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, 2011

Light soon on Labor party coverup?

New light shed on Heiner Affair with 'Shreddergate' inquiry set to open. Could it be Kevvy who is being protected?

Annette McIntosh, 37, is one of the living victims of Shreddergate - a 20-year controversy involving politicians, shredded documents and "hush money".

For the first time, she has revealed her full identity in her fight for justice. Mrs McIntosh alleges that at 14 years old, as a ward of the state at Brisbane's John Oxley Detention Centre, she was pack-raped.

A year ago, the State Government paid Mrs McIntosh $140,000 in compensation for a crime that never led to charges, let alone an investigation.

She signed a confidentiality agreement. But that is about to be broken. Mrs McIntosh will head to Canberra when Federal Parliament resumes next month, and with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon will fight to open a new inquiry into what has been referred to as the Heiner Affair.

"I cannot wait. I have been waiting for this ... just to tell them straight out I'm still alive," Mrs McIntosh told The Sunday Mail.

"It feels good to speak because I've been told to shut my mouth for over 20 years."

Several probes have been held into the Heiner inquiry's investigation into alleged crimes at the detention centre.

Documents were shredded by the then Goss Government because of fears of legal problems relating to the inquiry, which was also disbanded. Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd was chief-of-staff to then premier Wayne Goss at the time of the shredding.

But an inquiry has never been held into why Mrs McIntosh, who works with indigenous youth, was paid compensation.

Moves for an inquiry were put on ice last month when former Family First senator Steve Fielding shocked Senator Xenophon and the Coalition by pulling his support.


1989: Former magistrate Noel Heiner appointed by the then National Party to inquire into alleged abuse at the John Oxley Detention Centre

1990: Incoming Labor Goss government shreds documents over fears the inquiry was not properly constituted

1995: The Criminal Justice Commission cleared of allegations it had lied to a federal Senate inquiry about a whistleblower who provided information to the Heiner inquiry

1996: Barristers Tony Morris, QC, and Edward Hoard appointed by the Borbidge government to hold an investigation into the shredding

2004: Federal Senate select committee holds hearings into the shredding but they lead to no charges

2010: Alleged victim Annette McIntosh receives compensation from the Bligh Government


New $800 'green tax' mooted on homes - you must pay before you can sell

As if houses were not dear enough already!

EMBATTLED homeowners could be slugged more than $800 to give their houses a compulsory "green rating" before they are sold or leased, under a new federal government scheme.

Mandatory "green ratings" for apartments and houses similar to those on new washing machines and fridges are to be introduced in the initiative to encourage more energy efficient homes.

The ratings are part of the requirement for each state to introduce legislation requiring homeowners to disclose their home's energy, greenhouse and water efficiency when they advertise it for sale or lease.

A national report has posed four different options for energy audits which in NSW would range in price from about $200 to $820.

Public consultations on compulsory testing will be held for the first time around the country starting in Sydney on Tuesday.

The most expensive option detailed in the report estimates a charge to an individual home owner of $774 for an assessor with an added $50 cost for the inconvenience of having to arrange to be present during the assessment.

The most intensive of the options, it involves a thermal building assessment which gauges a property's heating and cooling efficiency and other components.

But homeowners would not benefit from this option, which is estimated to cost homeowners a total of $1.9 billion, Real Estate Institute of NSW president Wayne Stewart said. "We agree there needs to be a change of thought and attitude towards energy efficiency," Mr Stewart said. "But the government needs to work with consumers to bring about change rather than slap them with what looks like being another tax of up to $800."

A less expensive option involves a simpler thermal assessment, involving a cost of $172.50 for an assessor and a $25 cost to a householder.

The third model would be an online version of the thermal performance assessment at a cost of $68 if done by the householder or $165 if done by an assessor with an associated $18 "householder waiting cost".

The fourth option is similar to that already adopted in Queensland whereby a homeowner fills out a checklist of building information.

This option is estimated to cost $41 if done by the property owner and $150 if done by an assessor.

Mandatory energy ratings were being introduced to establish a credible and uniform system, a spokesperson for Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said.

Rating a property's green performance could also boost its value. "Assessing the energy and water efficiency characteristics of a home can help people chose a property that is potentially more comfortable and cheaper to run," the spokesperson said.


Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

Dodgy Victorian doctors exposed

A Beaumaris doctor, who smoked ice and shot up pethidine with his patient and lover, is among dozens of disgraced doctors still registered to practise in Victoria. Supplied

BEAUMARIS doctor Sotirios Giokas, who smoked ice and shot up pethidine with his patient and lover, is among dozens of disgraced doctors still registered to practise in Victoria.

Thirty-three Victorian doctors - disciplined for sexual harassment of patients and staff, botching operations, feeding patients' drug habits, or performing procedures such as liposuction although untrained - are still registered to practise.

The Sunday Herald Sun has, for the first time, searched the biographies of each of the 6860 Victorian registered doctors in the AHPRA database, and the results of the "doctor audit" are disturbing.

The national medical registration body - the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - says doctors are allowed to continue practising only if the board is satisfied patient safety is not at risk.

But the Australian Patients Association is calling for a "three strikes and you're out" policy.

Some of the doctors banned from prescribing drugs of dependence have been unable to refuse desperate medication-seeking patients.

Other doctors were allowed to work in the state only if they got their English up to scratch and some were reprimanded for taking inadequate patient notes.

At least another 15 Victorian doctors have conditions on their registration - such as reduced working hours and being able to work only in a group setting - because of addictions and mental health issues.

Medical Board of Australia chairwoman Dr Joanna Flynn said national regulation of doctors aimed to ensure community safety. "It's not a punishment jurisdiction, it's about protection of the public," Dr Flynn said.

She said while some doctors would never practise again, the board had to "balance the potential good that person might do to the patient community - including what alternatives there are if that doctor is not there - against the prospect the doctor will engage in harm".

A medical board panel hears less serious complaints, received from patients or a doctor's colleagues. They can reprimand or caution the doctor, order further training or enter a voluntary agreement with the doctor to restrict their practice in some way.

Under national legislation enacted last year, more serious cases are now referred to VCAT, which has the power to suspend or cancel registrations, or impose restrictions on practice. The medical board can also restrict practice or suspend doctors while the VCAT hearing is under way if there are risks to the public.

Australian Patients Association chief executive Stephen Mason said stricter and more transparent controls were required to crack down on reoffenders. "Where there have been complaints for professional misconduct, it needs to be like the AFL drug code: three strikes and you're out," Mr Mason said. "Some complaint-prone doctors are past their use-by date . . . but there's no compulsory retirement date.

"When reviews are by peers there's always a tendency to be lenient . . . so all these review panels need to have some outsiders on them and all the charges and findings should be public."


Queensland doctors not too good either

QUEENSLAND doctors are facing hundreds of complaints of inadequate care, including claims of working under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Others have been caught ripping off taxpayers and giving patients drugs or treatment they do not need.

Three Queensland medicos are under investigation by Medicare for over-prescribing, while a separate blowtorch has been applied to 408 Queensland doctors for inadequate care.

More than 1100 health professionals and medical practices Australia-wide have been identified as incorrectly claiming from Medicare amounts totalling $28.24 million.

Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission, which has the 408 "open" complaints on its books, has referred 162 of the grievances to the Medical Board of Australia.

A spokeswoman for the Commission said the public complained mostly about treatment and communication issues, but some also accused doctors of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"We may forward matters that we consider appropriate to the relevant registration board or if the matter is outside our jurisdiction, forward it to another agency with the authority to deal with (it), which may include the Director of Professional Services Review (DPSR)." The DPSR determines what action should be taken.

Fifty-six health professionals have been referred to the DPSR for suspected inappropriate practice and one doctor has been referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal charges.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said doctors who did the wrong thing would never be supported but said they were innocent until proven guilty.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek said the vast majority of medical practitioners acted professionally but "the few who prescribe these drugs to people who don't need them are not acting appropriately".


30 July, 2011

Stepping in for the PM

President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus visits the CIS, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard couldn’t find the time to welcome the head of the country to Australia. On Monday, The Centre for Independent Studies did something that the Australian government did not deem necessary: We provided a very warm welcome to Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic.

Klaus is a true friend of Australia. One of his first international trips after the fall of the Iron Curtain was to Australia in 1991, when he delivered the John Bonython lecture to the Centre.

Ten years later, he returned to participate in a CIS conference; he also has close relatives here.

Despite all this, the Prime Minister’s Office found no way to accommodate a meeting between the President Klaus and her. Maybe she was genuinely too busy. Or maybe Klaus’ views were too unpalatable for her.

President Klaus is a rare bird: He is an economics professor, a former finance minister and prime minister, and now a head of state. But despite this impressive career, he has maintained an outspokenness and independence of mind rare in politicians these days.

Maybe Klaus does not hold back his views because he had to do so for too long under communist rule. He does not conform to modern standards of so-called ‘political correctness,’ which he thinks is ‘a misnomer for officially sanctioned hypocrisy.’

So he speaks out where other politicians rather bite their tongues. Whether it is against the intrusive regulations coming out of the European Union, against the drive towards supranationalism, or indeed against programs to impose draconian measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our exchange of views with the President was most informative and refreshing. It’s a pity the Prime Minister missed the opportunity to experience the same.

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. Click here to watch a conversation between President Klaus and Dr Hartwich.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 July. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Crackdown on welfare claimants who are "too sick" to work

APPLICANTS for the disability support pension will no longer be able to claim they are too fat to work or are unable due to other ailments that would previously have led them to claim benefits.

Instead, 815,000 people on the pension will be assessed using new impairment tables on what work they could potentially do based on their disability, The Daily Telegraph reported.

A Centrelink study of claims in the first half of this year showed 38 per cent of applicants would have been ineligible.

If their claims were lodged after the reforms are introduced in January they would have been rejected and would be able to apply for the Newstart allowance.

The government tailored Newstart assistance to guide people with mild disabilities to suitable work.

"The new tool will make sure people applying for the disability support pension will be assessed based on what they can do and not what they can't do," Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said. "I want to see people who have some capacity to work doing so. Work provides purpose and dignity and a greater sense of achievement and pride."

Disability support groups and medical professionals consulted with the government on the tables, which comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

They also reflect improvements in rehabilitation and medical treatment since the tables were last revised in 1993.

The government found current impairment tables were inconsistent, including assessing people with a hearing problem while they were not wearing their hearing aids. People with cardiovascular and respiratory problems can also self report but will now have to provide evidence from their doctor.

Back complaints had been assessed based on loss of movement but new tables will determine what the condition prevents a person from doing, such as sitting down for a period of time.

A miscellaneous table from which people made claims for obesity and pain will be abolished so people will instead be assessed on how it affects their capacity to function at work.

A table covering mental health, among the fastest-growing reasons people apply for the pension, will also be tightened after people with minor psychiatric impairments were classified the same as those severely incapacitated.

A total of 30 points, down from 40, will be allocated for mental health issues.


Empty-headed slogans won't help Aborigines

Noel Pearson

Borrowing straight from Tony Blair's New Labour play book, the prevailing policy paradigm in our country is called social inclusion, and, as deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard established a Social Inclusion Board to advise government. It is now astounding to think about Australian perceptions of the social policy revolutions taking place under Blair. Young policy wonks would wax lyrically about the work of the Social Inclusion Unit, and the rhetoric of New Labour was so compelling.

I would look askance when east London social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson visited us in Cape York every few years and gave the thumbs-down on Blair and Brown. Mawson's view was that social change agents who have only a plane-seat view of the problems can produce great visions, but his advice rang true: "The devil is in the detail."

Politicians and public servants who have never built anything from the ground up in such communities never really get it. Most people in social policy live in a world of programs and plans, bearing scant relation to realities.

Goods and services in the marketplace respond to the daily realities of human lives, their needs and desires. When the people and organisations producing and selling these products fail to understand and respond to demands of the public, they soon lose custom and disappear. Government goods and services are different: they can fail to understand and respond to what the public needs and demands, and they never go out of business. The production line of useless or half-useless programs and services built by erstwhile social policy designers in government keeps producing because there is no nexus between stratosphere-level policy design and ground-level demands of people who need opportunity.

Not surprisingly, the government services system ends up, in the words of US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses".

This week I met former British Conservative leader and present Minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, who was in Australia as a guest of the Menzies Research Centre and delivered the John Howard Oration. He is the first politician, and first senior public servant, who has struck me as having a profound understanding of social disadvantage at the ground level. Through the think tank he founded, the Centre for Social Justice, Duncan Smith has accumulated a vast and detailed understanding of the many facets of social disadvantage in Britain. He used his long years in opposition to start to design a policy and political program aimed at putting his revolution into effect.

The striking thing is Duncan Smith claimed social justice for the Conservatives. In his Sydney speech he said: "For too long Conservatives had left this area to the Left, only occasionally making forays to attack spending on welfare, and everything was viewed through the lens of saving money or catching scroungers . . . it remained a wholly negative message and allowed the Left to characterise Conservatives as simply interested in cutting benefits."

Duncan Smith's claiming of social justice may cause some discomfiture to his antipodean counterparts, but his view is that "these terminology arguments were utterly detached from the British people, and they marginalised Conservatives even further in the eyes of the electorate". They conducted polls on the public's understanding and found that "they rejected the notion that it meant a bigger state or increased spending on welfare. Instead they felt it meant support for people in real need and support for those who are helping them."

In my view Duncan Smith aims to give real meaning to social justice. It is not about the failed welfarism of the Left but social policy aiming to transform the lives of the disadvantaged. As he says, "income matters, but the root causes of poverty and the source of income matter more".

In our work in Cape York Peninsula we have focused on three dimensions to our staircase of social progress where passive welfarism has created problems.

First, there is the crumbling effect that unconditional welfare and long-term disengagement from the economy has had on social foundations.

Second, governments invariably distribute resources from the state to citizens in ways that create dependency and fail to enliven them to engage in society and the economy. Instead of distributing opportunity, the state ends up delivering passive services that are ineffective in addressing needs and problems, and create new needs and problems.

Third, there is, at the bottom of the staircase, a pedestal that is priced higher than the first step on the staircase. The disincentive effect of the welfare pedestal on individuals moving from welfare to work, or avoiding welfare in the first place, remains a fundamental reform challenge in Australia as throughout the Western world.

We have developed innovative approaches to the first and second dimensions of the welfare reform challenge. It is in relation to the welfare pedestal that we are still bereft of solution. It requires a response that moves from the basis that it must pay to work. Then there is the requirement that jobseekers take available jobs.

Australian welfare reforms have still not counteracted the effect of the pedestal.

This is where the solution hammered out by Duncan Smith to simplify the benefits scheme into a single "universal credit" most interests me.


Live cattle shipments to resume

THE first shipment of live cattle is expected to leave Australia for Indonesia in a week's time after the federal government signed off late yesterday on the final impediment to resuming the suspended trade.

The Secretary of the federal Agriculture Department, Conall O'Connell, approved a notice of intent to export cattle to Indonesia for Elders, the country's largest live exporter, accounting for 60 per cent of the market.

Receipt of the final export permit is contingent on Elders having the first shipment of cattle undergo routine quarantine and health inspections, and then loading the beasts. "These steps are nothing new and are expected to follow quickly," a source said.

Elders has a ship anchored off China, which could be here and ready to load by the end of next week. "We're bloody happy for the trade, all the cattle producers in the Northern Territory and our customers in Indonesia," Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman told the Herald yesterday. "Northern Australia is desperately awaiting recovery in the trade and it is vital that the volumes can be increased as rapidly as a sustainable solution will permit," he said.

Not a single beast has been shipped to Indonesia since July 6 when the Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, announced the lifting of the month-long suspension.

The suspension, prompted by public and caucus outrage about the mistreatment of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs, stranded about 275,000 cattle that were ready for export.

Mr Jackman said the first ship could take about 3000 cattle from Darwin but it would only take "two or three phone calls" for him to have another 20,000 ready to go.

The president of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association, Rohan Sullivan, said it could take two years before the negative impacts of the backlog have been dealt with.

Elders was given approval to resume shipping to Indonesia after satisfying the department that new humane conditions governing live exports would be met. This meant, primarily, that Elders could guarantee supply-chain assurance, meaning the fate of each beast could be accounted for, from the point of departure to slaughter. This is designed to ensure that Australian cattle do not "leak" from Indonesian feedlots to substandard abattoirs.

The company has also arranged for an independent audit of the entire process - another requirement before exports could resume.

A survey of affected cattle-growers by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) released this week says the suspension had cost 326 jobs. This comprised workers who had either been laid off, or those who would otherwise have been hired.

Of the 597,000 cattle that the industry expected to sell to Indonesia this year, 375,000 were unsold at the time of the export suspension.

ABARES forecasts that about 278,000 beasts could be available for export by the end of the year if trade resumes by the end of this month.

Another cattle exporter, the Wellard group, is in the process of applying for an export permit.


What Bravery! Flannery Lectures on Looming Sea level Disaster from Waterfront Home!

Tim Flannery head of the Climate Commission and major doom-sayer in Australia recorded an interview with WWF saying that "James Hansen - who is the world's leading thinker in this area with the Goddard Institute of NASA - believes we're on the brink of triggering a 25m rise in sea level. So anyone with a coastal view from their bedroom window or kitchen window is likely to lose their house as a result of that change. So any coastal cities, coastal areas are in grave danger."

From Andrew Bolt it is reported that Mr Flannery has a waterfront home at Coba Point showing what he thinks of his own predictions . Greg Combet the Climate Change Minister also does not seem too worried with his luxury waterfront home.

It brings to mind Animal Farm with the "four legs good two legs bad" brainwashing being fed to the common animals while the ruling pigs walked around the farm house on two legs! Methinks Orwell was very clever with his choice of animals.

Maybe Flannery just checked the Envisat satellite data and found that current sea levels were the same as 2004, a fact that he failed to point out to the general public!


29 July, 2011


Dam operators followed the rulebook so that's OK -- even if they caused billions of property damage. Were they hired to be human robots or were they supposed to think? What were they paid for?

DAM operators accused of flooding parts of the southeast are set to be cleared of wrongdoing when a report into January's disaster is released next week.

SEQWater yesterday received a glowing report for its handling of the massive releases from Wivenhoe Dam, which contributed to the flooding that affected 22,000 properties in Brisbane and Ipswich.

Mark Babister, an independent hydrologist whose second report to the floods commission of inquiry was yesterday published, said SEQWater followed the dam manual when releasing water from Wivenhoe. Mr Babister's findings are expected to form a key part of the flood inquiry's interim report next Monday, denting prospects of a class action against the dam operators.

Debate has raged since the January floods over whether authorities contributed to the disaster amid suggestions the operators were hoarding drinking water in the dam.

Mr Babister, head of WMAwater, backed Seqwater engineers for releasing water into the Brisbane River at the height of the floods. "With the information available during their operations, and using the strategies defined by the manual, WMAwater believe the flood engineers achieved close to the best possible mitigation result for the January 2011 flood event," he wrote.

Seqwater nearly tripled releases from Wivenhoe Dam in the days before the flood. Releases were escalated from 240,000 megalitres a day on the night of January 10 when the dam was at 158 per cent to 645,000 megalitres the following night when the dam hit 183 per cent. The floods inundated 22,000 homes and businesses during January 12 and 13.

But Mr Babister highlighted the potential benefits of reducing Wivenhoe's normal capacity and changes to the manual to better protect the city from a repeat of the disaster. He said lowering Wivenhoe's level to 75 per cent before the wet season would allow it to "swallow" more water.


When animal activists attack!

Sometimes, you wonder who the real animals are, and what kind of condition they keep themselves in.

On the weekend, I dropped my daughter at a friend’s birthday party at Lennon Brothers Circus. Lennon Brothers is one of the few remaining Australian circuses with animals, and a group of protestors had set up shop out the front.

Never in my life have I encountered such an unruly, rude rabble of misfits, thugs and foaming-at-the-mouth ideologues. Not content to peacefully pursue their aims, they actively victimised the poor helpless children attending the circus with some of the most vile slurs imaginable.

In one instance, one of the protestors yelled through the megaphone “keeping lions in cages is like your mummy and daddy keeping you in jail”. Can you imagine how my eight year old daughter felt? Or any of the other kids walking in? How on earth does victimising children legitimise any grown-up cause – worthy or unworthy?

After dropping my daughter, I calmly approached some of the protestors to express my indignation. Part of that conversation involved me identifying myself as a journalist and pointing out that I have previously written pieces supporting animal welfare.

“Liar!” a woman wearing a lion mask screamed. A man with a spotted bow tie was even worse. Pointing at my four year old son under my arm, then pointing at the lion’s enclosure, he screamed “mammal, mammal!” as though to indicate that both my son and the lions deserved the same humane treatment.

I don’t necessarily disagree with his sentiment. But his tone was another thing entirely. It was the wild, manic tone of someone with severe anger management issues. And it was right in the face of my frightened son.

Now, it just so happens that I’m not such a big fan of circuses with animals, for two simple reasons.

Firstly, I believe the most exciting circus acts are always the ones involving people. Indeed, my daughter came home raving about the contortionist but had little to say about the lions.

Secondly, I don’t believe that performing animals send a good message to kids. It suggests that animals are there for our amusement, which I most firmly believe they are not.

That, by the way, is an entirely different issue from the issue of animal cruelty, which is the main issue the protestors were banging on about in their vicious, mean-spirited way.

So are circuses with animals cruel? Not according to fifth generation circus man and lion tamer Warren Lennon. “The lions have exercise yards available to them from 7 am to 9 or 10 o’clock at night,” he told The Punch yesterday.

“The tricks they do are similar to the movements they make in the wild. They jump, they walk along a plank. We don’t make them jump through fire or anything like that, we don’t use whips and although we use sticks, they are used for direction, not to hit the animals.

The Punch contacted Animal Liberation, who organised the protest. They said their immediate goal is to lobby local councils to outlaw animal circuses, while their long term goal is to shift all circus animals to free range zoos. This is what happened with the elephant Arna from Stardust Circus, who trampled and killed a handler.

Animal Liberation believe the animal “snapped”, although there was some suggestion the animal was only trying to nudge its handler awake after he suffered a heart attack, and inadvertently crushed him.

Whatever the truth in the case of Arna the elephant, Warren Lennon believes free range zoos would be a death warrant for circus-raised lions. “These lions they would die in a free range zoo. They were born in the circus and they are used to the companionship of the trainers. I’d like to see these animal libbers save some species from dying over in Africa. Lions are on the endangered species list, you know.”

Lennon believes that Australia leads the world on regulations for animals in circuses and zoos. But Animal Liberation Communications Manager Lynda Stoner doesn’t see it that way. “Animals were never intended to be objects of entertainment,” she says. “At Taronga Zoo in Sydney, there are signs explaining the dysfunctional behaviour of former circus elephants, who spend much of the day swaying back and forth.”

Stoner and her colleague Emma Hurst, who helped organise the protest, were both shocked when I told them of the behaviour of many of the protestors. That’s shocked as in disgusted, not shocked as in surprised, because this was not the first report of shonky misbehaviour that had filtered back to head office.

Hurst suggested that the news of the protest went out via Facebook, and that some of the protestors might have been blow-ins who were not members of Animal Liberation. “I stand by our right to be there and hand out flyers, but Animal Liberation is a completely non-violent organisation, and we do not support any sort of abuse towards people or anything like that,” she said.

That’s good to hear. Most animal rights groups these days are reasonably level-headed. Well, maybe not PETA, but most. But those lunatic protestors out the front of Lennon Brothers circus were anything but level-headed, that’s for sure.

And with their inexcusable behaviour, they completely invalidated their cause.


Tony Abbott says 'draconian' carbon cop force will chase 'invisible' substance

TONY Abbott has attacked the sweeping powers of a new carbon tax regulator, questioning how it can effectively monitor invisible gas emissions.

The Opposition Leader this morning lashed the powers of the Clean Energy Regulator, set out in a draft legislative package, likening the body to a “carbon cop”.

The new regulator will be able to enter workplaces and compel individuals to hand over self-incriminating evidence and sensitive records.

“I mean this is a draconian new police force chasing an invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance,” Mr Abbott told Nine's Today Show. “Not only is the carbon tax going to be with you every time you turn on the TV or open the fridge or get into bed with the electric blanket on, there's now going to be a carbon cop. “The carbon cop could hit you with 10 years in jail (and) million dollar plus fines.”

But Treasurer Wayne Swan laughed off the criticism, saying tough enforcement powers were needed to prevent rorting of the carbon scheme. "If people break the law and if people commit fraud, they commit a crime and they are punished for it under any law of the nation," he said. "I think the reports today are pretty ridiculous to be frank."

Under the draft legislation, attempts to subvert the scheme would be punishable by 10-year jail terms and fines of up to $1.1 million.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the tough approach followed instances of fraud in the European Union's emissions trading scheme. “In Europe the emissions trading scheme has experienced some problems with the scheme's integrity and the government has had a look at what those issues have been and we've designed our proposed legislation here on the basis of what we believe to be world's best practice,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Combet denied the government was rushing to introduce the carbon tax legislation into parliament, despite only allowing three weeks of consultation on the exposure draft. “There won't be too many surprises for businesses in what the government has put forward,” he said.

The carbon tax package will consist of 14 bills, the majority of which were released in draft form yesterday for public feedback. The package will establish the $23-a-tonne carbon price, mechanisms to pay household compensation and a new Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Regulator.

Inspectors working for the regulator would be able to obtain warrants to search work places, monitor activity and copy documents. The enforcement provisions will be further strengthened by an extra $12.8 million over four years for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.


The usual Greenie unrealism in estimates of carbon tax effects

Henry Ergas

EARLIER this week, Wayne Swan said the results of updated Treasury modelling of the government's proposed carbon tax would not differ much from those already released.

If our Defence planners told us it didn't matter to their modelling whether our next war was with China or with Vanuatu, we would worry about the quality of their planning.

So it is not reassuring that increasing the starting carbon price by more than 10 per cent, closing the Hazelwood generator early, slashing the number of permits that can be purchased overseas, precluding the borrowing of permits from the future and using realistic assumptions about what other countries are doing would have little impact on the policy's estimated costs. That said, many adjustments that should be made will likely not be made. The modelling will therefore remain an exercise in the economics of nirvana: easily assumed, less easily attained. But even were significant adjustments made, there is a technical reason why the model's estimate of costs might change little.

That reason is a quirk in Treasury's modelling. Called the "marginal abatement cost curve" or MAC, it provides abatement like manna from heaven, that is, at no cost. But it is even better: for the more the price of bread rises, the more manna showers from the skies. Or in this case, the higher the permit price, the more abatement we get for free.

The mechanics of this device can be explained as follows. As the carbon price rises producers replace more emissions-intensive processes with less emissions-intensive alternatives. This typically involves some investment costs. For example, a firm might spend an additional $100 on scrubbers to reduce emissions. As the scrubbers must be paid for, the firm's costs and prices would rise, causing, among other things, changes in demand.

But here comes the interesting bit. As the carbon price rises, the MAC kicks in, and provides further reductions in emissions, but without requiring new investment. And the higher the permit price, the more of those reductions it generates. It is as if the scrubber, without needing to be replaced, suddenly eliminated more emissions simply because the carbon price had increased.

And the savings generated by the MAC are not trivial. Indeed, thanks to a parameter in the model, in principle up to 90 per cent of emissions affected by the MAC could be eliminated at no cost. In practice, the reductions are unlikely to approach that ceiling. In the modelling for Australia, for example, the MAC does not apply to some sectors that are large emitters of carbon. But it does apply to other important activities, including mining.

And because the quantity of free emissions reductions increases as the carbon price rises, the model reduces the estimated cost of toughening the policy, as the government has done by (for instance) limiting purchases of permits from overseas.

How can such a mechanism be justified? The best gloss that can be put on it is that higher carbon prices would induce emissions-savings innovation beyond that assumed in the base case. And that could indeed happen. But if that is what the MAC is assumed to be doing, there are at least three problems with the way it does it.

First, induced innovation is highly uncertain and involves long delays: there can be many years between a price change and the successful technical advances it has encouraged. And even once innovations are available, their spread is typically slow. But the modelling assumes a virtually immediate and predictable response.

Second, once emissions are substantially reduced, finding innovations that can reduce them further becomes ever more difficult. But in Treasury's MAC curve, the opposite occurs.

Third and last, the best things in life may be free, but new technologies are not. Innovations are costly and must be paid for. Indeed, it is the prospect of reaping those rewards that ensures innovations occur. That Treasury, of all places, would instead assume a free lunch is truly remarkable.

How big is the resulting error? Without access to the model, no one can tell. It is therefore not surprising that the government refuses to disclose it. But this refusal hardly flatters Treasury's hard work and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the model. Has Swan so little confidence in his department that he cannot face the risk of criticism?

Nor is that refusal consistent with a loudly proclaimed commitment to science. For science grows by disclosure and refutation, not secrecy and manipulation.

And it is even less consistent with the pledge of openness on which Labor was elected. But few governments have shown as flexible an attitude to the relationship between principles and practice as that of Julia Gillard. It professes a belief in informed argument but works on the basis that what others don't know can't hurt it. Little wonder it is reduced to selling its policies like bars of soap. And its credibility lies in tatters. A modest step it could take to restore confidence would be to release the Treasury model. Until that is done, Swan's assurances will be little more than wasteful emissions of carbon dioxide.


28 July, 2011

Radio host "investigated" for dismissing Warmism

THE Australian Communications and Media Authority is investigating a complaint about alleged inaccuracies in statements on climate change by broadcaster Alan Jones.

GetUp! had made a complaint, which it believed was not being pursued by the broadcasting regulator, but the Herald has learned ACMA is investigating the GetUp! complaint, and some others, concerning Mr Jones. If the complaint is upheld, Mr Jones may be asked to acknowledge the statement was wrong and promise not to repeat it.

The complaint says the 2GB broadcaster was wrong when he stated human beings produce only 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the air.

Several climate scientists have insisted the claim is inaccurate, and the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air today for which human beings are responsible is closer to 28 per cent. They base this on the difference between the pre-industrial concentration of CO2 (about 280 parts per million) and the current concentration of about 390 parts per million.

Climate commissioner and executive director of the ANU Climate Institute Will Steffen said another calculation was the amount of additional carbon, contained in carbon dioxide, that humans contributed to the atmosphere each year. "Every year the earth - land and ocean combined - takes a net five billion tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere, but humans put around nine billion tonnes in, meaning we are accumulating an additional four billion tonnes of carbon in the atmosphere each year," he said.

Under the commercial broadcasting code of conduct, broadcasters are required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that factual material is accurate, and are given 30 days to make a correction after they receive an initial complaint.

GetUp! has also alleged Mr Jones contravenes another section of the code of conduct which requires broadcasters to give "reasonable opportunities" to "significant viewpoints" on "controversial issues of public importance".

An ACMA spokeswoman said the organisation did not comment on specific matters it might be investigating. ACMA usually provides a preliminary report to the broadcaster for comment before a final report is written. Investigations often take several months.

A spokesman for 2GB did not return calls yesterday but, speaking to the Mumbrella website this week, Mr Jones distinguished between being a journalist and being a broadcaster. "Much of my stuff is opinion … I am a broadcaster, I don't pretend to be a journalist, I don't know what that means anyway - they've got a certificate or something," he said.

"… if those opinions lack validity, or if those opinions are extreme, or if they are overly provocative, people won't listen, I've stood the test of time."


Greenie secretiveness

It seems to be in their DNA

THE Greens have been accused of hypocrisy for demanding a right to privacy while keeping their own party forums hidden behind a shroud of secrecy.

"Parties that talk about open government should practise open governance of their own," Scott Prasser, the executive director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University, said yesterday.

Unlike the major parties, the Greens bar the media from their conferences. They do not provide briefings on meetings of the parliamentary party.

News of the challenge to deputy leader Christine Milne after last year's election emerged only when it was reported in The Australian weeks later. "The practices followed by other parties should be followed by the Greens," Professor Prasser said. "If the Greens want to be a grown-up party, they've got to act in grown-up ways."

Greens leader Bob Brown has claimed his parliamentarians back greater openness. "The Greens' conferences are subject to the vote of the membership, who feel sometimes shy about speaking up," he said earlier this month.

"The Green MPs are all in favour of it but if ordinary members of the party vote to say we want to discuss some policy issues in private, that is up to them."

Professor Prasser said the other major parties had opened up their forums. He pointed to Labor's embarrassment in 1963 when it was claimed the party was run by an unaccountable executive of "36 faceless men".

Professor Prasser described the issue of openness as a test of Senator Brown's leadership. "He has set the scene for the Greens for so long," he said. "He shouldn't baulk at this new challenge."


Gillard and friends move from GetUp to shut up

The Green/Left push for media censorship

By James Allan, Garrick professor of law at the University of Queensland.

LATELY the Gillard government has been clothing itself in GetUp! attire, but last week it flirted with adding some ShutUp accessories.

The problems started when the political agenda of this government started to sound remarkably like the agenda of the far left special interest group GetUp!

It's a world view that allows you to believe democracy is a sufficiently malleable principle that you can barefacedly lie to the voters and not pay a big price. (How many billboards have you seen GetUp!, that self-styled protector of democratic values, pay for condemning Julia Gillard for lying to the voters? That would be zero, right?)

I suspect I'm not revealing any state secret when I say the political policy positions of GetUp! -- reeking of po-faced pieties and "We are the World" platitudes -- are distinctly minority ones. If this becomes your core support group as a government then you are in big, big trouble. Which is when Gillard moved from GetUp! to ShutUp. Apparently the thinking is that we have too much free speech here in Australia. Maybe we ought to pick up on the great democrat Bob Brown's musings and go back a few centuries so we can regulate what the press says.

You really can't be against ensuring that only proper, acceptable views get disseminated, can you? I mean, it works in Cuba and Iran and Venezuela, doesn't it? Or if you decide to display your independence from Brown, to show voters who really is boss, you may just opt to bring in new privacy laws that allow new ways to sue other people.

But putting all the siren song supporters of privacy laws to one side (and we can all await with eager anticipation the next GetUp! billboard in support of this latest thought-bubble policy creation), here is what is at stake.

Any new privacy law regime will make inroads on what people can say. It will take some speech off the table.

There is an inevitable trade-off between free speech concerns and privacy concerns. If you shift the goalposts in favour of more privacy, then by definition you place more limits on free speech.

And I think that's a terrible idea. First off, our laws are already easily sufficient to handle phone hacking situations of the sort engulfing Britain at present. So that's a red herring, plain and simple.

Second, more aggressive privacy laws work not simply by allowing people actually to sue. They work also by creating an atmosphere where people censor themselves because they are afraid of being sued, precisely in the same way that our terrible hate speech laws at present over-reach.

Just look at France, which has strong privacy laws. You had an atmosphere there, no doubt also culturally influenced, where the past exploits of Dominique Strauss-Kahn came as a surprise to most people, save reporters. Do you think those exploits, and I explicitly assume that the New York City charges against him will collapse, but do you think his behaviour might influence whether some people voted for him?

Tony Abbott should have no part in this ShutUp agenda. In any contest between free speech and privacy I think long-term best consequences favour the former much more often. Certainly our present status quo needs no rebalancing in favour of more speech restrictions, and that's true even if it's sold under the banner of some human right to privacy, with a few perfunctory references to international treaties.

Amazingly, however, our present GetUp!/Gillard government seems to think a new ShutUp agenda may help it out with the voters. You have to wonder what planet it inhabits.

We can all only watch this train wreck of incompetence with incredulity. From GetUp to ShutUp, the whole thing has been one giant F . . kUp.


A confident secularist society would tolerate school religion

Can a half-hour chat about God really warp children's minds? Listening to Australia's increasingly irate secularists, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

They have upped the ante in their war against "special religious instruction" in public schools, depicting it as the modern-day equivalent of a Christian crusade arriving on horseback to convert young Aussies to a lifetime of Bible-bashing.

It's worth reminding ourselves that special religious instruction, where church volunteers teach children about religion, doesn't take place in all public primary schools. And in those schools where it does, it only takes up half an hour a week - far less time than the average kid spends pretending to kill people in video games or being preached to by SpongeBob SquarePants.

Even the most fervent nun or red-eyed pastor would struggle to indoctrinate children in such time-restricted weekly hook-ups.

That is the word most commonly used by secularists opposed to special religious instruction: indoctrination. They believe, as a Sunday Age report summed it up, that these lessons are "designed to convert, not educate".

The Commonwealth Ombudsman demanded this week that the federal government clarify when a chaplain crosses the line, from teaching kids about Christianity to trying to convert them to it.

There is a ban on proselytising in schools, but the Ombudsman says it isn't clear what counts as proselytising. For example, what if a chaplain says to a schoolchild "God loves you" - is that attempted conversion?

I say calm down. Secularists' panic reveals what really lies behind their disdain for these harmless half-hour lessons: a lack of faith in their own creed, in their own ability to win over the next generation to the grounded, rational, Enlightened outlook.

The notion that children can easily be indoctrinated seriously underestimates their robustness. Even before they have reached intellectual maturity, kids have a healthy inner demon telling them not to believe everything they're told.

I attended convent schools in London from the ages of three to 18. The Dominican sisters charged with turning me from a grubby-knee'd son of Irish immigrants into something approximating a civilised man gave us far more than weekly half-hour doses of religious instruction.

But were we "indoctrinated", turned into Catholic drones? Were we hell. A friend and I beheaded a statue of St Vincent de Paul. The school Bibles were awash with the most obscene and blasphemous graffiti, including the scrawling of bodily appendages on to pictures of Christ and the insertion of speech bubbles above disciples' heads saying things like "I AM GAY".

As to the warnings against masturbation when we got to secondary school, we responded to those by writing on the walls of the boys' toilet: "Masturbation is evil/Evil is a sin/Sins are forgiven/So get stuck in."

In my experience, those subjected to more than their fair share of religious instruction during their school years now tend to be, if anything, more healthily sceptical than what we might call "normal people". Everyone I went to school with is now either an atheist (like me) or an agnostic. Perhaps years of being religiously instructed boosted our BS-detection skills. Certainly no one I know from my school days went on to embrace any other religions or New Age nonsense or end-of-days environmentalism.

"The world is coming to an end and we will all be judged for our carbon-use, you say? Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before."

A far more confident secular society, one that trusted in its rationalist public institutions, would have no problem whatsoever with occasional church-run classes. It would be able to cope with having Christians briefly converse with children, secure in the knowledge that there is a better secular alternative out there which will one day surely win the loyalty of the majority of these children.

Today, however, in our downbeat, misanthropic times, when man is more likely to be branded a polluter and a problem than a rational being capable of profound thought, humanists are on the backfoot. And they find it easier to have a pop at the religious, to mock and harry faith-based institutions, than they do to get their own humanist house in order.

In essence, when secularists call on state bodies to expel church volunteers from public schools, they are admitting defeat in the battle of ideas. Lacking the moral cojones to lay out their secularist views and to stand by them through thick and thin, they instead run to the authorities and plead with them to rap the knuckles of those alleged Christian bully boys invading their classrooms.

It is unbecoming of the great tradition of secularism for its adherents to behave like overgrown school snitches.


27 July, 2011

Charge of deadly provocation is false

By Keith Windschuttle -- who is the editor of Quadrant, an Australian conservative magazine

IT took just two days after Australians awoke on Saturday morning to the terrible news of the mass murder in Norway for the left-wing commentariat to start exploiting the event for political capital.

On Monday, July 25, Aron Paul in New Matilda said the massacre was not only a manifestation of one man's troubled psyche but of "an increasingly toxic political culture plagued by incivility and extremist rhetoric". Anders Breivik should not be dismissed as a lone madman, Paul wrote. Breivik's statement that he killed because "we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism" revealed the alleged source of his motivation. These words did not originate in the terrorist's own mind, Paul argued, "but were planted there with the help of poisonous political discourses which have enthusiastic proponents here in Australia".

Among the ideological culprits Paul listed was Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt. Pundits such as Bolt were "masters of sowing fear and indignation among their followers -- and then threatening to unleash that anger". Our greatest living historian was also implicated: "It is the old Geoffrey Blainey argument: if you dare to dismantle White Australia, then White Australians will riot in the streets." The magazine I edit, Quadrant, was more culpable than most because of "the deliberately provocative language with which Quadrant and other right-wing forums are awash".

The next day the Crikey website joined the fray. According to Guy Rundle, Breivik was not alone but represented "the armed wing of hysterical Right commentary". Rundle advised conservative writers to reflect on "the role that a decade-long discourse of hysterical commentary on immigration and culture in Europe played in forming the thinking of killer Breivik".

The first thing to note is that most of this commentary is completely false. I read Bolt regularly and, while he spends a lot of time and provides much amusement exposing the hypocrisy and sloppy thinking of left-wing politicians and intellectuals, I have yet to see him conjuring up fear and indignation. The charge against Blainey is pure invention. In his critique of the continuation of high immigration during the recession of the early 1980s he never discussed the long-defunct White Australia policy, let alone predicted race riots in its defence.

However, yesterday morning an ABC journalist informed me some of my own writings had been quoted in Breivik's 1500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence". Since then, this fact has apparently been repeated on several online sites and innumerable times over Twitter, accompanied in many cases by quite gleeful comments celebrating some kind of victory over the forces of conservative darkness.

Since learning of this, I have certainly been reflecting on whether I or my magazine can really be held responsible for the events of last Friday. Have I ever used "deliberately provocative language" that might have caused Breivik to take up a rifle and shoot more than 80 unarmed teenagers in cold blood? It is a very disturbing accusation.

Breivik quotes several statements I made in a paper to a conference in New Zealand in February 2006, titled The Adversary Culture: The Perverse Anti-Westernism of the Cultural Elite. This is his version of what I said:
"For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed. The scientific knowledge that the West has produced is simply one of many 'ways of knowing' . . . Cultural relativism claims there are no absolute standards for assessing human culture. Hence all cultures should be regarded as equal, though different . . .

The plea for acceptance and open-mindedness does not extend to Western culture itself, whose history is regarded as little more than a crime against the rest of humanity. The West cannot judge other cultures but must condemn its own . . .

The concepts of free [inquiry] and free expression and the right to criticise entrenched beliefs are things we take so much for granted they are almost part of the air we breathe. We need to recognise them as distinctly Western phenomena. They were never produced by Confucian or Hindu culture . . . But without this concept, the world would not be as it is today. There would have been no Copernicus, Galileo, Newton or Darwin."

This is a truncated version that leaves out a great deal of context but it is not inaccurate or misleading. I made every one of these statements and I still stand by them. In this and similar papers I have provided numerous examples to establish the case.

Having read them several times again, I am still at a complete loss to find any connection between them and the disgusting and cowardly actions of Breivik. The charge that any of this is a provocation to murder is unsustainable.

Anyone who goes through the rest of the killer's manifesto will find him quoting several other Australians approvingly, including John Howard, Peter Costello and George Pell.

Nothing they say in defence of Christianity or about the problems of integrating Muslims into Australian society could be read by anyone as a provocation to murder.

Perhaps I should qualify that last statement since several left-wing intellectuals, including journalists David Marr and Marian Wilkinson in their book Dark Victory and playwright Hannie Rayson in Two Brothers, actually accused members of the Howard government of having the blood of boatpeople on their hands.

In contrast, the quality that stands out in the work of most conservative writers today is restraint. Even though the stakes in the present conflict over multiculturalism in the West are very high -- with the concepts of free speech, the rule of law, equality of women and freedom of religion all open to debate -- most conservatives have respected the rules of evidence and the avoidance of ad hominem abuse.

Their left-wing opponents, however, as the Norwegian tragedy has demonstrated yet again, will resort to the lowest tactics to shut down debate they do not like and to kill off arguments they cannot refute by any other means.


Warmists not telling the whole truth about Margaret Thatcher either

COULD Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull please stop mischievously misquoting Margaret Thatcher?

Both Gillard and Turnbull like to refer to the views of the former British conservative prime minister to convince us that their views are the only worthy, moral views, that man-made global warming is real and that action must be taken. Perhaps they should read Thatcher's memoirs. The Labor Prime Minister has an army of staff to help her. And what about the Liberal MP? In fact, both know full well that Thatcher said much more about global warming than either of them reveal. Selectively quoting Thatcher does nothing to bolster Gillard or Turnbull's positions. On the contrary, the misleading way they use Thatcher's words suggests some shaky foundations of their own. Unfortunately, Gillard and Turnbull have revealed a willingness to engage in selectively quoting, the same ploy they ridicule their opponents for.

Apart from anything else, it is not good form to effectively verbal a former prime minister who is unable to respond. Thatcher, 85, has suffered a series of strokes and is too frail for public appearances. It's bad enough that political desperation is driving the Labor Prime Minister to misrepresent Thatcher's view on global warming by failing to mention Thatcher's rethinking of the issue years later. It's worse that the Liberal MP chooses to do the same, effectively legitimising Gillard's misleading efforts. Neither deserves to win arguments by selectively quoting Thatcher.

By all means, retell Thatcher's message about global warming. Not just the fact that in September 1988 the former British prime minister told the Royal Society that enormous changes to population, agricultural use and the burning of fossils fuels might have started a "massive experiment with the system of the planet". Not just that, in November 1989, Thatcher told the UN General Assembly that global climate change affected us all and "action will only be effective if it is taken at the international level". Or that Thatcher warned of the dangers of global warming at the second World Climate Conference in 1990. All of that is true.

But there is also much more to Thatcher's views about global warming. The reticence from Gillard and Turnbull to complete the Thatcher picture suggests an intellectual dishonesty from them that, ironically and hypocritically, they claim is missing from those on the other side of the debate.

In the first volume of her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, published in 1993, Thatcher records her belief that Britain was too beholden to coal and the then power of the coalminers unions. She lamented that more money had not been spent on nuclear power to provide cheaper electricity and to ensure more secure supplies. And she made the rational observation that nuclear power was a cleaner source of power than coal as it did not produce carbon dioxide.

In the second volume of her memoirs, Statecraft, published in 2002, Thatcher titles a chapter Hot Air and Global Warming, in which she talks about climate change as the "doomster's favourite subject" and records that she was "sceptical about the arguments about global warming" even though she said they should be taken seriously. In other words, Thatcher's mind was open to new developments in the science. And she said that the science was "much less certain" than many politicians and global warming alarmists such as Al Gore would have us believe. She records that at that time "there was, in fact, very little scientific advice available to political leaders from experts who were doubtful of the global warming thesis".

What would Thatcher think now? You won't hear that question asked by those who selectively quote her. In fact, there are plenty of reputable scientists who reject the notion that man-made climate change is responsible for wrecking the environment.

For Gillard and Turnbull, the science is settled. Public debate is no longer required. At the inaugural Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation lecture last week, Turnbull rejected other views as "less reliable". By contrast, Thatcher embraced public debate. In The Downing Street Years, she wrote that economic progress, scientific advance and public debate "which occur in free societies themselves offered the means to overcome" the threats. She wrote that since her time in Downing Street, the science had moved on. "As is always the way with scientific advance, the picture looks more rather than less complex."

Turnbull said "if Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism". In fact, the former British prime minister also had plenty sensible to say about socialists too. She warned: "For the socialist, each new discovery revealed a 'problem' for which the repression of human activity by the state was the only 'solution'." She said global warming provided a "marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism". Have Gillard or Turnbull mentioned that?

Most importantly, Thatcher was willing to expose the anti-capitalism agenda of "campaigners against global warming". She wrote: "There is now, as always, nothing the liberal intelligentsia liked to believe more than 'we are guilty'. But are we?" she asked. "The facts are unclear," she concluded, citing the fact that less than 5 per cent of carbon moving through the atmosphere stemmed from human behaviour and the fact that we have seen periods of warming before, during the Dark Ages and the early medieval period.

If Gillard and Turnbull want to tell the Thatcher message, they would reveal she said: "The evidence [the world is facing a climate catastrophe] does not so far exist." They would tell us Thatcher said that "the world climate is always changing and man and nature are always, by one means or another, finding means to adapt to it".

When deriding those opposed to taking action to cut emissions, last week, Turnbull said "many [do so] because it does not suit their financial interests". Australians on an average wage aren't likely to be won over by that argument. But they may be interested to learn Thatcher refused to deride the economic concerns of countries, companies or individuals when she talked about finding solutions to environmental problems. She unashamedly believed economic growth and industry inventiveness were crucial to the equation.

Thatcher's early views about global warming were intrinsically linked to her rational pursuit of nuclear power to prevent the coalminers unions holding the nation to ransom.

And, as she acknowledges in her memoirs, when the facts about global warming became less certain, so did her own views. But you may not have heard that from Gillard or Turnbull either.


Archbishop Bathersby was right

"Father" Kennedy is not even a Christian, let alone a Catholic. Background here

REBEL Brisbane priest Peter Kennedy has further distanced himself from the Catholic Church, saying he no longer believes in worshipping God or the power of prayer. He also has questioned why God would allow the terror attack to happen in Norway.

The priest who was directed to leave St Mary's Church in South Brisbane in 2009 for unorthodox practices, also revealed that he had doubts that Jesus existed.

His views were expressed in an interview with the ABC, which airs tonight, and with The Courier-Mail yesterday when he questioned why God would allow tragic events to unfold, including the terror attacks in Norway. "I do not believe in worshipping God. Whatever God is . . . that God does not need to be worshipped," he said. "To be asking God to intervene in our lives, why didn't he intervene in Norway the other day?"

Though he still leads his congregation in prayer, Father Kennedy said his own praying was more like "meditation". "I think my way of prayer is to stand in wonder at the beauty of people and the wonder of life," he said.

Asked whether he still considered himself a Catholic, Fr Kennedy said he was, but not in the "literalist" sense. "The reality is you are culturally a Catholic but so many of us disagree with the literalist understanding of Christianity the Catholic Church preaches," he said. "I think we (the St Mary's Church-in-exile) are truly catholic because we are truly inclusive. To put it simply, I think the institution of the Catholic Church is exclusive."

He also repeated his previous statements that there was "very little corroborating evidence" for the existence of Jesus.

Nearly two-and-a-half years after leaving the church where he had preached for 28 years, Fr Kennedy said the St Mary's Church-in-exile attracted more than 400 to the three weekend masses. The congregation knew his views well, he said. "We've lost about 20 per cent but we have gained people," he said. "They know how I feel. I am very honest with them."

Fr Kennedy told comedian Judith Lucy in the debut episode of her six-part series Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey that for years he had not believed in the value of prayer. Lucy visited the priest at a Sunday service where he now leads his congregation. The 73-year-old Kennedy was asked whether he thought there was any point in praying.

Kennedy: No. For years I've never believed in the value of prayer in the sense of asking.

Lucy: But that does make up part of the service here?

Kennedy: Yes it does, because they like it. If I had my way we wouldn't have it.

The interview then cuts to a clip of Fr Kennedy leading his congregation in the Lord's Prayer. "Let us pray," he begins.


Libraries no longer a place for reading??

You need peace and quiet to concentrate on reading -- but some "innovative" a**hole thinks otherwise

Think libraries should be quiet sanctuaries of solitude and study? Then plans for the State Library of NSW will come as a surprise.

As architect Paulo Macchia rests against an open staircase and explains his plans for the renovation of the State Library of NSW, two young women studying in the reading room below look up from their laptops with annoyed expressions.

They don't actually say "Quiet please!" but that's what they are thinking. After all, most of us have been indoctrinated with the notion that silence is sacred inside a library. If words are necessary, use them sparingly and only whispered.

So they might be surprised to hear what Macchia, from the NSW government Architect's Office, is describing. Over the next few months, workmen will transform the State Library for the first time since it was opened by the Queen on May 4, 1988, as a Bicentennial-year extension to the historic Mitchell Library.

The $4.2 million, two-stage renovation, which begins on Monday, will create, according to the NSW Arts Minister, George Souris, "a contemporary 21st-century cultural destination for NSW residents and visitors".

In real terms, that means more computer screens, better Wi-Fi access, more desk space, designated, bookable study rooms, more newspapers and general-interest magazines to browse, a larger cafe, a more prominent bookshop and improved access to the two public meeting spaces, the Metcalfe auditorium and the McDonald's room. Plus, far better use of natural light.

All laudable. But the renovation's biggest aim is to fundamentally change the library's public image, to show that a place of learning can also be a fun palace.

They're even building zones where library users are encouraged to talk to each other.

"As you look into the library now from Macquarie Street, you see an empty foyer," the acting state librarian, Noelle Nelson, says. "Then, as you look down, you see people working away, very studiously. That will change.

"There will be a buzz in the foyer, with the cafe and the bookshop much more to the forefront. People will be able to see the library as an accessible space and picture themselves in it.

"They'll feel encouraged to come in, sit on the casual lounges, read the newspapers, hook up their laptop, pick up the Wi-Fi, meet friends for a coffee …"

The makeover is a recognition that libraries have changed in the age of the worldwide web. It's an international phenomenon, Nelson says. "New technologies mean we have even more opportunities to make our collections and expertise available. Libraries are becoming centres of lifelong learning, cultural destinations, welcoming social spaces."

The first stage has to be completed before the end of September, in time for the annual HSC crush. It concentrates on the two lower floors of reference reading rooms. Stage two, beginning early next year, focuses on the ground-floor foyer area.

Market research, Nelson says, showed the library's interior layout and facilities were outdated. "Our clients' needs have changed since 1988. The current layout had passed its use-by date. We were overcrowded during peak periods, like the HSC. We didn't have enough computers. People were having to share desks."

After long consultation with the librarians, Macchia's redesign has ditched the conventional long library tables in favour of smaller and less formal desk configurations. Gone are the traditionally towering book shelves, to be replaced by lower, less visually intimidating cabinets.

Nelson says no books will be harmed, though more will be kept in storage in the library's massive subterranean stacks, available on request: "These days, people can go online with their requests so the books are available for them by the time they get to the library."

More dramatically, soundproof glass walls will divide the reference floors into a number of separate "rooms" with different requirements - and varying levels of acceptable noise. Essentially, the deeper you descend into the library, the more traditionally studious the surroundings will be.

"Study has changed," Nelson says. Today's students often like to work together in informal groups around their computers, exchanging information. The new layout allows them to do that while creating an inner sanctum where people who prefer to work in silence can do so undisturbed.

So, deep down, there will still be a cone of silence? A kind of "hush area"? "We're trying to get away from words like shush and hush," Nelson says. "They give the wrong image. We're creating zones so clients have a choice, positioning themselves according to their need to do so … And they may change spaces throughout the course of the day as they meet a friend for coffee, check their emails or go and see one of our exhibitions."


26 July, 2011

Malaysian deal too cushy to be a deterrent to boat people

THE next 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia will be fingerprinted before being flown to Malaysia, where the federal government will pay for a month in a hotel plus a living allowance, under the controversial Malaysian refugee swap agreement signed yesterday.

New transit centres in Kuala Lumpur, where asylum seekers will be processed within 45 days, are expected to be ready in weeks for the first arrivals. Malaysia will have the right to reject any asylum seekers if they are on terrorism lists or have serious criminal convictions. Australia will also screen the 4000 refugees it accepts from Malaysia in return as part of the deal.

Yesterday the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said asylum seekers would have the right to work in Malaysia, a breakthrough in a country where 95,000 refugees cannot work legally.

Yet he rejected suggestions that the special treatment asylum seekers would receive would encourage refugees to take boats to Australia. "Critics may say asylum seekers transferred from Australia to Malaysia are getting too good a deal," he said. "On the other side, people may say the arrangements aren't strong enough. We've struck a good balance that ensures appropriate protections."

After facing heavy public criticism of his country's treatment of refugees, Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said Malaysia would be judged by the results of the scheme, and was committed to treating refugees with dignity. "The UNHCR will be there to monitor and safeguard the standards that we have set," he said.

Malaysian police officials and representatives of the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were present at the signing, while a small group of activists and opposition politicians protested outside the hotel.

The UNHCR said in a statement it was not a signatory to the deal and would prefer to see boat arrivals to Australia processed in Australia, but both governments had consulted the organisation. Mr Bowen said there would be no blanket exemption for unaccompanied children but the UNHCR's feedback had shaped the document and the agency would be involved in processing both groups of asylum seekers - unlike the Howard government's so-called Pacific solution.

The deal commits Australia to funding schooling for children, and health costs. But these will be the basic facilities used by refugees in Malaysia.

The Greens condemned the deal.

The opposition spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, said the swap sought to counteract the "pull" factors of Labor's previous border protection policy, as a result of which 230 boats had arrived since Labor formed government.

The government also announced a reversal of its position on the 567 asylum seekers who had arrived by boat since the in-principle agreement was announced 11 weeks ago, saying they would now be processed in Australia.

Originally the government said they would be held pending removal to another country, either Malaysia or Papua New Guinea. The government is working to seal a deal with PNG.

To ensure asylum seekers knew of the deal, Ms Gillard said the government would embark on an information campaign in Indonesia and other departure points to raise awareness of the folly of boarding a boat. "Do not do that in the false hope that you will be able to have your claim processed in Australia," she said.


Lawsuits no way to defend privacy or free speech

JULIA Gillard's retribution over her perceived enemies in the press has latched on to an extremist rights agenda that would reregulate free speech and encourage a more litigious society.

Her Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor has been directed to respond to the News of the World phone hacking scandal by making it easier for Australians to sue media companies for invasions of privacy. Such journalistic practice already is illegal in Britain and Australia. And there is no evidence of such Fleet Street "red top" outrages here.

But O'Connor claims that "mass breaches" here highlight that Australia has "no general right to privacy" and thus "no certainty for anyone wanting to sue for a breach of privacy".

So the left-wing junior minister from Victoria has dusted off a 2008 Australian Law Reform Commission privacy report which, from page 2535 of its third volume, argues for an extremist "tort of invasion of privacy".

Yet, as the ALRC has argued previously, the concept of a general tort of privacy is vague and nebulous, a concern repeated a decade ago by then High Court chief justice Murray Gleeson. The Law Council of Australia more recently has backed the existing "appropriate and adequate recourse to individuals who consider that a media organisation has interfered with their privacy".

But to understand the issue, it first has to be removed from the grip of the lawyers, particularly those with a rights agenda or a political grudge. For the economic issue is that digital technology has slashed the cost of gathering, analysing and distributing information, including about people.

This has raised a host of issues from ensuring that banks and hospitals keep personal financial and health records confidential, to closed circuit cameras following people's every move, to alarm that sex partners could post explicit video clips on YouTube.

But it still has been an overwhelmingly good thing, providing cheaper access to services and allowing people to bypass traditional media to communicate directly among themselves.

The new digital technology also reduces the gatekeeper role of the traditional media: anything seems to go in social media. Yet, exploiting the NOTW scandal, Labor's privacy tort is aimed at traditional media companies because they are a political target and because they still have deeper pockets than some random blogger or hacker.

The legal trick is to conflate the various digital concerns into a new form of property right: a general tort against invasion of personal privacy akin to someone breaking into your property or a home invasion. Conventional private property rights are a foundation of a democratic market economy. But a property right over individual privacy necessarily intrudes into a more basic foundation of an open society: free speech.

O'Connor fudges around this. And sensible people, such as my old mate Barrie Cassidy on the ABC's Insiders on Sunday, find it hard to understand why anyone could caution against protecting people's privacy.

The objection is that elevating privacy to a fundamental human right is designed to get around the problem that protecting it is not costless. It aims to avoid having to measure the extent of the actual problem and to figure out the most effective ways to deal with it.

Hence, the Victorian lawyers' guild argues against "any selective analysis of the costs and benefits" of the state's charter of human rights now being reviewed by the Baillieu government.

Yet getting a handle on who actually benefits, by how much and at what cost to others is central to good regulation.

There is ample evidence of the costs of allowing such open-ended rights to take root in the legal system. Before being reined in over the past decade, allowing people to sue for injury to their reputation or even honour became an Australian legal absurdity that transferred money from deep-pocketed media companies to politicians and defamation lawyers.

Even judicial officers began to exploit this legal protection racket. Without any proof of actual injury to reputation, damages for mere slights ballooned to way beyond payouts for serious workplace accidents or for common assault.

Like privacy, people's reputations are more than their own business. People rely on the reputations of those from whom they buy food, trust with their savings, take medical advice or leave their children to care for. Protecting both reputations and privacy restricts others from being properly informed by the marketplace of free speech.

Again like protecting privacy, it similarly sounds only just that those whose negligence causes injury to others should be made to pay. But not when the lawyer-controlled courts stretch the concept so far that the public liability premiums for a local fete, a surf club sausage sizzle or a local playground become prohibitive or if insurance companies refuse to cover the risks of medical surgery.

Just as defamation and negligence torts have been reformed, however, the privacy tort push has gathered momentum with the European human rights agenda, been transmitted to Britain (where it mostly has enriched celebrities) and then transported to Australia via a few activist lower court judges. This has created such uncertainty, argues the ALRC, that a whole new privacy tort needs to be legislated.

The absurdities already extend to defining as private what happens in public spaces. On the weekend, my 77-year-old father went back to the historic North Sydney pool underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge where he swam in schoolboy competitions. He was told he could not photograph the public pool because of privacy concerns of those swimming in it.

Languishing in the polls, the Prime Minister demands that News Corporation's Australian arm answer unspecified "hard questions" over the NOTW phone hacking scandal. The Greens leader who props up her government, Bob Brown, calls The Australian the "hate media" and pushes for an inquiry into breaking up News Limited.

Communications Minister and Labor factional warlord Stephen Conroy complains that another Murdoch paper, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph, is inciting "regime change", inviting the probity concern that media regulation could be influenced by politics.

Yet Gillard's privacy tort threatens all the media, not just those Labor seeks to intimidate. Putting the whole media offside is a bizarre strategy for a Prime Minister languishing in the polls and trying to sell a tax she promised never to introduce.


More government waste

TAXPAYERS are paying up to $8.32 per prescription to supply paracetamol to pensioners under the nation's drug subsidy scheme, when the same medicine can be bought for just $1.89 at any discount chemist.

The waste is occurring as the government comes under fire from 60 health consumer groups, doctors, academics and drug companies for delaying subsidies for new drugs to treat schizophrenia, lung disease, pain and blood clots in a bid to save money.

The cost to taxpayers of a doctor prescribing paracetamol to a pensioner under the drug subsidy scheme comes to $43.22 per visit. This includes the $34.90 cost to Medicare of the doctor's visit to get the script, plus the $8.32 in fees paid to pharmacists under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for a pack of 100 tablets.

Medicare Australia's website shows that more than 467,000 scripts for paracetamol were dispensed under the PBS in the 12 months to June, costing taxpayers $2.26 million.

Normally pensioners pay a $5.60 co-payment towards the $8.32 cost of paracetamol under the PBS, and the government pays the $2.72 balance.

In this case, pensioners would be better off buying the medicine at a discount chemist or a supermarket because it costs them nearly three times more under the PBS than a pack of the same 100 tablets does over the counter at a discount chemist.

However, once a pensioner has spent more than $336 a year on PBS medicines they qualify for the PBS Safety Net and receive medicines free. Then the government pays the full $8.32 cost of paracetamol under the PBS.

Paracetamol is just one of a number of examples of the government paying much more for medicines under the PBS than they cost in a supermarket.

Selsun Blue anti-dandruff shampoo, supplied to veterans under the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, costs taxpayers $14.14 but can be bought for $6.34 at a supermarket. Metamucil costs $21.67 under the scheme but just $12.99 at a discount chemist and $13.77 at a supermarket. Laxatives for veterans cost $13.86 under the subsidy scheme but just $6.99 at a discount chemist.

The cost of paracetamol to the government is inflated because it has to pay chemists a dispensing fee of $6.42 for each script, a pharmacy mark-up of 15 per cent, a wholesale mark-up of 7.52 per cent and an incentive fee of $1.53 if a generic version is dispensed.

The waste over paracetamol comes amid claims by Sydney University academic Philip Clarke that $1.66 billion could be saved if Australia paid the same price as Britain for generic anti-cholesterol lowering drugs.

The Australian reported this month that the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin cost $3 a month in Britain and an average of $6.42 internationally but Australians pay $31.18 for it under the PBS.

Professor Clarke said the paracetamol example raised the economic question of why these sorts of medicines were not dropped from the PBS so new medicines could be funded.

Consumer's Health Forum chief Carol Bennett said the high cost of paracetamol under the PBS showed the government could improve efforts to save money. A spokeswoman for Acting Health Minister Mark Butler said that when paracetamol was previously removed from the PBS, it resulted in higher cost, less appropriate and less safe painkillers being prescribed, which actually increased the overall cost of the PBS. It was therefore quickly relisted because of these unintended consequences.

"Given the low PBS spend on paracetamol, and the high likelihood of cost increases if it's delisted, removing it from the PBS would not assist government to offset the cost of proposed new listings," the spokeswoman said.

Patients in chronic pain were unlikely to visit doctors just to access paracetamol on the PBS but would alsoseek advice for other health problems, she said.



Cuddle your dog to beat global warming?

Primitive tribes do this -- and have very short lifespans. But that suits the Greenies, obviously

WANT to save money on power bills this winter? Despite a 2009 study finding the average dog has an environmental footprint twice that of a large 4WD, the government's Living Greener website claims you will save money and feel "chuffed" by following its pet-friendly advice.

With power bills expected to jump by 10 per cent when the carbon tax begins next July, other tips include using leftovers in soups and casseroles, ditching the second family car, playing board games or going to the library to get warm.

Even having a hot shower is a no-no, with the government urging you to get out sooner and stand under a heat lamp or warm a bathrobe.

But if you do use electricity and watch TV, hugging a pet or family member to keep warm is recommended. "To reduce the energy you use watching TV, take another tip from grandma and share the warmth," the site says. "Snuggle up under a rug, snuggle with your family or cuddle your favourite pet. You could avoid the TV and snuggle up in bed with a good book or with someone who's read one lately."

A photograph of children cuddling a dog and cat accompanies the advice on the site.

The recommendations come after New Zealand architects Robert and Brenda Vale calculated a medium-sized dog had twice the emissions of a 4WD once the amount of land required to feed the pet was taken into account.

"Families are already doing all they can to save electricity but these suggestions are making a joke of a very serious issue for families and pensioners," opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt said.


Another hit on the taxpayers by the Green bureaucracy

$20m green house for federal climate change bureaucrats

THE Federal Government is spending more than $20 million fitting out a brand new Canberra high-rise to house bureaucrats tackling climate change.

The Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Department will move 750 of its bureaucrats into offices in the new building. Due for completion next year, the NewActon Nishi building includes "electric car charging facilities". This comes as the Government is also spending $12 million on an advertising campaign for its carbon tax.

Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham yesterday said the Government seemed to have a "repetitive disregard for the value of taxpayers' hard-earned money".

But the department argues its current building is inadequate for accommodating staff and the new building will have the highest energy efficiency rating and reduce costs.

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said bureaucrats moved into new accommodation under the Coalition government and "there is nothing different here".

Meanwhile, a Deloitte Access Economics quarterly report released today says the impact of the carbon tax will be more muted than has been claimed. "Although the eventual structural change in Australia's economy will be large, the initial impact is unlikely to come with a bang," the report says.


No coal compo for Queensland

JULIA Gillard has rejected pleas from Premier Anna Bligh for extra compensation for state-owned power stations that will be hit by the carbon tax.

The Prime Minister said Ms Bligh had not taken into account how much the state's green energy power assets would increase in value when the state sought $1.7 billion for expected losses to its coal-fired generators.

Ms Gillard said the state was welcome to propose minor changes to details in the carbon tax legislation, but ruled out any major overhaul to compensation.

"The package we announced is the package we'll deliver," Ms Gillard said. She said the Queensland Government would gain a windfall from "the asset appreciation that their clean energy generation assets will experience as a result of our package to put a price on carbon pollution."

"I don't see the Queensland Government volunteering to send that asset appreciation back to the Federal Government and nor would I expect them to," she said.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser's spokesman said the state was still assessing the impact of the tax on renewable energy.

Ms Gillard also rejected reports that she had proposed a climate change policy that did not include a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme before she became prime minister in a bid to secure a bipartisan deal with Tony Abbott.

The comments came as industry warned of billion-dollar losses to the Queensland Government, farms and businesses from a carbon tax but admitted that it would not kill economic growth in the state.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche told a Senate inquiry in Brisbane that the premature closure of mines and the scrapping of planned coal mines would mean $1 billion loss in royalties for the State Government by 2020. "I don't understand why our State Government is not highlighting this impact on the state's finances," Mr Roche said.

There would be further losses to the State Government because the electricity generators, which face the biggest cost impact, were unlikely to ever pay another dividend to the Government, Mr Roche said.

The industry would lose another $100 million a year through changes in the fuel excise while some mines face a tax of $50 a tonne, compared with the $2 a tonne average.

Under questioning from Labor's Senator Doug Cameron, Mr Roche said there would still be growth in the Queensland coal industry but it would also be handing over some of its growth to overseas competitors.


Union joins business to savage ALP

ONE of the nation's biggest trade unions has turned on the Gillard government, savaging Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans as incompetent and unworthy of his office.

Days after strident criticism of the government by business leaders, Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon yesterday likened Senator Evans to a corpse, accusing him of failing to implement Labor policy and endangering the lives of truck drivers.

The condemnation, rejected by Senator Evans, came as a trio of senior ministers dismissed a claim by Suncorp chairman-elect Ziggy Switkowski that there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" about the government.

Wayne Swan, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet accused business critics of acting out of self interest, vowing the government would stick to its guns on the carbon tax and govern in the national interest.

Labor has suffered a series of poor results in opinion polls, including a weekend poll suggesting Julia Gillard was losing support in her Melbourne electorate.

Despite a rise from record lows in today's Newspoll, Labor has its back to the wall as it campaigns to win public support for the $23-a-tonne tax to be introduced next July.

While the government has anticipated attacks from businesses affected by the tax, it was blind sided by Mr Sheldon's assault, based on the fact the impost -- which he on Friday called a "death tax" -- will apply to the heavy transport industry from 2014.

Mr Sheldon, whose 90,000- member union represents truck drivers, wants the government to prevent trucking companies from passing the cost impact to drivers and owner-drivers. The TWU argues that passing on the costs to drivers will lift stress and drive up accident and fatality rates on roads, not just for truck drivers, but also for all motorists.

Speaking on the Sky News Australian Agenda program yesterday, Mr Sheldon said Labor had contested the past two elections promising to act on driver safety, but that Senator Evans had failed to act. "I have no confidence in Chris Evans's capacity to deal with the fundamental industrial relations issues in this country and the undertakings it will make working life in the trucking industry better and safer for all road users," Mr Sheldon said.

"If he cannot carry out his duties he should not be in the portfolio. There's a broad feeling that the minister has real deficiencies in carrying out his responsibilities as minister. He has not been able to implement government policy."

Mr Sheldon likened the minister to a corpse in the movie Weekend at Bernie's -- "the dead guy that stands in the middle", unable to act or perform his duties.

Senator Evans said the government had investigated the TWU's Safe Rates campaign, released a discussion paper, sought public submissions and was finalising a response.

"There's never any shortage of robust advice for industrial relations ministers, but it's unfortunate that Mr Sheldon has chosen to express his frustrations in the form of a personal attack," Senator Evans said. The Prime Minister backed Senator Evans. "Minister Evans is doing an outstanding job in an important portfolio," Ms Gillard said.

The exchange came as the government counterattacked in the face of business criticism fanned by the carbon tax. On Friday, Dr Switkowski, former Telstra chief and Suncorp chairman-elect, told a conference in Melbourne there was " a whiff of illegitimacy" surrounding the government while Westpac Bank chairman-elect Lindsay Maxsted said it was focused on short-term political gain ahead of the national interest.

Mr Shorten said it was not surprising some business people would criticise a government that was making decisions which did not promote their own interests.

"People are entitled to promote their sectional interests, but our Prime Minister and our government govern for all Australians and some of these business leaders won't be there in their positions in 10 years," Mr Shorten told the Sky News Australian Agenda program. "This country is doing better than some of the news reportage of it would indicate and some of the comments from some of these business leaders." Mr Shorten said Australia had rates of unemployment and debt that "the Yanks and the Europeans would give their eye teeth for".

And, while he noted Mr Maxsted had criticisms, he said Westpac was supportive of another government reform -- lifting compulsory superannuation contributions from 9 to 12 per cent. He said Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford, who on Friday was critical of industrial relations laws, had "quite a background in industrial relations".

"These guys have also got other agendas -- legitimate business agendas . . . but you sort of expect them to do that," he said.

Mr Combet said the carbon tax had been well-received by business as he rejected an ad campaign funded by an alliance of business groups as "Liberal Party ads".

It was important, Mr Combet said, not to assume that "one or two business people" critical of the government spoke for the entire business community. He told the Ten Network's Meet the Press program that since the carbon tax details were revealed a fortnight ago many business leaders had described it as workable.

"They are concerned about international conditions and the high value of the Australian dollar, for example, but generally I think the carbon pricing package has been pretty well received in the business community," he said.

Mr Swan also said businesses were continuing to invest in mining and that industrial cities like Gladstone were "powering ahead".

"Despite the reality on the ground, the well-funded vested interests are still out there trying to talk down the future of our economy, of our great industries like coal and LNG and of great towns like Gladstone," the Treasurer wrote in his weekly Economic Note.


25 July, 2011


Four articles below

Tony Abbott says cabinet paper reveals Julia Gillard once backed Coalition's climate policy

JULIA Gillard faces new pressure over her climate change convictions as Tony Abbott seized on a report revealing she previously pushed for a bipartisan approach that didn't involve a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

Mr Abbott today questioned what Ms Gillard stood for, saying her post-election carbon tax plan had been dictated by the Greens. “What that shows is that the Prime Minister's attacks on our policy aren't genuine,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio today. “It demonstrates that the policy that the government is currently adopting is Bob Brown's policy. Not Julia Gillard's policy.”

The Australian Financial Review reports that Ms Gillard, as deputy prime minister, had encouraged the Rudd government's “kitchen cabinet” to shelve plans for a carbon price in favour of other alternatives. The revelation is extremely damaging for Ms Gillard, who with Treasurer Wayne Swan urged Kevin Rudd to dump his emissions trading scheme.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister today said the government did not comment on cabinet processes, but did not refute the story.

Mr Abbott said it now appeared Ms Gillard had backed the Coalition's direct action policy.

“No-one can take her seriously,” he said. “The nearest we get to `real Julia' when it comes to climate change policy is the note that she gave to the inner cabinet just before she became prime minister herself where she said what the government should do is embrace the kind of policy the Coalition's got.”

The fallback position advocated in Ms Gillard's paper was rejected by the Rudd inner-sanctum.

Opting instead to defer any further attempt to legislate an emissions trading scheme until after the next election, Mr Rudd and his ministers thought Ms Gillard's proposal would hand Mr Abbott a political advantage.

In a paper titled “The bipartisan solution” , Ms Gillard reportedly urged senior colleagues to set aside contentious aspects of the government's climate change policy for so long as Mr Abbott remained opposition leader.

She reportedly lobbied for a new policy to achieve Australia's five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 without pricing carbon, submitting the proposal for consideration to the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee of Cabinet.


Labor all tied up in red and green tape

There was a moment last week, as the Prime Minister was out among the people selling her breathtaking political gamble, when a woman asked Julia Gillard what other countries were doing about reducing carbon emissions. The Prime Minister rattled off various overseas reforms. China, she said, was leading the world in building wind turbines.

Gillard delivered this with the robotic sing-song she uses when she is trying to sell something. It does her no good.

Even by the low expectations of TV soundbites, her answer was an assault on honesty. The public has worked this out. The cartoon version of current politics is that the federal Labor government has sunk to an abysmal 26 per cent primary vote in opinion polls because of the unpopularity of its carbon tax. It is much deeper than that.

If this were a single-issue malaise for the government, a mere broken promise, Gillard could have worked her way out of trouble as everyone got used to a new tax regime after July 1 next year. She still may if her government survives that long. But her problem is more intrinsic and has been building for some time.

Let's go back to the Chinese wind turbines. Yes, China is building more wind turbines than anyone else and intends to dominate the technology, and many other new energy technologies. China has become the world's leading developer of thorium technology, touted as the next generation of nuclear power and infinitely cleaner.

Problem: China is also building coal-fired power plants on a massive scale, more than 30 a year, a program that dwarfs Australia's entire energy sector. So talking about wind turbines in China when coal, gas and nuclear power are the main game is narrowly true but broadly nonsense.

The Prime Minister and her government have a trust problem. Even a program as low-tech as providing roof insulation turned into a costly, dysfunctional blowout in the hands of this government.

Every signature reform the Rudd-Gillard governments have undertaken, from managing asylum seekers to building school halls to the National Broadband Network have seen wildly inflated costs.

Now comes the most grandiose scheme of all. Most people cannot grasp the detail of the proposed carbon tax scheme, but they can grasp the certainty that their power bills will increase by twice the rate of inflation, and sense the scale, cost and complexity of what has been proposed, and the track record of the people proposing it.

The prevailing lack of confidence goes deeper than political sentiment. It is reflected in poor consumer confidence figures and flat retail sales.

This decline is more than structural or cyclical. It is social, and reflected in the small business sector, the engine room of job-creation, which is stressed.

The carbon tax will simply add another layer of cost to business and consumers. The money being pumped in from the mining boom is masking a sluggishness elsewhere in much of the economy.

Gillard's carbon tax gamble will ensure the economy is bound in green tape, in addition to existing red tape, while making almost no impact on the global environment. The workforce of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has already grown tenfold in the past three years. It now employs more than 1000 public servants.

This is just the start. The proposed carbon tax regime requires the creation of a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a Clean Energy Regulator, an Australian Renewable Energy Agency and a Climate Change Authority. These agencies will have billions to spend. Funding will go to new programs including the Energy Efficiency Information Grants, the Clean Technology Food and Foundries Investment Program, the Clean Technology Focus and the Clean Energy Skills Package.

These bureaucracies will be charged with transforming the energy sector. Their great challenge will be to reconcile the cost chasm. Productivity Commission figures show the cost of electricity generation last year broke down this way: coal power $79 per megawatt hour; gas $97; wind, $1502; solar $4004.

Last month the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal announced electricity prices for residential and small business customers in NSW would increase by an average 17.3 per cent from July 1, or more than three times the rate of inflation.

One cause of the higher cost of electricity is government tinkering with costly alternative energy schemes. Other costs have been imposed by greater regulatory burdens, requiring expensive surplus capacity to prevent blackouts.

These higher costs flow through the rest of the economy, to basic needs. In January this column warned: ''You can expect sticker shock at some point this year, or next, when paying for the weekly food shopping. We've had oil shocks. Prepare for food shocks.''

At the time, the global Food Price Index, formulated by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, was 215. Since then it has risen to 234, a 9 per cent increase in six months, and 39 per cent higher than June last year.

Ten years ago, the index stood at 92. It has risen 250 per cent in a decade. The world's food supply is under a stress that is growing, not diminishing.

Add to this the high and unstable cost of oil, rising energy prices, and the uncertainty flow-on from massive and unsustainable debt in western Europe, the US and Japan. Then wrap it all up in green tape. It adds up to Labor's brand of big government sliding into structural trouble.


Greenie versus Greenie

FOR most of architect Robert Marshall's working life he has prided himself on doing his bit for the environment by designing and building mudbrick homes. Sometimes humble and sometimes sprawling, the dwellings have served their owners well over many years.

The handmade mudbrick -- natural subsoil mixed with straw and water, and dried by the sun -- symbolises Earth's sustainability, green values and a low carbon footprint. From hippies putting up bush huts, to the well-off building impressive mansions, most agree on the insulation quality and energy efficiency of mudbrick.

"It's a beautiful way to live and nowadays everyone has to be thinking about the environment," says Julie McKellar, who will move into her new mudbrick home in December.

But her architect, Marshall, whose creations had previously achieved compliance with Australian building codes, and many others in the earth building industry, are now at their wits' end. Some are on the verge of admitting defeat to federal and state bureaucracies, which do not recognise the environmental value of the mudbrick.

Over the past eight years the rollout of increasingly stringent and mandatory energy-efficiency ratings for new homes has made it significantly harder for "muddies", some of Australia's most passionate environmentalists, to get building approval.

But since the adoption two months ago of the even tougher six-star rating, designed to limit carbon emissions by reducing the amount of heating and cooling required by homes, the earth building industry says it may be doomed. Marshall said the McKellar home could not be built under the new six-star regime. New rammed-earth houses are similarly affected.

Builder Stephen Dobson, of the Earth Building Association, told The Australian that the previous ratings made compliance difficult but that the new six-star rating was "decimating the industry".

"The star ratings have been a disaster for earth building and it is getting worse," he said. "Earth builders say now that the regulations make it too hard. The energy ratings are biased and based on models that do not assume real life -- they don't reflect the actual behaviour of people in these homes. As a result, the earth building industry is in serious decline."

The difficulty is ironic. According to independent studies, "muddies", and those who build with rammed earth, are often people with "eco-centric attitudes, values and behaviours". They use less power and have correspondingly lower carbon footprints.

While mudbricks have been a sustainable building material for thousands of years, they cannot readily satisfy energy-efficiency standards. Part of the problem is that the solid mudbrick wall, which is 25cm thick, does not rely on additional insulation, so it scores poorly when measured by official energy rating tools.

By contrast, the ratings tools give the green light to most new houses built with modern materials which have a much higher carbon footprint, having required large amounts of energy during manufacture.

"It is utterly frustrating because we know how environmentally friendly mudbrick homes are," Marshall said. "The carbon issue does not make sense -- making a mudbrick requires very little energy, unlike the manufacture of conventional building materials like a kiln-fired house brick, which require a huge amount of energy.

"In my view the bureaucrats have this all back-to-front. Their energy ratings do not consider the lifestyles and attitudes of mudbrick people, who are low-carbon emitters. Most mudbrick people are very concerned about the environment. They are as gobsmacked as we are that with the new six-star rating it is almost impossible to build their home unless we make significant design changes."

Sigmund Jurgensen, who lives in a mudbrick home built in the 1930s by his father, a founder of the iconic artists' community of Montsalvat, near Eltham, in Melbourne, described the situation as "absurd".

"We know that quite often the people who choose to live in mudbrick homes are much more anxious and aware of the environmental problems the world faces than people living in conventional homes in the cities," Jurgensen said. "I think it goes with the territory -- you want to build a mudbrick home because you care. I'm always concerned when the bureaucrats want easy and simple answers to difficult questions.

"To say that mudbricks do not achieve proper energy ratings is nonsense. What about the tiny amount of energy used to build mudbrick homes compared with the energy used in making house bricks and other materials?"

The Australian has previously revealed evidence of major flaws in the energy ratings system. The Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Australia, scientists and builders have raised concerns that the system is fundamentally flawed, potentially wasting billions of dollars to achieve compliance with no evidence of carbon reduction. The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, which has publicly rejected much of the criticism, acknowledged to industry figures earlier this year that the system might need an overhaul.

The department is now commissioning a study to determine if its star ratings have ever been effective in reducing energy use. Its tender document states that the key objective of the study "will be a report that ascertains the actual benefits and costs resulting from the introduction" of the star energy-efficiency ratings. Intrinsic to the operation of star ratings as a measure of a house's performance is a belief that human factors -- primarily, how people use their heating and cooling -- can be standardised.

Terry Williamson, a thermal energy expert at the University of Adelaide, says the federal government's star ratings do not work while driving up the costs of more than 100,000 new houses a year.

"People who live in mudbrick houses use a lot less energy because they are more enviro-centric, but the building regulation looks at the physics of the building material, not the behaviours of the occupants," Williamson said. "The policy reflects a narrow concern about reaching objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it means the mudbrick house, which is environmentally friendly, will be all but impossible to build."

Eltham resident Jenni Mitchell and her husband, Mervyn Hannon, believe it is ridiculous that their 26-year-old north-facing mudbrick house would not be compliant if built today.

"The notion that mudbricks are not good enough in terms of energy efficiency is a farce; it is bureaucracy gone mad," she said.

Richard Provan, who makes mudbricks near Kinglake in Victoria, hopes Australia's peak scientific body, the CSIRO, will retest mudbricks for their thermal qualities in a bid to achieve a higher rating. His business has "dwindled to the point of extinction" as a result of the regulations. "All the trades associated with it are being hurt because the interest is not there any more. Mudbricks are a good insulating product with a very small carbon footprint."


Play board games to prevent global warming??

AUSTRALIANS are being urged to play board games and snuggle up under a rug with a pet or their families to help cut power bills. On its LivingGreener website, the federal government urges switching off the TV and heater and finding old-fashioned ways of keeping snug and occupied.

"There are heaps of ways to have fun 'unplugged' - go retro and break out the board games or visit your local library and share the heating and computers with your community," the site says.

"To reduce the energy you use while watching TV, take another tip from grandma and share the warmth. Snuggle up under a rug, snuggle with your family or cuddle your favourite pet. You could avoid the TV and snuggle up in bed with a good book (or with someone who's read one lately)."

A spokesman for the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, defended the advice, saying many households were seeking tips on how to save energy. "Improving energy efficiency is a way households can help lower carbon pollution while saving money," he said.

However, the opposition climate change spokesman, Greg Hunt, branded the government's advice farcical.


24 July, 2011

Backlash against African influx in Melbourne

A faint Australian echo of events in Norway: In the last few years in Melbourne, there have been a lot of attacks on commuters and others by "refugee" African youths. That has obviously aroused resentment of Africans and legitimized pushback by those with violent inclinations.

It should be noted that the attack in Norway was on the youth wing of Norway's major Leftist party -- a party very sympathetic to Muslim immigration. The attacker was a known member of anti-immigrant groups. Killing 90 of their children was a clearly a warning for Norway's Leftists to rethink

A HEAVILY armed racist gang is terrorising communities across the northwest suburbs of Melbourne. The brutal thugs - who call themselves Bros Over Hoes or BOH - have been involved in drive-by shootings, home invasions and bloody clashes with African refugees.

Chilling photos of masked young men brandishing an arsenal of weapons including guns, machetes and a chainsaw have also been uncovered in a special investigation by the Sunday Herald Sun.

Ten frightened African families have fled the area and others, without the finances to move, remain in fear of their lives.

The Sunday Herald Sun has handed 25 photos of the Melton-based gang to Victoria Police. It shows them brazenly posing with guns, knives, spears, a bow and arrow and a chainsaw. There are also videos online of them taking drugs and bashing women, including stamping on one girl's head. Some are pictured in front of the Australian flag.

Supt Graham Kent said he was aware of the pictures and that many of the men were "well known" to police. "I don't like it (the pictures) but there is not much we can do about it," Supt Kent said.

"Many of these men are well known to us and anyone who comes to our attention we will deal with. Our understanding is that these men have a loose association. "They are not organised criminals but unsophisticated and the pictures are of them strutting their stuff."

He said some pictures had been online for a long time and that some men were in prison, or had been punished for a range of crimes.

A community leader has also told how ethnic minorities do not walk the streets of Melton alone, refuse to go out after dark and do not use public transport in an attempt to avoid horrifying, unprovoked attacks.

"We came here thinking Australia was a lawful country where everyone is protected, but that is not the case here," said Abraham Jongroor, a father of two. "Those who can, have moved away, but the rest of us are living here in fear of our lives. "Racist gangs have fired guns at our houses, nearly killing a family. "A boy they wanted dead was hit by a four-wheel-drive car, which had mounted the nature strip to get him.

"The gangs chase us with baseball bats and iron bars, physically beat us, throw rocks and eggs, smash our cars and windows of our houses and shout racist abuse, telling us to 'go home' and threatening to kill us if we stay. "We used to go to the police all the time but nothing ever happens. Our cases are never solved and we do not get updated with what is happening."

One woman was the victim of a home invasion in which eight youths smashed all the front windows of her home, then used a large wooden plank to break down the front door. The young men stormed into the house and stopped only when they were confronted by a grandmother who was protectively clutching her six-month-old grandchild. They demanded a young Sudanese boy fight them, but he was not there and they eventually left after spitting abuse at the terrified elderly woman.

Mr Jongroor said the situation had gradually improved since December when he warned police if they did not start clamping down, the African community would start fighting back. "I gave them a list of trouble spots across Melton and Kurunjang. I said if anyone calls from these areas, they must act quickly. "They know where we are from. If they do not protect us, we'll start protecting ourselves."

Don Nardella, MP for Melton, commissioned a report on the issues affecting the African community. The damning 19-page document lists a catalogue of "racial intolerance". "One respondent was forced from their new rental property by neighbours determined to stop their entry into the neighbourhood," the Bridging The Gap report states.

"The event involved police and came close to being violent. Indeed, the tension and anger displayed was so high that he claimed one neighbour shouted at the family, 'Get your f------ black a--- out of here or we will shoot you one by one'. "Racist graffiti has also been utilised by local racist gangs.

"It is believed that two 'anti-black' youth gangs are operating in Melton. One interviewee estimated membership of these gangs to be about 60-70. "He claimed gangs harassed and co-ordinated bashings of Africans, often driving their membership to predetermined locations."

The Bridging The Gap report details several complaints against police. "There exists a perception by some Africans living in Melton that dealings with police are unsatisfactory," it says.

"Complaints relating to police by some interviewees included perceived failure to act or follow through on issues, targeting Africans unfairly because of race, over-reaction and overuse of force, failure to attend call-outs, ignoring concerns and failure to protect/provide a safe environment for Africans. "One interviewee said she had been treated like 'an animal'."

Supt Kent said he had read the report, had a briefing with Mr Nardella and attended an African community forum. "We are doing our best to understand the issues raised in the Bridging The Gap report," he said.

"We are deeply concerned but I do not believe we have a history or particular issue. "We actively monitor people of interest as best we can and we will continue to do so. Our intelligence around this issue is very strong.

"We are always concerned about weapons in the community, especially if anyone has a prohibited firearm, and I would urge anyone with information to contact us or Crime Stoppers."

Mr Nardella said he was "very disturbed" by the gang that had "an outdated racist view of the world". "It's a small minority of people and 99.9 per cent have no problem with the African community," he said.

"We are being very proactive in looking at ways to tackle this problem and these people should know that if they break the law, the police will come down hard on them and they will face the full force of the law."


Official political correctness much worse in Germany than in Australia

FORMER career civil servants and central bankers seldom have star potential. Their work rarely excites the public and their pictures do not usually appear on front pages. This would have been Thilo Sarrazin's fate as well. A former state treasurer in the city of Berlin and director of the German Bundesbank, Sarrazin was mainly known to political insiders.

All of this changed last August when he published the book Germany abolishes itself (Deutschland schafft sich ab). Within months the provocatively titled tome of 464 pages, laden with statistics and footnotes, became the best selling non-fiction book in German post-war history. More than 1.5 million copies have been printed to date. Its author developed into an unlikely media star whose name recognition in Germany now surpasses the Pope and the chancellor.

Sarrazin's media success may be unlikely but it can be explained. In a media society governed by political correctness, he did not play by the rules. Perhaps because Sarrazin was used to speaking his mind behind closed doors he believed he could also get away with it in public. As it turned out, that was too optimistic an assumption.

The main points Sarrazin made in his book were neither particularly new nor were they factually incorrect. Like many authors before him, he pointed out that German society is ageing and shrinking because of low birthrates. He also offered a blistering critique of the welfare state, which he claimed had created a persistent, uneducated underclass.

Sarrazin then dared to suggest that due to the availability of welfare entitlements for the poor and career incentives for the rich the great majority of children are now born to parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Finally, he explained how Germany's haphazard immigration system had failed to attract high potentials and instead became exploited by poorly educated migrants. The additional point that Muslim migrants are segregating from mainstream society, again backed up by unambiguous statistical data, was the icing on the cake of Sarrazin's assault on everything that the guardians of political correctness regard as sacred.

The media and Sarrazin's former colleagues in the political class were quick to condemn the book and its author. The empire of political correctness was striking back.

Before the book had even been released, Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the attacks on Sarrazin. "The book," she declared, was "not helpful", as if that had ever been a requirement for new publications. Of course, Merkel had not read it as she was frank enough to admit. Neither did she intend to, as she told a newspaper weeks later.

What was the slogan of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth in Nineteen Eighty-Four? "Ignorance is strength." Quite.

Politicians from Sarrazin's own Social Democratic Party accused him of "economism" and "borderline racism". Protestant church leaders condemned the book's "cynical view of humanity". Left-leaning intellectuals protested against Sarrazin's alleged eugenicist, biologist and social Darwinist views.

Judging by the reactions he provoked, Sarrazin had turned himself from a respected member of society into a political pariah overnight. The witch-hunt did not even stop the chancellor and the federal president from pressuring the Bundesbank, still a formally independent institution, to sack its board member. In the end, however, it was Sarrazin who resigned from his position because he could no longer stand the stress, but not before being formally acquitted by the bank of all allegations of professional misconduct. In this way he also spared his employer from becoming further embroiled in the scandal.

Despite the whole affair it had triggered, the book at the heart of the debate is a remarkably sober account of Germany's social, economic and political problems. Reading through it, it is hard to understand how this dry and often technical analysis could ever have triggered such passionate reactions. But maybe that is because at the time few commentators gained an unfair advantage over their colleagues by actually reading it.

In this sense, the Sarrazin debate is revealing about the political climate of Germany. Apparently, it is enough to touch on a few taboo subjects to prevent a reasonable discourse. From an Australian perspective, however, Sarrazin's purported crimes against political correctness are hard to understand. With most of Sarrazin's positions he would find himself in the bipartisan mainstream of Australian politics.

Welfare reforms in Australia were controversial when first proposed. Started under the Hawke and Keating governments, they were extended under John Howard. Today, a welfare state based on mutual obligations and the principle of employment first are shared by both main parties.

In a similar way, Australia's basic immigration policies are not disputed between Labor and the Coalition, despite the excitement over illegal arrivals. Both sides of politics recognise that for migration into Australia to be successful it is important to ensure that potential migrants have the language and professional skills necessary to succeed in Australia. Nobody would consider it racist to say that a basic proficiency in English should be a requirement for prospective migrants.

It is quite likely that with these two very basic propositions on welfare reform and immigration policy, widely accepted across the Australian political spectrum, you would be considered an extremist in Germany. The rules of political correctness as applied in many European nations now consider it discriminatory to ask whether migrants can economically contribute to their host societies. And to question the unconditional right to welfare payments is seen as an assault on human dignity.

When a society can no longer seriously debate political issues, controversial as they may be, it is not just a blow to freedom of speech. It also undermines a nation's capacity for economic reform. Truths may sometimes be painful and feelings may be hurt, but a society that cannot stand vigorous debate risks becoming stale and stagnant.

Sarrazin was not a dangerous extremist but just worried about his country's future. Rightly so, as the reactions to his book show.


Another case of regulation hurting those it is supposed to help

CHILDCARE centres have slashed their number of baby places by 20 per cent in the wake of federal government reforms that require them to increase staff ratios.

Under reforms that took effect in January, centres have to provide one carer for every four children, instead of one to five, but the industry has responded by cutting placements instead of putting on extra staff.

Already in extreme shortage, childcare places for children aged under two have become even scarcer, a survey of 120 Sydney childcare centres by Childcare NSW has found. "Overall we have found there has been a 20 per cent reduction in available placements," Childcare NSW president Vicki Skoulogenis said. "Parents are at the point where they can't afford childcare, and are seeking alternative care or backyard and unregulated care."

Lienna Mandic, who runs five daycare centres, has reduced baby placements in her centres for economic reasons. "At Quakers Hill we had five baby places, and now we have four because we could not put on another staff member for one baby. I had 10 places at Glenmore Park, it's gone to eight and I had 15 at Guildford and now it's 12 just to meet the ratios," Ms Mandic said.

Roxanne Elliott from care said the industry had made it clear offering child care for babies was becoming too expensive. "There's always been a critical shortage for under-twos but, from a business perspective, the industry has indicated it might not be cost-effective to offer placements," Ms Elliott said.

John Owens, who runs two child care centres in Naremburn, said despite putting up fees $10 a day for babies, he could not afford to continue to offer places for under twos. "We will look at reducing our baby numbers because we can't afford it," Mr Owens said.

The impact is being felt by mothers like Emma Grogan who put her name down at several centres when she was five months' pregnant, but, with her maternity leave up in three months, is still without a place for her daughter Lilliana.

"It's ridiculous, this is my first baby - she is nine months' old and I started looking over a year ago, and they have all said I have to go on a waiting list," the 35-year-old business consultant from Leichhardt said.

Federal Child Care Minister Kate Ellis hit back, saying: "We will not let relentless fear-mongering on the cost impacts of these reforms distract us from delivering the right outcomes for Australian children and their families".


Hospital whistleblower fired

Fake waiting-time statistics uncovered

A woman is claiming she was unfairly dismissed by the Joondalup Health Campus after uncovering inaccuracies in the hospital's attempt to meet the four-hour rule.

Raylene Reeve had been working as a data analyst for the hospital and was only three months in to a nine month contract when she was sacked, with the campus citing "poor performance" as the reason.

Ms Reeve refutes the claim saying she has worked in the industry for 15 years without complaint, has won an award for her contribution to the University of WA and is undertaking a Masters in Bio-statistics. She said two days after she presented her report, which she claims found gaping holes in the times presented by specialists treating emergency patients, she was fired.

"As I was working through the data and the integrity of the data, it didn't add up as far as the data is presented and times; you have to think about a time frame between when a specialist is requested in the Emergency Department and when they arrive, there is a certain time period," she told 6PR radio.

"And obviously the time period should be from one minute to so many hours. But as I started doing the statistics on the data I noticed that the means, which is the average times, looking at that sort of parameters in the data were negative.

"And negative times concerned me, so I went through the data with a fine tooth comb and I found thousands of negative times, which in reality is impossible and that is for a specialist to arrive before they were actually requested."

She said 50 per cent of the data was missing and not representing what was "actually going on". "Why [isn't] that data being put in? Was it because the specialists are taking a lot longer and the patient is in there a lot longer than four hours?" she said.

"The thing that is most upsetting for me personally, apart from that feeling that I have an obligation to report this because of what is going on in the hospital system and that obviously the four-hour rule is not working and I believe promoting not-so good practice in the Emergency Department.

"But the thing that is most upsetting for me [is that] to be great at what you're doing and to find all of this and to be thorough, and for a big corporation to say that you have poor performance, how does that go on my record and affect my career?"

Ms Reeve has applied to Fair Work Australia to see if it will review her case because she did not claim unfair dismissal within the 21 day deadline set for such cases. She says she will know the outcome of that decision in two weeks time.

In the meantime a Joondalup Health Campus spokesman has vehemently denied her allegations. "Raylene Reeve was sacked in March, 2011 – 10 weeks into a nine month contract - because of issues relating to her attitude, behaviour and performance," he said. "She was not terminated because of anything she thinks she may have uncovered in relation to the four-hour rule program.

"The Department of Health looked into Raylene's claims regarding the four-hour rule program at the campus earlier this month and exonerated Joondalup. "They also confirmed that the data Raylene refers to is not used to calculate four-hour rule compliance."

Royal Perth Hospital workers have claimed they have had their opinions on the four-hour rule program stifled by an operational directive, which states: "WA health employees are not permitted to use official information obtained through the course of their employment to provide public comment or communicate in writing or online without the express authorisation of their Chief Executive Officer.

"Public comment includes, but is not limited to, verbal comments to the media, written communication such as letters to the media and online communication by email, blogging and posts via social media sites. Unauthorised disclosure of official information is a breach of an employee's duty of fidelity and good faith which will result in disciplinary action and in some cases termination."

The United Voice union has claimed it is a gag order, which Minister Kim Hames has denied any knowledge of.


23 July, 2011

Crazy plan to computerize medical records nationwide

This is an absolute lulu. Big new computer programs generally do not work and Queensland health can't even get its payroll software working after over a year of trying. And the Brits had a similar medical records plan -- on which they spent OVER 12 BILLION POUNDS before they gave up on it after many years of trying to get it to work

THE Opposition has called on the Gillard government to hit the pause button on the $467 million electronic health records project until a "thorough assessment" on e-health is conducted.

The call comes less than 12 months from the roll out of the opt-in, personally controlled e-health record (PCEHR) system.

In a vitriolic speech, Queensland Liberal Senator Sue Boyce ironed out what she described as "failures" in e-health implementation over the years. She gave participants at a health administration conference in Sydney a history lesson on public sector e-health initiatives since the late 1990s during the Howard era and vowed to share what "needs to happen next".

Senator Boyce was especially scathing of the progress and role played by the National E-Health Transaction Authority (NEHTA), the publicly funded body charged with implementing the PCEHR scheme.

NEHTA said it's work, while ambitious, was achievable with the backing of a "skilled and committed" team. NEHTA was formed in late 2004 by her boss -- then Health Minister and now opposition leader Tony Abbott. Labor wrestled power from John Howard in 2007. Senator Boyce did not say what NEHTA achieved while Mr Abbott was in charge.

In 2005, Mr Abbott said he hoped the e-health dream would become a reality under NEHTA in three years. "We believe upwards of 3000 people a year die prematurely because of inadequate information and record-keeping," Mr Abbott said then.

"We're never going to be able to entirely eliminate that, but we think we can avoid quite a few of these unnecessary deaths if we have an integrated records system. We also have very heavy expenses with the duplication of diagnostic tests. "That certainly can come down if we have readily available health records so that blood tests, X-rays and MRIs don't need to be repeated by every lot of treating doctors.

"Now we've got a high-level, well-funded body exclusively dedicated to ensuring that our dream becomes a reality, hopefully within the next three years,'' Mr Abbott said in February 2005.

At today's event Senator Boyce did not call for the organisation to be abolished despite being critical of NEHTA, its management and mission statement.

"It's almost 15 years since Australia acted on the recognised need for a national, consistent e-health system so whilst there has been a good deal of progress towards one, I believe we -- all of us: politicians, health professionals, taxpayers -- are totally justified in asking the question: 'Well, where the bloody hell is it?" Senator Boyce said in her speech.

After listing NEHTA's current mission statement, she said: "Be very, very frightened for somebody is about to put their hand in your pocket, move you to another planet or at the very least, snow you while boring you to death on the journey. "It would be good if its designers, managers, administrators and practitioners not only remember this but make it their mantra.

She said in theory, e-health could do "all the things attributed to it" but the reality was far different. "Unfortunately the record in practice is nowhere near as good or as glowing ... which is a major reason the Coalition believes it's time for a pause and for a thorough assessment of the real, the actual progress of the introduction of e-health in Australia."

Senator Boyce cited examples from Senate inquiries to drive home her point on NEHTA's alleged lack of transparency. "I can tell you that from a series of Senate estimates hearings over several years the ability of this organisation (NEHTA) to talk nonsense is monumental.

"In the recent round of budget estimates hearings, members of the Community Affairs Committee endeavoured to get representatives of NEHTA to spell out exactly what they had achieved in the creation of finished components necessary to implement a national e-health system. "We didn't get very far."

A NEHTA spokeswoman said the organisation's work program to support a connected health system for Australia was both ambitious and achievable. "It's been forecast that by 2020 the improvements we're working towards will save at least 5000 lives and $7.6 billion each year across Australia. "We're confident about delivering a world-leading personally controlled electronic health record system and we have a skilled and committed team working very hard to make sure this happens."

The government has called for feedback into the proposed PCEHR legislation by August 3.

Several lucrative contracts related to the project have been awarded, including the appointment of a McKinsey and Co-led consortium as national change and adoption partner. All eyes are now on who Canberra will select as its infrastructure partner for the project.


The law is an ass: Victim says wrong man being punished

THE plug has been pulled on outspoken radio star Derryn Hinch by a magistrate who yesterday imposed an extraordinary gag order.

Hinch, who had a liver transplant just two weeks ago, could have been jailed after he pleaded guilty to four charges of deliberately breaching suppression orders that prohibited the identification of sex offenders.

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg told a pale and breathless Hinch that he would have had no hesitation in jailing him but for his poor health.

Instead, he ordered that the 67-year-old broadcaster be confined to his home for five months, and placed strict conditions on what he can say and to whom he can say it.

Last night, a victim of a shocking paedophile attack called Hinch a hero for sacrificing his freedom to name and shame sex offenders.

Andrew Taylor, who was tortured, sexually abused and starved by one of the named offenders, said the law had punished the wrong man.

"Derryn has taken a stand and been punished for it. And I'm behind him 100 per cent," Mr Taylor said. "He is a hero to victims. He is a god to us. He will get up and fight for what he believes in. "What's wrong with a law that put's someone like Derryn Hinch away but lets sex offenders walk the streets? "Derryn was prepared to stand up for us. "A paedophile can get away with a slap on the wrist but the moment you name them for being what they are, you get charged, you get locked up."

Mr Taylor, who waived his right to anonymity, said it was a constant thought that his attacker could be living in the next street and he would not be told.

Mr Rozencwajg told Hinch he had five previous breaches of the law in various "name and shame" campaigns over the years. "It is clear that the offences were committed in a deliberate fashion, you being fully conscious that your actions were prohibited by law," Mr Rozencwajg said.


Council worker fired for telling the plain truth

A young council roads worker has been sacked after commenting on Facebook that the council had too many office staff and not enough workers.

Alec Armstrong, 21, posted the remarks on a Hepburn Shire residents' page last month and had his employment terminated five weeks later for what the council called "intimidating or offensive" behaviour.

In postings made after hours on June 2, Mr Armstrong said council had 140 staff, but only 30 who worked outdoors. "Shows you how top heavy they are," he posted.

He said outdoor employees never had enough money to do the job properly. "I work on the roads for the shire. There would be four office staff to one of us. Their (sic) slack, and we need less office staff who aren't slack and do the job a bit more. We never have enough money to do a job the way it should be done. That's why rates are going up. Keep blaming it on the useless staff above us."

And in a post later that night, Mr Armstrong wrote: "Most of the staff don't live in the shire. It's like they give a s...t about nothing but their pay packet."

When confronted by office managers about the postings, Mr Armstrong said he immediately removed them and apologised. In a letter to council chief executive officer Kaylene Conrick July 7, Mr Armstrong expressed his "deep regrets" over the incident. He admitted it was "inappropriate, disrespectful and lacked the professionalism" required by Hepburn Shire Council employees.

In the letter, Mr Armstrong pleaded to keep his job. "As a younger employee I would like the chance to learn from my mistake and in future be more mature and respectful about what is said," he wrote. "I understand that I have done the wrong thing and that I will have to deal with the consequences of my actions."

Mr Armstrong said yesterday he recognised that unauthorised media commentary was prohibited under the shire's employee code of conduct but at the time didn't understand that included social media, such as Facebook.

But in a letter to Mr Armstrong, a senior council officer called the comments "seriously wilful conduct" that "may have damaged the reputation of the council".

Mr Armstrong was one of two new employees featured in a council bulletin in 2008. Under the headline "Council commits to youth - trainee and apprentice appointed", the council said Mr Armstrong and another employee were two successful job candidates from more than 60 applications.

Hepburn Shire Acting CEO Evan King said the decision to sack Mr Armstrong was made following due process. In a written statement he said: "The employee breached the code of conduct, and based on an assessment of the seriousness of the breach, it was deemed the employment of the employee should be terminated."

Dave Beckley from the Australian Services Union said yesterday a case for unfair dismissal of Mr Armstrong was being prepared for Fair Work Australia.



Three reports below

New payroll joke on Queensland Health staff

THERE is no end in sight to the state's biggest joke - Queensland Health's payroll system will again rip off staff this week.

A damning email obtained by The Courier-Mail warns some staff to expect their pay packet to include less than what they are owed because of yet another technical glitch.

The email, written by a senior officer from the department's payroll division, says staff won't be "very happy campers" when they check their pays because of a technical "fix". The email, written by a senior payroll division officer, is another embarrassing blow for the Bligh Government, which claims the problems are under control.

Payroll staff have no way of knowing how many people will be affected, further multiplying the number of cases of incorrect wage payments which have to be resolved.

For the fourth day, Queensland Health boss Tony O'Connell refused to discuss the debacle. The office of the speechless acting director-general failed to even acknowledge The Courier-Mail's requests for an interview, while Health Minister Geoff Wilson remains on holidays. His temporary replacement, Neil Roberts, was told of the problems yesterday afternoon and said Queensland Health were "working to fix it".

However, the email exposes a souring relationship between Queensland Health and shared service provider CorpTech.

"There are going to be some very unhappy campers next week when the payslips come out and there is nothing we can do," the email sent this week from payroll client service officer Kylie Shelley warned. "Our wonderful CorpTech has done another 'system fix' and that has created all these other problems!!!!"

Ms Shelley said yesterday she could not comment and referred calls to her manager, who also declined to comment.

In a written statement, human resource services deputy director-general John Cairns said "an average" of 100 people were affected each pay cycle but only those who worked on Sundays. They could be underpaid between $50 and $210 each fortnight.

"Any claim for underpayment is corrected in the next pay run, or individuals are always invited to seek cash payments if they prefer," Mr Cairns said.

But one health worker, writing on a "fightback" page set up on social networking site Facebook, said the department seemed "all too keen" to demand back overpaid wages but was slow to rectify underpayments.


Silence drags on over Queensland Health pay debacle

THE sounds of silence continues from Queensland Health bosses. But workers are gearing up for a fresh revolt over the payroll debacle, with two in three staffers preparing to dispute their overpayment bills.

Many who believe their alleged overpayments are inaccurate fear they will never be able to prove it because the payslips are so complex.

Even QH acting director-general Tony O'Connell who again dodged interview requests yesterday has previously admitted the payslips are illegible and ordered changes in April to make them easier to understand. On Tuesday, Dr O'Connell's office told The Courier-Mail he had "no time to talk" over revelations two people sacked during the payroll debacle returned as consultants.

About 38,000 health workers have been sent letters asking them to repay a collective $62 million in overpaid wages, many of which date back to March last year, well before the payslips were modified.

About 13,980 health workers have so far responded to bills sent last month, but two-thirds had concerns and asked for a case manager. Another 24,000 staffers have not yet responded, while only 4300 agreed with the calculations and negotiated repayment plans.

One Redcliffe Hospital nurse, who did not wish to be named, said she received a $1600 bill for overpayments made when the faulty payroll system last year mistakenly switched her employment status from permanent part-time to casual for eight weeks. "My mum actually died at that time and I couldn't take any paid time off because I was considered to be casual," she said.

"I really want to know why suddenly I have to pay it all back because for all intents and purposes I was a casual employee at the time I don't think my annual leave has been credited back and I'm not even sure if my super has been paid properly." The nurse's repayments were taken from a pay packet in a lump sum last year and she said she "just went ballistic" to receive another bill for a similar amount last month.

Just weeks later, amid mounting complaints, Premier Anna Bligh stepped in and announced a moratorium on the recovery of overpayments. But those who have already entered into recovery plans have the option to continue.

Queensland Health would not disclose the lowest amount it had allowed employees to repay each pay cycle but Dr O'Connell admitted many were paying back "quite small amounts".


Queensland Health's famous record-keeping again

Gold Coast Hospital apologises after boy, 3, has surgery to remove pins that were not there

THE Gold Coast Hospital is investigating why a three-year-old boy had surgery on his arm to remove pins that were not there. Rico Phan went to the Southport hospital on July 7 to have pins removed from his elbow following a fracture he received in May, The Gold Coast Bulletin reports. But doctors later apologised to Rico's family, saying the pins had already been removed.

The Reedy Creek boy fell half a metre from a bench at daycare on May 24, injuring his right arm. He had an operation that day in which stainless-steel pins were used and his arm was put in a sling. The family says he returned to hospital on June 17 to have his plaster removed and that is when they believed the pins were taken out.

At a follow-up appointment with a different doctor, Rico's mum Anna Nguyen said she was told Rico needed to return on July 7 for another procedure to have pins removed.


22 July, 2011

Fibre network fees to start at $60 a month

This is ridiculous -- when you can ALREADY get wireless plans for half that. The only customers NBN will get will be illegal movie downloaders

HOUSEHOLDS will pay at least $60 -- and up to $190 -- a month for their internet service on the National Broadband Network after Australia's largest privately owned internet service provider unveiled its pricing plan.

Internode -- one of the first internet providers to jump aboard the government's NBN -- has warned that the government's promises to offer consumers prices in line with today's broadband plans would be "untenable in practice".

The first retail pricing for services over the $36 billion NBN were released by Internode yesterday and reveal packages will start at $59.95 a month for a basic 12-megabit-per-second (Mbps) service with a 30-gigabyte quota for downloads and uploads. The plans also include a telephone service with $10 worth of calls a month.

At the top end, Internode said it would charge $189.95 a month for a 100Mbps service with a 1000GB download quota.

Internode blamed the unexpectedly high prices on "existing flaws in the NBN Co wholesale charging model" and warned that regional customers could have to pay more to connect to the network.

The opposition last night seized on the pricing, declaring that it failed to match existing costs for accessing broadband. "The biggest barrier to accessing the internet is not distance or indeed technology but cost," said the opposition's communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull.

"If the NBN results in higher internet prices, then the outcome of this massive expenditure of taxpayers' money will be to make it harder for Australians already struggling to pay their bills to get online."

But the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last night defended the situation and said it expected competition would bring pricing pressure. "The prices quoted by Internode are comparable with current prices for a bundled internet package which includes telephone line rental," Senator Conroy's spokesman said. "They also provide much higher speeds than are currently available."

Under NBN Co's wholesale pricing model, internet service providers will have to pay an access fee for each customer they connect to the fibre network, as well as a usage fee based on the amount of data carried through the network.

These usage fees angered Internode's managing director, Simon Hackett, who yesterday said the fees were artificially constructed to create a massive financial windfall for the NBN Co. Mr Hackett warned that the usage fees could also result in the abandonment of small-scale retail internet providers in rural and regional Australia.

"It is not a charge based on real costs. Rather, the quantum of this charge has simply been chosen to fill in an otherwise huge hole in the federal government policy requirement that the network return funds to the commonwealth at a commercial rate and in a short timeframe (relative to the expected lifetime of the network)," Mr Hackett wrote in a blog posting yesterday.

Internode said that unless the NBN Co's pricing model were revised then consumer pricing would be "driven far higher than it would otherwise be driven during the first several years of the NBN's build phase".

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said that if Mr Hackett's call for changes would result in lower prices, "we would expect the government to look at the relative merit of those suggestions".

"For many customers, the entry-level plans with speeds of 12mbps are much, much faster than what they would be getting now and the prices of these bundles are comparable to what's available today," Ms Corbin said.

Frank Zumbo, a competition and consumer expert at the University of NSW, warned that "if you get the pricing wrong, the whole project comes tumbling down financially".

"There will be differences in pricing at a retail level. It's inevitable given the enormity of the project and given there will be rural and regional and metro areas with different customer profiles," he said. "We fully expect that there will be higher retail prices in regional areas in the same way as unfortunately we have higher petrol prices in rural areas. We need to get the pricing right."

Internode's concerns add weight to a warning by government adviser Greenhill Caliburn earlier this year that said "potential consumer pushback on the usage-based pricing model" was one of the key risks to NBN Co's assumptions on average revenues per user.


It's not the media that's invading our privacy, it's the government

PRIVACY and Freedom of Information Minister Brendan O'Connor claimed yesterday in The Australian, "This government believes in a free media and freedom of expression, and we also believe in the right to a private life."

Perhaps he does but the actions speak louder than words. It's not the media that is invading everyone's privacy, it's the government.

In one after another aspect of life state and federal governments have dispensed with any presumption that your behaviour, opinions or associations are none of anyone else's business.

An increasingly large share of our tax dollars is being used to employ a growing army of people to prescribe, monitor, enforce and report on activity that ought to be considered private.

A serious review of privacy should open up debate about the effectiveness or desirability of present prohibitions on private action.

A serious privacy review might consider, for instance, why we don't allow an adult video game classification or the public value of last year's decision to ban a gay zombie film from being shown at a Melbourne film festival.

In most cases each individual intrusion is innocuous; in some cases the short-term impacts are arguably beneficial, such as the curbs on smoking. But it's a part of a trend to regulate recreation, speech and consumption even further.

It is, for instance, illegal in NSW to raffle cosmetic surgery, although cosmetic surgery and raffles remain legal. It's also illegal to use a solarium if you're under 30 -- an age of consent without precedent anywhere else in law -- and it's illegal to box until you're 14, although horse riding remains a more dangerous sport. In Queensland it's illegal to skateboard, scooter or roller blade after dark. "I'm not anti-fun, I'm pro-safety," Labor politician Rachel Nolan said when announcing the changes. "This is just as much about common courtesy as it is about common sense."

Her press release and subsequent statements offered no data on the safety case or indeed the courtesy case but, then, one can generally be guaranteed an absence of facts when government resorts to claiming a measure is about common sense.

The election of the Baillieu government in Victoria ensures it will no longer be the only state in the federation where a smoking enthusiast can indulge the no doubt twilight years of their hobby with a water pipe.

Last year fireworks were finally banned in the ACT after continuing complaints not of human injury but of nervous animals.

On the horizon or under consideration for bans in various states and territories at the moment are energy drinks, junk food advertising, "offensive" T-shirts, helium balloons, "exploitative" advertising, trans fats and canals.

Elsewhere additional resources are being applied to crack down on activities that have long been regulated but that warrant a fresh think about how useful or desirable this prohibition is. More resources than ever are being applied to the regulation of prostitution, firearms and drugs without a clear picture of the specific public benefits to be obtained or comparative analysis of competing approaches.

Meanwhile, every day that passes without a resolution to a serious challenge such as indigenous literacy seems to usher forth yet another resource-devouring intrusion into private life. If the government is serious about privacy its first task should be to identify those areas where government could improve privacy rights simply by keeping its own nose out of other people's business.


Crazy deal by the Australian government

Sending away 800 Afghan Muslim boat people and accepting 4,000 Burmese Buddhists instead is hard to explain. Though it may be a reflection of what Australians think of Muslims, I guess. And in the main, the Burmese are genuine refugees, which the Afghans are not

THE Federal Government's refugee swap agreement with Malaysia is a "bad deal" that will not stop asylum seekers, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. His comments come after reports that The Government could sign its refugee swap deal with Malaysia early next week.

Under a deal announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in May, Malaysia will take up to 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat, in return for Australia accepting 4000 processed [Burmese] refugees.

"It's a bad deal. I don't think it's going to stop the boats," Mr Abbott told the Nine Network. "It's now two-and-a-half months since the so-called Malaysia deal was announced and I think in that time we have had 10 boats and more than 500 people arrive."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is reportedly set to clinch the deal in Malaysia on Monday, Fairfax reported today, but the minister's office would not confirm this with the newspapers.

The head of the Malaysian police and the chairman of Malaysia's Human Rights Commission are expected to attend the signing ceremony, the report said.


New crackdown on illegal workers already in Australia

Illegal workers are a bigger problem for Australia's immigration system than boat people, an official report says, prompting the Federal Government to introduce tougher penalties for bosses caught using them.

The independent review, by barrister Stephen Howells , says a "significant number" of tourists, backpackers, business people and foreign students come to Australia and work illegally.

Mr Howells estimated that at least 50,000 people, and potentially more than 100,000 people, were working illegally in Australia.

His report found that organised rackets were behind some of the groups of illegal workers, who were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, unsafe work practices, underpayment, taxation and welfare fraud and associated crime.

He said there was a strong perception among illegal workers that the only punishment would be deportation at taxpayers' expense.

Mr Howells said immigration officials had identified at least 100 breaches since 2007, when the Howard government softened penalties for employers caught flouting the system. Of these, 10 had been thoroughly investigated but there had been only one successful prosecution. Mr Howells said the number of asylum seekers coming by boat was relatively small but a much larger group travelled here legally.

The crackdown on illegal workers follows Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announcing earlier this week that Perth would be declared a country town so it will be easier for businesses to bring in foreigners on working visas to meet skills shortages. He announced yesterday companies would face a fine of up to $10,000 per worker if caught using illegal labour.



Pesky! Sea-level rises are SLOWING, tidal gauge records show

Once again, reality defies the so-called "models": Models of what? These findings hit right at the heart of the Warmist scare. The spectre of rising sea levels has been their most dramatic claim

ONE of Australia's foremost experts on the relationship between climate change and sea levels has written a peer-reviewed paper concluding that rises in sea levels are "decelerating".

The analysis, by NSW principal coastal specialist Phil Watson, calls into question one of the key criteria for large-scale inundation around the Australian coast by 2100 -- the assumption of an accelerating rise in sea levels because of climate change.

Based on century-long tide gauge records at Fremantle, Western Australia (from 1897 to present), Auckland Harbour in New Zealand (1903 to present), Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour (1914 to present) and Pilot Station at Newcastle (1925 to present), the analysis finds there was a "consistent trend of weak deceleration" from 1940 to 2000.

Mr Watson's findings, published in the Journal of Coastal Research this year and now attracting broader attention, supports a similar analysis of long-term tide gauges in the US earlier this year. Both raise questions about the CSIRO's sea-level predictions.

Climate change researcher Howard Brady, at Macquarie University, said yesterday the recent research meant sea levels rises accepted by the CSIRO were "already dead in the water as having no sound basis in probability". "In all cases, it is clear that sea-level rise, although occurring, has been decelerating for at least the last half of the 20th century, and so the present trend would only produce sea level rise of around 15cm for the 21st century."

Dr Brady said the divergence between the sea-level trends from models and sea-level trends from the tide gauge records was now so great "it is clear there is a serious problem with the models".

"In a nutshell, this factual information means the high sea-level rises used as precautionary guidelines by the CSIRO in recent years are in essence ridiculous," he said. During the 20th century, there was a measurable global average rise in mean sea level of about 17cm [7"] (plus or minus 5cm).

But scientific projections, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have suggested climate change will deliver a much greater global tide rise in mean sea level this century of 80-100cm.

The federal government has published a series of inundation maps based on the panel's predictions showing that large areas of Australia's capital cities, southeast Queensland and the NSW central coast will be under water by 2100.

Without acceleration in sea-level rises, the 20th-century trend of 1.7mm a year would produce a rise of about 0.15m by 2100.

Mr Watson's analysis of the four longest continuous Australian and New Zealand records is consistent with the findings of US researchers Robert Dean and James Houston, who analysed monthly averaged records for 57 tide gauges, covering periods of 60 to 156 years.

The US research concluded there was "no evidence to support positive acceleration over the 20th century as suggested by the IPCC, global climate change models and some researchers".

Mr Watson cautioned in his research and again yesterday that studies of a small number of northern hemisphere records spanning two or three centuries had found a small acceleration in sea-level rises. He said it was possible the rises could be subject to "climate-induced impacts projected to occur over this century".

Mr Watson's research finds that in the 1990s, when sea levels were attracting international attention, although the decadal rates of ocean rise were high, "they are not remarkable or unusual in the context of the historical record at each site over the 20th century".

"What we are seeing in all of the records is there are relatively high rates of sea-level rise evident post-1990, but those sorts of rates of rise have been witnessed at other times in the historical record," he said. "What remains unknown is whether or not these rates are going to persist into the future and indeed increase."

He said further research was required, "to rationalise the difference between the acceleration trend evident in the global sea level time-series reconstructions (models) and the relatively consistent deceleration trend evident in the long-term Australasian tide gauge records".

With an estimated 710,000 Australian homes within 3km and below 6m elevation of the coast, accurate sea-level predictions are vital for planning in coastal areas anticipating predicted sea-level rises of almost a metre by 2100.


Another "secret" Greenie model

Warmists keeping details of their calculations secret is a normal modus operandi for them. That of course tells its own story. And leaked details of the carbon tax modelling show amply WHY they want to keep it all secret. Their assumptions are absurd. Henry Ergas has a few chuckles below

I WAS wrong. Treasury's modelling doesn't assume the US has an emissions trading scheme in place by 2016. It merely assumes its economy operates as if it did. Unnamed government sources have told the Fairfax press that Treasury assumes the US will "reach emission reduction targets at a cost no higher than the international price", that is, at least cost, without having to bother with a market-based mechanism.

That would not be a mere accomplishment: it would be a miracle. At least if you take Climate Change Minister Greg Combet seriously who has repeatedly said imposing a carbon tax is "essential" for "achieving emissions reductions at cheapest cost". As have Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

But Treasury apparently knows better. If those government sources are to be believed, its officials have discovered a way of getting the benefit of a carbon tax without actually having one.

Yet, oddly, that miracle cure doesn't seem to have been around when Treasury wrote its modelling report. Rather, Treasury assumes that from 2016, under the auspices of a "co-ordinated international policy regime", industrial countries, including the US, would "trade, either bilaterally or through a central market" delivering a "harmonised world carbon price".

How the US will trade if it doesn't have some form of permit system is a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot. And the mysteries don't end there. If the US can achieve least-cost abatement without an ETS in 2016, why put one in place later? Indeed, why would anyone bother with such a scheme?

Answering these questions would be easier if the government opened the kimono on the actual model. Given access to the model itself, we would know exactly what it assumes. And the implications of changing those assumptions could be tested.

It would be possible to assess the costs to Australia if we adopt a carbon tax and our major competitors don't: the scenario Treasury's report fails to detail. And it would also be possible to examine the effects of other crucial features of Treasury's modelling.

For example, the model does not provide for the mandated decommissioning of the Hazelwood and possibly Yallourn power stations in Victoria. These generators have low operating costs and even with a rising carbon price would operate until at least 2025. Replacing them sooner requires substantial investment in generating plant and transmission. That will need to be paid for. But when?

Although the government is talking of decommissioning those generators now, Treasury's modelling seems to defer the cost until at least 2025 and maybe until 2040. That conveniently reduces the estimated hit to electricity prices.

The model also assumes unlimited access to permits overseas. Those permits provide two-thirds of our mitigation to 2020, "resulting in lower economic costs". But the government has now said it will cap purchases of foreign abatement at far less than that. So here, too, the policy's costs are underestimated.

And the model also unrealistically assumes the government's policy is revenue neutral (so that other taxes don't need to be raised to finance any shortfall), with all revenues returned to taxpayers as lump sum payments, so the compensation does not distort any decisions.

But here's the best bit, tucked away in a technical annex. The modelling assumes emitters can borrow permits from the future. And borrow they do, on a scale that puts Greece to shame.

By 2050, emitters worldwide have borrowed four years' global permit allocations from the future. Using Treasury's estimate of future carbon prices, that is equivalent to a net debt of $10.7 trillion in 2011 dollars, or 10 times Australia's current national output. And the total value of those net borrowings would rise at 6 to 8 per cent a year, far exceeding the growth rate of world incomes.

Why assume debt accumulation on such a plainly unsustainable scale? Because it postpones the pain, shifting emissions reduction to beyond the modelling period. The problem, however, is no current or likely scheme allows such net borrowing, much less on the scale Treasury envisages. So that further underestimates the policy's costs, probably greatly.

But without access to the model no one can say by how much. And that suits the government. For Treasury's modelling presumably reflects assumptions determined by the government, such as that all industrial countries have carbon taxes in place by 2016 or behave as if they did.

The government also presumably determined what was not to be disclosed: most importantly, the consequences if we tax our mineral exports and our competitors don't. Treasury then modelled and explained those scenarios as best it could.

Fair enough; that is the government's prerogative and Treasury's job. But when caught out, spare us the contorted denials. Rather, when the facts come home to roost, have the good grace to make them welcome. Or as Gillard put it: "Don't write crap. It can't be that hard."


Bootleggers hijack climate change debate

Bjorn Lomborg

AUSTRALIA'S carbon tax is being sold to the public with government-funded ads in which representatives from renewable energy companies make the case for the government policy.

Their arguments range from, "it's got to be better to put wind turbines up", to "other countries around the world are doing it". One cites the example of Germany, which has led the world in subsidising solar panels.

Yes, Germany has spent more than $75 billion on inefficient solar technology delivering a mere 0.1 per cent of its total energy supply. And this will postpone global warming by how much? A whole seven hours by the end of the century.

The ads give the impression that solar and wind are ready to take over from fossil fuels. Yet, even in a very optimistic scenario, the International Energy Agency estimates that by 2035, solar and energy will contribute only about 1.6 per cent of global energy.

They also suggest that carbon pricing will lead to new green jobs popping up, as if by magic.

Yet the most comprehensive research into "green jobs" shows that a similar number of people are put out of work because of increased energy costs.

The Australian government is not alone in touting renewable energy as a solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In May, the UN's International Panel on Climate Change made media waves with a new report on renewable energy. As in the past, the IPCC first issued a short summary; only later would it reveal all of the data.

The IPCC press release declared, "Close to 80 per cent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies." That story was repeated by media organisations worldwide.

Last month the IPCC released the full report, together with the data behind this startlingly optimistic claim. Only then did it emerge that it was based solely on the most optimistic of 164 modelling scenarios researchers investigated. And this single scenario stemmed from a single study that was traced back to a report by the environmental organisation Greenpeace. The author of that report, a Greenpeace staff member, was one of the IPCC lead authors.

The claim rested on the assumption of a large reduction in global energy use. Given the number of people climbing out of poverty in China and India, that is a deeply implausible scenario.

When the IPCC first made the claim, global-warming activists and renewable-energy companies cheered. "The report clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies could supply the world with more energy than it would ever need," boasted Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council.

This sort of behaviour, with activists and big energy companies uniting to applaud anything that suggests a need for increased subsidies to alternative energy, was famously captured by the so-called "bootleggers and baptists" theory of politics.

The theory grew out of the experience of the southern US, where many jurisdictions required stores to close on Sunday, thus preventing the sale of alcohol. The regulation was supported by religious groups for moral reasons, but also by bootleggers, because they had the market to themselves on Sundays. Politicians would adopt the Baptists' pious rhetoric, while quietly taking campaign contributions from the criminals.

Of course, today's climate-change "bootleggers" are not engaged in any illegal behaviour.

But the self-interest of energy companies, biofuel producers, insurance firms, lobbyists, and others in supporting "green" policies is a point that is often missed.

Indeed, the "bootleggers and Baptists" theory helps to account for other developments in global warming policy over the past decade or so. For example, the Kyoto Protocol would have cost trillions of dollars, but would have achieved a practically indiscernible difference in stemming the rise in global temperature. Yet activists claimed that there was a moral obligation to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, and were cheered on by businesses that stood to gain.

During the ill-fated Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009, Denmark's capital city was plastered with slick ads urging the delegates to make a strong deal. They were paid for by Vestas, the world's largest windmill producer.

Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, a famous convert to environmentalism, drafted a "plan" (which he named after himself) to increase America's reliance on renewables. Of course, he would also have been one of the main investors in the wind-power and natural-gas companies that would benefit from government subsidies.

Traditional energy giants like BP and Shell have championed their "green" credentials, while standing to profit from selling oil or gas instead of environmentally "unfriendly" coal. Even US electricity giant Duke Energy, a big coal consumer, won green kudos for promoting a US cap-and-trade scheme. But the firm ended up opposing the draft legislation to create such a scheme, because it did not provide sufficient free carbon-emission permits for coal companies.

Elsewhere in the world, dubious claims by faithful activists gave rise to the biofuels industry (with supporting lobbyists).

Biofuel production likely increases atmospheric carbon, owing to the massive deforestation that it requires, while crop diversion increases food prices and contributes to global hunger. While environmentalists have started to acknowledge this, the industry received a lot of activist support when it began, and neither agribusiness nor green-energy producers have any interest in changing course now.

Obviously, private firms are motivated by self-interest, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But too often we hear commentators suggest that when Greenpeace and big business agree on something, it must be a sensible option. Business support for expensive policies such as the Kyoto Protocol, which would have done very little for climate change, indicate otherwise.

The climate-change "Baptists" provide the moral cover that politicians can use to sell regulation, along with scary stories that the media can use to attract readers or viewers.

Businesses see opportunities for taxpayer-funded subsidies, and to pass on inevitable cost growth to consumers.

Unfortunately, this convergence of interests can push us to focus on ineffective, expensive responses to climate change. Whenever opposite political forces attract, as activists and big business have in the case of global warming, there is a high risk that the public interest will be caught in the middle.


21 July, 2011

The disgraceful TGA under scrutiny at last

There seems to be nothing like a health bureaucracy for arrogance. The attack on Pan Pharmaceuticals by the TGA was a monstrosity of arrogance which cost the taxpayer around $120 million all-up eventually and also lost Australia a significant export industry. And the feminazis at the heart of the TGA action -- Fiona Cumming and Rita Maclachlan -- still seem to be in their jobs! More background here

AUSTRALIA'S medicines watchdog is set for a shake-up after an inquiry criticised its secrecy and inefficiency. An eight-month investigation into the Health Department's Therapeutic Goods Administration has called on the industry-funded regulator to publish the results of all its safety investigations, and improve the way it gathers and reports the side-effects of medicines and vaccines.

The inquiry's report, released yesterday, says the TGA should investigate putting a new "black triangle" logo on the packets of all new medicines, to warn the public that the safety of newly approved drugs has yet to be proven in the marketplace. It concludes that Australians know more about US regulator the Food and Drugs Administration than their own TGA.

"It's a worry," said the head of the inquiry, former commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce. "Even among health industry people, they seemed to find it easier to get information from the FDA website than to find out things that are happening with the TGA. "The TGA should be listening to what people want and meeting their requests but there has been a tendency to not pay as much heed to the needs of consumers for some time now."

Professor Pearce called for some taxpayer funding of the TGA, the world's only industry regulator entirely funded through levies on the pharmaceutical sector. The TGA was funded by taxpayers until 1998, when the Howard government switched to full cost recovery.

He said the TGA should publish the agendas and minutes of its advisory committees, subject to commercial confidentiality restrictions. "They do practise a fairly strict conflict of interest process (but) we have suggested that conflicts of interest (among TGA advisers) be made clearer and be announced," he said.

The report concludes that "the expectations of the public are not being met".

"The TGA should adopt a proactive stance to the many issues relating to therapeutic goods that are of concern to the public it serves," it says. "It should move away from the conservative approach that has characterised its actions in the past."

The report says the TGA has an ongoing responsibility to monitor the safety of products after it approves their use, and let the public know about any new information that "changes the risk-benefit ratio".

"It is also essential that the TGA's independence from sponsors and fairness in decision-making be reinforced by openness in its dealings," it says.

The report says the TGA should let the public search its database of "adverse events" to drugs and vaccines. It says the public does not understand that the TGA does not individually assess "low-risk" medical products, but relies on information from the manufacturers. Complementary medicines, such as vitamins and other alternative health products, are not evaluated by the TGA at all.

Consumer Health Forum chief executive Carol Bennett -- a member of the inquiry, which included representatives of the Australian Medical Association, the pharmaceutical industry and consumer groups -- yesterday called on the government to make the changes recommended. "There's been too much secrecy about what the TGA does," she said. "It is time they had some transparency and accountability."

A spokesman for Parliamentary Secretary for Health Catherine King said the government was still considering the findings.


No hospital bed in Sydney for pregnant mother

And moving the woman 3 hours by road when she was in premature labor is unbelievable. No helicopter or aerial ambulance?

A WOMAN in premature labour with twins was forced to spend three hours being transported to another city by ambulance because there were no beds in Sydney hospitals for her and her babies.

Sheryl Kahi, 20, travelled more than 200km from Cambelltown to Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital yesterday after she went into labour at just 26 week's gestation.

Despite the critical condition of her twins - about to be born 14 weeks early - Ms Kahi was told there were no vacant neonatal intensive care beds anywhere in Sydney.

Paramedics were then faced with the possibility she would give birth without adequate equipment to care for such gravely ill babies.

This is the second time in as many months a pregnant woman has been forced to travel hundreds of kilometres from Sydney because of bed shortages.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner last night said she understood patients' concerns but there were more than enough beds to cater for the state. "Having these cots, with their accompanying highly trained clinicians sitting idle, is expensive so it is smarter and more cost-effective to quickly and safely move patients to an available cot anywhere in the state," Ms Skinner said.

There are 130 neonatal intensive care cots and 400 special care cots in NSW.

In May, a woman pregnant with triplets had to be flown interstate to give birth because one of Sydney's largest maternity units did not have enough specialist neonatal cots to care for her babies.

Bronwyn Burns said she was told she could have her babies at the Royal Women's Hospital in Randwick but that after the triplets arrived one would have to go to Nepean Hospital while another would be flown to Melbourne because there were not enough cots.

The 33-year-old woman was instead flown to Canberra Hospital, which had three neonatal cots available.

In 2005, a woman from Quakers Hill in Sydney's west arrived at Windsor Hospital only to be taken to Canberra to deliver her premature baby.

The NSW Ambulance Service confirmed yesterday it had transported Ms Kahi to Newcastle by road but said the decision to move her was made by NSW Health.

Sources said that, despite the grave fears for Ms Kahi's health and that of her premature babies, medical staff at Campbelltown insisted she be moved to Newcastle.

At one stage during the trip Ms Kahi's health deteriorated so badly the ambulance was forced to switch on its siren and call a code one emergency.

NSW Health late yesterday said Ms Kahi was in a stable condition: "We always try to keep expectant mothers as close to home as possible. However, during times of peak demand mothers with high-risk births occasionally need to be transferred to other hospitals for specialised care."


Fewer students to win skilled migrant visas to Australia

FAR fewer overseas students will be able to parlay Australian qualifications into skilled migrant visas under tough new rules, Monash University researcher Bob Birrell says.

They may account for just 4000 visas a year, compared with 19,352 visas for this group in 2006-07 and 17,552 in 2007-08, boom times for the business model in which education was sold as a pathway to migration.

Dr Birrell said the unpublished Department of Immigration and Citizenship estimate of 4000 was "an unmistakable signal that the industry needs to set its marketing around selling an education that is valuable back in the country of origin".

A series of reforms, including a new skilled migration points test from July 1, have weakened the policy link between education and migration.

Announcing changes last year, then immigration minister Chris Evans famously said under the old rules cooks and hairdressers would qualify but not a Harvard environmental scientist.

The new regime favours offshore rather than onshore applications and advanced rather than basic skills. The benefit of having a relative in Australia has all but gone. "The changes will favour overseas applicants from English-speaking countries who can meet the much tougher English language requirements of the new points test," Dr Birrell and colleagues say in a report from the Monash Centre for Population and Urban Research.

The report gives new insight into the "stockpiling" of thousands of overseas students by DIAC. These include many students with cookery and hairdressing qualifications who would win visas under the old rules but whose cases have been put off and who are now on bridging visas.

In December last year, there were 29,211 former vocational education students on bridging visas, as well as another 26,309 former higher education students. About 16,000 of these former students had applied for skilled migration visas. In 2009-10, there were 28,126 applications for the graduate skilled bridging visa that is held by many former overseas students caught mid-stream by policy reforms.

The Birrell report predicts some of Mr Bowen's hypothetical Harvard scientists will have to wait as his department works through this backlog of students with lower skill levels. "Unpublished statistics show tens of thousands of former overseas students will benefit from the transitional arrangements in place," the report says. "Applications for permanent residence from these students will crowd out better qualified applicants for several years."

But a DIAC spokesman said applicants "who demonstrate the skills most needed by the Australian economy" always would be processed first.


Leftist bigotry: Why bless burkas and ban bogans?

Brendan O'Neill

IS it racist and irrational to criticise aspects of Islam? Judging from the vituperative war of words launched against a group of people who took part in a "ban the burka" protest this week, it seems it is.

Earlier this month, three men in Geelong, Victoria, set up a Facebook page called "Ban the Burqa". They invited people to protest against the burka by wearing balaclavas or motorcycle helmets to work on July 18, to show how ridiculous it was to allow "face covering" in everyday life.

Nearly 20,000 people signed up to the Facebook page and pledged to take part in the burka-baiting activities. As soon as they got a whiff of the planned protest, commentators were consumed by fury. We shouldn't ban the burka, we should ban the "racist bogans" who protested against it, spat Susie O'Brien of Melbourne's the Herald Sun. She said the protest posed a more serious threat to society than burkas did, accusing the allegedly bird-brained organisers of "fuelling race divisions" and "inciting confrontation".

A Herald Sun reporter said there were fears the protest could "provoke hysteria". Others said it might "provoke riots". Helen Szoke of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission said it would "stoke fear". Without a smidgen of irony, she demanded that "as a diverse and tolerant society, [we should] identify racist beliefs and behaviours and declare them intolerable". So a tolerant society must refuse to tolerate opposition to the burka. Who's bird-brained?

So what happened in Geelong on Monday, the day of protest? Was there a riot, anti-Muslim lynchings? Nope. Nothing much happened at all. As the Herald Sun was forced to admit, the protest was a fizzer. A handful of people seemed to take part, but it was hard to tell, since some of them might have been wearing motorcycle helmets because they actually rode motorcycles.

You couldn't have asked for a better snapshot of the chasm that separates the cultural elite from ordinary people. On one side a group of everyday folk concerned about certain bits of Islam decided to hold a protest, and on the other side, in the rarefied environs of newspaper offices and equality commissions, the great and the good went mad, wildly predicting riots and bloodshed.

The great irony is that respectable commentators' depiction of the protesters as racist bogans was far more crude and caricatured than anything the protesters themselves said about Muslims. If a gang of Geelong men had called for the banning of a Muslim parade on the basis that it might provoke hysteria among the strange brown hordes, there would be outrage, rightly. But apparently it's OK to heap hatred on "bogans", on those insufficiently educated inhabitants of backward white Australia, whose political views are apparently illegitimate and not worth listening to.

This is PC bigotry. Indeed, much concern about bigotry against Muslims, where the cultural elite warns about the dangers of rampant Islamophobia, is a cover for expressing bigotry against the Oz masses.

Fretting about Islamophobia has become a coded way of fretting about the unpredictable little people with their weird views and their propensity to "revile difference", as a writer for The Sydney Morning Herald put it. Where bigotry against Muslims is condemned as intolerable, bigotry against the masses can be indulged at leisure, without one having to worry about being condemned or censured by language-policing equality commissions. After all, they partake in such bigotry, too.

The way in which campaigning against Islamophobia has become a PC way of raising concerns about the dumb masses can also be glimpsed in the discussion about sharia law. The revelation that some Muslim communities are practising a shadow legal system of sharia has understandably made many Australians, who believe in the application of universal law, uncomfortable.

Yet some commentators are warning of a potential backlash against Muslims if this story is reported in an irresponsible fashion. It may contribute to Islamophobia, they claim.

That word itself -- Islamophobia -- is intended to delegitimise political criticisms of aspects of Islam. By presenting these criticisms as the product of an irrational fear, as a phobia, the cultural elite is consigning certain views on Islam to the Dustbin of Nonsense. Like coulrophobia, ordinary people's thoughts on Islam are simply irrational, hysterical, not worth engaging with. They should see a shrink rather than organise a protest.

It's hard being a snob these days. It is no longer acceptable to use phrases such as "the great unwashed" or "savages" to express your disdain for the drongos who make up mass society. Instead you have to couch your class hatred in more acceptable terms. And the great thing about the ideology of Islamophobia is it allows you to express your intolerance of the vast majority of the population under the guise of promoting tolerance for put-upon minorities.

As it happens, I am opposed to banning the burka. I think it would be a grave assault on freedom of religion. But I am also against the censorship or unhinged demonisation of those who, quite legitimately, hold the opposite view.



Iemma predicts carbon calamity

FORMER NSW premier Morris Iemma has become the most senior Labor figure to oppose Julia Gillard's carbon tax. Mr Iemma says the carbon tax that forms federal Labor's platform for re-election in 2013 is environmentally marginal, economically costly and likely to lead Labor to a historic electoral train wreck. "One thing is sure -- it won't change the world, but it could change the government," Mr Iemma told The Australian.

Mr Iemma accused the Gillard government of betraying the Hawke-Keating legacy of economic reform, instead embracing the environmental policies of the Greens' agenda. "We embraced economic growth, and the benefits of economic growth, in the Hawke-Keating era, but we're fighting this battle on the Greens' turf, not our turf. Bob Brown wants to replace the Labor Party as a major party."

Mr Iemma accepted the science of climate change. "Yes, we should take action, but we should not get so far out in front that we injure ourselves," he said. He rejected the government's view that Australia's carbon tax was similar in scope to actions being taken by other countries. "Every day there are reports of growth and development in China, its growth in emissions will far outstrip our total emissions," Mr Iemma said. "The carbon tax at best reduces the rate of increase of emissions slightly."

Mr Iemma said the Greens had wielded excessive influence on the government's policies, pointing to the $10 billion Clean Energy Fund, which excludes carbon capture and storage. "We ought to be fighting the Greens on the Left with Labor environmental policies and Labor economic policies, not on the Greens' terms. We've adopted a policy which is part of the Greens' agenda. "And the Greens' agenda is anti-growth and anti-investment. Lower growth and lower investment lead to lower incomes and fewer jobs."

Mr Iemma said the sidelining of federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was "quite disgraceful". "We should always be standing shoulder to shoulder with steelworkers and miners and factory workers before we stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Bob Brown and Christine Milne," he added. "One of the reasons previously rusted-on Labor voters are parking themselves somewhere else is that we've confused our identity."

Mr Iemma said that NSW would be particularly hurt by the carbon tax in smelting, steelworks and manufacturing in western Sydney. "Voter reaction ranges from unease and uncertainty to outright hostility. I went down a coalmine myself recently and all the guys I spoke to were uncertain of their futures."

Mr Iemma said the NSW Greenhouse Gas Reduction Scheme, instituted by his predecessor Bob Carr and extended while Mr Iemma was premier, offered federal Labor a far more effective, practical and reasonable template than the carbon tax.

The scheme has resulted in 80 million tonnes of carbon abatement at relatively little cost and without substantial economic dislocation. "The NSW government started with a policy to constrain emissions, not an ideological position to constrain growth."

Mr Iemma's comments reflect the growing dismay of many Labor politicians in private. It also demonstrates a particular bitterness in NSW that Ms Gillard's February announcement of a carbon tax -- breaking an election promise -- made NSW Labor's March election defeat much heavier than it would have been.

He is the most senior Labor figure to come out publicly against the carbon tax and his comments represent a devastating setback for the government.


Carbon price battle is lost, say experts

Political experts believe the battle to sell the carbon tax to the Australian public has been lost and the Prime Minister can do nothing to change voters' minds on the issue.

A poll by ReachTel has shown a week of public campaigning on the climate change reform by Julia Gillard has failed to sway voter opinion on the tax in the past seven days.

Despite the issue dominating the news cycle for the past week, support for the carbon tax (32.4 per cent) remained 28.6 points behind support against the reform (61 per cent) over the past seven days.

Reader in politics at the University of Queensland Ian Ward said the public had made their minds up on the issue and any effort to sell the tax was "a lost cause".

"This is an issue that voters have made their minds up on and even if a significant chunk of the electorate moved in favour there is still going to be substantial antagonism and opposition to the government and its policy," he said.

"So a government advertising campaign and some explanation in the media, it's really not likely to fundamentally change the government's position in the polls."

Dr Ward said the tax was being used as a fulcrum for wider resentment and anger towards the Labor government over failures to manage past problems such as the asylum seeker issue.

"It's not as if the carbon tax issue has damaged the government, the government was damaged when it took up this issue," he said. "This is an issue on which opinion is entrenched, it's an issue which is a touchstone for much wider resentment of the Labor government. "Some advertising about the carbon tax, some explanation that it is not as threatening as its opponents have made it out to be is not going to placate more than a small percentage of the electorate."

Political communication lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology Wayne Murphy said the prime minister had been most effective selling the tax in the past week by providing everyday examples of the tax's effect for audience members on Q&A.

He said if the government could put up another politician, such as former ACTU secretary Greg Combet, to simplify the issue for the public, they may be able to make inroads.

"Generally people don't want to think too much about complex issues, they'd rather try and boil things down into simple terms which is what Tony Abbott has been able to do with his 'great big new tax' line," he said. "This is an issue where if you do want to understand it, you do need to understand the sorts of detail that people just don't want to know."

The poll also revealed 58.3 per cent of people said they were less likely to vote for the government on the basis on the carbon tax announcement.

Mr Murphy said the government would likely be relying on the opposition to make costly mistakes in the lead-up to the next election to make up ground on the Coalition. "The best luck the ALP could have is Tony Abbott reverts back to his old form and implode at some stage by making a big gaffe or really contradicting himself," he said.

Dr Ward said the government's only option was to 'tough out' the opposition to the tax. "When it is passed as an issue I think some of the steam will come out of it and the government will move on to other things," he said.


Respect the science and don't call CO2 a pollutant

By Ziggy Switkowski (Ziggy Switkowski is chancellor of RMIT University)

WHY do we allow our political leaders and the commentariat to refer to carbon dioxide as a pollutant instead of a greenhouse gas? Some time ago, politicians or their advisers decided a clever way to frame the climate change debate was to label carbon dioxide as a pollutant: hence the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Of course, in 2015 our government proposes to move to an emissions trading scheme, which has a better resonance than a pollution trading scheme, were they to be consistent. I believe in the science of climate change and the role of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, from household and industrial use of fossil fuels. But I am offended by the manipulation of the argument by deliberately coding CO2 as a pollutant, which it is not, and implying some environmental agenda where there is none.

When fossil fuels such as coal, gas and petrol are burned, there are a number of by-products.

Particulate matter that is not filtered from exhausts and escapes from smokestacks is polluting and contributes to smog and serious respiratory and other community health problems, such as widely experienced in China with its many coal-fired power stations and old technology. Paradoxically, particle emissions contribute to global cooling but are definitely pollution.

Gases such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide arising from the combustion of coal can cause acid rain; they also are pollution.

Water vapour, as seen billowing from the hyperboloid cooling towers much favoured by photo editors, is not pollution unless we include clouds and rain in that definition, which few do.

Carbon dioxide, which is produced in great quantities also, but is colourless and normally benign, is not a pollutant. It is a greenhouse gas which, as its concentration increases in the atmosphere, contributes to the warming of the planet. It is a greenhouse gas, not a pollutant, in the context of climate change.

CO2 is necessary to plant life and in regulating our temperature and climate. The level of CO2 prior to the industrial revolution in the 1700s was about 280 parts per million in the atmosphere and no one believes that level was excessive. Today that level is about 390ppm and CO2 has become a pollutant. At what level did this change of status occur and in which decade or generation?

Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland, parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada. To them, increasing CO2 is not a problem. Is it possible for CO2 to be a pollutant in the southern hemisphere but beneficial in large parts of the north? What previously unknown principle of chemistry is at work here, which changes the character of a molecule depending on location?

Here is another matter that unsettles me. Why are smelters where aluminium is refined labelled as dirty polluters? One doesn't see chimneys or stacks at a smelter. Few emissions arise from the industrial site and no atmospheric pollution.

The answer appears to be that smelting is a very high user of electricity: at present about 11 per cent of national electricity consumption. Aluminium is known as congealed electricity.

There is an argument that energy intensive industries helped supercharge our economy and standard of living through the decades. But they are now unfashionable because of the pollution label, and because of a political ideology that affordable energy will not be the basis of our modern economy. But is it right, fair or sensible that input electricity is demonised with the pollution brand?

Do we label pharmaceutical companies as drug dealers because some of their pain killers are made from heroin, a nasty product if abused?

Is my granddaughter an environmental vandal because she "contaminates" eight nappies a day destined for landfill. Who dares call babies polluters?

If your energy hungry plasma television is bigger than mine, are you a polluter?

Finally, our 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target smoothly and uncritically has shifted from -60 per cent to -80 per cent. I guess one fanciful goal is as good as another. But now we have the Greens talking about -100 per cent, that is, taking all carbon out of our system. With goodwill, I assume this is hypothetical, a conversation starter perhaps?

So why stop there? Let's aim for -150 per cent by 2050. That means taking out more greenhouse gas than we produce, perhaps remedying generations of excessive emissions by our reckless ancestors and righting a historic wrong. The techniques to do this are being developed. Early on we can dedicate more acreage to planting more trees and so on, perhaps reclaiming land from people and putting pressure on us to reduce our habitat and population. Eventually, technology will arrive to remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and oceans and, as a (temporarily) rich country we've the means to fund such efforts and do even more than our fair share.

Of course, if half of our planned greenhouse gas reduction arises from purchasing carbon credits offshore, then it's just a question of money. Why stop at half?

Here's my simple summary of our present energy strategy: no coal, no gas, no nuclear -- no clue.


Alarmism a danger to democracy: Vaclav Klaus

FALLS in European carbon emissions can be attributed to an economic slowdown rather than the EU's emissions trading scheme, Czech President Vaclav Klaus says.

Mr Klaus arrives in Australia today to talk on climate change in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in a tour organised by the Institute of Public Affairs.

"The relationship between economic activity and carbon emissions is very strong and very stable," the former economist told The Australian.

Mr Klaus believes some slowing down of carbon emissions trends in Europe was more influenced by the global financial crisis than the European ETS.

The President applies economic reasoning to put climate change in perspective. "Any rational economist must always stress the standard cost-benefit analysis instead of precautionary principle used by global warming alarmists. The costs of fighting the climate will be much higher than the costs of potential global warming -- if there will be any -- in the foreseeable future."

Mr Klaus, who entered public life in 1989 when he and colleagues volunteered their services to the leaders of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution against the communist regime imposed in the aftermath of World War II, warns that climate change is being used as a political weapon by the Left. "I do not believe in the innocence of global warming alarmists," he said. "They do not care about the environment, they just misuse it in their crusade, which aims at limiting our freedom and prosperity.

"I don't want to make cheap comparisons of their ideology with communism, but I do see many similarities . . . It is a new variant for the activist political Left, and I spent all my life fighting such a political thinking because I lived in such a political system."

Mr Klaus fears the climate change debate is leading to the politicisation of science.

And he is amazed at the comment by activist Clive Hamilton that climate change may demand "the suspension of democratic processes". "We have heard many times in the past, especially in the tragic moments of the 20th century, words like 'suspension of democratic processes' in the name of 'higher values, goals, ideas'." Communism was a typical example, he said. "We have to insist there is no trade-off between democracy and concrete goals."


20 July, 2011

Media inquiry just a tool to stifle critical comment

Starting a debate about media bias is one way to get the focus off the carbon tax

By Peter Costello, Federal treasurer from 1996 to 2007.

IN 1981 there was an inquiry into ownership and control of newspapers in Victoria by a retired Supreme Court judge. I worked on it as a lawyer representing Fairfax.

In 1991 there was a Commonwealth parliamentary inquiry into print media. It turned into a tour de force for Kerry Packer. I served on the committee as an MP.

Now the leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, has come up with a new and novel idea - another inquiry into the media. He sees an opportunity arising from the phone hacking scandal in Britain. There is no doubt that this has exposed the low life of some journalism. But no one has suggested anything like that conduct occurred in Australia. And if it has, then those responsible should be prosecuted and punished. We don't need a media inquiry for that. We need a police investigation.
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So what is the case for another media inquiry in Australia? Brown is complaining of what he calls "the hate media". By this he does not mean media that advocate gay bashing or boycotts against Jewish business. By this he means media that are critical of the carbon tax that Julia Gillard promised not to introduce, is now introducing and which is opposed by 60 per cent of Australians.

Brown has suggested a new licensing regime so that newspapers can be published only by "a fit and proper" person. By definition, a person who spreads hate is not "fit and proper" to publish a newspaper. So there you have a neat little formula to strip an owner or threaten a newspaper with closure. If its coverage engenders "hatred" for certain policies, then you take away the licence.

Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy seem to be keen on an inquiry. They are not silly enough to try to close down newspapers - no matter how critical they get. But they are smart enough to know that if an inquiry opens up ownership and regulation issues, they can promise benefits or withdraw privileges that may have a real financial effect on publishers. And with an inquiry under way, owners and their editors might be a little more careful about their criticism.

It is a good strategy. First of all, by starting a debate on media bias, they have cleverly shifted the discussion off the carbon tax. Which as you would have noticed is not going too well. Secondly, an inquiry could leave the media in a state of flux and uncertainty through to the next election.

In February 2010, Senator Conroy surprised financial markets by announcing a cut in television licence fees. He announced a rebate of 33 per cent in 2010 and 50 per cent in 2011 for the commercial networks. This is a government that cannot balance its budget. It has introduced a new flood tax. It complains that middle income earners get tax breaks. Yet it decided to cut tax for three wealthy companies by more than $200 million. Why, of all the taxpayers in Australia, do you think television networks were singled out for $200 million of tax breaks six months before an election?

Senator Conroy became a powerful factional boss in the ALP by rewarding friends and punishing enemies. He thinks he can run media policy along the same lines.

Those who want a licensing regime for newspapers point to the fact that television and radio stations need licences. So have you noticed that broadcasters in this country have higher standards than newspapers as a result? If it hasn't led to better broadcast standards, why would it affect print media? And there is a fundamental difference. Television and radio stations are licensed to use a public asset - the spectrum - for which they pay a fee. Newspapers do not use public resources. Introducing a new licence and fee regime for print would provide a mechanism for canny politicians to ingratiate themselves by offering rebates from time to time.

All my experience tells me that when a government begins to play around with new forms of media regulation what they really have in mind is content - in particular how to promote favourable comment and discourage critical comment.

In my time in politics, some of the most disgraceful reporting came from the ABC. But senators Brown and Conroy have no proposals for new regulation there. The proposals are aimed squarely at news media that they regard as critical.

Don't get me wrong. I am no fan of the Australian media. I have put up with distortions and misrepresentations too many to count. But allowing media to be free - including the freedom to be wrong - is one of those necessary things if we want to live in a democracy. And the proposals being bandied around now are not part of a considered plan to encourage flourishing critical media. In fact just the reverse.


Continuing riots and protests at Australian immigration detention centres

These are an excellent way of publicizing the fact that most illegals simply get locked up. They should deter future illegal arrivals

ANOTHER protest has broken out at the Christmas Island detention centre with at least three asylum seekers taking to the rooftop of the facility to wage a "peaceful protest".

The assistance of the Australian Federal Police was required overnight at the island's North West Point facility after about 50 detainees were involved in a disturbance.

The detainees caused damage to the centre and lit small fires, some in rubbish bins, which were quickly extinguished by detention centre managers Serco.

"There's been some disruptive behaviour within the compound overnight. The Australian Federal Police was called in to assist. It was serious enough to warrant their involvement," an Immigration Department spokesman said this morning.

By this morning, the AFP had restored order to the facility and the disruptive asylum seekers are now being monitored in the common area of the compound known as the "green heart".

Under changes to the Migration Act which passed the parliament earlier this month, any detainee who is convicted of an offence in immigration detention will automatically fail the "character test".

An immigration department spokesman warned that disruptive behaviour could affect visa processing outcomes and said the department found the conduct of those involved disappointing. "This kind of behaviour can effect the processing of a visa," said the spokesman.

However, according to Social Justice Network spokesman Jamal Daoud, about 200 detainees were involved in setting fire to rubbish bins and other materials at the centre late last night. He could not say what started the trouble. "There are three on the roof protesting," he said.

On Sunday night, a group of 11 asylum seekers climbed on the roof at the detention centre's main compound, which mainly holds single adult males. They climbed down on Monday.


Now Gillard is trying to stop sick Australians getting drugs they need

Politicians as judges of medical matters? It takes socialists to want to control everything

ELEVEN major drug companies have threatened to stop bringing new medicines to Australia and halt clinical trials over the Gillard government's decision to let cabinet choose which drugs get subsidised on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

The companies have been joined in their outcry by consumer groups, academics and doctors, who have condemned the process and warned that cabinet's new role in approving every new medicine subsidy risks a situation where drugs may be funded only if they will win votes.

More than 50 consumer, medical and pharmaceutical groups have raised a storm of protest at the new policy in submissions to a Senate inquiry. They warn that the lack of formal criteria to guide decisions will leave cabinet open to claims it is "unfair or biased".

For 62 years, governments have accepted the advice of the independent and expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee about which medicines should be subsidised. In February, the Gillard government deferred seven PBAC recommendations to save about $120 million.

Until February, cabinet only had a role in considering subsidies for medicines that cost more than $10m a year. However, in almost every case it approved subsidies for high-cost drugs recommended by the PBAC, which applies a rigorous cost-effectiveness test to drug approvals. Only two drugs -- Viagra and nicotine patches -- were knocked back by cabinet.

Now the government says cabinet will have a role every time in deciding which drugs should get a subsidy, after PBAC has completed its cost-effectiveness studies.

Eleven drug companies, including the world's largest, Pfizer, as well as GlaxoSmithKline and Astra Zeneca, say the uncertainty that results from cabinet's new drug subsidy process means clinical trials may stop, and it will be difficult to mount a business case for bringing new medicines to Australia.

The government's new subsidy approval policy stunned drug company chiefs as it came just months after legislation was passed to cement an agreement with pharmaceutical companies that would cut $1.9 billion from the price government pays for medicines over four years. This memorandum of understanding was meant to deliver business certainty to medicine companies for the next five years.

In the memorandum of understanding signed before last year's federal budget, the commonwealth said it undertook "not to implement new policy to generate price-related savings from the PBS during the period of the agreement".

The Department of Health and Ageing says PBAC recommendations have always required government approval and "this is not a new pricing policy". "It is taking a consistent approach to all listings with a financial impact by ensuring they are subject to the same processes already applied to those listings with a financial impact greater than $10m in any year," its submission says.

Drug companies have told the Senate committee that cabinet's decision to defer drug subsidies breaches the spirit of this agreement and is the reason drug companies may decide not to bring new medicines to Australia.

The government says there has not been any breach of the agreement and the companies are still actively seeking to list new drugs on the PBS, with 62 submissions at this month's meeting of the PBAC, a similar number to previous meetings.

Pharmaceutical company Janssen says it spent $12m on PBAC fees, training for mental health nurses and building up stocks of its schizophrenia drug after it was approved by PBAC, only to have it knocked back by cabinet. "The current lack of predictability in Australia's reimbursement system is likely to affect the priority given to introducing new medicines in Australia compared with other nations," Janssen has told the Senate committee.

GlaxoSmithKline says: "Increased uncertainty about the use of a medicine in Australia will make it increasingly difficult for us to secure local sites as part of global phase II and phase III clinical trials."

Drug company Novo Nordisk has warned that, unless the government gives an assurance the new subsidy policy will be reversed, "this will most certainly impair Novo Nordisk's ability to bring its significant pipeline of innovative anti-diabetic medicines to Australia".

iNova Pharmaceuticals says it wants to bring new medicines to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and skin cancer to Australia. "However, arrangements to bring these therapies to Australian patients require certainty of the PBS listing timeframes which is currently proving difficult in light of the recent PBS deferrals," the company says.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon is on leave and was unavailable for comment last night but she has strongly defended cabinet's new role in approving drug subsidies. "While PBAC's enduring success is reflected in the fact successive governments have rarely had to differ from its recommendations, ultimately it is and always has been government's responsibility to decide whether to list a new drug," she told the Consumers Health Forum in April.

Medicines that could be held back from Australia include drugs being developed to treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health and respiratory problems.

The drug companies argue that approving the drugs could create savings in the long run through reduced health costs.

The Department of Health and Ageing in its submission to the inquiry justifies cabinet's new role in medicine approval on the grounds of "current fiscal circumstances". It says that although subsidies for seven new medicines were delayed, 124 new medicines were listed on the drug subsidy scheme between January 1 and July 31 this year at a cost of $561m over five years. A further 33 medicines worth $287m will be listed later this year.

Some life-saving medicines can cost up to $40,000 a year, and government subsidies are essential to make them affordable to patients, cutting their cost to just $34.20 a month, or $5.40 for pensioners.


Sharia law at work in Australia

SHARIA law has become a shadow legal system within Australia, endorsing polygamous and underage marriages that are outlawed under the Marriage Act.

A system of "legal pluralism" based on sharia law "abounds" in Australia, according to new research by legal academics Ann Black and Kerrie Sadiq. They have found that Australian Muslims have long been complying with the shadow system of religious law as well as mainstream law.

But in family law, not all Muslims were registering their marriages and some were relying on religious ceremonies to validate unions that breached the Marriage Act. This included "polygynist marriages", in which a man takes multiple wives, and marriages where one party is under the lawful marriage age.

Their research, which will be published on Monday in the University of NSW Law Journal, says that the wider community has been "oblivious to the legal pluralism that abounds in this country".

The findings come soon after Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, triggered a backlash inside the Islamic community when he called for Australia to compromise with Islam and embrace legal pluralism. Mr Patel later said he supported secular law and it had been a mistake to even mention legal pluralism.

The latest research has found that while polygamy is unlawful, mainstream law accommodates men who arrive in Australia with multiple wives and gives some legal standing to multiple partnerships that originate in Australia. "Valid Muslim polygynist marriages, lawfully entered into overseas, are recognised, with second and third wives and their children able to claim welfare and other benefits," they write.

Changes to the Family Law Act in 2008 meant that polygamous religious marriages entered into in Australia could also be recognised as de facto marriages. "It means a second wife can be validly married under Islamic law . . . and be a defacto wife under Australian law with the same legal entitlements as any other de facto relationship," they write.

The findings on polygamy were confirmed yesterday by Islamic community leader Kuranda Seyit. His personal view was "one wife is enough". But a small minority of Muslim men were taking second wives in ways that breached family law and their Islamic obligations.

"A second wife is permitted under Islam, but it is very difficult and there must be absolutely equal treatment of both wives," said Mr Seyit, who is director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations.

He was aware of a very small number of "exploitative" arrangements in which men were taking much younger second wives and not complying with the sharia requirement of equal treatment. "It's definitely a minority, but unfortunately is does exist and I think it comes down to the standard of living that Australia affords many men who normally would not be able to afford such a situation," Mr Seyit said.

In their article, associate professor Sadiq and Ms Black note that research on Islamic marriage found in 2008 that 90 per cent of Muslims did not want to change Australian law.

They write that many Muslims support the protection of human rights and had come to Australia because of practices such as genital mutilation and honour killings in countries ruled by unreformed versions of sharia. However, they suggest there should be "tweaking" of family law to take account of sharia.

They suggest that the Family Law Act could be changed to ensure that when courts make parenting orders Muslim children are given similar rights to those enjoyed by indigenous children. This would require courts to consider they have a right to enjoy their own culture and the culture of people who share their culture.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said if there was ever any inconsistency between cultural values and the rule of law "then Australian law wins out". "There is only one law that's applicable in Australia - that's Australian law based on our common law tradition," he said. "Our constitutional founders included a provision against the state endorsing or prescribing any religion or religious practice."

He said the Family Law Act included specific provision for courts to consider, among other factors, an individual's lifestyle and background culture and traditions. "The government believes these provisions to be adequate," Mr McClelland said.


Women enraged over content of 'degrading' billboard advertisement

A billboard advertising power tools demeans women say its critics. The billboard at the intersection of Beaudesert and Riawena roads, Coopers Plains, is an advertisement for The Tool Shop and depicts three women holding power tools alongside the wording "Imagine all 3 at once? We can ..."

Minister for Women Karen Struthers said the wording was an explicit sexual reference that degrades women.

The Tool Shop's business development manager Esala Roqica defended the ad. "We didn't think the women in our billboard were dressed provocatively at all," he said. "With the words in the ad that's what we were going for, that we don't just have one range of tools, we have tools for everyone."

So far less than five complaints have been lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau. A spokeswoman said the board would make a decision on the advertisement this week.


19 July, 2011

Little white lies: Agnok Lueth adopts 'Daniel McClean' on his CV to try to get a fair go

A lot of this "racism" is created by the diversity industry itself. If I were an employer, I would be wary of hiring an African too. What if he proved unsuitable for the work and I had to fire him? I would run the risk of being accused of racism for doing so -- and then getting taken before a heavily biased "tribunal" over it. Better to opt for the simple life and not hire him in the first place

A SUDANESE man who has applied unsuccessfully for more than 1000 jobs has resorted to using a fake Anglo name on his resume in a desperate attempt to get work.

Former refugee Agnok Lueth, 23, who fled war-torn Sudan for Melbourne in 2004, created the resume alias "Daniel McClean" because he believed Australian employers were unwilling to give him a fair go under his real name.

Mr Lueth sent out hundreds of resumes for jobs he was qualified for, but only received callbacks on applications with the fake names. Of the six applications with the fake name, he got five callbacks.

The Swinburne University biomedicine and commerce double degree student can speak three languages, has a favourable work history and volunteered for three years for an Australian aid organisation.

Despite meeting the job criteria for positions as a waiter, shop assistant, call centre worker and bank teller, Mr Lueth told mX he felt overlooked by employers.

"I did a test to see if it was an experience problem or something more," he said. "I sent six resumes with my qualifications but used a different name, and I was surprised at how quickly I heard back from five of the companies for interview requests."

Mr Lueth could not say why the five calls did not lead to a job interview. He said one employer only asked him two questions.

The Australian Human Rights Commission's Graeme Innes said there was a growing trend of immigrants adopting western names in the hope it would help them get hired.

"Unfortunately, there are elements of racism in our community and there are definitely people in Australia who make employment decisions on a racist bias," he said. "We like to call ourselves a tolerant society, but this happens a lot more often than we think."

Since university timetable clashes forced Mr Lueth into the job hunt in 2009, he has relied on Centrelink payments and a Smith Family scholarship.

"Sometimes I just feel like giving up," he said. "The Sudanese community is thankful for all the opportunities we're given in Australia, but we have something to make this nation defined by the strength of its diversity."

Smith Family Learning for Life team leader Anne Marmion said Lueth's efforts to secure a job had been "massive". "When a young person has to change their name because they're discriminated against, it's an indication of bias and prejudice in our society and a fear of those who are different," she said.


Gillard declares war on the nation's electricity supply

Trying to stiff the power generators will just send them broke. And Victoria will be in big trouble. Its brown coal generators are both huge and produce very cheap power. Shutting them down will be a disaster, however you look at it. What are they going to replace it with? Are they going to build a black coal generator and ship in coal from interstate to run it? And where will the money come from? The costs defy the imagination

ENERGY Minister Martin Ferguson is staring down demands by the nation's dirtiest coal power plants for multi-billion-dollar payouts to shut down, declaring there is "no bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars" to finance Julia Gillard's clean energy plan.

Mr Ferguson's department has also revealed that money put aside in the taxpayer-funded contingency reserve to support the closure of highly polluting electricity generators will be allocated for after June 30, 2016 - a move that keeps the costs beyond the budget forecasts.

While the government will be asked to pay almost $3 billion to shut down Victoria's Hazelwood plant, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism has insisted in a new fact sheet on the plan that the payment made to close the power stations will be "modest".

"It refers to the fact that there is no bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars," Mr Ferguson told The Australian yesterday.

His department is responsible for implementing the strategy to retire 2000 megawatts of brown-coal power, which forms part of the Prime Minister's clean energy plan released last week.

The warning comes as the $120bn energy sector issues new demands for the government to increase its compensation package for the carbon tax, warning that the chance of blackouts is increasing and that energy retailers could go broke.

New analysis from the Energy Supply Association of Australia of the government's package, provided exclusively to The Australian, concludes that just eight or nine of 31 power stations that produce baseload power will receive assistance and finds that generators will pay $15bn more for carbon permits than they are getting in assistance in the first five years of the scheme.

The group also warns that a key plank of the government's package for electricity generators - emergency federal government loans to head off financial failure, but at rates above the commercial market - could be viewed cynically as a revenue grab by the commonwealth.

As part of its carbon tax package, the government has promised to set up an energy security fund that will give $5.5bn in free permits and cash up to 2016-17.

But this is skewed towards the most emissions-intensive generators - the privately owned brown coal electricity generators in Victoria and South Australia - and will cover only 23 per cent of their expected carbon liability during that time.

Figures from Macquarie Generation, which is owned by the NSW government, have suggested that a carbon price could wipe more than $2bn from the book value of its assets and add about $600 million to its yearly costs.

Macquarie Generation chief Russell Skelton said the firm had commissioned modelling on the impact of the carbon tax package on the business. But he said that because the allocation of free permits was skewed in favour of the privately owned brown-coal generators, revenues to the state governments could be crimped and prices increased.

"Taxpayers of NSW are effectively the owners of us. They see a reduction in revenues that their government has available," Mr Skelton said.

ESAA chief executive Brad Page warned that coal-fired generators could enter into fewer of the hedge contracts with retailers that are used to lock in prices and cushion against the massive price volatility in the high-risk spot market.

Instead, generators could sell power on to the spot market, where prices can reach $12,500/megawatt hour - well above the averages of $30-$40/MWh- to maximise their earnings.

This would increase electricity prices as the Australian Energy Regulator estimates that prices need to spike for only three hours a year to drive up the annual spot price by almost 10 per cent.

"It also means that competition is likely to be reduced as the independent, second-tier retailers can't get hedge contracts and either take risks that could see them go broke or are out of business anyway as they can't sell contracts without adequate hedge cover," Mr Page said.

He said this would be exacerbated by the government's decision not to allow deferred payment for permits as power stations would need a few years worth of permits, or about $10bn worth, in 2015 to back up generator-retailer contracts.

Mr Ferguson's department has released a series of fact sheets on the government's plan and, over the weekend, published on the internet a guide to the plan to pay 2000MW of the dirtiest power stations to close by 2020.

The guide on the so-called "contract for closure" states that the government will not reveal its expectations on the costs of the deal. It says there will be only a small number of power companies that will be able to apply, and adds that the government "must preserve its negotiating position to get the best value for money for the commonwealth".

However, it pointedly describes the plan as "modest" and states that a "certain amount" is in the budget contingency fund beyond June 30, 2016.

The government had previously insisted the fund was not a "rainy day" fund and it had dismissed suggestions the contingency fund would be used to support power companies.


We love prophecies but are unwise to believe them

The most interesting thing I’ve read all year about the climate-change debate is a book that has nothing directly to do with it.

Dan Gardner’s Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail and Why We Believe Them Anyway explores, well, the title pretty sums it up. Gardner runs through a laundry list of culture-shaping fears and hopes and points out that they were almost always wrong.

Capitalism didn’t end up on the ash heap of history. World War I didn’t turn out to be the war to end all wars. Society wasn’t plunged into anarchy by the Y2K bug. The nightmare scenario of overpopulation Malthusians have been banging on about since 1798 is yet to play out.

That’s despite the likes of Paul Ehrlich (the Al Gore of the ‘70s) predicting in 1968 that: “The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundred of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

It’s 2011, and somehow I still don¹t have a robot maid to clean my house or a jetpack to fly me to work.

There are solid evolutionary reasons humans are desperate to know what is likely to be coming around the corner. And there’s a class of experts who make good coin by pandering to our desperate need to glimpse the future. The only problem with this arrangement is that the experts almost never deliver on their side of the bargain.

In 1984, The Economist asked four former finance ministers, four chairmen of multinational companies, four Oxford economics students and four London dustmen to provide a 10-year forecast of what was going to happen to things like inflation, unemployment and oil prices.

A decade on, it was discovered that while nobody¹s predictions had been particularly accurate, the garbos had done as well as the corporate chairmen and considerably better than the students or former finance ministers.

The likely reason the garbologists did better than the economists probably relates to what might be labelled the paradox of prognostication. Those humble types who accept the future is very difficult to predict do much better at forecasting it than those who are supremely confident of their seer-like capabilities - usually because they’re in thrall to One Big Idea That Explains Everything.

Guess which type of expert is most likely to get media attention, research funding and political backing?

Of course, given the marketplace of ideas is filled to bursting with predictions of mankind’s imminent doom, if some course of action is or isn’t taken, there’s still the issue of which apocalypse you choose to fear.

More here

Sharia law comes to Australia

Unlike Mussolini, I don't claim that I am always right, but my inferences yesterday have proven sound

TWO men will face court over allegedly whipping a Muslim man 40 times in a home invasion for drinking alcohol, prohibited under Sharia law.

The 31-year-old was allegedly lashed with electrical cable by four heavily bearded men who broke into his bedroom in Menton St, Silverwater, about 1am on Sunday.

Three of the men, in their late teens or early 20s, allegedly held him down on his bed while a fourth, aged between 40 and 50, allegedly lashed him about 40 times over half an hour.

The victim, a recent Islamic convert known only as Christian, told police he recognised the men from his local mosque who were punishing him for having a few drinks with friends, Seven News reported last night.

He said he was living in fear after the attack, which left him covered in welts.

Police arrested a 20-year-old man at his home in nearby Auburn about 8.30pm on Monday and he was taken to Auburn Police Station, where he was charged with aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence. He was refused bail and will appear in Burwood Local Court today.

A search warrant was executed on a second home in Auburn where police allege a 16-year-old youth assaulted officers. He was arrested and taken to Auburn Police Station, where he was charged with assault, and resisting and hindering officers in the execution of their duty.

He was granted bail to appear in Parramatta Children's court on August 18.


18 July, 2011

Beware the beards!

I don't think I am leaping to conclusions if I say that Sharia law just MIGHT be involved here

A man has been lashed 40 times with a cable after he woke to find four bearded men in his bedroom in Sydney's west, police say. The 31-year-old man was asleep in his Melton Street apartment in Silverwater when he woke to find four unknown men in his bedroom about 1am yesterday.

Three of the intruders allegedly restrained him on the bed, while the fourth used a cable to lash him 40 times. The attack lasted about 30 minutes, police said. The four men then left the flat.

Specialist forensic officers are examining the flat for evidence and detectives are calling for help to identify the men.

The man who allegedly carried out the lashing has been described as being between 40 to 50 years of age, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, 175cm tall with a solid build. He has a beard and was wearing a T-shirt and track pants at the time of the incident.

The three other men have been described as being aged in their late teens or early 20s, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, and 175cm to 180cm tall. They also have beards.


Public hospital Doctors warn of retaliation by the bureaucracy if they complain

NSW doctors say they have been routinely punished by hospital bosses when they alert them to problems with patient care. The head of a hospital emergency department, Simon Leslie, said he was facing disciplinary action for raising concerns about mental health services.

"I am being subjected to disciplinary action for speaking up," he said. "There is a culture where it is not appropriate to talk about things openly and honestly. Disciplinary action is supposed to be reserved for serious issues of misconduct in health."

Dr Leslie was also threatened with the sack in 2006 after he complained about the pressure he said he was under to falsify hospital records to give the impression of more patients passing through the Shellharbour Hospital emergency department. He continues to work there.

Patients were said to be in "virtual beds" in a paper exercise designed to give the impression that patients had been moved out of the emergency department into a hospital ward bed. They were recorded as being in a virtual bed when they were still in the emergency department.

The Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, has introduced a program, the Essentials of Care, to encourage "collaboration, openness, respect and empowerment" in the health system. "This program is at the vanguard of the cultural change I want to see embedded in our public health system - to ensure that we have supportive working environments for our clinicians that are free of bullying and harassment," she said.

Dr Leslie said many doctors had left the system because they had been vilified for wanting to improve the care of their patients. He is part of the Hospital Reform Group, which is made up of some of the state's leading doctors and chaired by Emeritus Professor Kerry Goulston from the University of Sydney. The group has been brought back into the government "tent" after years in the wilderness.

One member, John Dwyer from the University of NSW, said there had been a culture of administrators bullying hospital staff, forcing them to compromise on standards of care. "[Chief executives] and senior executives were bullying in the sense that they were unreasonably demanding that people save money," he said.


Slashing migration won't hurt, says report

AUSTRALIA could meet looming skills shortages created by the resources boom with just half the annual migration intake planned by government, a report says.

Researchers led by demographer Bob Birrell have found that if today's net overseas migration target of 180,000 a year were slashed to 90,000, the pool of available workers would still expand significantly over the next decade.

Business groups and economists have argued net overseas migration of at least 180,000 will be needed as mining skills shortages intensify in the next few years. This is a far cry from the 320,000 peak reached in 2008, which sparked the "Big Australia" debate.

However, the report from Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, to be released today, challenges "alarmist" business claims that the mining boom requires higher migration.

Instead, it suggests the key to skills shortages could lie in the participation rate - the share of the population who enter the labour force - and some temporary migration.

For instance, there has been a sharp increase in participation among men and women over the age of 55 in the past decade. If this trend of more participation continued, the report said Australia's workforce would expand by 1.7 million by 2021 if annual net migration were halved to 90,000.

Even if participation rates remained unchanged, the workforce would grow by one million over the same period, it said.

Alongside temporary migration, this would be adequate to meet skills shortages if migration were better targeted to employer's needs, it said. "It can safely be concluded that a [net overseas migration] of 90,000 per year is not the dark apparition business advocates imply," the report said. "The bulk of current migration has little to do with providing scarce skills to the resources industries."

Rather than mining, the majority of recent migrants worked in professional urban jobs, or were studying or taking working holidays, it said. Twenty-six per cent of migration growth in recent years was linked to employer sponsorship.

The report has one point of agreement with government: it concedes temporary migration would be needed for the mining boom. This year's budget made it easier for projects worth $2 billion with a peak workforce of 1500 people to employ foreign workers.

Although the report is likely to receive a cool reception from mining companies, there is a point of agreement with the industry. Miners have also recognised the need to tap more diverse domestic sources of labour, including female workers.

The chief executive of resources employer group the Australian Mines and Metals Association, Steve Knott, last month said the industry could do more to attract women to the male-dominated trade.

"With 92 per cent of AMMA resource industry employers stating they wish to employ more women, and being an industry where currently less than one in five workers are female, there are immense opportunities for Australian women to have a fulfilling and long-term career in the industry," he said.



Students 'brainwashed' over climate change in Queensland schools

(The LNP is Queensland's conservative party)

The Liberal National Party president has blasted the Queensland education system for "brainwashing" students about climate change.

Speaking to LNP members at the party's state conference today, Bruce McIver said he was discouraged about how children were being taught about climate change in schools. Mr McIver said he was shaken by the way issues were being taught when he and his wife visited their grandson's school. "We were shocked at the way the climate change debate on one side is being pushed in the classroom," he said. "And not balanced perspectively. Our kids are being brainwashed under this Labor education system."

Mr McIver's comments received loud applause from more than 700 delegates from throughout the state.

"Why aren't they being told that if you go to Quilpie and you drive to Windorah - [Liberal National Party MPs] Vaughan Johnson's country, Howard Hobbs' country - you will see these sand hills that have been blown up years ago," he said. "When the droughts were much bigger than the ones we have just had. "And why aren't we being told that Brisbane has had floods in the 1890s of over eight metres.

"[LNP leader] Campbell [Newman] tells me that back in the 1820s - even before white man even came here - there were floods that could have been over 12 metres at the post office at the bottom of Elizabeth Street. "So, things change. Climate is constantly changing. Is man having an effect? Well I will leave it for you to judge."

Queensland Education Minister Cameron Dick said Mr McIver’s comments were an “outrageous slur” on the professionalism of the state's 38,000 teachers. “The curriculum taught in Queensland state schools is developed and delivered by educational experts, not politicians, nor backroom political party operatives like Mr McIver," he said. "Quite simply, students studying science in Queensland state schools are taught scientific facts.

"We all know that Mr McIver and the LNP are climate-change deniers, and his comments are not only wrong and insulting, but an attempt to push the party’s ‘head-in-the-sand’ beliefs on Queenslanders."

Mr McIver described Labor's carbon tax as a "socialist" policy would have a devastating effect on Queensland business and on Queensland jobs. "It is a direct threat to our economy. I believe it is a redistribution of wealth," he said to cheers of "hear, hear" among delegates. "It is a direct threat to Queensland jobs."

Mr McIver also challenged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to install more Queenslanders onto his shadow front bench. The LNP won 21 of Queensland's 30 Federal seats at the August 2010 election.

Mr McIver said the LNP had added an extra 4000 members since it formed in July 2008.


Conservative leader opens fire on huge Greenie bureaucracy in Qld.

CAMPBELL Newman has launched a personal attack on Premier Anna Bligh's husband as he threatens to shake up a ballooning green bureaucracy captive to "environmental ideology".

Mr Newman was yesterday given a thunderous welcome to the LNP's annual conference in Brisbane, where he outlined a vigorous plan of attack to take power from Queensland's "tired 20-year-old Labor Government".

Despite fighting a cold that made his voice hoarse, Mr Newman delivered a lengthy barrage at Labor. He saved his sharpest barbs for the Department of Environment and Resource Management, recently revealed to employ the equivalent of a medium-sized township.

Mr Newman said DERM would come under a powerful spotlight and be swiftly re-engineered if he won government. "It's a department without true leadership, a department that is more about ideology than science," he said. "It's more about politics than outcomes."

He also singled out Ms Bligh's husband, Greg Withers, assistant director-general in the Office of Climate Change in DERM, for special mention. "Let's face it, when you have a climate change policy in Queensland decided by the Premier's husband, not science, then you know there's a problem," Mr Newman said.

Environment Minister Vicky Darling hit back immediately, saying Mr Newman was showing his true colours. "Campbell Newman's promise to wreck one of the state's most important regulators should send shivers down the spine of any Queenslander who values the protection of our precious environment and natural resources," she said.

With more than 5600 public servants, DERM is now one of Australia's largest bureaucracies, dwarfing even the number of federal public servants assigned to green schemes (2254).

DERM was designed to protect waterways and wildlife and ensure prime agricultural land was not developed, Mr Newman said. "(But) under Labor, Queenslanders have lost confidence in DERM."

Mr Newman also attacked the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. "Many people from business, the community and even government simply do not understand how this department works or which of its six ministers is in charge," he said.

Mr Newman said Labor was too focused on Green preferences.

Ms Darling said the Bligh Government had a strong, nation-leading record on protecting precious environment and natural assets. "The LNP has never cared about protecting the environment, and this is a clear indication that Campbell Newman is a very real risk," Ms Darling said.


Carbon tax to hit schools

STRUGGLING schools will be hit by an annual $200 million rise in power bills - costing about $57 per student - under the carbon tax. Parents will have to foot the bill by paying more in voluntary contributions or less money will go into vital teaching resources.

Federal opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the carbon tax would add 10 per cent to electricity bills and 9 per cent to gas bills.

With schools already struggling with rising power costs due to the digital education revolution, which has meant classrooms become increasingly reliant on computers and digital technology, the NSW Department of Education has told them they will not automatically be given supplementary funding once they exceed their budget for utility bills.

Mr Pyne said yesterday: "There are only two places schools can get the money: they can either increase their fees, or in the case of government schools, it can come out of the state government coffers."We all know the state governments aren't flush with funds so that is going to be difficult for them to find those funds."

School Education Minister Peter Garrett responded by calling the claim a Coalition scare campaign. "The fact is that the government's contribution to school funding is indexed," he said. "So as costs rise, funding to schools is increased."

However, a memo late last week from the NSW Education Department called on public school principals to "identify and develop strategies" to help reduce the money spent on casual teachers and utilities. "In 2008, schools sought supplementation for $13 million to cover the costs of short-term casual relief and utilities," the memo said.

"Last year that number doubled to $26 million. This is a 100 per cent increase for roughly the same numbers of students, teaching staff and teaching spaces. It means that we have less money to spend on other teaching and learning programs."

President of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW Helen Walton said parents were continually being called upon to support basic programs because schools' money was going on bills. "The computers and whiteboards that come with the digital education revolution are great teaching resources but they come at great expense," Ms Walton said. She said many P&Cs paid for air- conditioning and heating units but their use was adding to schools' bills.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said the power bill rises would cost parents. "The impact of Labor's carbon tax reaches into every corner of life and schools will be adversely affected," he said. "It will push up costs for schools and for parents. The NSW Government is seeking talks with the Prime Minister to discuss the impact of her carbon tax, and schools will be included in that. "We are deeply concerned (about) the impact it will have on schools."

Mr Pyne has also written to Mr Garrett to ask if there would be compensation and what other costs of schooling would rise under the carbon tax. "There are many costs related to a school's operations that could potentially increase as a result of the tax, including increases in electricity and gas," he wrote.


17 July, 2011

Convicted killers, rapists and paedophiles cleared to stay in Australia

DOZENS of foreigners who committed despicable crimes in Australia have escaped deportation because of a tribunal's rulings. Convicted killers, rapists, paedophiles, armed robbers and serial offenders who have had their visas cancelled have won the right to remain in Australia.

In the last financial year the Administrative Appeals Tribunal overturned 24 cases - reinstating serious convicted criminals' visas that had been cancelled by the Immigration Department.

In another eight cases the tribunal told Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to reconsider the Government's finding that the offenders were not of good character and to give them visas.

One of the most shocking cases involves Maltese-born "DNCW", a convicted rapist and paedophile, who settled in Victoria after moving to the country from overseas as a child. In 2003, in his 20s, he twice attempted to commit incest with his 12-year-old step-daughter and raped his estranged wife. He was jailed for a maximum of seven years and six months. His other offences included theft, unlawful assault, breach of an intervention order, burglary, cultivating a narcotic plants, unlawful possession, and possession of housebreaking implements.

The tribunal allowed him to stay because he had no close relatives in Malta, barely spoke the language, was not eligible for social security in Malta and would "suffer considerable hardship" if deported.

As well as the broken visa cases, the AAT found six permanent residents - refused citizenship by the department because of their criminal records - were of "good character" and should become Australian citizens.

Leading criminal lawyer and Queen's Counsel Peter Faris said the situation was "scandalous". "The system is not working to protect the public and needs to be changed," he said. "People who have committed serious offences such as murder, manslaughter and rape should be excluded from appealing (decisions revoking their visas). "There must be crimes that are not acceptable and therefore there can be no debate, no appeal. People such as murderers must be automatically excluded."

But Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chairman Sam Afra said because the criminals were in Australia, the local law that allowed them to appeal should apply. "If they are on Australian soil and the system allows them to stay, then that is the situation," he said. "If they have been punished and served their time, then they must be treated like any other Australian."

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the Government has become concerned by unelected members of the AAT reinstating the visas of criminals.

The Government said that since April serious cases had not been decided by department officials and had instead been referred directly to the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, whose decision could not be appealed in the tribunal - it had to go to the Federal Court. Mr Bowen has cancelled eight visas and since April has notified a further eight criminals that he will cancel their visas.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the minister should have intervened in the first place in such serious crimes to stop ensure that criminals involved in such serious crimes could not "play the system".

He said criminals could plead compassionate grounds to stay in Australia at the tribunal, but if the minister cancelled their visas the matter had to go to the Federal Court, which could consider only failures of legal process.

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister refused to say whether any legal action was being taken to quash the tribunal's controversial decisions. But he said the Government took "very seriously" its role to protect the Australian community from harm caused by foreigners and had in recent years cancelled or refused hundreds of visas. "It's obviously disappointing and concerning where the department's visa cancellations on character grounds are overturned," the spokesman said.

The tribunal's principal registrar, Philip Kellow, said the organisation did not comment on individual cases. "The tribunal is an independent body that reviews government decisions on the merits," he said. "It considers afresh a decision under review based on the evidence before it."

The reasons the tribunal gave in recent rulings for letting criminals stay included that the offenders had close ties to Australia and none in their homelands or that they had prospects for rehabilitation. One man was allowed to stay because he and his partner were expecting their 10th child in Australia.

The criminals include career offenders who started as juvenile thugs and graduated to violent crime, as well as wife-beaters, a tax evader, thieves, burglars and offenders who assaulted police.

Most of those allowed to stay are from New Zealand. Others come from such countries as Liberia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Samoa, Lebanon, South Korea, Bosnia and Fiji.

The Department has a dedicated unit which monitors judicial lists and hearing and liaises with police and correctional authorities to establish if foreigners on visas have commited crimes. If a visa is cancelled, the person is deemed to be an "unlawful non-citizen" and is deported as soon as possible, depending on whether they appeal.


Australia applies a tough test of written English to would-be immigrants

THE Federal Court has seized on the use of English language tests by immigration authorities as potentially unfair.

In a decision this month involving an Indian-born graduate from the University of New England, Justice Nye Perram said the court had noticed something puzzling in a number of cases.

There was "a disjunct between the apparent ability of [former overseas students] in skilled migration visa appeals to conduct their own cases in fluent English, on the one hand, and the operation of the [International English Language Testing System] test which deemed them not able to speak competent English at all, on the other".

Justice Perram began his judgment by recalling the 1934 attempt to deport the communist Egon Kisch by setting him a dictation test in Scottish Gaelic, a device used to apply the White Australia Policy.

"Experiences such as these have led to a natural caution in the legal mind about the use of language tests in an immigration setting," the judge said. However, he conceded that today's immigration authorities had a legitimate concern about English proficiency and said IELTS was not "a discreet tool for the implementation of concealed policies".

To make sure the legal issues were properly argued, the Indian graduate, Dushyant Manilal Parmar, was given a court-appointed barrister, Kellie Edwards.

Mr Parmar had taken more than 10 IELTS tests but could not get the score needed for a skilled migration visa. His challenge to the visa refusal failed and Justice Perram said the court could not set itself up as an arbiter of English proficiency. "It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because a person appears to speak English with reasonable fluency that their reading and writing skills are necessarily of the same order," he said.

In a separate challenge rejected the same day, Justice Perram expressed sympathy for the litigant, Sardar Khan Ghori, another Indian-born graduate of UNE.

Mr Ghori had taken the IELTS test five times but had not managed to get the reading and writing scores needed for his skilled graduate visa.

Justice Perram expressed a "natural sympathy" for him, especially given "the fact that his English appears to have been sufficient to obtain a Masters of Information Systems with Honours from [UNE in 2008]".

Mr Ghori had wanted time to sit another IELTS test.

In a third case last December, Justice Robert Buchanan had no choice in law but to reject an appeal by an Egyptian-born man, Moemen Rady Abdelnaeim Mohamad, who had Australian qualifications in commercial cookery, tourism, hospitality and business.

Mr Mohamad had taken 18 IELTS tests. For his visa he needed a score of at least five in each of the speaking, listening, reading and writing components.

He had attained that score in each component -- but never in the one test.

Justice Buchanan said there was a very real possibility "that the test result process yields a false result in the case of the appellant, due to his inability to cope well with an examination environment.

"The possibility of practical injustice was revealed starkly at the hearing of this appeal. "The appellant appeared for himself, without the aid of an interpreter. He had no difficulty expressing himself and reading from notes. "Were it a matter for me I would have no hesitation in pronouncing him capable of speaking, reading and understanding English to an acceptable everyday level."

In the Parmar case, Ms Edwards said the immigration rules meant that an IELTS test was just one way to prove competent English.

But Justice Perram said the rules clearly made IELTS the only proof of English.

Ms Edwards also argued that the design of the test showed that an overall score of six was enough to show competent English.

(The immigration rules required a score of at least six in each of the four elements of the test: speaking, listening, reading and writing.)

Justice Perram rejected this argument, too, saying the rules made careful use of an internationally accepted test to set up a hierarchy of proficiency in English.

And judges listening to apparently fluent litigants could not substitute their own opinion about proficiency, he said.

Ms Edwards' final argument was that by relying on the IELTS organisation, the government had put decisions about English proficiency beyond the reach of judicial scrutiny but Justice Perram said there was no problem with this arrangement.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship pointed out that it had won the cases and no legal error was found in the decisions under challenge.


Activist group GetUp! queried over membership

GRASSROOTS activism group GetUp! has been hit with claims it exaggerates its membership figures to appear more powerful to corporations and government.

The email and web-based lobby group, which recently ran a controversial ad attacking retailer Harvey Norman that got pulled from air, claims a membership base of 570,000-plus.

But critics say an email address and a few seconds is all that is needed to join the group, which has received more than $1.2 million from unions including the CFMEU and the Australian Services Union. Members pay no fees, but are encouraged to donate.

GetUp! earlier this month sent letters to 150 major grocery companies threatening to instruct a boycott by all 570,000 GetUp! members if the companies pursued a campaign against the carbon tax.

But political consultant Don D'Cruz, who specialises in researching activist groups, said GetUp!'s advertised membership base was misleading. "It is very difficult to tell how many fully fledged and active members the organisation has," he said. "GetUp! claims to have more than 500,000 members, but their definition of membership is fairly loose."

GetUp! director Simon Sheikh said membership criteria was intentionally "low-barrier" so anybody with a political interest could join easily.



Bitch public hospital doctor rejected dying man as an addict

A GRAVELY ill man, wrongly assumed to be an addict craving strong drugs, died in agony hours after being discharged from a NSW country hospital, a coroner has found.

A deputy state coroner, Hugh Dillon, said while Michael Sutherland was in Bega Hospital's emergency department he was refused the pain relief he needed for his "excruciating condition".

He found the hospital had failed to diagnose Mr Sutherland's life-threatening condition, failed to give him adequate pain relief and discharged him although he was clearly very ill.

The coroner was delivering his findings on Thursday at the inquest into the death of Mr Sutherland, who had clung to his hospital bed begging not to be sent home. Mr Sutherland had told others that the staff thought he was a "junkie" who had been "wanting drugs like an addict".

The coroner found the 52-year-old died on March 3, 2006, of faecal peritonitis, which had not been diagnosed before his discharge the previous day. He concluded that the department's Dr Dorothea Bonney made a "gross error of judgment" after forming a fixed view that "his underlying problem was substance abuse". "If, as now seems clear, Mr Sutherland's bowel was ruptured or on the point of rupturing … his pain must have been very severe indeed," he said.

Dr Bonney had refused pain relief except for a couple of tablets of paracetamol. The coroner said the doctor admitted making critical errors, including "without a proper or reasonable basis" prematurely concluding that Mr Sutherland was drug-seeking. She had given insufficient weight to evidence that suggested another diagnosis, failed to treat the constipation that he had and did not treat him adequately for his pain.

Nurses seemed to have been more sensitive to Mr Sutherland's condition, but were "rebuffed" by Dr Bonney. "Each of the nurses described Dr Bonney as intimidating and one who did not brook opposition to her decisions or opinions," the coroner said.

He said at one stage Dr Bonney reportedly told a nurse: "What is he still doing here? Get him out of my department."

Dr Bonney had already been subjected to disciplinary proceedings, no longer works in hospitals and practises as a part-time GP. "Nevertheless, in my view, her professional conduct fell far short of the expected standards," the coroner said, referring his findings to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

He also recommended consideration be given to having a CT scanner at the hospital, equipment which may have made a difference in the diagnosis.

He said a stranger, Rex Hergenham, had driven Mr Sutherland home, and another, Bernard Trentepohl, had let him stay in his own bed when pain meant they could not continue driving.

"The failures of Bega Hospital stand in stark contrast with the compassion and natural insight of the good Samaritans, and his friend Penelope Jones who became his posthumous advocate," the coroner said.


Another negligent government hospital

ANOTHER mother has come forward to tell of her nightmare ordeal at a Perth hospital during two miscarriages, after a young Forrestfield couple yesterday revealed their heartbreak on learning their dead baby had been thrown out in the garbage.

Stratton mother-of-one Tamara Wright went to Swan Districts Hospital last year after having pains in her abdomen while 17 weeks pregnant, but a junior doctor told her the baby was fine and refused her requests for further tests and an ultrasound.

Three days later she miscarried the fetus and was told it had died at 13 weeks.

However, an autopsy later found it had died between 17 and 18 weeks, leaving Mrs Wright wondering if her baby could have been saved when she initially sought help at the hospital.

“I don’t know if he could have been saved or not, but for my sake, to keep my head straight, I’ve been telling myself it couldn’t,” Mrs Wright said. “But there may be a chance that something could have been done when I first went in.”

The autopsy was unable to show any problems with the baby, but because the hospital had thrown out the placenta instead of sending it for testing, the reason why she miscarried remains unknown.

Mrs Wright became pregnant again this year and went to the hospital again after having severe pains, but staff again refused to run tests or do an ultrasound.

“They just told me ‘no, go home and the baby will pass naturally’,” Mrs Wright said. “They were just saying: ‘if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen’.

“I knew something was wrong. It’s just a mother instinct, so the next day I went straight to Joondalup Hospital and they were more than helpful.” Tests at Joondalup Hospital revealed the baby had died.

Mrs Wright said after the first incident, the hospital told her they would use her case to ensure that no other parents would go through the same ordeal, but it was clear after her second miscarriage nothing had changed.

A Swan hospital spokeswoman said: “We express our condolences to the family involved for their tragic loss and apologise for any distress caused by the events that followed early last year."

"Shortly after this occurred, senior hospital staff met with the family to discuss the concerns they had regarding the care they received and to apologise.

“Should the couple have outstanding concerns, we welcome the chance to meet with them again to ensure their concerns are resolved. "We are unable to disclose any further information about the specifics in this case due to patient confidentiality."


An unending bureaucratic debacle

Queensland Health payroll will cost up to $220 million to fix, acting director-general admits

QUEENSLAND Health's disastrous payroll system faces yet another budget blowout, with $10 million more likely to be spent after a weekend peace deal that was brokered with disgruntled workers. The cost - revealed during estimate hearings in State Parliament yesterday - adds to $209 million already allocated to fix the troubled system.

It comes after the department botched attempts to retrieve $62 million in overpaid wages, forcing Premier Anna Bligh to step in on Sunday and order a freeze on the recovery. Ms Bligh also announced other measures, including pay rises for overworked payroll staff, but it was only revealed yesterday the move would cost $10 million.

During a long afternoon of estimates debate, Health Minister Geoff Wilson dodged calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the debacle. He insisted repeated scrutiny of the troubled system by the Auditor-General and an accounting firm hired by Queensland Health went far enough because their recommendations for improvements were acted upon.

But Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle repeatedly called for an inquiry and public hearing into the recovery of wage overpayments made to 38,000 employees. Mr McArdle labelled the system's rollout last March an "unmitigated disaster" and said that later attempts to recover overpaid wages had proven "equally disastrous".

He tabled as an example a bill sent last month to Hendra doctor Dominique Hannah for almost $26,000 allegedly overpaid last March, which she believed was incorrect. "No checking was done before those letters were forwarded on. You simply accepted what was on the system and did nothing to ensure it was right," Mr McArdle said.

Independent MP Liz Cunningham said it was unfair to expect workers to prove their overpayments were incorrect based on "flawed" payslips provided by Queensland Health.

Acting director-general Dr Tony O'Connell defended the process, saying bills were "as accurate as we believed our system could generate" and staff were given options to dispute the figures.

"We wouldn't want them to depend on just the payslip," he said. "We've given them case managers if they require to talk them through the various payslips and statements of pay and hours worked."

Dr O'Connell was also grilled over 88 health workers referred to police amid claims they fraudulently accessed hardship payments at the height of the payroll furore. While officers had been unable to find three workers, another 18 had been charged or convicted, he said. But half were yet to be contacted by police for interviews. He said 10 had had their files referred back to Health for verification of their versions.


16 July, 2011


Gillard and Brown are both trying to shoot the messenger

The push by Bob Brown and Julia Gillard for a parliamentary inquiry into the media is so cynical, manipulative and transparently biased that if we really were as evil as they believe we’d congratulate them both for joining the dark side.

We're useless! Let's blame News Ltd!We're useless! Let's blame News Ltd!

Both leaders are seeking to establish a connection in the public’s mind between the obscene and illegal practices exposed in the UK and perfectly conventional and legitimate journalism and commentary in Australia with which they just happen to disagree.

It is extraordinary both how blatantly they have hijacked the issue and how seamlessly the more naïve and ideological sections of the community have followed them to this at best offensive and at worst dangerous illogicality.

The UK phone tapping scandal is about a British newspaper or newspapers engaging in illegal activity against ordinary citizens, most disgracefully, in some cases, the victims of crime.

This is now being used as justification by the Prime Minister and Senator Brown for a parliamentary inquiry into the local media. But why?

Do they have any evidence of phone tapping here? No.

Do they have any evidence of illegal activity here? No.

Do they even accuse reporters of behaving in a dishonest fashion or employing dishonest practices to obtain information here? No.

Yet still Brown wants an inquiry into media practices and ethics here.

That, it appears, is Australian journalists’ reward for not engaging in dirty and unscrupulous practices and generally being fairly decent types: A McCarthy-esque fishing expedition based on not a shred of evidence. Not even an allegation.

This absurd logic is the equivalent of police officers walking up to random people in the street and forcing them to prove they are not criminals.

And how will it work? Will rumpled press gallery scribes be dragged from their beds to testify which politicians they were drinking with the night before? Who said what? What was on or off the record? Will they have to give up sources? Expose whistleblowers? Will they, as Senator Joe encouraged so enthusiastically in the 50s, have to name names?

And of course media ownership will be scrutinised. And why is that again? Were the dodgy practices engaged at News of the World caused by concentration of media ownership? Er, no.

In fact the running theory as to why such dirty tricks were employed is that competition in the UK newspaper market is so fierce and so cutthroat that papers would resort to anything to get the edge on their rivals – even those in the same stable.

So no, it’s not that there’s any indication of dodgy behaviour or that media ownership has caused dodgy behaviour, so what is it? Why are we having this inquiry again?

Well gosh, no one can really say. But there might be a teeny-weeny clue in the fact that Brown describes the Murdoch press as “hate media” and that Gillard this week told the press gallery: “Don’t write crap.”

Now it’s one thing for a politician to point to a news report or editorial or opinion piece and say “that is crap” and tell the world why, but it’s a tad chilling when a Prime Minister instructs reporters not to “write crap” in the middle of a debate about a new regulatory framework to govern the media. Who’s going to enforce that edict? The Ministry of Truth?


Anti-Murdoch politicians can't stand the heat

David Flint

I AM no toady of the Murdoch empire. Its newspapers were tough on me in the years leading up to the republican referendum.

I remember The Courier-Mail saying the only reason people took any notice of what I said was not the content but the fact I was chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

On one occasion I wrote an open letter to Lachlan Murdoch dissenting from his position on the referendum. It didn't exactly win me plaudits in News Limited newspapers but, to their credit, they published it.

Later, when John Laws mistakenly thought I was behind moves against him at the ABA, some key News Limited opinion writers jumped gleefully on to that bandwagon. The point, of course, is no public figure should complain when the media applies the blowtorch. As the saying goes, "If you don't like the heat, don't go into the kitchen."

I mention this only to point out I don't owe the Murdoch empire anything. Like many readers I have often disagreed with its papers' editorial line. I thought their campaign against the Whitlam government was too one-sided and that they obsessively magnified any small error of judgment by the Howard government.

The Australian's support of Kevin Rudd in the 2007 election was particularly inexplicable. The paper was committed to labour market deregulation but everyone knew Rudd and Julia Gillard were not only going to wipe out Work Choices, they were going to take labour market regulation back to before the Hawke and Keating governments.

More recently, I think The Australian's support of the carbon dioxide tax on the basis of the so-called precautionary principle and on the primacy of market solutions misses the point. This is not a real market but an artificial construct concocted by bureaucrats and academics to be rorted by merchant bankers.

In the meantime Sky News Australia, unlike the US Fox News which is screamingly right wing, is to the left even of the ABC. A typical example: on July 15, who did it choose to comment on the carbon tax? Two well-known supporters of the tax, John Hewson and Graham Richardson, with a sympathetic interviewer. And although The Daily Telegraph is doing a sterling job in exposing politicians of all sides, its prominent photo column Street Talk seems to meet mainly left-wing people.

The point is News Limited is not a monolith with opinions settled centrally by Rupert Murdoch as a latter-day Lenin. It is richly diverse, more so than the ABC or Fairfax Media. And while Murdoch is no saint, he has done great things for the media. His move to Wapping saved the British press from the slow death to which the print union bosses had sentenced it. His creation of a national Australian newspaper was visionary.

But with the emergence of the latest anti-Murdoch bandwagon I smell not one rat but two.

Let me say the phone hacking indulged in by the News of the World and possibly other British newspapers is reprehensible.

But why were the latest revelations withheld until News International's bid to take over BSkyB was almost put to bed? Why were they leaked to a left-wing opposition newspaper?

This inspired some weak British politicians suddenly to find sufficient courage to challenge the bid. Now some Australian politicians who've been subject to perfectly legitimate attention in the Murdoch media are jumping on the News of the World bandwagon with demands that Murdoch be investigated here and possibly curtailed or even punished.

Wheeled out to defend the carbon tax, Paul Keating is calling for the immediate enactment of a privacy law. But there is no pattern in Australia of massive intrusion by the Murdoch media into the private lives of public figures. In fact the last significant improper media intrusion that I can recall was that of a Fairfax newspaper into the private life of Richard Pratt, who died in 2009.

I was chairman of the Australian Press Council for 10 years and after that chairman of the ABA for six. I cannot recall one occasion when a journalist alleged they had been directed by Murdoch to do something illegal or unethical. That included journalists who no longer worked for News.

When I was at the Press Council I did oppose a proposal that we support the establishment of a special press takeovers tribunal to stop Murdoch's takeover of the Herald and Weekly Times. This was not to favour Murdoch; my argument was this was a matter for the general competition law and there shouldn't be a special competition law or government tribunal for newspapers. The last thing we should ever do is give politicians any greater control over speech than they have, for it will be used only to restrict it.

For years defamation law was abused, mainly by politicians, to stop the investigation of matters of legitimate public interest.

And when Canadian Conrad Black asked for permission to increase his share in Fairfax to make it defensible against hostile takeovers, a political condition was put on it. If a privacy law were enacted the principal beneficiaries would be politicians with something to hide.

The point is some politicians who can't stand being challenged are now hoping they can use the News of the World debacle to nail the Murdoch newspapers, especially The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. No doubt they also hope to silence, or at least intimidate, talkback radio.

The problem for the Prime Minister and Greens leader Bob Brown is they are failing -- monumentally -- to explain what most people find inexplicable. In Gillard's case this is exacerbated by the fact most Australians have stopped listening to her because they think she lies.

The answer for both of them is more speech, not taking away freedom of speech and of the press.

The last thing we need are more laws or inquiries. What we need is good limited government and, if they can't give us that, an early election.


Feds backing off a witchhunt into the Oz media

THE government has moved to downplay the scope of any inquiry into the Australian media, instead putting an overhaul of privacy laws back on the agenda.

As Greens leader Bob Brown stepped up his calls for an investigation into local media ownership and regulation in the wake of the British phone-hacking scandal, Tony Abbott warned that threats of an "inquiry into the media when it is reporting the government's difficulties marketing a new tax smacks of official persecution".

The Opposition Leader said there was "no evidence -- none -- that the Australian media have engaged in any of the practices that rightly closed a UK publication".

"Politicians criticising the media resemble footballers criticising the referee. The media rightly hold us to account and we have to take the rough with the smooth, the fair with the over-the-top when it comes to media outlets' news judgment and commentary," Mr Abbott, a former journalist, told The Weekend Australian.

Senator Brown is yet to discuss his push for an inquiry with Julia Gillard or Mr Abbott. However, his call for full-scale investigation won the backing of federal independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said he was confident Australia's telephone interception laws were already strong enough.

He also ruled out government regulation of media ethics. "I think it's a very important aspect of democracy to have an independent and robust media and there'll be no suggestion of the government regulating the media," he said. "However, it may well be that there is an appropriate dialogue between the community and the various press councils and electronic media organisations."

The Prime Minister left the option open on Thursday to consider a parliamentary inquiry into Australian print and broadcast companies, but Wayne Swan said yesterday he did not believe an inquiry was needed into whether Australian journalists were involved in phone-hacking practices.

John Hartigan, the chairman and chief executive of News Limited, the publisher of The Weekend Australian, said this week he was "hugely confident that there's no improper or unethical behaviour in our newsrooms".

The Treasurer said he accepted Mr Hartigan's statements that News Limited was not engaged in these practices. "I think it's good to have a healthy debate about the quality of journalism, about ethics, and I'll leave it at that," he said.

But he used the debate over the media to take aim at News Limited's The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, accusing it of campaigning against a carbon tax.

"It's their right to do that, but they can't pretend that the coverage is balanced when all they do is oppose a price on carbon continuously and include that in their coverage in a way which isn't balanced," Mr Swan said.

Senator Brown is also pushing for Australians' right to privacy to be enshrined in the law, and the government has placed the issue back on the agenda.

Mr McClelland said it was "inevitable" that the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of privacy would be revisited. The ALRC recommended in 2008 that courts should have the power to make an order for damages, an injunction or an apology in cases where individuals suffered a serious invasion of privacy.



Global Warming - Worse than Hitler

An absurd letter in today's Melbourne Age:
When sacrifice is the right thing

HOW many of us are so selfish that the first questions we ask when confronted with change, are along the lines of: why should I have to pay a carbon tax? Why do I have to look for another job? Who's going to look after me? Why isn't my compensation higher? Who says $150,000 a year makes me so rich that I should have to pay this tax? Why should I change my lifestyle?

Obviously, these people are unwilling to make any kind of sacrifice. Did our forefathers question why they should fight Nazism and fascism? No, they put aside petty arguments and self-serving questions and went off to fight the enemy. Not because they wanted to, but because it was the right thing to do. Today, we are fighting a different and infinitely more dangerous enemy - global warming. This enemy will kill millions of people through famine, flood, drought and other disasters, unless we start fighting it now.

Tony Abbott is like Neville Chamberlain, who refused to believe that there was an enemy who must be defeated until it was too late. Abbott is just as blind when he says we shouldn't have a tax on carbon. Abbott will go down in history as being just as foolish and misguided as Chamberlain.

Chris and Jacki Burgess, Port Melbourne

Meanwhile, in the Sydney Morning Herald, a letter argues:
If a demonstration outside a chocolate shop, and a crucifix appearing in an anti-Abbott advertisement, are the worst examples of anti-Semitism and sectarianism that the ever-vigilant Gerard Henderson can garner, we should rejoice in Australia's tolerance ("Jews know acceptance still has its exceptions", July 12).

Jack Sumner Eastwood

So there you have it. Global warming is a bigger threat than the Nazis, yet a bunch of antisemites forming a violent mob outside a Jewish business is no big deal.


The sad, sad demise of Greenpeace

GREENPEACE WAS ONCE a friend of science, helping bring attention to important but ignored environmental research. These days, it’s a ratbag rabble of intellectual cowards intent on peddling an agenda, whatever the scientific evidence.

It was once the most active, independent and inspiring civilian group for the environment. Whether riding zodiacs alongside boats carrying barrels of toxic waste to be dumped in the open sea, or campaigning against CFCs and HFCs that were depleting the ozone layer, Greenpeace did admirable work.

But in the last decade or so, Greenpeace abandoned the rigour of science. When the science has been inconvenient, Greenpeace chooses dogma. Which is why it has a zero-tolerance policy on nuclear energy, no matter how imperative the need to remove coal and gas from electricity production. Or why it is adamant organic farming is the only way forward for agriculture, when organic could not feed the world’s population today.

And why, in the early hours of July 14, a group of Greenpeace protesters broke into a CSIRO Plant Industry experimental station at Ginninderra, north of Canberra, and destroyed an entire crop - half a hectare – of genetically modified wheat.

Greenpeace has always been media savvy, but over the past decade this has become an addiction, leading it to launch campaigns that generate lots of publicity, but have doubtful merit: witness its attacks in 2007 on Apple’s iPhone as being toxic and hazardous. It later admitted these had been exaggerated, and that it had targeted the iPhone in order to grab headlines.

The CSIRO break-in was also a stunt, complete with hazmat protection suits and the ever-present video camera to record the action.

No GM wheat has been approved for human consumption in Australia, but the CSIRO did have permission to conduct trials. And what was so ‘toxic’ about this wheat strain it had to be destroyed? Its genes had been modified to lower its glycemic index and boost fibre content, creating bread and other wheat products that would improve bowel health and nutritional value.

Greenpeace has lost its way. Its former glory rested on the righteousness of its actions in support of real evidence of how humanity was failing to care for the environment. Now it is a sad, dogmatic, reactionary phalanx of anti-science zealots who care not for evidence, but for publicity.


Green bureaucrats galore now

A GREEN brigade of bureaucrats assigned to environmental programs around the country has grown by 20 per cent since Labor won power four years ago.

And the commonwealth public service has breached some of its own energy-saving targets, with the Canberra headquarters consuming 25 per cent more electricity than a decade ago.

The number of public servants employed by the federal, state and territory environment departments has risen to 23,466, as green agencies recruit new staff at the rate of 1000 a year.

The green workforce has grown by 75 per cent in the key federal environmental agencies, which have almost 4000 permanent staff.

The bureaucratic blow-out will intensify as the Gillard government creates six new federal agencies to administer 20 new programs tied to the introduction of a carbon tax next year.

At least 200 more public servants will be recruited by the new Clean Energy Regulator. Staff numbers at the existing Climate Change Authority have already risen tenfold, to 1027, since its establishment less than four years ago.

Companies to be slugged by the carbon tax demanded that governments cut the "green tape". "The growing green bureaucracy is a concern for our members," Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said yesterday.

Staff numbers have soared by one-third in the federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, which has 2549 permanent staff on the public payroll -- excluding 264 working in the national parks division.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has more than doubled its workforce, to 295 staff.

New green programs, ranging from solar power schemes to greenhouse reporting laws and waste reduction schemes, have also swollen staff numbers in the states and territories.

In NSW, the number of employees in the Department of Environment and Climate Change -- recently renamed the Office of Environment and Heritage -- has risen by 23 per cent, to 4321, in the past four years.

Staff numbers have risen by 18 per cent in Western Australia, where the Department of Environment and Conservation has 1235 employees -- not counting those working in national parks and forestry management.

The biggest bureaucracy is in Queensland, where 5630 public servants work for the Department of Environment and Resource Management. The figure excludes 3000 "Green Army" jobs, which the state government boasted yesterday it had delivered a year ahead of schedule.

The federal government's latest report on energy use in the public service reveals that greenhouse gas emissions fell almost 6 per cent in 2007-08. However, the intensity of emissions grew 3 per cent in the year, and 16 per cent over the decade, due to soaring electricity use.

The Environment Department was one of the worst performers, with its emissions rising more than 5 per cent in a year. Energy use in public buildings rose by 17 per cent between 2000 and 2008, while central offices used 24 per cent more power.

Excluding the Department of Defence, energy use in the federal public service rose by almost 6 per cent in 2007-08, and 17.5 per cent between 2000 and 2009.


Carbon tax a 'get rich scheme for foreigner traders', says Tony Abbott

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Julia Gillard's carbon tax is "a get rich scheme for foreign carbon traders".

Mr Abbott vigorously attacked the Prime Minister and the Government's "failings" at the Liberal National Party's annual conference in Brisbane today.

He said the only way the Government can reduce emissions under this tax plan is to buy carbon permits abroad. "I'm all in favour of doing the right thing by the carbon traders of equatorial Guinea and Kazakhstan," Mr Abbott told the conference. "And all the other places Kevin Rudd likes to visit. "I am sure they are very decent honest people. I'm sure the last thing they want to do is rip off Australian business."

Mr Abbott said government documents show $57 billion will be sent abroad under this scheme. "Whatever else this thing is, it is a get rich scheme for foreign carbon traders," Mr Abbott said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Julia Gillard is meeting workers from Victoria's Hazelwood Power Station, which will probably close under the Government's carbon tax plan. With the Latrobe Valley set to feel the biggest impact from the plan, locals had called for Ms Gillard to personally explain the package to them.

After selling the package around the country since it was unveiled last Sunday, Ms Gillard today went to Morwell, 150km east of Melbourne.

The Federal Government's carbon tax plan states that 2000 megawatts of the nation's dirtiest power generators would close by 2020. Hazelwood, which employs more than 800 workers, produces about 1600 megawatts of electricity - about 25 per cent of Victoria's power supply.

Ms Gillard is meeting workers at the CFMEU's office in Morwell, next to Hazelwood.


Dinky toy modelling behind carbon tax

THE government has been accused of being unrealistic about global action on climate change, with critics declaring it is banking on the United States and other key countries to take significant action despite evidence those countries will only make limited efforts.

The opposition will today demand that Treasury be asked to prepare new modelling on Julia Gillard's clean energy plan, arguing the modelling released with Sunday's carbon plan is unrealistic in expecting Australia's major trading partners the US, China and India to join in global action.

An internal analysis for Tony Abbott's office, obtained by The Australian, criticises the government for "evidently rushed" modelling that fails to consider the impact of the $10 billion clean energy fund or the impact of the government's plans to strip 2000MW of dirty brown coal power generation from the electricity grid.

The document, expected to be released today, also warns that some of the modelling is at odds with details of the package struck with the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.

While the modelling assumes the carbon price starts at $20 a tonne, the government has set a starting price of $23 a tonne.

The Coalition analysis also claims that some changes made since the 2008 modelling produced for Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme result in the modelling showing a lower cost to the economy for emissions abatement for most fuels.

"The implication is that Treasury is now assuming that a given carbon price will achieve much more 'bang for the buck' in terms of reducing emissions intensity, for all of gasoline, diesel, LPG, air fuels and other fuels," the note says.

On global action, economist Henry Ergas writes in The Australian today that the modelling implies that the US will act by 2016 and China by 2021, and there will be no backsliding on the promises at the Cancun summit.

"Why these assumptions are plausible, much less compelling, is never explained in Treasury's report," he writes. The modelling states that "global co-ordinated action emerges from 2016".

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the government should reissue the modelling in full. "There are some extraordinary assumptions about the development of the international systems in the next decade," he said.

But government sources insisted that the modelling was based on the commitments made by nations at the Copenhagen and Cancun climate change summits, and denied they had been too bullish on global action.

Sources said the modelling assumed that major countries met their commitments and that there would be a global market by 2016.

It was assumed that the US met its Cancun commitments but the US was not necessarily required to join a global market as there was a market within the European Union, the source said.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

15 July, 2011


Climate cops coming

HUNDREDS of "carbon cops" will police compliance with the carbon tax and will have the power to inspect premises, take companies to court and impose financial penalties.

Yet the 200 workers employed at the new $256 million Clean Energy Regulator might actually contribute to climate change, like the government's Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

The government arm responsible for the implementation of the carbon tax yesterday admitted it was not carbon neutral and it was too early to say if tax enforcement would add to the department's pollution output.

A spokesman for the Department of Climate Change said it used green power but its emissions were still 12.5 tonnes a year - about the same as a family home. The figure was an underestimate as it does not include staff plane travel and taxis.

Staff at the Clean Energy Regulator will allocate carbon permits to businesses for the $23 per tonne carbon charge and will also hand out the free permits to big polluting industries scheduled to receive assistance.

The spokesman said the regulator would be responsible for educating companies on administrative arrangements, assessing emissions data to determine liability and operating a registry of emissions.

"The Clean Energy Regulator will be a statutory authority with substantial powers to enforce the carbon pricing mechanism," the spokesman said. He said the regulator would have the power to initiate audits of emissions, inspect premises, impose penalties and initiate court proceedings.

The government's carbon tax documents, released on Sunday, showed companies would face an emissions charge if their "emissions obligations were not met through the surrender of eligible emissions units".

Emissions charges will be $29.90 a tonne next year and $31.40 and $33 in following years.

Carbon permits will be considered financial products and will have a unique identification number.


The real winners of Gillard's carbon price plan

BIG banks, accountants and lawyers are among the big winners to cash in on the carbon plan, as companies wrestle with reporting requirements arising from the tax.

Research by IBIS World shows the demand for accountants will surge by 3.4 per cent in the next year because of the Government’s clean action plan, The Australian reported.

The research shows that demand for accounting and business advisory services will boom over the next five years, as businesses try to adapt their practices to “mitigate the downside - or capitalise on the upside of the new legislation".

Financial services firms are also likely to profit from the overhaul of the tax system announced as part of the carbon plan.

Banks will be involved in trading carbon permits when emissions trading starts in 2015, and will develop new products to help polluters reduce their carbon exposure.

Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said the Government's carbon price was "essentially creating a new market".

"We would therefore expect to see a range of instruments developed to help companies manage their carbon exposure," he said.

Lawyers will also benefit from the boom, with Ibis predicting demand for services to rise by 3.8 per cent.

Big law firms are set to be major winners if energy-intensive companies try to challenge the legislation.


Barking mad - a nation howling at fireflies

Australia's carbon tax

You don’t need to study any numbers to know it doesn’t add up. The statistical chicanery in a patchwork tax, with a complex compo plan, and offsets, subsidies, and a$10 billion renewable energy* Christmas wish list is as complex as a climate model. But this time no one is saying “it’s settled”, and is seriously expecting to get their extra 20 cents a week.

Lost among the bedazzling array of numbers are one pair of figures that put the central dumbness of this plan on display.

Australians will pay about $10 billion* a year in carbon fees, overachieving their European competitors who only paid $2.6 billion over, wait for it, six whole years. On a per capita basis the numbers are stark. While Europeans chip in 96 cents a year, Australian’s will be told to pay $500.

The bottom line — figure this — is that we as a nation have “decided” to voluntarily^ pay somewhere from 2 – 5 times as much for our energy, and there are no cheap “technologies” on the horizon unless someone somewhere discovers them (and they’ve been looking for decades). Julia Gillard tried to compare this to other major economic moves like floating the dollar. But those big moves had selling points known as “benefits”.

Let’s list all the advantages, both of them, from this masochistic macroeconomics move:

* It will reduce global man made human emissions for the next eight years from 64,000 mt to just 63,840 mt (roughly). (I can’t see people opting to pay much for that).

* It will rocket Australia to the top spot on the IPCC’s Miss-Popularity National Rankings.

Yes, we have earned the death-defying Kamikazee-Sovereign-Economy award for 2011. (Competition closed early. There’s no point waiting til Dec 31. ) This will come in handy for some ALP personnel wishing to move onto UN unelected positions after the next election, but otherwise be generally a source of mirth for non-Australians.

The Australian share market took the news of the economic suicide gracefully, losing only $7 billion dollars in the first day. (And that tallies up only the top 25 companies which are going to cop the big carbon-speeding-ticket.)

Julie Novak explains the rise of the Carbonocrats (also known as the Green Police).

Michael Stutchbury, Economics Editor, The Australian, thinks it will be a miracle if the package survives.

Labor’s support falls again in the polls. And while I’ve generously pro rata’d the total revenue estimate to be $10b, Wong guessed $18 b, Pyne guessed $21b and apparently, the number is really $25 billion. Who knew? Not the ALP finance minister eh?.

Don’t forget to keep reminding those Labor Marginal Seats of their new favourite piece of legislation. There are groups forming in Greenway and La Trobe, so let us know if you want to join them, or start a new group elsewhere.

Me, I just wish we were spending $25 billion on medical research instead. What would you rather have? A cure for cancer or second hand windmill made in China?


Carbon tax plan to hit bus, train commuters

COMMUTERS could be hit with public transport fare increases of up to $150 a year when the carbon tax kicks in, confidential state government figures show.

Fears of fare rises came as retail giant David Jones' boss Paul Zahra yesterday blamed consumer concerns about the carbon tax, the high Australian dollar and the federal government's flood levy for a record 12 per cent sales slump.

The federal government claimed the overall cost-of-living impact on prices from the tax would be only 0.7 per cent of CPI.

However the NSW Treasury estimated that the potential fare rises for all modes of public transport in NSW alone - due to increased electricity costs for trains and fuel costs for buses and ferries - could be expected at an average 3.4 per cent.Some fare increases would be expected to be hit from the date of the carbon tax, July 1, 2012 - while others would start in 2013 and 2014.

Commuters travelling longer distances to the city from places such as Blacktown, Penrith, Campbelltown, Gosford and Heathcote would be worst affected.

The Treasury document assumed that the full cost of the carbon tax would be borne by commuters rather than by taxpayers.

Blog with Tony Abbott - carbon tax will hurt families

It is understood that Mr O'Farrell wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard last night, asking for a full briefing on carbon tax impacts on state government services - in particular public transport.

Mr O'Farrell said yesterday it was "crazy" that public transport would be hit by the tax when petrol for cars would be exempt: "This will create more pollution and defeat the whole purpose of a carbon tax.

"The federal government is crazy if it thinks this tax is going to reduce carbon emissions when it will lead to higher public transport fares and create an incentive for people to use their cars."

Public transport fares are set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

An inquiry into the carbon tax impacts on fares would need to be held before fare rises could be approved.



Buried under the snow the Warmists said wouldn't fall

March 2000:

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

May, 2008:

Scientists say Australian skiers should prepare for shorter ski seasons because of global warming… CSIRO climate change expert Dr Penny Whetton says Australia’s mountain snow cover could be reduced by up to 54 per cent by 2020.

July 2011:

THE deepest snow in 21 years has been recorded by Snowy Hydro at Spencer’s Creek. The 158.9cm-deep snow promises plenty of powder this season. The last time there was snow this thick early in July was in 1990.


The price of Greenie dam hatred continues to rise

Desalination plant to keep sucking taxpayer cash

SYDNEY'S desalination plant has asked the pricing regulator to let it have $579,500 a day in "availability charges" when it is shut down because Warragamba Dam levels are high.

The Sydney Desalination Plant, which the O'Farrell government plans to privatise, wants to be paid just $12,900 more each day to be available when it is supplying water. Under the arrangement, it would be paid a "water security" charge of $592,400 a day when operational.

"This is an unusual situation for a substantial infrastructure asset and arises as a result of the high variability of rainfall over Warragamba Dam, which provides about 80 per cent of the water supply for Sydney," the plant has said in a new submission to the regulator.

NSW Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce has decided that the desalination plant should be able to charge for providing water supply services, irrespective of dam levels.

The availability charge covers the fixed costs of operating the $1.9 billion plant at Kurnell, on Botany Bay, such as insurance, land tax and council rates, and electricity standby costs.

When it is operating, the plant wants to charge $533.30 for every megalitre of water it supplies in 2012-13. This is lower than the current charge of $620/ML but much higher than the price for dam water of $271.10/ML this year.

The availability charge at the moment is $12.7 million per month, which equates to about $418,000 a day. The pricing proposals are revealed in a new submission to the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

The desalination charges for the plant -- which can provide up to 15 per cent of Sydney's water supply -- are being set independently for the first time, with the new charges to take effect from July 1 next year.

The submission also confirms that the energy-guzzling plant is seeking to pass on its green power costs to Sydney Water -- which would then pass them on to consumers in their water bills.

"This will ensure that the cost of providing desalinated water is borne by those who receive the associated water security benefits, and is not subsidised by water consumers outside of Sydney Water's supply zone," the submission says.

"It will also ensure that water customers receive any benefit from the sale of surplus renewable energy certificates in the future."

Because of requirements imposed by the former NSW Labor government, the plant is 100 per cent powered by renewable energy, under a 20-year deal with Infigen.

The costs of renewable energy certificates for the plant are forecast to rise from $18.3m in 2011-12 to $23.8m in 2016-17, while electricity prices will rise $24.2m to $32.5m over this time.

The submission argues that the cost of renewable energy "is not expected to be an ongoing burden" because the contract with Infigen precludes them passing on costs associated with Julia Gillard's carbon pricing scheme.


Rooftop panels penalise poor

THIS week I signed off on a cheque for several thousand dollars (yes, I'm trying to use up my old chequebook before being forced to a paperless bank account) and I felt just a little grubby as a result.

Yet, in answering the greatest moral challenge of our time, I'm supposed to feel a warm inner glow at the thought of helping global greenhouse gas emissions and my grandchildren, Grace, Paddy and Fred.

My cheque wasn't for some grubby purpose; it was the final payment for putting a mini, greenhouse-gas friendly electricity generator on my roof, a series of photovoltaic cells.

In Canberra -- as elsewhere in Australia -- households with PV cells producing solar energy for their own use and for feeding back into the electricity grid get reductions to their electricity bills and even cash dividends.

Some people have seen the opportunity to do much more than offset their own electricity bill and have vast shiny seas of cells on their suburban roofs in expectation of generous income in the years to come.

For myself, the outlay, while sizeable, was more modest than many and was directed towards ameliorating my electricity bills in the years ahead when I become a self-funded retiree.

So why should I feel grubby about such a transaction, such a global-friendly decision and something that is going to save me money?

Well, the truth of it is I wasn't acting to save the planet and it was arguably against the interests of my grandchildren, who have to have heating during Canberra's chill winters.

Like China "acting on climate change", the actions I have taken will contribute to cutting greenhouse gas emissions from coal or gas-fired power stations, but it's not the reason I'm doing it. I'm doing it to save myself money.

There is no doubt that my actions, like China's investment in renewable energy sources -- and yes, the solar panels on my roof were all made in China although the inverter box is German -- is directed at saving money.

My actions, and China's, will be listed in the positive column for fighting climate change and some may say the motivation doesn't matter.

Others will point out that taking self-serving action is not the same as taking steps that cost a lot of money and don't have a positive personal return or economic saving.

But, as with most people and most economies, there is a finite limit, and it's pretty low, as to how much you are willing to spend without getting a financial return or tangible dividend.

For years I had signed up to planet-saving measures that added only a few cents to a bill here or there, but the thought of forking over thousands of dollars in a big lump and not getting a return is daunting to say the least.

In reaction to this natural human response, governments across the world, starting in Europe where Germany is the home of roof-top power generation, have offered incentives to technological developers, manufacturers, installers and households to buy green-friendly technology. These incentives take the form of renewable energy credits and guaranteed returns on renewable energy.

Governments have gone further to legislate MRETs -- mandatory renewable energy targets -- of varying sizes to be reached by various target dates. They were introduced as a measure independent of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax. Indeed, when Labor was still in opposition and advocating an ETS and the level of the renewable energy target was an issue in contest with the Howard government, then frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon, who is still the member for the coal-rich seat of Hunter in NSW, made the point that the MRET should be scrapped when an ETS came into force.

The valid reason for this was that artificial or mandatory targets for renewable energy distort the carbon market and the ability of the national energy supply market to deliver an orderly and cost-effective system for power.

This point is of such concern to Australia's energy ministers that they have requested the Australian Energy Market Commission to conduct a review of the RET schemes to assess their influence on power supply and costs.

The AEMC agrees with the government's chief climate change adviser Ross Garnaut that the RET schemes need to be reassessed in light of a carbon price.

In a previously confidential response to Garnaut's recommendations on the electricity industry, the AEMC said: "Careful consideration should be given to the overall impact on energy customers of a carbon price and the other measures that directly or indirectly provide incentives to reduce carbon emissions such as RET.

"The review of these policies should consider whether the existing policies are still required following the introduction of a carbon price and the potential for unintended, but foreseeable, consequences for energy customers from continuing a range of different measures. The overall aim should be to find policy settings that achieve the government's policy objectives as efficiently as possible, including minimising costs to consumers."

The report also noted the RET would have an effect on electricity prices, carbon emissions and the security of the electricity supply. On the latter point there have been other warnings that South Australia's highly successful achievement of a target of 20 per cent renewable energy raises questions about the extent of the sustainable contribution of renewable sources and where those sources can be concentrated in the national grid.

This brings us back to the point of why I don't feel comfortable about making the perfectly acceptable, socially admired and financially advantageous decision to spend several thousand dollars now to save money when I am thrown back on my own resources, which governments have been telling me to anticipate for years.

Because the feed-in tariffs are guaranteed by governments and new governments, such as Liberal Barry O'Farrell's government in NSW, seem incapable of rescinding the deals, then the distortion in the market, recognised by those framing the climate change response and trying to ensure energy security, is permanent.

What's more, I can afford PV cells to offset my electricity bills but, through the years, the little old lady across the street, the university students renting flats around the corner and my grandchildren's parents, none of whom could afford the cells, will be paying higher prices to offset my offset. That's why I feel grubby doing something legitimate, legal, encouraged, green-friendly and financially helpful for me. It distorts the market and is inequitable.


14 July, 2011

Muslim morality

No "women and children first" among Muslims, apparently

As a four-year-old girl desperately paddled towards a life jacket amid the wreckage of SIEV 221, a man bobbing in the monstrous Christmas Island swell grabbed it and then kicked her away, an inquest has heard.

Local Australian Federal Police officer, Special Constable Shane Adams, stood on the cliffs at Rocky Point on December 15, trying to help the 89 asylum seekers and three crew members whose boat had smashed into rocks.

He spotted the girl after the boat broke apart trying to dog paddle towards a life jacket he had flung into the sea.

Constable Adams said he then noticed a man aged about 35 in the water nearby. "He reached out and grabbed the life jacket, pushed out with his right foot and struck the young girl on the shoulder, pushing her back," he told the inquest on Christmas Island.

That was the last time Const Adams saw the girl. Before the boat was torn to pieces amid the backwash at Rocky Point


Huge rip-off of taxpayers by militant union

VICTORIAN taxpayers face escalating costs for state-funded construction projects after a powerful union won a "deal of a lifetime" pay rise.

It comes as the Herald Sun reveals how one state-funded infrastructure project is now costing three times as much in labour costs, while another had been deferred because of escalating pay rates.

Nearly 8000 members of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union packed into Festival Hall yesterday to vote on the new enterprise bargaining agreement that will see base wages increase 5 per cent each year over four years.

The EBA, sold to members as "the best deal you will see in your lifetime", will see all overtime paid at double time and a living away from home allowance of $750 a week.

Assistant secretary Tommy Watson told members the deal means "you can buy the kids lollies and ice-cream, a bunch of flowers for the missus, a few slabs for yourself and still have something to put away each week."

Such wage claims are now widespread in Victoria and other states following the generous pay deal negotiated by workers on the desalination plant at Wonthaggi in 2009.

The Herald Sun has now learned that labour costs at the $93 million Northern Water Plant, being built by John Holland for Barwon Water with $9.2 million of government funding, are triple the normal rate.

Workers on the project costs the company $95.70 an hour in total labour costs, compared with $36.95 for a civil contractor doing the same job. Another Barwon Water project contracted to John Holland, the $42 million Black Rock Recycled Water Plant allocated $10 million in Federal funding, has been pushed back six months because of pay negotiations.

The spike in wages and union demands led Premier Ted Baillieu to last month declare he would take on the unions to cut costs on taxpayer-funded projects. "The rates at the desal plant have migrated to other projects; that's been a concern in the industry ... if that continues we will price ourselves out of infrastructure," the Premier said.

Yesterday Finance Minister Robert Clark repeated Government concerns. "If this continues ... we will no longer be able to afford the roads, schools and hospitals that Victorian families need," he said.

Ken Phillips, executive director of Independent Contractors Australia, said the situation "did not bode well for construction in Victoria", and would lead to a 20 per cent increase in construction costs.


Don’t base policy on crapulous alcohol statistics

Alcohol. The anti-alcohol lobby say just one drink increases your risk of cancer, and news yesterday was that cigarette-warning-style labels will start appearing on bottles of booze. The social costs of alcohol are often cited as an additional reason to crack down on it. Here, Dr Eric Crampton casts a sceptical eye over how that social cost is measured

If I told you that surfing cost the Australian economy a billion dollars and that we consequently should make life jackets compulsory, you could be forgiven for thinking that the number represented some real cost to the community; perhaps the cost of rescuing surfers caught in rips or medical care for those injured in accidents.

But if you found out that the vast majority of that figure was the combination of surfers’ expenditures on their boards and the costs of holidays they took heading up to Yallingup, you might think twice about endorsing the policy recommendation. And you might wonder a bit why anybody would have thought those costs could matter for policy.

And so it is with the often-cited social costs of alcohol. In 2008, Macquarie University’s Professor David Collins and the University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Helen Lapsley estimated that alcohol consumption cost Australia some $15 billion for the 2004/5 fiscal year.

The figure proved popular, being cited dozens of times on Australian television and radio, more than 100 times in newspaper articles and op-eds and it’s been referenced on a dozen occasions in Australia’s Parliament by nine MPs. With one large number proving popular, others like Professor Robin Room went on to produce even larger figures.

But what isn’t widely understood is that these papers use a method that, like the surfing example, mostly counts the costs drinkers impose upon themselves. This “Cost of Illness” method varies considerably from standard methods of economic analysis. There are many ways of producing a cost figure, but once we stray too far from standard economic method, we cannot interpret the produced figure as being economically meaningful.

There has emerged a cottage industry of academics and consultants using this Cost of Illness method to produce large figures for Ministries of Health from Canada to Australia. When the method counts over a billion dollars that drinkers spend on their own alcohol in Australia, but dismisses that those drinkers just might have enjoyed having a drink, the practice borders on advocacy.

In its final report which was publicly released in May last year, the Henry Tax Review argued that alcohol tax is a blunt tool for addressing harms caused by alcohol, but that tax can address these spillover costs where marginal social costs otherwise exceeds the price of alcohol.

But methods that include private costs as public provide a distorted picture of the appropriate level of taxation; the Henry Review urged caution about relying on these methods used by Professor Collins and Associate Professor Lapsley. As the $15 billion figure includes a large proportion of costs which fall on the drinker, the figure is meaningless from an economic and policy perspective.

Together with Matt Burgess of the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation and Brad Taylor from Australian National University, I have had a close look at the $15 billion figure and compared it to the figure that would have emerged had more standard economic method been used in its construction.

The end result was that policy-relevant annual costs of alcohol consumption in Australia were no more than $3.8 billion. To provide perspective for examination of spillover costs, the total tax take from alcohol (excluding GST) for the same financial year was $4.1 billion.

In other words, alcohol consumers contributed more in tax than they cost others through the health system and traffic accidents. The new $3.8 billion figure is not the result of cost-benefit analysis – more work would need to be done to quantify the benefits of drinking. Rather, it is the figure that emerges when we apply standard economic method and count only the costs tabulated by Professor Collins and Associate Professor Lapsley that truly count as spillovers.

Unfortunately, political discussion of alcohol’s sometimes tragic costs is too often clouded by emotion. It’s not that we do not care when a drinker falls ill or, worse still, loses his or her life.

But if we are going to count the costs that some drinkers impose upon themselves through their consumption, a fair analysis would also have to count against those private costs the benefits that drinkers enjoy from a night out or from a quiet drink at home. Or, it would not present costs drinkers impose upon themselves as being costs to society.

On Thursday, I will be presenting to the Australian Conference of Economists in Canberra as part of the Conference’s annual “Dodgy” awards. I’ll be arguing that preventative health suffers from the worst application of economic analysis to policy, Professor Collins and Associate Professor Lapsley’s report and how it’s been treated in policy discourse will help me to make that case.



Four articles below

Carbon trading hoax will mean $57bn will disappear overseas by 2050, says Tony Abbott

FOREIGN carbon traders would take $57 billion out of the Australian economy by 2050 under the Government carbon tax, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said today.

Visiting the Nolans Transport depot a Gatton, Mr Abbott said the scheme would end up being a "get rich quick scheme" for foreign carbon traders. "The more that the costs of this scheme tehat become apparent the less Australians like it," he said.

Mr Abbott fended off claims that former leader Malcolm Turnbull did not support the Liberals direct action policy to tackle climate change. "Every single member of the shadow cabinet supports our policy," he said before shutting down further questions on the issue.

Mr Nolan, who believes the carbon tax will cost his trucking business $300,000 a year, said the flood had dealt a big financial blow to the Lockyer Valley. "Farmers could not afford the tax, I can't afford it and I think Tony is right. It should go a vote."


Carbon tax could 'bugger' Australia, says top businessman

A LEADING businessman has warned that the government's carbon policy could "bugger the country", joining a chorus against the tax, as consumer sentiment sinks.

University of Queensland chancellor and former Suncorp chairman John Story said yesterday the government's carbon package relied on a "huge leap of faith", because the technology to manage a cost-effective transition to a low-carbon economy did not yet exist, reports The Australian.

His warning followed this week's criticism of the carbon tax by media and mining mogul Kerry Stokes and fellow West Australians, resource heavyweights Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart.

Mr Stokes warned this week that Australia was at risk of imposing too many extra costs on industry and pricing foreign investors out of the market.

Mr Story said the carbon tax also presented a huge challenge for research institutions to develop clean energy technology. "If the research institutions fail to work with government and industry on a creative and productive basis, and fail to produce realistic and cost-effective solutions within a limited time frame, then there is every chance that . . . the country will be buggered," Mr Story told a university business function.

The chancellor's warning came as the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer confidence slumped in May to a two-year low, its biggest one-month fall since October 2008 - around the time of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

The survey was conducted shortly before the government's announcement of its carbon pricing plan last Sunday.

Also yesterday, Visy executive chairman Anthony Pratt flagged a deep 10 per cent cut to the packaging group's energy use to offset an initial $12 million annual impost from the planned tax. Mr Pratt said in a notice to all staff that the annual cost of a $23-a-tonne carbon tax would more than treble to $37 million if exemptions granted to emissions from Visy's recycling and Tumut paper-making activities were removed in future years.


Bizarre impost will damage economy

IF ever there were a single country in the entire world spectacularly unsuited to be the sole imposer of a vast, unprecedented carbon tax, which no other country in the world is remotely duplicating, it is Australia.

Isolated from our strategic friends, far distant from our biggest markets, a member of no natural trading bloc or customs union, we have just one serious, competitive advantage in the global economy.

That is the abundance of our fossil fuel endowments. If ever there were a nation well advised to move slowly and carefully on policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we are it.

As Productivity Commission head Gary Banks commented: "It will not be efficient from a global perspective [let alone a domestic one] for a carbon-intensive economy, such as ours, to abate as much as countries that are less reliant on cheap, high emission, energy sources . . . Modelling aside, it's common sense that achieving any given level of abatement is likely to be costlier in a country with a comparative advantage in fossil fuels."

Banks here did something extremely dangerous. He pitted common sense against economic modelling. Part of the economics profession has gone weak at the knees because the government has labelled its bizarre new amalgam of vast new taxes, huge new bureaucracies, massive expenditure churn, endless new regulation, huge government subsidies for preferred companies and wildly unrealistic targets, a "market-based mechanism".

The government's carbon tax does not pass the commonsense test at any point. To call $8 billion in new taxes in the first year, and new government expenditure so great that it exceeds even the new tax intake, a "market-based mechanism" and economic reform just illustrates George Orwell's insight that if you control the language, you can convince people that black is white and up is down.

The whole enterprise is built on a falsehood, the supposition that nations around the world are taking comparable economy-distorting actions to that proposed by the Gillard government.

There is no really polite way of putting this but it is simply, utterly and comprehensively untrue. This is critically important. Even if you accept that all the science about climate change is true, that does not indicate what the best response for Australia is. If the science is true, then the problem can only be tackled by global action. If global action is impossible, then nations should do their best to cut greenhouse gas emissions in ways that don't hurt their economy too much, prepare for adaptation when it's needed and work to produce technological breakthroughs that allow lower emissions technologies to work and become affordable. This is broadly what other nations are doing. None is doing anything remotely like our carbon tax.

In the US, cap and trade, their name for an emissions trading scheme, is dead and buried. Far from approaching the official US target of reducing 2005 level emissions by 17 per cent by 2020, US emissions grew by 4 per cent last year. I lived in Washington in August and September and read three newspapers and watched a lot of news bulletins each day. I cannot remember a single mention, ever, of the US greenhouse reduction target. It has no traction in US politics.

According to the third Garnaut report, which engaged in every propaganda trick possible to pretend the world was as seized of this religion as Garnaut himself is, China's greenhouse gas emissions will increase from 2005 levels of five billion tonnes a year to 12 billion tonnes by 2020. That's an increase of seven billion tonnes a year. Australia, notionally, in that time might cut emissions by 70 million tonnes. So China's increase will be 100 times greater than Australia's decrease. Our contribution, for which we are turning our economy and politics upside down, will be too small to measure.

Japan has not only rejected an ETS approach but is likely, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, to make renewed investments in coal. Canada has elected a government committed to no carbon tax or ETS. The remaining ETS schemes in a couple of states in the US are falling apart. South Korea has put off action until 2015 at the earliest. The European ETS raises $1 a person and has very little effect on economic activity. India has no interest in a carbon tax approach. It levies a tax on coal of $1 a tonne and its carbon emissions will grow almost as quickly as China's.

So Australia is going to impose a huge cost on itself for no benefit to the environment. That's not an argument to do nothing. It is an argument to move very carefully with minimum disruption to our economy. There is a further central paradox. Given that the biggest emitters -- China, the US, India and most other nations -- do not have anything like the Australian carbon tax, it is clear that what abatement has occurred in the world has taken place mainly through "direct action". Press gallery commentators' dismissal of Tony Abbott and opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt's arguments on this demonstrate not policy sophistication but intellectual laziness, and an inability to move beyond the government's endless, admittedly very confusing, propaganda publications.

It is also the case that the Gillard government's own big tax will not actually reduce Australia's emissions. Instead, the government will spend many billions of dollars on its own direct action efforts. More than that, even if everything the government promises comes to pass, which is substantially less likely than my winning the US Ladies Professional Golf Championship, Australia's actual emissions will still rise and we will have to spend many billions of dollars buying carbon credits from overseas.

But the history of these credits so far is one of rorting and malpractice. Moreover, to believe the purchase of such credits will help the physical environment, you have to make the fantastic leap of faith to the conclusion that these credits represent real physical actions which, if we had not purchased them, would otherwise not have occurred. That is, it is not only that we pay a higher price for these credits than any other bidder but that if we didn't bid for them they wouldn't exist. Otherwise we are just trading in fairytales.

Yesterday the government also announced that it will be illegal for businesses to claim the carbon tax is causing them to put up prices. This is a bizarre, profoundly anti-democratic, environmentally useless and economically damaging period we are passing through. It's not market based and it's not economic reform.


Carbon tax the last straw for battlers as cost of living spirals out of control

THE micro effects of the macro-economic decisions are being felt disproportionately in the most sensitive parts. In short, we are hurting out here - again. No matter how well we have done what we were told to do, how proud we are to have pulled together, the punches keep coming. The carbon tax is the last straw. Enough is enough.

We endured a horror summer of disasters, have picked ourselves up or are helping our neighbours to their feet, and then were told last month that because we had sweated through the summer instead of whacking on the airconditioner, our power bills were being put on steroids to make up for the shortfall in projected power company profits. What? Hey? How does that make sense in a fair and equitable world?

But wait, there was more. Fresh fruit and veg prices have been high all year and were up a bit extra this month, partly as an after-effect of that horror summer. Eating well is far more expensive than eating poorly.

Public transport price rises early in the year mean it is often cheaper to drive to a destination (although it is debateable because petrol prices are also high), and the population boom and poor timetabling mean people often have to stand through the public transport journey after shelling out more than people in other states.

Water prices went up, even though it rained like it would never stop (see horror summer, above). So contributing to getting the region through the tough times was rewarded with more hip-pocket pain.

Well, enough with the big stick. Enough of the increased financial pain, even when we do all we are told to do.

Enough of telling us short-term pain will bring long-term gain. Queenslanders, more than others, have experience that shows short-term pain has meant a long-term price gain in the past. We know better than to fall for it again. By the start of the new financial year, there was a palpable cynicism and resentment over all of this. We were tired and stressed from the endlessness of rising bills.

The cynicism and resentment have made us behave in ways that are unlike our pull-together, believe-the-best selves.

We are far from school children, seeking the gold star, but we have shown we respond very well when a crisis or required action is explained rather than have threats and charges imposed. We feel empowered in helping to rectify the problem.

Consumer researcher Deborah J. MacInnis, in her study Why and How Consumers Hope: Motivated Reasoning and the Marketplace, found the most powerful motivator for behaviour was pride, not punishment or shame.

We are a proud people. Very few people were fined for using too much water in the bad old days of drought. Very few did the wrong things during the horror summer.

The carbon tax will not solve the carbon emissions problem, but uses money as punishment to - hopefully - change behaviour that causes environmental damage.

When the answer the governments reach for is to create a price, the drip-drip effectively becomes water torture for those who ultimately have to pay. There are many in our community who are trying hard to help out the ol' planet. It doesn't matter if they were the ones who were regarded as hippy twerps in the 1970s and 1980s. When they heard the warnings and believed them enough, they modified their behaviour in an effort to help.

Nope - no matter how much or little we have done in our lives to help the Earth stay cool or heal its ozone hole, more pain is on the way. We have been given fair warning to brace ourselves.

But just how much more pain are we prepared to cop? And how much can we afford before the house of cards falls down? We have been continually told we are the lucky country and our nation escaped the worst of the global financial crisis. But retail sales are abominable and have been for a year or more. I have not heard of a tradie who currently feels like they are sailing along financially, let alone living in luxury's lap. Charity donations are down.

Financial observers have noted rising petrol prices, higher school fees and healthcare bills, among other things, have effectively sent consumers to the safety of their homes. They have stopped spending.

How times have changed. Seven years ago, financial people tell us, people were spending every cent they had and then some. Now we are trying to save for the rainy day, which already appears to be here.

The problem we have is the Government, economists, retailers and companies see us as consumers. We are simply people who use things, buy things and dispose of things when we are finished. But we are so much more than that. Enough!


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

13 July, 2011

Half of high school students don't know they live in a democracy, survey finds

Since Australia is in fact a Constitutional Monarchy and the Royal family get constant coverage in the Australian press, this might not be quite as bad as it seems

HIGH school students will be taught the Australian system of government after a survey revealed more than half have no idea they live in a democracy - or even know what it means. This is despite students learning about our political structure at primary school in Year 6.

The AusCivics program, developed by the Constitution Education Fund Australia and endorsed by the federal and state governments, will be rolled out after the school holidays.

"The Australian Electoral Commission has found that half of young Australians don't know that they live in a democracy or what it actually means," the fund's executive director Kerry Jones said. "Children are taught in primary school but then half of them forget everything they've learned by the time they are 16."

The program has been developed by Ms Jones, a prominent monarchist, with author Thomas Keneally and former New South Wales premier Barrie Unsworth.

Ms Jones said she was disappointed to learn a conference for members of the radical Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba last weekend repeated its rejection of democracy, calling for Muslims to boycott elections and embrace Sharia law. "That's not the Australian way," she said.

Yet Ms Jones said it was not only radicals that threatened democracy. "There is a lack of engagement among Australians and this is putting our democracy under threat," she said.

"For the last election, 1.4 million Australians, mostly young people, didn't bother to enrol. More than 700,000 Australians voted informally."

The program includes a short film written by Keneally that encourages young Australians to be politically engaged. It features well-known Aussies including Ian Thorpe, Steve Waugh and Georgie Parker. Students will also be encouraged to see the award-winning film Broken Hill.

Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett said the government supported the program as a way to remind young people of the "value of living in a democratic and free country". "The Australian way of life includes fairness, tolerance, respect for parliamentary traditions, recognition of the importance of the right to vote and a willingness to be part of a community," he said.


Didn’t sign up for an internet filter? Have one anyway

HAVE you received an email about Australia’s internet filter lately? Seen a brief note from your internet service provider?

No? Neither have I. Yet, like the majority of Australian internet users, my access to the internet is being filtered. A list of hundreds of websites is being blocked from view. ‘Which websites?’ you ask. It’s hard to say. They’re on a secret list.

‘Why didn’t the Government tell me?’ you ask. The Government isn’t overseeing this operation. In fact, the Australian Government has no control over this filter at all. It’s something a select group of internet providers have taken on all by themselves.

Are you concerned yet? You have a right to be. As suspected, Australia’s internet filter crept on to the worldwide web very quietly.

This filter, you see, was not the much-publicised version devised by Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. It would have seen every website lumped into the ‘Refused Classification’ basket banned from view. There were more than a few Australians concerned about what that filter might ban, including political debates on topics such as euthanasia and abortion.

The RC filter still on the Labor policy table, though we’ll have to wait for the results of a Classification review before it rears up again. That is due next year. The filter we now have (surprise!) was instead devised as a stop-gap while we wait for our full-blown filter. It is just as secretive, however.

Optus has confirmed it plans to start censoring the web this month, though it won’t say when. Telstra flicked the filtering switch on July 1, as did CyberOne.

So what exactly are they filtering? At this stage, the voluntary filter is designed to block child abuse material. According to the Communications Minister’s department, that includes the ACMA list of about 500 websites plus Interpol’s list of sites. We don’t know how long this list of websites is. No one will say.

So why should you be concerned? No one here is in favour of child abuse, after all. Here’s a list to get you startled.

1. Subscribers have not been told.

I expected to know when Australia got its first internet filter. I also expected to be notified when my long-time internet provider installed one. Telstra has told me nothing about it. Millions of others are in the same boat. If it’s for our own good, why aren’t we being told about it?

2. We don’t know what is on this list.

It’s all very well for the IIA to come out in support of this voluntary, commercial filtering, but even they won’t say what exactly is being filtered. Can we have content descriptions at least? Will there be a repeat of the incident in which Wikipedia was blocked in the UK due to an album cover the Internet Watch Foundation didn’t like? Nobody knows.

3. No appeals process.

Discover your website is being blocked unfairly? Perhaps you have a saucy album cover on your website? There is no way to appeal this ban. You could perhaps lobby the IIA or individual service providers, but there is no pre-constructed method to get your site off this list.

4. Companies are in charge.

This internet filter affects millions of Australian internet users yet it’s being governed by companies. Forget child abuse. Why not block customers whinging about Aussie telcos? Why doesn’t Vodafone block Vodafail? It’s possible now.

5. Paving the way for a bigger filter.

Much more serious is the threat that this system could be expanded to become Conroy’s planned internet filter. If no laws are required to set up this system, what is preventing its expansion to all Refused Classification sites? What is to prevent the banned website list getting longer? Based on this current experience, we would never know just how long the list was and wouldn’t discover a website was banned until we tried to visit it. This filter could become downright insidious without notice.

There is hope, however. Quite a few Australian internet providers do not see it as their job to block websites. These include iiNet, Internode, Exetel and TPG. Those looking for a way to protest this quiet filter can opt for any of these services.

We shouldn’t have to change service providers to make a political point though. This filter is not something Australians were allowed to vote upon and it’s not something about which we’ve been adequately informed. The Government won’t say anything about it as they’re not in charge of it and the ISPs are not even telling their customers.

If a site is illegal, take it down. If more law enforcement is needed online, fund it. Installing a voluntary, commercially introduced ban on a list of unknown websites? Dodgy.


Australians demand carbon tax vote

AUSTRALIANS have given the carbon tax the thumbs down, with 68 per cent saying it will leave them worse off and 63 per cent calling for Julia Gillard to bring on an early election.

The exclusive Galaxy Poll for the Herald Sun - the first major survey since the release of the carbon tax package on Sunday - also found 60 per cent of voters opposed the tax, 29 per cent were in favour and 11 per cent undecided.

The nationwide telephone poll of 500 people conducted on Monday night suggests voters believe the personal cost of the carbon tax outweighs the environmental benefits.

Voters have not accepted Ms Gillard's promise that more than six out of 10 households would be fully compensated or better off after compensation for the rise in the cost of living.

Only 10 per cent of voters said they would be better off and only 28 per cent believe Ms Gillard has a mandate to introduce the tax without holding another election.

The poll reveals 62 per cent of people think the Greens, who negotiated the package with Labor and the independents, have too much influence over the Government, while 30 per cent say the Greens are working effectively.

It finds 81 per cent believe the carbon tax will have little or no impact on the environment and 67 per cent believe it will be bad for the economy compared with 22 per cent who think it will be good.

The poll comes as Ms Gillard rejected suggestions she might step down as PM or be replaced after Labor's primary vote in the latest Newspoll plunged to a record low of 27 per cent. It was 35 per cent when she toppled Kevin Rudd last year.

"I will be leading this country to a clean energy future, that's what I'm determined to do," Ms Gillard said yesterday as she campaigned in Melbourne. "I'm absolutely convinced what I'm doing is right. "There's a very simple proposition here: do you want your kids to grow up in a country that's generating more pollution or less? ... By putting a price on carbon we will generate less pollution."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who was in Dandenong South, predicted Labor MPs might move to replace Ms Gillard because of the carbon tax. "They may well remove this Prime Minister," he said.

Ms Gillard said under a $23 carbon tax the economy would continue to grow with more jobs and she cited a $4.7 billion takeover bid by the world's biggest coal miner, Peabody Energy, for Australia's Macarthur Coal as proof the coal industry had a strong future.

"Tony Abbott was predicting Armageddon for the coal mining industry yesterday. The future of the coal mining industry is bright and it's not the first thing he's got wrong," she said.

Ms Gillard rejected claims by food and housing groups in yesterday's Herald Sun that prices would rise by more than predicted by Treasury.

She said the same experts who modelled the GST and got it right had estimated the carbon tax would add just 0.7 per cent to the cost of living.


Disgusting old hatreds still live on among the Australian Left

Want to see stormtroopers picketing Jewish shops? You don't have to go to 1930s Germany. You can see it in Melbourne right now

A century ago, Australia was a relatively tolerant society. Even so, Jews and Catholics were banned from Protestant-dominated gentlemen's clubs in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere. In other words, discrimination against certain minorities became acceptable and fashionable. Consequently, it was rarely commented on or even noticed.

Today Australia is an accepting society which formally outlaws discrimination on the basis of race or gender and disapproves of intolerance towards minorities. Except, it seems, Jews and Catholics.

On the evening of Friday, July 1 - at the commencement of the Jewish sabbath - there was a demonstration outside the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne. This was part of the Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel. Demonstrators prevented customers entering the premises. The reason? The Strauss Group, the parent company of Max Brenner, supplies confectionary goods to the Israeli Defence Force.

There's not much connection between buying hot chocolate on a cold winter night in Melbourne and the events in the Middle East - where Israel remains, with the possible exception of Iraq, the only democracy. Yet this was a violent demonstration. Victorian Police suffered three injuries and 19 protesters were arrested. Demonstrators called for the destruction of Israel and chanted: "From the river to the sea/Palestine will be free." The protest was reported in the Herald-Sun but all but ignored by The Age and the ABC.

Michael Danby, the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, put the matter in perspective when he commented: "These people are prejudiced fanatics who should look into their soul. While 1500 people are murdered in Syria, they launch their own sad little attack on a chocolate shop because it also has stores in Israel."

Danby's point about double standards is well taken. There is little doubt that most ABC and Age journalists would regard a violent boycott of a kebab shop, in opposition to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, as both a provocation and newsworthy.

Then there are the historical parallels. In the mid-1930s, Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists used to go on rampages outside Jewish-owned shops in London's East End - some were boycotted, others smashed up. The British government responded by implementing the Public Order Act. Mosley targeted Jewish traders because they were Jews. The BDS protesters targeted the Max Brenner chocolate shop because its parent company does business in the Jewish state of Israel.

The demonstration in Melbourne (there was also one in Sydney in June) has attracted little attention, apart from coverage by Andrew Bolt and reports in the Australian Jewish News. This suggests society has become complacent when the target of a protest is Jewish.

It's much the same with traditional Catholics, such as Tony Abbott. Last week he was subjected to two negative advertisements: one by the Labor Party, endorsed by the ALP national secretary, George Wright; the other by the left-wing CFMEU, which was endorsed by the trade union's national president, Tony Maher.

The Labor advertisement has Abbott being woken by an alarm clock and then going through his wardrobe to choose his attire for the day. Among the outfits rejected are a red pair of swimming briefs, bicycle clothing and a cassock with a crucifix on the front. Get it? Abbott, who trained as a seminarian, once thought about being a Catholic priest.

The CFMEU advertisement is more of the (sectarian) same. The Liberal Party leader is presented as one of the popes of old who rejected Galileo's scientific findings. Abbott is presented as not merely someone who declines to believe that the world is round but a Catholic who wears a crucifix on his cassock.

I know and respect Wright. I doubt that the newly appointed ALP national secretary understands just how sectarian Labor's advertisement is - or that such anti-Catholic material is capable of offending conservative Catholics who vote ALP. But that's the point. Like pro-Israeli Jews, conservative Catholics are readily taken for granted.

As is its practice, Britain's irreverent Private Eye publishes anonymous reviews. Whoever had the task of assessing the latest offering by the atheist A.C. Grayling made a perceptive point about modern Western manners. He or she pointed out that, for the likes of Grayling, Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists make easy targets.

The reviewer added: "The wise would quite like to be equally contemptuous of Muslims and Hindus, but these persons generally have brown skins and thus criticism of their religious beliefs is better avoided." Australia's very own born-again atheist Catherine Deveny admitted as much on Q&A in February when she said she was "flat out" attacking the "Catholic faith".

Conservative Catholics are a large enough minority to look after themselves. However, there is reason to be concerned about the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the West. Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada have been relatively free of this blight in recent times. Not so Europe, including western Europe.

In his recent essay From Blood Libel to Boycott, Professor Robert Wistrich paints a disturbing picture of anti-Semitism in contemporary Britain. A similar case has been made by the British lawyer and historian Anthony Julius about the hostility to academic Jews exhibited by the University and College Union in Britain.

Wistrich asks the hard question: "Why is Anglo-Jewry the only important ethnic or religious minority in contemporary Britain that has to provide a permanent system of guards and surveillance for its communal institutions, schools, synagogues and cultural centres?" A similar question could be asked about Australia - both with respect to Jewish property and anti-Catholic sectarianism.


12 July, 2011

"Multiculturalism" is not confined to Melbourne

Sydney police have yet to learn that the race of offenders must be kept secret, apparently

A GIRL'S pleas for help were ignored as she was being sexually assaulted by two men in a Sydney shopping mall, police said yesterday.

The 15-year-old was dragged into a garden bed by two men as she walked through Parramatta Mall at Church St about 2am on Sunday.
She told police she cried out for help to a nearby male but he apparently ignored her and kept walking.

After being released, the girl went to a fast food restaurant in the mall and told her friends what had happened.

They contacted police and a crime scene was set up. Police said the men they want to question are both of black African appearance and are appealing for anyone who can assist the investigation to come forward, particularly the male passer-by.


Greens 'derailing' key resource projects

THE gas industry has demanded the Greens stop trying to derail coal-seam gas projects, which are crucial if it is to build up to $60 billion worth of new gas-fired power stations to meet Julia Gillard's plans for a clean energy future and back up unreliable wind energy.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, representing firms such as Santos, said coal-seam projects in Queensland and NSW would provide a "great deal" of the gas needed to meet the expected 200 per cent rise in gas due by 2050 because of the price on carbon.

"The biggest constraint is ironically going to be the opposition to the development of coal-seam gas by the Greens," association chief executive Belinda Robinson said. "This is the party which has established itself on the moral high ground on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "But it's also the party that poses the greatest threat to the development of the one fuel type that provides the greatest opportunity for significantly reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions."

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne has described coal-seam gas as a "disaster" for Australia, while protests from residents have flared in inner-western Sydney and the Hunter Valley, and legal action looms over a project in Queensland's Darling Downs.

The warning comes as figures compiled by the Australian Energy Market Operator for The Australian reveal it would cost about $2.4bn to build the gas plants required to replace the 2000 megawatts of energy production from high-polluting coal plants that will be closed. There would also be annual running costs ranging from $585 million to $1.46bn by 2030.

The government plans to buy out and close high-polluting coal-fired plants, with the "polluting dinosaur" Hazelwood power station in Victoria expected to be among those to close. As well as replacing coal, gas will be crucial to backing up wind, which is notoriously intermittent.

When demand for power rocketed to its highest level in South Australia last summer, the state's 1150MW of installed wind power generation was only able to contribute 60MW of supply.

Treasury modelling forecasts that under a carbon price system, between $50bn and $60bn of gas electricity generating plants will be needed by 2050, with between $1bn and $9bn needed in the next nine years.

More gas will be used to generate electricity as it will become more profitable when the carbon price starts. But there are fears that although Australia has ample gas reserves, electricity generators will struggle to secure long-term contracts for gas supplies because of the surging Asian demand for liquefied natural gas.

On top of this, domestic gas prices are expected to rise as LNG is exported from the east coast after 2015, while the gas transmission industry has warned that its costs will rise because a carbon tax is likely to increase the costs of operating the compressors that move large amounts of gas over long distances.

While there have been 9420MW worth of gas generation projects publicly announced, new figures from AEMO show none has moved to the advanced or committed stage that means a project can proceed.

Ms Robinson said coal-seam gas supplies would have to grow if more gas-fired power stations were to be built. But she said the approvals processes for the projects were becoming more complex, despite previous criticism from the Productivity Commission about convoluted approval requirements.

She said the approvals process was "often a reflection or a response to the level of political opposition being brought to bear". "If we are going to do this, the Greens must be accountable and responsible for the decisions they take and the extent to which they oppose the coal-seam gas industry," Ms Robinson said.

The switch from coal-fired power to gas is expected to require investments in upgrading the pipelines that transport the gas from the south to the north of the country, and can transport gas back down from the coal-seam projects in the north.

Extra capacity will also be needed for the pipelines that feed gas to the big cities.


Schoolboy is taking his fight to play netball in a girls' side to the discrimination watchdog

Interesting to see how the bureaucrats wriggle out of this one -- but wriggle they will

A SCHOOLBOY is taking his fight to play netball in a girls' side to the discrimination watchdog.

Danny Loats, 11, is the only male player in the Banyule District Netball Association and has been picked in their representative sides two years running.

But after enjoying the backing of his Alphington teammates and rivals alike in his own league, their opponents refused to let him line up in a recent junior tournament.

Danny's netball-mad family has enlisted lawyers Maurice Blackburn to take their case to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, with a conference scheduled today.

Danny told the Herald Sun he was the only player of more than 800 not allowed to take part against Diamond Creek Force. "It's sort of sad because everyone else could play but me," he said.

His dad Greg said Danny was the first allowed to try out for state selection in his age group. But there were few alternatives for boys playing at Danny's level except to join girls' teams, he said. "It's all about boys having the same opportunity as girls to play netball," Mr Loats said. "Girls can play AFL and soccer, boys should have the same opportunities."

Netball Victoria has an exemption from VCAT allowing its member associations to declare themselves girls-only in Danny's age group. It's up to the leagues to decide if they want boys to play. Danny's family wants Netball Victoria to change its policy so boys can't be excluded.

But Netball Victoria denies Danny has been unfairly left out, saying the issue was with the law, not the sport. "We're inclusive, we support boys playing netball," a spokeswoman said.

She said Diamond Creek Force followed Netball Victoria's guidelines "to the letter".

Danny's lawyer Natasha Andrew said he just wanted to compete at the top level.


NSW Leftist politicians sent to ethics class

They sure need it

LABOR MPs will be sent to ethics classes after the former government recorded six scandals within eight weeks last year.

A review of the ALP's massive defeat at the state election this year recommends regular continuing education and training in ethics for all caucus members.

The ALP general secretary, Sam Dastyari, said the party would accept all recommendations of the review by former deputy premier John Watkins and the state secretary of the Queensland ALP branch, Anthony Chisholm. "We will be implementing every recommendation in full," he said.

The Labor leader, John Robertson, told the state ALP conference in Sydney at the weekend that the party had to be "honest with ourselves and honest with the people we represent".

The deputy leader, Linda Burney, is a strong advocate of further education and training for MPs, who she said had to "sink or swim" on entering Parliament.

The Watkins/Chisholm review said scandal had haunted the last term of the state Labor government. "Embarrassing, tawdry and devastatingly regular reports of scandalous, inappropriate and corrupt behaviour became the norm," the review said. "Those scandals ranged from the sordidly criminal to the adolescently stupid, but all did their damage.

"The party selected candidates who should never have been in Parliament. Whether that was due to centralised choice of candidates, factional patronage, abuse of the N40 rule or just carelessness, NSW Labor certainly paid dearly for its mistakes."

The review said education and training in ethical standards and ministerial duties and responsibilities may have helped avoid some of the scandals which included Karyn Paluzzano lying to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Paul McLeay viewing pornography at work, and Ian Macdonald's travel rorts [Sir Lunchalot!]

"There is no denying that those involved in scandal showed a deep lack of respect for the people of NSW, for the NSW Labor Party, for other members of caucus and for the government."

Geoff Gallop, from the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney, said it was a good idea to constantly remind public officials of the standards of behaviour expected of them. "It never hurts to remind MPs that they have an obligation, not an option, to act in the public interest," he said. "Many a politician has fallen foul of the law because they forgot that."


South Australian teachers kept on hold for hours to report abuse claims

The typical indifference that pervades government "child protection"

TEACHERS reporting serious cases to the Child Abuse Report Line wait for up to two hours for their calls to be answered.

Teachers were frustrated because they could spend whole lunch or recess times, or hours of their own time waiting on hold, according to Australian Education Union SA principals consultative committee chairman Ian Kent and SA Primary Principals president Steve Portlock. "I've had teachers report they've waited up to two hours to get through," Mr Kent said.

Families and Communities Minister Jennifer Rankine said the number of notifications reported to the 24-hour line was growing in line with awareness of child abuse issues and rostering of staff for the service was under review.

Mr Kent said some teachers also felt that - once they did get through to make the report - their concerns were not taken seriously. "It's quite often when you do ring up, the person at the other end of the line will say, 'well, why are you reporting that?'," Mr Kent said. "But it could be just the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that confirms a child is being abused or neglected."

He said the process of mandatory notifications was essential but demanded thorough documentation - also a time-consuming process for teachers.

Ms Rankine said waiting times could be "highly variable depending on the time of the day and the number of calls". "In 2009-10, 36,038 notifications of suspected child abuse or neglect were received through the Report Line and this was a 10.5 per cent increase on the year before," Ms Rankine said.

She said there was now a dedicated line for teachers calling between 8.30am and 5pm on weekdays, while Families SA "is in the process of appointing interim additional staff to be rostered on during peak times to better meet demand".

Mr Kent and Mr Portlock said that regardless of waiting times, teachers would continue to take the time to ensure reports were made. "The students are the first priority," Mr Portlock said. "Teachers and principals see mandatory notifications as an important responsibility and they take it seriously."


11 July, 2011

Another dishonest and evasive Leftist politician

If you think politicians prefer politicking to doing things that really matter - and who hasn't thought that? - then here's something to confirm your suspicions.

Last week, Infrastructure Australia, a federal government body chaired by businessman Sir Rod Eddington, issued a sternly worded report calling for serious and innovative thinking by politicians on how to fund all the roads and bridges and rail lines Australia needs to keep the economy running.

The problem is pressing: Governments are hitting their borrowing limits for big-ticket infrastructure; and Queensland's gross debt is forecast to double in the first half of this decade, to more than $44 billion, thanks to recent massive spending on the water grid, new hospitals, busways and the like.

For a time it was assumed the profit-seeking private sector would take up the slack, but that was before the global financial crisis and such spectacular disasters as the privately funded Clem7 tunnel.

"The need for a new funding paradigm is especially critical. Without changes in this area, Australia will not secure the infrastructure it needs," Infrastructure Australia intones in its latest report to the Council of Australian Governments, Communicating the Imperative for Action.

"What's missing is a sense of the urgent need for action," Eddington writes. "The country needs leadership in this area. Political and business leaders must be willing to risk some criticism and develop collations of support for difficult but necessary change."

How did the Queensland Government respond to this stirring call to arms? With a media release from Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace that sets new standards for inanity, irrelevance, drawing long bows, and selective use of facts, all in the name of trying to make a political point against the LNP's would-be-premier Campbell Newman.

Wallace jumps on Infrastructure Australia's suggestion that governments will need to rely on tolling and other "pricing reform" to pay for new roads with a release headlined: "Newman will seize on report recommendation to toll the Bruce Highway."

What? First, the long bow. Wallace relies on a month-old, page seven article in the Innisfail Advocate to insist the "LNP had recently been caught out saying it would look at tolls on the Bruce Highway".

This appears to be quite a liberal interpretation of what LNP parliamentary leader Jeff Seeney actually says in the article. "I'm not particularly in favour of toll gates and toll roads like that but there are a whole range of other models that allow private investment to invest in road infrastructure and we have to look at that, we don't have any choice," Seeney, who has since ruled out tolls on the Bruce Highway, was quoted as saying.

But on the basis of that story, Wallace draws back his long bow to near breaking point to insist that: "Campbell Newman will now be using the Infrastructure Australia report as a green light to fulfil his vision of putting toll gates on the Bruce Highway."

Wallace then describes Newman as a "toll-road junkie and not a very successful one at that", based on the evidence of the Clem7 tunnel, which is now in receivership, and the fact that the council's Go-Between toll bridge "has yet to make any money after 12 months".

That seems a pretty brave call for a minister of a government whose own new toll road project, the $4.8 billion Airport Link, has already cost its builder and investors hundreds of millions in losses and is still 12 months away from opening.

Wallace soldiers on, trying to strengthen his wonderfully shaky argument with the claim that Newman and Infrastructure Australia had "previously worked together", with the federal body giving the Brisbane City Council $500 million towards its Legacy Way tolled tunnel project.

That then lord mayor Newman was able to extract such a large amount of money from the Federal Government by submitting a sufficiently robust project proposal is, apparently, in Wallace's world, a bad thing.

None of this should come as a surprise, of course. Politicians are genetically predisposed to attack their opposite numbers whenever they can. It is a pity, though, that Wallace chooses to turn what should be a serious discussion about an increasingly urgent problem for Australia - how to pay for essential infrastructure - into just another cheap political shot.

The problem is serious indeed. Queensland, which has been outlaying more than $15 billion a year on new capital works for the past half decade, plans to cut spending to less than $10 billion a year by 2013 as part of its debt-reduction program, even though such urgently needed new projects as the $8 billion Cross River Rail project remain unfunded.

And even if Wallace can't resist the temptation to trivialise something important for the sake of a political potshot, perhaps he could try to do better.


Give us our own laws, say Islamic leaders

ISLAMIC leaders want Muslims in Australia to get interest-free loans for religious reasons. The nation's Islamic leaders want recognition of sharia law as it applies to banking practices, according to an exclusive Herald Sun survey of imams. There was also a call for recognition of sharia law as it applies to family law.

The survey showed some imams are sceptical that Osama bin Laden's death will be of benefit to ordinary Muslims, and they are unhappy with the way US forces disposed of his body. The survey has also revealed:

STRONG condemnation of MPs who criticise Muslim women for wearing the burqa/nijab.

CONCERN that ordinary Muslims are still being linked to terrorism.

DISGUST that innocent people in Muslim countries are being killed in the "war on terror".

The survey was conducted in the wake of a $55,000 Federal Government training program for imams on Australian laws and values. They have been told to preach core Australian values such as the fair go, freedom, and responsibility.

"Other than the two major issues mentioned, I don't see other sharia law that Muslims would seek to have legally recognised," he said.

Fellow WA imam Sheik Burhaan Mehtar said sharia law often was raised to scare non-Muslims, but a dialogue would lead to better understanding. "Islamic banking and the non-slavery of humans is a classic example. Interest is slavery," he said.

Islamic Council of Victoria board member Nazeem Hussain said legal and tax barriers currently prevented local banks from offering Islamic finance products. "That's a massive market ... we'd encourage the Government to seek ways to tap into that market," he said.

Imam Parker said bin Laden's demise might serve as closure for those convinced he masterminded the 9/11 attacks. "But the reality is that the negative impact on Islam and Muslims has not changed, and it will take many decades for that to change," he said.

Sheik Burhaan Mehtar said the symbolic victory of bin Laden's death would remain hollow while people in nations such as Afghanistan suffered a "terror of death delivered from the skies" by the US and its allies.

Gold Coast imam Imraan Husain reflected a general view that bin Laden's burial at sea was a violation of Islamic funeral rites.

Victorian imam Sheik Ramy Najmeddine said Muslims felt there was an unfair link between terrorism and Islam. "But we believe this is being broken down by the good work that members of both the Muslim and non-Muslim community are doing."

Sheik Mohamadu Saleem, a spokesman for Board of Imams Victoria, accused some MPs of trying to get political mileage out of the burqa issue. "It is mere political expediency," he said.

Victorian imam Abdinur Weli said: "If only Muslims are the people who are told what to wear, then it is discrimination."


Bring back the cane, say PerthNow readers

AN overwhelming majority of PerthNow readers believe corporal punishment should be allowed in WA schools.

A poll on PerthNow today is asking readers whether they support the use of corporal punishment in schools. More than 1600 people have had their say already today with more than 80 per cent of respondents voting yes, it should be allowed.

It follows revelations in today’s edition of The Sunday Times that several WA schools are still using the cane to punish students who behave badly.

Nollamara Christian Academy is among three independent schools that have corporal punishment, which was banned in the state's public and Catholic schools in 1986. Mt Helena's Bible Baptist Christian Academy and Bunbury's Grace Christian School are believed to be the other schools.

Despite opposing corporal punishment, Education Minister Liz Constable said she would not stop it. She says it was up to parents if they wanted to send children to "the very few schools" in WA that still used the cane.

Nollamara Christian Academy Pastor Roger Monasmith said a small paddle "like a ping-pong bat" was used as part of a disciplinary approach for the school's 18 students.

Pastor Monasmith said the cane was never used in anger and every parent had to sign an agreement about corporal punishment before enrolling their child. He said four or five students had been punished so far this year to ensure they understood they had not only disobeyed school rules, but also God.

The Department of Education Services regulates the use of the cane in non-government schools in WA. Such schools must notify parents prior to enrolment and keep records of all corporal punishment administered, a spokesman said.

Opposition education spokesman Ben Wyatt said he believed the cane was "past its use-by-date", but parents should have the choice.



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted by Julia's "carbon" tax


It's just a particularly destructive class-war tax with millions of above-average earners hit. That's a lot of votes to risk. And every price-rise henceforth will now be blamed on it! There will be opportunistic price-rises everywhere. Epic fail!

Five current articles below

Hardest hit by carbon tax is Australia's largest city

As Julia Gillard begins her campaign across western Sydney this morning to sell her plans for the new emissions trading scheme, the Prime Minister has told Australians petrol and agriculture will never be included in the cost of carbon tax.

"The only plan to add an additional piece to who pays for carbon pollution is to bring the heavy vehicles into the scheme," Ms Gillard said on Sunrise today. "There will be no carbon tax on petrol or agriculture ever."

Struggling Sydney families will bear the brunt of the tax, which will increase electricity bills by 10 per cent, gas by 9 per cent and the cost of food and groceries by almost $1 a week.

The government will embark on a $15 billion spending spree today to compensate low-income earners but almost 2 million households will still be out of pocket. "We are asking those families to do their bit to combat climate change," the Prime Minister said.

"Overwhelmingly Australians believe in climate change...and overwhelmingly they want the government to act. "Putting a price on carbon is the cheapest way of cutting pollution and that's why we have designed the scheme the way we have."

Despite the increases, families have been promised they will "forever" be safe from paying more for petrol because of the new tax.

Eight million Australian households will receive cash assistance under a carbon tax - but middle-income Sydney families will bear the burden. Ms Gillard admitted yesterday about 700,000 households would receive no compensation or tax cuts to cover an average $10-a-week rise in the cost of living.

It came as the Prime Minister announced an ambitious new target to reduce Australia's carbon emissions to 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050.

The major reform to the marginal tax rates will be to cover an estimated 10 per cent price rise in electricity bills, a 9 per cent rise in gas, and food and grocery rises of less than $1 a week as a result of a $23 charge for every tonne of carbon produced by the country's top 500 polluters. Airfares will also rise, with the aviation fuel excise to be increased.

The overall compensation package will end up costing more than the revenue from the tax for the first four years.

There are clear winners. Amid a complex arrangement of changes to the tax and family payment systems, a new clean energy supplement will provide pensioners with a 1.7 per cent rise, or $338 a year extra.

And $1.5 billion in payments will be made before the tax even kicks in on July 1 next year. Families who qualify for Family Tax Benefit Part A will receive an extra $110 per child. About 280,000 self-funded retirees who are Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card holders will get the same amount of help as age pensioners.

The tax changes will come by tripling the tax-free threshold from $6000 a year to $18,200 a year [Itself a long overdue reform], which will mean almost four million low-income earners come out in front with the addition of a 20 per cent buffer payment over and above the tax rises.

But the sting comes for almost two million households which will end up out of pocket, being only partially compensated for a 0.7 per cent increase in the cost of living - or receiving no assistance at all.

The compensation package will leave a double-income family in Sydney with two children earning $120,000 of combined income $400 a year out of pocket after tax cuts due to cost of living rises of about $700 a year.

Dual-income $150,000 families with two kids will be $506 worse off under a carbon regime. A single-income family on $65,000 a year with a child under five will also end up worse off.

"We have made choices based on who needs assistance the most. Tax cuts and assistance have been pitched at families earning less than $150,000," Ms Gillard said. "What that means is there is no money tree ... there is no endeavour to try and pretend that everybody will be better off or everybody is in the same position.

"There are some Australians who are not getting tax cuts and family assistance sufficient to compensate them for the likely impact of carbon pricing on them. "We have structured it deliberately so we are assisting lower-income families and middle-income families ... putting assistance where it is needed the most."

The carbon tax will begin at $23 a tonne from July 1, rising to around $25 a tonne by 2015 when the tax converts to an emissions trading scheme (ETS). The government admitted the price could hit $50 a tonne under an ETS, depending on world prices.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the environmental benefit would see more than 50 million tonnes of carbon cut by 2020 - the equivalent of taking 45 million cars off the road.

To achieve its long-term goals, the government will have to buy 100 tonnes of carbon abatements from Europe to meet its targets.

About 500 businesses will be forced to pay for their pollution, from which more than half of the revenue raised will be spent helping Australian households.

The government said it would also negotiate the closure of some of Australia's worst polluting electricity generators before 2020 and replace them with cleaner energy.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said millions of Australians would be worse off under the tax: "You have to ask yourself, what is the point of all of this? It will drive up prices, threaten jobs and do nothing for the environment."


Carbon tax: Heat rises as voters reject Julia Gillard's plan

Online polls are not very reliable but it's a straw in the wind -- JR

ANGRY Australians have vowed to vote Julia Gillard from office at the next election after yesterday's controversial carbon tax announcement.

Scores of voters rejected the plan soon after details of the $24.5 billion package to tackle climate change were revealed, with more than 80 per cent who voted in a national News Limited online poll saying Australia shouldn't have a carbon tax.

Almost 100,000 people voted across four polls in the national plebiscite by 5pm yesterday, with 87.1 per cent saying they planned to change their vote at the next election in light of the tax.

More than 70 per cent of voters, or 15,866 people, said they now planned to vote for the Coalition at the next election while just 8.51 per cent said they would support a Labor government. Just 13 per cent of voters said they wouldn't change their vote at the next election.

Despite government claims that 90 per cent of Australians would receive compensation, and that 40 per cent of households would be overcompensated, voters said Julia Gillard had signed her fate at the polls. "They're calling it 'Carbon Sunday' but I like to refer to today as 'Suicide Sunday' for a PM and three independents," one reader wrote.

"I cannot wait until the next election. The Labor Party the Greens and the Independants will answer to the Australian people for what they are inflicting upon us. Revenge is a dish best served cold," wrote another.

Eighty per cent of voters described the tax as "disgraceful" while others said it was "inadequate". Just eight per cent of voters said they were confident it wouldn't affect their hip pocket.

An anti-carbon tax group said its website crashed after being overwhelmed with people trying to sign up to a campaign rejecting the tax. The organisers of the site,, said the site crashed because of the "sheer numbers of people signing up."


Tony Abbott slams 'veiled socialism'

TONY Abbott has accused Julia Gillard of using her carbon tax plan as a cover for a redistribution of wealth, savaging the new policy as "socialism masquerading as environmentalism".

The Opposition Leader also insisted the package would cost jobs, demanding the Prime Minister visit factory floors and mines to face workers whose jobs he said she had put at risk.

"We're against this," Mr Abbott said. "This is a bad tax. It can't be fixed. It has to be fought."

In the four months since Ms Gillard announced her plan to price carbon, Mr Abbott has travelled the nation, visiting factories, petrol stations and shops to warn of the tax's impacts on the cost of living and its risk to jobs.

The government yesterday produced Treasury modelling pointing only to "modest" impacts and Ms Gillard prepared a national tour to promote her plans. Mr Abbott said he stood by his previous statements and planned to intensify his own campaign.

"I am extremely confident in the statements that I have been making over the last four months," Mr Abbott said. "This is a bad tax based on a lie."

Mr Abbott said Ms Gillard's announcement of the tax was laced with "pollie speak" used to hide the fact it would drive up consumer prices and threaten jobs, with little effect on the environment.

Noting that "no other country on the face of the earth" had an economy-wide carbon tax, Mr Abbott said 10 per cent of households would get no compensation, while 60 per cent would be worse off or "line ball". "This is a redistribution pretending to be compensation, it's a tax increase pretending to be an environmental policy," he said. "It's socialism masquerading as environmentalism."

Mr Abbott's challenge in opposing the tax, to be implemented from July 1 next year, will be its link to tax reform through the lifting of tax-free thresholds.

Asked whether he would be prepared to dismantle such changes, Mr Abbott repeated earlier assurances that the Coalition would take a tax cuts package to the next election, due in 2013.

He refused to outline his plans but vowed they would be made public "well before" the next election and the Coalition would offer "tax cuts without a carbon tax".

Mr Abbott said he was also worried the government proposed to spend $3 billion buying carbon abatement from overseas, where, he said, carbon schemes were often rorted.

And he said that when asked about job losses yesterday, Ms Gillard had "dodged the question". "I think that's because she knows the answers are bad answers," he said.

"I really hope the Prime Minister will go to motor manufacturing plants, to steel plants, to coalmines, to aluminium works, to cement factories because these are the places where jobs will be in jeopardy as a result of this," he said.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the tax would lead to the creation of six new bureaucracies and 22 individual programs.


You are paying a high price for a government con

Andrew Bolt

JULIA Gillard's carbon dioxide tax is the most brazen fraud to be perpetrated by an Australian government. Warming believers should be outraged that the tax is so useless. Sceptics should be outraged it's so pointless.

It offends the intelligence of everyone and threatens the jobs of thousands. For nothing.

The Prime Minister yesterday claimed "the science is in" and man's gases were heating the planet dangerously. But not even Gillard dares to claim the tax she's finally unveiled will stop any of that warming, or change the climate in any way. Never has she said by what amount her tax would change the temperature - because it won't. It can't.

Even the Greens' deputy leader, Christine Milne, admits this $23-a-tonne price on carbon dioxide emissions "will not be high enough to drive the transition to renewable (energy)".

No wonder. From sheer gutlessness, the Government has exempted many of the worst "polluters". There's no tax on petrol, no tax on farmers and their gassy animals, and huge handouts to keep some of our coal mines, smelters and power stations going.

And, of course, the tax is just half what global warming adviser Professor Ross Garnaut said was needed, and less than a third of what the Greens wanted. So what's the point of it?

If you really think man's emissions are heating the world catastrophically, you should be outraged - unless you're hoping the sneaky Government is just softening us up for the full whammy, after the election. But even then our sacrifice would achieve nothing, because there is no way anything Australia does can change the climate.

Yesterday Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world's finest climate scientist and dubbed "credible" even by professional alarmist Tim Flannery, scoffed at Gillard's tax.

"There's no disagreement in the scientific community that this will have no impact on climate," said Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "It would be nothing for practical purposes and it would be nothing if the whole world did the same."

Of course, the rest of the world is not doing the same. Not a single other nation has a national carbon dioxide tax, so either we're smarter than every other country ... or Gillard is dumber than every other leader. You choose.

Oh, and Prof Lindzen also added that since 1995 there had been no global warming that could be distinguished from natural variability. The theory man's gases are heating the world dangerously is falling to bits.

The idea a whole economy is being deliberately slowed down for an utterly useless gesture seems so unimaginable, a folly perhaps, explains why few analysts even dare to ask if this tax will do a single thing for the planet.


Jobs in coalfields threatened by carbon tax

DESPITE all the rhetoric about saving the barrier reef and protecting the environment for our heirs, the future for at least 500 coalminers in the NSW Hunter Valley may look bleaker now than it did before Julia Gillard announced her carbon tax.

At the Drayton mine near picturesque Muswellbrook, plans are in place to move all staff and equipment to a new project, Drayton South, when the existing mine closes in 2015.

But predictions by the mine's owner, global giant Anglo American, that a carbon tax would cut Drayton South's value in half have thrown the project into doubt.

General manager of the Drayton mine, Clarence Robertson, said he feared for his employees' jobs as well as his own. "We are planning to invest $500 million in Drayton South, and the value of that project will be halved if this carbon tax goes through," he said. "The project would employ 500 people, so all those jobs are at risk."

Mr Robertson said the biggest obstacle was "fugitive emissions", which Anglo American claimed would account for 75 per cent of the revenues raised from the coal industry under the carbon tax, or $13 billion over the next nine years. Fugitive emissions are leaks from pressurised industrial equipment while mining.

"We've got no way at the moment to capture and reduce emissions from open-cut mining," Mr Robertson said. "So if the tax comes in it's really just going to be a cost to us, and we can't do anything to curb that." Mr Robertson said Anglo American expected to pay more than $2 billion in carbon tax in the coming decade.

One of Mr Robertson's employees, dragline supervisor Rod Vaughan, fears the effect of losing mining investment on the local community -- even if households receive compensation for the rising cost of living associated with the carbon tax. "It would definitely have a huge impact on my family and on a lot of families in the district," he said. "We all rely on mining, even the guys that aren't directly working in the mines." Half of Mr Vaughan's friends worked in the mines, he said.

Mr Robertson fears the tax will hurt Australia's competitiveness. "If you look at companies in Mozambique, Indonesia and Colombia, we are not going to be competitive with them if this carbon tax comes in," he said.

Federal MP for the Hunter region, Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon, argues the coal industry's own modelling shows it will continue to grow and Drayton South has yet to receive planning approval.

"Given current and projected high coal prices and the strength of the investment pipeline, there can be no doubt there will be plenty of work for Hunter miners after the planned closure of Drayton, with or without Drayton South," he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon claims the majority of his constituents want action on climate change and that the proposed level of assistance to the mining industry is sufficient.

Asked about his concerns on climate change, Mr Robertson replied: "do we need to do better? Sure. But to just say we've got to pay this tax that nobody else has got to pay is not going to work."


10 July, 2011

More health Fascism

Have they learnt nothing from America's experience of prohibition?

THE most powerful clinical body within the WA Health Department has called for an increase in the legal drinking age to 20 or 21.

The Clinical Senate of WA has presented a position statement to Health Minister Kim Hames urging the move as one way to combat rampant alcohol abuse and its impact on the health system and young lives. New figures show alcohol-related hospital admissions cost WA taxpayers $95 million a year.

The senate's call puts the influential group at direct odds with Dr Hames, who told The Sunday Times that he did not support lifting the age.

The senate comprises 75 elite health professionals, including Public Health executive director Tarun Weeramanthri, chief medical officer Simon Towler, Princess Margaret Hospital boss Robyn Lawrence and King Edward Memorial Hospital boss Amanda Frazer.

It has called also for an end to the practice of handing out alcoholic gifts at medical conferences and dinners.

The senate's chair Kim Gibson said evidence from the World Health Organisation and other eminent bodies had shown that raising the drinking age helped to reduce alcohol-related injuries. "The driving age and the drinking age are very close in WA," she said. "If you're able to separate them, you can have some impact on the road trauma figures."

She said also that 18-year-olds were too immature to drink. "One issue is the maturity of the brain and behaviours around risk," she said. "The younger population is into risk-taking and so if you wait for more maturity you're not matching the risk-taking with the alcohol consumption." [But they are old enough to risk their lives in the armed forces??]


School defends their use of the cane

A WA school, which still uses the cane, has defended the practice, claiming it teaches students right from wrong.

Nollamara Christian Academy is among three independent schools that have corporal punishment, which was banned in the state's public and Catholic schools in 1986.

Mt Helena's Bible Baptist Christian Academy and Bunbury's Grace Christian School are believed to be the other schools.

Despite opposing corporal punishment, Education Minister Liz Constable said she would not stop it. It was up to parents if they wanted to send children to "the very few schools" in WA that still used the cane.

Nollamara Christian Academy Pastor Roger Monasmith said a small paddle "like a ping-pong bat" was used as part of a disciplinary approach for the school's 18 students.

Pastor Monasmith, who has run the school with his wife for almost 29 years, said the cane was never used in anger and every parent had to sign an agreement about corporal punishment before enrolling their child.

He said four or five students had been punished so far this year to ensure they understood they had not only disobeyed school rules, but also God. "We always give them a warning before we use it and we'll give them one swat (on the behind) and then the next time if they do the same thing, they get two swats," he said.

"We try to help these kids as much as we can because there are two things that are very important for kids to learn responsibility and accountability."

He said students faced being caned for fighting, swearing, being disrespectful to teachers or repeatedly failing to complete their work "four or five days in a row".

His comments came as debate about the use of the cane raged around the country. Child-welfare campaigner Alan Corbett has called for it to be banned, warning that research showed corporal punishment could cause long-term harm.

But Pastor Monasmith said people who wanted the cane to be banned had a misguided view that "if you spank their behinds you will warp their character". "It won't warp their character at all - unless you do it wrong," he said. "It can only be done with a balance.

"Like I say, if it doesn't work, we try to use a different way ... they will get either some detention or they have to stay in class and finish their work, just different things we try to help them realise that this isn't the right thing to do."

Pastor Monasmith said the school's academic results spoke for themselves. Students were regularly commended by the community for being "kind and polite".

He said every parent must sign an agreement allowing use of the cane. "This is the way we do it," he said. "It sounds like a dictatorship, but it's not. If you don't sign the agreement to give them the cane, then we cannot let them come in."

The Department of Education Services regulates the use of the cane in non-government schools in WA. Such schools must notify parents prior to enrolment and keep records of all corporal punishment administered, a spokesman said.

Opposition education spokesman Ben Wyatt said he believed the cane was "past its use-by-date", but parents should have the choice.

Mt Helena Christian Academy principal Kyran Sharrin did not want to discuss the school's disciplinary methods because "it's a bit too controversial".


Australia has just experienced the coldest Autumn since at least 1950

The BOM says so

Australia has experienced its coldest autumn since at least 1950 for mean temperatures (average of maximum and minimum temperatures across the nation) with an Australian average of 20.9ºC. This was 1.15ºC below the historical average and 0.2ºC below the previous coolest autumn in 1960. It was also the coldest autumn since at least 1950 for Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Large parts of the country recorded temperatures more than 2ºC below the autumn average (figure 1) with about half the country ranking in the coldest 10% of years (figure 2).

The season was marked by consistent below-normal temperatures in most areas, with only a few individual areas recording their coldest autumn on record. These areas were in northern and central Australia including the east Kimberley, the central Northern Territory and small parts of northern Queensland.

The cool conditions experienced in autumn 2011 are largely a result of the strong 2010/11 La Niña event which brought heavy rainfall and cool daytime temperatures to Australia, before decaying in late autumn.

Of particular significance was March 2011 – Australia’s coldest and wettest March on record for maximum temperatures and third wettest month on record (for any calendar month).

Historically La Niña events result in above average rainfall and cooler than average daytime temperatures over large parts of Australia with the historically cold autumns of 1917, 1949, 1955, 2000 and 2011 all occurring at the end of, or during, a La Niña event.



They've had since 1944 to get their act together but no sign of it yet. Three reports below

Record-keeping shambles at Queensland Health

THE health department that claims it is the most accountable in the nation is making no moves to keep improved records on patient deaths. Queensland Health this week admitted there was no uniformity in its hospital data after The Courier-Mail revealed overcrowding, staffing and workloads were costing lives.

The department fought for two years to stop the relevant documents being released under Right to Information laws. What was eventually provided related to only three major hospitals - Royal Brisbane, Nambour and Townsville - and were inconsistent.

Despite concerns that ongoing inconsistencies are compromising patient care, QH says all reporting systems meet standards set by internal policy and independent authorities.

Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said proper planning for the future required streamlined recording of critical data. "You need consistency to plan, to fund and to grow a system to cater for future needs," he said. "If you don't have the same data coming in from the various regions, how can you put in place a plan or a scheme that is going to grow with the needs of the state. "I'm shocked that the Government hasn't got that in place."

The Courier-Mail applied for details of patient deaths at Royal Brisbane, Nambour, Townsville and Gold Coast hospitals under Right to Information laws, but in the latter case was denied access on the basis that any documents failed to fall within the scope.

Gold Coast Health Service District acting chief executive Professor Ged Williams said the district had a "robust patient death review procedure in place", which was being continually reviewed, despite Queensland Health's denial that it existed in response to the RTI application.

He then appeared to contradict himself. "The specific documents requested as part of The Courier-Mail's RTI have not existed under the Gold Coast Hospital's formal process for investigating these matters," he said in a statement.

"All hospitals use different processes to meet their needs, however all are required to provide standard information, contained in our incident reporting system."

"This allows for statewide reporting, such as that found on our hospital performance website."


Qld. Premier calls halt to Queensland Health efforts to recover overpayments in payroll debacle

ANNA Bligh has been forced to intervene in the deepening payroll debacle, halting Queensland Health attempts to claw back overpayments from furious staff.

Only days after her Health Minister and deputy defended the recovery policy during her overseas trade mission, the Premier last night trashed the decision to begin hunting overpayments while so many staff still remained underpaid.

Ms Bligh revealed she had ordered a redesign of the process upon her return from the US and Asia last week after the latest chapter in the debacle spiralled out of control in her absence.

A deal struck with unions last night will now impose a temporary moratorium on overpayment recovery and instead focus on reimbursing short-changed public servants first.

The Government and union leaders also agreed in principle to appoint an external workplace ombudsman and provide more support for line managers and better recognition of payroll staff. New pay cycle arrangements will also be trialled at a number of sites.

The moves come after The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday that two emergency nurses had launched a grassroots campaign to win a moratorium as the department seeks to recover $62 million in over- payments.

Ms Bligh last night said the new plans were about giving doctors, nurses and other health staff confidence in their payroll system. "In my view the approach adopted by Queensland Health in seeking to recover overpayments from staff while it was clear that many employees were still owed entitlements was unacceptable," Ms Bligh said. "While I acknowledge the approach was adopted with a view to providing certainty to staff as the end of financial year approached, it was clearly not good enough."

Some staff have been overpaid tens of thousands of dollars.

The agreement, yet to be put to union members, would also ensure future pay adjustments were made regularly so staff received entitlements in a timely manner. Health Minister Geoff Wilson held a round of discussions last week and agreement was reached yesterday afternoon.


QLD "ramping" crisis worsens

And dodgy statistics can't hide it from the ambulance officers who have to deal with it regularly. On one recent occasion, every ambulance in town was ramped (waiting to offload) outside Cairns Base Hospital

Patients often have to wait several hours inside an ambulance before being admitted into Queensland's public hospitals, a union says. United Voice, Queensland's ambulance union, says it is not uncommon for a patient, including code one or the most critical patients, to be stuck inside an ambulance while paramedics try to find a hospital that has not reached capacity.

The Courier Mail newspaper, which accessed documents through Right to Information laws, revealed on Tuesday cases of critically ill patients dying while stuck in queues.

One patient was given paracetamol after waiting for almost four hours outside Nambour Hospital and died before being admitted, the paper reports the documents as saying.

United Voice Queensland co-ordinator Jeanette Temperley says a process called bypassing, where ambulances are told to go to the next nearest hospital happens every day in southeast Queensland. "It basically means you need to find another hospital because this one is full and possibly already has ambulances waiting outside," Ms Temperley told AAP. "Generally if it's a code one they would go to the nearest hospital and go into it straight away but there are times where that doesn't happen and they have to drive to the next hospital. "Bypassing happens everyday."

She said ramping, where patients are waiting in the corridors of hospitals often happens as well. "We would expect them out of the ambulance and in the hospital often in the corridors or in the back of the emergency department," Ms Temperley said. "But quite regularly people are in ambulances waiting for hours."

Queensland Health's acting director-general Dr Tony O'Connell said in a statement that bypassing is a rare event. "Many of Queensland's hospitals never go on bypass," Dr O'Connell said. "For those that do, bypass does not apply to the most urgent patients."

Dr O'Connell said Queensland's 24 biggest emergency departments operate for a total of 210,240 hours in each year. He said last year just 2.3 per cent (4,938 hours) of that total time was spent on bypass.

In the past three months, the median time patients have had to wait at emergency departments across Queensland was between 20 and 22 minutes, he said. "For the most urgent category of patients, the median wait time to be seen was less than a minute," he said. "It is categorically false to allege that the most urgent patients are subject to bypass, ramping, or prolonged waits."

The state opposition's health spokesman Mark McArdle said the government was misleading the public when it says the average waiting time for all cases presented to the state's emergency departments was less than an hour.

He said Right to Information documents show hundreds of patients have died in hospital emergency departments or were dead on arrival between July 1, 2009 and April 12, 2011.


9 July, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the boycott call of Australian businesses issuing from the over-hyped "Get up" clique

Labor party wastes over a billion in constructing extra school facilities

THE taskforce into the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution school's stimulus scheme has called for a review into the construction industry after it found the nation's two largest states had failed to deliver value for money under the program.

The third and final report into the BER, handed down yesterday, found that $1.1 billion was wasted in delivering public school buildings to NSW and Victoria, when compared with their Catholic counterparts, reports the Australian.

The report, headed by former investment banker Brad Orgill, called for a Productivity Commission review into the construction industry as a whole after it uncovered a raft of problems in the way projects had been delivered under the scheme.

Mr Orgill found some governments had lost the expertise to properly manage building projects. "We believe their poorer performance on both cost and observed quality has been influenced by the hollowing out of public works capacity over the last 20 years, which has limited the ability to effectively manage an outsourced delivery model," the report said.

The taskforce found Victorian and NSW public schools had paid up to 60 per cent more than their private counterparts for buildings, despite delivering projects that were of no better quality, and in hundreds of cases of substantially poorer quality.

When comparing public school buildings delivered to NSW and Victorian schools with Catholic counterparts, $1.1bn was wasted in those states under the program. When comparing the cost of public school buildings in those states with independent schools, that figure blows out to $1.9bn. However, it is fairest to compare Catholic schools with public schools as both have centralised control structures.

For the first time, the Orgill taskforce heavily criticised the Victorian government's handling of the BER and called for more than $45 million worth of funding stimulus to be withheld from the state until numerous problems could be fixed. It found defects in building template designs had led to floods and defects in up to 175 schools, there were safety risks because of sharp metal edges and problems with storm-water drainage.

The federal government immediately agreed to the recommendation, which would mean the final lot of stimulus spending, due in September, would be held until November to allow defects to be fixed.

Mr Orgill said Victoria had been the slowest to deliver projects under the BER, with 56 per cent of school building projects complete by April. "The Victorian government has been the slowest education authority in rolling out the P21 program and many of the quality issues that have come to our attention have only arisen as projects are reaching completion," the taskforce said.

Mr Orgill's final report confirmed his earlier findings that worst excess of the BER occurred in NSW. The taskforce said NSW public schools were charged on average $3448 a square metre for all classrooms, halls and libraries delivered, compared with $2707/sq m for Catholic schools, a 27 per cent premium.

Buildings delivered to NSW public schools cost on average 60 per cent more than buildings delivered to NSW independent schools, which cost $2156/sq m.

Victorian public schools were charged $3075/sq m for buildings compared with $2406 for Victorian Catholic schools and $1975 for Victorian independent schools -- 56 per cent more than for public schools.

In NSW, more than 200 pre-fabricated buildings that had been installed by managing contractor the Reed Group had been reviewed after shoddy work had been discovered.

Concerns raised by the inquiry ranged from examples of "systemic" shoddy workmanship and problems with building certification standards to deficiencies in project management and public works capacity.


NSW fears new curriculum won't make grade

Since Professor Stuart Macintyre, a former member of the Communist Party, was a leading light in drawing up the curriculum, they have reason for concern

THE NSW government has warned it will not approve the national curriculum in October if it is inferior to the curriculum now used in the state's schools.

The state Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, issued the warning - echoing the position of the ousted Labor government - after the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs met in Melbourne yesterday.

While the federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, trumpeted new national professional standards for principals and the endorsement of the first stage of a plan for greater school autonomy, Mr Piccoli left the federal-state meeting warning NSW would not be rushed.

He said the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the national body leading the curriculum framing, was moving to new subjects before the first-stage subjects - English, maths, science and history - had been resolved.

"There's a lot of disquiet among stakeholders in NSW. Nobody is happy with it," Mr Piccoli said. "We're not sure how much it is going to cost [to implement]. There are a million unanswered questions."

NSW remains concerned it will be pushed to approve a weaker curriculum when ministers meet again in October. Mr Piccoli said he was worried the federal government appeared ready to begin work on the next stage "before they've even got this half right". "We've taken a strong view that we're not going to sign off on something that is inferior," Mr Piccoli said.

Mr Garrett noted the scale of the challenge ACARA continued to face. "This has been a huge task, the national curriculum, and I don't think we should underestimate that at all," he said, acknowledging "quite a lot of detailed work" with the states remained to be done.

He also rejected Mr Piccoli's pitch for extra funding to help implement the curriculum. NSW argued that less significant curriculum reforms in the 1990s had cost (in today's dollars) more than $60 million to implement.

"A single day of professional development for all teachers would cost each state many millions of dollars," Mr Piccoli said.

Teacher goodwill would depend upon the investment in professional development, he said. "If right from the very beginning there's not enough professional development - teachers aren't confident with it, don't feel they've been consulted - then the goodwill that's required to implement it won't be there," he said.

"A lot of schools run on goodwill - the goodwill of teachers. They don't run on money."

Mr Garrett said the meeting had "significantly enhanced" his government's education reform agenda, describing it as "a really important day for principals".

Apart from new national professional standards, principals will also be affected by plans to empower local schools.

For most states, this would mark a major shift away from centralised decision making and into a more localised, community-based school governance, Mr Garrett said.

The federal government has invested $69 million in the first phase of the autonomy program, which will involve 1000 - about 10 per cent - of Australian schools. But Mr Piccoli said giving principals more power would not get Australian schools "leapfrogging" other countries in performance. "It's one aspect but a relatively minor one," he said. "The real priority is teacher quality and high expectations [for schools]."


Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

Incompetent Vietnamese dentist still working despite ruining man's teeth

A DENTIST who was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million for damage he caused to a patient's mouth is continuing to practise in NSW, despite his own lawyers calling him negligent and incompetent.

Dr Mark Phung removed the nerves from every one of his patient's teeth, despite only three of them requiring surgery. Over 18 months and 53 consultations he installed 28 crowns, all of which need to be replaced.

In a decision made by the NSW Supreme Court last week, the Sydney dentist was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million to cover economic loss and future earnings for the trainee arborist whose teeth he damaged. The judgment was scathing of his conduct.

The Herald contacted Dr Phung at his surgery yesterday and asked why he was still practising. "Only God knows," he said. "I'm busy at the moment. If I can give you an answer, I will call you. I'm with a patient."

Dr Phung's own lawyer said his treatment was incompetent and carried out by a man not competent to perform it. "There is evidence and agreement, of course, that Dr Phung's treatment was hopeless."

The court accepted that the crowns and bridges were so poorly constructed that they trapped food and caused mouth infections. Every one of the procedures Dr Phung performed would require redoing, the court heard. The patient, Todd Dean, would require 50 consultations to have them repaired.

A dentist who reviewed Dr Phung's work told the court it was "inexcusably bad" and "completely outside the bounds of what any reputable practitioner might prescribe or perform".

Another expert witness said: "I find it difficult to understand how Dr Phung could proceed to remove every nerve of every tooth … without wishing to confirm his diagnosis and treatment regime with a specialist endodontist or someone experienced in managing facial pain."

A spokeswoman for the council responsible for registering and investigating dentists had no answer as to why Dr Phung had not been suspended - and was working with no conditions or reprimands noted on his registration. "The Dental Council of NSW is unable to comment as there is a matter in process."

Yesterday, Mr Dean would say only: "He's a butcher, not a dentist."



Three new articles below

Australian children are being terrified by climate change lessons

PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring "death, injury and destruction" to the world unless they take action.

On the eve of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's carbon tax package announcement, psychologists and scientists said the lessons were alarmist, created unneeded anxiety among school children and endangered their mental health.

Climate change as a "Doomsday scenario" is being taught in classrooms across Australia. Resource material produced by the Gillard government for primary school teachers and students states climate change will cause "devastating disasters".

Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science director Dr Sue Stocklmayer said climate change had been portrayed as "Doomsday scenarios with no way out".

Dr Stocklmayer said she was not a climate-change sceptic but worried that "too much time was spent presenting scary scenarios, especially to young people". "(Children) feel incredibly despondent and helpless in the face of all this negative information," she said. "To put all of this before our children ... is one of the most appalling things we can do to (them).

Child psychologist Kimberley O'Brien also said the language of climate change should be "toned down". "(Educators) should stick to the facts," she said. "They should be aware that kids do have nightmares."

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg called on educators to be "more circumspect and present both sides (of the climate-change debate)". "When you repeat things over and over to young people who don't have the cognitive maturity and emotional maturity to process this stuff, you end up creating unnecessary anxiety," he said.

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said the government would not stop the teaching of climate science, despite moves in Britain for the subject to be withdrawn.

In a video on climate change funded by the state government, one teacher from a public school in Sydney's southwest explained: "Students are being bombarded from all sides about climate change ... it can be a very scary thing (for) a child."

The school activities are championed by the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.


Politics gets dirty as $3.2bn clean energy scheme announced by Greens

Another huge waste of taxpayer funds

PLANS for a $3.2 billion renewable energy agency were unveiled today, with the Government conspicuously deferring to the Greens on announcement honours.

Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne held a press conference in Canberra, critical of Labor, to outline the project saying the independent agency would replace “a mess of badly designed schemes run as photo opportunities".

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson stayed in the background and simply released a joint statement outlining the proposed Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott immediately labelled it a “remarkable spectacle" which showed who was really running the Government.

The arrangement is being seen as confirmation that the Government traded off massive investment in alternative power sources to get Green concessions on a starting carbon price and on protection of polluting industries.

The full package, negotiated by a committee of ministers, Greens and independent MPs, will be released on Sunday.

The Greens had “gazumped the Prime Minister" Julia Gillard on the announcement, said Tony Abbott today. “This is a remarkable spectacle where you have a major Government announcement being made, not by the Government but by the Greens," said Mr Abbott. “And it shows who really is running this Government.

“What must Labor members of Parliament think when something which should be a major Government announcement is pre-empted by the Greens, who know what is in the package and they don't. “It is a sign of the shambles that this Government has become, that the Greens are out there breaking ranks already and announcing things that the Prime Minister was going to announce tomorrow."

However, understands Senator Milne's press conference had been approved by the Prime Minister's office.

In their joint statement, Mr Combet and Mr Ferguson disagreed with Senator Milne that little had been done to promote renewable energy. “The Government has a strong record of delivering support to our renewable sector and ensuring that Australians get value for money on their investments," they said. “The establishment of ARENA will build on this record."

Their statement said the statutory authority, under Mr Ferguson's portfolio, would bring together existing clean energy programs.

Around $1.7 billion in uncommitted funding from the range of consolidated programs will be included in the $3.2 billion to be spent between now and 2020. The projects will include solar, geothermal, and biofuel development.

Senator Milne said the push for renewables would be a “significant part of the architecture" of the “nation building change" to be announced on Sunday.


Best Australian snow depth since 1990

As you can see from the pic which is from the Perisher snowcam today there is a lot of snow in the Australian snowfields at the moment.

Perisher Blue snowfields reports this morning that “The Spencer’s Creek snow depth reading is 158.9cm, the best it’s been since 1990 for this time of the season!”. What are the other resorts saying?

Thredbo says “Superb snow conditions from top to bottom. There is a mountain of light, dry snow, even a few little wind-blown stashes to rip into“.

Charlottes Pass says “More than 1 METRE of fresh snow has now fallen across the resort since Monday“.

Falls Creek says; “Incredible conditions at Falls Creek. Falls Creek is a winter wonderland today receiving 72cm snow in 3 days“.

Mt Hotham, Mt Buller, Mt Selwyn etc are all likewise experiencing excellent conditions. Tasmania also got a big dump of snow. If you think this is an anomaly then the forecast is as follows;

And there is a lot more snow in store. Froggies snowatch says; “The following week should see a high pressure system bring more stable conditions before a mositure band arrives around the 17th that should bring some intitial showeres before light snowfalls across the 18th-20th. There is a chance this could build into another large snow bearing system (should know more by Monday).

Looking further ahead there are more snow bearing systems to follow this with the great season of 2011 set to continue “.

As most of the farmers along the great divide are saying – we are returning to the climate of the 60s. This is to be expected as scientists tell us we are now in a cold wet pattern as part of a cold PDO for at least another two decades if not longer. Can someone please tell the green corporates in the global warming industry as they are still pushing a warming tax, you know the one to protect us from their belief that snow will be a thing of the past!


8 July, 2011


Five current articles below

Green intimidation

Fortunately, the threat is a fairly empty one. They count anyone as a member but in reality they are just a small group of Left activists

A POWERFUL consumer lobby group has threatened a mass boycott of major grocery companies if they oppose the carbon tax.

Activist group Get Up has been accused of blackmail after sending a warning letter to 150 companies including Coca-Cola, Heinz, Kraft, McDonald's, Schweppes and Nestle. Get Up says it will urge its 570,000 members to "boycott goods and services that are linked to the scare campaign".

Get Up confirmed it was prepared to mount a national boycott of the products of any company that was "holding our climate to ransom" by supporting a multi-million-dollar anti-tax advertising campaign by business.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Kate Carnell claimed the letter was blackmail and bullying. "There is no doubt this is blackmail," she told the Herald Sun. "Threatening a boycott is really bullying."

Boycotts are commonly used by activist groups in confrontations with major corporations such as PETA fighting US Gap clothing over animal cruelty issues and perhaps most famously, the Nestle Boycott, started as a grassroots movement against the Swiss giant after it was found selling dangerous baby formula to third world countries

Ms Carnell said some of her smaller members who received the letter were worried the boycott could cost jobs. "They are saying to our members if you support the Australian Food and Grocery Council taking a position against the carbon tax then we will encourage our members to boycott your goods and services," she said.

Other companies who received the letter include Arnott's, Colgate-Palmolive, Foster's, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Sanitarium, Unilever, Patties Foods, Jalna and Eagle Boys Pizza.

Ms Carnell said her members were not climate change deniers but they did have concern about the carbon tax harming competitiveness and the 300,000 jobs in the food and grocery sector.

Get Up national director Simon Sheikh, who has led campaigns to ban live animal exports, improve financing for mental health and support for gay marriage, wrote to the companies this week.

"It is our intention in the next few days to provide easy to use product information to our membership such that they can boycott goods and services that are linked to the scare campaign that the Australian Food and Grocery Council are about to sign up to," the letter said. He wrote that the public "may see your company as being supportive of the scare campaign" and he was writing to give them the chance to denounce it and resign from the Food and Grocery Council.

Mr Sheikh said Get Up had used its power to pressure banks to stop supporting environmentally destructive investments and believed individual food companies did not share the view of their lobby group. "We're not just going to roll over and allow industry to hold our climate to ransom, which is why we're clarifying individual companies' positions and seeking to hold them accountable," he said.

"We've asked company CEOs to answer a series of questions, including whether they accept the science of climate change, whether they back a carbon price, and whether they would consider resigning from the industry body, and we intend to make that information public. "Australians will then be able to take that information into account when they enter the supermarket."


Hypocritical gas-guzzling Greens - they're still using their Comcars

THEY want to tax regular Australians out of their cars but the Greens are still being chauffeur-driven in their tax-payer funded Comcars.

Senator Christine Milne, who accrued $7527 in Comcar expenses in the past 12 months, this week said that ordinary people needed to "drive less and drive more efficiently". The party is pushing for extra excise on petrol or to extend the carbon tax to fuel to curb motorists.

But the tough-on-driving approach did not appear to apply to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young yesterday. Her Greens colleagues are also still using the Comcar chauffeur service, with leader Bob Brown leaving taxpayers with the biggest bill of $20,673 for the past 12 months.

Senator Hanson-Young, who accrued $17,260 in Comcar expenses, gave no response when asked if she thought the Greens should give up their cars in light of Senator Milne's comments.

A spokeswoman for Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who was this week unsuccessfully nominated for president of the senate, defended his decision to take advantage of the Comcar service. "There's not much to say, everybody has a job. The senator doesn't own a car. People occasionally need a car," she said.

The spokeswoman said Senator Ludlam occasionally used a car in Canberra, at a cost of $5433, but rode a bike between his home and office in Western Australia. He also spent $927 on cab charges.

Senator Milne's office did not respond to questions about her use of Comcars and if she would lead by example and stop using them. Greens leader Bob Brown's office also did not reply to questions.

Only a few cars in the taxpayer-funded fleet are hybrid Toyota models, with most gas-guzzling family-sized sedans.

Earlier this week, Senator Milne undermined Prime Minister Julia Gillard, warning that the promise to exclude fuel from the carbon tax could become like former prime minister John Howard's promise to never introduce a GST.

Senator Milne boasted this week that the Greens had already won a change earlier this year on a fringe benefits tax concession, which encouraged people to drive further, and would now turn to excise.

The Greens only supported the government leaving petrol for family cars and small commercial vehicles out of the carbon tax in return for Productivity Commission examination of fuel excise.

Ms Milne said the Greens want dirtier fuels taxed more and clean fuels taxed less and said electric cars were the way of the future.


Renewable energy projects to cost extra $97 a head

EVERY Australian will contribute $47 next year towards the cost of the federal government's policy of mandating large-scale renewable energy projects and a further $50 to fund rooftop solar panels and hot water systems, irrespective of Julia Gillard's carbon deal.

The modelling, previously secret and obtained exclusively by The Australian, shows the nation will pay almost $2.2 billion in 2012 for the federal government's scheme to ensure 20 per cent of national electricity is produced from renewable sources.

The state-based schemes that pay households feed-in tariffs to produce power from their solar panels will cost even more next year -- ranging from $4.90 a person in Victoria to $14.20 in Queensland, $12 in Western Australia and $23.30 in the Australian Capital Territory.

The National Generators Forum, which commissioned the modelling by Frontier Economics, is armed with the report as it prepares to fight any new imposts when the carbon reduction plan is outlined on Sunday.

The Greens have pressed support for renewable energy measures in the carbon deal, and electricity generators are anxious. "The industry is concerned that the market-based solution of a carbon price may come with a raft of new regulation and complementary programs, adding to the price pressures on consumers but may deliver little abatement," forum executive director Malcolm Roberts said. "The shift to a carbon price was once meant to eliminate the need for these ad hoc policies."

The government has split the large and small renewable projects into two markets because of a flood of solar panel installations.

The modelling shows the large-scale renewable energy target -- covering windfarms and hydroelectric schemes -- will cost more than $1bn next year, while delivering 13.1 million tonnes of carbon abatement.

By contrast, the small-scale renewable energy scheme for residential solar photovoltaic panels and hot water systems will cost $1.1bn but reduce carbon by just 1.4 million tonnes next year. However, the costs of the small scheme fall in subsequent years as the subsidies wind down.

The modelling finds the scheme will cost almost $27 per person in 2020 as it is designed to impose a higher initial cost.

Next year, it will cost $88 for every tonne of carbon abated under the large scheme and $302 for every tonne under the small scheme -- several times the expected $20-$25 a tonne expected carbon price. The costs of the large scheme would fall if a price were put on carbon, but the report finds this is simply cost-shifting, as consumers would be paying higher electricity prices under a carbon price system.

Treasury briefings released under freedom of information laws in April urged that a review of the policies be carried out as a carbon price was introduced. "Such complementary measures would need to be reviewed in conjunction with the introduction of a carbon price, or shortly after its introduction," the briefings said.

The schemes were also criticised by the Productivity Commission, which warned they were very expensive and made any form of carbon market less efficient.

But Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has stated the government's policy is to have the carbon tax and the renewable energy tax.

The analysis of the costs of the scheme per person included the impact on residential power bills as well as the costs to businesses and industries.


Faults found in NSW home solar systems

STARTLING figures out of NSW last week have confirmed what the public has suspected for months - that there are widespread faults in solar panel installations. And while many of these faults are minor, some are serious.

The issue extends nationwide, with no clear picture of the extent of installation problems across the states, and authorities are afraid that the public could panic and try to interfere with their own systems.

In an audit of 658 household solar systems in western Sydney, just one in five were installed correctly, and some 18.5 per cent had "major" defects posing safety risks.
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Most of the serious problems involve the incorrect wiring of a DC circuit breaker. This does not impact the running of the unit but does pose a "very low" risk of starting a fire.

There have been immediate claims that the federal government, whose solar panel rebates helped fuel a nationwide rush for the roof-top systems, has kept the problem quiet to avoid the sort of bad publicity sparked by the home insulation and Green Loans schemes.

"They have tried to keep this away from the public as much as possible - that's clear," says one solar panel industry operator. "They didn't want it to be seen as another home insulation debacle."

The federal government, through the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, last week denied it has tried to avoid releasing information to the public, saying that solar panel safety is the responsibility of state and territory governments.

But it is true that the Clean Energy Council, the agency contracted by the federal government to accredit solar panel installers, has known about the extent of the problems since October, and was alerted to them by the Department of Climate Change. The director of strategy at the Clean Energy Council, Kane Thornton, told BusinessDay that the figures released in NSW last week were "probably consistent with what we understood to be the case".

Mr Thornton says the council made "no secret of the issue" and was working to fix the problems. Yet he says the council did not seek to widely publicise the extent of the defects because it did not want to cause unnecessary alarm.

Mr Thornton said that because householders cannot fix the faults themselves, the council feared that alerting the public could lead to some people panicking and trying to interfere with, or switch off, their systems. This would be a problem, because the safety risk with the circuit breaker is only triggered when the solar panel is switched off.

The Clean Energy Council says for a spark to form, it would need to be a sunny day - thus pushing the panels towards full capacity - and the panels would need to be "shut down in an incorrect manner". "Our concern was that there was a greater risk in alerting people to a potential issue that they couldn't do anything to solve themselves, but could increase the risk … if they become alarmed about it," Mr Thornton says.

But the federal opposition, as well as some in the industry, suspect there is more to the story. Last week, the opposition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, suggested a national audit had uncovered similar results to the NSW audit, and that the government was "sitting on" the figures.

The Department of Climate Change did conduct a nationwide "random and targeted sample of inspections" from last October to June 30. Yet it denies it has sought to keep the information secret, saying it referred any problems to the householder, the state or territory authority and the Clean Energy Council.

However, it did not answer questions about what the results of the inspections were or whether they revealed a similar number of defects to those uncovered in the NSW Fair Trading audit.


Anti-human Greens won't usurp the Labor Party

HOLD fast comrades, Greens leader Bob Brown's boast that one day his party will displace Labor is idle. Labor's brand may be tarnished, but it is not terminal. The times conspire to give the appearance that Labor is terminal. The cycle of state governments is running against Labor, its membership is dwindling and its standard bearer, the federal government, is weak.

For Labor, minor omissions have had major consequences. Had NSW Liberals elected a better leader than Peter Debnam, Labor would have suffered a mild defeat at the 2007 election and be on the way back.

Labor is not alone in losing members. Candidate selection, campaigning and policy-making have been outsourced from the ranks in the other main parties.

The electorate is more responsive to offers than to ideology, which is not a good thing, but it is not a peculiarly Labor problem.

And had senior members of Labor's federal caucus got to Kevin Rudd before Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, Labor today would have had an emissions trading scheme in place (hopefully in mothballs waiting for the rest of the world's) and been returned in its own right at last year's election.

Despite these travails, Labor remains essentially humanist, concerned with the needs, wellbeing and interests of people.

The Greens, by contrast, will never defend humanity against nature. Brown regards humans as tellurians, inhabitants of the earth, along with plants and animals. The Greens care little for our most important gift, our intelligence, or for our most important human achievements, such as our families and our nations. On these grounds, the Greens can never be a mainstream party.

Picture Brown's address to (his recently mooted) United Nations of all People. "Tellurians of the world unite!" He gets no further because a Chinese guard drags him off stage as a dangerous environmentalist and gay activist. Bob, in the parliament of the world, China has the numbers.

The Greens will consume the good upbringing that family brings, the immense wealth, health and comfort that human ingenuity brings, and the political stability that nation states bring, but they will never defend them.

They may support wind, wave and solar technologies, but when tough decisions have to be made about more people and the energy and resources they will require, the Greens always duck for cover and wish there were fewer people.

Brown rails that Australia's uranium may "turn up as deadly radioactive materials in Japanese fish and lettuce" and that "80,000 people have been evacuated from [Brown's demented construct] the Fukushima-Australia uranium contamination zone". He seems to forget that 10,000 people were killed by nature, none so far by the human-created radioactivity.

The Greens are always against war, but some wars are necessary. When push comes to shove the Greens will never defend democracy against fascism or communism, Islamism, or indeed a resource-hungry foe. They will never make the required investment in defence. Theirs is an undergraduate debate about "guns or butter".

The Greens delight in the threat of global warming. They delight in stopping the genius of capitalist economic development in the service of humanity. In the face of environmental threats they retreat and hope they can turn off the machine.

Each and every homosexual man or woman understands the family is the best known means for heterosexual couples to procreate and raise children. Without it, there is no humanity. The family as a human institution is under enormous pressure in the face of the great and positive forces of women's equality, but its purloining by homosexual couples in the name of equality is a step too far. The Greens will choose niche equality over family every time.

Brown says, "Here we are, the most resource-rich nation in the world, with serial governments failing to take the political lead which this country and the whole world wants." But he wishes to lock up our resources, forever. Coal, gas, and every mineral that requires liquid fuels to power its extraction, which for the foreseeable future is all of them, will cease to be available to the poor humanity of the world.

Labor (and indeed the Coalition) at times has been slow to devise environmental policies, often forced by the Greens and environmental groups, but they have never made the mistake of becoming anti-humanist.

Labor toys with population policy, it toys with gay marriage, it toys with euthanasia and it toys with animal rights. But if, at the margin, there is a choice to be made between people and nature, it will, if it knows what is good for it, remain wedded to a human conception of history.

If it wanders down an anti-humanist path in search of green votes it risks its major-party status. Be wary, comrades: environment in the service of humanity, yes; the rest of the Greens' anti-humanist agenda, never.


7 July, 2011

5 year wait to fix hospital delays!

Too bad if you die in the meanwhile

THE Gillard government has dumped Kevin Rudd's, guarantee of private hospital care for patients facing long waits for elective surgery in the public system.

Despite latest trends showing public hospital elective surgery rates nationally are failing to keep pace with demand, the federal government has agreed with the state and territory governments on a public hospital-based plan aimed at delivering 100 per cent on-time surgery within five years.

The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, disclosed yesterday the federal government had agreed in health reform negotiations with the states and territories to drop the private hospital backup proposal, on the advice of a clinical panel.
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Ms Roxon said the new approach set a higher target than the original benchmark, which proposed 95 per cent of elective surgery cases should be performed within agreed deadlines. "States believe this is even a harder target to reach but think it is a more sensible way to implement it over time."

Ms Roxon has also agreed to a plan for more ambitious targets for treatment times in emergency departments. These will require that by 2015 90 per cent of patients can leave emergency within four hours, with no exceptions, in contrast to the original proposal, which did allow for exceptions.

This was recognised as "ambitious, given the current proportion of patients leaving the emergency department within four hours is currently between 55 and 71 per cent", Ms Roxon said.

She confirmed this and other outstanding issues of disagreement with the states on the health reform agenda had been settled without the need for another meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, whose meeting scheduled for next week has since been called off.

A private hospitals spokesman, Michael Roff, told the Herald the state government bureaucracies were never keen on a private hospital role, even though private hospitals now account for more than 60 per cent of elective surgery. "It was very clear that any suggestion of using the private sector was too hard, " Mr Roff, the chief executive of the Australian Private Hospitals Association, said.

The Opposition's health spokesman, Peter Dutton, asked last night if waiting time targets were "facing the scalpel". "This minister has been a complete failure in health," he said.

In March last year, the then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, said that if a patient's local public hospitals could not provide the elective surgery "then the Local Hospital Network will find that person a bed at another hospital within the Network - or with a private hospital if one can't easily be found".

Ms Roxon denied the change was a backdown. "I am not pretending to anyone this is not a change."

Latest statistics show that, after a brief fall in waiting times after the Rudd Government's $600 million elective surgery "blitz" in 2008, waiting times have begun to rise.


Phased ending of cattle export ban

This just shows how stupid the ban was in the first place. The policy just announced is the one they should have implemented in the first place

LIVE cattle exports to Indonesia will resume on a limited basis after a three-week total ban which threatened livelihoods and diplomatic relations. What the Government tonight called a "progressive reopening of the trade" appeared to be a response to increasing political pressure.

But exporters will have to establish they can meet certain "supply chain assurances" before getting permits. In effect, the ban has been lifted on a case-by-case basis only and it could be days before the first shipments are made. And it will only apply to shipments to the small number of Indonesia's abattoirs which meet Australian processing standards.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said pastoral giant Elders, which has some 60 per cent of the $320 million annual Indonesian trade, might be the first to take advantage of the lifted suspension.

Exposures will have to establish they are able to keep track of the cattle and that they will go to slaughterhouses using humane processing. Meat works in Indonesia will be independently audited to further trace cattle.

Nationals Leader Warren Truss said only a small proportion of the trade would be resumed, and that it could be several days before those shipments started.

Senator Ludwig said there had been agreement with industry on the adoption of international standards. "I am confident that a number of exporters in Australia are ready to meet these standards, and I am advised Indonesia is prepared to issue permits for importation of live cattle," he said.

The announcement came after West Australian grazier Nico Botha threatened to start shooting his animals this week because he can't afford to keep them alive on an over-stocked property.

Earlier today Indonesia confirmed it would significantly cut the number of cattle it sources from Australia when it re-assesses its import quota for next year.

The director general of livestock with the Ministry of Agriculture, Prabowo Caturroso, has said that Indonesia would still aim to import a total of 500,000 head of cattle in 2011, if and when Australia lifted the suspension on the live trade.

However, he said his office, which advises the government on the number of import permits that should be issued to Indonesian feedlots each quarter, would be recommending a dramatic cut in live cattle sourced from Australia.


Warmist cuts off interview when science is raised

His only stock of wisdom was "ad hominem" accusations

ABC radio presenter Adam Spencer has been told to "shut up" and stop being childish during a heated on-air exchange with climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton.

In what was more a debate than an interview, Spencer hung up on his guest before calling back to resume the interview.

The tension began when Spencer asked Lord Monckton about his claims that he is a Nobel Laureate. Lord Monckton said he was given a pin by a US professor who felt he deserved one for his work and he sometimes wore it as a joke.

"That's what we on the centre right would call a joke, it's something you on the left and the ABC might not perhaps fully understand."

Spencer replied by saying he wasn't on the left or the right or in the centre. "I'm trying to establish your credentials ... because there seems to be a consistent pattern, sir, when you speak publicly and analyse climate science," he said.

"It's my understanding you've never held any academic position at any university or any research institute attached to any science connected with climate science." Spencer then pursued Lord Monckton about alleged misrepresentations in his work.

Lord Monckton replied, "You say you're not taking a position, it's clearly a position which is deliberately hostile, you're entitled to do that, it's what the ABC is infamous for on this debate."

Spencer said he was simply putting out questions. "I apologise if you're detecting hostility."

Then after several minutes of arguing about his work, Lord Monckton said Spencer had been unable to raise a single scientific point on which he was wrong.

The interview was then terminated by Spencer


Wife tells how husband died after Gold Coast hospital sent him home

POOR record keeping at the state's hospitals is frustrating the families of patients who have died as they struggle to piece together what happened to their loved ones.

Michelle Bowers lost her husband, Terry, at Gold Coast Hospital in 2008, despite him presenting the previous day in a very weak state from constant vomiting.

"Their assumption was that he was dehydrated and (they) were unsure of what else might be wrong with him - they said he was 'a mystery'," she said. "He was sent home around 2pm that day. We asked for a wheelchair (but) they replied they did not have one available. "I then proceeded to help my husband to walk out of the hospital."

Mrs Bowers said Terry, 48, rapidly deteriorated overnight and was rushed back to the emergency department by ambulance the following morning. He died about two hours later.

"On arrival, they started with many tests, which showed a massive gastro bleed," she said. "I believe that had they kept him in, he may be still alive - they could have performed surgery that day, or overnight."

Mrs Bowers broke down as she recounted the final moments of his life. "My husband said to me 'I can't breathe Michelle' - I could see he was going," she said. "I can't bring him back and it is really sad but the thing is something needs to be done. "They can't just keep on brushing it off as an unexpected death. Someone needs to be made accountable for what's going on."

Mrs Bowers said she had since met with directors of the hospital, who she said admitted Terry should not have been sent home. "Their direct words were 'Terry was a red flag (and) should have been kept in'," she said.

An independent investigation by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission also stated the hospital should not have sent her husband home that day, she said.

Gold Coast Health Service District acting CEO Professor Ged Williams said he couldn't comment specifically on Mr Bowers but "there are times when the symptoms a patient displays are not consistent with the seriousness of their illness or injury".

Prof Williams said the hospital had a robust patient death review procedure in place which was continually being reviewed but it was not explained why the data remained hidden despite falling within the scope of the RTI.

Australian Medical Association of Queensland president Richard Kidd said the State Government was not doing enough to improve emergency department capacity. "It's still the problem we don't have enough beds, doctors and nurses and that's the real problem stopping the emergency departments from being able to empty out into the wards in a quick time," he said.

"They've committed to about 300 new beds this year but the AMA's calculations are that they need about 1200 or 1300 new beds right now with the demand that's there."


Navy brass discredited

THREE senior sailors thrown off HMAS Success in Singapore without explanation amid a sex scandal should be paid compensation, a judicial inquiry said.

The three men, Chief Petty Officer Jason Thomas, Petty Officer Orlando Barrett and Petty Officer Jake Thompson, were found guilty of sexual misconduct and bullying by an earlier investigation. However, a high-level inquiry by retired judge Roger Gyles QC said the men were left in "limbo" by incompetent senior officers who chose to withhold information, not release it.

"There is no hint anyone gave any consideration to the interests of the landed sailors and their families," the report said.

Mr Gyles accused the brass of misrepresenting an "equity and diversity team" sent to the ship before the three sailors were landed in Singapore in May 2009. "I am far from satisfied that I was told the truth about the decision to send the team, the role the team played and the consequent decision to land the sailors," the report says.

Part two of the Gyles report, released by the government today, is damning of the navy's senior management culture. "I recommend the Chief of Navy offer a properly framed apology to the landed senior sailors and a payment of ex-gratia monetary compensation be made to each of them," it says.

The inquiry was set up by former minister John Faulkner after serious anomalies in the first inquiries into the Success debacle, which involved public sex acts, drunken behaviour, bullying and property damage.

Mr Gyles, who billed taxpayers $7700 a day for his inquiry, accused navy command of making conscious decisions to withhold information that was damaging to the three sailors and of refusing to explain to them why they had been landed and why they were banned from rejoining their ship. "The number of relatively high-ranking officers involved in each of these decisions complicates the making of any recommendation," the report says.

Former navy chief Vice-Admiral Russ Crane, a former captain of Success, had vowed to act on the inquiry's recommendation but retired, to be replaced by Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs.

The report also accuses Admiral Crane of being "disingenuous" for writing to a newspaper, implying the sailors were thrown off for valid reasons.


6 July, 2011

Pressure on Victorian Government over Muslim women lifting their veils

THE Baillieu Government will consider laws being adopted in other states that will give police the power to force Muslim women wearing a full veil to reveal their faces.

Islamic leaders and the Law Institute of Victoria have both backed the need for police to be given clear powers to identify people. The Police Association also has supported the need for more clarity for its members.

The NSW Government this week said it would draw up legislation allowing police to ask any person stopped during routine vehicle checks to remove burqas, niqabs or other head and face coverings at the roadside to verify their identities.

The move follows a Sydney judge's decision last week to quash a six-month jail sentence given to a burqa-wearing mother of seven, Carnita Matthews.

Mrs Matthews had been found guilty of falsely accusing Sen-Constable Paul Fogarty of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in June last year.

Anyone refusing to obey the law may face up to a year's jail under NSW legislation. Western Australia yesterday indicated it would adopt similar laws.

Law Institute of Victoria member and former equal opportunity commissioner Moira Rayner said she supported giving police new powers, saying it was not unreasonable for people to be forced to clearly identify themselves.

Police Minister Peter Ryan told the Herald Sun NSW's legislation would be considered by the State Government. "We will have regard to what that legislation is and then consider it in Victoria," he said.

The Islamic community has backed the changes in principle. But Islamic Council of Victoria director Nazeem Hussain warned new laws must be carefully monitored so that police don't abuse their power.

It also wants female police to witness the unveiling. Islamic law allows a Muslim woman to remove her face veil to verify her identity.

Police Association state secretary Greg Davies said there needed to be clear cut legislation about what powers officers have.

Helen Szoke, Commissioner of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, said there would need to be a good reason to introduce similar laws in Victoria, but wouldn't rule it out. "There would have to be a compelling reason for you to want to do it," she said.


Commonwealth Bank chief Ralph Norris blasts banking regulation changes

COMMONWEALTH Bank chief Ralph Norris has fired a broadside at the Gillard Government for unleashing a "staggering" regulatory burden and questioned whether any benefit has been gained.

Mr Norris said regulatory changes saw the lender spend "well over $100 million to redesign systems and processes" but across the whole financial system, those additional costs were "certainly well in excess of half a billion dollars".

In the past year alone, CBA made submissions to eight major inquiries and participated in 44 others with the Australian Bankers Association, he said. "The amount of regulatory change is staggering, so is the cost... one really has to ask whether all these changes meet any reasonable social cost-benefit analysis."

He said Australia was "now in a situation which requires a certain flexibility. Adding to the regulatory burden under which businesses operate does not help".

On this Sunday's carbon tax announcement, Mr Norris said "everybody welcomes the certainty". "I mean there's nothing worse than operating in a void. Voids usually get filled with rumour and speculation so obviously having a very clear and specific understanding of what is going to be in that legislation or how the tax is actually going to be promulgated is going to obviously provide some degree of certainty," he said.

Mr Norris applauded the Reserve Bank as having done "a very good job" over the past 15 years or so, including on interest rates.

Among changes to come from CBA, Mr Norris said, was a major overhaul of its core banking system to respond to "a real-time world". He also ruled out the need for job cuts, saying cost to income ratios of Australian banks in general were at the best levels in the world.


Queensland flood report will take aim at Wivenhoe dam operator

AN interim report into Queensland's deadly floods is expected to criticise Wivenhoe Dam's operators and local councils for a lack of preparation.

Seqwater, which operates the dam, is expected to be criticised for inadequate flood control processes, according to a report in The Courier-Mail.

The report does not detail the exact criticisms to be levelled against Seqwater.

But the long-running floods inquiry has focused heavily on the way it managed water levels in the dam before thousands of properties in Brisbane and Ipswich were flooded.

Many victims blame the operation of the dam for the scale of the disaster. They say if water had been released earlier, then emergency releases at the height of January's floods would not have been needed and the damage in Brisbane and Ipswich would have been lessened.

The manual governing the dam's operation came under close scrutiny during the inquiry, amid claims the dam's flood mitigation capacity was not properly utilised.

Questions have also been raised about why water levels in the dam weren't lowered in October 2010, despite warnings then of a very wet summer ahead.

The news report said councils, notably the Toowoomba Regional Council, would also cop heavy criticism and would be told they must improve evacuation procedures.

Some councils have already been sent summaries of key findings and recommendations the inquiry is likely to make, The Courier Mail said. They've been invited to respond and indicate if they agree or disagree, and whether any issues about the handling of the floods has been overlooked.

The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry is due to hand its interim report to the government by August 1.


Negligent public school: Kid Left behind in fast food store toilet

A MOTHER is outraged her son, five, was forced to walk to his grandparents' house unsupervised. It came after he was left behind during an after-hours school excursion.

She said her son, now six, was distraught when he came out of the Hungry Jack's Hawthorn store's toilet after an excursion to Mitcham Cinema last month, only to find other Eden Hills Primary School students and their supervisors had left.

Her son then walked across several roads, as well a railway line, to get to his grandparents' house. "He cried all the way there, he said he felt as though he was not important enough to be remembered," the mother said. "It is a failure of duty of care. They should have had one carer for every eight children but they had just two qualified supervisors for 27 kids."

The boy's father said his son has been suffering from restless sleep and often wakes up in the night calling out for his parents to quell fears he may have been abandoned.

The child's mother said she would be removing him from the school at the end of this week. "We cannot entrust the school to adequately care for our children. It was a crisis situation, he was unsupervised while in the toilet for starters," the mother said.

She said she was horrified to be told of the incident by her mother-in-law, rather than the school supervisor responsible for her son's welfare. "It was just lucky it was him (her son) because he knew the area and where his grandparents' house was," she said. "If it was another student, who knows what would have happened."

In an email sent to the boy's mother, the school admitted "safety standards were not met" and the incident had been reported to Education Minister Jay Weatherill.

The boy's mother, who said the school had failed to adequately discipline the supervisor involved, had also written a letter to Mr Weatherill complaining about the incident.

Department of Education and Children's Services deputy chief executive Jan Andrews said the school and its OSHC unit had apologised to the boy's parents. "When a student count identified that the boy was missing, a staff member immediately ran back to Hungry Jack's to search for him," she said. "Police were called and the child's parent was contacted.

"The school and the OSHC unit acknowledge that the incident should not have occurred, has apologised to the student and family and offered ongoing support." She confirmed DECS were reviewing the circumstances of the incident, including student-staff ratios on the day.


5 July, 2011

'Petty thief' lifts LNP climate stance

The headline above and the text below are a classical example of the Green/Left playing the man and not the ball -- what logicians call an "ad hominem" fallacy.

President Klaus obviously did NOT steal ANYTHING under the glare of the TV lights. He assumed the pen was swag -- as pens are in fact the most common form of swag. I have some myself. The other vague accusations are equally poorly founded

Note that not one word of anything that Klaus has ever said was quoted. The article is pure schoolboy sniggering

Background: The LNP is the main conservative party in my home State of Queensland. Campbell Newman is its leader

AN EASTERN European President accused of having sticky fingers, being a serial adulterer and having had links to secret police is now the Liberal National Party's latest weapon against climate change scientists.

Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus will address an audience in Brisbane next month about the scientific flaws behind global warming.

Queensland LNP Senator Ron Boswell will introduce the colourful President at the $160-plate lunch hosted by conservative think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.Queensland LNP leader Campbell Newman said he would not attend the event, but Treasurer Andrew Fraser pounced on the revelations, labelling the LNP as "environmental Neanderthals".

Brochures obtained by The Sunday Mail show pictures of a smiling Senator Boswell, who has questioned man-made climate change, and a stern-looking President Klaus.

Hailed as "the world's leading critic of global warming ideology", President Klaus became an internet sensation earlier this year when he was spotted pocketing a jewel-encrusted pen during a press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

Footage went viral when Czech TV broadcast the video of their leader, who was clearly taken with the pen. The station put red circles and arrows highlighting the pen as it was taken from the case and shuffled to both hands behind his back until it reached his pocket. It was posted online with a "crime scene" soundtrack, media reports said.

Overseas newspapers have revealed his affairs with younger women and his alleged former job with the secret police.

President Klaus's visit will come just weeks after UK climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton likened Australian economist Ross Garnaut to Hitler for his views on implementing measures to tackle climate change. He later apologised.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet refused to attack the Czech Republic President but he took a swipe at Coalition MPs who refused to accept the science.

Mr Fraser said Mr Newman only believed in climate change when he was in Brisbane. "As soon as he steps west of the Great Dividing Range, the man channels (LNP Senator) Barnaby Joyce and becomes a sceptic," he said. "People are entitled to their views on climate change but it's hard to cop when the LNP has more than one."

Mr Newman said he welcomed all debate about climate change.


NSW police to get power to lift the veil under new burqa laws

MUSLIM women who refuse to remove their burqas when ordered to by police face up to a year in jail after some of the world's toughest burqa laws were announced in NSW yesterday.

Police are to be given the power to force anyone to remove a face covering during routine traffic stops, if suspected of committing a crime or if they are considered a potential security risk.

If a woman defies police and refuses to remove her veil she could be jailed for up to a year or fined $5500. The penalties are in line with some of the world's toughest burqa rules. In France, where burqas are completely banned in public, women face fines of $202.

The unprecedented laws follow a furore over Carnita Matthews' refusal to remove her niqab - a full-length covering - when her car was pulled over by police.

Ms Matthews' conviction for making a false statement was overturned after a judge found he could not prove it was really her who made the statement, because her face was covered.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione called for the government to close the legal loophole that was preventing officers from identifying suspected criminals.

Premier Barry O'Farrell yesterday said there should be no discrimination - in favour of or against - any race when it came to helping police identify people suspected of criminal breaches.

"I don't care whether a person is wearing a motorcycle helmet, a burqa, niqab, face veil or anything else - the police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear," he said after a cabinet meeting.

Attorney-General Greg Smith is in charge of drafting the laws, which are expected to be introduced when parliament resumes in August.

Not every person who disobeys the police orders will be fined or sent to jail, with first offenders possibly given a warning. In a situation like Ms Matthews', a court will be able to apply a maximum sentence of 12 months and a $5500 fine.

Muslims Australia president Ikebal Patel said he supported the new laws but only for law enforcement purposes. "We are very supportive of any legislation required to ensure the law enforcements are not impaired," he said. "We would expect that this be done in a sensitive way."

Police previously had the power to ask women to remove veils during the investigation of serious offences but did not have such powers during routine car stops.


Australia pub apology for evicting turbaned Sikh

An Australian pub chain was seeking to apologize Monday to a Sikh man who was evicted from a bar for wearing a turban.

The man was wrongly evicted from a pub in the east coast city of Brisbane on Sunday because staff decided that his religious turban did not comply with its policy against patrons with headwear, Spirit Hotels said in a statement.

"The patron should not have been asked to remove his turban, and we are attempting to contact the patron to apologize," the statement said.

Many Australian pubs ban headwear so that troublemakers can be readily identified from security camera footage or because caps can make patrons appear untidy.

Sikhs' turbans readily identify then as followers of their Indian religion. Wearing a turban is a tenet of the faith, along with unshorn hair and a beard.

Justin O'Connor, chief executive to the publicans' lobby group Queensland Hotels Association, said pubs had a right to refuse entry to anyone who did not comply with dress standards, as long as those standards did not breach discrimination laws.

Umesh Chandra, a leader of Brisbane's Indian community, said he had never before heard of a Brisbane pub asking as Sikh to remove his turban.

"In Australia, this is an isolated case," said Chandra, publisher of Brisbane's Indian Times newspaper.

The case attracted media attention after a man called a talk radio program Monday to report his daughter had been with a group of friends at the pub when one of them was told leave


Australia starts punitive immigration measures

Comment from India

After thousands of aspirants managed Australian immigration by making false claims through fake certifications, the department of immigration and citizenship of Australia has now introduced a new 'fraud public interest criterion' (PIC) under which applicants making bogus claims can face a three-year ban.

According to the provisions of Fraud PIC, if an applicant is found to have supplied false, misleading or bogus information or documentation to the department, not only will the application be turned down but the applicant would also face a three-year visa bar. Even the migrating family members included in an application refused under Fraud PIC would also face the three-year bar.

Experts in immigration business revealed that while the provisions would be applicable on applications from anywhere in the world, the Australian authorities have been forced to include such stringent provisions in their immigration rules mainly due to bad experience with applications from north India (read Punjab) as thousands from here managed certificates making false claims about their work experience.

"While other countries also bar applicants for a few years if documents supplied by him/her are found forged or fake, but this is the first time that immigration authorities have included punitive action for a false claim on a genuine document," said Diamond Sodhi, programme director of Caan Wings, an immigration consultant firm.

"Officials from Australia have been expressing anguish and shock at claims made by people from here," she revealed, adding "now this would help check unscrupulous elements." It is learnt that Australian authorities were already subjecting applications for education or professional visa to thorough scrutiny including multilayered verifications from a number of sources.

Notably, even the trend of "paper marriages", whereby marriage exist only in papers for the sake of migrating abroad and actually no such relation exist between the student visa applicant and his/her spouse, started first for Australia. The trend was so rampant and open that even such matrimonial advertisements appeared in big numbers in a number of vernacular newspapers. Then thousands from here flooded Australia while showing their experience as hair dressers or cooks but actually they did not know anything about these professions.


Patients die waiting in Queensland hospital queues as ambulance ramping gets worse

OVERCROWDING and understaffing are costing the lives of patients in public hospitals, Queensland Health's own documents show.

Medical records of patients who have recently died obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws revealed one patient was given paracetamol after waiting almost four hours outside Nambour hospital but died before being admitted. Another patient "became unresponsive while waiting on ramp" and also died.

"Ramp time nearly three hours," the documents detailing circumstances surrounding the death of the second patient stated.

"Workload, staffing (and) overcrowding issues" were listed as having affected the cases of both patients.

United Voice Ambulance Union co-ordinator Jeanette Temperley said "ramping", which involved ambulances lining up for entry to emergency departments, was a "big issue". "Ramping's just getting worse and I don't think there's any sign of improvement," she said. "That's common. I definitely wouldn't be saying that's a rare wait. "You've got people ramped for three, four, five hours.

"That means two ambulance officers and a vehicle sitting there can't get back on the road . . . to go and save someone else's life."

Ms Temperley said she supported her members taking patients out of the vehicles and into hospital emergency departments. "A lot of the hospitals will actually say to the guys, 'will you take the patients back into the car', " she said.

United Voice Ambulance Union co-ordinator Jeanette Temperley speaks on the hospital crisis. "They're at a hospital. That's where all the equipment is, that's where the doctors are, that's where everything is ," she said.

The documents show details of patient deaths between July 1, 2009 and April 12, 2011. During this time, 95 patients died while in the Townsville Hospital Emergency Department, or were dead on arrival.

The number of patient deaths was not collated for the Royal Brisbane and Women's and Nambour hospitals. There was no data provided on patients deaths at the Gold Coast hospital.

Other factors identified as leading to patient deaths included hospitals being on bypass (accepting no ambulances and requiring patients to be taken elsewhere), patients being discharged too early or not seen in time, and poor hospital conditions.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said patients whose conditions were classed as category one cases - those identified as the most critical - were admitted immediately and the state's hospital emergency departments were being expanded in Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns. "There's a major expansion of capacity of beds within emergency departments as well as within the surgical wards of the hospital," he said.

"The average waiting time for all cases presented to emergency departments is less than an hour. "What we do know is that when these situations happen, they're very rare and every effort is made to learn from them."

Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said Queensland Health's failures were killing patients. "For years the risk of ramping is the death of a patient, sadly this is now a reality," he said. "Queensland Health has again failed patients and the patients' ultimate sacrifice is they've now died. "This is an horrific story that gets worse every single day."


4 July, 2011

Go West? 'Get out of Sydney' grants an expensive distraction

The more things change .... Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam had similar ideas in the '70s. How many people now remember his grand vision for Albury/Wodonga? -- JR

Jessica Brown

Is the ghost of Bob Carr lurking in Macquarie Street? When he was NSW Premier, Carr famously declared that Sydney was full. Successive Labor governments failed to adequately plan for population growth. Sydneysiders squashed like sardines on rattling CityRail trains or whiling away the hours on the M2 now pay the price.

Now, it seems, the new Liberal government has the same idea as Carr did all those years ago.

In a move expected to cost NSW taxpayers up to $280 million over four years, the O'Farrell government announced last week that it will pay families and individuals grants of $7,000 if they sell their Sydney, Wollongong or Newcastle home and relocate to regional NSW.

According to Treasurer Mike Baird, the policy will drive economic growth in NSW as well as relieve congestion in Sydney.

But while it has been enthusiastically welcomed by regional councils, the plan deserves to be panned.

Much of the money will be wasted. Grants will go to residents who would have moved anyway. The Illawarra Mercury notes that Wollongong residents will be eligible for the grants even if they move to neighbouring Shellharbour. In some cases, this could be just a few streets away.

It also seems unlikely that encouraging people to move away from the most productive parts of the state to the less productive regional towns will do much to spur economic growth.

Most importantly, it will do nothing to relieve congestion in Sydney. Capped at 40,000 households, the scheme will not come close to offsetting Sydney's projected population growth of around 1 million people by 2026. And it's clear that the majority of NSW residents want to live in cities, not in regional towns.

Relocation grants are just an expensive distraction from the real job of clearing Sydney's infrastructure backlog.

Short-sighted, short-term plans of this type are beloved of governments beholden to four-yearly elections. But the O'Farrell government, with a historic majority and an imploded opposition, does not need to be so limited in its range.

By systematically failing to invest in Sydney's infrastructure, Labor for 16 years reminded us how little faith it had in the city. The Coalition has a unique opportunity to set Sydney back on track.

Yet instead of a bold, long-term vision, we seem to be getting more of the same.

Like it or not, Sydney's population is growing. Let's hope the new government can learn from its predecessor's mistakes.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 1 July. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Radical Islamic leader scorns Diggers fighting in Afghanistan

MUSLIMS "have an obligation" to target Australian troops in Afghanistan, an Islamic conference leader said. Branding the Afghan war a Western invasion, Uthman Badar, from the radical Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, said: "If our members exist in a country where an occupation has occurred, in capacity as individuals they would have an obligation to resist."

Asked directly if he condoned the killing of Australian troops in Afghanistan, Mr Badar replied: "If you are occupying someone else's land then those victimised people have the right to resist."

He also refused to condemn underhand tactics such as suicide bombing as long as "innocent, non-combatants" were not targeted.

He was speaking as hundreds of Muslims gathered in Lidcombe, in Sydney's west, to promote their call for the creation of an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law, stretching from Spain to Australia. The group has been banned in many countries overseas, including parts of the Middle East. Although Hizb ut-Tahrir does not representmost of Muslims in Australia, it has a growing following here.

While Australian forces joined the war in Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin Laden and fight the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Mr Badar said the Australian Government had no business being there. "You have no business in interfering with the people of the Muslim world," he said. "Military occupation should be resisted militarily. People there have a right to resist."

But Islamic Friendship Association of Australia chairman Keysar Trad said the views of Hizb ut-Tahrir were not shared by most mainstream Australian Muslims. "We would like to see the conflict in Afghanistan resolved peacefully and Australian troops return home safely," he said.

Outside the conference, police were forced to call for reinforcements, including the dog squad, when a group of about a dozen members of the Australian Protectionist Party chanting "no sharia law in Australia" almost came to blows with young men from the Hizb ut-Tahrir event.

Protest organiser and APP NSW chairman Darrin Hodges said: "Hizb ut-Tahrir have been banned in most Islamic countries in the Middle East. We don't understand why they haven't been banned here."


Coal closure 'would cut growth, not carbon': report

The Greens want Australia's coal industry shut down

SHUTTING down the Australian coal industry would cost the economy between $29 billion and $36bn a year and have no effect on global carbon emission levels.

In a report commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia, RMIT economists Sinclair Davidson and Ashton De Silva savage the Greens' coal policy, saying the industry saved Australia from having three negative quarters of economic growth during the global financial crisis.

And they say coal exports continue to outperform other exports in the Australian economy, underpinning economic growth.

But while coal is of dramatic importance to the health of the Australian economy - the Queensland floods and lost coal production were blamed for a contraction in the first three months of this year - if Australia exited the market it would not drive down global emissions and have little impact on the world market.

"While there might be some short-run dislocation in the market were Australia to unilaterally cease producing and exporting coal, it is unlikely that there would be a long-run impact on the world economy," the report says. "Prices might be slightly higher for every level of coal consumption, but the overall amount of coal being consumed would not change."

The pair argue the demand for coal is such that until viable substitutes are found people will continue to consume it. "From an environmental perspective, it is those economies with lower environmental standards that are likely to expand production - the former Soviet Union countries and Indonesia."

The report also warns that Australia's share of the international export market in coal is falling and that Australia's export growth in the commodity has failed to keep pace with that of competitors.

Australia's production between 2000 and 2008 had also failed to keep pace with the growth among the largest producers, increasing 36 per cent compared with 64 per cent for the world's top 10 producers. Australia's share of the international market shrank from 30 per cent in 2000 to 26.7 per cent of global exports in 2008.

The Greens last week released research by Tasmanian actuary Naomi Edwards showing Australia's mining industry was largely foreign owned, with $50bn in dividends from the mining boom to go overseas in the next five years.

Greens leader Bob Brown floated the idea of limiting the extraction of key commodities as the world grappled with the effects of climate change.

But, taking aim at the Greens' report, the economists say every dollar lost in the coal industry costs $3.92 across the economy. "At present any replacement industries are unspecified - so it is not clear what the net cost to the economy would be."

Mr Davidson and Mr De Silva said they were particularly concerned about the erosion of Australia's comparative advantage in coal over the past decade.

"It is our view that Australia performs well in world coal markets despite domestic public policy and not because of that policy," they write. "The emergence of competitors in the former Soviet Union countries and Indonesia indicate that any action to eliminate coalmining in Australia will impose costs on the Australian economy without providing global environmental benefits."


Food security the fear as foreign investors rush in

Arrant nonsense. Most agricultural commodities are in chronic glut. Farm ownership won't alter that. The Chinese are brilliant farmers. They would INCREASE production, if anything

THE peak farmers group has warned that increased global demand for food is leading to a new wave of foreign investment in Australian agriculture that could stifle competition and compromise national food security.

The warning was backed by a leading food security authority and Nationals Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce, who warned too much foreign ownership could lead to a "clash of sovereignty" and diplomatic tensions with a range of foreign governments, including China.

National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie warns in an opinion piece for The Australian today that foreign investment has entered a new phase over the past four years. He says there is potential for foreign state-owned enterprises to undercut Australian farmers by using their land acquisitions to ship produce back to feed their home populations.

"This raises the question of transparency in the supply chain, potentially jeopardising competition at the farm gate and depressing the local market. At an extreme level, this could also lead to Australia's own food security goals being compromised," he writes.

Senator Joyce said yesterday that he had "serious issues" with investment from any foreign state-owned enterprise, because it could lead to diplomatic fallout "one thousand" times greater than that with Indonesia over the ban on live cattle exports.

"You get a clash of sovereignties. You might take an individual to court or a corporation to court. But I think you'll be very concerned if you take a country to court especially when that country is far bigger and can choose to be far nastier than the one you live in," he said. "When the person you're taking to court has nuclear weapons, you better be a little bit cautious about what you say next."

Canberra moved last November to map out foreign ownership of agricultural assets, commissioning the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation to conduct a study.

Mr Laurie said he hoped the review would shed light on the "intent" behind foreign acquisitions and demanded government assurances foreign purchases would not negatively affect farm-gate prices for producers.

"Australian farmers thrive on competition and we want to make sure that anybody who wants Australian farm produce enters the market to provide added competition," he said. "Most people were reasonably comfortable with the level of foreign investment coming in and coming out. But things have now changed."

Food security expert and author Julian Cribb backed the NFF's concerns. "China is trying to shore up its own position. It's using its new wealth to buy up resources, which includes food. And yes, it might imperil our food security," he said. "If farmers are getting screwed in the marketplace for the price paid for their produce, they have less money to invest in better and more sustainable farming systems."


3 July, 2011

Why do Warmists run from debate?

Andrew Bolt

Tom Switzer, editor of the Spectator, is the latest to suffer from the warming lobby's deliberate strategy to refuse a debate:
Allow us to do some selfpromotion: on 3 August at Tattersalls Club in Sydney, this magazine is holding a debate on the proposition, `A carbon tax is needed to combat global warming.' On the affirmative side will be former opposition leaders Mark Latham and John Hewson, as well as the distinguished University of NSW climatologist Benjamin McNeil; against the resolution will be Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer and bestselling author Nigel Lawson, former Keating government minister Gary Johns and scientist and author Ian Plimer.

It promises to be a lively evening, though The Spectator Australia can reveal that it was a struggle to fill the affirmative slate - something that seems curious to say the least. Despite sending invitations months in advance, it was very hard to attract the leading climate authorities and activists to argue in favour of the tax. Among those who declined the invitation were ... Greg Combet, Christine Milne, Tim Flannery, Ross Garnaut and Clive Hamilton.

This is odd, given that two are prominent warmist politicians (Climate Minister Combet and Greens climate spokeswoman Milne) bound to vote for a carbon tax, and two more, Professors Garnaut and Flannery, are bought-and-paid-for government advocates for `action' on climate change. Professor Flannery, in fact, is contracted to receive $720,000 in taxpayer dollars for his four-year part-time gig.Perhaps the debate was scheduled for one of his nights off.

Other examples of this tactic? The following warmists have all refused invitations to come on The Bolt Report: Julia Gillard, Greg Combet, Tim Flannery, Ross Garnaut, Simon Sheikh, Cate Blanchett, Drew Hutton, Michael Caton, Don Henry, Jill Singer and more. Lord Monckton has also been refused a debate by many of our warmist activists, and academics have demanded he be banned from speaking at Notre Dame University.

The warmists' strategy is two-fold: first, to deny there's a debate by refusing to actually have one; and, second, to avoid subjecting their ludicrous claims to scrutiny by the informed.

In fact, you can generally assume that if Garnaut or a Gillard discuss global warming with a journalist, they have judged that journalist to be a propagandist, a dupe or otherwise harmless. Chris Uhlmann would be a rare exeception, but only because he's with the ABC's 7.30, which Labor does not dare boycott. Hence attempts by some on the Left to drive him off.

This fear of debate should tell you everything about the warmists and their theory. But give credit to those few that do dare meet their critics.


Tony Abbott: the Government's planned carbon tax is "socialism masquerading as environmentalism"‏

Trade in international pollution permits will be strictly limited under the Gillard Government's climate change package to prevent so-called "carbon cowboys" from scamming the multibillion-dollar scheme.

In a significant departure from Labor's abandoned carbon pollution reduction scheme, international permit purchases are likely to be restricted to high quality sellers such as the European Union and the US State of California. The concern under the CPRS was that low-quality carbon abatement could be bought by Australian polluters from places such as equatorial Africa and South-East Asia through hard-to-verify and dubious projects such as tree plantations.

It is understood the Government agreed to "qualitative and quantitative controls" under its emissions trading scheme at the insistence of the Greens who opposed unlimited access to international permits under the CPRS.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who yesterday blasted the Government's planned carbon tax as "socialism masquerading as environmentalism", said the possibility of the ETS being corrupted was great.

"Without a dependable carbon cop, Australian businesses might easily end up spending vast amounts on permits generated overseas for abatement that's never actually happened," he said. "This is a market based on the non-delivery of an invisible product to no one, and is almost certain to be scammed."

Mr Abbott also took an extraordinary swipe at economists who supported a market-based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions. "It may well be that most Australian economists think that a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is the way to go," he said. "Maybe that's a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of the argument."

Former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, who crossed the floor in support of the CPRS, yesterday expressed faith in economist Ross Garnaut, the Government's climate change adviser. "I don't agree with everything Ross says but he's one of our great public intellectuals, great economists, thinkers and he's done a lot of work on climate change," Mr Turnbull said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the price of carbon would be fixed for the shortest time possible - about three years - before the ETS started. "The carbon tax is temporary, the emissions trading scheme is permanent," she said.


An Australian teachers' union defends credentialism

They've got a vested interest in believing that their teacher qualifications are worth something

The Northern Territory Education Union has slammed the Territory Government over its plans to employ people who are not qualified teachers to teach in Territory schools.

Teach for Australia is a program that began in Victoria last year and will now be introduced in the Territory. Under it, anyone who has graduated from university in any field can apply for a position as a teacher.

The Teacher's Registration Board recently ruled there was nothing in the Education Act to prevent people who have not had formal teaching qualifications from teaching.

In Victoria, people who take part in the program receive fortnightly visits by university tutors to check on their progress.

Matthew Cranitch from the NT branch of the Australian Education Union says there is no way that will happen in the Territory, given the remoteness of many schools. "They will literally be thrown in the deep end," he said. "These schools, these remote schools, they are very hard to staff for a reason." Mr Cranitch described the plan as a bandaid fix.

The union says Katherine High School and Barkly College are two schools where the program may begin next year.

Education Minister Chris Burns will not say which schools are being considered, but insists it is not about a teacher shortage. "It is all about attracting the brightest graduates, people who are very committed, as an alternative pathway to teaching in the Northern Territory and I think it's a positive thing," he said. "I don't really feel the union should be opposing it. I want to enter into constructive discussions with the union."

Mr Burns says he believes the program is a good idea. "This is not a blanket permission by the Teacher's Registration Board for bulk graduates for Teach For Australia to come to the Northern Territory," he said. "The important thing to emphasise here is there is less than 1 per cent vacancies in the Territory. "We are attracting quality teachers here."


Homosexuals are more important than our diggers???

ACTING Chief Commissioner Ken Lay faces a revolt from rank-and-file members over their right to be paid to march in a gay-pride parade, but not on Anzac Day. Officers are paid to support the gay event, but not for participating on Anzac Day, unless they have served overseas in the military or as peacekeepers.

The police union argues all former military or peacekeeping personnel, regardless of service overseas, should be paid if they march on Anzac Day.

Victoria Police command did not respond to questions about whether the policy might change. But a police spokeswoman said paid leave to march for non-overseas ex-service people was being considered.

Police Association secretary Greg Davies said the union was pushing for the change during enterprise bargaining negotiations. He said if officers could march on full pay in the Gay and Lesbian Pride parade, it was "one in, all in" and former military staff who had not served overseas should be paid to take part in the Anzac parade.

Under former boss Simon Overland all officers could participate in the gay march. Attendance is classified as being on duty, according to the Police Gazette. But officers who were not former military or peacekeepers with overseas experience had to take time off to march on Anzac Day.

Victoria Police argued officers had attended the gay march since 2002 and it "significantly" improved the "trust, confidence and co-operation" with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

Mr Davies said the rules were discriminatory. He said the RSL was now the Returned and Services League rather than Returned Services League, and recognised all military personnel.


2 July, 2011

Proposal could give police power to lift burqa or full-face veil

WOMEN wearing the burqa or other full-face veils will be forced to show their face when stopped by police under proposed changes to the law, Attorney-General Greg Smith said yesterday.

Mr Smith said there was a duty on all citizens to identify themselves when asked by police and the law should reflect that. "The law is not that specific at the moment and that is what we are leading towards," Mr Smith said.

He said he could understand the "public outcry" over "cases like that" of Muslim woman Carnita Matthews, 47, who had her jail sentence and conviction for knowingly making a false complaint about racism by police overturned on appeal in the District Court last week.

Ms Matthews, who wears a full-face niqab, had denied she was the person who signed the complaint or delivered it to police after she was booked for not properly displaying a P-plate.

However, Mr Smith revealed he did not think there were grounds for the prosecution to appeal the court ruling that has led to the legal shake-up. He said there could only be an appeal on matters of law, not fact. "Personally, having looked at the case, I have my doubts," Mr Smith said.


A truly amazing bureaucracy

After well over a year of trying, they can't even get their payroll right

A TERMINALLY ill Queensland Health employee has been slapped with a bill for $45 for overpaid wages despite the troubled department's $200 waiver policy.

The revelation came as hundreds of health workers vented their anger via social media, only to be gagged by furious bureaucrats in damage control.

One Facebook poster told of being "severely chastised" in an "intimidating" email warning staff not to publicly air their frustration. Undeterred, the staffer said she would no longer allow fear of retribution to silence her and lauded the strength in numbers generated by the online response.

A Queensland Health Payroll Disaster - Fightback page was created on Thursday morning after 38,000 staff received letters asking them to repay a collective $62 million in overpaid wages.

Within 24 hours the page had attracted 500 respondents. By yesterday afternoon that had almost doubled and was steadily climbing last night.

Dozens used the page to tell of botched bills received for alleged overpayments, including one employee who had not worked with Queensland Health for two years.

Another payroll staffer told The Courier-Mail of the deep upset caused to a terminally ill man confronted with a letter stating he owed $44.73 in overpaid wages.

The letter was also inconsistent in that it included an invoice for just 1c.

"The poor bugger. They nearly lost him last week and then they got this letter and it just stressed him to the hilt," the payroll officer said.

QH has previously promised it would not chase any overpayments under $200 and it is understood the man's bill has now been wiped.

But the mistake is not isolated, with The Courier-Mail revealing on Thursday a retired nurse was issued with a bill for 1c. "I felt like laughing. I thought why would you waste the money on postage for 1c," she said.

Many who posted online were critical of the Queensland Nurses Union for failing to take action during the long-running payroll debacle.

The nurses administering the Facebook page are preparing a petition to send to Premier Anna Bligh and have also urged health workers to ask for a complete review of their wages, not only those payslips highlighted as overpaid.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser admitted bills for overpayments could be wrong, contradicting QH human resources deputy director-general John Cairns's assertions on Tuesday that they were accurate.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the Government was "spinning and misleading" health workers.


Australia enforces new, tighter immigration rules which will affect Indians, among others

Australia has a substantial population of industrious people from the subcontinent already. They greatly improve the restaurant scene but are not as prominent in retailing as they are in Britain. Note: I have tidied up some Indian English below -- JR

Australia's new immigration rules that focus on higher qualification and advance English language skills as requirements for those wanting to migrate to Australia, came into effect today.

The new rules, according to Australian officials, aim to pick up the "best and the brightest" from the pool of applicants, and have been criticised by Indian groups.

The Australian government announced changes to its independent skilled migration points test, introducing the new immigration points system to put more emphasis on work experience and high-level educational qualifications with higher English language proficiency.

"These changes to the points test are an important next step in the series of reforms to the skilled migration programme announced by the Government in February this year," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said. "The reforms set the foundations for a skilled migration programme that will be responsive to our economic needs and continue to serve Australia's interests in the medium to long term," he added.

However, the new programme has been criticised by the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) which said the level of English proficiency is like an "iron curtain" being imposed on immigration to Australia.

IAV president Vasan Srinivasan said the organisation sympathises with the government's need to attract to Australia migrants with good English speaking skills but the requirement that is appropriate for skilled professionals such as doctors and accountants, should not be required for other less professional occupations.

The new points test will only affect skilled independent immigration and not employer-sponsored immigration.

Srinivasan said to address the skills shortage of the economy the government should allow persons skilled to do the work and understand the language with only the level of language competency required to understand directions given by their employers.

Anything more than that is merely another barrier to "legitimate migrants", Srinivasan, who also heads National Council of Indian Australians (NCIA) said. "We need skilled individuals who can contribute due to their skills and who have functional English language skills! Then adopt such a policy and stop shifting the level," he said.

The Australian government introduced the points test in the selection process whereby the applicants applying for migration are awarded points for the skills and attributes considered to be needed in Australia.

As of today, the test is said to focus on better English levels, more extensive skilled employment, higher level qualifications obtained in Australia and overseas and better targeted age ranges.



Three current articles below

Carbon tax dying

IT'S a long way from the comrades in Sydney's Sussex Street to sitting with relatives of royalty courtside at Wimbledon.
Fading public support spells doom for carbon tax

ON Friday, February 25, this year, the day after Julia Gillard had announced she would be introducing a carbon tax, she was interviewed by Alan Jones. He asked her to explain how she could say "I rule out a carbon tax" before the election and then rule it in.

She said: "Well, Alan, let me answer that. In the last election campaign I talked consistently about how climate change was real, it was caused by human activity, that we needed to cut down on carbon pollution and that the best way of doing that was to price carbon through a market-based mechanism, and that's what I announced yesterday." For good measure she added: "Rather than play any semantic word games, I was frank enough with the Australian people to say that the first few years would work effectively like a tax."

Note the tactics. First there's an undertaking to answer the question. Second, there's a very long, sly sentence that evades the question and never acknowledges she has reversed a policy. Finally she congratulates herself for her frankness in likening the mechanism to a tax, when she might instead have engaged in semantic bluster.

It makes you wonder whether her life before politics involved telling a lot of whoppers and getting away with them. It's hard to imagine her straitlaced parents, Moira and John, putting up with that sort of thing, but perhaps they were so protective of their physically frail younger daughter or so besotted with her that they just turned a blind eye.

Fortunately, the public instinctively know when a politician is telling them bare-faced lies and they tend to take it personally. Gillard's polling numbers plummeted almost immediately and have never looked like recovering. You'd think she might have learned from the experience, but as recently as Thursday she was engaging in more verbal fudging on the same subject.

She said: "Now, what Tony Abbott likes to refer to as a carbon tax, a fixed-price period for an emissions trading scheme, is a period I believe should be as short as possible. So people have heard a lot of debate about a carbon tax and today can I say to Australians the debate that they are hearing about a carbon tax is a debate about what Tony Abbott calls a carbon tax."

As the opposition and print media were quick to point out, in April she hadn't shied away from the word tax repeatedly, let alone attempted to insinuate that the term was a rhetorical feint from Abbott. She said then: "Oh, look, I'm happy to use the word tax. I understand some silly little collateral debate has broken out today. I mean, how ridiculous. This is a market-based mechanism."

The most charitable gloss that could be put on this is that some dopey spinmeister thought it would be a good idea to blunt the attack on the tax by rebadging it a carbon price and had put the word out to ministers that they should try to associate the phrase carbon tax with the Opposition Leader. However, it has the too-clever-by-half hallmark of the Prime Minister - it's a transparent ploy that takes us all for fools - and since no one else tried the same tactic it's reasonable to conclude it's all her own work. It gave Abbott a perfect opportunity to describe her as "untrustworthy and tricky".

There are some within the Gillard government who imagine that, with an announcement of the details of the carbon tax expected next week, the going will get a little easier. A careful reading of the Lowy Institute's new polling on climate change should disabuse them on that score.

Of the sample, 75 per cent described the government's overall handling of the issue as poor and 39 per cent described it as very poor. Only 3 per cent said it was very good. Obviously on such a contentious issue it's not possible to please everyone, but to have left such a substantial majority disaffected takes some doing.

Support for the most aggressive response to climate change fell four points from last year, down to 41 per cent.

This option now enjoys a similar level of support to the milder option of taking a gradual, low-cost approach, at 40 per cent.

This is dramatically different from the polling in 2006 when 68 per cent supported an aggressive response and only 24 per cent favoured a gradual approach.

The most sceptical option, doing nothing until we're sure there's a problem, is up six points from last year to 19 per cent and has nearly tripled since 2006, when it was just 7 per cent. Support for this option is strongest among the 60 and older age group, at 28 per cent.

The sample was also asked how much extra it was prepared to pay a month on power bills to help address climate change.

The most popular option, paying nothing extra, attracted 39 per cent support, up six points from last year and nearly double the 21 per cent who opted for nothing when the question was first asked in 2008.

Those who said they were prepared to pay between $1 and $10 a month extra fell from 32 per cent in 2008 to 25 per cent last year to 19 per cent this year. Those prepared to pay between $11 and $20 a month fell from 20 per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent last year and 13 per cent this year.

Those true believers who said they were prepared to pay more than $20 a month slightly increased, from 19 per cent in 2008 and 2010 to 22 per cent this year.

With the single exception of that three-point increase, the trends in the Lowy polling are all pointing in one direction.

Clearly the last time to take an aggressive policy to an election in Australia with any hope of winning was back in early 2009, when Kevin Rudd got cold feet about a double dissolution.

The next federal election will inevitably be a referendum on an uncovenanted carbon tax that in three short years will morph into the world's first economy-wide ETS.


Sending profits abroad is a good thing: A basic economics lesson for Australia's chief Greenie

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

On Sunday, Senator Bob Brown was interviewed on ABC 1's Insiders program. The Greens leader admitted that putting a price on carbon would ultimately mean shutting down the coal industry. But never mind, Brown explained. Since the big mining companies were largely `foreign-owned, multinational corporations,' their profits would only `line the pockets of millionaires elsewhere in the world.'

Then on Wednesday, the Greens published a new report claiming that 83% of Australia's mining industry was in fact foreign, and therefore, it should be taxed more heavily for the benefit of all Australians. So as it turns out, Brown wants to squeeze the mining industry financially before finishing it off to save the planet.

Brown's argument about exporting Australian profits is not new. `Buy Australian' campaigners also claim that purchasing goods only from Australian-owned companies keeps profits in Australia. They claim that every time you buy products of a foreign-owned company, the profits will somehow disappear from Australia and harm Australia's prosperity.

It is amazing how easily people are convinced by this `sending profits abroad' argument, when it is just a protectionist fallacy.

Let's say the Australian branch of a US company is very profitable. What happens to these profits?

First, the profits might stay in Australia to expand the business of the US company, creating more jobs and extra economic activity here. Even ardent nationalists would find it hard to argue against this.

If the parent company however decided to transfer the profits from its Australian branch to America, it would soon find out that Australian dollars are pretty useless outside Australia and change them into US dollars.

But what happens to the Australian dollars? Since Australian dollars don't buy anything abroad, they will return to Australia to buy Australian goods and services. Maybe a US company will use them to buy Australian minerals. Perhaps US tourists will come here to spend their holidays. Or the US might import Australian-made cars.

In any case, Australian dollar profits transferred abroad return to Australia sooner rather than later because outside Australia, our dollars are just printed paper that will not get you a cup of coffee.

This is where the `Australian-owned' argument falls to pieces. For Australia's wealth and prosperity, it does not matter where the profits from Australian businesses end up. All that matters for the Australian economy is that Australia remains a place where business transactions take place - irrespective of who owns the business.

In Bob Brown's Australia, national ownership matters more than creating domestic prosperity. For a party that on its website proclaims to `eliminate racism' and promote `diversity,' it is odd how these commitments do not extend to trading with foreigners.

Perhaps the Greens only like foreigners when they come as refugees, not as businesspeople.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 1 July. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Wallabies battle cattle farts

The Tamar Wallaby's digestive system is getting agricultural researchers excited, after researchers from Australia's science agency CSIRO found its gut generates far lower methane emissions than cattle.

Methane poses a greenhouse conundrum for policy makers: our dependence on livestock for meat means we keep lots of ruminants around, which generate lots of methane. Since most countries are reluctant to impose a state-sponsored vegetarianism, researchers are working hard to cut down the world's vast cloud of ruminant methane.

Enter the Tamar Wallaby: it generates 80 percent less of the gas per unit of digestible energy than livestock animals. Mark Morrison, an Ohio State University animal sciences professor who is also science leader in metagenomics at CSIRO's Livestock Industries division, says the efficiency of the macropod's digestive system offers another payoff - better nutrient retention.

The key lies in a bacterium in the wallaby's gut, which Morrison's group sequenced and isolated and believe could be used to augment the microbes normally present in livestock digestive systems.

Marsupials and ruminants share a "pre-digestive" fermentation process to break down plant food, and this fermentation produces methane. However, it's been known for some time that while cattle and sheep turn as much as 10 percent of their food into methane, the Tamar Wallaby produces only 1 percent to 2 percent.

The CSIRO researchers have identified the key bacterium in the marsupial: a member of the Succinivibrionaceae called WG-1, which produces succinate rather than methane as a by-product of fermentation. The succinate locks up hydrogen and carbon that would otherwise by grabbed by methane-producing bacteria.

Morrison says that Succinivibrionaceae also exist in ruminants, but have not been a focus of study in the past. "Our findings with the Tammar wallaby were a bit of a surprise, but we think they provide an important clue for how rumen fermentation might be directed away from methane formation."


1 July, 2011

Surgeon who mutilated woman's genitals jailed for only two years

And the "regulators" should be in jail as well. The NSW Government can't explain why a doctor banned from obstetrics was able to continue working for them in that field -- performing operations which left many women mutilated. Dr Graeme Steven Reeves is alleged to have mutilated or sexually abused as many as 800 patients. The NSW Medical Board ruled in 1997 that Graeme Stephen Reeves "suffers from personality and relations problems and depression that detrimentally affects his mental capacity to practise medicine". The board ordered him to stop practising obstetrics, but he defied the ban and took up a position in 2001 as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist for the Southern Area Health Service, working at Bega and Pambula hospitals

A DOCTOR who indecently assaulted two patients, removed a woman's genitals without her consent and committed fraud, has been sentenced to at least two years jail.

NSW District Court Judge Greg Woods sentenced the 60-year-old doctor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to a minimum of two years and a maximum of three and a half year years.

In March, a jury found him guilty of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on widow Carolyn DeWaegeneire with intent to cause her grievous bodily harm in 2002.

"I have to live with what happened to me 24-7," Ms DeWaegeneire told the NSW District Court last month.

She told Judge Greg Woods that the doctor had cut off her entire genitals, "the very core of my being".

She said the operation occurred exactly one year after the death of her beloved husband from cancer.

The doctor was found guilty of indecently assaulting two women but acquitted of inappropriately touching three patients, in April, at a judge-alone trial.

Two months earlier, the doctor pleaded guilty to obtaining a financial advantage by deception, involving his breaching a ban by carrying out obstetric procedures.

Ms DeWaegeneire, who has given permission for her name to be published, was a 58-year-old widow when she sought treatment for a small patch of discoloured skin on her labia, later identified as a form of pre-cancer.

The jury accepted that the doctor told her he was going to remove a lesion but never mentioned taking anything else, including her clitoris.


Lesbian housing. Is this legal?

What about Victoria's strict anti-discrimination laws? I guess they can be "bent" for favoured groups

AS an older lesbian, Thelma Tapp was becoming anxious about ageing. She had heard stories of discrimination and homophobia inside nursing homes. But thanks to a new social housing project in Brunswick it is likely she will not have to face it.

The housing, for lesbians aged over 65 experiencing housing stress, is believed to be the first of its type in Australia. It was developed by the Matrix Guild of Victoria and the Victorian Women’s Housing Association.

The three, two-bedroom units in a complex in Albert St are wheelchair accessible, making them suitable for ageing tenants.

Thelma (not her real name) and two other women will be able to rent the units for one quarter of their income for as long as they wish. On the open market, the units would fetch about $350 a week - the equivalent of Thelma’s entire income.

A workplace injury has left her unlikely to work again and she had been homeless for 18 months, so the prospect of affordable long-term accommodation was a huge relief. “I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity and for the first time in 18 months I can finally call somewhere home,” she said.

Matrix will also put her in touch with other lesbians living in the inner-north. “I’m not going to be lonely,” she said. “It’s just been life changing.”

Matrix Guild housing convener Anneke Deutsch said its mission to provide affordable housing to older lesbians began years ago in response to reports of discrimination in aged-care facilities.

“When older women are vulnerable and reliant on people who might be homophobic doing personal care, often women prefer to stay closeted than be out,” she said. “We started off wanting to have an aged-care facility, but that’s a huge amount of work and we found most older lesbians wanted to live in their own homes.”

There are no statistics on the number of number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people over 65 in Australia. But given they make up about 10 per cent [Bollocks! More like 2%] of the population, there would be about 240,000, based on 2002 figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Ms Deutsch said housing stress was common among older lesbians because many had acquired little wealth. Ms Deutsch hoped the Brunswick project, dedicated to former member Heather Chapple whose $300,000 bequest helped fund the project, was the first of many.


Toddlers as young as two ready for sex education, says new guide

PARENTS are being urged to start talking about sex with their children from the age of two. A new sex education guide by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society says discussing sex is not going to make kids go out and "do it". [Really? The expansion of sex education in British school has coincided with an upsurge in teen pregnancies there]

"Talk soon. Talk often" author Jenny Walsh, of La Trobe University, writes that talking about sex with young people actually had the opposite effect. "We can be so worried about getting it right, perfectly right, that we end up saying nothing at all," Ms Walsh wrote.

The booklet says many parents are still nervous talking about sexuality, including topics such as bodies, babies, love and sexual feelings. It recommends talking to children as young as two about sex and continuing until they are 17. From birth to two years old it is important to start using the right names for body parts, the guide says.

It also covers everything from what you should do if you find your child "playing doctors" to how to approach masturbation.

Family Planning Victoria welcomed the new sex education guide. "We would say that old idea of sitting down and having a talk is absolutely not the way to do it," FPV deputy CEO Elsie L'Huillier said. "There should be a whole process where the issue of sexuality comes up as a natural conversation. It's not a highly stressful 'Let's sit down and talk'."

She said some parents still felt embarrassed to discuss sexuality issues with their children, but it was changing. "There's a reluctance or taboo in some families about being frank about sexuality. It's a big jump for them," she said.

Marie Stopes International Australia CEO Maria Deveson Crabbe said there was no right age to start sex education - it depended on individual families. "I think it is important to recognise that these topics have been stigmatised, but there is no point in burying our heads in the sand." She said sex education was important because poor knowledge of sexual health and decision-making can have long-term impacts.


One Australian State rebels on proposed national curriculum

THE Baillieu government is staging a rebellion against the national curriculum, with state Education Minister Martin Dixon vowing Victoria will not relinquish control over "critical areas" such as languages.

A defiant Mr Dixon said the "current draft" of the national curriculum for languages would "drive down the standards of languages education in Victoria" if it was implemented.

The national curriculum for languages is being developed on the assumption that only 300 to 400 hours would be spent studying a second language between prep and year 6 - about half the hours recommended by the Victorian Education Department.

The states last year agreed they would "substantially" implement the national curriculum in maths, English, history and science by 2013. A national curriculum is also being developed for the arts, geography and languages. They will be rolled out after the first four subjects are implemented.

But Mr Dixon said last night the Coalition would not relinquish jurisdictional authority over critical areas of the national curriculum such as languages education. "The Commonwealth government must wake up and stop pushing Victoria towards the lowest common denominator in education," Mr Dixon said. "We will continue to demand Victoria's high standards form a minimum baseline for national reform."

The rebellion comes as the federal government announced Victoria would receive less than a quarter of the "reward funding" that will go to New South Wales and Queensland under a national agreement to lift literacy and numeracy, because it set itself more ambitious targets than other states.

"Already we have seen national reform in literacy and numeracy reward low aspirations and punish those who aim high as Victoria has done - with more than $21 million cut from Victoria's reward payments by Julia Gillard this week," Mr Dixon said.

In a submission to the national curriculum authority, Victoria said there was "widespread concern" among language teachers that the hours allocated for learning languages in the draft paper were less than the state guidelines. The Victorian Education Department recommends some 150 minutes a week in primary school, which works out to 700 hours before year 7.

The state curriculum authority also questioned why Hindi - one of the world's most widely spoken languages - was not one of the 11 languages included in the national curriculum. It said it was not clear how the 11 languages were selected and considered there was also a strong argument for the Australian sign language, Auslan, to be included.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which made the submission on behalf of government, independent and Catholic schools, also criticised the curriculum for using too much jargon. It said specialist terms, such as "ideational functions", "rhetorical organisation" and "heritage learners", would be unfamiliar to many.

The criticism comes after the NSW Board of Studies castigated the national curriculum authority for "ignoring" classical languages and failing to address an "alarming" decline in languages education brought about by a focus on literacy and numeracy.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority said the "indicative hours" were only intended as a guide for the curriculum writers. "No decision has been made about how many hours will be spent in the classroom."


Ambulance men tell Geelong mother her dangerously ill baby 'just needs cuddles'

A SIX-month-old baby is lucky to be alive after paramedics told her mother she "just needed some cuddles" despite suffering from a collapsed lung, pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

Baby Mia Hicks-Fitzgibbon spent five days fighting for life at Geelong Hospital in Victoria last week, after her quick-thinking mum, not satisfied with the diagnosis, drove Mia to hospital herself after paramedics left.

Ambulance Victoria is now investigating the paramedics over the incident, the Geelong Advertiser said.

Baby Mia's fight for life began on Friday, June 17 at 10.30am when her mother noticed the little girl was struggling to breathe and had a fluctuating temperature. A worried Ms Hicks dialled 000 and within 15 minutes a Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance arrived at her Norlane home.

Ms Hicks said the paramedics checked Mia over, but left a short time later, satisfied she was all right. "They said 'there's nothing wrong with her, she just needs to stay home and just needs some cuddles'," Ms Hicks said.

Unconvinced, Ms Hicks decided to drive Mia to hospital herself. "As soon as (the ambulance) left, I said 'no, we're taking her in'," Ms Hicks said. "Her breathing was just wrong, she was sucking her stomach right in and she was really trying."

After arriving at the hospital about 11am, Mia was immediately admitted to the children's ward and placed on a resuscitation machine. By Saturday, her condition had worsened and she was moved to intensive care.

"Her heart rate was up to 230 beats per minute when it should only be 120 ... she had a gastric tube in her nose, an oxygen tube in her nose, she was on a drip, and the doctors ordered an X-ray and an ECG (electrocardiogram)," Ms Hicks said. "It was so scary."

Doctors found Mia had a partially collapsed lung and diagnosed her with pneumonia as well as bronchiolitis; the inflammation of the lungs' smallest air passages.

Ms Hicks told of her anguish as Mia clung to life in hospital. She was finally deemed well enough to go home on Wednesday last week. "It was an emotional roller-coaster, I was in tears because all I wanted to do was hold her but I couldn't," she said.

"I asked the doctor what would've happened if I hadn't brought her in (to hospital) myself, and he said 'she wouldn't be here' ... I would've lost my daughter." A hospital source backed Ms Hicks' story, saying staff agreed the paramedics had made a "shocking miss".

Ambulance Victoria last night confirmed it had received a formal complaint from Ms Hicks, and had launched an investigation.

Barwon Health spokeswoman Kate Nelson said the hospital could not comment on the specifics of the case, only confirming the baby had been a patient at the hospital.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative