ISPs to store certain internet activities of all Australians - regardless of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing - for law enforcement agencies to access. All parties to the consultations have been sworn to secrecy.

Industry sources have claimed that the controversial regime could go as far as collecting the individual web browsing history of every Australian internet user, a claim denied by the Attorney-General Robert McClelland's spokesman.

The exact details of the web browsing data the government wants ISPs to collect are contained in the document released to this website under FoI, which was handed out to industry during a secret briefing it held with them in March.

But from the censored document released, it is impossible to know how far the government is planning to take the policy.

The government is hiding the plans from the public and it appears to want to move quickly on industry consultation, asking for participants to respond within only one month after it had held the briefings.

The Attorney-General's Department legal officer, FoI and Privacy Section, Claudia Hernandez, wrote in her decision in releasing the highly-censored document that the release of some sections of it “... may lead to premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making”.

Hernandez said that the material in question related to information the department was "currently weighing up and evaluating in relation to competing considerations that may have a bearing on a particular course of action or decision".

"More specifically, it is information concerning the development of government policy which has not been finalised, and there is a strong possibility that the policy will be amended prior to public consultation," she wrote.

Further, she said that although she had acknowledged the public's right to "participate in and influence the processes of government decision making and policy formulation ... the premature release of the proposal could, more than likely, create a confusing and misleading impression".

"In addition, as the matters are not settled and proposed recommendations may not necessarily be adopted, release of such documents would not make a valuable contribution to public debate.”

Hernandez went further to say that she considered disclosure of the document uncensored "could be misleading to the public and cause confusion and premature and unnecessary debate”.

“In my opinion, the public interest factors in favour of release are outweighed by those against," Hernandez said.

The "data retention regime" the government is proposing to implement is similar to that adopted by the European Union after terrorist attacks several years ago.

Greens Communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the excuse not to release the proposal in full was “extraordinary”. Since finding out about the scheme, he has launched a senate inquiry into it and other issues.

“The idea that its release could cause 'premature' or 'unnecessary' debate is not going to go down well with the thousands of people who have been alarmed by the direction that government is taking,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I would really like to know what the government is hiding in this proposal,” he said, adding that he hoped that the Attorney-General's Department would be “more forthcoming” about the proposal in the senate inquiry into privacy he pushed for in June.

Online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia spokesman Colin Jacobs said what was released was "a joke". "We have to assume the worse," he said. "And that is that the government has been badgering the telcos with very aggressive demands that should worry everybody.”

Jacobs said that the onus was now on government to “explain what data they need, what problem it solves, and just as importantly, why it can’t be done in an open process”.

“The more sensitive the process and the data they want, the more transparent the government needs to be about why it wants that data,” he said. “Nobody could argue that public consultation ... would somehow help criminals,” he added.

“We have to turn the age old question back on the government: if you don’t have anything to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried about people having insight into the consultation.

“This is a very sensitive and important issue. It raises huge questions about privacy, data security, and the burden of increased costs to smaller internet service providers. What really needs to be debated is what particular information they want, because that’s where the privacy issue rears its ugly head,” he said.

According to one internet industry source, the release of the highly-censored document was “illustrative of government's approach to things where they don’t want people to know what they’re thinking in advance of them getting it ready to package for public consumption,” the source said. “And that’s worrying.”

The Attorney General Robert McClelland's spokesman declined to comment, referring comment to the department. The department said it had "nothing to add" to the FOI letter it provided.


Libs promise simple way to dismiss unsatisfactory workers

THE Coalition has promised to make it easier for small businesses to sack employees by changing Labor's existing unfair dismissal laws.

Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson yesterday departed from the most recent position put by Tony Abbott about changing workplace laws, telling The Australian the Coalition would talk to employers and the public about how the industrial relations regime was operating and would be prepared to make changes.

"If any changes are needed, we will seek a mandate for them at the 2013 election," Mr Billson said. "But the Coalition will never make changes that reflect Work Choices."

When pressed this week whether he would seek a mandate for workplace changes at the next election, the Opposition Leader steered clear, repeating his "never, ever" mantra about reintroducing elements of the Howard government's Work Choices regime.

Both business and trade unions believe unfair dismissal processes for small business could be altered with changes to regulations and not have to be done by changing the new workplace laws.

Mr Billson said the government's Small Business Fair Dismissal Code was not working and needed to be changed to help business.

Under the government's Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, employers are advised to follow a checklist to ensure the dismissal of an employee is not unfair.

Mr Billson said the government had promised small business it would have a streamlined, simple, fair dismissal process that would not expose small businesses unreasonably to claims for unfair dismissal. But he had concerns about the expense involved in cases brought forward with little merit.

"The code that the government put in place, that's overseen by Fair Work Australia, has been condemned by Fair Work Australia itself of being of dubious value," Mr Billson said.

He said the code needed to be changed so that small business could have certainty about sacking employees "without the threat of being hauled before the commission at great expense and being forced to pay 'go away' money".

"Whoever is in government after the election will be faced with having to fix the code," Mr Billson said.

"When a small business employer is faced with a difficult decision to discontinue someone's employment, there needs to be a clear, simple and reliable process for them to follow for such action to be deemed to be fair."

Employment Minister Simon Crean recently changed the checklist governing fair dismissal by small business.

It is believed the Coalition will seek to have a special provision created through Fair Work Australia that lifts restrictions on the working hours of students younger than 18.


Young should get research grants priority

I can see some point in this. Scientists are at their most original and open-minded in their youth. After about 30 they tend to ossify mentally

AFFIRMATIVE action for young research-grant applicants is among the recommendations of a report on ways to drive international collaborative research. The report, Australia's International Research Collaboration, also calls for action to streamline the processing of visa applications from overseas academics sponsored to work here.

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation, which wrote the report, was told that it could take up to a year for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to process visa applications, and some applications had been rejected. But the department defended its performance.

The report comes as Australia, which produces less than 3 per cent of the world's knowledge, moves to embed itself more deeply in the international scientific community in an increasingly globalised world.

The committee considered written submissions and evidence given in public hearings by government, academe, industry and embassies. The report identified problems facing early career scientists as some of the biggest obstacles to international collaboration.

Young scientists, up against researchers with proven track records, had trouble getting their projects funded. "Research funding has been found to have the tendency to invite further funding," the report says. "As research continues, and publication and citations increase, researchers are more likely to be successful in funding rounds, but many younger early-career researchers have found it difficult to break into the funding regime."

The report recommends allocating 10 per cent of Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council grants to early-career researchers who are first-time award winners.

Meanwhile, some "non-scientists viewed overseas travel . . . as an indulgence", the committee heard. Many scientists, especially those at the start of their careers, could not fund travel to forge links with colleagues overseas and use offshore facilities. The committee called for a small-grants scheme to support the travel expenses of early-career scientists who had won time on foreign instruments.

It also expressed concern about delays in the processing of visa applications. "The witnesses were upset that . . . dependable academics, who were coming to Australia only to work on research projects and were no risk of overstaying, had their applications rejected," the report says. Some eminent researchers and academics have refused to come back to Australia after experiencing difficulties in getting to the country in the first instance, it found.

But the Department of Immigration and Citizenship told the inquiry that cases of long delays were rare and many universities had been using the wrong visa sub-class.

The report also expresses concern about uncertainty surrounding the international science linkages program. The program, which supports scientists who have joined forces with colleagues overseas on projects, is under review, and due to wind up at the end of the financial year, the report says.

The committee recommended that the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research announce a successor program as soon as possible.

The Australian Academy of Science, which spearheaded a campaign on international collaboration, welcomed the report. The government is due to respond to the report in September.


22 July, 2010

Crean wants to bring back compulsory unionism for students

And from long experience we know that a lot of the money raised will be spent on far-Left causes that few students agree with

THE Education Minister, Simon Crean, has promised a re-elected Labor government would try again to change the law to allow universities to charge students compulsory fees to pay for sporting facilities, health clinics and other non-academic amenities.

Labor introduced legislation last year to allow universities to charge students up to $250 a year to fund services such as childcare, counselling and career guidance, but it was blocked in the Senate by the Coalition and the Family First senator, Steve Fielding.

Mr Crean told the Herald such services were ''integral to giving people the opportunity to undertake a university education'' and he called upon the Coalition to reconsider its position.

''The opposition has an ideological bent against this concept. They're called student union fees. They see union, they go ballistic,'' he said.

The proposals were aimed at restoring services lost from campuses after the Howard government outlawed compulsory student union fees in 2005, stripping an estimated $170 million a year from student services budgets.

The opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, said it would continue to oppose Labor's plans.

But the Coalition may not be able to block the legislation if, as is widely tipped, the Greens win the balance of power in the Senate. The Greens education spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, said it must be a priority in the new parliament.

The president of the National Union of Students, Carla Drakeford, said after waiting for Labor to fulfil its 2007 promise, students would expect a re-elected Labor government to make the change within six months. She said the NUS would lobby the Greens to amend the legislation, to require universities to pass on some of the money to student unions.


Spineless justice system encourages further crime

The thug himself says so. Previous experience with the courts left him with no fear of the justice system

A YOUNG armed robber who slit a teenager's throat on a tram later said he'd wanted to eat his victim's heart, police say.

The 18-year-old also bragged on Facebook that he had been on bail at the time of the attack.

This week the teen, who cannot be identified because of his age, pleaded guilty to charges over his random attack on a 15-year-old boy. According to a police summary tendered before Melbourne Magistrates' Court, the boy told his victim he was the "king of Melbourne", saying: "I'm with (street gangs) MTS and LBK. "Don't start crying or I'll slit your throat." He then rummaged through the victim's school bag and his pockets, stealing items including a mobile phone and iPod nano.

"The accused then stood up, grabbed the left side of the victim's head with one hand and tilted his head exposing his neck," the summary says. "With his right hand, the accused ran the knife over the victim's neck cutting him from the left side of his neck to his chin, causing the victim to bleed.

The attacker later boasted on Facebook that he "had a stabbing and a robbery and assault pending. And I still got bailed. The dumb slut of a judge ha ha ha".

The victim's mother, who didn't want to be identified, told the Herald Sun yesterday she was "outraged" the attacker had been freed on bail. "This didn't have to happen to my son. What happened to my son is tragic - he is still suffering psychologically," she said, saying he was too traumatised to speak.

She said the attacker should serve the maximum penalty for his crime, and in an adult jail, not youth detention....

Later he told police: "My lawyer is gonna get me off all this s--- anyway, so I'm gonna laugh at youse when youse are at my court case." The boy pleaded guilty to armed robbery, intentionally causing injury, making a threat to kill, and threatening to inflict serious injury.

The teen attacker will appear in the County Court for a pre-sentence plea hearing in November.


Rudd government finally got wise about Afghan "asylum" frauds

KEVIN Rudd's suspension of new Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims was followed by a rapid drop in successful asylum claims.

In April, the Rudd government announced all new Afghan asylum claims would be suspended for six months and new Sri Lankan claims for three months while decision-makers reviewed local conditions.

But prominent refugee lawyer David Manne said the announcement had been followed by a sharp drop in success rates for his clients. "There is no doubt that there was a correlation in timing between a pattern of high refusal rates and the announcement of the suspension and our political leaders telegraphing that we could expect higher refusal rates."

The Australian has been told the approval rate for Afghan refugees has plummeted from more than 95 per cent just six months ago to a rate of just 30 per cent.

Sources close to the process suggested a desire by decision-makers to avoid a bottleneck in the Christmas Island detention centre as well as a lack of information about the situation in Afghanistan were among the reasons for the stratospherically high Afghan success rate.

Refugee Council president John Gibson said there was "no way the (current) decision-making reflects the situation on the ground" in Afghanistan. "In terms of Afghans, there is a question mark over the integrity of the process," Mr Gibson said.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Immigration Department "categorically denied" any political interference in the refugee selection process. "Any such suggestions are baseless and totally without foundation," he said.

The spokesman said new country information had been formulated in February, indicating that most Australia-bound Afghans had experienced greater stability "in recent times". No details were given about what that new information was, but the spokesman confirmed their recognition rates had fallen on the strength of it.

The sudden drop has prompted the UNHCR to ask the Gillard government for an explanation, although Mr Towle said the UNHCR had not yet received one.

The Australian National University's William Maley said if anything, the outlook for Hazaras in Afghanistan had worsened over the past six months.


Now some want to dumb down doctorates

All other educational qualifications have been dumbed down so I suppose this was inevitable

THE Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies has voiced opposition to plans by the universities of Melbourne and WA to tag as doctorates their new masters-level degrees in health disciplines.

Council convenor Helene Marsh, dean of graduate research at James Cook University, said the universities' plans to badge professional masters qualifications as doctorates would "demean" the PhD.

She warned that the market for masters degree programs already suffers from wide variations in what constitutes a masters, and that the sector shouldn't let the same problem hit doctorates.

Professor Marsh said the council's opposition was in line with its guidelines that all its members had agreed to, including members from Melbourne and UWA.

The council's intervention comes just ahead of an August 2 roundtable in Sydney of vice-chancellors organised by Universities Australia to try to agree on a unified sectoral position on doctorates. It follows the Australian Qualifications Framework's decision to reject Melbourne's plans.

"The council doesn't support plans by any Australian university to give degrees which do not include the equivalent of at least two years of original research the status of a doctorate," Professor Marsh said in a letter to the HES.

"We certainly don't consider it appropriate for masters-level degrees to be badged as doctorates, irrespective of whether the degree entitles the graduate to the honorific title of Dr," she said.

The Australian Technology Network of universities has signalled its primary concern will be to protect the standing of doctorate qualifications.

"The ATN believes it is paramount for Australia to protect the stature of the doctorate to maintain our international standing of the qualifications so many people have worked hard to get," ATN chairman Ross Milbourne said in a statement to the HES.

La Trobe University vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said he is "agnostic" on the issue, but he noted that while the Melbourne and UWA plans are supported by US practice, they are out of step with the Bologna process in Europe.

Professor Johnson said the key problem in the debate over different masters-level qualifications was that the sector lacked agreed exit capabilities against which to measure qualifications.

"If we could all agree clear indications of exit capabilities we wouldn't be having this current stoush," he said.

Professor Marsh said original and significant research is the "fundamental defining characteristic" of doctoral degrees.

"The council doesn't accept that a doctorate can be earned solely or substantially on the basis of coursework. "Indeed, the council believes that coursework within a doctorate should be for research education, whether this is directed towards making a significant contribution to knowledge for the discipline or to professional practice."


21 July, 2010

Gillard dodges migrant intake question

This seems to be confirmation that her only response to immigration-driven population pressures on basic services will be to sent more migrants to plkaces outside the big cities -- a policy that did not work for Gough Whitlam -- see here and here -- and has no chance of working anywhere outside a totalitarian State

JULIA Gillard has refused to say whether she plans to cut back the migrant intake in line with her argument for a reassessment of population policy.

On Tuesday Ms Gillard said in a speech that the nation needed to ask itself whether it was time to stop packing more people into Sydney's western suburbs when the region's infrastructure and services were struggling to meet the demands of the existing population. In doing so she became the first prime minister in decades to question the notion that a growing population will drive economic growth and prosperity.

Asked on Sydney radio station 2UE today whether this meant she wanted to pare back the nation's immigration intake, Ms Gillard, a Welsh migrant, refused to be drawn. “I think that's a question not just about numbers but where they are going,” she said.

Ms Gillard said the issue was not as simple as simply putting up the house full sign in western Sydney. Instead, it was time for the nation to take pause and ensure communities had proper infrastructure and services and that growth happened where there were adequate services to cope with its impacts. “Let's just get it all right,” she said. “Let's have skilled migrants go where we need them.”

She said councils in western Sydney did not want “Just to see a rush to a big Australia” but that councils in other parts of the nation which suffered labour shortages were “crying out” for more people.


ALL schoolchildren "require opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate sex and sexuality exploration"?

We all know by now that early-age sex education has coincided with an increase in juvenile sexual activity but this would seem to positively encourage it

QUEENSLAND teachers have been told that all children "require opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate sex and sexuality exploration".

A professional development series run by Education Queensland and Queensland Health, designed to help teachers cope with the growing problem, also questioned whether parents should be told about some incidents because of the distress it caused.

Child welfare group Bravehearts and the State Opposition claimed the information was "frightening" and "concerning" and came at a time of exponential growth in young children acting sexually towards their peers.

Former Education Queensland student services executive director Leith Sterling acknowledged some sexualised behaviour policies had been unclear and said Education Queensland was considering "embedding" protective behaviours in the curriculum.

Teachers were told experimental sexual play was normal but if a child could not be easily diverted, or had used aggression, it was a problem.

Prep children masturbating in class was considered to be developmentally appropriate given there was no concerning context. An example of two Prep children mutually taking part in the act prompted one health professional to ask teachers whether it was worth telling parents, if the children could be diverted from the activity.

The session was run last year with Education Queensland initially refusing to provide public access to it. Information was released only after a Right to Information application.

The department's policies have since come under question after it was revealed year one and two boys had allegedly performed sex acts on young girls at one state school which had 18 allegations of sexualised behaviour among pupils last year – 11 of them reported to police last year.

Education Queensland director-general Lyn McKenzie said there were systems in place to help staff deal with the issue and engage with parents on any incident where student welfare was a concern.

An Education Queensland spokesman said the claim that "all children require opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate sex and sexuality exploration" was not the department's policy and "expert" opinion only.

But Bravehearts executive director Hetty Johnston said she found the statement frightening as the number of reported incidents was "growing exponentially".


The Green plan to kill your job

Andrew Bolt points out the insane policies of Australia's Green Party -- a grab-bag of just about every nutty Leftist idea ever thought of

ONE election result is already clear - and makes this debate about Tony Abbott’s “secret” plans even more brainless. Wake up, people. The Greens will have the balance of power in the Senate.

Labor sealed that deal when it agreed this week to swap preferences with a party that its wiser heads know would devastate the economy if it could. That’s politics, I guess. Winning is all, and to hell with the national interest.

But how grotesquely irresponsible. Labor is helping into power a party that demands we scrap our power stations and close industries that earn us at least $60 billion a year. Oh, and it wants us all to have more holidays, because hard work and making money really sucks.

About 12 per cent of voters say this is just the party for them, and even Labor now says it’s the best of the rest. Yes, that really is how infantile our society, and our politics especially, has become.

But Labor, whose primary vote has been unusually low, says this only because it badly needs Greens preferences to tip it over the line. In exchange, it’s agreed to help the Greens save its own five Senate seats - and to probably win a couple more.

It was already virtually inevitable Labor would win back some Senate seats from the Coalition, which overachieved in 2004, the Mark Latham election. But this deal also kisses goodbye to Victoria’s Family First Senator, Steve Fielding, who lucked his seat in 2004 when Labor absentmindedly preferenced him but will lose it now Labor is steering its second votes to the Greens instead.

That will be all it takes. After this election, no Government will be able to pass a law against the Opposition’s objection without the support of the Greens, and Greens alone.

Never before has this party had so much power - and so much opportunity to finally inflict on us some of the policies that so many innocent voters have treated as a just-dreaming position statement, rather than a deliberate manifesto for the de-industrialisation of our economy and the tribalising of our society.

This now is the real issue: how much of our future did Labor sell off just to get these Greens’ preferences? Never mind this week’s faked scare campaign about what workplace laws Opposition leader Abbott might secretly plan. The hapless schmuck couldn’t get them through a Greens-Labor Senate even if he wanted to.

No, what really needs debate is what the Greens might now demand from a Gillard government in exchange for its vote. And that, in turn, needs journalists especially to at last take seriously this party’s policies.

The truth is that the Greens’ manifesto has not been written down just for a joke or some mood music. It is the serious work of the serious ideological warriors hiding behind Bob Brown’s amiable front.

Vote Greens in this election and you won’t get cuddlier koalas, bigger hugs and cleaner rivers.In fact, you’ll be voting to “transition from coal exports”, which means ending a trade worth $55 billion a year. You’ll be voting to “end ... the mining and export of uranium”, worth another $900 million a year. You’ll be demanding farmers “remove as far as possible” all genetically modified crops, which includes GM cotton worth about $1.3 billion a year.

You’ll be voting to close down many other businesses and industries, including the export of woodchips from old-growth forests, certain kinds of fishing, oil and mineral exploration in parks or wildernesses, and new coal mines of any kind. You’ll even be voting to close the Lucas Heights nuclear facility, even though it actually produces treatments for cancer.

In fact, you’ll be voting for policies deliberately intended to make us poorer. Less industrialised. Or as the Greens’ policy puts it, for a “reduction of Australia’s use of natural resources to a level that is sustainable and socially just”. Whatever that formula means.

Maybe you think it won’t matter if a few industries get shut, as long as the rest make up for this loss of 6 per cent of our national income each year. Maybe you really are that stupid.

But you haven’t heard the rest of the Greens’ policies yet, have you? You see, the Greens also plan to shut the coal-fired power stations that produce 80 per cent of the electricity used to run our homes, factories, offices, hospitals, shops, traffic lights and airports. They not only “oppose the establishment of new coal-fired power stations” - claiming they make the planet dangerously hot - but intend to ban new coal supplies for those we already have. What’s more, they’ll hit our power stations with a new carbon tax to make wicked electricity too expensive for you.

Do you have any idea how many businesses would be driven broke by this green frolic? How many hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost?

Already Labor’s threat to bring in emissions trading some time after 2012 has caused power station operators to cancel half the $18 billion they’d planned a year ago to spend on maintaining the ones they had or building the new power stations we’ll need as we grow bigger and richer. Power shortages now seem certain.

But if you think the Greens must surely have alternative power sources in mind to make up for the 80 per cent they’ll switch off, you’re dreaming. The Greens want to keep Labor’s ban on nuclear power, the most likely alternative and greenest source of base-load power. They even want to scrap government-financed research into carbon capture and storage, which is Labor’s one hope of making coal-fired stations still greenhouse-friendly.

Sure, the Greens do promise to somehow get 30 per cent of our electricity from “renewable” sources within just 10 years, but there’s a small problem. Correction, huge one. We’ve only managed to lift our renewable energy to 6 per cent after all these years of subsidies, and three quarters of that is from hydro-electricity. But guess which party bans any more of these river-killing dams?

So consider. If the Greens get their avowed way, we’ll have huge industries banned, businesses driven broke and power prices driven through the roof, with not enough electricity for what industries will be left.

So with our income slashed to ribbons, what do the Greens propose? Not deep cuts in every government program, but a spending spree to make Kevin Rudd seem a miser. It’s free money for everyone. If you vote for the Greens, you’re voting for an extra week of holidays for all, “mandated shorter standard working hours”, more pay to women workers, higher pay for casuals, and better weekly benefits to students and artists.

More pay for less work, at the mere stroke of a green pen. Isn’t this a darling way to reorganise the economy? What could possibly go wrong?

Too spendthrift, you complain? Wise up, friend. The Greens have barely started. They promise to lift foreign aid to “a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2010”, which means an instant rise in handouts of $4 billion a year.

Another $2 billion a year will go to scrap tertiary fees and forgiving all HECS debts. Billions more will go on putting train lines underground and subsidising “green” power.

On and on the spending spirals, as if the Greens are the party for spoiled children using daddy’s credit card, with not the slightest giddy thought of how it’s all going to be paid for.

Oh, excuse me - the Greens do lazily assume that the bill will be covered by hiking corporate taxes, hitting the richer 5 per cent of us with wealth taxes, and slugging air travellers. Show us your costings, Bob. Wouldn’t come within a bull’s roar.

I’d be amazed if after a year of two of this that anyone would want to come to a country that by then would be a smoking hole in the ground. Yet the Greens plan to do their airy best to attract more beggars to their new nation of freeloaders.

Any “asylum seeker” making it here by boat would be freed into the community within 14 days, security checks permitting, and rewarded with instant benefits, medical services and school for the children. These tempting goodies will be offered to “environmental refugees”, too.

Guess to the nearest 10,000 how many people from Third World countries will want to cash in? Guess how many more billions this will cost, and what fresh tensions we’ll import?

By then, though, we’ll have more of our own ethnic tensions than ever, as the Greens divide us into tribes, squabbling over precedent and spoils.

Aborigines will be written into the constitution as having “prior occupation and sovereignty” over this shared land, and will be allowed to “reclaim language, heritage and cultural practices”. Like payback?

The more newly arrived will win the right to have government programs “implemented in languages other than English”, and to have their “cultural and linguistic diversity ... respected”. Like shariah law?

As for our defence ties with the United States, well, phooey to those white capitalist imperialists. The Greens want to close the joint bases here, pull out of the US missile defence program and end the ANZUS treaty. Naturally, many counter-terrorism laws will also be “reformed”. Which means weakened.

There’s not much point in going on, picking out the economic idiocy and social lunacy of a manifesto that would leave us poorer, more divided and more defenceless. The laughing stock of Asia.

It’s all so crazy that you may dismiss it as the idle dreams of homoeopaths in tofu sandals. But a new, militant industrial agenda is also buried in this New Age madness, signalling the arrival in Bob Brown’s party of “watermelon Greens” - green outside and red in, and meaning business big time.

These, like lead NSW candidate Lee Rhiannon, seem Greens more of convenience than faith, using this doctors’ wives party to smuggle in the kind of hard-Left politics that would scare off the voters if they saw it coming under a hammer and sickle.

But be clear: vote for their Greens and you’re voting for a return of union muscle of the most bullying kind. Secret ballots for industrial action would be abolished. Unions would have a formal right to strike, and their victims less right to sue for damages. Union bosses would have more power to barge into your workplace, and to dragoon workers into “industry wide agreements that are union negotiated”.

This is what a vote for the Greens really means. And it’s this party of vandals, tribalists and closet totalitarians that shameless Labor now helps to such threatening influence.


Heterosexual marriage is society's bedrock

By Bill Muehlenberg, secretary of the Family Council of Victoria

SADLY Derryn Hinch manages to mangle just about everything in the marriage debate (The Australian, July 16).

He totally misses the purposes of marriage for example. Marriage is a universal and historical institution which serves tremendous social purposes.

It regulates human sexuality, and it procures the wellbeing of any offspring from the sexual union. Thus it is not a mere private matter, but a vitally important social institution.

Governments have an overwhelming interest in heterosexual marriage. They have no reason to confer special rights and privileges on other types of sexual relationships. People are free to engage in those relationships, but they cannot expect to see their relationships elevated to that of heterosexual marriage.

Indeed, talk of inequality and discrimination is off base here. Those arguing for same-sex marriage are mixing apples with oranges. Everyone is entitled to the benefits of marriage as long as they meet the conditions and requirements of it.

Homosexual relationships simply do not meet the criteria, the most basic being to have one man and one woman. Governments have no obligation whatsoever to treat unequal things equally, or to grant the benefits of marriage to those who refuse to meet its minimum requirements.

Of course various social goods are denied to all sorts of people for various reasons. A driver who cannot meet the obligations of low insurance rates (too young, too many accidents and so on) will not be eligible to receive those benefits. That is how life operates. If anything, it is a necessary and just discrimination.

To survive, all societies engage in discrimination all the time. However, discrimination can be good as well as bad. Societies have always discriminated in favour of heterosexual unions and the children they produce because of the social good derived from them.

Procreation and the raising of children is an overwhelmingly important social good, and the mother-father unit cemented by marriage is an overwhelmingly superior way of ensuring the best outcomes for children. Therefore societies everywhere extend favours and benefits to married couples that they do not extend to other types of relationships.

The restrictions on marriage apply equally to everyone, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Thus there is no discrimination. The homosexual lobby is seeking to fundamentally rewrite the rule books on marriage to get all the benefits while avoiding the obligations.

And if we redefine marriage out of existence in order to placate the homosexual activists, then why stop there?

There are all sorts of other sexual relationships that people are demanding recognition of. Polyamory, or group love, is a growing movement demanding the rights to marriage as well.

The exact arguments used by those pushing for same-sex marriage are being used by the polyamorists.

If we legalise the former, is it not discriminatory and unjust to outlaw the latter? They too claim that it is all about love, and that they should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.

And Hinch is quite wrong to suggest that same-sex relationships are long-lasting. Plenty of studies prove the exact opposite. A recent study of homosexual men in Amsterdam found that the "duration of steady partnerships" was 1.5 years.

The truth is, plenty of homosexuals do not even want marriage. How many homosexuals actually avail themselves of it when it becomes legally available? Let's go back to The Netherlands. Same-sex marriage has been legal there since 2001, yet only about four per cent of Dutch homosexuals married during the first five years of legalisation.

Also, same-sex marriage demands are inexorably tied up with demands for homosexual parenting rights. But 40 years of social science research has overwhelmingly demonstrated the crucial importance two biological parents play in the wellbeing of children.

The studies make it clear that every child should have the basic human right of being raised by his or her own mother and father. And a recent Galaxy poll found that a full 86 per cent of Australians believe children should be raised by their biological parents.

This of course is stolen from them in same-sex households. Heterosexual marriage is society's most profound and valuable institution. It has been the bedrock of nations from time immemorial. To radically alter the nature of marriage and family is a recipe for trouble.


20 July, 2010

Greens push for anti-corruption watchdog to probe MPs and Commonwealth agencies

There are already watchdogs galore but most are pretty toothless so I applaud this idea. A new one might bite for a while

BOB Brown will today announce plans for a federal anti-corruption watchdog to tackle misconduct by commonwealth agencies and federal politicians.

Law enforcement agencies would also be targeted by the Greens leader's proposed national, independent integrity and anti-corruption commission.

The body would oversee prevention and investigation of misconduct and corruption in commonwealth agencies, among federal parliamentarians, in the Australian Federal Police and in the Australian Crime Commission.

Senator Brown said he would also legislate for a code of conduct for lobbyists, ministers and ministerial staff, including “in house” lobbyists from government agencies.


Electricity shortages and prices rises looming because of "Green" dithering by ALP

JULIA Gillard faces new pressure over the failure to develop a credible response to climate change. A new survey has found electricity generators have slashed capital spending on power stations by $10 billion because of uncertainty over carbon policy. The finding has fuelled business concerns about the adequacy of energy infrastructure and likely further price rises.

The new survey by the Energy Supply Association of Australia has found that continuing uncertainty over greenhouse policy, combined with the upheaval in financial markets, are "severely" restricting the access the electricity generators have to much-needed funds.

Overall, the survey finds, the energy sector will need to find more than $94.1bn for refinancing over the next five years to replace ageing networks, connect new wind farms to the grid and service a growing population.

Electricity generators now plan capital spending of $4.7bn on existing power stations and $3.5bn on new power stations over the next five years -- down from the total $18bn forecast a year ago -- and the plunge is "overwhelmingly" because of uncertain future carbon policy. A further $15.33bn is planned in operating and maintenance for the power stations.

The generators have to refinance $9.4bn in debt and raise a further $3.9bn in debt over that time, but they fear they may not secure it because investors and lenders are spooked by uncertainty over climate change and the state of the financial markets.

ESAA chief executive Brad Page said the uncertainty over greenhouse policy had undermined the credit quality of carbon-intensive generators. Mr Page said the survey was done during the first quarter of the year -- a time when Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme was shelved and there were still concerns about the problems with the renewable energy target before the scheme was overhauled.

The findings also add to pressure on Tony Abbott, who has vowed there will be no price on carbon if the Coalition comes to office.

Business Council of Australia president Graham Bradley warned that unless investment in electricity generation was encouraged, "we're heading for real problems".

Mr Bradley urged the new government to produce the green and white energy papers, promised in 2008, which have been delayed. Mr Bradley also told The Australian: "We would consider that white paper to be deficient if it does not canvass the merits of nuclear power as one of the longer-term options for Australia for the future economic generation of electricity and reduction of carbon emissions."

He also warned that the renewable energy target, coupled with other rising input costs, could lead to the need for higher power prices. "Australian industry has had a huge national advantage from low-cost electricity generation, and society as a whole has benefited from low-cost domestic prices for electricity," Mr Bradley said.

"We are now faced with the prospect of higher electricity prices partly driven by our national commitment to invest in higher-cost renewables such as wind and solar. "This cost trend will be exacerbated if we don't have a clear strategy soon to replace our ageing baseload coal-fired power stations."


All eyes on Queensland

Everyone agrees this election will come down to Queensland. But can a state with only one fifth of the country’s seats (30 out of 150) really be that important?

New South Wales has 48 seats and Victoria 37. Queensland is very important, for several reasons.

One is that it has a history of swinging - big time. Usually the massive shifts have been to the Coalition (for example 1975 and 1996), but in 2007 Queensland went by seven and a half percent, and nine seats, to the ALP led by Kevin Rudd. Without Queensland’s swing contribution, John Howard would still be prime minister. (Ok, maybe Peter Costello.) But 2007 was also off the 2004 Mark-Latham-induced low base.

In addition, unlike the other mainland states (but like Tasmania), the ALP doesn’t have much of a “heartland” in Queensland. After a wipeout little remains. The 1975 post-dismissal election saw Labor retain only Bill Hayden’s seat of Oxley. In 1996 Pauline Hanson took Oxley and Labor was left with Brisbane and Rankin.

The other states, particularly NSW and Victoria, have a solid set of (mostly low income) seats which stay with the ALP no matter what.

There is also the fact that 2007, when Queenslanders gave a touch over half the two party preferred vote (50.4 percent), was a once in a generation occasion. The graph below shows nationwide and Queensland Labor two party preferred votes since 1949. (The pre-1983 numbers are AEC estimates rather than actual.) Red is national, purple is Queensland.

The last time Labor got a Queensland vote majority was in 1990, before that in 1961. These were also the only elections at which Queensland’s Labor vote was higher than the rest of the country’s. On all three the ALP vote was just a touch over half, but they got more than half the seats.

Unless Queensland’s electoral persona has drastically changed, the only way in 2010 is down for Labor, and there are more marginal Labor seats in Queensland than any other state. For example, of the seats (notionally) held by Labor by five percent or less, 10 are in Queensland and 18 in the rest of the country.

Queensland should not go back to its 2004 result or anything like it, but it will go part of the way and seats will topple. The Coalition will probably also make gains in New South Wales, and one or two in Tasmania.

So making up ground elsewhere, and minimising the Queensland losses, is crucial to the government’s survival. Just how a party goes about wooing a particular state (or indeed seat) is never clear. Whisper sweet nothings without annoying the other states. Throw money around.

You could call Queensland a large state with a small state mentality in the way it sees its place in the country. It has more people than South Australia but “thinks” more like Western Australia and Tasmania. That’s why having a Queensland leader added value for Labor. Labor is not helped by his demise, or by an ageing, unpopular state Labor government.

But we can anticipate that other Nambour boy, deputy prime minister and treasurer Wayne Swan, will be making many appearances in the most volatile mainland state.


Tony Abbott staunch on Israel support

TONY Abbott yesterday accused Labor of weakening the bipartisanship on Israel. The Opposition Leader vowed a government led by him would never "overreact" to international incidents and said the Coalition's support for Israel was "unshakeable".

"Of course, the Israeli government from time to time makes mistakes -- what government doesn't from time to time make mistakes? -- but Australians should appreciate that a diminished Israel diminishes the West; it diminishes us," Mr Abbott said.

"I have to say it's a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian people and the Israeli people, that the current Australian government has somewhat weakened our long-standing bipartisanship on Israel."

Mr Abbott appeared to be referring to Labor's expulsion of the Mossad station chief in retaliation for the Israeli intelligence agency's use of counterfeit Australian passports in the Dubai assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January.

He said a Coalition government would never support a one-sided UN resolution against Israel.

In a wide-ranging economic speech to the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Mr Abbott attacked the mining tax, arguing Labor was sending a signal to every business in the country of "do not succeed" -- the economic version of the "tall poppy syndrome". "Don't let anyone say that the mining industry somehow wants this tax . . . they don't," he said.

When it came to the economy, he conceded the Hawke-Keating government "got it", but the Rudd-Gillard government did not.

To appease business concerns about his paid parental leave scheme, he described it not as a threat but an important reform.

He said lower spending was the only way in which government could deliver lower taxes.


Australian health authorities in denial over serious disease threat

A SYDNEY woman has been awarded a Supreme Court injunction to have her dead husband tested for a disease the Health Department says does not exist in Australia.

Mualla Akinci's husband, Karl McManus, died last Wednesday - three years after he was bitten by a tick she says carried Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which, if left untreated, can cause profound neurological damage.

Mr McManus, 43, from Turramurra, was bitten on the left side of his chest during filming for the television show Home and Away in bushland in Waratah Park, northern Sydney. Within six weeks he lost mobility in one of the fingers on his left hand. That quickly spread to paralysis in his left arm and across to his right arm.

Mr McManus was diagnosed with multifocal neuropathy after testing negative for Lyme disease, but Ms Akinci, a pharmacist, insisted he be tested again at clinics in the US and Germany. Both tests returned positive for Lyme disease.

She argues that Australian tests are inadequate because pathologists looks for antibodies in the blood, rather than for proteins in specific bacteria within tissue.

"Lyme doesn't usually live in the blood. It lives in tissues unless someone's system is flushed with it so it stands to reason that every test will come back negative," Ms Akinci said.

The Health Department maintains that no case has been transmitted in Australia and the organisms that cause it - three species of the genus borrelia - are not carried here by wildlife, livestock or their parasites.

The NSW Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said in May there was not enough evidence to support the existence of ticks carrying the borrelia organism.

"Until there is solid evidence to indicate that locally acquired Lyme disease is a significant public health matter in Australia, specific measures to educate the general public or clinicians are difficult to justify," she said.

But Tim Roberts, of Newcastle University's school of environmental and life sciences, said that it was becoming more difficult for the government to deny the problem.

"Westmead Hospital [where most testing is performed] categorically says there are no Lyme organisms in Australia, but a significant number of people certainly look like they have the signs and symptoms," Associate Professor Roberts said.

His view is supported by Peter Mayne, a GP from Laurieton who says he has 12 patients with the disease. Western blot testing, the standard used in Australia for 25 years, missed most cases because patients on antibiotics did not have antibodies to the disease, he said.

"It is a very, very difficult diagnosis to make in a lab. But I believe it does exist and there are many doctors who agree."

Last week, hours after Mr McManus died by choking from his paralysed tongue, Ms Akinci sought to have an autopsy performed on his body but was told by Glebe Morgue a backlog of more than 46 bodies meant that was impossible.

"I was also told he had died from natural causes so an autopsy wasn't needed," she said.

Ms Akinci then applied to the Supreme Court and was granted permission to have the autopsy done at Royal North Shore Hospital. Preliminary results are expected tomorrow. "He wanted answers, I want answers," she said.


19 July, 2010

At last some detail about how the Australian Left plans to deal with the pressure on services caused by high levels of immigration

It looks like Gillard's idea is to keep the immigrants coming but send them to small towns rather than the major cities. Just how she is going to enforce that is unknown. Her Labor Party predecessor, Gough Whitlam, tried that in the '70s with his policy of decentralization but the big cities just kept on growing regardless. Quite laughable really: Just more ill-considered "policy on the run". It's exactly what got Kevin Rudd tossed out of the top job

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is risking a backlash from Labor voters, ditching Kevin Rudd's "big Australia" concept and promising to "take a breath" to get immigration right.

Vowing to "always put our quality of life first", she linked rapid population growth with Australians' declining quality of life. "Let's not make our national goal a `big Australia'," Ms Gillard said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott seized on her population sustainability focus, immediately linking it to the other election wildcard, asylum seekers.

Ms Gillard's focus on sustainability is also a reversal of the stance of the former prime minister, Mr Rudd. "There is no easy way to simply go on absorbing large-scale population increases without something giving way," Ms Gillard said. "We need to think carefully about our future population - and where and how growth can be accommodated in the years to come."

Mr Abbott said he thought Australians "want to feel like they are in charge of their destiny." "That's the problem with the boat-people issue. We feel that we've become a soft touch," he said. "We feel that people are in a sense taking advantage of us; that the people smugglers and not the Australian Government, and ultimately the Australian people, are in charge of the immigration program."

But refugee advocates remain concerned that the immigration debate is a cipher for a more inflammatory debate below the surface about border protection and asylum seekers in the wake of continuing unlawful arrivals and the Government's attempts to neutralise the problem.

Ms Gillard's "sustainable Australia" comments overturn decades of support for high immigration intakes and echo Pauline Hanson's One Nation message to Australians worried excessive immigration would disadvantage them. "Australia cannot and should not hurtle down the track towards a big population," Ms Gillard said.

The new objective of a sustainable Australia "that preserves our quality of life and respects our environment", reveals her main campaign theme in the August 21 election and is likely to be the guiding principle of her yet-to-be-revealed climate-change policy.

Three "expert panels" will inquire into issues like liveability, sustainable development, and productivity, with the objective of drafting Australia's first population strategy.

The move is designed to woo outer-suburban voters once referred to as "Howard's battlers". It aims to quell their concerns over traffic congestion, competition for GP appointments, and housing.

Research by both parties shows these voters hold the election in their hands because they occupy many marginal seats.

In her first official dip into the national wallet, Ms Gillard committed a future Labor government to providing $200 million to give 15 regional towns up to $15 million each to help them cope with population growth. The money, from existing programs, would help build up to 15,000 new homes over three years as well as roads and other infrastructure.

But only one SA town, Mt Gambier, will be eligible for the new assistance, in what could emerge as a recurring problem for SA because the main election contest is on the eastern seaboard.

In NSW, 19 towns will get assistance, 10 in Queensland and eight in Victoria.

Whyalla Mayor Jim Pollock was unimpressed, but remained hopeful a prime ministerial visit to the upper Spencer Gulf later in the campaign would yield a better result.

"I'm personally very disappointed that Whyalla and the upper Spencer Gulf and Eyre Peninsula have not been considered, given the concerns we had with the super mining tax, which really was very concerning to Whyalla and OneSteel," he said. "We could quite easily do with more population growth here in Whyalla and hopefully the PM has us and the region in mind."

Previous attempts by state governments to encourage people to move to smaller population centres have usually failed. But Ms Gillard hopes improvements in infrastructure can entice some to consider the shift. "I say to regional Australia, let us use common sense and hard work as our compass and partnership as our way ahead," she said.


Julia Gillard locked into a policy paralysis

By Terry McCrann

JULIA Gillard's claim that the election is "all about the future" is half-right and 100 per cent spin. It's a transparent attempt to separate her from the blunders of the Rudd-Gillard government in general and her own specific responsibility for the $14billion school halls waste-a-thon.

Of course we won't be voting to elect a government to re-run the past three years. But any election is first a judgment on what the government that was actually in power did. Because that's also the best guide to what it will do in the next three.

Gillard wants to have it both ways. Don't judge me on my past performance, at the same time demanding a potential Abbott government be defined by what the Howard government did.

Just how she would "move forward" has been shown by what she's done in the first month of the now Gillard Government. She had three big problems to "tick off". The mining tax brawl. The boats. And climate change.

She threw money at the first. Not just the $1.5 billion claimed, but more like $13.5 billion - which makes it a bigger blunder than her schools waste-a-thon.

She threw spin at the second one. The "Clayton's East Timor solution". And she's thrown some confused rhetoric at the third. She believes in climate change but wants a community consensus.

All three "solutions" point to the same bigger issue. The underlying assumption that the China boom will keep pouring money into Australia. She could "give up" $13.5 billion of resource tax revenue because the China boom would still pump in $10.5 billion under the gutted new tax.

Even if the assumption of a never-ending China boom proves correct, Australia still faces a challenging future.

We need to continue the reform dynamic of the Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello years. A reform dynamic which stalled or went into reverse in the Rudd-Gillard period. And if China stalls and we hit rocky times, we need that continued reform to protect us from potentially very bitter winds.

The single most important lesson of the past two years was not the one claimed by the Government that its stimulus saved us from recession. But that it was precisely because of the reforms of the two previous governments that put it and Australia in the position to be able to do that.

This should be an election between two sides competing to tell us the truth about the hard and ultimately rewarding reforms we still need.

It is bad enough that a Gillard government would be committed to standing still on reform. Worse, she has sought to "lock" a future Abbott government into the same policy paralysis. And depressingly, she has probably succeeded, with Abbott's politically understandable promise not to touch the labour market.

So we face five weeks of a fake argument over "moving forward" with both sides promising hand-on-heart to not do what would actually move us forward.


Litany of lies judged at poll

Piers Akerman

DON’T be fooled: the choice in the August 21 election is stark. Labor would like you to believe it has moved towards the centre of the political spectrum, that there’s little to separate it from the conservative Opposition - but don’t believe it for a moment.

It’s just another in a long list of fanciful falsehoods the ALP has made a hallmark of its administration. The choice at this election is absolute, and the Rudd-Gillard Labor government has made it so.

Since Labor won office in 2007, it has chosen to distance itself from the Howard-Costello government agenda it claimed it would emulate when it was focused on wooing the electorate.

In this election, Labor has not only chosen the timing, it has provided the weapons - character assassination among them.

Julia Gillard will not say whether she ratted on a deal with former PM Kevin Rudd, preferring to let the political classes speculate she welshed (this may not be a politically correct term, but Gillard has blessed the politically incorrect) on an agreement.

She may have. Although, as she was briefing a suite full of supporters when the supposed deal was in the air, it seems unlikely details of such a deal would not have leaked before. The leak came from Rudd’s supporters. But Gillard still loses credibility and Labor remains a house divided because of her refusal to come clean on the nastiness that won her the prime ministership, and now she wants Australians to trust her.

Gillard would desperately like the electorate to think the choice is solely about economic management; it’s not. Even if it were, Labor’s economic record is one of debt and deceit.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner and Gillard were all members of Rudd’s Gang of Four. This is the quartet that signed off on all major policy decisions from November, 2007, until June 25 this year, when Gillard was sworn in.

Three of the Gang of Four are still there, but now they want to blame all the appallingly bad decisions Labor has made over the past three years on their former leader - the man they stood four-square behind right up until June 24.

The rubbery figures released by Treasury in the past week show just how irresponsible the Rudd-Gillard government has been with economic management throughout its term.

Relying on Treasury for information is one thing. Using the Treasury secretary as a political mercenary (albeit with Ken Henry’s tacit agreement and approval) has debauched the notion of an independent public service and independent advice.

Gillard says she wants the focus of the election to be “on taking the nation forward” - as you would, if you were up to your neck in a mire largely of your own making.

The litany of disastrous policy decisions taken by this Government would fill a book, but among the best known are the Building Education Revolution - for which Gillard must accept sole responsibility - and its failed border-protection policy - another failure from Gillard’s drawing board, as was its hastily buried Medicare Gold.

Gillard has ducked and weaved and transparently told serial untruths about the wasteful school-building program. She appears to have misled Parliament last September with her claim that the initial $12.4 billion allocated was inadequate because the program had been over-subscribed. The Auditor-General reported this was not the case, “nor was it the result of more schools seeking to participate than had originally been forecast”.

The Auditor-General is now investigating Gillard’s My School program. She even made the totally laughable claim on the ABC’s PM program, and elsewhere, that she was prevented by law from revealing whether she’d even received a draft of the report on the BER.

The Rudd-Gillard ministers and their media cheer squad have made it clear they will target the Opposition’s industrial-relations policy, but in order to make it a bullseye, they will have to lie - just as they continue to promote the lie that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott stripped a billion dollars from the health budget.

Abbott has said from the outset that Howard’s WorkChoices policy is dead. Yesterday, he said it was not only dead, but its body had been buried and cremated. Not sufficiently deceased for Labor, though. It will resurrect the ashes, reconstruct the corpse and revive the remnants for the duration of this campaign.

Many of the issues the public wants fixed are the same problems Labor promised to solve: the health crisis facing all states and territories; the hazardous, and occasionally deadly, traffic in unauthorised people-smuggler boats with their human cargoes; and public education.

Stealing GST revenues from the states is not an answer to the health-funding problem, attempting to coerce regional neighbours into accepting an unpopular offshore processing centre is no solution to the boat-people issue, and the preparation of a left-wing curriculum is not going to better educate the next generation.

Gillard’s plea for the nation to move forward is cliched rhetoric. She wants us to look forward because she can’t afford to have us looking back.

The Opposition has pledged to wind back national debt, lower taxes and reduce wasteful spending. The choice could not be clearer.


The dysfunctional NSW ambulance service yet again

SUSPENDED Sydney paramedic Trent Speering fumed that the New South Wales Ambulance Service was run by "degenerates" and was bigoted towards redheads before shooting dead his elderly mother and himself, a court has been told.

On June 11, 2008, the 40-year-old visited his 70-year-old mother, Monica Speering, at her Baulkham Hills home and shot her twice in the head before covering her with a blanket and resting her head on a pillow.

Mr Speering then killed himself, a coronial inquest into both deaths heard today.

The day after the shootings, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper opened a letter to the editor from Mr Speering detailing the reasons for his actions.

John Agius, counsel assisting the coroner, outlined some of contents of the letter in the NSW Coroners Court today.

"There are two main reasons as to why I've taken the action I have," Mr Agius read from the letter. "One is that there is a lot of bigotry towards people with red hair in this workplace ... and I've copped my share in my lifetime ... "I work for the Ambulance Service of NSW and you would be hard pressed to find an organisation more morally bankrupt, and run by a bigger bunch of degenerates if you tried."

Mr Speering went on to say that he would kill his mother and himself. The letter triggered a police investigation but officers arrived at the house too late.

Mr Agius told coroner Mary Jerram that repeated recommendations from paramedic colleagues and medical experts that Mr Speering undergo a psychological assessment, had not been adopted.

"There are issues here about the duty of care for the ambulance service to Mr Speering as an employee ... given what the ambulance service ought to have known of Mr Speering's mental state," he said.

The inquest, set down for two weeks, is due to hear from numerous witnesses, including senior NSW Ambulance management.


18 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks Julia Gillard is full of hot air

Gillard promising to curb immigration-driven population growth

All talk? She's been saying this ever since she got the top job but no details so far on how she will do it

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is set to deliver a speech in Brisbane today to quell concerns surrounding the stresses on Australia's cities from a rising population.

There is likely to be a major focus on Australia's population and immigration levels during the five-week election campaign.

After announcing yesterday that Australia would go to the polls on August 21, Ms Gillard headed to Queensland, which is shaping up to become the key battleground.

Both parties are set to target marginal seats in the outer-metropolitan areas of both Queensland and New South Wales where there are concerns over congestion and immigration issues. Labor holds several seats in the state on a margin of less than 5 per cent.

Earlier today Ms Gillard's first stop in Brisbane on the campaign trail was to hug babies at a family day in Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan's electorate of Lilley.

When Kevin Rudd was prime minister he said he made "no apologies for a big Australia" but Ms Gillard has already made it clear that she is not in favour of that.

Today Ms Gillard will use a speech to the Eidos Institute in Brisbane to state Labor's case for a sustainable population that would support people's quality of life. She will say that it is "no surprise that people living in the suburbs of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and the Gold Coast are concerned by the talk of our population rushing to 36 or 40 million."

Just days after she took over the prime ministership from Kevin Rudd, Ms Gillard changed the title of Tony Burke's portfolio from population to sustainable population.

This morning Mr Burke told ABC1's Insiders that there are serious issues of congestion in Australia's cities. "There has been a practice for years in Australia that will just keep packing more and more people into the same handful of cities," he said. "The word sustainability actually gets us back to the core principle of asking the question, it's not just about constant economic growth driven by property prices continuing to soar."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has told Sky News the Government is panicking on the issue. "Julia Gillard says she is against Kevin Rudd's big Australia. She never said that when Kevin Rudd announced it," he said. "It does look like a panicked change of policy with the election in the offing."

Mr Abbott also says a Coalition government would take a different approach to the immigration intake. "I'm not against a higher population," he said. "What I completely reject is that we should just take for granted that we're going to bring in 180,000 or 300,000 [immigrants], which are the current figures, year in year out, come what may come 2050 and beyond."

Mr Abbott did not specify what he the immigration intake would be under the Coalition but said it should be reassessed each year.


Only 222 of 800 new nursing graduates get jobs in Queensland Health intake

They employ at least 2 bureaucrats for every nurse but bureaucrat jobs are far more important than nursing jobs, of course. I'd like to hear of a single bureaucrat who has ever helped the sick, though. All they do is have meeting and generate dumb paperwork

NURSING graduates are unable to find a job in Queensland's public health system, despite a chronic shortage of nurses in hospitals.

Just 222 of the 800 nursing graduates who applied for positions with Queensland Health received a position as part of the mid-year intake this year.

Graduates and the Queensland Nurses Union believe the reasons are a lack of funding and an unwillingness to mentor young recruits.

But Queensland Health maintains it has a new strategy to be implemented next year to address the problem. "The QNU is extremely concerned about the impact budget constraints are having on the employment of new graduates and other nurses and midwives within Queensland Health," QNU assistant secretary Beth Mohle said. "Even though there is a nurse shortage, we are hearing reports that hundreds of new graduate nurses cannot find a job in Queensland."

Ms Mohle said "for some years" Queensland Health had failed to employ the full quota. "This is an imperative with thousands of new beds coming on line; we need to have a workforce ready," she said. "We have to be increasing numbers up to eight per cent to keep up with growth. "

Because of the global financial crisis many nursing staff were staying in their current jobs, but "over the next 20 years because of the age profile of the workforce two-thirds of those currently employed will leave", she said.

Meanwhile, the number of university enrolments for nurses continues to rise, with an increase of 16 per cent last year compared with 2008.

In Queensland, 54 of the state's 166 hospitals provide graduate positions.

A nursing graduate from the Kingaroy region said Queensland Health was choosing to employ casual agency staff over graduates. "They are cutting back on training because of the budget. They are not willing to give the opportunity to graduates because they haven't got the money," she said.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman confirmed 222 nursing graduates of the 800 applicants were employed in the March/April intake.

"From next year, a new strategy will be introduced to employ nurse graduates according to targets in each district, which is expected to result in employment of more graduates, particularly those who are Queensland residents," the spokeswoman said.

The Queensland Nurses Union state conference last week was told by researcher Barb Preston that it was the present nature of the labour market stopping graduates being employed.

"A high proportion of nursing employment is provided by the Government."


Child carers with criminal records get the OK from "Anti-discrimination" tribunal

Here's betting that the tribunal members would not expose their own children to such people

A foster carer who assaulted a child, a school hockey coach who hid drugs internally and a man who threw a molotov cocktail into a home have been given blue cards to work or volunteer with children.

They are among seven Queenslanders with criminal convictions who were rejected for blue cards by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, and then won them after appeals to a tribunal this year. Two of the seven people now considered safe to work with children have spent time in jail.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decided in each of the cases, which were made public last week, that the Commissioner was wrong in finding they were "exceptional cases" for refusal.

Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser said she was reviewing the Tribunal's decisions, and was considering appealing some if there were legal grounds.

In 2009-10, 230,867 blue cards were issued, while more than 650 people were prohibited from holding one.

Thirteen people who were refused blue cards successfully appealed, eight lost their appeals, and 12 others lodged appeals but then withdrew them.

The foster carer was convicted of common assault and put on a six-month good behaviour bond in 2008 for punishing an eight-year-old girl in his care using a rubber thong and a belt, leaving bruises.

School sports coach Laura Thompson, 20, was convicted in 2008 of possessing ecstasy and cocaine, which she had secreted internally to avoid police detection. She was fined $750 almost three months after she was issued with a blue card, which was cancelled last year.

Former Broncos player Fletcher Holmes, 22, was in 2006 convicted of assault occasioning bodily harm in company and put on two years' probation. He also has been on probation until this month for common assault for touching a female under her skirt, and had drink driving and unlicensed driving convictions.

Others who obtained blue cards on appeal were:

Richard John Waldon, 33, who had 15 convictions, including throwing a molotov cocktail into a home, extortion, assault and stealing; and

John Drinkwater, who served three years in jail until 2008 for throwing petrol bombs into an occupied house and making extortion threats.

Two other mothers with lengthy drug use histories and convictions also were issued with blue cards.


Thug NSW cops refuse to admit that they got it wrong

No apology of course. I just hope there was a substantial costs award against them

LISA MAREE BOERSMA had just returned from a holiday in the US when she found herself thrust into the middle of a nightmare. On June 23 last year the 26-year-old swimwear designer and part-time model from Bondi Beach found her black BMW surrounded by armed officers from the drug squad.

Ms Boersma was surprised when police found five one-kilogram bags of white powder and a kilogram of hydrophosphorous acid, which they said could be used as a precursor chemical in making methylamphetamine.

She had no idea how the bags got there and was stunned when a roadside test of the powder gave a reaction consistent with methylamphetamine. She was arrested and charged with supplying a prohibited drug and possessing in excess of five kilograms of methylamphetamine, which could have resulted in a 25-year jail sentence.

Ms Boersma told police that while she was abroad her car was used by her bodybuilder boyfriend and his mates. For three days she was held in custody until her solicitor, Stephen Alexander, secured bail.

In an attempt to have the bail overturned police speeded up testing of the powder, which would normally have taken six to 12 weeks. It was only then they discovered they had made a grave mistake - the powder was caffeine dimethyl sulfone, a legally obtainable supplement taken by bodybuilders.

Yet police would not drop the charges. Finally, on Thursday, Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson in the Downing Centre Local Court dismissed the case against Ms Boersma. "My client has gone from hell to heaven in having to endure this mistake," Mr Alexander said as they walked from court.


17 July, 2010

Gillard's election gambit pure opportunism

She's not giving the voters a chance to see her form

Julia Gillard has called the election in the same way she took the prime ministership – opportunistically. She had to take the prime ministership, she told us, because Rudd Labor was “a good government that has lost its way.” Yet we now see that she has no confidence that she can help it find a better way.

By calling the election after only three weeks in the prime ministership, she is telling us that she expects the government’s political conditions to worsen.

The election date is three months before the expiry of the three years that makes a notional full term. And constitutionally, the prime minister would be perfectly entitled to call an election as late as April 16 next year, seven months away.

Asked what she’d say to voters who wanted to know how she could be trusted after her lightning strike against Rudd, Gillard told the Herald: “I do understand that they might be looking at me and wondering. The only thing I could say to Australians is to judge me on how I do the job.”

But how can we? After only three weeks as prime minister, how can we make any sort of assessment of her performance? Other than rhetoric, all she’s done on substantive issues in the last three weeks is to apply emergency fixes in political trouble spots:

First, a slapdash compromise with three companies on the mining tax, with most of the industry still in a limbo of uncertainty;

Second, a half-baked effort to find a way of diverting the flow of asylum seekers;

And third, an ad hoc, ad interim mishmash of measures to pretend to have a policy on climate change.

True, the opposition doesn’t have any better policy on asylum seekers or climate change, or if it does we haven’t heard about it yet. And true, the opposition solution to the mining tax is to abolish it.

This has the virtue of simplicity, but it also leaves a reform deficit – what about the future of superannuation? And what about cutting the corporate tax rate?

These are among the difficult questions for the opposition to answer. But Gillard is not the opposition, she does not represent some hypothetical government. She IS the government.

Yet, in three weeks she has not done much governing, and certainly not enough to allow us to judge her on “how I do the job.”

So why the rush? Self-evidently, Gillard has decided that if she does give us a chance to judge her on how she does the job, her electoral support will fall.

What does she think will happen? More boats? Higher interest rates? Scrutiny her government cannot withstand? We cannot know precisely, but we know from her behaviour that she doesn’t want to wait to find out.

The opinion polls have Labor in a winning position. And so she is rushing us to the polls to take advantage of her electoral honeymoon, that wonderful suspension of disbelief that electors, in their endlessly hopeful open-mindedness about new leaders, is extending to her.

It’s pure opportunism. And Gillard is counting on it.


Same old Labor under Gillard

THE Prime Minister's honeymoon with voters may not last until the election

IMAGINE the extent of the chaos that has engulfed Julia Gillard's office in the past week. The contentious deal on the mining tax, which was meant to have been settled, began to unravel. The East Timorese solution to the problem of people smuggling, announced in her Lowy Institute speech, came unstuck. The cabinet meeting on climate change, which was touted as a way to restore the faith of the true believers and clear the decks for an election, resolved nothing.

In a moment of unusual frankness, Chris Evans, Gillard's Immigration Minister, told an audience of academics in Canberra that the debate about people smuggling "is killing this government". On the same day her Treasurer, Wayne Swan, announced that the tax concessions to the mining industry had cost not the $1.5 billion he'd announced a little more than a fortnight ago but five times as much. Another set of rubbery figures he did his best to explain away was Treasury's revised estimate of the revenue from the tax; not $12bn but $24bn. In a trice the miners' campaign was vindicated.

A government that had intended to rush to the polls as soon as possible, hoping to take advantage of its new leader's honeymoon phase with the electorate, suddenly lost a lot of its gloss but began to look trapped by the momentum it had generated. Labor strategists could hardly forget Gordon Brown's slow implosion after the last-minute decision to defer an election he'd been on the verge of calling. Nor was there a face-saving way of explaining why last weekend's Nielsen poll had Labor's primary vote falling by eight points to 39 per cent, not enough to guarantee a second term. The calm ascendancy that Gillard seemed to promise failed to materialise.

Her speech at the National Press Club on Thursday bore the hallmarks of revision. Clearly, it had first been intended as the legitimising address to follow a hasty coronation, There were echoes of another Welsh redhead, Elizabeth I, at Tilbury proclaiming that "she had but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but she had the heart and stomach of a king and a king of England too". On Thursday, our own Gloriana's message was that, despite her youthful flirtation with the Left and any other evidence to the contrary in her ministerial career, she was really a fiscal conservative.

I don't know how many people worked on the construction of the speech, but if I were in Gillard's office I'd be assigning them all to less demanding duties. Although "Moving Forward" may have worked well with focus groups and convinced the likes of her spin-doctor in chief, Bruce Hawker, its main effect was to reinforce a number of negative perceptions of her as a politician.

The notion of moving forward - or ( heavens forfend!) moving backward if the Coalition were somehow to wrest control - is demeaning. It pretends modern government is as one-dimensional an exercise as pushing a toy train along a track. It casts Gillard in the role of a strict- though kindly - primary school teacher who knows what's best for us but can't quite take us into her confidence because we are, after all, just kids.

While Gillard has the saving grace of a sense of humour, she can't help herself when it comes to the business of staying on message in a scripted speech. She always sounds wooden. What's more, the task of appealing to the electoral equivalent of the lowest common denominator brings out the most jarring, confected elements of her political persona.

I've written before about the deliberately grating vowels - somewhat softened of late along with her hairstyle in the pursuit of power - and an accent that bespeaks class antagonism. It's in marked contrast to her family's Welsh lilt or the speech of her classmates at Unley High School in Adelaide's leafy southern suburbs. It's an affectation assumed during her years in student politics but no doubt it helped her win preselection for a safe seat in Altona in outer-suburban Melbourne.

The revelation last week that she considers herself "a bit of a footy head" and likes to curl up to watch television in a pair of ugg boots is as bold an appeal for the bogan vote as anything we saw from Mark Latham. But does it tell us anything more about the real Gillard and what she stands for than the proforma pearl necklaces she's taken to wearing in the past few weeks?

What Thursday's speech should have done was to display her to best advantage and tell us what to expect if she's re-elected. Instead we were promised more of the same from a government that had learned from its mistakes. Last time I checked, the amount of money wasted by the Building the Education Revolution program was in excess of $2bn, which is scarcely encouraging.

Although Gillard often claims she's passionate about education and it was her most important portfolio, she seldom has anything to say on the subject that goes beyond "ladder of opportunity" platitudes. I've looked in vain for any hint that she sees schooling as offering young people much more than job-readiness. If she thinks public education should guarantee that they're exposed to "the best that's been thought and said" in Western civilisation or any other, she's been hiding her light under a proverbial bushel.

The Rudd-Gillard government's priorities in tertiary education suggest that there too the agenda is unapologetically philistine. Expansionist practicality would be a charitable description. Most educated people see it as the debauch of institutions that were once meritocratic and, for precisely that reason, intrinsically elite. The idea that 20 per cent or 30 per cent of young people should be able to get a bachelor's degree is increasingly taken for granted, as though it were a democratic right. However, as vice-chancellors have always known, it is a way of debasing the currency.

I suspect that if Gillard believes in anything apart from her own and her party's advancement, she believes in bigger government and more regulation.

On Thursday, for example, she spoke with pride about establishing a national curriculum for schools as though it were inherently a good thing. I grant uniformity has a certain appeal to the bureaucratic imagination. However, the real tests of a curriculum are whether it lifts overall standards and adequately prepares successful Year 12 students from anywhere in the country for the harder first year undergraduate courses in the better universities. Nothing in recent debate on educational standards encourages much optimism on either count.

Perhaps, the way Gillard sees things, government is not an exact science and, since there will be arguments about any set of outcomes, process is what counts.


School computer scheme probed

THE Auditor-General is probing the Gillard government's $2.4 billion school computers program. This comes on the heels of multiple inquiries into Building the Education Revolution bungling. The outcome - due to be reported to parliament in the spring session - has the potential to damage Julia Gillard in a knife-edge election campaign.

"The objective of this audit is to assess how effectively (the federal Education Department) implements and manages the Digital Education Revolution initiative, with particular focus on payment arrangements, monitoring and reporting on the fund, and on-costs," the Australian National Audit Office stated in its latest work program, published yesterday.

News of the audit came a day after the Prime Minister admitted in a nationally televised speech that the delivery of the BER program was flawed, because it was designed in haste amid the global financial crisis.

The DER scheme, to cost taxpayers $2.4bn over seven years, aims to give high schools at least one computer for every student in Years 9 to 12 by the end of 2011.

The Auditor-General also revealed his office was investigating a $2.5bn scheme to set up trade training centres in schools, and flagged "potential audits" of the My School website, which compares school performances nationally.

The auditor also plans to probe the administration of $2bn a year in childcare subsidies to families, as well as the Council of Australian Governments agreement to provide a preschool place for every Australian child by 2013.

All the audits implicate the sweeping portfolio of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, which Ms Gillard managed before she wrested the prime minister's job from Kevin Rudd last month.

Queensland's Audit Office yesterday revealed it was conducting an inquiry into how the state was spending its $2.1bn slice of the $16.2bn BER scheme.

The auditor refused to comment on his secret investigation, but The Australian understands it will include the first comparison of BER construction costs between public and Catholic schools.

Queensland opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg yesterday lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, asking it to investigate possible collusion in the BER scheme.

The Australian revealed in April that Queensland's Master Builders Association had negotiated the fee with the government, on behalf of eight construction giants, to manage $840 million of BER work without going to tender.


Health staff unable to work as agency overloaded

Hundreds of desperately needed doctors and nurses have been told it could be months before they can work because of "incompetent bungling" by a new federal government agency which did not employ enough staff to answer phones.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is now responsible for registering and accrediting more than 560,000 health workers nationally but has been in meltdown since opening two weeks ago.

Its office has been swamped with more than 3000 calls a day, forcing it to outsource inquiries to an external call centre and set up new state-based phone numbers to spread the load.

The agency, which takes over the work of 85 smaller state-run boards, was designed to reduce costs and multiple layers of red tape but health workers say the transition has been bungled and the service was launched without adequate resources.

They complain that phones are not attended, staff have not been adequately trained and registrations are not being processed.

The bungle affects a wide range of health workers, including overseas-trained doctors recruited to work in Australia, and nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, optometrists, psychologists and osteopaths wanting to renew their registrations or register for the first time.

It also affects all staff changing jobs because new employers are required to check a candidate's registration and accreditation details before employing them. Calls from the public complaining about the performance or behaviour of health professionals have also gone unanswered.

"It is another case of incompetent government bungling and the backlog is putting huge pressure on hospitals and patient care," said Chris Tsolakis, the director of the recruitment agency Medipeople.

More than 70 overseas-trained doctors recruited through his agency had been told they might not have their applications for registration approved for months, Mr Tsolakis said. "It is complete mismanagement. Most of these doctors want to work in country areas, where they are urgently needed."

A spokeswoman for the agency conceded there had been "teething problems" because the project, which required moving about 1.5 million records, some which were not computerised, to one IT system, had been "very ambitious".

About 65 new pieces of legislation relating to standards and responsibilities for health professionals had also been introduced on the same day, causing workers to flood the agency with inquiries.

Many staff could not be trained or programs be road-tested until the agency opened on July 1, because the 85 boards were still operating and could not move their records across.

Some staff, who were already working on the former boards, could not move to the agency until July 1.

"We recognise that this has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked and acknowledge the delay is not acceptable but there are some things you can't rehearse for," the spokeswoman said.

The chairwoman of the Medical Board of Australia, Joanna Flynn, said doctors had been asked not to contact the new agency for the first 10 days to avoid overloading it during the transition phase.

"But when we are talking about registration we are talking about people's access to income and that makes it a high stakes issue," Dr Flynn said. "When people get anxious they send five emails or make five calls, and that just swamps the system even more."

The vice-president of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association, Sue Douglas, said it was unacceptable that doctors were being prevented from working because of problems with the introduction of the new agency.

"This has been three years in the making," Dr Douglas said. "You'd think it would have been ready, but it doesn't surprise me. "The old system was so incredibly cumbersome, such a bureaucratic bungle of inefficiencies, that how could the new one be any better?" "This just wreaks havoc on doctors' livelihoods and on patients."


16 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not much impressed by the new NSW speed-camera system

Indonesia won’t give asylum to Gillard’s idea, either

By Andrew Bolt

Julia Gillard’s plan for a “regional proecessing centre” for boat people isn’t going very well, is it?

First East Timor’s Parliament says it doesn’t want it, and then Papua New Guinea says no, thanks, too. Now Indonesia warns that Gillard might just attract more of what she wants to stop:
AUSTRALIA has failed in its bid to win Indonesia’s outright support for an asylum-seeker processing centre in East Timor...

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, warned yesterday that Julia Gillard’s proposal was little more than a “potential component in a regional framework” and said it was too early to consider where such a facility might be located.

The Indonesian immigration department expressed reservations about the East Timor option, arguing it could become a magnet for asylum seekers.

‘’I think it would be a pull factor for those who are still in their countries. It may attract more people to come to East Timor on their way to Australia,’’ said Maroloan Barimbing, the spokesman for the department.

‘’Since they don’t know how to get to East Timor, they may end up wandering around in Indonesia.’’


Are Muslims the “right kind of migrant”?

And guess the religion of most of the illegals arriving by boat? Comments below by Andrew Bolt

MY excuse for this column is Julia Gillard. She’s the one who says we need to bring in “the right kind of migrants”. More importantly, our new Prime Minister says she wants us to talk frankly at last about boat people - and, I presume - other immigrants.

“I’d like to sweep away any sense that people should close down any debate, including this debate, through a sense of self-censorship or political correctness,” she declared.

I hope she means it, because here are some facts of the kind that normally invite screams of “racist” and an inquisition from our shut-your-face human rights tribunals.

They are the kind of facts that also have so many voters so steamed up about just a few thousand boat people - or, to put it another way, about thousands of people who barge in, having destroyed their identity documents, and expect us to believe they’ll be model citizens.

BRITISH police this month revealed that most men charged in London for gun crime, robberies and street crime are black, even though blacks make up just 12 per cent of Londoners.

BRITAIN’S Centre for Social Cohesion this month said two-thirds of 124 Islamist terrorists convicted there since 1999 were of British nationality, and almost half were of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian heritage.

A THIRD of the gang members in Canada’s prisons have African ancestry, although just 2.5 per cent of the population are African Canadians.

SWEDES with a Middle Eastern nationality are 6.6 times more likely than Swedish citizens to be in prison. For Africans it’s 10.9 times.

Now to Australia ...

THE 20 people convicted here for terrorism offences are all Muslim.

AUSTRALIANS born in Tonga and Samoa are about five times more likely than the rest of us to be jailed.

AUSTRALIANS born in Romania, Vietnam, Sudan and Lebanon have jail rates much higher than the average (and Chinese and Indians much lower).

So, yes, let’s talk about bringing in “the right kind of migrants”.

Before I do, let me make the standard disclaimers. You’re right, most people from whatever community or group I’ve mentioned are law-abiding, and race is not related to crime. It’s culture that counts. Now back to the adult talk.

Many Western societies, especially in Europe, now realise how dumb they were to not consider how the cultures of some immigrants might limit their ability to fit in. Too scared of seeming racist, they today reap the whirlwind.

Large, unassimilated minorities in France have made some suburbs almost no-go areas, with regular race riots.

In Britain, home-born Muslim extremists have killed scores of fellow Britons.

In Scandinavia, crime has soared, and cartoonists in Sweden and Denmark are targets of assassination plots from angry Muslims.

In Holland, the director of a film critical of Islam was butchered.

Australia has been spared anything quite so dramatic, perhaps thanks to our superb ability to assimilate so many nationalities and faiths, from Greeks to Chinese, and Buddhists to Sikhs.

Even so, with one category of immigrant we now have more trouble than we’ve known before.

A significant minority of our 340,000 Muslims seem not only unable to fully assimilate, but unwilling. Some seem even antagonistic to the society that has given them a safe and rich home.

Examples? A conference of 500 Muslims in Sydney last week, organised by the Muslim Hizb ut-Tahrir group, was told that democracy was haram (forbidden) for Muslims, and believers “must adhere to Islam and Islam alone”. This group so believes its loyalty to Islam trumps its loyalty to its new home that it refuses to condemn suicide attacks on our troops in Muslim lands.

Or take our most prominent Muslim cleric, Egyptian-born Sheikh Taj el-Din al Hilaly. Rather than help to preserve the peace of his new home, he’s praised suicide bombers as “heroes”, described the September 11 terrorist attacks as “God’s work against oppressors”, and exalted the Hezbollah terrorist group.

Just last month he addressed an anti-Israel rally in Sydney, waving a Turkish flag and crying “Down with Israel”, “Turkey is coming!” and “Iran is ready!”

He knows he has an audience for such them-against-us war talk. When five local Muslims were convicted this year of planning terrorist attacks against us, 10 imams and 20 Muslim “community leaders” met at his Lakemba mosque to draw up a statement - not to decry this wicked plot, but to attack the police.

No wonder the Federal Government’s White Paper on counter-terrorism this year warned that since 2004 we’d had an “increase in the terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia, who have become influenced by the violent jihadist message”.

It added: “The scale of the problem will continue to depend on factors such as the size and make-up of local Muslim populations, including their ethnic and/or migrant origins.”

Which means the more Muslims we take in (up to 28,000 a year now), the more trouble we may expect from them or, more often, their children.

All this you may still shrug off, trusting to our genius for making migrants feel at home. But I fear we may have reached a tipping point both in numbers and in attitudes.

When my own parents migrated here half a century ago, Australia had a strong sense of self and of pride. It then gladly built a future (think Snowy River scheme) and felt no shame for our past.

But now? We ask children from very proud, if not xenophobic, immigrant cultures to pledge a deeper loyalty to an Australia that we ourselves damn as racist, greedy and planet-raping. Why would they agree to such a lousy deal?

The latest example is a new guide to teaching Islam in schools, published by Melbourne University’s Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies. It barely mentions the Islamist terrorism that is the main cause of what it dismisses as our “racism” towards Muslims, and refers to al-Qaida, the killer of so many of us, as merely one of several “famous names”.

Terrorism is brushed off as one of the “constant reminders of this distrust” between the West and Islam, for which the West is blamed most.

Only one reason is given for high Muslim unemployment - “underlying discrimination and prejudice towards non-Europeans in Australia”. So why have Christian Lebanese done so much better here on almost every measure, even providing Victoria with a premier and NSW with a governor?

Is the difference really nothing to do with Islam, the faith of so many poor nations? Is Muslim poverty, terrorism and crime really just the fault of our miserable society?

Or is our real fault to have apologised too much for what we are, and to have failed to protect this great society from newcomers too disposed by their culture to reject our own?


Gillard's new school uniform policy a sop to a key Labor Party constituency: Low income earners

She has announced a tax refund of up to $780 for school uniforms, albeit not one to be paid for another two years and limited to parents on Family Tax Benefit A

What excitement there was this morning when Julia Gillard called a press conference. Climate policy, maybe? An election announcement even? We were rather crestfallen to find out it was about school uniforms.

It was the sort of announcement that would in normal circumstances be made by Gillard's replacement as Education Minister, Simon Crean, or Jenny Macklin, who presides over the welfare system. But there was the prime minister announcing the education rebate available to recipients of Family Tax Benefit A would be extended to cover half the cost of school uniforms.

But if you unpack this otherwise-anodyne piece of pre-election bribery, you'll discover some key election issues.

The recipients of this handout, Family Tax Benefit A recipients, are a key constituency for Labor. My colleague Possum has explained this in detail previously, in the context of Labor's introduction of a $150,000 threshold for means-testing Family Tax Benefits A and B and the private health insurance rebate.

Essential Research's raw numbers suggest low and middle-income earners swung away from Labor in big numbers in May (raw numbers are prone to volatility, so it's best not to make too much of them, unless there's a clear trend). While a lot of us were focused on the switch of progressive voters to the Greens, voters earning between $31,200 and $83,200 appeared to shift to the Coalition, occasionally in sufficient numbers that the Coalition was actually outpolling Labor, which was previously very strong with those voters. They shifted to the Greens as well, but not as consistently as they shifted to the Coalition.

Their subsequent return to the Labor column has partly driven the recovery in the Labor vote in June and July, so that it now once again has a primary vote lead. Today's announcement is prime pork-barrelling aimed at keeping these voters with Labor -- although it's testament to how comprehensively middle-class welfare is entrenched in Australia that the government had to conjure a 'school uniform allowance' as the rationale for it.

But the government is also keenly aware of cost-of-living issues for low and middle-income earners. Like 'mortgage stress', so-called 'cost of living' pressures are mainly self-inflicted and reflect household consumption and lifestyle choices. But voters don't want to be told that. They want to be told governments will subsidise their high-consumption lifestyles and efforts to keep up with their neighbours.

Labor adeptly exploited this at the last election, painting the Howard government as out-of-touch with the cost-of-living pressures and offering a suite of vague commitments to address them. Now in the aftermath of the GFC, low and middle-income households are again seeing rising costs, particularly mortgage costs. It's an issue Labor in government now has to make more than positive noises on, though it can never be seen to declare the battle won -- that's why this financial year's tax cuts were portrayed as a small contribution to offset against rising costs, and why Gillard was stressing today's announcement as similarly limited, but helpful. It's also why Gillard last week announced the child care rebate would be paid fortnightly, "making it easier to manage the out-of-pocket cost of child care".


Gillard likely to turn down your electricity consumption by 3 percent a year

That's about 10% during her term of government if she wins the election. At the very least, power is going to cost you a lot more. The crazy talk is already pushing prices up

In what is likely to be a vigorous debate, this afternoon cabinet will also consider a proposal to cut energy consumption by up to 3 per cent a year.

The target is strongly supported by some ministers searching for ways to rebuild Labor's green credentials - battered by the deferral of the emissions trading scheme - before the election expected to be called for late next month.

But others argue that such a target could cause politically dangerous rises in electricity prices and another scare campaign by the Coalition.

Ms Gillard is under pressure from some ministers to promise that Labor will legislate an emissions trading scheme in a second term, to placate voters angry that Labor deferred the program.

Sources say Ms Gillard is intent on building industry and community consensus for a workable scheme before a final decision, in part to ensure the new policy does not founder in the Senate as the original scheme did.

Asked yesterday if she sought to differentiate herself from the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, on the starting point issue of accepting climate science, Ms Gillard said: "I believe climate change is caused by human activity.

"I also understand that doing the things that we will need to do to change our economy, to change the way we live to deal with climate change, are complicated. They will require dialogue with the community. They will require the community's deep and lasting consensus about these changes."

Sources said other energy-efficiency measures proposed in a recent expert report are more likely to win cabinet support.

These include setting nationwide efficiency standards and possibly a scheme to allow farmers to claim credit for saving emissions through forestry and land management in ways that comply with the international rules under the Kyoto protocol.

Policies to meet the new national energy initiative would include requirements that electricity retailers reduce energy usage by their customers by a fixed percentage each year.

Cabinet will also consider pollution standards for new electricity generators and requirements for existing generators to calculate how they can reduce their greenhouse emissions.

Energy industry and other businesses are seeking definition from the government, complaining that not knowing whether or when they will face a carbon price is creating an untenable level of investment uncertainty.

The energy industry says that within a few years the uncertainty will lead to short-term investment decisions that will push up the cost of power anyway - the same hip-pocket concern that has driven political opposition to an emissions trading scheme.


15 July, 2010

Gillard government's immigration policy acknowledged as "killing" the government concerned

As well it might. Australia's recent acquisition of a new red-headed Prime Minister has done NOTHING to stop the constant flow of boat-borne illegals

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard's asylum seeker policy was dealt another major blow yesterday after her Immigration Minister said the issue was "killing the Government". Immigration Minister Chris Evans was caught out in an unguarded moment at a university conference in Sydney discussing one of the key issues of the forthcoming election.

His comments came as border protection forces intercepted the 147th asylum seeker boat in two years - and the third since Sunday night.

Senator Evans was attending a conference for immigration specialists hosted by the University of NSW when he was asked how politically toxic the asylum seeker debate was. He said one of his "greatest failures" as Immigration Minister was "losing control" of the immigration debate, according to a 2UE reporter who, unknown to Senator Evans, was at the conference.

He said the debate was "killing the Government", which will be seen as an admission that Prime Minister Gillard's attempt to find a host for an offshore refugee procesing centre has not diminished voter anger on the issue. Government sources insisted Senator Evans had been referring to policy under the former prime minister Kevin Rudd but it appeared he was referring to the present.

"I have previously acknowledged that this has been a difficult debate for the Government over a long period of time and that there has been a level of public concern surrounding the issue," Senator Mr Evans said in a statement late yesterday. "The debate has changed substantially since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister and seized the opportunity to confront the issue and speak honestly and frankly with the Australian people."

But Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison accused the Government of being more interested in "polls and spin" than "real action". "It is Labor's policies that have failed, not their message nor their messenger," Mr Morrison said.

Senator Evans said the Labor Party now had a "clear way forward under Prime Minister Gillard". "We are focused on developing a regional protection framework and are already engaged in discussions with East Timor," he said.

Mr Morrison said Senator Evans' biggest failure had been to wind back the border protection regime he inherited from the Howard government, and referred to the 147 "illegal boats" and the more than 7000 asylum seekers who had arrived since then.

The latest boatload of suspected asylum seekers was intercepted yesterday morning, northwest of Browse Island in the Indian Ocean. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said 84 passengers and three crew were on board. Since Sunday, 192 asylum seekers have been re-routed to Christmas Island.


Latest spin fails to hide emperor's con job

He spoke of the need to "cut our cloth" to suit the times but the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has come close to resembling the emperor with no clothes.

In the Hans Christian Andersen tale, an image-obsessed emperor is duped by yarn spinners into parading around town in his birthday suit. But this time, the emperor was aware of his indiscretion.

There was no hiding yesterday the extent of the con job the Gillard government has done on the Australian people over the size of its concessions to the mining industry on its controversial resources rent tax.

Announcing the deal on July 2, the Treasurer said the changes would cost the budget $1.5 billion over two years. Yesterday, updated budget figures showed that amount to be $7.5 billion, offset by the surprise discovery of $6 billion from higher commodity prices.

"I do accept that the numbers are a bit hard to follow," Swan said, continuing the trend towards understatement.

Swan's preferred image was that of a disciplined government eking the budget back into surplus. "We have done the hard years," he claimed.

But in reality, the Gillard government is riding the same commodities boom to riches as its predecessors - only it is using the proceeds to paper over a hole in revenues created by its tax backdown.

Once again, foreigners are forking out more for our mineral exports, increasing the dollar value of our economic production.

Strip out that price effect and real activity across the economy is forecast to be slower than anticipated. The economy is expected to grow 3 per cent this financial year, down from the budget's forecast of 3.25 per cent.

As the mining sector streaks ahead, other parts of the economy are being left behind. Household spending growth is slowing as the stimulus fades and interest rates rise. The pace of home construction has stalled, putting upward pressure on house prices. Treasury has pushed its inflation forecast into the upper limits of the Reserve Bank's 2 to 3 per cent comfort band - from 2.5 per cent to 2.75 per cent.

Australia's growing pains are back. For a government that came to power three years ago promising to ease the squeeze on families, this could prove difficult to explain. Infrastructure bottlenecks are back. Employers are complaining about skills shortages - perhaps loudly enough to awaken the inflation genie from his slumber. All the while we grow ever more exposed to the mining boom going bust.

In the meantime, the boom in one part of the economy is ripping out the heart of other industries, as resources and labour shift to the faster growing parts. Swan said the new mining tax was designed to generate the extra revenue needed to extend "a hand up" to the other parts of the economy.

It is now abundantly clear that helping hand is much smaller than it could have been.


Veteran conservative observer, Arthur Sinodinos, says Rudd is undermining Gillard

LA Gillardine is poised to call an election. That will be a mistake. Voters frown on transparent attempts to capitalise on a honeymoon. Julia Gillard needs time to establish genuine authority and steady the ship.

She is looking and acting poll-driven. Her gesture in having the member for Lindsay accompany her on a trip north to view patrol boats hit a new low in the boatpeople genre. Her shifting language on East Timor undercut any impact of her announcement.

Her election program will largely reflect Kevin Rudd's ideas for re-election. There has been little time to do more than change the face on election material. But the coup was all about the messenger rather than the message, OK?

Rudd would not be human if he did not feel some satisfaction at recent government stumbling. But he is up to something more than self-satisfaction. He is running a campaign that threatens the unity of Labor before and after the election.

Rudd is messing with Gillard's mind. He's a past master of the art. He messed with John Howard's mind in 2007 by putting up Maxine McKew in the seat of Bennelong. Her media profile gave McKew a platform to muster the anti-Howard forces in the seat.

Now Rudd is at it again. He is stalking both the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. Rudd has made it clear he deserves and expects to get the foreign affairs portfolio after the election. It is his right as a former prime minister.

He is now in Washington, ostensibly attending the Australian American Leadership Dialogue of which he is a founding member. He has been busy lining up appointments with members of the Obama administration. The press has been briefed, allegedly by the American side, that Barack Obama rang him before talking to Gillard. He is running hard for Smith's job.

Rudd's future is already destabilising the government: witness the outburst in support of the ex-prime minister by the member for Flynn. More important, consider what could happen if Gillard wins the election.

Foreign minister Rudd would brook no interference in the portfolio from the Prime Minister or anyone else. Defence could also come more under his sway in the absence of a strong minister such as John Faulkner. The mooted replacement for Faulkner is Greg Combet, who would be no match for Rudd on international security matters.

Rudd may well envisage a diarchy in which Gillard reigns supreme on the domestic front while Rudd is the external supremo. This is no Hillary Clinton falling into line behind Obama. More of a co-prime ministership.

Some old hands will no doubt argue that Alexander Downer as a former leader went on to be a very good and long-serving foreign minister in John Howard's cabinet. Very true, but Downer put his leadership baton firmly back in his knapsack and knuckled down to the job as a team player. He contributed across the board to government policy and was a highly respected voice in cabinet; he did not upstage Howard at home or abroad. In turn he was given plenty of latitude in interpreting his brief.

Rudd fancies himself. He looks around the room and feels he is the smartest person in it. He consoles himself with the thought that Bill Clinton and Obama have said as much.

With a perspective such as that, imagine meetings of the cabinet's security committee, Rudd doing his PowerPoint presentations and neither officials nor other ministers getting a word in.

Cabinet meetings could become very difficult if Rudd is present to second-guess the Prime Minister. Consider his likely reaction every time some policy of his came up for review. The pressure on Gillard to revert to a kitchen cabinet would be inexorable, with all its attendant dangers of hasty and ill-thought-out decisions.

One argument in Rudd's favour at present is the policy debacle surrounding the on-again, off-again regional processing centre in East Timor. Where were Smith and his department when this all-too-clever plot was hatched? Who was consulted about whom to contact in East Timor? Why was the suggestion only casually dropped into a congratulatory conversation between Gillard and the President of Indonesia, our most important near neighbour?

Smith was visiting the region this week to talk up the proposal and consult. Maybe he can rope in Don Argus so they can visit the neighbouring countries and small miners in one go. The reaction in the region suggests a regional processing centre is dead on arrival. This week the Home Affairs Minister effectively conceded the point when he admitted that we won't see anything built in the next term of government.

How comfortable would Rudd be in pursuing regional consultations, given that the East Timor idea appears to have been raised and rejected during his watch? And how would he feel about pushing, in his own words, a "lurch to the Right" on asylum policy?

Labor hardheads will say that if Gillard wins this election she will owe Rudd nothing and can treat him accordingly. Rudd will counter that he is owed for going quietly and not recontesting the leadership, as well as for his many other splendid qualities.

A lot hinges on the size of her victory. The smaller the margin the more vulnerable she will be and more likely to want to keep her enemies in the tent. Based on present polls, Gillard has hardly improved on Rudd's last polls.

This week the Prime Minister was under pressure to nominate her ministers in the finance, defence and foreign affairs portfolios. Her cabinet line-up has been considerably weakened by the departure of Rudd, Faulkner and Lindsay Tanner. Simon Crean may not serve out a full term either, with talk of a diplomatic posting in the air.

Rudd came under pressure in 2007 to confirm Wayne Swan would be treasurer if Labor won. She should too, if only to stop the speculation about these now vacant senior positions.

Bill Shorten, Mark Arbib and David Feeney are owed for their part in knocking off Rudd.

Imagine a cabinet with one or two of these characters and Rudd. Or worse, the damage that could be wrought if the cabinet included them and not Rudd. Plenty of time for mischief on the back bench.


More dangerous negligence at Casey public hospital

Cheapskate attitude to ordering scans again

TONY Read visited Casey Hospital three times in five days suffering agonising headaches before doctors performed scans and revealed he was in imminent danger of dying from bleeding in his brain.

When the reality kicked in Mr Read was made to lie perfectly still and rushed to Monash Medical Centre for emergency brain surgery to deal with an aneurism suffered days earlier.

He is one of more than a dozen disgruntled Casey Hospital patients to contact the Herald Sun since last Wednesday, when a woman complained publicly that she had not been treated for dangerous bleeding during an ectopic pregnancy.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said his department would meet Southern Health to discuss the complaints so it could advise him about the situation. The hospital and health authorities have insisted there is no endemic problem.

But after an investigation into Mr Read's treatment in June last year prompted Southern Health to apologise and promise to fix its procedures, the former patient is worried nothing has changed.

"The doctors just wanted to get rid of me, they just assumed it was dehydration from food poisoning," he said. "It was very scary, and bloody lucky I lasted five days. "I know they are very busy, but with cases like this they need to do more, and the second time I went they should have given me a scan."

Having twice been sent home and told he had food poisoning, before the danger was revealed in his third presentation, Mr Read received an apology from emergency department deputy director Ian Summers assuring him steps had been taken to ensure it did not happen to others.

Southern Health director of emergency medicine Prof George Braitberg said Mr Read's initial diagnoses were appropriate for complicated symptoms, but an error in not having his second presentation reviewed by a senior doctor contributed to the delay, which had since been rectified.

But he said a thorough examination of other cases found medical staff had treated each patient appropriately, underlining the fact there were only 68 complaints lodged among the hospital's 47,000 presentations last year. "Our complaints are not higher than anywhere else; in fact, I would say they are lower," Prof Braitberg said.

"One of the things we could do better is explain to the public that we move patients according to their need, so if a patient enters an emergency department at Southern Health they could get into a specialist bed in another hospital. I think a couple of these cases point to that. "We have great confidence in our staff."

Over the past three years the Casey's emergency presentations had jumped 13.7 per cent and Australian Medical Association Victoria president Dr Harry Hemley explained that all hospitals were struggling due to increased demand and lack of beds.

But Dr Hemley said Mr Read's and several other recent cases would be extremely difficult for any hospital to diagnose.

Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson said she had not received any complaints about Casey's emergency department, adding all hospitals struggled to deal with symptoms such as those Mr Read presented with. "If a scanner is available they can order a scan, but it is not possible to scan everyone who presents with headache," she said. "It is not so easy in practice to make the diagnosis."


14 July, 2010

Communist influence in the Labor party

Some interesting history below by the ultimate Communist insider, Mark Aarons. Mark inherited leadership of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) from his father Laurie and not long afterwards wound the party up. Outside the universities, Communism is now dead in Australia. It is interesting that Mark does not defend the CPA below -- probably to protect his present high status in the Labor Party. The vile things he has written about the Vatican suggest that his underlying views are still Soviet-style.

From all that I know of the matter, however, I think Mark's basic point that the influence of Communism on the Labor party was indirect and confined to a small minority is correct. And I did have a fair bit to do with Communists (AND the DLP) in the period concerned, for one reason or another. In fact Mark and I were taking out sisters at one stage. That was when he still had hair

THE relationship between the ALP and the Communist Party was complex. Bob Carr has revised his view of Labor Party history based on my recently published book The Family File. But he pushes it too far.

The ASIO files demonstrate that important figures in the ALP Left were dual members of the Communist Party of Australia. That does not support Carr's conclusion that the "impetus" for policy positions advocated by the ALP Left originated entirely with such people.

There has always been a strong Labor Left, both before and after there was a CPA (1920-91). Most such members pursued policies during the Cold War because they believed in them, not because they were so instructed by secret communists. My reading of well over 100,000 pages of ASIO files reveals scant evidence of a direct connection, although there were ties between some CPA leaders and ALP members who were completely loyal to their party.

One such relationship was between my father, Laurie Aarons, and Tom Uren, who long ago publicly acknowledged Laurie as a significant influence, along with "Weary" Dunlop, among others. Carr quotes me as accepting "Uren's denial" that he was a CPA member. The position is much clearer: in Uren's ASIO file I found one agent's report claiming he had been a CPA member from 1948 to 1958. If that were true there most certainly would have been other reports from that period, as in similar files. ASIO's coverage of the CPA at this time was ubiquitous; it would have been impossible to hide Uren's "membership" from ever-present agents and telephone bugs. The official record substantiates Uren's denial.

Uren was undoubtedly influenced by the ideas of some communists, but many of these were positive: for example, his pioneering work for the environment. Jack Mundey's green bans stimulated Uren's thinking, and rightly so.

The period leading up to and after the Labor split of 1955 was more complex than Carr's version. I recently made the point to him that during the first half of the 1950s the battle inside the ALP was really between two unpalatable opposites: Bob Santamaria's attempt to impose a somewhat medieval, rural-based Catholic social policy on the ALP, and the communists' effort to build a powerful base to shift the ALP Left from "reformism" to "revolution".

Carr's critique of Bert Evatt, and his endorsement of the Democratic Labor Party's anti-Labor position in the 50s and 60s are oversimplifications. After he became ALP leader in 1951, Evatt maintained an alliance with Santamaria's forces against the Labor Left. Santamaria's "movement" was established in 1941 as a "mirror image" of the CPA, thus inheriting some of its Stalinist characteristics. It was an official arm of the Catholic Church, working with the ALP Industrial Groups to defeat communists in trade unions.

Evatt's decision to repudiate this alliance arose because he believed that Santamaria had reneged on an improbable deal: in return for delivering the Catholic vote at the 1954 election, which he expected to win, Evatt would accept Santamaria's conception of what sort of party Labor should be. As revealed in Gerard Henderson's book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops, as early as 1952 Santamaria had declared that he had the power to turn the ALP into a Catholic party, based on his own narrow "Christian social program". But after Labor lost in 1954, Evatt renounced Santamaria and did a deal with the Left.

Evatt was the architect of his own defeat, propounding the conspiracy theory about the Petrov royal commission and declaring there was no espionage because the Soviet government said so. The commission's conclusions about the KGB spy ring, operated by CPA member Wally Clayton, were actually understated. Clayton's confession to Laurie Aarons, revealed in my book, lays the conspiracy theory to rest.

Carr's revision of history lacks nuance. The DLP, which he now praises, was not simply "anti-communist". Contrary to his denials, Santamaria controlled both the DLP and the National Civic Council, which was established after Rome decreed that the "movement" breached doctrine about the separation of the church from the political activities of Catholics. The DLP pursued both anti-communism and Santamaria's Catholic "social program". The NCC also had a clandestine and well-organised presence in the ALP, despite being proscribed, like the CPA. Indeed, it was far better organised, for several decades running sophisticated intelligence operations, which provided invaluable material to ASIO.

As Carr correctly says, his NSW Right faction emerged victorious in the battle that raged for 50 years between Left and Right extremes. This faction has been dominant, both in NSW and federally, precisely because of its pragmatic view that it was better to hang on to power than pursue ideological chimeras, Left or Right. Carr quotes former prime minister Paul Keating as correctly identifying the communist influence in the ALP. More recently, however, Keating has slammed his old faction, the NSW Right, for lacking "an ideology other than the pursuit of power". What a pity that Ben Chifley's "Light on the Hill" has come to that.


Hey, big spenders, hands off our money

JULIA Gillard can learn much from the principles of Hayek and Friedman.

WHILE the Prime Minister has started her informal election campaign with a pitch to the future, a more honest and telling indicator of a Gillard Labor government is a focus on the recent past.

Even a cursory look at the Green Loans scheme, just the latest Labor debacle, suggests a consistent message. Labor in the 21st century is committed to a deluded philosophy where a big spending government believes it can spend our money better than we can. It can't, of course.

While Julia Gillard has taken deliberately bold moves to change direction over the mining tax, immigration, population and climate change, there is no sign that a Gillard government will free itself from the costly fantasy that took hold under Kevin Rudd about the omnipotence of big spending government brimming with expensive and grand designs.

And that's a shame. The systemic mismanagement of the Green Loans scheme, made public last week, was the perfect chance for Gillard and Labor to move away from Rudd's outdated philosophy. Instead, there were just murmurs of doing better, just like the promises made by Rudd after the disastrous home insulation scheme blew up in his face.

The Green Loans program, with an initial budget of $300 million, later cut to $175m, promised government-funded energy assessments in 300,000 homes and up to 75,000 interest-free loans of up to $10,000 so households could reduce the environmental impact of their homes. Sounds too good to be true. And it was.

Predictably, and understandably, shonks and sharks sniffed the easy money. And three independent reports reveal a litany of government and bureaucratic failings. For example, an independent external review by Patricia Faulkner, a former head of the Victorian Department of Human Services, with support from KPMG, found: 96 per cent of procurements reviewed were done without open competition, evidence of contract splitting to avoid authorisation by senior management, repeated breaches of the Financial Management Act and Regulations, non-compliance with Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines, unaddressed conflicts of interest, lack of documentation, poor contract management, lack of commercial terms (advance payments were often made), huge cost escalations (an original contract for $49,588 skyrocketed to $462,000, while another for $770,000 ended up costing $3.4m), weak budget controls, delays in implementing an audit process and the absence of a quality assurance program.

In short, no one cared too much about how money was spent, how much money was spent and what quality of services it was spent on.

Other reports confirmed the predictable mess that emerged from the Rudd government's rush towards stimulus spending.

While the former prime minister devoted thousands of words to rejecting (and misunderstanding) the free-market teachings of Friedrich von Hayek, the economist is making a timely and popular comeback. His 1944 bestseller The Road to Serfdom, recently topped the bestseller list on The diminutive Austrian with big ideas even features in a new video, Fear the Boom and Bust ( where he and his rival John Maynard Keynes put the battle of ideas to rap music. With more than 1.3 million hits, the YouTube video by two economists shows a big-spending arrogant Keynes waking up after the global recession with the mother of all deficit hangovers while the fiscally restrained Hayek teaches him some lessons about wasting other people's money. Hayek's first principles cannot be repeated often enough.

Hayek's book is a rare economic feat: a readable, concise explanation of economic principles, political philosophy and human nature. Dedicated "to the socialists of all parties", it resonates more than half a century later because, as Milton Friedman once wrote, even after the demise of socialism, "the bulk of the intellectual community almost automatically favours any expansion of government" if it is sold the right way to punish evil corporations, to relieve poverty, to protect the environment and so on. No one sensible calls themselves a socialist any more. They adhere to new, fuzzy labels like democratic socialism to justify their pursuit of centrally enforced, moral objectives. Like spending billions of dollars to stimulate an economy by building school halls, installing free insulation and providing green loans to make houses more environmentally friendly. The list is limitless. Yet the consequences of big, interventionist government are so often the same: vast amounts of money are wasted because a small group of people wrongly assume they know better how to spend other people's money.

Hayek called it the fatal conceit and said "the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design".

Gillard, who has the historical hallmarks of being another grand designer yet wants to be known as the great pragmatist, ought to check whether the myriad failings of the Green Loans scheme are explained by first principles.

Freidman, who wrote the introduction to Hayek's book, best described the four ways we spend money: "You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you're doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I'm not so careful about the content of the present, but I'm very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else's money on myself. And if I spend somebody else's money on myself, then I'm sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else's money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else's money on somebody else, I'm not concerned about how much it is, and I'm not concerned about what I get. And that's government."

And that's the Green Loans scheme. And the insulation program. And the national roll-out of new school halls.

In the 1960s, Hayek's ideas about fiscal prudence lost out to the sexy "new economics" of Keynes, premised on government spending as the economic saviour. But Hayek has had the last laugh. While Rudd wants to be remembered for saving Australia from the global recession, it's not hard to do that by spending a $20 billion surplus and leaving the nation with a $40bn deficit.

Even when smart people like Rudd do it, they do it badly because that is what happens when people spend other people's money on other people. Gillard is also smart.

The question is whether she is intellectually honest enough to learn that lesson.


Not happy, Julia

Comments by Left-leaning economist Ross Gittins

Excuse me, but what's the tearing hurry? We've had a new Prime Minister for five minutes, but we're being rushed off to an election before we can get her measure. Why? Is there a fear, if the election were delayed until October, the gloss would have worn off and we'd see Julia Gillard in a less hopeful and flattering light?

Is the new leader's fleeting honeymoon all that stands between Labor and electoral defeat? Is Labor's record in government that bad? Is Tony Abbott such a formidable opponent?

I'm not impressed by what we've seen of the Gillard government so far. We've seen the triumph of political expediency over good government. From her first day she's left little doubt three running political sores - the mining tax, resentment of boat people and the vacuum left by Labor's abandonment of its emissions trading scheme - needed to be staunched quick smart if the government's re-election were to be secured.

But what hasty, amateurish patch-up jobs we've seen. Wayne Swan has fudged up figures purporting to show the revenue cost of the deal done with the three biggest mining companies was minor, whereas sharemarket analysts are saying the extra tax to be paid by the companies will be minor. Then we had the fearful muddle over the Timor solution the Timorese hadn't agreed to, and now we're getting the climate change policy you have when you don't have a climate change policy.

The trouble with all this is it's terribly reminiscent of Kevin Rudd. Lacking in courage, not thought through and thrown together at the last moment. None of these stop-gap solutions will have been legislated before the election. So is that to be Gillard's agenda for Labor's second term: finishing off all the stuff not finished in the first term? Is that to be as inspiring as it gets? First re-elect my government and then I'll have time to think up my own agenda?

I'm sure the government has plenty of announcements up its sleeve to make between now and election day, but I'm not sure they'll add up to anything more than a grocery list. Bit of this, bit of that, tinker with this, fine-tune that. Nothing controversial, of course, and (given the budget deficit) nothing too expensive.

Before we vote on whether to retain Gillard we need to know a lot more about her and, more particularly, where she proposes to take us.

She tells us she believes in hard work, egalitarianism and the value of education, and she's proud of her mum and dad. I doubt if there are many who'd disagree, but if that's as big as her vision gets she's not ready to be our leader.

One of Rudd's biggest problems was he couldn't set priorities for himself. He took on too much, wanted the biggest and best in everything, and ended up not getting much achieved. He took on a couple of big economic reforms - the emissions trading scheme and the resource rent tax - but took them far too cheaply, underestimated the amount of explaining that needed to be done, then when the going got tough, turned turtle.

So what are Gillard's priorities? What does she plan to devote most of her attention to at the expense of all the other things she could focus on? Does she know but doesn't want to tell us, or hasn't she had time to think about it? Will she work it out as she goes along?

We know, despite her protestations, climate change won't be one of her second-term priorities. She says (correctly) we need to put a price on carbon, but then says she won't get ahead of public opinion and won't act on a carbon price until after 2012. Her next term will be spent doing the explaining that should have been done this term.

I fear most of what passes for economic debate in the election campaign will be of little consequence. Labor dumped its emissions trading scheme and emasculated its resource super profits tax for fear of being accused of introducing ''a great big new tax'', but that won't stop both sides accusing each other of planning to do just that.

Both sides will express their determination to get the budget into surplus as soon as possible and eliminate our (tiny) public debt post haste, while accusing the other of profligacy.

If there's one thing we don't need to worry about it's deficits and debt. Why not? Because we worry about it so much. The Libs make such a fuss about it it's a crime Labor wouldn't dare to commit.

The big economic issues facing us include how we'll make room for a greatly expanded mining sector in an economy already close to full employment, whether there's more tax reform in the Henry report we should be getting on with, and how we'll fix the ever-growing shortage of housing, including improving public transport to make homes in the outer suburbs more accessible.

Far from spending the next three years chatting about whether to get serious about combating climate change, we need to debate our unquestioned commitment to unlimited economic growth.

Does ever-rising affluence - much of it used to fuel an unending status competition - make us happier as both sides of politics assume? Are we paying a hidden price for it in damage to our family and social relationships? Is it really possible for the rich world to keep increasing its consumption of natural resources while the developing world - led by China and India - rapidly raises its standard of living towards Western levels without this irreparably damaging the ecosystem?

A bit too much for a prime minister from the left desperate to prove she's not left-wing? Far too threatening a subject for either of the political parties? I fear so. Much safer to have a furious argument about great big new taxes and the budget deficit.


Welcome to adland, where all men are morons

It was a few years ago that I first noticed men were being depicted as idiots in advertising. I'd put the issue aside, but Sarah McKenzie's article about the sexism of the Brut aftershave campaign brought it all crashing back.

I have no doubt that women have historical and ongoing problems about their portrayal in advertising, particularly being sexually objectified. I remember such scandals as the sexist Windsor Smith shoe ads, which showed women placed close to men's crotches as if about to perform a lewd act. But along with the creeping sexualisation of women has come the creeping moronification of men. If the default position in advertising for women is sex object, then the default position for men is that of imbecile.

Men used to be depicted as heroic characters in ads, products being the rewards for their manly efforts. "You got to work it hard, to be a Solo man. You're gonna take the lead and let the others follow," crowed the voice-over as our champion braved rapids in a canoe to be rewarded with a frosty, refreshing Solo at the end. "You can get it walkin'! You can get it talkin! You can get it working a plough! Matter o' fact I've got it now! Victoria Bitter! . . ." went the beer ad, run along with images of hard-working men engaged in back-breaking, yet satisfying, endeavours, the VB being the prize for their labours.

Today's ads don't seem to give a tinker's cuss about the nobility of men's endeavours. Men are no longer heroes but consumers. Worse, they're idiots. They might as well be saying, "Hey, dickhead! We don't care about your job and who you are! You're a worthless, interchangeable cog in the capitalist system! Catch!" as a six-pack is hurtled towards some poor bloke's melon.

Just as the soul-destroying messages in women's magazines are crafted by their female staff, so too are the negative messages about men crafted overwhelming by men in advertising agencies. For some reason, they have deduced that delivering a psychic kick to men's testicles is the best way to sell a whole host of products.

"Darwin was right," our faceless adman might say, "men are descended from apes! APES!"

"So let's treat them as the knuckledraggers they are," his pony-tailed sidekick might respond.

So it goes. The evidence is everywhere. Take the hapless boyfriend in the feminine hygiene ads who is too stupid to know what a tampon is or who runs away to the bedroom and refuses to come out until his girlfriend stops talking about them. Or the sap who wonders what "being regular" means in that cereal commercial featuring comedian Julia Morris, only to be told he doesn't get it. (If he gets bowel cancer that'll teach him, the stupid fool.) Or the ads where men's love of cars is treated as some kind of male-specific mental illness, his wife/partner rolling her eyes as he waxes the hood. Or the insurance ad where the bloke wouldn't know his arse from his elbow if a cyclone wiped out his uninsured home — fortunately his clever wife is there to help the simpleton understand. Even that "small penis" anti-speeding ad demeans men . . . and quite frankly wants to make me speed even more in revenge.

(One suspects that advertising targeted at the rich and wealthy has a somewhat more respectful tone: "Hey moron! You've made millions in computer software! Now buy this Learjet, you unreconstructed ape!" is unlikely to work with Bill Gates and his ilk.)

Then there are the dads – those chumps stupid enough to provide for their family and perpetuate the human race. Ad after ad depicts dad as some kind of daggy embarrassment, a Neanderthal more comfortable in the shed working with his tools or back in the Stone Age. Thank God mum is here to meet all of our emotional needs, prepare our food and discuss important life issues in baffling code ("I found something in your room"). Need more proof? As my friend Graham suggested, just take a look at what is written on the back of one syrup tin: "Pancakes — easy enough for dad to try!". Men built the rockets that went to the moon, but in 2010 man is barely intelligent enough to open a tin of pancake syrup.

In fact, there used to be a Japanese sitcom whose title translates roughly to "Stupid Dad", the story of a middle-aged Japanese salaryman who works himself to death in the traditional Japanese manner, only to be regarded as an idiot by his wife and family.

That's how modern advertising regards men – as an ageing salaryman unworthy of respect and who will buy any crap, no matter how it is pitched at them. Surely we deserve better.


13 July, 2010

A small population for a big island?

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich is an immigrant to Australia from Germany. He says below that Australia is much better off than Europe when it comes to coping with high levels of immigration. What he overlooks is that Australians have to endure the ever-increasing traffic jams and rising housing prices that have accompanied rapid immigrant-driven population growth. The authorities are trying to cope -- with all sorts of new roadworks, for instance -- but being constantly held up by incessant roadworks is itself a big downer

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is working hard to distance herself from her predecessor as she redefines Australia’s population policy. Kevin Rudd had famously declared that he made no apologies for supporting ‘a big Australia.’ Gillard seems to prefer a ‘small Australia,’ although she is yet to spell out the details of her thinking.

I have been living in Australia for some time now, but this ongoing population debate still puzzles me. I vividly remember, when I was researching Australian housing policies a few years ago, a planner in the NSW state government telling me that ‘we are full.’ I had just flown in from Europe, the last four hours over vast areas of sparsely inhabited land, so this blunt statement came as a bit of a surprise.

Of course, great parts of the continent are not liveable. Yet travelling up and down the east coast, you will find more empty, habitable space than anywhere between Finland and Sicily. And the lack of water also seems to be a bit of a myth. After all, Sydney has much higher annual precipitation (1,213 mm) than London (583 mm), Berlin (570 mm), or Paris (652 mm). I had never seen real rain until I came to Australia.

Apart from the strange idea that Australia is full, another aspect of the population debate perplexes me. In Europe, the main concern is about population ageing and shrinking. People are getting older, and not even migration can make up for the continent’s low fertility levels. Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the worsening demographic situation. An older population means fewer taxpayers and more welfare spending; it is a toxic combination for public finances and economic growth.

In Australia, we have the opportunity to cushion the ageing process with both relatively high fertility rates and strong migration, mainly consisting of well-qualified, young migrants. European politicians would kill for such circumstances. They would love to have our problem of dealing with a fast growing population because they know that dealing with the opposite is vastly more unpleasant.

My colleague Jessica Brown and I are just about to finish a research project that looks into the demographic options for Australia. Our preliminary conclusion is clear: the real challenge in population policy is not size but age.

It would be desirable if the Prime Minister turned her attention from the futile debate over ‘Big vs. Small Australia’ to the more pertinent question of coping with a greying Australia.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated July 9. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Courts send children to live with violent parents

These latest findings will be no surprise to anybody who has followed the incessant reports of social worker idiocy -- particularly reports from NSW and Britain

COURTS are delivering children to their abusers and ignoring or disbelieving claims of domestic violence.

Australian academics have found that children are sent to live with abusive parents because lawyers and judges are emphasising shared parenting, at the expense of the child's safety. The investigation also found:

* Professionals in the family law system often do not believe allegations of domestic violence or counsel the innocent parent not to mention it for fear of sounding vindictive and of risking contact with their children.

* After divorce or separation, four in 10 children are scared to spend time with the father and almost one in 10 does not feel safe with the mother.

The Federal Attorney-General's Department commissioned the report as part of a review of 2006 changes to the Family Law Act.

University of South Australia adjunct professor Dale Bagshaw, who co-led a team of academics from UniSA and interstate, said the system needed a complete overhaul to make child safety the highest priority.

"The biggest problem reported to us was kids going into unsafe situations because the emphasis on parental rights has been given the same emphasis as the safety of the child," Professor Bagshaw said.

"We are arguing that ... the safety of the child should be given the highest priority and any accusation of violence should be investigated before the child is sent to stay with the abusive parent."

Professor Bagshaw said throughout the separation process, children felt powerless because they were not given a say about parenting arrangements or their wishes were ignored.

The report's recommendations include that children's welfare needs be paramount, that victims' rights be given priority over children's contact with the perpetrator, and that all family law professionals should have more education on family violence.

Law Society of SA president Richard Mellows said while he could not comment directly on the report, he was aware there were public misconceptions about the legal changes.

He said courts still had to determine what was in the best interest of the child when making parenting orders, and that any proof of violence would be heard in court.

Researchers spoke to more than 1000 adults and more than 100 children.


Another Labor party policy hits people's pockets

Workplace laws laws blamed for rise in cost of shipping

JULIA Gillard faces demands to wind back the Fair Work Act for businesses reeling from an explosion in shipping costs. The cost of shipping cargo has escalated because of Labor's workplace policy.

Shippers are passing on the costs of regulations that require them to pay local wages to foreign seafarers carrying domestic freight between Australian ports, prompting warnings that this could lead to higher costs for widely used goods such as vegetables and packaging.

London-based Swire Shipping last week started charging a $600 surcharge for each container it loaded in Newcastle, Brisbane and Townsville on its southeast Asia northbound service, citing the need to cover increased costs from the Fair Work Act and award changes.

Shipping Australia chief executive Llew Russell said the costs of carrying domestic containers could rise by hundreds of dollars because of the changes.

The warning came as Infrastructure Australia chairman Rod Eddington told The Australian the waterfront needed to be overhauled by adopting a more national approach to the planning of the most important ports to help the country capitalise on the mining boom. "We do need national guidelines and we do need national strategy for ports," Sir Rod said.

Under regulations introduced by the Prime Minister when she was workplace relations minister, the Fair Work Act has been extended to certain foreign-flag ships that move cargo between the nation's ports when no local vessel is available. Specifically, it applies to ships issued continuous-voyage or single-voyage permits two or more times every 12 months.

Mr Russell said vessels regularly doing work on the coast should be paid Australian wages. But he argued that the new regulations applied when a ship was largely carrying exports and imports, and was carrying the domestic freight between Australian ports as an "incidental" part of a bigger international trip.

Further, a new award for seafarers would come into force in January, which business feared could also drive up costs. Under the Howard government's Work Choices regime, these were not covered by local industrial law. Moving cargo on foreign-flagged vessels is cheaper, mostly because of lower labour costs.

Cardboard giant Visy Industries shipped about 6500 containers around the coast in the past 12 months. International shipping lines have told Visy they could stop providing coastal shipping as early as this month.

It warns this could force the company to import foreign-produced goods for use in its manufacturing operations or to use expensive road transport. "These effects will obviously impact Australian jobs, not only within our own Australian manufacturing plants but also in the many supporting services Visy's business enables," an internal memo says.

"A move to legislate payroll conditions to a service that is primarily concerned with foreign trade will see knock-on employment reductions across several Australian industries involved in manufacturing and production."

Simplot, which processes vegetables at plants in Tasmania that it sells as Birds Eye and Edgell, estimates its costs would rise by up to $7.4 million a year if it could not ship product to Brisbane and Fremantle via coastal shipping.

National logistics manager Danny Mellon has always achieved "attractive" rates because Simplot "piggy-backed" on foreign-flag ships travelling on international loops but was worried about the impact on services and costs resulting from the Fair Work Act.

Toll Holdings managing director Paul Little said the company, a major freight forwarder within Australia, had been told by a major shipping line that it would have to pay 30 per cent more for moving cargo domestically by sea.

"The two big fears for us are that prices will go up, which will make our customers less competitive," Mr Little said. "The other is the shipping companies will say it is no longer economical to pick up coastal freight. We've already had two international shipping companies, one of which is China Shipping, that have said 'we will no longer pick up coastal containers in the future'."


Government Science: Cowed and Corrupted by Politics

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that government science bodies in Australia had become cowed and corrupted by politicians.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that following the lead of the climate alarmists infecting the government owned ABC, CSIRO, BOM and most state and federal science departments were now singing the government song on climate. “It’s time to de-politicise the Australian government climate science industry.”

Forbes explained: “The once great CSIRO has abandoned objective climate research in favour of global warming activism. “This started with its selective promotion of extreme drought scenarios. With a portfolio of over twenty unproven climate models to choose from, CSIRO chose one forecasting severe droughts to support the alarmist Garnaut report. “Then CSIRO applied pressure on staff who disagreed with Penny Wong’s ETS. One who wrote a critical report was censured and resigned.

“The last straw was the recent appointment of CSIRO’s Chairman – he is a lawyer whose day job is a merchant banker with a huge vested interest in carbon trading. He is a global warming alarmist whose long term climate observations are taken on weekends from his yacht in Port Phillip Bay.

“Both CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology are now focussed, not on climate research or weather forecasting, but on holding secret meetings to discuss how to spread alarmist propaganda on man-made global warming and how to combat “skeptics and denialists”.

“Even the numerous state departments of Agriculture and Forestry are so cowed that not one scientist is prepared to say out loud that, over the life of a cow or a tree, there are ZERO net emissions or extractions of carbon dioxide.

“The corrupting influence of government money and government control has destroyed the spirit of open enquiry in Universities, CSIRO, BOM, the EPA, the government media machine and most of the state departments of Agriculture, Environment, Forestry, Energy, Planning and Resources. Politics is even affecting Science Education.

“All government science organisations should be removed from the ACT (Australian Carbon Territory) and the corroding influence of Carbonerra City. They should be directed by scientists and producers from the agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and processing industries they supposedly serve.

“Finally, all government research projects should have a specific life and goal and be put out to tender.”


Why schoolyard bullies should be stopped in their tracks

SCHOOL bullies are three times more likely to engage in anti-social behaviour in their early 20s, while victims experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, according to a study revealed in The Sunday Telegraph.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has uncovered, for the first time, the damaging and ongoing effects bullying can have on children in their adult life.

Researchers tracked 1000 Australian children over three different stages of their lives - when they were 12 years old, 13 and again at 23 - and discovered tragic results.

Children who were bullied showed signs of depression when they grew older. "What we found with the victims is that once they were established in this role, abuse was likely to continue," Dr. Jodie Lodge said.

Dr Lodge found that one in four children were bullied at schools - and that 95 percent of students were bullied more than once. “They also experienced a number of social adjustment problems during adolescence and by their early 20s, were more likely to have higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress.”

Dr. Lodge, who presented the ground- breaking findings at a conference last week, said bullies tended to perform poorly academically and were more likely to drop-out of school.

They were also more likely to use drugs, be involved in physical fights and engage in other criminal activity in adult life. “Those who bullied in adolescence were three to four times more likely to be involved in anti-social behavior and physical violence by their early 20s," Dr. Lodge said. “It seems that once they're on this trajectory or pathway, it's something that stays with them into adulthood."

Verbal abuse and insults were the most common forms of bullying reported by both boys and girls. Physical violence was more prevalent among boys, while girls tended to bully by socially excluding others.

Dr Lodge said children who were both bullies and victims were particularly at risk as they suffered greater degrees of social and academic problems, were generally unpopular and had fewer friends.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said the results showed we needed to act urgently. “We know bullying has been linked with self-harm and attempts at suicide so it's a very, very serious issue and we need to address it," he said.


12 July, 2010

Girl lucky to survive public hospital negligence

They "economized" by repeatedly refusing to order a badly needed brain scan. I go to a private hospital and if I think I need a scan for anything I get one promptly, no argument. Public medicine is dangerous to your health -- JR

A TEENAGE girl almost died from a brain infection after a hospital refused to believe she was critically ill and told her she must be pregnant.

Kate Newton, 16, had to be resuscitated in the emergency department after suffering a heart attack. She was then rushed to an operating theatre, where neurosurgeons bored a hole in her skull to release the fluid that had been killing her.

Kate's memory of her nightmare is vague, but she is furious with Melbourne's Casey Hospital. "When you have headaches, the first thing you think of is your head," she said. "But they tried to tell me I was pregnant, then sent me home with a urine infection. "I had migraines. I could not stand light or noise, and was vomiting non-stop for a week. "If they had admitted me they would have found what I had, but they didn't want to scan me," she said.

Southern Health is investigating its handling of the case.

Kate's mother took her to the hospital on June 3 when her agonising headaches became unbearable. Kate was told she must be pregnant, despite her denials. A test revealed a urinary infection. She was given intravenous fluids and sent home with antibiotics; pleas for a brain scan were refused.

Two days later, her headaches worsening, she returned to hospital and was diagnosed with vertigo. Requests for brain scans were again refused.

On June 9 she was unable to get out of bed, balance or tolerate light. Her mother Anne called the Royal Children's Hospital and was told to call an ambulance immediately.

A brain scan at Dandenong Hospital revealed she was at serious risk, and she was rushed to Monash Medical Centre. On arrival she had a heart attack and had to be resuscitated. "It was horrible," Ms Newton said. "Her sister Ashley rode with her in the ambulance, and saw her die.

"Then the neurosurgeon said 'I have minutes to get her to surgery to save her life. "Even after the first lot of surgery, they weren't confident that she would survive. "And I was so angry and so frustrated that this happened to my daughter, when it could have been prevented."

The Narre Warren South teen spent days in intensive care and had further surgery. She still suffers from short-term memory loss and dizzy spells, and does not have full feeling back in her body.

A Southern Health spokesman said it believed the symptoms Kate first presented with had later changed, and that her care had been appropriate. "We understand the distress of the young woman and her family," he said.

"On 9th June ... her symptoms were quite different [I guess that being at death's door is indeed "different". But is that what needs to happen before you get any interest taken in your condition?], and a CT scan indicated that she should be transferred to Southern Health's Monash Medical Centre, where she was treated immediately by an appropriate specialist team."


Same old, same old arrogant and bumbling Labor Party

Gillard is just a new face on old policies

SO now we know. The Gillard government, on the evidence we have seen so far, is much the same as the Rudd government.

It is prone to springing grand policy initiatives on an unsuspecting electorate without even bothering to talk to those affected by the decision.

What inevitably follows is a period of chaos and backdowns. In the final dog days of his failing prime ministership, Kevin Rudd self-servingly put his unpopularity down to the fact he was pursuing difficult reforms. The truth is he was replaced precisely for the opposite reason: his predilection for splendid but unilateral visions that were never realised.

You would think Gillard would have learned that lesson. Apparently not.

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta now knows how Australia's smaller mining companies feel: aggrieved at being the subject of a major government announcement that will directly affect them without even the barest of consideration or conversation.

Both the proposed Indian Ocean solution to a breakdown in control over our maritime borders and the super-profits side deal with big miners that left smaller operators out in the cold will require clean-up operations that leave Gillard Labor looking just as it did under Rudd: vulnerable when it comes to process.

A genuinely troubled ALP caucus, which wielded a terrible knife in order to bring down a first-term prime minister, was, at the very least, expecting Gillard to do better on the implementation front. Instead they are getting the same quick fixes as in the Rudd era; the miners win hugely with a 40 per cent tax rate, which Wayne Swan declared to be immutable, cut to an effective 22 per cent.

Now Gillard must talk her way out of another botched process: her rushed claim East Timor would likely be willing to house an offshore facility for asylum-seekers intercepted on the high seas and headed to Australia.

Having initially failed in effect to talk to anyone in East Timor constitutionally capable of saying yes to her proposition, Gillard was left looking like a regional bully boy, hovering menacingly over our tiny neighbour: a left-wing prime minister driven by dual demands from the electorate and the factional masters who delivered her the job for a shift to the Right on boatpeople. She also needs to get to an election sooner rather than later in order to cash in on her honeymoon period.

Once again voters are left asking the same question that in the end defined and destroyed Rudd: what does Gillard stand for?

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt wants an answer to the same question. With Gillard announcing the appointment of Tony Burke as Minister for Sustainable Population and simultaneously abandoning Rudd's commitment to a big Australia, Hunt wants to know where she stands on the issue of nuclear power.

Hunt demands Gillard and Burke acknowledge there cannot be a debate about the rate of population increase in this country without also dealing with the question of baseload power, especially with some sort of carbon reduction regime in the offing, no matter who wins the election.

At the last election Labor ran a brutally effective campaign in all marginal coastal seats, warning a re-elected Howard government would build a water-dependent nuclear power station in their backyard.

Hunt's challenge to Gillard is to abandon this political hysteria and engage in a decent policy debate on the issue.

Around the world, Centre-Left leaders such as Barack Obama have responded to climate change by commissioning new nuclear plants. Centre-Right political climate activists such as Nicolas Sarkozy in France, David Cameron in Britain and Angela Merkel in Germany all support the role of nuclear energy. By comparison, the debate is less mature in Australia. Labor, for political advantage, attacks nuclear energy while increasing Australia's export uranium mining: indeed, it was Environment Minister Peter Garrett who approved the new Beverley uranium mine.

Hunt put his plans to the BCA on the eve of Gillard's bloodless dispatch of Rudd. His conclusion was prescient: in the meantime, said Hunt, it was likely to fall to a different Labor leader (than Rudd) who actually cared about climate change to sit down with the Liberal Party and negotiate a consensus on the issue.

Were Gillard to do that she could put a full stop to the argument that she simply represents a continuation of Rudd's reputation for political quick fixes by embracing real reform that matters to Australia's future. Don't hold your breath, though. Greg Hunt certainly isn't.


Schools fleeced as red tape leads to waste

MANY public schools are overpaying when buying goods through government-endorsed delivery channels. The overpayments run to hundreds of dollars - and in some cases thousands - each year.

An investigation by The Australian has found wastage in education departments is not isolated to the $16.2 billion schools stimulus building program. Public schools are being overcharged for products from projectors and calculators to refrigerators. The problem appears worst in NSW, where the state government collects a fee of up to 2.5 per cent on all items purchased by government departments - and public schools - through its Smartbuy procurement program.

A survey by The Australian has found many products offered through Smartbuy can be bought on the open market for less than those prices offered through the government scheme.

Government supplier Corporate Express is quoting $1708 for a 564-litre, LG refrigerator. An identical item is advertised online for $1276, including delivery. Another Smartbuy supplier is quoting the Bison AMP-1715 wireless projector to schools at $2905. The same product is advertised at $2499, including delivery. All prices and quotes include GST.

NSW public school principals must purchase all items through Smartbuy - regardless of their value - unless they provide the Education Department with details of the product, and the department approves each request.

NSW Education Department spokesman Liam Thorpe said: "We ask schools to notify us of cheaper products they have found so we can check they're the same size, same warranty and that there are no additional costs. If the product is the same, the school can purchase it."

The Public Schools Principals Forum, which is calling for centralised procurement to be scrapped, said the additional red tape meant schools rarely opted to purchase outside the program. "The (NSW) Education Department is saying it doesn't trust principals to do the right thing, that the department knows better than principals do when it comes to school requirements," said forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride.

The federal opposition said last week a Coalition government would give school principals more autonomy, including more financial independence from state bureaucracy.

Mr Thorpe said NSW government schools purchased goods worth $12.5 million through Smartbuy in the first 11 months of last financial year.

A major supplier to NSW public schools is OfficeMax Australia, which sends schools a catalogue. The Australian has found many of the items in its catalogue can be bought for substantially less elsewhere. The Canon Tx-220TS calculator quoted at $29.98 can be found online for $24.33. The Raffles medium-back executive chair offered for $371.81 is $315 at Allgood Office Furniture. Both prices include GST and a three-year warranty.

OfficeMax has repeatedly refused to comment when contacted by The Australian in recent weeks.

When asked about the widespread cost differences, the NSW Department of Services Technology and Administration, which operates Smartbuy for all state government departments, said it was unable to comment on "commercial decisions made by individual suppliers".

"The prices for goods and services in state contracts are based on those included in competitive tender offers, and they factor in considerations such as delivery, warranty and compliance with government policy," a spokesman said. "The majority of state contracts have a clause that provides for NSW procurement to request suppliers to vary their prices if there is evidence that external market pricing is consistently more competitive."

He said an independent review for the 2008-09 financial year had estimated that $360m in "cost avoidance savings" were delivered across all NSW government departments from the use of state contracts. It was unclear how that figure was derived.

Ms McBride said such studies failed to account for the suitability of products delivered to schools and rewarded under funding of public schools. "The lack of choice means schools often end up with products that are not suited to their requirements, leading to even more waste."

The centralised procurement model was of particular concern to country schools, she said. "The local businesses are seeing all the goods for the public schools coming in on the train from Sydney, so when it comes to those schools attempting to fundraise the local businesses want nothing to do with it," she said.


One union bully down

Lots more to go. Note that the Australian Building and Construction Authority was a Howard government creation and the unions have been pressing to have it closed down

THE Builders Labourers Federation has sacked a union organiser found guilty of bullying, intimidating and assaulting a site manager. Wayne Carter has been fined $8800 in the Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane after a landmark six-month prosecution by the Australian Building and Construction Authority.

Federal magistrate Michael Burnett found that Mr Carter had no power to enter the Brisbane factory of Procast, a manufacturer of precast concrete panels, on December 11, 2008, when he repeatedly swore at and twice assaulted its chief operating officer, David Ash, and encouraged employees not to return to work.

"The conduct was quite extreme and completely unacceptable," Mr Burnett said in his reasons for judgment, handed down late last week.

"In an industrial context it does not favourably bespeak of a civilised approach to the resolution of workplace conflict in circumstances where union officials behave in an offensive and heavy-handed manner toward management in the presence of employees.

"Unchecked, this behaviour could lead both sides of the workplace voting table into a belief that the old days of industrial bullying and intimidation are back and remain alive and well. Nothing could be further from the truth . . . there is no place in the workplace for this style of conduct."

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner John Lloyd said yesterday the fine imposed was close to the maximum available under the Workplace Relations Act.

"(It) should send a clear message that violent and bullying behaviour will not be tolerated in any industry," he told The Australian.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which is affiliated with the BLF in Queensland, said yesterday that Mr Carter no longer worked for the BLF. "He's been terminated," the national secretary of the CFMEU construction division, Dave Noonan, said. "I don't want to comment on the circumstances of the termination. It's a matter of months since he worked with us."

Mr Noonan said the CFMEU did not condone violence or abuse. "The union expects its officials to conduct themselves in a professional manner on the job," said.

The magistrate found that Mr Carter had failed to give Procast the requisite 24 hours' notice before entering the factory to speak to workers.

"I'm from the BLF, and I want to talk to you and your staff," he told Mr Ash. When Mr Ash replied that Mr Carter did not have right of entry and asked him to leave, Mr Carter told him, "I'm not f---king leaving" and "You don't know the f---king law, arsehole".

Mr Carter then cited "unhygienic toilets" as a "safety issue", shoved Mr Ash twice, "shouldered" him and knocked him to the ground, hurting his wrist.


Fake psychologist finally facing the music

All our wonderful health regulators have done nothing to stop him but it seems that tax evasion has finally caught him out. An earlier report on this blog about him attracted hate mail from some of his followers

HIS occupation is listed as "charlatan" on court documents and now doctor David Kaye, who allegedly bought his PhD over the internet for $249.95, stands to lose his multi-million-dollar property empire and his Mercedes-Benz.

The NSW Crime Commission has won a Supreme Court fight for restraining orders over the homes and offices owned by the convicted conman, whose real name is Ali Davut Sarikaya.

Kaye, who has treated police officers and other public servants referred through WorkCover NSW, runs the Sydney Trauma Clinic, Parramatta Trauma Clinic and the Melbourne Trauma Clinic. But he is alleged to have no qualifications as a psychologist.

The court orders block him from disposing of his properties in Sydney, Parramatta, Eden and Melbourne pending the outcome of criminal charges which allege a $100,000 fraud against the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department.

It is the latest stage of a legal saga that began when Kaye was arrested at Sydney Airport as he attempted to board a flight to New Zealand last year. He also faces investigations by the NSW Medical Board, the Psychologists Registration Board and Work Cover.

The court heard 20 fraud charges against Kaye, alleging among other things that he defrauded the NSW Official Visitors Program, had been dropped. He was appointed as an official visitor - allowing him to visit patients in mental facilities - by the then-health minister John Hatzistergos, despite not being a medical doctor. But the Supreme Court heard those charges had been withdrawn because there was no requirement to be a doctor in order to be appointed under the OVP scheme.

Justice David Davies said last week that the new charges of defrauding the New Zealand Inland Revenue still involve the "identity of, qualifications of, and work carried on by" Kaye. He said it was alleged that Kaye was convicted of fraud in Victoria and declared bankrupt.

The court heard Kaye used several variations of his real name and David Kaye, although he had not changed it officially by deed poll.

Since 1997, he had been establishing himself as Dr David Kaye and "claims to have a PhD but inquiries have indicated this was purchased via the internet from an organisation in Minnesota, USA", the judge said. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Monash University and a part-completed graduate diploma in counselling from RMIT but had recorded his occupation as psychologist on the electoral roll and on passenger departure cards at Sydney Airport, the judge said.

The new charges involve invoices Kaye allegedly submitted in New Zealand for seven years of staff support and counselling services that were never provided. Kaye challenged the allegations put to the court by the NSW Crime Commission, but Justice Davies found that there were "reasonable grounds" for the suspicions.

Kaye owns a Milsons Point apartment, two homes in Eden and offices in Sydney, Parramatta and Melbourne from where he runs his clinics.


11 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused that Julia is falling back on Howard-era policies in dealing with illegal immigration

The Leftist love-affair with Islam continues

They are united by hatred of the rest of us

EVERY Australian school student would be taught positive aspects about Islam and Muslims - and that Australia is a racist country - under a proposal by an education think tank.

The plan is outlined in the Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools booklet, published during the week by the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and the University of Melbourne's Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies.

It says there is a "degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims", and Australian students must be taught to embrace difference and diversity.

The booklet refers to the al-Qai'da of Osama bin Laden as "a famous name" synonymous with the traditionalist movement in Islam. It makes no reference to terrorism.

It says "most texts used in Australian English classes still have a Western or European perspective".

Its authors are offering free seminars to teachers, which promise to "provide avenues for you to introduce Islam- and Muslim-related content in your classrooms" and "equip you with the skills to meet the needs and expectations of Muslim students in a multi-faith classroom".

But education experts have branded it a biased and one-sided approach that ignores Australia's Christian heritage and Western culture. "The book fails to mention the terrorist nature of such Islamic fundamentalists or describe their terrorist acts like the Bali bombings," education consultant Dr Kevin Donnelly said.

"Ignored is what some see as the inherently violent nature of the Koran, where devout Muslims are called on to carry out jihad and to convert non-believers, and the destructive nature of what is termed dhimmis - where non-believers are forced to renounce their religion, are discriminated against and forced to accept punitive taxation laws.

"Given that Australia's schools, on the whole, are secular in nature and the argument that classrooms should not be used to teach a particular faith, it's understandable why introducing religion into school subjects for many would be unacceptable," Dr Donnelly said.

ACSA executive director Catherine Schoo said the booklet was misunderstood. "This is simply a resource for non-Muslim teachers who may want to improve their understanding of issues Muslims face in Australian schools," she said. [A big backdown!]

SOURCE. (Andrew Bolt has further comments on the matter)

Gillard mining tax worse than Rudd's version?

WEST Australia Senator Mathais Cormann has claimed his state would be worse off under the federal government's propsed new mining tax. The Liberal senator says under the newly negotiated mineral resources rent tax, the state will contribute almost 70 per cent of the total revenue raised effectively a worse position that than under dumped prime minister Kevn Rudd’s plan.

The federal government estimates $10.5 billion will be raised from the MRRT between 2012 and 2014.

In a letter to Senator Cormann, WA Premier Colin Barnett says although it is “difficult to estimate WA's contribution to this figure with any precision... a range of 60-65 per cent is considered justifiable”. However Senator Cormann claims WA Treasury's estimate is conservative and the state will actually contribute about 70 per cent.

“Under Kevin Rudd's bad tax, WA was going to be hit for at least $4 billion out of $12 billion,” he says. “Under Julia Gillard's dodgy tax deal, negotiated in secret, it will be more like $7 billion out of $10.5 billion.”

Senator Cormann, who is Chairman of the Senate Fuel and Energy Committee, also claims Prime Minister Gillard prevented Treasury Secretary Dr Ken Henry from answering questions about the tax at a committee hearing during the week. “She doesn't want people in Western Australia to know how much we will end up paying as a result of her new tax,” he says.


Australian buyers browned off with hybrid green cars

THE federal government's billion-dollar green car scheme has stalled on the starting grid. The first subsidised project, Toyota's locally built hybrid, is selling well below expectations despite a booming vehicle market.

The Hybrid Camry, which began rolling off its Melbourne assembly lines six months ago, was expected to attract 10,000 buyers this year, but fewer than 3000 had been registered at the halfway mark, this week's figures reveal.

A string of record months for vehicle sales and an aggressive marketing campaign by Toyota failed to stimulate demand for the Hybrid Camry, hailed as a new era in Australian manufacturing by Kevin Rudd when he launched it in December, just before he flew to Copenhagen for the ill-fated climate change summit, and the project was granted $35 million from the green car scheme.

A sales breakdown of customer types, obtained by The Weekend Australian, shows 571 of the 2960 sales are awaiting test drives in dealerships or being used by Toyota, while the customers Toyota was hoping to attract are shunning the car, which costs $36,990.

Business fleets have bought 506 Hybrid Camrys, with taxi and rental operations accounting for another 333. Private buyers, who were expected to account for 3000 sales a year, took just 657.

By far the biggest buyers are governments, mostly state governments, which have bought 755. The Victorian government committed to purchasing 2000 before the price was announced.

The Toyota Prius, launched as a new model a year ago, is also underperforming, with sales down 16 per cent to 1019 to the end of last month, despite Toyota's forecast of 4500 buyers this year.

Consumer research by Roy Morgan shows most potential buyers baulk at the starting price of hybrids, even though the petrol-electric cars are cheaper to run.

As well as the $35m from Canberra, the Victorian government injected money into the project but has refused to reveal how much, with estimates ranging from $15m to $35m....

Other green car projects include Holden's plan to return small-car manufacturing to Australia with the Cruze, which attracted $149m in funding, and Ford's four-cylinder Falcon and diesel Territory, which got $42m. All are due on sale next year.

With its local Hybrid Camry and the new Prius in the market, Toyota expected demand for hybrids to blossom to 15,000 cars a year -- triple the best result. However, a decade after the technology was first offered, it remains the least successful alternative fuel option and has yet to muster 1 per cent of the market. This is despite a 17 per cent rebound in vehicle demand this year, a result that has taken the industry by surprise.

Buyers shopping for cheap-to-run cars have turned to diesels, as stricter fuel standards have encouraged importers to introduce a wave of new models, mainly from Europe, Japan and Korea.


Unfair regulator of "fair" pay: Another of Kevvy's flawed ideas still in action

THE new one-stop shop industrial relations authority is a bureaucratic minefield.

IF I hear the word fair one more time, I may suffer a brain fever. A fair system is what we were promised by Julia Gillard when she redesigned our workplace laws.

Indeed, the legislation is called the Fair Work Act 2010. But what is fair, who determines what is fair and to whom does fairness apply?

Does our system value fairness towards those convicted of producing and possessing child pornography above fairness towards their employer and the other employees?

Consider the latest decree from Fair Work Australia; food manufacturer Uncle Toby's has been ordered to pay 10 days' pay as compensation to its former employee Steve, a convicted child pornographer who was "unfairly dismissed" after his employer found out about his convictions.

In March, two union officials visited the company, advising they had received complaints about Steve, a casual employee of seven years, "harassing and stalking women in the workplace". Saying "the employees are not prepared to come forward because they are fearful", the union said: "You can't let him back on site." Steve was a listed sexual offender with work restrictions and reporting obligations to the police. Uncle Toby's workforce is one-third female.

In April, the local paper reported Steve had been convicted of eight offences, including harassment by post, stalking and making, producing and possessing child pornography.

No shifts were offered to Steve after this time. But Fair Work Australia found that for Steve, Uncle Toby's was a "procedural fairness-free zone". Even though there had been no contact with Steve since the convictions, the company was found to have dismissed him because his security access card was cancelled in June.

Fair Work Australia found that although the company had a valid reason for terminating Steve's employment, the process wasn't fair. The company was told it should have gone through a proper disciplinary process. It was also suggested the company could have suspended Steve until the outcome of any appeals Steve may have lodged against the convictions was known.

Uncle Toby's was ordered to pay 10 days' wages as compensation. Steve may have trouble spending much of it, because he is in jail.

I wonder if Uncle Toby's and its staff feel our system is fair.

"Big government industrial relations bureaucracy" is how our Prime Minister described the Workplace Ombudsman in 2007. The ombudsman is now part of Fair Work Australia. The office functions as the industrial police, mostly checking that employers are paying workers in accordance with their award and recovering back pay when they are not. The Howard government established the ombudsman in 2006 and since that time, the office has gone from strength to strength.

Since inception, the ombudsman has conducted 83,000 investigations, recovered $107 million in back pay for employees and dished out nearly $5.5 million in fines to employers. For business owners, not complying with the awards is now very expensive.

An ombudsman spokesman says more than 98 per cent of investigations are resolved without going to court, because the employer pays the amount the ombudsman says is owed to employees. Most employers will pretty much pay anything to make the matter go away. So is this fair or not? Ordinarily I would say let people have what they are entitled to. If only it were that simple.

The problem is sometimes employers find it difficult to determine what their legal obligations are with regard to paying staff. Sometimes workers do not neatly fit into an award's coverage. There can be two or more awards that could apply, or there could be doubt that any award applies.

In this instance, Fair Work Australia refuses to provide definite advice . It is up to the employer to guess, but if they get it wrong, look out. Unlike Fair Work Australia, the ombudsman is happy to form definite opinions about which award should be chosen and to collect back pay owed as a result of a mistake.

Understandably, employers feel this is unfair. If the ombudsman can form an opinion to prosecute, why can't this opinion be given up-front so the employer can avoid the mistake in the first place? After all, the ombudsman is part of Fair Work Australia, the one-stop shop we were promised by the government.

Fairness is defined in the dictionary as reasonable, unbiased and impartial. I'm just not feeling the fairness of our new system.


"Affirmative action" appointment angers Victorian lawyers

After the affirmative action hiring of a disastrous Victorian police chief (Nixon), one would have thought that the Leftist government and its officers would have learnt their lesson -- but ideology trumps all, I guess

VICTORIA's Office of Public Prosecutions is divided overr the controversial promotion of a young female solicitor by Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke QC.

Diana Karamicov was one of several people promoted last week within the Crown prosecutions office. Her promotion - along with the other appointments confirmed during the week - was recommended by Mr Rapke, as is standard practice. But some inside the OPP are furious and claim she has been promoted ahead of others who were more experienced.

And the rumours and allegations concerning her promotion were so intense the Government was forced to convene an independent panel to reinterview Ms Karamicov and all other applicants to ensure their appointments were above reproach.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands that Gavin Silbert, SC, the chief Crown prosecutor, also wrote to Attorney-General Rob Hulls expressing his concern about the appointments.

Mr Silbert, a barrister with 30 years' experience who sits on the Government's Sentencing Advisory Council, outlined his concerns about the appointment process to Mr Hulls. Mr Silbert could not be contacted yesterday.

The circumstances surrounding the appointment and the stoush between Mr Rapke and Mr Silbert have set Victoria's criminal bar abuzz, and the controversy began even before Ms Karamicov's appointment was formalised. Numerous legal sources told the Sunday Herald Sun that the controversy was an open secret in the criminal bar.

Mr Hulls said he would not comment on any correspondence he might or might not have received or go into detail about any individual.


10 July, 2010

Gillard bombs again: PNG rejects role in her asylum seeker plan

What does she need a new "processing centre" for anyway? The U.N. has said Sri Lanka is no longer a refugee concern so she could put all the Tamils on the next plane back

PAPUA New Guinea yesterday joined the East Timor Parliament in saying "no" to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's asylum seeker "solution", leaving a key plank of the Labor Government's re-election campaign in tatters.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith had on Thursday briefed his PNG counterpart on the plan, under which asylum seekers bound for Australia would have been processed at Manus Island detention centre.

Betha Somare, the spokeswoman for PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, said the PNG Government had closed down the centre and considered the matter ended.

"Our official position has been that the asylum seekers issue is an internal Australian problem," Ms Somare said.

East Timor's Parliament has resoundingly rejected Ms Gillard's plans to process asylum seekers there.

The setback comes amid reports that the number of people smugglers caught bringing asylum seekers to Australian shores has risen to such a level that they are now being farmed out to the states to hold.

The Daily Telegraph has been told that Queensland has been forced to take 10 traffickers while NSW's jails will take 40 over the next five weeks.

A NSW government source said the states' prisons were needed because with the growing number of asylum seekers came the traffickers paid to bring them illegally to Australia.

The Federal Government had at least 120 people smugglers in its care, the source said.

Mr Smith briefed PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal of his Government's hopes to create a regional processing centre while attending a prescheduled meeting in Milne Bay.

Ms Somare said Mr Abal would need to discuss any PNG solution with cabinet. "It will depend on when Foreign Affairs brings that forward in a submission to cabinet," she said.

Other countries in the region which are signatories to the UN Convention of Refugees are New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

If PNG did not show any interest, the only options after East Timor are the Solomons and Tuvalu.

Mr Smith said it was a general conversation and he had not made a request to use PNG for a facility or discussed the reopening of the Manus detention centre. "I have not sought from Sam any indication about any particular location," Mr Smith told reporters.

Ms Gillard's proposal for an East Timorese processing centre was rejected by its parliament on Wednesday amid claims she had been wrong to brief President Jose Ramos Horta rather than the man with true power, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

On Thursday Ms Gillard backed down from claims she was seeking a Timor Solution but yesterday she maintained that the East Timor option was still open to her Government. "We're focused on a dialogue with East Timor, I couldn't be any clearer about that," she said yesterday. "Let's be very clear, we are in dialogue with East Timor . . . we are now pursuing that dialogue in circumstances where the President of East Timor and Prime Minister said they are open to that dialogue."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Ms Gillard was being inconsistent. "She's now mentioned PNG, and she's still talking to East Timor," he said. "No one really knows what's going on because it's changing as they desperately try to backfill for the domestic political debate."

Ms Gillard indicated she would not rule out using Manus Island, which belongs to PNG and became notorious under John Howard's Pacific Solution. Port Moresby radio was yesterday reporting that Manus Islanders were interested in offering their island to Australia.

But Sir Michael's Government inherited and then shut the Manus facility - now completely dismantled - from the previous Morauta Government, which had struck a deal with John Howard.

The Opposition said Ms Gillard's hopes of getting neighbours to participate in the creation of the facility would take years.


Gillard told to slow down on climate

Good advice, if not for the best of reasons

LABOR'S closest business adviser, Heather Ridout, has warned Julia Gillard to slow down as the PM prepares to rush out a climate change policy. As chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Ms Ridout has offered consistently strong support to the Labor government and was a member of the Henry tax review panel.

She told The Weekend Australian yesterday that it would be "over-reaching" for the government to roll out a replacement for the emissions trading scheme ahead of the election and cautioned Ms Gillard to avoid embracing a carbon-tax quick fix, warning that business was not prepared nor ready.

"It is totally the wrong atmosphere -- we are getting way ahead of ourselves," Ms Ridout said. "I think the confidence of business has been really shaken by the breakdown of the domestic consensus on this issue. Business doesn't want the government to be in any hurry to come up with this in the lead-up to the election."

When she replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, Ms Gillard identified the government's position on climate change as one of her key priorities that had to be fixed before going to the polls. She has sharpened the position on the other two priorities -- the mining tax and asylum-seekers -- but has since been embroiled in debates over both.

Criticism is building that Ms Gillard is moving too quickly to address Labor's policy weaknesses in her haste to clear the deck for an election.

The government is considering a suite of measures to reclaim support from voters lost to the Greens when Mr Rudd ditched the ETS. These include a controversial idea to place tough new restrictions on all new coal-fired power stations and a national energy-efficiency target.

Reports this week have suggested the government is considering setting a price on carbon pollution, while green groups have urged the government to adopt an interim carbon tax. "I think we need to develop a deep and lasting community consensus about pricing carbon," Ms Gillard said yesterday, declaring herself to be a believer in human-induced climate change.

The Prime Minister's special taskforce on energy efficiency has concluded its report to hand to Ms Gillard, calling on her to adopt a national energy efficiency target. The target will lead to bans on many energy-sapping appliances being sold in Australia.

The Weekend Australian understands the government is considering placing an energy-efficiency target on retailers. They could meet the new target by buying "white certificates", which represent an amount of energy they have saved.

In practice, certificates can be awarded for a wide range of actions, including replacing inefficient heaters or airconditioners with more efficient models, installing insulation, improving the thermal efficiency of windows, installing energy efficient lighting and buying efficient refrigerators.

There is no national energy efficiency target. Some states have their own energy efficiency schemes such as the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target and the NSW Energy Savings Scheme. South Australia also has a scheme that provides incentives to adopt energy saving measures.

While the Greens are pushing for a 3 per cent annual energy efficiency target, The Weekend Australian understands the government's target will be lower.

In an interview with ABC TV's Lateline this week, Ms Gillard would not be drawn on whether her climate plans included a carbon tax, declaring she still supported an emissions trading system from 2012, while saying there were things the government could do in the meantime.

Although not wanting a hasty solution, many business figures do want whichever party is successful at the forthcoming election to set a clear direction on climate policy. AGL Energy chief executive Michael Fraser said yesterday a price on carbon was needed to guarantee Australia's energy future. "It is my firm view that a broad-based cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme is the best way to deliver least cost solutions for reducing emissions," he said.

An interim carbon price has been backed by MPs. One said a carbon tax was now the only option to restore Labor's battered reputation.


Bad doctors stay under the radar

MEDICAL authorities will not be obliged to publish details of fatal cases of gross misconduct and negligence involving doctors, with the Federal Government refusing to close a loophole that would help prevent another case like that of former surgeon Jayant Patel.

Medical Board of Queensland files obtained by The Courier-Mail showed in some recent cases, the board decided disciplinary action for doctors found guilty of professional misconduct would not be published other than as part of the register of disciplinary proceedings the board is legally obliged to maintain and keep open to public inspection.

Under new laws introduced last week some state authorities, including the medical board, were disbanded and replaced by the Commonwealth regulatory body, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

The Medical Board of Australia "may" choose to publish details of disciplinary action for professional misconduct involving Queensland doctors in the many cases not referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which already publishes its results, but it is not compulsory.

A spokeswoman for federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said current provisions were adequate. "The Medical Board of Australia is responsible for disciplinary action and remediation for doctors . . . and makes these judgments with the primary task of protecting the public," a health department spokeswoman said in a statement.

Slater and Gordon solicitor Margaret Brain, who specialises in medical negligence, said she would support publication of decisions regarding professional misconduct.

But in the meantime she said she hoped new mandatory reporting laws forcing health professionals to dob in an employee who was unwell, or practising incompetently or unethically, would "prevent a repeat of what happened at Bundaberg Hospital".

"Serial offenders, for example cosmetic surgeons with a long history of botched operations, should not be allowed to practise, or at the very least the public should be warned," she said.

In the past 18 months, there have been more than 600 complaints against Queensland doctors, and about 10,000 are currently practising.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said patients needed to be protected and to know what was going on, but he did not want a situation where doctors were afraid.

"The effect this may have is to increase rapidly the number of investigations they need to do, and that can actually – apart from causing fear and panic for both patients and doctors – also cost money, and we don't want money taken from areas of clinical need to fund this," Dr Pecoraro said.


NSW ambulance bureaucracy deliberately slows down response times

THEY are meant to save lives but NSW Ambulance Service officials have been accused of putting the public at risk with their latest cash-saving move. From this week ambos known as "rapid responders" can no longer attend emergencies on their way to and from work after being ordered not to take their cars or motorbikes home.

In a memo sent to the ambos on Tuesday, the service has claimed that taking operational vehicles home could be deemed as personal use and attract fringe benefits tax.

The practice of taking home the vehicles, which are equipped with medical supplies, began in 1994. "Do they think they are riding the bikes around on the weekends doing burnouts?" Health Services Union organiser Gerard Hayes said. "Operational lights and siren vehicles are exempt from fringe benefits tax. We can't work out why, now, they have decided to change the policy."

Rapid responder units are used in metropolitan areas to get fast access to patients in built-up areas. They cannot transport patients but can begin immediate treatment until an ambulance arrives. Until now paramedics have been able to take their cars home and if needed after-hours will respond to emergency calls.

"They will go on-air as soon as they leave home and quite often have answered calls on major arterial roads," Mr Hayes said. "They can respond to traffic accidents and sometimes have saved an ambulance attending."

After a backlash by paramedics last week, the service agreed to allow "operational managers" to take their cars home, but is still refusing to budge on the motorcyclists.

Paramedic Simon Bedwell is part of the Motorcycle Rapid Responder Unit operating in Sydney's CBD and travels from Bundeena, in Sydney's south. "I normally respond to jobs while I am travelling to and from work. Sometimes it means I can even call off an ambulance, it also eases the pressure on the crews on the road," the Health Services Union representative said. "They've told us it's because of fringe benefits tax but we are exempt."

An Ambulance Service spokesman said there was no need for motorcycle paramedics to respond after hours.


NSW Hospital patients treated in driveway

AMBULANCE crews are being forced to care for a soaring backlog of patients in hospital loading areas and corridors because overcrowded emergency departments cannot take over.

Internal Health Department figures obtained by the Herald show that in recent weeks several of Sydney's largest hospitals accepted only about half of the ambulance patients taken there within 30 minutes - far short of the recommended 90 per cent.

Prince of Wales, Blacktown, Westmead, Royal North Shore and Sutherland hospitals and the Calvary Mater in Newcastle were the worst affected in May and June.
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In one week, Blacktown took over the care of only a third of its ambulance patients within 30 minutes, taking ambulances off the road because paramedics must wait with people they have transported.

The figures present a grim portrait of NSW emergency departments as the states negotiate emergency performance targets with the federal government. Meeting these would attract bonus payments under health reforms agreed by the Council of Australian Governments.

The statistics illustrate how hospitals struggle during the peak winter flu and pneumonia seasons. The department publishes the data quarterly after a lag of several months, masking the most problematic period by averaging it over the warmer spring and autumn months.

A spokeswoman for Sydney West Area Health Service, which runs Blacktown and Westmead hospitals, said there had been a 30 per cent jump in the number of emergency patients whose condition was deemed imminently life-threatening between the first and second quarters of this year. Such patients' care "requires more intense clinical interventions" and could affect treatment times for more stable patients, she said.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said it "recognises the impact delays have on ambulances and prioritises triple-0 emergency calls". "Every effort is made to minimise delays to non-urgent conditions and routine patients."

Budget papers show that NSW Health expects ambulance response times to lengthen this year, growing to an average of 10.6 minutes, from 9.8 minutes three years ago. For May and June the average was 10.5 minutes.

The president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said the delays were due to a lack of acute hospital beds available to keep pace with the rising admissions to acute hospitals. "It's just a gradual decline," she said.

Emergency doctors spent up to 40 per cent of their time caring for people who needed in-patient care but could not find a bed, she said. Solutions such as paying paramedics to work shifts in hospitals were a distraction from the need to increase bed numbers and "improve patient flow" in hospitals.

Across all main Sydney hospitals, the proportion of emergency patients needing an in-patient bed who were allocated one within eight hours fell to 66 per cent in late June. The target is 80 per cent.

A spokesman for the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association of NSW, which represents about 700 paramedics, said morale was affected "because really paramedics want to be out there treating patients". It could harm people who needed emergency department care, he said.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said there had been a 4 per cent rise in emergency department visits in the past year, well above the 1 per cent growth in the state's population. She said the situation would be eased by the opening of 380 beds this financial year.


9 July, 2010


She's beginning to sound even madder than Kevvy. Five relevant reports below

Julia's really lost it: Now it seems that she aims to ban big fridges and other appliances

Got a big family and need a big fridge? No problems! Just buy two small ones. It will hit your pocket and will do nothing for the environment but it will keep Julia happy! Tony Abbott must be a happy boy today

JULIA Gillard will try to put her tarnished asylum seeker plan behind her by nailing down her final election plank - a new climate change policy. Ms Gillard, who failed to get the backing of East Timor's Parliament to build an asylum seeker detention centre in the impoverished country, will take her climate plan to Cabinet within days.

Key measures are being finalised, including plans for a national "energy savings initiative". The mandatory scheme will replace a patchwork of existing state-based schemes by about 2012. However, the policy could be bad news for the family hip pockets, with tighter restrictions expected on energy-sapping appliances such as clothes dryers and refrigerators, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Australia allows a number of appliances that are banned from the more greenhouse-conscious places such as Europe and Japan.

Power companies will go to the homes of customers to give energy efficiency advice, with Ms Gillard pledging to reduce "our carbon footprint as a country" by starting with co-operation between households and energy companies.

The plan is designed to provide a so-called "step-change" in national energy usage as a key aspect of the Government's international commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, which was signed at Copenhagen. Corporations are also likely to receive financial support to "retro-fit" old buildings with state-of-the-art technology.

Ms Gillard will want to refresh Labor's stance on the environment, especially in light of three damning reports into the Government's $275 million Green Loans scheme, and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd's decision to push back an emissions trading scheme to at least 2012.


Gillard under pressure over her proposed East Timor asylum-seeker centre

Her earlier idea of sending bogus refugees back seems to have vanished

JULIA Gillard is under pressure to nominate a location for a refugee processing centre after she denied saying it would be established in East Timor.

The opposition has seized on the apparent retreat, with Tony Abbott accusing the Prime Minister of “spin” and suggesting Nauru, the core of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, as an option. “If Julia Gillard is serious about third country offshore processing she probably should put in a phone call to Nauru because Nauru stands ready willing and able, it seems, to accept a facility,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio.

And opposition foreign affairs spokesman Julie Bishop urged Ms Gillard to nominate another location for the proposed centre. “Ms Gillard specifically picked out East Timor because she said it was a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees,” she said. “If East Timor won't sign up to her plans, where else will she go? There's only a handful of countries in our region that are signatories to that convention. So Ms Gillard must reveal which other countries are now in her sights.”

But The Australian reported this morning that fallback options for the new asylum-seeker processing centre are melting away.

Last night, Ms Gillard refused to rule out the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, as a possible alternative site. About 350 asylum-seekers were processed there under the previous Pacific Solution.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute on Tuesday Ms Gillard revealed she had discussed the concept of a regional processing centre with East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta. But yesterday, as the tiny nation's parliament condemned the idea as unworkable, Ms Gillard insisted she never said the centre should be located in East Timor.

Mr Abbott accused Ms Gillard of poor judgment and of committing a serious diplomatic gaffe. “She's desperately trying to spin her way out of a problem,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the Prime Minister should not have made her announcement without an agreement with the East Timorese government and consultation with its Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. “It seems that unlike Kevin Rudd, who at least understood who was who in East Timor, the new Prime Minister doesn't understand the distinction between a head of government and a head of state,” Mr Abbott said.

“Julia Gillard should have got this deal done before she made a public announcement.”


She is however postponing internet filtering until after the election

A big contrast to her keen support just yesterday! Another policy that lasted only one day. She's worse than Kevvy

The Gillard government has succumbed to pressure and delayed the introduction of its mandatory internet filtering scheme. The government will wait until a review of refused classification requirements is done.

If Labor wins the upcoming election -- poised in the coming months -- this could see a 2012 start date for the controversial plan, which was introduced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd prior to the 2007 federal election.

The review into transparency and accountability measures into RC categories will take one year to be completed. Legislation will then be introduced to require all ISPs to filter the RC content list. Once the legislation has passed implementing the web filter plan would take another 12 months.

The Greens yesterday urged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to put the filtering plan on hold or risk affecting Labor's election chances. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the friendless net filter proposal is one policy that Labor will probably regret taking into the 2010 election.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today clarified that the purpose of the review is to ensure that material included in the RC category "correctly reflects current community standards". "As the government's mandatory ISP filtering policy is underpinned by the strength of our classification system, the legal obligation to commence mandatory ISP filtering will not be imposed until the review is completed," Senator Conroy said.

The Australian Online understands the review will be headed by an independent expert in the field who will be supported by a number community assessment panels. In conjunction with the review three of Australia's largest ISPs -- Telstra, Optus and Primus -- have agreed to block a list of child abuse URLs compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

"I welcome the socially responsible approach taken by some of Australia's largest ISPs. Between them they account for around 70 per cent of internet users in Australia," Senator Conroy said. "I encourage other Australian ISPs to follow the example of these ISPs, as well as the large number of ISPs in other western democracies, who already block this abhorrent content."

Ms Gillard had backed the filtering plan. She made her support known to ABC radio this week, saying she understood public concerns over the scheme but that Senator Conroy was working to find a resolution that would be in the "right shape".

When asked if Ms Gillard had set a deadline for the filtering legislation to be introduced, Senator Conroy said: "We are prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure we get it right." "The discussions we're having behind the scenes with various players are more interested in getting the implementation and the actual policy right rather than saying it's got to be done by some artificial deadline."

The filter had been opposed by US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich who urged the government to ditch the plan, saying child pornographers could be captured and prosecuted without using mandatory internet filters.

RC broadly consists of illegal content but Google and various internet experts believe the list could potentially contain legitimate material.


Even the big miners are still concerned about Julia's new watered-down tax

JULIA Gillard's mining tax removes a "great uncertainty" that saw projects shelved, but Rio Tinto is cautious about the PM's proposal. Speaking in London to 500-plus mining executives at an event organised by the Melbourne Mining Club today, Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said the government’s new proposal, as it stands, would still leave Australia at the high end of the global taxation scale for commodities such as coal and iron ore.

Newly appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard killed the resources super-profits tax last week in her first official role in the top job, and replaced it with the minerals resources rent tax.

The move was applauded by the major miners who had negotiated the new tax with the government, but it has been opposed by the smaller players.

Mr Albanese said the global miner had been encouraged by the government’s constructive engagement over the last couple of weeks. He added that the MRRT was an improvement on the super tax, but he remained cautious. “There is still much work to be done to finalise the details, and this will remain high on my personal agenda,” he said.

Following the announcement of the new proposal, Mr Albanese instructed his Australian team to review projects that had been placed on hold amid the uncertainty that had surrounded the previous tax plan. “I do want to invest in Australia and recent events remove the great uncertainty which had been holding us back,” he said. “But, of course, our Australian projects will always have to compete for capital with our other investment opportunities across the globe.”

The mining giant’s chief also used his speech to warn other countries about Australia’s mistakes in its attempt to introduce a new tax. “Policy-makers around the world can learn a lesson when considering a new tax to plug a revenue gap, or play to local politics,” he said. “Such decisions must be made taking in a wide range of views, in a spirit of consultation and engagement.”

Had it not been for the Rudd government’s tax plan, Mr Albanese said, the mining major could have more news on growth prospects.

While there were global concerns about China and doubts over continued demand for the metals imported by the economic powerhouse, demand had kept prices well above historical averages. “While we remain cautious on the outlook, 2010 is shaping up well from Rio Tinto’s perspective,” he said.

“Growth is firmly back on the agenda in 2010, and if it hadn’t been for the resource tax, we would have had more to talk about on that front. Inevitably, some of our projects got caught up in the uncertainty.”


Green Loans latest example of climate waste

Julia was deputy PM while this was going on but she still hasn't learned. She is now proposing a new scheme that is just a small variation on the disastrous one

A MYRIAD of problems has forced the government to axe another of its environmental programs - the $275 million Green Loans scheme.

COMPLIANCE breaches, budget blowouts, poor management and possible staff kickbacks have forced the government to axe another of its environmental programs - the $275 million Green Loans scheme.

As Julia Gillard prepares to unveil a new climate change policy to take to the election, she is dealing with the fallout from three damning reports into the troubled Green Loans scheme.

The reports, released yesterday, further damage the government's environmental credentials after the shelving of its emissions trading scheme.

They uncovered a litany of problems with the Green Loans scheme, including deliberate and systemic breaches of the government's procurement guidelines and weak budget control that led to cost blowouts. This included a logistics contract that blew out by 19 times its original estimated cost from $77,000 to $1.476m.

The opposition immediately seized on the reports last night to say voters could have no confidence in the government's ability to deliver environmental programs, pointing to its bungled $2.45 billion home insulation and axed solar rebate scheme.

The reports also sparked fresh calls from the opposition for the Prime Minister to sack Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett, who was in charge of both the Green Loans program and the insulation scheme until earlier this year.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday announced a new $130m Green Start program to replace the Green Loans scheme.

The Green Loans scheme, which began in July last year, allowed householders to obtain a free environmental assessment of their home and an interest-free loan of up to $10,000 to purchase energy-saving devices.

But it was plagued by problems: assessors had trouble accessing the government's call centre to book audits; there were long delays in the government sending out reports; and allegations of rorting and shoddy service by assessors.

In February, the government dumped the loans component of the program, but in the May budget, an extra $100m was announced to pay for an extra 600,000 home audits. Any Green Loans money left over will be rolled into the new Green Start program. The new grants-based Green Start scheme will also enable householders to obtain environmental audits. Details of the new scheme were still sketchy last night, including whether the audits would be free or subsidised for householders.

In addition to the three reports released yesterday, the government is waiting for a further three into the scheme - a $4m investigation into alleged rorting by assessors, a report by the National Audit Office and another by independent consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Among the problems identified in the Green Loans scheme yesterday were failures of staff supervision, proper planning and communication of issues from the department to the minister and his office. One of the reports, by former Victorian public servant Patricia Faulkner and consultants KPMG, revealed 36 breaches of financial management regulations.

Problems included the splitting of large contracts into smaller ones to avoid scrutiny.

The report also raised the possibility that staff received kickbacks from suppliers, which is being investigated by the department. The original program contemplated assessors being paid $150 a job, but they were ultimately paid $200, and five contracts were cancelled even though the department had already made 50 per cent of contract payments to suppliers.

Defending the government's environmental record, Senator Wong told The Australian: "I think what today shows is that as problems are identified, steps are taken to address them. The announcement I'm making today follows the advice we've received."

Senator Wong said as soon as she took over the management of the Green Loans program in February, she announced interim measures to address its problems, and now that she had received the independent reports, she had redesigned the scheme.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the reports were "a damning indictment of government incompetence and mismanagement".

"There can be no confidence in any environmental program under this government," he said.

"Peter Garrett has completed a hat-trick of failures - the solar program, the disastrous home insulation program and now the systemically rorted and potentially corrupt Green Loans program. Mr Garrett must go, and he must go before the election.

The review uncovered no evidence of kickbacks and all staff interviewed denied they had received gifts, benefits or hospitality from suppliers. But it stated: "During the interviews conducted, representations were made which would indicate that inappropriate relationships with suppliers may have existed and the personal benefit of individual staff or contractors may have been a factor driving procurement behaviour."


8 July, 2010

Julia's commonsense has run out already

She has wisely modified some of Kevvy's obnoxious policies but seems to have left net censorship untouched. And her new immigration policy has imploded ONE DAY after it was launched -- so the shine may be coming off her even faster than it did off Kevvy

THE federal government hopes to introduce legislation to enable its controversial internet filter by the end of the year. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the legislation would be this year "sooner rather than later".

Timing for the web filter legislation, which has earned the ire of ISPs and internet freedom advocates, depends on the date for the looming federal election and whether Labor wins office. Political commentators have earmarked August to October as possible election dates. The polls are likely to occur before the Victorian election in late November.

Since the plan was mooted in 2007, Senator Conroy has changed his mind several times on how the filtering scheme would eventually work. The latest measure is to create a list of web pages comprising refused classification-rated content and force internet service providers to automatically block them. Legislation will be introduced to require all ISPs to filter the RC content list.

New Prime Minister Julia Gillard backs the filtering plan. She made her support known to ABC radio today, saying she understood public concerns over the scheme but that Senator Conroy was working to find a resolution that would be in the "right shape".

When asked if Ms Gillard had set a deadline for the filtering legislation to be introduced, Senator Conroy said: "We are prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure we get it right. "The discussions we're having behind the scenes with various players are more interested in getting the implementation and the actual policy right rather than saying it's got to be done by some artificial deadline."

Those talks include consultation with ISPs on how to increase accountability and transparency for RC material. "I expect it (the legislation) to be this year. I expect that we will table the legislation this year sooner rather than later. "If you're thinking 'does that mean December?' - no, I wouldn't think it would be December, but there could be intervening events that I am not in control of," Senator Conroy told reporters in Sydney today.

The policy would be implemented 12 months from the passage of legislation.

RC broadly consists of illegal content but Google and various internet experts believe the list could potentially contain legitimate material.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy's suggestion for an opt-in approach has been rejected.

US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich has urged the government to ditch the plan, saying child pornographers can be captured and prosecuted without using mandatory internet filters.

Ms Gillard told ABC Darwin she was happy with the policy aim of the filtering plan. "Clearly you can't walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn't on the internet be able to access those things either so Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape.

"I'm happy with the policy aim and the policy aim is if there are images of child abuse, child pornography ... they are not legal in our cinemas, you would not be able to go to the movies and watch that ... you shouldn't ... no one should want to see that. "You're not able to go to the movies and see those kinds of things why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that's the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this."

But she understood concerns raised over the filtering program, especially how it would impact speed and remove proper use of the internet. "It's not my intention in any way to jeapordise legitimate use of the internet," she said.

The filtering legislation was expected to be introduced in the autumn or winter parliamentary sessions but former prime minister Kevin Rudd postponed it until after the next election.


Children won't be left to drown … how about Gillard?


How stupid does Julia Gillard think "redneck central'' is? She can't honestly believe voters in marginal electorates will fall for her election-eve volte-face on asylum seekers, unveiled in a speech this week to the Lowy Institute.

She can't honestly believe they will be grateful for her patronising defence of them as not being the racist, bigoted "rednecks" refugee advocates such as Julian Burnside say they are. Especially while she bent over backwards to praise him as: ''Prominent Australian, Julian Burnside, QC, an eminent lawyer, much respected in our community.''

Everyone knows that it was the Labor policies crafted by Julia Gillard, when she was shadow immigration minister, that turned a trickle of about three unauthorised boat arrivals a year into an escalating three boats a week, leading to more than 150 drowning deaths of asylum seekers along the way, and almost 600 children currently in detention. But after years of vilifying conservatives for supporting the Howard government policies that stopped the flow of boats, Labor thinks it can turn around within weeks of an election, without admitting they were wrong, and create their own version of a ''Pacific solution''.

Gillard's speech was astonishingly patronising, even from someone who jokes about wearing pearls for a "dress like a Tory" outfit.

"For too long, the asylum seeker policy debate has been polarised by … a fundamental disrespect that I reject," she said. The "fundamental disrespect" was from her side of the ideological fence. And she continued it in her speech on Tuesday with an attempt to portray the opposition as "evil", implying they would "leave children to drown", even while she aped their policies.

"Today let me say one thing loud and clear: our nation would not leave children to drown. We are Australians and our values will never allow us to embrace this kind of evil."

Her minister, Chris Evans, later went further in an ABC interview: "If Tony Abbott is seriously saying he's gonna tow women, children and others out to sea and leave them there to drown, well let him say that."

It's despicable to imply Abbott would leave children to drown on the high seas. But of course that was what the chattering classes all claimed about Howard and SIEV X. It's more of the same bile.

Gillard is kidding if she thinks she can suddenly undo all the vile distortions and character assassinations of the past, which caused so much division and unpleasantness in the nation.

Peter Reith, the Howard minister who negotiated the ''Pacific solution'' with Nauru, rang ABC radio in Melbourne yesterday to make the point. "For years the Labor party belted people like me around the head with what we did with Nauru [and] the Pacific solution and now we find they were just playing a game … Talk about the ultimate vindication. They used this politically, they hit us for ages, called us liars everything under the sun and now we find when they're in government it's OK."

Reith was hounded out of office, maligned almost as much as his colleague, the former immigration minister, Philip Ruddock. Even as Coalition policies stopped the boats, emptied the detention centres and damaged the people-smuggler industry, it was open season on conservatives. It was a shameful episode of organised bullying by Gillard's ideological brethren.

Now we see, as we always knew anyway, the bullies couldn't care less about asylum seekers. They were using the issue as a battering ram against their opponents.

And it worked. Nice, well-meaning people started to believe there was something wrong with conservatives - they were hard-hearted and cruel. Thus came the rise of the doctors' wives.

Now all the usual suspects who pummelled the Howard government are lining up to support Gillard. Malcolm Fraser called in to Melbourne ABC radio yesterday to praise Gillard: "I think the Prime Minister needs to be given credit for her speech", and saying her policy was "quite different" to the opposition's policy that "takes people and drags them off to Nauru".

And there is Burnside, who said in February, "The idea of reopening Nauru as a place of detention is unnecessary, absurdly expensive and morally bankrupt.'' He slagged off Abbott as a "utilitarian", who would be shunned by priests at St Patrick's seminary and had a "pretended devotion to Christianity". Oh, but now, he's impressed with Gillard's "Dili solution".

The ABC is similarly well disposed. On the 7.30 Report we heard how Gillard had given a "a masterful landmark speech to the Lowy Institute" and had "moved to seize the initiative on the asylum-seekers issue … This was Julia Gillard at her best and most convincing."

A hasty phone call on Monday night to the East Timor President, the New Zealand Prime Minister and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had become "a round of behind-the-scenes talks".

In a new spirit of fairness, the ABC found an academic who supports offshore processing of asylum applications (something I don't ever remember they managed to do in the Howard era).

You can't, of course, mention bias at the ABC because that's just a neo-conservative conspiracy theory - like the strange phenomenon observed recently on ABC-TV of Tony Abbott's face looking as yellow as Bart Simpson's. It seems, as a television producer friend put it, as if someone has "turned up the chroma" on the Opposition Leader's skin tone in the editing suite.

The generous view is that all those who vilified conservatives as racists and bigots during the Howard era have realised they were mistaken. They will never have the grace to admit it. But those who were vilified and treated as rednecks are not so easily conned. Voters have long memories, too.


It took a newspaper to push a NSW public hospital into offering an urgent service

I go to a top private hospital and get scans same day on occaions. They are apologetic if they have to make me wait until the next day after the scan is ordered. It shows what is possible -- JR

HOW do you beat the long delays for treatment in the ailing NSW Health system? Call The Daily Telegraph. Margaret Russell had been waiting six days for an MRI scan at Nepean Hospital after suffering a brain injury akin to a stroke.

But within 30 minutes of The Daily Telegraph contacting the hospital on behalf of the family yesterday, Mrs Russell was told the scan was to occur.

"It is really unfortunate it has to come to this. I know there would be plenty of other people who are in the same shoes as Margaret," her husband, Geoff, said. "Doctors have been telling us they cannot diagnose her without an MRI. They can't treat her without it. "She has just been lying here, unable to see."

Mrs Russell, 41, was at work last Thursday when she took a bad turn, losing her vision and balance. She was taken to Nepean Hospital by ambulance and until yesterday, had no idea what caused her condition. Doctors likened her episode to a mini stroke but were forced to wait for the test, as the health system struggles to cope with the increase in patients.

"I understand that if someone has a car accident and needs a scan that they are a priority," Mr Russell, of Kurrajong Heights, said. "But what does it take to get a scan?"

Coincidentally, NSW Health director-general Debora Picone is expected to visit the hospital today.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said it was a disgrace that any patient should have to wait five days for an MRI. "Waiting five days for an MRI scan to help provide a diagnosis is a sign of just how broken the health system has become after 15 years of state Labor government," she said. "This poor patient has endured enough at the hands of Labor's health system without having to five wait days for an MRI scan."

Nepean Hospital general manager Kevin Hedge described the delay as "unacceptable". "Preliminary investigations show that standard procedures for prioritising patients were not followed on this occasion," Mr Hedge said. "The delay experienced by Mrs Russell is unacceptable and improved processes will be implemented to reduce the risk of recurrence."


Auditor-General probe into Victorian ambulance horrors

THE state's stressed ambulance service is to be the subject of an Auditor-General's investigation after a series of horrific deaths and near misses. Concerns were flagged for the service after it was blamed for several patient deaths since the rural and metropolitan services were amalgamated in 2008.

Nationals state leader Peter Ryan asked the Auditor-General to investigate. He received a letter on Monday confirming the audit had had already started, and said he hoped it would get to the root of the problems.

The investigation will address basic problems such as responsiveness, record keeping, pay and resource allocation, as well as more complex problems. "The simple fact is we've got problems of different scales and types, but we do have basic problems," Mr Ryan said. "The provision of this service is critical to all of us and particularly to those who live outside the Melbourne area."

Among some of the cases recently brought to the public's attention was the death of Richard Gouge, 78, of Maryborough, who died from a heart attack in May. Mr Gouge's wife, Marlene, called 000 and ran to the local ambulance station, but it took almost 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

"When the paramedics finally turned up they had been waiting at Bendigo Hospital for two hours with a non-urgent patient," Mrs Gouge said. Mrs Gouge applauded the investigation, saying it was a critical service needing urgent attention. "I'm just glad there's somebody actually looking into it and it's not being put on to the backburner," she said. "We've got an ambulance here and we really need it running 24 hours a day, and to do that we need more staff."

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella welcomed the investigation. "It will give a full and accurate picture of our service," Mr Sassella said.

A government spokesman said steps had already been taken to upgrade the service. "The Government has more than tripled the funding for our ambulance services and doubled the number of paramedics working across Victoria, with more than 1000 in rural and regional Victoria," the spokesman said.


7 July, 2010

Julia's new policy on illegal immigrants sounds completely useless so far

Processing them offshore is all well and good but what is the result of the processing going to be? How is it going to stop the flow and what is she going to do about sending these sham refugees back whence they came? So far she sounds like Rudd all over again to me. Abbott sums it up very well below and Andrew Bolt has a detailed fisking

JULIA Gillard will "relentlessly" pursue the creation of a regional processing centre, claiming it would be a "durable solution" to the asylum-seeker problem.

The Prime Minister defended her proposal today as Tony Abbott hit the airwaves to attack the policy as insufficient to stop boat arrivals and to accuse Labor as hypocritical on border protection.

“It would be a better solution and a more durable solution to have a regional processing centre where asylum seeker claims are processed and a fair sharing then of the refugees who are found to be genuine through that process,” Ms Gillard told ABC radio.

She also defended her credentials as a manager of strategic regional partnerships and indicated she would take a co-operative approach to discussing her proposal with Australia's neighbours.

“I have had some foreign policy experiences including representing this nation in the United States and in other countries,” she said. “But I believe I do bring to the job a perspective about co-operation about getting things done, about the remarkable things that can flow when you get people around a table working together. “I'm going to take that same perspective to talking about the regional processing centre.” [She sounds like Obama in drag]

Mr Abbott said the proposal was a vindication of Opposition support for offshore processing. “It certainly makes a mockery of the ferocious criticism which the Labor party has made of the Coalition on this issue,” he told ABC radio. “It really does make a mockery of all of that moral rectitude that we saw in abundance from the Labor Party for years. “But look, it's good that she's accepted that the Coalition was right all along.”

The opposition leader said the centre would not prevent boats from coming without the introduction of other measures such as temporary protection visas. “All that would happen under Labor is that East Timor would become a way station. People would not be allowed to stay in East Timor. It would just be, if you like, an East Timorese vacation before finally coming to Australia.” “You aren't going to stop the boats just by negotiating with foreign countries. You've got to make changes here in Australia.”

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans disagreed, saying the regional processing centre would reduce the number of arrivals. “The international regional processing centre should see, we think, the number of arrivals to Australia reduced,” he told ABC radio.

“There'll certainly be strong deterrence about getting on a boat to Australia. If you get on a boat to Australia and you end up in a processing centre in East Timor or anywhere else as a result, why would you do it? Why would you pay a people smuggler?”

However, Mr Evans conceded further discussion was needed with East Timor about the construction of such a centre given Ms Gillard's announcement was met with surprise and scepticism by many in the country. East Timor has not yet committed itself to the concept and President Ramos-Horta revealed yesterday he had told Ms Gillard he would first need to discuss the idea with the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Mr Abbott attacked the government over the level of consultation that had occurred before the announcement yesterday. “There's no evidence there was any serious talks with the New Zealanders, with the East Timorese,” he told ABC radio. “There is no chance whatsoever of a Gillard government ever building a processing centre in East Timor.”

Mr Abbott described Ms Gillard as a “late convert panicked by the polls and with an election imminent”.


Tough talk Julia, now walk the walk

On immigration the PM is caught in a classic Labor wedge

If Julia Gillard's gait starts to look a little awkward over the coming weeks, put it down to her feeling the discomfort of the classic Labor wedgie. It's hard walking the line between the inner-city white-collar Labor voters who favour soft borders because they don't have to deal with the consequences of immigration and the battlers in the outer suburban seats who favour stronger borders because they do.

When, on the weekend, the new Prime Minister called for an end to political correctness stifling an open debate about immigration, it was immediately denounced as dog whistle politics. The Gillard government was taking the "low road", said Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

What will the reaction be to Gillard's even stronger rhetoric yesterday as she set out new immigration measures at the Lowy Institute? After all, Gillard's long-term goal to pursue a regional processing centre through co-operation with East Timor and New Zealand sounds like Labor's version of John Howard's Pacific Solution. Well, just watch the Labor wedge go to work on Gillard.

Cleverly, yesterday she spoke directly to living rooms of middle Australia, to the people who determine elections. They will be receptive to the Prime Minister's call for a real debate about immigration, for strong borders, an orderly immigration process and "wrecking" the people smuggling business.

But then these same voters believed Kevin Rudd when, before the 2007, election, he said he would be tough about border protection. Then he changed tack, loosening up immigration policy and boats started arriving at record levels: the number of boat people rose from 161 in 2008 to 3000 in 2009 and almost 5000 by the time Rudd left office. And middle Australia duly turned away from Labor.

Given that concerns over asylum-seekers are hurting Labor in key marginal seats, Gillard has said she will ignore the self-appointed moral guardians of the Australian conscience.

People such as Julian Burnside, who said this week that Labor should forget about the marginal seats, those that house a "redneck contingent" who "would love to send [the boats] back at gunpoint". Burnside, who loves the limelight, will enjoy his moment in the sun by being mentioned by Gillard but the special mention signalled his irrelevance in this debate.

The question is not what Gillard says. The consummate political communicator is very good at talking. The question is what she does. And when it comes to implementing stronger border protection policies, Gillard will confront Labor's familiar political wedge.

Last year when head of the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes questioned whether tougher border protection discouraged boat arrivals and suggested "we should put out the red carpet" for illegal immigrants, he summed up Gillard's problem.

Remember that Howes is a vocal and very public Gillard backer. He relished his role in installing the new PM. And while, in a predictably neat twist of irony, the union leader doesn't speak for his blue-collar members about border protection, he does echo the inner-city sophisticates who are so disconnected from the rest of Australia.

Urban elites never understood the significance of Howard's assertion in 2001 that we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come. For them, assertions of national sovereignty about border control are just the ravings of Burnside's marginal seat rednecks.

Alas empty moral posturing about open borders is not compassionate policy. As Gillard said yesterday, compassionate policy means shutting down the ghastly trade that leads to tragedies on the open seas. It means recognising that softer borders bolster the risk-reward trade-off for canny people smugglers who respond to lax immigration policies in the same way any savvy businessman looks for regulatory arbitrage. Compassionate policy recognises the competing claims of the voiceless refugees waiting in camps with no access to salivating activists in the media.

More importantly, compassion means encouraging higher immigration. Accordingly, if Gillard is as smart as she sounds, she will ignore the likes of Howes and instead follow the long tradition where prime ministers dating back to Ben Chifley understood that encouraging increased immigration depended on a well-managed and controlled immigration policy. The moment voters think a government has lost control of the country's borders and immigration is being determined by industrious people smugglers, voter support for immigration dips.

Indeed, when members of the so-called progressive Left talk about compassion and red carpet open borders for boat people, they forget their own complicity in the rise of hot-headed Hansonism. The arrival of some 8000 people aboard boats in the late 1990s - not to mention the stifling political correctness that rejected an open debate about immigration - undermined support for increased numbers of immigrants. Enter Pauline Hanson.

For all the emotional hysterics directed at Howard about immigration, it was never founded on facts. The former Liberal prime minister defused Hanson with a sensible, non-discriminatory policy that allowed Australia's immigration intake to double from 70,000 in 1996 to almost 140,000 by 2007. But that increase depended on an orderly immigration process and strong border protection measures: the Pacific Solution and temporary protection visas drastically reduced the number of boats arriving on Australian shores.

Gillard is a smart political operator busily defusing Labor's hot button issues in the lead-up to the election. Solve mining tax dispute? Tick. Deal with simmering immigration concerns? It's too early to tick that box. Gillard may have delivered a polished, nuanced speech yesterday but she was just tinkering at the edges of Labor's existing policy with her announcement that Labor will lift the suspension of processing claims for Sri Lankan refugees, work on a return home policy for Afghan asylum-seekers and increase penalties for people smugglers.

Gillard's bigger policy - her Timor Solution - is a long way off. No quick fix, as she said. The question is whether Gillard, unlike Rudd, has the guts to buy into a real fight with deluded human rights activists and misnamed progressives within her own party by adopting a sensible, controlled immigration policy demanded by middle Australia, a policy that lasts longer than an election campaign.


Bleeding woman shooed away by the animals at a Victorian public hospital

Only the availability of private medicine saved her life

A WOMAN says a hospital emergency department told her it was too busy to treat her for life-threatening internal bleeding. The dangerously sick woman was later saved by doctors at a private hospital who realised how grave her condition was and rushed her for emergency surgery after a neighbour persuaded her to try another hospital.

But after recovering from the ectopic pregnancy the outraged woman is desperate for answers from Casey Hospital about why it refused to believe how sick she was in the early hours of June 14. "I was bleeding internally and had more than a litre of blood floating around in my insides, which is why I had pains up to my shoulders," she said.

"The time I spent standing there asking to see a doctor she (the triage nurse) could have taken me through, checked my blood pressure and, if I was that bad, they probably would have thrown me in an ambulance and sent me to another hospital.

"I was going to just go home because I thought I had gastro, but my neighbour insisted I go to Dandenong Valley Private Hospital. "I don't want to think about what could have happened."

The woman - who did not know she was seven weeks pregnant and asked not to be identified - said she was told to visit a nearby GP or take a seat in the waiting room.

Fortunately her neighbour instead drove her to Dandenong Valley, where doctors immediately performed blood and blood pressure tests, realised she was in danger and called an ambulance to rush her to Dandenong Hospital for surgery. Her ruptured left fallopian tube was removed and the bleeding caused by the failed pregnancy was stopped.

Deaths from ectopic pregnancies - where the fertilised egg grows outside the womb - are rare.

Figures obtained by the state opposition reveal 720 people walked out of Casey Hospital's emergency department without treatment in just three months last year, or 6.3 per cent of all patients asking for treatment.

Southern Health spokesman Philsy Blackman said the hospital was arranging to meet the woman to discuss her concerns. [One would have thought that an immediate investigation would have been launched]


Another vicious gang attack by Africans in Melbourne

Rather amazing that race is mentioned for once. Has it got too bad to cover up any longer?

POLICE have called for up to five men involved in a brawl at Noble Park railway station to hand themselves in. Footage of a fight on Saturday night involving the group and two caucasian men has been released in an effort to identify two of the culprits.

The fight, about 11.10pm, broke out after four caucasian men began talking to one of the African men as they waited for a train on the platform. After being told they were on the wrong platform to get a train to the city, they all moved to platform two where they were joined by more African men.

Det Sen Constable Daniel Petrou said an argument broke out which escalated into a fight. The two victims, one of whom appears to walk towards his attacker even after being punched, suffered serious head injuries.

Police have not released all footage because it would identify the victims. They were punched and kicked to the head by at least three of their attackers. One victim, taken to the Alfred Hospital, had his cheekbone and his nose broken while his friend, who was treated at Dandenong Hospital, had his jaw broken.

Their friends, who were younger, feared becoming involved in the violence.

Police say the men, aged 21 and 22, are too afraid to speak about their ordeal. "The victim remains at home and is scared to catch public transport," Sen Det Petrou said. "The motivation is unknown (for the fight)."

He said he did not know if alcohol was a factor that led to the fight and no weapons were used.

Investigators are urging the public to call police if they recognise the African men captured on security cameras.


Victorian girl in care of sex offender dad will now be monitored by child protection officers

How good of them! It should have been automatic. Amazing what publicity will do. Think of all the cases that don't get publicized, though

THE Department of Human Services yesterday did a U-turn and now says it will monitor a young girl placed in the care of her father, a drug addict and sex offender.

The Herald Sun revealed yesterday that the girl, who has a history of being abused, had been placed in the care of her dad after the Federal Court last month ruled that her mum, a drug-abusing prostitute, was too unreliable.

On Sunday, despite numerous reports to authorities, the Department of Human Services said it no longer had any involvement with the family. This is despite the girl - now aged about five - having a history of injuries including an unexplained burn, and her mother's continuing drug abuse.

The father, who is unemployed, was deemed to be a better carer despite concerns he had used drugs as recently as late last year.

But yesterday the State Government said it had ordered child safety workers to visit the family, after our report. Deputy Premier Rob Hulls said: "My understanding is that the minister, Lisa Neville, on hearing of this decision, has asked her department to make inquiries to ensure that everything is done appropriately and to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met. But I don't want to comment on a Federal Court decision.

"The court has made its decision, and the minister has asked her department to ensure that everything is being done appropriately."

But the Opposition said the case showed child safety in Victoria was in crisis. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said: "You would like to think that the child wouldn't be put in those circumstances, but in Victoria we have a crisis in child protection."

Ms Neville yesterday said the girl was receiving "appropriate care" from a paediatrican and specialist.


6 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very cynical about Julia stopping the boat people.

Mining tax controversy far from over

Funny numbers; smaller miners still furious. And Even the Greens don't like it!

THE Gillard government surrendered at least $4.5 billion in potential tax revenue to clinch its "breakthrough" deal with the mining industry. This is three times more than the government claimed last week.

As Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told furious mining bosses in Perth he would consider further changes to the deal, Treasury secretary Ken Henry confirmed a significant rise in commodity prices had been built into the new tax forecasts compared with the original resource super-profits tax.

Dr Henry said the three big miners that negotiated the deal with the government - BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata - had substantial input into the design of the "very generous" new mineral resources rent tax, with Treasury largely sidelined.

Testifying before a Senate committee yesterday, Dr Henry said the government's forecast that the MRRT would still bring in revenue of $10.5bn in its first two years - down from the initial forecast of $12bn - incorporated the big iron ore and coal price rises miners had won since the May budget.

Mining tax consultants say these higher prices would have raised revenue from the $12bn forecast in the super-profits tax by at least 25 per cent, generating more than $15bn. This meant the government had given up about $4.5bn in potential revenue when it renegotiated the tax....

On Friday, Julia Gillard, Mr Swan and Mr Ferguson said the government had reached a deal with BHP, Rio and Xstrata on a new tax package, involving significant cuts to the super-profits tax rate, that it would take to the wider industry for consultation.

The MRRT and a new form of the petroleum resource rent tax cover only iron ore, coal, oil and gas projects, with all other minerals now exempt. Companies earning less than $50m a year in profits would also be exempt.

But smaller iron ore miners told Mr Ferguson at a fiery meeting in Perth yesterday further changes were needed for a package negotiated with only three players. Mr Ferguson said he would consider changes to the package, including restoring the exploration rebate and exempting the fledgling magnetite sector from the tax....

Coalition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey attacked the revenue estimates for the new tax, describing them as a "conspiratorial deceit".

Mr Hockey noted that the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics updated its forecasts only once a year in March, and these provided the base for the May budget. "They don't have five-year forecasts of commodity prices other than from ABARE, but they've changed the formula to use spot prices," he said. "It goes to the heart of their credibility in claiming a $1bn surplus in three years."


Crean trying to stop school building waste

Better late than never. Julia has chosen the right guy in Simon. He is a true moderate and no fool. Pity he wasn't in charge from the get-go

AFTER 240 complaints about projects in the BER program, the new Education Minister has warned that funding could be withheld. So far, $75 million has been withheld from Building the Education Revolution projects in NSW.

New minister Simon Crean told The Australian 140 complaints had been received by the taskforce set up to investigate complaints about the BER. Another 100 complaints were made directly to the department, he said. Of the complaints, 150 were about projects in NSW, and in her last days as education minister Julia Gillard announced that she was withholding $75m from that state until problems were sorted out.

Mr Crean said 55 complaints were about projects in Victoria. There were fewer than 20 complaints about projects in Queensland. Problems in other states and territories were in single digits.

After months of complaints about waste in the program, the chairman of the BER implementation taskforce, Brad Orgill, wrote to Ms Gillard last month urging her not to make the $75m payment to NSW, which would have been the next tranche of BER funding to that state.

Mr Crean said he hoped that had sent a powerful message to other states. "The $75m is important . . . leverage to drive this argument of value for money," he said. "It sends an important message but it also completely rejects the notion that (we need to) freeze the totality of funds."

Mr Crean rejected opposition calls to halt spending on the program until the Orgill investigation was complete. "What do you say to the contractors and the workers that you put on hold, quite apart from breach of contract, which would open us up, I think, to a bit of litigation," he said.

After meeting with Mr Orgill, Mr Crean said he was confident that progress had been made and he did not need more powers. He said Mr Orgill did not ask for wider powers. "I think the powers are wide enough -- there's a catch-all there," Mr Crean said. "He can initiate inquiries. He has. I'm very impressed with the way he has gone out and done site visits."

Mr Crean said the BER program had been overwhelmingly effective and had provided value for money. He said there was absolutely no reason to hold up all the projects. "Why should you deny schools their entitlement where they've done the right thing?" Mr Crean asked. "I'm not saying those problems aren't of concern. They are, and we've got to try and address those concerns."


Coverup busted: NSW police thugs run riot with tasers

It would not have been nearly as bad if they had come clean about the abuses as they happened. Instead the abuses continued unchecked

A 12-MONTH trial of police Tasers, which was used to justify arming every frontline officer in the state with the controversial weapon, was characterised by a litany of misuses and abuses that were covered up by police and the government.

The proof comes in internal police documents relating to the trial in 2008-09, which the Herald obtained after a year-long freedom-of-information battle.

The documents reveal that police and the government used the trial as window dressing to affirm a decision they had already made - to give the weapon to all general duties police - and ignored worrying results. The many abuses the Herald uncovered include:

* Stunning a handcuffed child at a juvenile detention centre.

* Stunning two suicidal people covered in fuel, which can be ignited by a Taser blast.

* The repeated stunning of a compliant man who presented no threat and was surrounded by members of the riot squad. This is being investigated by the Ombudsman and police.

The secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said: "It's outrageous that they've used the weapon this way, and it's even more outrageous that they haven't told us about it.

"They've been at best disingenuous, at worst they actively misled people about the trial."

The Taser was introduced in NSW in 2001 but was used only about 50 times by two specialist units until the start of the trial when sergeants and inspectors at each of the 80 police commands were given access. Today 8000 police officers are trained to use the weapon. Since its introduction, 26 officers have been disciplined for not following police operating procedures, and the NSW Ombudsman has had 14 complaints.

Police promised stringent oversight during the trial, including the use of a video camera attached to the weapon and a review of each use by the Deputy Commissioner, Dave Owens.

Even before the trial had ended the then premier, Nathan Rees, said it had been successful and all general duties police would be trained to use the weapon. In fact, the trial highlighted problems that critics had been warning of for years.

There were cases of people being hit by a Taser as many as six times, and others where police appeared to use the weapon to make argumentative but non-threatening people comply with directions.

In one case a sergeant drew his Taser when he encountered two young men spray painting. He drew the weapon, he later said, because one of the vandals was carrying an extendable paint roller and he was "unsure what their reaction would be to his presence". He did not fire the weapon.

A mother was accidentally hit when police fired at her son in one incident and a police officer was accidentally stunned in another.

Police also pointed Tasers at groups of people, including protesters inside the Villawood Detention Centre, despite Tasers being acknowledged as an "inappropriate" weapon for use against crowds.

Police also appeared habitually to misuse the weapon in its "drive-stun" mode, in which the Taser is held against the target's body and causes pain without incapacitation. According to the Australian distributor, that mode is designed to be used only when the initial discharge fails. But the trial showed numerous examples of police using only drive-stun mode to gain compliance.

Police do not believe these incidents indicated a troubled trial. Alan Clarke, an Assistant Police Commissioner involved in it, said: "I believe the overwhelming evidence is that Taser are being used appropriately by NSW Police." The trial showed numerous examples of the weapon's usefulness.


Can bureaucracies be trusted with ANYTHING?

Nobody's in charge and nobody gives a damn

It's supposed to be a guide for newcomers to WA about everything they need to know about living here, but a new government directory is instead more likely to cause confusion.

The Directory of Services for New Arrivals in Western Australia was launched recently by Multicultural Interests Minister John Castrilli.

He described the directory, in its third edition and available in hard copy as well as online, as the "most comprehensive ever produced" and one which provided "an essential road map" for newcomers to the state.

But the directory contains incorrect information, including details relating to Tax File Numbers, residency requirements for immigrants, wrong names for organisations, the omission of other significant organisations, and a host of grammatical errors.

The errors are repeated in the online version, which is meant to be "regularly updated" and more comprehensive, according to the guide.

Among the errors are stating the residency requirement for citizenship is two years - it is now four - and no mention of the citizenship test, including the requirement for a basic knowledge of English.

The Association for the Blind and Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre have been incorrectly named, while the section on ethnic and religious schools omits to mention any.

Another section on ethnic groups mentions 10 out of the 100 or so active in WA. The list of hospitals in the metropolitan area omits the Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital.

The guide is littered with spelling and grammar errors, including mentioning that the Ethnic Communities council of WA has a "lieracy" and reading program to encourage people to learn English. asked Mr Castrilli's office if he considered the errors acceptable, what would be done about them, how many copies of the book were printed and at what cost. His office has not responded to the questions.


Australians are now buying more cars from Thailand than Australia

Pretty amazing. There's more to Thailand than "dancing" girls

Figures released today by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry show that while sales of locally-manufactured cars are up by 7.9 per cent for the first six months of 2010 (74,199 compared to 68,759 in 2009), Thai-built cars have leapfrogged the locals, with 84,046 cars sold, taking advantage of a free trade agreement between the two countries.

The locally produced Holden Commodore/Statesman/Caprice, Ford Falcon/Territory and Toyota Camry/Aurion continue to post respectable sales, but they’re not growing as fast as imported rivals.

Thailand is one of the world’s main producers of utility vehicles such as the Toyota HiLux and Mitsubishi Triton, but is also becoming a hot-bed for passenger-car manufacturers, including most Hondas and, more recently, the popular Mazda2.

The trend is likely to continue, too, with Ford last week confirming its plans for a new manufacturing plant for its next-generation Focus, while the Ford Fiesta will also come from Thailand before the end of the year.

Australians are buying more Japanese- and Korean-built cars in 2010, too, with those two countries topping the list of importing nations, accounting for more than half of all cars sold. Add that to the booming Thai-built sector, and the figure jumps to 66.9 per cent of all new cars sold this year.

June was a record-breaking month for new car sales, with an increase of 5875 vehicles sold - up 5.7 per cent from 102,847 to 108,722 compared to this time last year. Year-to-date, 531,168 vehicles have been sold - an increase of 16.7 percent compared to the first six months of 2009 – putting the market on track to eclipse the 1 million mark for only the third time.

“The record June result is a clear demonstration of renewed confidence in the marketplace,” FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.


5 July, 2010

Islamist leader tells Australian Muslims to 'shun democracy'

Are these the people we want in any Western society?

LEADERS of the global Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir have called on Australian Muslims to spurn secular democracy and Western notions of moderate Islam and join the struggle for a transnational Islamic state.

British Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Burhan Hanif told participants at a conference in western Sydney yesterday that democracy is "haram" (forbidden) for Muslims, whose political engagement should be be based purely on Islamic law.

"We must adhere to Islam and Islam alone," Mr Hanif told about 500 participants attending the convention in Lidcombe. "We should not be conned or succumb to the disingenuous and flawed narrative that the only way to engage politically is through the secular democratic process. It is prohibited and haram."

He said democracy was incompatible with Islam because the Koran insisted Allah was the sole lawmaker, and Muslim political involvement could not be based on "secular and erroneous concepts such as democracy and freedom".

His view was echoed by an Australian HT official, Wassim Dourehi, who told the conference Muslims should not support "any kafir (non-believer) political party", because humans have no right to make laws.

Mr Dourehi also urged Muslims to spurn the concept of moderate Islam promoted by governments in the West, including in "this godforsaken country" of Australia. "We need to reject this new secular version of Islam," he said. "It is a perverted concoction of Western governments. "It is a perversion that seeks to wipe away the political aspects of Islam and localise our concerns. We must reject it and challenge the proponents of this aberration of Islam."

The conference, which followed the theme The struggle for Islam in the West' was the first major event held by the Australian branch of HT since a seminar in 2007 which coincided with calls for the group to be banned.

HT is outlawed in much of the Middle East but operates legally in more than 40 countries, campaigning for the establishment of a caliphate or Islamic state. HT's platform rejects the use of violence in its quest for an Islamic state, but supports the military destruction of Israel.

But the group's presence sparked angry protests outside as members of the Australian Protectionist Party (APP) yelled anti-Islam chants. The APP met in a small park to express their need to "protect" the Australian way of life.

Conflict between the APP and HT amounted to an exchange of words, anti-Islam chants and the occasional drive-by of young Muslim men yelling obscenities from their car at the APP protesters.

One passer-by, a young Muslim man, yelled at the APP group: "You people have absolutely no idea", sparking a fiery exchange of accusations and finger-pointing.

Nick Folkes, the Sydney organiser for the APP, believes that the HT should be banned in Australia and thinks that practising sharia law should be illegal in Australia. "Sharia law is an archaic legal system that treats woman as second-class citizens," he said. "We're not asking them to change their skin colour or religion. But if they come here, they must reject sharia law."


Gillard to send back asylum seekers who arrive by boat?

There should be no problem with Tamils. Both Tamil Nadu (in India) and the Sri Lankan government will accept them. The terrorists among them could go to Tamil Nadu and actually be welcomed

HUNDREDS of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are likely to be sent home under Julia Gillard's tough policy agenda to deter boatpeople.

As the Prime Minister prepared to unveil a new approach to tackling the issue this week - possibly including a resumption to the processing of Sri Lankan boatpeople - The Australian understands officials are working on a pact with Afghanistan over returning asylum-seekers.

It is believed the agreement, which is not expected to be included in this week's announcement, would involve assurances from Kabul guaranteeing the safety of unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

Although up to 60 per cent of Afghan asylum-seekers have had their claims rejected, only two have been returned home since the surge in boatpeople started in late 2008.

Federal Cabinet will hold talks on the new approach today ahead of the Thursday deadline for a decision on whether the three-month freeze on the processing of Sri Lankan asylum-seeker claims will be extended or terminated.

New guidelines from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are expected to remove the blanket assumption that any Tamil asylum-seeker from Sri Lanka's war-torn north should be considered a refugee. It will be replaced by assessments likely to focus on high-risk groups, such as Tamils associated with the defeated Tamil Tigers or critics of the Sri Lankan Government.

Sources said that while the Government was expecting the new UNHCR guidelines before Thursday's deadline, Australia was not bound by them.

As Australian officials confirmed the arrival of another suspected asylum-seeker boat over the weekend near Christmas Island, carrying 34 passengers and two crew, Ms Gillard again signalled a policy shift on the issue, pledging to cast aside "political correctness".

The move would send a tough message to families considering paying people-smugglers for passage to Australia.

"There is no doubt about it, the best deterrent is to return people back home who are not refugees," a Gillard Government source said last night.


More "child protection" insanity

If it had been middle class parents involved, the child would have been taken away from them like a shot. But, for some (probably Marxist) reason the underclass are sacred

A HEROIN-addicted sex offender has won custody of his young daughter because the girl's mother is considered an even more unsuitable parent.

Child protection campaigners yesterday lashed the Federal Magistrates' Court decision to leave the girl in such conditions as outrageous and "defying logic".

Granting custody of the girl, aged about 5, to the father, the court branded the mother dishonest and criticised her continuing drug use. The court heard the mother, who has shoplifting and prostitution-related convictions and a history of drug use, left the labour ward to buy heroin soon after giving birth. The father, who also has a string of convictions, was put on the sex offenders' list after being convicted of wilful and obscene exposure.

The girl, who has behavioural problems and a speech impediment, has suffered serious injuries. Her plight was reported to the Department of Human Services last year after she was treated for a serious burn to her buttocks. Each parent blamed the other for it. The girl also had injuries from a dog bite and once suffered an injury from being hit with a shoe.

The couple separated soon after the birth, and the father is reported to have been violent to the mother. But, despite concerns he had taken drugs as recently as last December, and kept a knife and sword collection, the court last month ruled the girl should live with him.

"The father provides calmer parenting with more clearly set boundaries than the mother does," the magistrate said. "A history of inadequate supervision combined with heroin and marijuana use create a serious concern that (the girl) may be neglected by her mother." The girl will spend two out of three weekends with her mother.

The court gave the father custody because the mother continued to use drugs and "had been dishonest with the court". Her drug-screening tests repeatedly indicated the presence of benzodiazepines and opiates. She was even suspected of once taking drugs while in the court precinct arguing for custody. Her home was once described as filthy and strewn with vomit and faecal material, though the court accepted its cleanliness was usually "probably in an acceptable range".

The father is on a disability pension and hasn't worked in almost 10 years because of depression. "There was no evidence (he) is making any notable contribution to society," the court said. It said he "was using drugs or doing something else he did not want to admit" as recently as last September, and had lied about his whereabouts when meant to be caring for his daughter. But he was making progress with his addictions. It ordered him to dispose of his weapons.

The Australian Childhood Foundation's Joe Tucci said the decision "defies logic". "Children shouldn't ever be placed in a situation where the rights of the parents . . . override their right to protection," he said. "The decision should be about whether a child is safe or not, not which parent is the better to look after them. "The community expects children to be looked after by their parents, and if the parents fail this then the courts need to look after them."

Child protection campaigner Hetty Johnston said the ruling was "outrageously dangerous". "There's no way staying with either parent should have even been an option. This isn't in the best interests of the child," she said.

A Department of Human Services spokesman said it was no longer involved in the case. [And isn't interested, apparently]


As usual, Leftists are criticizing academically selective schooling

Bright children should be allowed to fulfil their potential without being dragged down by being placed among dummies -- but that's not how the envious Left see it. They want to drag everyone down to an "equal" low level. They don't give a damn about the individual gifted kid. It is only abstractions about groups that interest them

NSW is creating a "social and academic apartheid" in education with private and selective schools prospering at the expense of comprehensive public schools, says one of the state's top educators.

Chris Bonnor, a former president of the Secondary Principals Council and former principal of Asquith Boys High, said Australia had established a tiered education system that was segregating students by income level and academic performance.

"We are separating our schools for the academic elite," he said. "Schools which can do so are hunting out bright kids through tests, scholarships and interviews with parents and avoiding kids with learning difficulties," he said.

"There is also a worsening social class division with low-income children increasingly going to public schools and the richer kids going to private and selective schools. "There is an increasing separation of kids along academic and social lines and, to some extent, along religious and cultural lines and nobody in government departments or government wants to talk about it."

Richard Teese, a specialist in school systems at the University of Melbourne, said the expansion of selective schooling in NSW - there are now 17 fully and 28 partly selective high schools - was creating "engines of high academic success", but at a significant cost.

"It's a very inequitable policy because it takes away cultural and academic resources from many sites and concentrates them into a few," Professor Teese said. "By operating schools like these you drain talent from many other comprehensive schools, which need what the French call pilot students - that is, model students who provide a really good example.

"The aim should be high standards everywhere. It doesn't make sense to have half a system that works and half a system that doesn't," he said.

Mr Bonnor, co-author of the book The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education, said when two selective schools were established in the Hornsby area 15 years ago, surrounding schools were told this would provide more choice.

The schools made selective, Normanhurst Boys and Hornsby Girls, dramatically increased their share of high achievers, but the nine surrounding comprehensive schools and the low-fee private schools "lost out".

But the principals of those schools are in effect silenced about losing their best academic talent for fear of exacerbating the situation. "I didn't say it when I was principal at Asquith Boys High. It has the danger of increasing the loss of the remaining high achievers from the school," Mr Bonnor said.

"We also now have an outbreak of pseudo-selective schools - both private and public - each setting tests to gather a disproportionate share of the able, the engaged and the anxious. This is especially taking place across northern Sydney."

The principal of one selective high school, who did not want to be named, told the Herald that selective schools had been a disaster for comprehensive schools. "My own view is if I were to wave a wand and start again, I would not have any selective schools or independent schools or private schools or public schools. I think the model I'd like to go for is your local community school. But that's 150 years too late. We've moved on so that's no longer possible."

The government increased the number of selective school places by 600 to 4133 this year to help stem the drift from public to private schools.

The move will also increase the ranking achieved in the HSC results by the top selective high schools. James Ruse Agricultural High School has topped the Herald's HSC performance list for 14 consecutive years.

Last year, government selective high schools took out four of the top five positions. The first comprehensive government high schools to appear on the Herald's list were Killara High School in 54th position and Cherrybrook Technology High School in 59th.

Mr Bonnor said the Department of Education "pretends this problem does not exist". "The department is avoiding the issue and no one wants to know that by offering opportunities for some kids, this is reducing opportunities for others," he said.


Childish objection to overhead wire

Childish or bigoted. "Snives" is an upmarket Sydney suburb. There are already lots of overhead wires in place there. What difference would another one make?

IT IS A SPIRITUAL boundary made from wire just one centimetre thick but a planned Jewish eruv around St Ives has divided residents of the upper north shore suburb.

Jewish residents of St Ives have long tried to create an eruv around the suburb: a zone marked by overhead wire within which orthodox Jews are permitted to carry objects out of doors on their sabbath and holy days, which would otherwise be forbidden.

Without an eruv, observant orthodox Jews are unable to carry anything outside, no matter its weight or purpose, or push prams or wheelchairs.

There are eruvs in Perth, Melbourne and in Sydney's eastern suburbs, the third of which includes wire along the promenade at Bondi beach.

Eighty-five per cent of what is needed to create the eruv in St Ives is already in place in the form of overhead electric cables. Development applications for 24 new poles on private property and wire that would not be electric have been submitted to Ku-ring-gai Council.

That has prompted a residents' group, the St Ives Progress Association, to distribute a flyer describing the eruv as a "part-symbolic and part-physical wall … [that] would encapsulate most of St lves" and warning it "is inconsistent with the visual character" of the suburb. The debate has prompted some letters to the local papers that Vic Alhadeff, from the Jewish Board of Deputies, has described as racist.

"It is deeply disappointing that some of the responses to this issue have strayed from a justifiable lack of understanding to blatant bigotry," Mr Alhadeff said.

The president of the progress association, Christiane Berlioz, said its objections were not a sign of religious intolerance but an objection to the visual and environmental impact of the poles and wire. "This is not about them following their beliefs; this is about them imposing structures on the community," Ms Berlioz said.

A Jewish St Ives resident, who asked to be known only as Lisa, said the creation of the eruv "would help us to integrate with the rest of the community on a Saturday". There are estimated to be about 3000 Jews living in St Ives, of which about 300 are orthodox.


4 July, 2010

I'm not PC, says Prime Minister Julia Gillard in move to end illegals arriving by boat

She's shaping up very well so far, despite the far-Leftism of her youth. There's far more sanity and realism among the Australian Left than we see in their U.S. and U.K. counterparts. Times could well have changed but it is a fact that Australia's most revered conservative Prime Minister -- R.G. Menzies -- spoke highly in his memoirs of his Labor Party opposition, calling them men of principle etc.

And Conservatives don't generally like to be reminded of it but after the inertia of conservative PM Malcolm Fraser, it was Labor Party PM Bob Hawke who pushed through in Australia the sort of reforms associated with Reagan and Thatcher in the U.S. and U.K. One can only hope that Gillard is in that mould. Her defence of John Howard is certainly remarkable. Howard has long been comprehensively loathed and derided among the Australian Left

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has charged into the asylum-seeker debate, indicating she will take a hard line approach to stop boat arrivals and declaring political correctness should be "swept out of the away".

A day after solving the mining super profits tax imbroglio, Ms Gillard set about cleaning up another one of Kevin Rudd's failed policies before calling the election - the influx of boat people. In an obvious clearing of the ground for a strong policy statement, Ms Gillard said that Australians who were concerned about asylum seekers were neither racist nor intolerant.

The new PM jumped to the defence of John Howard - the architect of the Pacific Solution and the Tampa crisis - saying the former PM is "most certainly" not racist. She also declared that:

* Political correctness was dead and should be "swept out of the way" in such sensitive national debates;

* Australia needed an "effective" border protection policy.

"I do understand the concerns when people see boats looming on the horizon, I also understand that there's nothing humanitarian about people being on boats and potentially at risk of losing their lives at sea."

Ms Gillard's straight talking on asylum-seekers comes after illegal boat arrivals exploded under the Rudd Government, causing headaches for Labor in opinion polls, particularly in crucial marginal seats in Sydney's western suburbs.

Ms Gillard said we had to be honest when talking about the problem, saying she would oppose any attempt to shut down debate by labelling people concerned about border security as racist. "I certainly dismiss labels like intolerant or racist because people raise concerns about border security, but we've also got to be very alive to the complexity of this and that there's no quick fix," she said.

Echoing Mr Howard's comments on political correctness at the beginning of his prime ministership in 1996, Ms Gillard said she wanted openness in public debate to be a mark of her prime ministership, as long as people spoke with goodwill and were not critical of race or culture.

"There's a temptation for people to use these labels and names to try and close down debate and I'm very opposed to that," she said. "People need to be able to have honest discussions. "So any sort of political correctness, or niceties that get in the way, I think, need to be swept out of the way."

Ms Gillard defended Mr Howard, who was labelled a racist by the Indian media last week over his bid to become vice- president of the International Cricket Council. "The suggestion John Howard should be labelled a racist, what a load of nonsense, he's most certainly someone who's not."


Anger as cuts to maternity service by Queensland Health force expectant mothers to travel vast distances to give birth

The vastly bureaucratized and ossified Queensland Health needs to be abolished and a fresh start made with doctors rather than bureaucrats in charge at all levels. It's been in existence since 1944 and is now completely cancerous. Ask anybody who works in it. I have

HUNDREDS of expectant mothers throughout the state are being forced to travel vast distances to have their babies - often alone and weeks before their due date - as Queensland Health cutbacks to maternity services reach crisis levels.

In the latest example of a failing health service, the booming town of Emerald, which makes a huge contribution to the Queensland economy through mining and agriculture, is losing its birthing facilities because an obstetrician and an anaesthetist cannot be found.

One of the town's GPs has had enough, saying he could no longer work at Emerald Hospital because of the "dangerous" lack of maternity services in the town of 18,000. Dr Ewen McPhee, 48, said the cutbacks had "gone too far".

More than half of Queensland's maternity units have been closed since 1995, with Emerald the 43rd out of 84 to be shut down in the past 15 years.

The service cuts have put regional babies and their mothers at risk, with the number of births by the side of the road, in the back of ambulances and cars, at home and on the way to hospital increasing a staggering 343 per cent - from 81 in 2004 to 359 in 2008 - state perinatal records reveal.

Five years ago, the Labor Government under Peter Beattie promised to reform maternity services by 2010, following the Hirst report in 2004. That report was damning of the state's maternal care after 36 closures of units, with women being forced to leave their families to have a baby and drive for hours to receive health care. Since that review, seven more maternity centres have closed.

The Emerald community is furious at Queensland Health's inability to find a doctor and an anaesthetist to operate birthing services at the town's hospital. More than 1840 residents have joined the Save Emerald Birthing Facebook page.

Spokeswoman for the Save Emerald Birthing Group, mother-of-two Larissa Burnett, lives with her husband on a cotton property an hour west of Emerald. "Emerald is an area of 52,000sq km - it's pretty big anyway without having to drive to Rockhampton," Mrs Burnett said.

A town meeting recently was attended by Queensland Health officials, who promised to find a doctor for the community.

Emerald Hospital has a midwifery-led unit that delivered 310 babies last year but to operate at full capacity it needs a doctor and an anaesthetist to perform emergency procedures such as caesareans.

Mrs Burnett said Queensland Health had known for four months that doctors were leaving but nothing had been done to fill the gap. "To be told that we need to go to Rockhampton to have our babies is ridiculous. This puts more pressure on the coast. They say they want to give services back to the bush but that is not happening."

Because of protests, Queensland Health has found a "temporary" doctor for the service for the next two weeks but there are no plans after then.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said yesterday he was extremely concerned about the situation at Emerald. "The community has a very legitimate concern with respect to birthing services and I want to make it clear that the Government is committed to those services," he said. "What my department has done is seek to arrange temporary cover but we must have a permanent solution and that is to keep providing obstetrics at Emerald."

But a scathing Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Gino Pecoraro, who is also an obstetrician, said last week doctors didn't want to work for Queensland Health because it was "a toxic environment".

"This boils down to a problem with leadership in management," Dr Pecoraro said. "There is a shortage of people that are well trained but it's not as bad as they would have you believe - the problem is that people don't want to work for Queensland Health. It's not just the pay issue, there is still this culture whereby Queensland Health will listen to administrators rather than clinicians."

Dr Pecoraro said he had given evidence to four maternity services reviews instigated by State Government. "A lot is written about maternity services but the decline in service has not stopped."

The sole obstetrician working for the state's Flying Specialist Services said she was working "24/7" to fill gaps around the state.

The State Government plans to expand Rockhampton Hospital's overflowing maternity unit next year.


A "Green" elephant that seems unfixable

It has cost so much and delivered so little that it would be a white elephant if it were not green. It's part of the country-wide craze to appease Greenies by building electricity-gobbling desalination plants rather than building the hated dams.

In one of the many perversies of the Greenie psyche, the fact that the electricity used is generated by coal-gobbling power stations seems to evoke no protest -- despite coal being usually a great Greenie bete noir

DIVERS and a mini-submarine will be brought in to help fix the latest drama for the $1.2 billion Tugun desalination plant. The State Government has released few details on the final commissioning of the trouble-plagued plant, other than to confirm that "hairline fractures" in the inlet pipe would be checked.

But The Sunday Mail has learnt that last checks on the plant include inspecting a build-up of sludge inside the pipe which draws in sea water. An inspection three months ago showed the pipe, built 60m below ground and stretching 1.4km offshore, has a build-up of silt.

Divers will work from a barge off Tugun to close off the inlet pipe so it can be emptied and checked. A remote-controlled mini-submarine, operated by contractors working at the plant, will be used then to film inside the pipe and search for silt and structural damage.

"They (the divers) will plug the intake shaft, the tunnel will be sealed on the offshore side, it will lower the water inside, then they will pump it out so they can manually go into the shaft," a plant insider said.

Coastal fishers working near the end of the inlet pipe warned construction crews three years ago about the build-up of sediment, after small pipes left on the ocean floor filled up with sludge. "There have been rumours that the intake pipe is silting up, so they've brought back the rig and put it right on top of the intake shaft," one fisherman said.

A build-up of sediment and organic materials in the piping has been a common problem with some desalination plants overseas, along with the rust and corrosion which has occurred at Tugun.

The Gold Coast Desalination Alliance, a consortium which includes John Holland and French water giant Veolia, was supposed to hand over the plant to the State Government in June. But the Government said last month that the controversial desalination plant would be closed for final works.

"These have not affected the integrity of the plant or the plant's ability to produce high quality drinking water," a spokesman for Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.


Promises, promises about disastrous Victorian ambulance service

Believe it when you see it. There is nothing as worthless as a politician's promise

THE father of the boy whose 65-minute wait for a MICA unit triggered a statewide campaign for better ambulance services has welcomed government pledges amounting to about $150 million for emergency services. The death of Rupert Rafferty, 5, was featured on the front page of the Sunday Herald Sun on May 2, and started a nine-week campaign by this newspaper for improved regional ambulance services.

Darren Rafferty said the promised changes were "wonderful", but lamented that they had not come sooner. "It's a shame it has taken so many people's lives to come about, but it makes me feel that Rupert's death wasn't totally in vain," he said. "Now there will be other parents whose children have a better chance of surviving, so it's a win-win for country Victoria."

The Brumby Government and State Opposition last week promised more paramedics, more MICA units and more non-emergency transfer staff for the state than before. No matter who wins November's state election, 10 new MICA teams will be established in regional and rural Victoria and about 300 extra paramedics will be appointed across the state.

Mr Rafferty said some families had paid a high price to win the $150 million promise from the Brumby Government. "But I still understand the grief people have gone through as a result of the inadequacies of Ambulance Victoria over the last few years," he said. "It's a high price to pay, but hopefully this causes change."

South Gippsland mother Naomi Terblanche, whose son Aiden came close to death a year before Rupert when she waited more than an hour for a MICA unit, was pleased the parties had committed to at least four of 10 Sunday Herald Sun recommendations to improve ambulance services.

"It's a definite improvement and it's good that they're doing something," she said. "But it also seems a little late. "It could have been done earlier to save lives and stop all the stories that have come out. "I really hope it changes things, even for the paramedics who are so overworked."

But Mrs Terblanche, the daughter of a paramedic, feared neither party was doing enough to improve radio communications. Only last week Wangaratta paramedics complained that a new dispatch system was showing their vehicles as being in Ballarat rather than northeast Victoria. "They really do need to look at their dispatch system because I think there will be more lives at risk," she said.

Ambulance Victoria chief Greg Sassella said it was "inappropriate" to compare the announcements. "But overall, anything that puts extra paramedics on the road is welcomed and the support of initiatives beyond recruitment is reflective of our strategy and what we see as necessary for maintaining a sustainable service," he said.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said last week's funding announcements were "a good start, but won't fix all the problems". "We clearly will wait for the Government's policy for metropolitan ambulance services," he said.

Lorraine MacGillivray, whose returned serviceman father Ronald Cook died when it took seven hours and eight minutes for Ambulance Victoria to get him from Sale to Melbourne, welcomed the commitment. But she said the service should continually be monitored. "Anybody that has lost family members during this crisis knows this has got to be a bonus. It has to be a good thing," she said.

"I can't bring my dad back. "It shouldn't have happened. "But by speaking out about it, if (that) means just one more life is saved now, it's been worth it."


3 July, 2010

Doctors found guilty of incompetence and negligence escaping punishment

And from what details leak out, most would have been overseas-trained (or not trained)

DOCTORS found guilty of incompetence and negligence in Queensland often get only a slap on the wrist, even in cases where the patient has died, Queensland Medical Board reports reveal.

The incidents, which include misdiagnosis of cardiac conditions leading to fatal heart attacks, poisoning a patient through the wrong prescription, sexual misconduct and corruption, are also frequently being covered up, according to files obtained by The Courier-Mail.

Only five of the 21 substantiated cases before disciplinary hearing committees in the past year were recorded on the public register. Explanations for this included that the incident was "isolated" or that it was not in the public interest. The Courier-Mail understands that none of the doctors involved were struck off the register in Queensland, although at least two are now working overseas.

The evidence comes as US surgeon Jayant Patel was jailed this week for killing three patients and harming a fourth at Bundaberg hospital between 2003 and 2005.

The cases included a doctor being found guilty of robbing taxpayers through Medicare, saying he had just under 22,000 consultations in a year. He said on most days he saw at least 60 patients and sometimes more than 90. That same doctor claimed for excessively long sessions (more than 25 minutes) and medical equipment he never bought.

Other doctors were caught illegally prescribing drugs like Valium or morphine, in some cases for their own use or that of a family member. So far this year, there have been 236 complaints made against doctors over misconduct and there were 394 last year. About 10,000 doctors practise in Queensland.

Queensland Medical Board chairwoman Mary Cohn said the board had referred 14 matters involving doctor misconduct to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal this year and five appeared before the Professional Conduct Review Panel.

"The board's investigation report and the decision on the level of disciplinary action to be taken was reviewed by Queensland's independent watchdog, the Health Quality and Complaints Commission," she said. "Following that review, the matter was referred for disciplinary action through one of three disciplinary bodies. "Only QCAT has the ability to suspend or cancel a doctor's registration."

New "mandatory reporting" legislation, forcing staff to dob in doctors suspected of dodgy practices or face disciplinary action, was introduced on January 1 and the Queensland Medical Board was disbanded on Thursday and replaced by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.


Phenomenal school performance by Asian students

Despite the large handicap of coming from a different linguistic and cultural background. Effort alone cannot account for that. For an Asian to become competent in English is a huge leap. Try learning Chinese if you doubt it

CHILDREN of recent Asian migrants are dramatically outperforming students from English-speaking households to dominate the ranks of the top selective high schools.

A Herald analysis shows 42 per cent of children from non-English speaking backgrounds who sat the annual selective high school entrance test last year won a place in the elite system. Fewer than 23 per cent of students whose families speak English at home were successful.

Letters and emails were sent this week to inform 4133 year 6 students that they had won a place for next year at a selective high school. The percentage of students from migrant families entering the selective system has risen dramatically from 29 per cent in 1995 to as high as 62 per cent in 2008. The component is sharply skewed towards children from Asian-origin families.

Students whose families speak other languages comprise a little more than one-quarter of the total public school population.

Many of the successful students are graduates of the burgeoning network of private coaching colleges which gauge their success by their ability to secure places in the selective system and who tailor courses towards the "opportunity class" and selective exams. Coaching colleges are dominated by children of recent migrants.

"Anglo families have a different sense of what a child's life should look like and they are really concerned about narrowing a child's life down to passing the selective school entrance test," says Craig Campbell, a Sydney University academic and co-author of School Choice, a book on how parents negotiate the school market. "But they're having to change because of the competition."

High school principals, worried about losing students and prestige, are said to be pushing hard to establish selective streams in their schools, according to Associate Professor Campbell.

At James Ruse Agricultural High, the state's top selective school, an overwhelming majority of students are from families that have migrated from Asian countries.

The selective system was expanded this year with 600 more places created through the establishment of 14 partially selective high schools, where a high-achieving stream has been added to a comprehensive high school.

The students from migrant families also win up to half the opportunity class placements available for years 5 and 6 at specialised public schools. These classes are designed to provide "intellectual stimulation and an educationally enriched environment for academically gifted and talented children", says the Department of Education.

Anecdotal evidence suggests some parents avoid selective high schools because of the extent of Asian domination. The former head of the NSW selective schools unit, Bob Wingrave, recalls his surprise to hear a colleague had decided against sending his child to James Ruse "because there were too many Asians there".

"All kids who go to a selective high school will benefit from going," Mr Wingrave said. Coaching might gain students a few marks at the most.

Children from a non-English-speaking background answered more questions in the selective schools entry test than other students, he said. "The Anglo kids won't answer it if looks too hard and they are less likely to finish than the non-English-speaking background kids," Mr Wingrave said.


Where's all that global warming gone?

Melbourne faces longest cold snap in 14 years. How come it got left out of "global" warming?

If you thought it was colder than normal, you're right: Melbourne is within reach of its longest cold snap in 14 years. If the temperature stays below 13 degrees today, Victoria's capital will mark its longest cold stretch since 1996. Back then, Melburnians shivered through seven days below 13 degrees.

If the temperature stays around the forecast 12 today, the city will mark six days under 13 degrees. But if you think that's bad, spare a thought for the Melbourne of 1894, whose residents suffered a freezing 21 consecutive days under 13 degrees - without central heating.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Stephen King said a high-pressure system had been hanging over the state for much of the week. The bureau has forecast a top of 14 tomorrow, but Mr King said there was still a chance Melbourne would equal the 1996 record.


A Green vote is madness

From Andrew Bolt in Melbourne

ENOUGH'S enough. If you're really this keen to vote Green in the state election, why not prove you're serious? Why not live the life you apparently want the Greens to inflict on the rest of us? Go turn off your own lights first. Kill your fridge. Cook your roast over a solar-powered candle.

Then go to work and turn off the machines. Junk the computer. Tell your hospital to switch off the machines that go "bing". And harness some donkeys to pull our trains. Can't find donkeys, you say? Nonsense. Look at yesterday's Newspoll, which reports a record 18 per cent of Victorians plan to vote Green. Plenty there. Hook 'em up.

I laugh, but dear God, we're drowning, up to our necks in unreason.

"There, there," coos my wife, when I sob that even some of our frequent-flyer friends vote Greens. "They wouldn't vote Greens if they actually thought they'd win ... "

No? Well, they're winning enough already, like the battle for our brains.

And who knows what desperate deal Premier John Brumby will now do to win the Greens preferences that are critical to Labor getting the 51 to 49 per cent edge over the Coalition that Newspoll assumes?

We've already seen what depths of insanity Labor will cater to, to prove it's as green as the next idiot. Why else has this great city been on water restrictions for an embarrassing seven years? Why this insane ban on a new dam for our fast-growing capital?

Why did the Government wait until it was almost too late to even start building its new $3.5 billion desalination plant, at three times the price of a dam for a third of the water? Madness, and the Greens promise yet more of it - and less of everything else.

Take just one of their policies, one that 18 per cent of shiny-eyed Victorians evidently now support.

The Greens demand the instant closure of Hazelwood power station to save the world from global warming. It's a noble policy, which sounds warm and fuzzy, until you realise it will leave us cold and shivering, while making not a spit of difference to the planet.

Hazelwood - and I know this is an irrelevant detail to a planet-saver - happens to produce a quarter of this state's electricity. You know, the stuff that powers your home, your factory, your office, your hospital, your computer, your trains, your airport, your street lighting, your cinema, your trams, your traffic lights ...

Now I don't want to seem like a spoilsport, but I would just like to be reassured on one small point: how the hell do the Greens then plan to power our state? After all, they don't plan to stop at Hazelwood, either. Their policy is to shut every coal-fired plant, leaving us with just 5 per cent of the electricity we now use - with nuclear power banned, new hydro power banned and wind power as reliable as, well, the wind.

It's madness of the kind you get from a child who wants her fifth ice cream but not the upchuck that goes with it. Still, you'd think the Greens would have worked out by now these small details about how to keep the lights burning....

If you think this is remotely possible, dear Greens voter, consider first that this state is actually predicted to need 50 per cent more power by 2030, even though many companies, hit with higher power bills, have tried for years to cut their use.

Then go around your home - and, more importantly, your factory - and switch off half the power. With all appliances off, look proudly at the appalled people around you in winter and say, "Isn't it great we're all freezing to death for the planet?" Or, in summer, for variety, ask: "Isn't it lovely to be sweating in this furnace now that I've switched off the aircon?"

And then, by the kerosene lamp at home, try to figure out the next step. After all, you're still only halfway to replacing the 95 per cent of electricity the Greens plan to ban.

Let me just try to get it through your cable-knit beanie how impossible that is without reducing this state to the standard of living endured by people who burn cow dung for their cooking.

For Earth Hour this year, the zealots at Melbourne University tried especially hard to cut their power. The university exhorted staff and students to do their best to save the planet from their electricity, and to "turn off all lights and appliances". All of them. And the result? Read the University's boast: "Electricity consumption on the Earth Hour weekend dropped by 5.51 per cent compared with a 2010 business as usual weekend."

Less than 6 per cent? After all that special sacrifice? For just one weekend? Whoopee do. And that's from a mere university, mind, which runs no heavy industry or essential services, and had almost no one in the joint over that weekend actually wanting to work or switch on so much as a toaster or kettle. Just 90 per cent to go, guys, before you live the Greens' dream.

But there I go, trying to marry consequence to action, like I was an adult or something. Don't I realise the times have changed? After all, this is the Age of the Use Less, in which our brainless and godless rich resent their own wealth - well, resent the wealth of everyone else, at least. And then, for penance, suggest ingenious ways to make us poor again.

Example: remember how this Labor Government told us for years we didn't need more water supplies, claiming we could get by if we just Used Less? And so our ovals turned brown, our gardens died and we broke our backs carting buckets to the most precious of our plants. Use Less, heaven!

Ah, but you think I exaggerate this madness of our times. So let me introduce you to the latest guru of this Use Less creed, "anti-poverty crusader" Richard Fleming, as featured this week in the Herald Sun and on Channel 7's Today Tonight.

He, too, preaches Use Less, or eat less, actually. He's promoting his $2 a day "Live Below the Line" diet, which restricts you to eating the very cheapest of foods - hummus, watery soup, dahl, rice, marmalade and peanut paste.

No real reason for this torture, other than to make you realise what it must be like to be some starving Bangladeshi, wishing you were lucky enough to live in a country where you had so much to eat that you'd, er, starve yourself instead. Out of sheer, mindless guilt.

"There's a level of stupidity in all this," Fleming admits, but he should be less hard on himself. He's the poster boy of a state in which so many finger-waggers want to deny the rest of us the harvest of our science and ingenuity - cooling on hot days, heating on cold ones, water for green gardens and food for a feast.

Fine, if that's what you want for yourself. But, please, before you vote to inflict this on the rest of us, first try living as the Greens prescribe and see if it truly suits even high-minded you. Lights out. Heating, too. Starve and shiver for your faith. At least live as miserably as you plan to vote.


2 July, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is unimpressed by Julia's admission of atheism

Partial backdown on mining tax

It's a big backdown but still leaves the major problem untouched: The new tax applies to existing mines as well as new ones. That means that companies can no longer invest with confidence -- because they now will never know what tax changes might disrupt their investment calculations in the future. It means Australia's "sovereign risk" is high -- in a similar league to Africa. Australia has gone from being a safe place to invest to a risky one -- a huge blow to future investment in Australia

The Government will take a projected $1.5 billion cut in revenue after agreeing to reduce the resource super profit tax from 40 per cent to 30 per cent. Ms Gillard has also agreed to water down other key aspects of the tax, which will affect about 320 companies compared to 2500 flagged in the original deal. The new tax - called the minerals resource rent tax - will be placed on companies involved in mining iron ore and coal.

Ms Gillard denied the Government had backed down in the face of an aggressive public relations campaign from the mining industry. She said the deal, signed last night, assured that "Australia gets a fair share for its non-renewable resources", adding that "we've been stuck on this question as a nation for too long".

Despite the expected drop in tax revenues of $1.5 billion, Ms Gillard said Australia remained "on course to return to surplus at 2013". She also noted the tax deal would lead to sustained investment in infrastructure, strengthen the national economy in the future, and enable Australian businesses to grow and promote investment in jobs.

In another major concession, the tax will apply from a much higher rate than originally planned 10-year Commonwealth bond yield. The new cut-in rate has been adjusted to the long-term bond rate plus seven per cent - an approximate rate of about 12 per cent.

The current petroleum resource rent tax will be extended to all onshore and offshore oil, gas and coal seam methane projects. Other commodities will not be included in the tax regime.

The new measures come at a cost, attracting $1.5 billion less in revenue than the planned resource super profits tax.

To offset the lost revenue from the new mining tax agreement, the Government will cut the company tax rate to 29 per cent from 2013/14. Small companies will still benefit from an early cut to the company tax rate to 29 per cent from 2012/13.

A planned lift in compulsory superannuation contributions - from 9 per cent to 12 per cent by 2020 - remains unaffected.

"The breakthrough agreement keeps faith with our central goal from day one: to deliver a better return for the Australian people for the resources they own and which can only be dug up once," Ms Gillard said. "It is the result of intense consultation and negotiation with the resources industry.

Mr Macfarlane said overseas investors were "just bewildered and frightened now about investing in Australia...They will simply take their money elsewhere".


Will the new tax go through?

It's got to get through the Senate first and then survive a general election

The revamped tax has been hailed as a victory for the Prime Minister, with the Minerals Council describing it as a positive outcome and mining stocks getting a lift from investors.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he will not support it. “The next election is a referendum on tax,” Mr Abbott said. Mr Abbott said the battlelines had been drawn and the alternatives were sharp and clear. "Labor supports a great big new tax on mining - the Coalition doesn't," he told reporters. "It's as simple as that."

Labor needed a tax because it had turned a $20 billion budget surplus into a $57 billion deficit, Mr Abbott said. "The Opposition will oppose the new minerals tax," he said. "We will oppose it in opposition and we will rescind it in government.

Mr Abbott said the mining industry had got "the best deal from a bad government". "The miners were effectively negotiating with a gun at their heads, and that's not a situation they should ever have been put into," he said, adding the new deal would still hit the industry hard. "This is still a tax grab rather than tax reform ... A $12 billion tax grab has been replaced with a $10.5 billion tax grab."

Mr Abbott also criticised the government for not consulting widely enough. "It was discussed between the government and three big companies," he said. "There are about 300 other companies that it wasn't discussed with and you shouldn't make any assumptions as to whether they are happy with it."

Mr Abbott called on the government to release the modelling of both schemes to justify its figures. "It's difficult to see... how the original tax could raise $12 billion and how the new tax could raise $10.5 billion given the changes."

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the new tax would deter companies thinking of investing in Australia's resources. "Not only have they got the most complicated taxation regime in the world, but now they have a new tax that is going to raise at least $10.5 billion dollars that is going to have to be paid," he said in Sydney.

The Greens leader Bob Brown said there needs to be scrutiny of the deal. “In the end, Parliament will decide if this Gillard and mining baron deal stands. Australians will have a say at the next election when they elect a new Parliament, including a new Senate,” Senator Brown said.


Fraudulent surgery waiting lists in NSW public hospitals

AN external audit has been called into surgery waiting list irregularities in western Sydney, a sign of unease over a debacle that led to hundreds of patients wrongly being left off operating lists.

O'Connor Marsden & Associates would "undertake an independent review of planned surgery patient bookings and waiting list management processes", a spokeswoman for Sydney West Area Health Service confirmed.

The Herald reported last month that failures in a centralised elective surgery booking system across western Sydney hospitals had resulted in patients - some with cancer and spinal problems - being left off politically sensitive waiting lists, which were artificially low as a consequence.

The fresh audit has been called by the area's newly appointed chief executive, Heather Gray, whose predecessor, Steven Boyages, presided over the introduction of the centralised system.

It is in addition to a separate review by Donald MacLellan, the health department's program director of surgery, and represents an escalation in the administration's response to the problems, which have infuriated doctors.

O'Connor Marsden specialises in probity work and internal financial audits for government departments and agencies. But a spokeswoman said the firm's terms of reference were limited to the area's waiting list management, and did not include the use of surgery funds.

Patients continue to suffer under western Sydney's chaotic elective surgery regime.

A former shearer, Graham Ricketts, finally had his trachestomy tube removed on Wednesday, six months after the procedure was first scheduled. Mr Ricketts, 74, had been assured he would have seven days' notice when the tube - inserted in his neck at Westmead Hospital after throat cancer blocked his breathing - would be removed.

But on the October long weekend, Mr Ricketts picked up his phone in Young, in southern NSW, and received a blast from a Sydney surgeon angry he was not in the operating theatre. The hospital had failed to tell him the procedure had been booked. "Let's look at this for what it is - a bloody disgrace with Monday being a holiday, not to mention Young being 400 kilometres away from Westmead," Mr Ricketts said.

Six months later, he endured a repeat performance: a phone call notifying him of surgery the next morning, but no letter. Mr Ricketts left home that night at 1.30am, arriving at Westmead at 6.30am, but his operation was cancelled.

Last Thursday he received a letter giving him three working days to accept surgery on Tuesday. He was asked to telephone at 7.30pm on Monday to confirm final details, and was again driven through the night by a relative. He arrived at Westmead early on Tuesday, only to find his operation delayed for another day. "The doctors and nurses at Westmead are absolutely fantastic," Mr Ricketts said. "But the system is totally flawed."

After the Herald made inquiries, the hospital apologised to Mr Ricketts for his "inconvenience and distress". The area spokeswoman said "regrettably this [long distance needed to travel] was not noted on Mr Ricketts' admission forms."


"Bogan": The self-selected superior person's term for those he/she looks down on (i.e. ordinary Australians)

When Tourism Australia released its "There's Nothing Like Australia" ad campaign recently, the sound of forehead-slapping could be heard across the country.

Not because it refers to kangaroos as "furry things that bounce around in herds" or has girls in a left-hand drive four-wheel drive but because, in 90 seconds, it makes Australians look like a pack of bogans.

"Bogan pride at its best", decried a post on the media blog Mumbrella, while at the Herald, website commenter Gavin agreed it was "absolute rubbish. I don't understand why the people in tourism marketing insist on making us look like such incredible bogan morons."

With ugg boots selling for £150 ($250) on London's high streets, a swearing former prime minister called Kevin and Alf Stewart finally taking out the Gold Logie, you could be forgiven for thinking that bogans have arrived. But such accolades belie our deep-seated fear and loathing of boganness. No matter how many uggs are sold, bogans remain Australia's cultural punching bag of choice.

In recent months, everyone from unappreciative theatregoers to pitbull owners and brides in strapless gowns have been deemed "bogan". As an all-purpose insult, with no single identikit, you just know it when you see it. And in these politically correct times, when so many socio-cultural insults are offlimits, you can still call someone a bogan with gay abandon. "You can get away with using it anywhere," says Bruce Moore, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre. "It never developed that taboo rating."

Cultural critic and writer Mel Campbell says the real beauty of boganness is that it doesn't actually exist. After researching representations of the expression in the mass media, she concluded: "There's no such thing as a bogan."

Rather, it is a "strategic term or idea to quarantine aspects of Australian cultural life or identity that we're embarrassed about".

As a young nation (arguably founded by English bogans), we have a long history of trying to police what is acceptably Australian.

Campbell sees parallels between contemporary attitudes to bogans and those towards Irish larrikins, such as Ned Kelly, in the late 19th century.

While we like to think we've put all that silly anxiety behind us, in practice the cultural cringe never died – it just went underground.

Look around and almost every element of our national identity is plagued by fears of bogan influence.

Each year there is increasing disquiet about the "boganisation" of Australia Day and Anzac Day, with their hyper, "inappropriate" displays of nationalism. As travel writer David Whitley observed last month, an alcohol ban was slapped on the Gallipoli dawn service because of "backpacking bogans who saw it as a slightly more exotic Oktoberfest".Writing recently in the Illawarra Mercury, Chris Dyson complained "the Southern Cross is being sullied, not celebrated, [as a] bogan slogan", while Facebook group Not Having a Southern Cross Tattoo has almost 60,000 fans.

Wollongong University human geography professor Chris Gibson has a theory that, like the country cousins you can't quite accept you're related to, today's globally inclined, cosmopolitan Australia doesn't appreciate being reminded that "so much of Australian culture is still Australian".

As Kath Leahy, author of Lords and Larrikins: The Actor's Role in the Making of Australia, noted in The Australian last year, actors will "bung on the bogan" when they have to play working-class characters but they would never use such language their everyday lives. "We absolutely cringe when we hear someone say 'nuffink'."

The unpretentious, unselfconscious bogan outlook doesn't sit well with a country doing its damndest to look and sound grown-up. It's a sentiment that the boutique beer brand Moobrew has successfully tapped into with its advertising campaign "Not suitable for bogans".

T-shirts bearing the slogan have been bestsellers. As brewer Owen Johnston told the Herald: "Everyone thinks that their neighbour's a bogan, not themselves."

The expression, which made its first official appearance in print in the surfing magazine Tracks in 1985, is certainly on the brain. Mentions of the b-word in mainstream print media have increased almost threefold in the past five years, from about 400 a year to more than 1000.

The term has edged out "ocker" and "hoon" and the regional terms "chigger", "bevan", "booner" and "westie" to become the byword for all that is rough, ready, unintelligent and undesirable in Australian culture. As Moore notes, "Suddenly the word was everywhere and bogans, it seems, were as 'everywhere' as their word".

Gibson's explanation for this sense of reds under the beds is drawn from his studies of bogan culture in the Illawarra. He says economic and cultural dimensions have been "decoupled" – boganness today is more about taste than income. In the past, safely segregated in less affluent suburbs, they were easily identifiable by their mullets and Winnie Blues. These days, they can just as easily be found in Kirribilli, wearing designer sunnies and drinking cosmopolitans.

According to the cult blog Things Bogans Like, "The bogan today defies income, class, race, creed, gender or religion . . . Those who choose to deny the bogan on the basis of their north shore home, their stockbroking career or their massive trust fund choose not to see the bogan."

In true McCarthyist style, our discomfort can be seen in the enthusiasm with which we attempt to rat out boganness and, in doing so, confirm our own non-bogan status.

Since last October, Things Bogans Like has been assiduously cataloging aspects of the condition (some 150 items and counting), from Aussie hip-hop to celebrity fragrances.

One recent post states: "If the bogan is thirsty, it will not merely drink water, it will crave a Boost juice . . . if the bogan wishes to leech some cultural cachet from the bloated corpses of Bach and Sinatra, it will try to illegally download some Andre Rieu or Michael Buble."

Similarly, commentary website The Punch attracted hundreds of spirited reader contributions last year for its article on the top 10 bogan suburbs in Australia.

While studies such as the University of Western Sydney and Macquarie University's Challenging Racism project have found no direct association between socioeconomic status and intolerant attitudes, Gibson says boganness has nonetheless been linked with a "particular kind of xenophobic pride".

Bogan icons such as Russell Crowe, Warrick Capper and The Castle might seem harmless enough but there have been some disastrous PR blows lately. Pauline Hanson, the Cronulla riots and the persistence of bumper stickers proclaiming "We grew here, you flew here" and "F--- off, we're full" have fuelled the stereotype that bogans are not just bad for our image, they're bad for our soul. As one commenter opined in the Sunshine Coast Daily's coverage of Australia Day this year, "[It] is all out bogan day, get drunk, wear a flag cape, cause some violence, be racist, get arrested and vomit, and anyone who doesn't do this is un-Australian".

The image hasn't been helped by the constant hysteria about Paxton wannabe dole bludgers and troublemakers on current affairs programs.

As Michaela McGuire noted in The Sunday Age, these shows "have embraced the pursuit of documenting bogans with great enthusiasm".

Even Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle picked up the theme when announcing his desire to ban "bogans" and their violence from the centre of the city, as part of a wider campaign to prevent Melbourne from become a "bogan magnet".

Without a hint of irony, bogan bashing has become a high horse you hop on to prove you are a tolerant, decent, peaceful Australian.

Meanwhile, the green-eyed monster lurks. The mining boom has given many blue-collar workers six-figure salaries – and opportunities to spend. Jules Duncan, who is making a documentary on self-identified "cashed-up bogans" in Western Australia, says jealousy is driving much of the criticism. "They don't just buy a Beemer like doctors do – they buy utes in bright colours with loud stereos," Duncan says. He also notes that despite the fact he is making a serious film – not a "pisstake" – media coverage of his work usually bears the tagline "They're the people you love to hate".

For a supposedly classless society, there is snobbery at play. Duncan says that, like "squattocracy", the term "cashed-up bogan" implies that some people deserve their money and some don't. And yet bogans with money are having the last laugh.

They are frustratingly impervious to middle-class sniggers about their lime-green V8s, sub-woofers and endless rounds of Swan Lager. "They get to live the good life without being what they would term a wanker," Duncan says.

Of course, jealousy, militant tolerance and cultural cringe aside, bogans can be funny.

For Gibson, we shouldn't underestimate the power of humour to come to terms with our culture. This much-maligned group is a safe base; a soft punching bag. "They're instantly recognisable, but not you," says Campbell, who likens bogan jokes to the current boom in gags about redheads.

"Because they're white, it's OK to laugh at a bogan. We can laugh at ourselves but we laugh at a part we don't totally identify with."

Australian comedy has a rich tradition of such caricatures. Yet while Dame Edna has been lampooning our boganisms since the 1950s – something taken up with great vigour by Barry McKenzie, Kylie Mole and Eric Bana's "Poida" in the '70s, '80s and '90s – there's an increasingly harder edge to it. While Kath and Kim peppered us with malapropisms and bad fashion, there was always a sense that it was "not quite coming from within", says Gibson.

Rebel Wilson's 2008 TV series Bogan Pride was all-singing and all-dancing but with its schoolyard bullying, eating disorders and farting it was more unattractive than irreverent.

Perhaps that's why the comedian Wil Anderson has outlined the reasons why bogans "shouldn't f---" and The Chaser bailed up mothers with prams, "fining" them for giving their children bogan names with bogan spellings.

As a magically flexible word, bogan isn't set in stone like America's unequivocally pejorative "white trash" or Britain's abusive "chav". But at some point, we will have to stop having our bogan cake and eating it too. As Moore warns, "you can't have that sort of range forever. 'Bogan' will have to sort itself out."

Some might say that bogan bashing is a harmless national pastime, simply proof that we're jokesters who don't take ourselves too seriously.

Yet there is a creeping persecution of this cultural sub-group in Australia. We're far less relaxed and comfortable about our identity and status than we'd care to admit.


1 July, 2010

Is this another Lindy Chamberlain affair?

Fundamentalist Christians are looked at askance by most Australians. Mainstream jurors were so sure Lindy Chamberlain (a Seventh Day Adventist) was a criminal that they jailed her for four years. Only clear new evidence exonerated and freed her. The "Agape" mentioned below is a New Testament Greek word for "love"

LIKE many suburban couples, Raphael and Patricia Azariah work and study hard, raise their children and attend church every Sunday. Their religious beliefs, however, have thrust the parents of two into controversy - because they are members of the Agape Ministries Church.

Yesterday, the couple spoke to The Advertiser to refute "cruel and malicious" claims they promised their daughters in marriage to older men. They further denied accusations they allowed the girls, aged eight and six, to undergo firearms training. The couple detailed the persecution they have suffered in the wake of police raids on Agape properties that netted guns and ammunition. [Firearms possession in Australia is subject to some controls but is far from totally illegal. Guns can be found on most farms]

"I am not a nutter or a crazy-farm type of person," Mr Azariah said. "I am a person that believes in God, I am a Christian, I am a man who takes the Bible seriously. "Now I have lost my job - we have no employment and no income, and I've lost all that work as a result of what one can only describe as malicious lies."

The police raids, in May, triggered an avalanche of speculation about Agape Ministries. Former members and opponents dubbed it a cult, saying Pastor Rocco Leo defrauded millions from his followers to buy a South Pacific island. Detractors claimed Leo told his parishioners the world would end after microchips are implanted into everyone by the end of 2012. Mr Azariah's mother, Lesley Baligod, said her son and daughter-in-law had "betrothed" their children to much older men in the church.

Yesterday, Mr and Mrs Azariah spoke in the presence of their lawyer, Craig Caldicott, and two fellow church members. Mr Azariah - whose chosen last name means "the Lord is my helper" - joined the church in 1993.

He said there was no truth to any of the allegations. "Agape Ministries has never been a doomsday cult," he said. "It has never been preached, in our church, that the world is going to end. That's contrary to our beliefs, and to the Bible which says God has established the Earth forever. "I do not believe the world is going to end, and definitely not in 2012."

He said "disgruntled former members of the church" had taken that concept "from movies and the Mayan calendar". "And I've never heard anything about an island in Vanuatu," he said.

He said talk of microchips was a "misunderstanding" of comments made during Bible study classes. "People talked about all the media coverage around companies and governments using chips in phones, credit cards and to identify people," he said. "I am aware that some governments may do that, I know that there's tracking devices, but I don't particularly care.

"In Revelations it talks about 'the Mark of the Beast', and it's left for people to interpret that in their own way. "But it has never been taught, in the Agape church, that people are going to be microchipped and that's not a church doctrine."

What had most hurt his family, he said, were the allegations about his daughters Amanda and Danielle. "It is a load of hogwash, and it is without a doubt probably one of the most cruel things I've ever heard," he said.

The couple were accused of letting the girls take part in weapons training at firing ranges on Agape property. "Neither of my daughters have ever held a gun - they would not know how to," Mr Azariah said. "I am not aware of any firing range operated or owned by Agape Ministries."

Media reports led to the Azariahs being investigated by Families SA. "We were totally exonerated," he said.

Mr Azariah said he had given 10 per cent of his earnings to the church willingly. "I believe in it, it wasn't compulsory," he said. He blamed the rumours on former church members who disagreed with Rocco Leo.

He believed one of those former members had provided information to his mother. "The fundamental tenor of the Agape Church is that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected - we believe in love and forgiveness," he said. "It's for that reason I still love my mother and forgive her for what she's brought up against us."

A University of Adelaide graduate, Mr Azariah made his living as a music teacher at an Adelaide school until the church came under fire. "I probably had about 35 students, and taught another five privately. "Now I have been asked to take unpaid leave until all of this is sorted out.

"My wife, Patricia, had been studying horticulture, but because we currently have no income she is looking for employment."

He said his daughters had "fortunately" not been teased, and had the support of their school and peers.


No punishment for violent African gang?

Members of group that bashed man to partial blindness all avoid prison. Would whites have got off so lightly? What message does this send to other violent African gangs?

A GANG of youths whose bashing of an Indian man blinded him in one eye have all avoided jail. Majang Ngor, 20, the last of the gang to face court, was yesterday given an eight-month suspended jail term for the unprovoked attack on Kanan Kharbanda.

Prosecutors had wanted him jailed for four years. But Judge Susan Cohen said this would be unjust, given the penalties imposed on gang members who were more culpable. Ngor hadn't been an instigator or a ringleader.

At least three other youths - who can't be named because of their age - were given nine-month youth supervision orders in the Children's Court. The Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing against those sentences.

Ngor pleaded guilty in the County Court to recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury, robbery, and attempted robbery over the March 2008 bashing.

Mr Kharbanda, an accounting student, had been walking a friend to Sunshine station. One of Ngor's group demanded a dollar before hitting Mr Kharbanda in the face. Others joined in, kicking and punching; his friend was also hit and kicked to the ground. Mr Kharbanda suffered a fractured eye socket and broken nose. He has lost the sight in his right eye.

Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said it was beyond belief that the youths had been let off "scot free". "It's disgraceful. The Indian community has the right - all citizens have the right - to be up in arms about it," he said.

Ngor told police they'd been drinking at a party and one of the group had suggested they go "hustling". He admitted joining the pack, but denied striking either victim.

Judge Cohen said the Sudanese refugee had since worked hard to reform himself. To his credit he'd finished year 12, got a stable job, and had stopped binge-drinking.

She said he hadn't caused the worst injuries, but had helped those who did. Violence at railway stations was of major public concern, but the matter was "less serious" than if weapons had been used.

The judge suspended the jail term for 15 months and ordered Ngor to do 40 hours of community work, saying the greatest public benefit would come from his rehabilitation.

Shadow attorney-general Robert Clark said it was extraordinary that none would spend time behind bars and said it is weak sentencing laws that allowed the gang members to walk free. "The victim of this crime will suffer a lifetime sentence with his injuries while the offenders are being let off with just a few hours of community service," he said.

"Imposing suspended sentences does nothing to build respect for the law, yet under John Brumby's weak sentencing laws vicious crimes like this bashing will continue to qualify for suspended sentences. "In contrast, a Baillieu Government will abolish suspended sentences for all crimes so that jail will mean jail," he said.


Gross climate fraud in Australia again

Look at the raw data (jagged blue line) in the second graph below and what you see is essentially a picture of random fluctuations. Amid such large fluctuations, a tiny overall trend is meaningless. And if industrialization has caused what warming there is, how come temperatures were so high in the early decades of the 20th century? Most people rode horses in that era

Retired school principal Kenskingdom was alarmed by this Bureau of Meterology graph, showing a strong warming trend for Victoria:


He checked the data from which the trend, and found it had first been adjusted and turned into “high quality” data. As a BOM spokesman assured him:
On the issue of adjustments you find that these have a near zero impact on the all Australian temperature because these tend to be equally positive and negative across the network (as would be expected given they are adjustments for random station changes).

Actually, no, though. You see, Kenskingdom discovered that the adjustments served to exaggerate Victoria’s warming remarkably:


Kenskingdom goes through the individual stations for you and concludes:

There is a distinct warming trend in Victoria since the 1960s, which has been especially marked in the last 15 years. The first half of the record shows a cooling trend.  BOM’s adjustments have attempted to remove this. 2007, not 2009, was the warmest year in the past 100 years.

Three stations identified as urban in 1996 have been included. Many stations’ data have been arbitrarily adjusted to cool earlier years. Only one station has had its trend reduced.  Two are essentially unchanged. Ten of Victoria’s 13 stations have been adjusted to increase the warming trend, to the extent that there is a warming bias of at least 133%, more likely 143%.

These adjustments, and the Australian temperature record to which they contribute, are plainly not to be trusted. 


Corrupt Afro-Asian cricket nations now dominating cricket governing body

As Andrew Bolt says, the vetoing of John Howard’s nomination as the (eventual) head of the International Cricket Council seems driven by racism and fear of a clean administrator

JOHN Howard has refused to withdraw his bid to be president-elect of the International Cricket Council, despite rejection from its Afro-Asia bloc. In an unprecedented move, the sport's governing body has ignored its electoral process by asking Australia and New Zealand to resubmit its joint nomination after rejecting the former prime minister at yesterday's board meeting in Singapore.

“When people raised some objections and I started to hear murmurs, the suggestion was `he might withdraw',” a disappointed Mr Howard told The Australian from Singapore last night. “I made it very clear I wasn't going to withdraw and I still have that view.”

While there was no vote taken at yesterday's meeting, only three countries _ Australia, New Zealand and England _ were in support of Mr Howard.

On Tuesday night, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the West Indies all signed a letter objecting to Mr Howard as a candidate and refusing to let him speak at yesterday's board meeting. Zimbabwe did not sign despite its opposition. “It's a very serious problem for the ICC and for Australia and New Zealand cricket,” Mr Howard said.

“The two bodies have faithfully followed a rigorous procedure and put somebody forward in good faith and that procedure has just been ignored, swept aside. “I'm doubly disappointed because they haven't given me any reason. It's quite unacceptable for a reason not to be given.”

Mr Howard last night conceded the rebuff could be because of political decisions he had made in the past, including his treatment of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. “All I can say in relation to Robert Mugabe is that if that is the reason I wear the negative attitude as a badge of honour because I don't apologise in any way for the criticism I offer of the Mugabe regime,” he told Sky News.

“If it was in some way based on past political reasons then that is a very bad precedent to be establishing for the ICC because there are serving politicians holding positions of authority within the ICC. “I'm not criticising that but I'm just drawing attention to it.”

Speaking from Singapore last night, Cricket Australia chairman Jack Clarke said he was “pretty gutted, frustrated and incredibly disappointed”.

Mr Howard's refusal to back down and the anger expressed by the Australian and New Zealand cricket boards suggests they may renominate Mr Howard. “We remain convinced it is reasonable for his nomination to be supported by the ICC executive board and we are deeply disappointed by the position taken at the meeting,” Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket said in a joint statement.

The candidate Mr Howard beat to become New Zealand's joint nomination, former NZC chairman John Anderson, is also unpopular with Mr Howard's most strident opponents, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Sir John sat on the ICC's audit committee that attempted to bring the dubious financial dealings of Zimbabwe Cricket to account two years ago. Instead of backing the investigation, the ICC sacked chief executive Malcolm Speed, Sir John resigned from the committee and the damning audit has never been released.

Last night Mr Speed described the rejection of Mr Howard as “disgraceful”. “I think it's an insult to Australia and New Zealand,” Mr Speed said, suggesting that a “dysfunctional” ICC would be moved from Dubai to Mumbai within two years.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.