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, 2012

Wow!  So many State government employees fired that  Brisbane's CBD like a ghost town and carparks empty

It can be done

HUGE cutbacks to Queensland's public service are draining Brisbane's CBD, leaving entire floors of carparks empty and retailers struggling to stay open.

Secure Parking's David Knight said it was not only the shrinking CBD workforce that was hurting operators; fewer people in general were coming into the city for business.

"People aren't going to see that lawyer or architect or engineer, and they're not going to government offices because there's no new projects happening," Mr Knight said. "It all dominoes right through the economy."

National Retail Association spokesman Gary Black said CBD retailers had been doing it tough since late 2009 and many were now on death row.  "You would expect the public service job cuts to have some impact (on retailers)," he said.

Mr Black said rent hikes and increasing labour costs were also hurting city stores, and having an impact on service.

"Independent retailers in particular don't have the resilient characteristics that chains have," Mr Black said. "To expect them to continue to survive in the face of this prolonged downturn I think is not realistic. We're certainly going to see continued business failures in the retail sector until the end of this year."

Premier Campbell Newman announced on Friday that public sector numbers had fallen by 4400 full-time employees.  He said the Government's reforms to build a "right-size public service" would continue.

Mr Knight said the plunge in demand for car parking started just before the June school holidays and had only got worse.  "At first I thought everyone had gone away to the snow. But after the holidays business didn't pick up like it normally does," he said.

The lack of interest had prompted price cuts, with all-day early bird parking now available for $9 in Fortitude Valley and $12-$15 in city parking stations - down from usual rates of $20 to $26.

But it is still cheaper to fly to Sydney to shop than park your vehicle in Brisbane's most expensive city car parks. Visitors to Secure Parking's MacArthur Central, Festival on Charlotte, Parkade on Albert St, AM60 on Albert St, and 140 Elizabeth St premises' are being slugged $72 for a three-hour-plus stay.

An annual bill, calculating the cost of parking for three hours, five days a week, comes to more than $18,000 - the price of a new car.

A short lunch-break is also denting motorists' wallets, with a 31-minute ticket at the carpark operator's Emirates House site on Eagle St costing $33 - that's more than $1 per minute.


NSW Minister targets inadequate teachers to improve classroom standards

THE NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, is planning to make bold changes to the way school teachers are trained, supported in the job, and managed out of it to lift teacher quality and improve learning outcomes.

Mr Piccoli wants to look at how underperforming teachers can be removed from classrooms as one element of a comprehensive review of how best to improve the quality of teaching in all schools in NSW.  "You've got to have a transparent, fair and fast process for removing teachers if you want to guard your standards," he said.

The minister and his director-general, Michele Bruniges, are clearly frustrated at the present process for removing under-performing teachers. Mr Piccoli said it was important for the profession's integrity.

He hopes to work with Catholic and independent schools, universities and teacher unions on the review process.

While it is still a discussion paper built around a series of provocative questions, the review's outline highlights a number of incendiary issues. In the minister's sights are universities that are churning out too many graduates and whose staff may lack recent teaching experience, and mid-career teachers who perhaps should be forced to continue learning to keep their jobs.

"We're eager to make bold changes even if we upset individuals or organisations along the way," Mr Piccoli said.  "This really is the key to education reform. Nothing is off the table."

The review signals the possibility of a minimum university entry score for aspiring teachers and perhaps offering education only as a postgraduate course. It highlights concerns that some students enter university to become teachers with a tertiary admission ranking as low as 40.

At present 5500 teachers a year graduate from NSW universities but the Education Department employs only 300-500 new graduates in permanent positions.

The review will consider placing a limit on the number of university student teaching placements it offers each year to encourage universities to cut their numbers.

The review will focus on better supporting graduates - many of whom work, without clear supervision, as casuals in schools and classrooms - when they enter the profession.

Existing teachers are also to be questioned about their learning and whether they should have to demonstrate that they have kept their skills, knowledge and teaching practice up to date to be able to continue teaching.

The review paper was welcomed by Peter Aubusson, the president of the NSW Council of  Deans of Education, and Maurie Mulheron, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation.

Associate Professor Aubusson conceded that universities needed to look at the tertiary admission rankings of teaching entrants and said it was vital to manage better the transition of graduates into the profession.

Mr Mulheron said it was in the interests of the profession to protect standards but he warned that while disputes about staffing and resources remained unresolved, the minister would struggle to win the goodwill of the profession.

The executive director of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Dan White, said schools in Sydney had invested in training for teacher mentors to support new graduates.

"We believe 99 per cent of teachers are very competent and capable practitioners but it is critically important there are standards that manage under-performance and that principals and employing authorities have courageous conversations to ensure there is a quality teacher in front of every classroom," Dr White said.


Tony Abbott's realistic approach to China only offends fawners

In any debate on China, the voice of the "whateverists" can invariably be heard. This term was invented to describe the position, over the years, taken by many Western academics and others that we should all pay due heed to whatever it is that the leadership in Beijing is saying.

That's why it is so refreshing to see a succession of Australian politicians in recent years say what they believe about China, without fawning before the apparent views of the Communist Party. Some commentators have compared the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's direct address to the Australia China Chamber of Commerce in Beijing last week to the approach taken by John Howard when he was prime minister.

Many of Australia's allies and friends in the region have a genuine concern about China's power

The comparison is accurate. However, the essential point is that a degree of bipartisanship is involved here. Abbott's position is similar to that of Howard. But so was Kevin Rudd's.

Abbott has received some criticism for saying that "China should prosper even more if its people enjoyed freedom under the law and the right to choose a government". Yet, in April 2008, Rudd went even further in his address at Peking University. He spoke about China's "problems of broader human rights" in general and Tibet in particular.

While recognising the importance of China to Australia's economy, Howard went out of his way to indicate that this would not be at the expense of the nation's traditional friends. The then Chinese ambassador to Australia, Fu Ying, was in the room when Howard delivered the Lowy Lecture in March 2005. Howard deliberately referred to the great democracies of the Pacific - Australia, Japan and the US - while acknowledging the importance of China to all three countries.

The lesson is, or should be, obvious. Australia's trade with China grew during the periods of the Howard and Rudd governments. China's leaders do not oversee the purchase of Australia's primary resources because they like us. They do so because Australia provides an excellent product at competitive prices and has an independent judicial system to resolve any contractual disputes.

Critics of mining, from the former Greens leader Bob Brown on, tend to overlook the fact that Australia's strong economy - and the "soft power" which goes with it - turns on the fact that Australia's mining industry operates at world's best practice. Phillip Adams recently repeated the leftist mantra that mining is all about digging up Australia and shipping it overseas. This view is not heard in Beijing.

The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is clever but also tough. The likes of Hu Jintao are not likely to be offended by Abbott's comment, in the current issue of The Spectator Australia, that "China is freer than it was but it's still a repressive state". This just happens to be the truth.

Party members are well aware of the Soviet-style shuanggui (or "double regulation") discipline system which comes into operation when comrades break the rules or fall out of favour with the dictatorship. This is the current fate of Bo Xilai, who recently fell from favour.

And there is history. The current leadership in Beijing traces its power to the Communist Party revolution of 1949, when Mao Zedong became leader. In his recent book Mao's Great Famine, the Dutch-born scholar Frank Dikotter estimates that the number of deaths due to Mao's regime, between 1949 and 1976, amounted to a staggering 45 million: most as a result of forced famine, which was a consequence of the so-called Great Leap Forward; the others due to political murder and suicide.

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s - up until the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 - it was unfashionable in Western circles to discuss the totalitarian gulag that was China. The academics, journalists and business figures, who comprised the whateverists of their day, did not approve of China being criticised. Now political leaders such as Howard, Rudd and Abbott are castigated if they imply that China has residual human rights problems.

The Australian National University professor Hugh White normally talks a lot of sense when commenting on defence. However, in his 2010 Quarterly Essay "Power Shift", White went close to saying that the decline of US power in the Asia Pacific entailed that Australia should distance itself from Washington and cultivate Beijing.

This does not make much sense. For starters, many of Australia's allies and friends in the region have a genuine concern about China's power. Moreover, it is far from clear what China's future will be. History suggests that one-party states do not last forever. And China faces an ageing population due primarily to the regime's one child policy.

If Abbott becomes prime minister, his realistic approach to China is likely to be as successful as that taken by Rudd and Howard. When nations are dependent on one another, a little hard but truthful talk is unlikely to do much harm.


Exclusive Brethren's Agnew School one of Queensland's best for academic performance

This should put to bed allegations that students at fundamentalist Christian schools suffer academically.  The EB are VERY fundamentalist

IT is perhaps Queensland's least known and most misunderstood school.  It is also one of the state's top consistent academic performers.

Clearly the Agnew School  --  run by the Exclusive Brethren  --  is doing something right, recording the state's highest OP1 to 15 percentage regardless of school size over the past five years.

It is one of a handful of small schools not included in top-performing OP charts each year because of potential statistical anomalies that can happen in tiny sample sizes.

But analysis of five years of OP data shows those top scores are consistent, recording 100 per cent of OP-eligible students achieving an OP1 to 15 in three out of the five years.

Principal Norm Sharples was quick to point out the school had only a small number of OP-eligible students each year, with between five and 22 recorded between 2007 and 2011.

He said small class sizes  --  about 10 to 12 students per class  --  a commitment to academic excellence by the school's board and strong parental support was behind consistent top student performances.

Contrary to popular belief, students at the school use "plenty" of technology, including video conferencing at its six campuses across southeast Queensland.

Mr Sharples said the school also encouraged students to enrol in tertiary studies.

"We try not to be distracted by outside elements we do sports internally. Our motto is learning to learn. We have schools in other states which we are often comparing results and we look at how we could be doing better," Mr Sharples said.

The school currently has 359 Year 3 to 12 students at its six campuses, including Brisbane, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Nambour, Toowoomba and Warwick, which is only primary.

Its website states: "The School is conducted in accordance with the beliefs and teachings of the Brethren and the Directors are committed to ensuring that the Ethos, Values and Guiding Principles are enshrined in all aspects of school life".


30 July, 2012

Australia's Leftist government has put up a huge magnet to attract illegal immigrants

The truth is stranger than fiction:  $10,000 packages given to some illegal arrivals plus no wait for welfare payments  -- plus free mobile phones and free healthcare

It is a lie that will not die. It has been sent to tens of thousands of Australians in an email that has been circulating for years. The latest variation compares the amount paid to Australian aged pensioners with the benefits available to refugees. It claims the weekly allowance for pensioners is $253 while the weekly allowance for refugees is $472.50, plus a weekly hardship payment of $145, meaning refugees are eligible for more than twice as much government support as pensioners. It's a concoction. The problem for the federal government is that the truth is in some ways worse than the lie.

As long ago as 2009 the Department of Immigration felt compelled to issue this press release: "Figures quoted in these emails bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia … Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

"Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before a decision is made about protection … In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents."

Things have loosened up since then. Some asylum seekers now do qualify for welfare before their claims have been decided. The system of "thorough security and identity checks" has been compromised. This has damaged the federal Labor government, damaged the reputation of the Prime Minister, and damaged the traditional links between blue collar workers and the Labor Party. It has inflicted as much political damage on Labor as the carbon tax about-face.

In trying to understand the persistently dreadful opinion polls for the Gillard government, I keep coming back to this issue, a policy debacle for which Kevin Rudd, not Julia Gillard, bears primary responsibility, though on her watch it has gone from embarrassing to potentially terminal.

What follows are half a dozen elements that are already of concern to the Australian Federal Police, but about which the AFP must remain mute:

  The police have not seen as large a gap in quality control in the flow of unskilled and welfare-dependent arrivals since the refugee flow from Lebanon in the 1970s.

About 90 per cent of those who arrive via illegal boat entries have been granted permanent residence, yet the overwhelming majority have entered Malaysia or Indonesia by legal means, then destroyed their identity papers with the intent of making it difficult for Australia to check their bona fides.

The amount of workplace participation among refugees and asylum-seekers remains low for some time. After four years, only about 25 per cent are engaged in full-time work. (The issue is examined in a Department of Immigration report, Settlement Outcomes for New Arrivals, published in April last year.)

Under intense political pressure, the federal government is emptying the detention centres by issuing bridging visas which allow detainees to enter the community, work, and receive welfare benefits before their final status has been determined. This has slashed the average time spent in detention from nine months to three months but the quicker turnover has compressed the scrutiny process.

Some of the high take-up of welfare payments among asylum seekers and refugees is being recycled into bringing relatives to Australia, including via people smugglers.

The Royal Australian Navy is being used as a pick-up service by people smugglers who call navy vessels to advise them of their need for assistance.

Little wonder that numbers are exploding. In the three years before the election of the Rudd government, 71 people arrived on 10 illegal boats. It took a year for the impact of Labor's dismantling of the previous border security regime to kick in. Over the past three years 341 illegal boats have brought 20,248 asylum-seekers. Another 363 have drowned. Uncounted others have perished or turned back.

All these problems are personified by "Captain Emad", who fled Australia in June even though he had been under investigation by police. The man, Abu Khalid, was a people smuggler who came to Australia by passing himself off as an asylum seeker. He brought his wife, three children and a grandchild. All received refugee status, settled in Canberra and were provided with public housing despite using different identities to those they used to enter Indonesia from Iraq. Yet even after Khalid's activities were exposed by the ABC's Four Corners program, he was allowed to leave.

Systemic deceit has been rewarded by systemic support. Even some asylum seekers who have avoided immigration control, destroyed their identity documents and not yet had their claims decided are eligible for support under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme.

Among the benefits that can be made available to those granted protection visas, and those granted refugee status, is a one-off household formation package of up to $9850. Families can be eligible for education assistance of up to $9220. People granted refugee status become eligible for welfare payments immediately without having to wait the two-year period set for immigrants. Single applicants are eligible for a Newstart Allowance. Parents are eligible for Centrelink's parenting payment. Refugees, and some on bridging visas, also receive Medicare assistance for medical, hospital, dental, medicine and optical costs. Mobile phones are provided to those who arrive as unaccompanied minors.

This is the honeypot that has combined with civil strife to cause entire villages to empty in Sri Lanka and thousands of young men to travel from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan to get on illegal boats to Australia.

The viral email about Australia's generosity to refugees may be wrong in its details, but the truth is a story of government gullibility without end.


Australian household wealth up 20 per cent from 2004-2010 as US drops 30 per cent

Australian households are doing very nicely, thankyou very much.    AVERAGE household wealth jumped by more than 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010, new Treasury figures show.  In comparison, median household wealth in the US declined by more than 30 per cent in the same period.

Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed his Government's credit for the figures.  "Contributing to this was our stimulus response to the GFC, which protected hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as our decent social safety net and government policies that spread opportunity," Mr Swan wrote in his economic note released yesterday.  Mr Swan said Australia had not been immune from global turbulence.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb attacked the Government for taking the most optimistic forecasts available to develop its Budget.  "The Budget was predicated on everything going well around the world," Mr Robb told Network Ten.

Median wealth in Australia in 2010 was a little less than $400,000, compared with mean wealth of almost $700,000 [now], according to the RBA figures.


Australian private schools deliver the goods

THEY are some of the state's most expensive schools, but academic results show parents are getting what they pay for.

Analysis undertaken by The Courier-Mail shows Independent schools have consistently produced the highest OP1-15 student percentages in Queensland over the past five years, with girls' schools also doing particularly well.

But it is the all-boys' Brisbane Grammar School that has proven its academic superiority by topping the bracket among schools with more than 30 OP-eligible students, with 94.2 per cent of its OP-eligible Year 12s receiving an OP1-15 on average between 2007 and 2011.

The rankings are revealed in comparisons taken from The Courier-Mail's Queensland Schools Guide website, which now carries OP percentages as part of its database.

BGS, which is also the state's top performer in NAPLAN in Year 9, is one of Queensland's most expensive. It cost more than $20,000 to send a student there this year.

Brisbane Boys' College, which is also one of the state's most improved, was equal in second place in the OP1-15 five-year averages alongside Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

Educators system-wide acknowledge a student's socio-economic background is a factor in their outcomes, but Independent Schools Queensland said its schools would not consistently pull the top OP percentages without their academic focus and commitment to excellence in teaching.

Overall, only 10 schools statewide had an average OP1-15 percentage higher than 90 per cent between 2007 and 2011, including two tiny but consistent performers - the Exclusive Brethren's Agnew School in Brisbane's east and The School of Total Education at Warwick.  All Hallows' School in the Catholic sector was also among those 10.

In the state system, smaller schools of distance education did particularly well, as did regional high schools such as Biloela, Gin Gin and Centenary Heights.

But it is the flagship Brisbane State High School that remains the system's top performer among larger schools, sitting 27th on 84.8 per cent in the OP1-15 five-year bracket with more than 50 OP-eligible students.

The Brisbane School of Distance Education, which ranked 22nd in the more than 30 OP-eligible bracket, had 87.4 per cent.

Of those with more than 30 OP-eligible students, seven in the top 20 were all-girl schools, while four were all-boys, including St Joseph's College - Gregory Terrace and Toowoomba Grammar School.

Regional grammar schools also performed well, with Rockhampton and Townsville grammar schools ranking among the top 25.

OP1-15 percentages have been the traditional academic hallmark of top performances, with the Queensland Studies Authority scrapping the category this year, citing schools being league-tabled as one of the reasons. OP1-5 numbers, but not percentages, have been released since 2010, with Brisbane Grammar School also dominating that category.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said the schools at the top of the OP1-15 charts over five years were not surprising because of the effort they put in.

But he said parents needed to look further than just the OP when choosing a school, including how a school "value-added" to their child.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said an OP score wasn't the be-all-and-end-all.   "The Newman Government is committed to providing Queensland students with a quality education experience that opens up as many opportunities as possible," Mr Langbroek said.

"While it's important for students to work hard to achieve good results, they also need to be aware that there are lots of other pathways they can follow to reach their career aspirations."


Like truffles?  Come to Australia

Interesting that Australian truffles are up to French and Italian standards,  Chinese truffles are regarded as inferior

THEY'RE black, ugly, pungent and mouldy - and worth almost their weight in gold.

The kerfuffle over West Australian truffles wafted to a new high today with a record estimated 25,000 fungi fanatics eating their way through the annual Mundaring Truffle Festival in Perth's Hills.

Now in its sixth year, the festival celebrates the state's burgeoning truffle industry, which produces more of the aromatic fungus than the rest of Australia combined.

With its damp, well-irrigated soils and Mediterranean climate, most WA truffles are grown around the southwest orchard town of Manjimup, about 300km south of Perth.

Fetching anywhere from $2000 to $9000 a kilogram, WA's "black gold" harvest now attracts chefs from around the world.

Celebrity chef and Rockpool founder Neil Perry, who conducted a truffle master-class during the festival, said the local produce was as good as anywhere in the world.

"A great Australian truffle is as good as a great French one," he told AAP.  "I think it's amazing Australia has been growing its own truffles and we've been doing it now for near on 10 years.

"Each of the seasons is getting better and better, with more volume, and the price is becoming more affordable."

Which is good news for those who would otherwise be put off by the price.

But then, a little truffle goes a long way, according to Mr Perry, who rates his favourite fungal dish as the simple truffle omelette.

"Truffles are best done simply," he said.  "A truffle omelette, cooked under a chicken skin, truffle and egg, or served grated over pasta.  "All those classic, simple dishes are great because they make truffle the hero."

A good truffle, Mr Perry said, should be "firm and dry, but should still have a slight spring to it and be nice and black through the centre with very fine, white veins and a really beautiful aroma - almost like a petroleum smell".  "It's got this amazing taste, a sort of a rich, earthy, umami, concentrated intense mushroom flavour," the celebrated chef said.

The Perth festival was inspired by local French chef Alain Fabregues, owner of the internationally-acclaimed The Loose Box in Mundaring, who had been watching the rapid growth of WA's truffle industry and believed, as in France, a festival should be held in a small village to celebrate each harvest.

The event now attracts truffle aficionados from around the world.


29 July, 2012

Australia's non-black black activists

Andrew Bolt was convicted of hate speech for blowing the whistle on this fraud so I suppose I run some risk in reproducing the article below.  The fact that it appears to be written by a real Aborigine may be protective, however.  And the racket involved is so gross that no government would want to draw  attention to it.

In a way, though, the fault lies not with the exploiters of Aboriginality but rather with a government that makes absurd rules about who is an Aborigine.  In their desperation not to mention such a naughty word as "race",  they say you are an Aborigine if you think you are.  I have a relative whose skin is as white as snow but who would be accepted as an Aborigine if she applied for any of the special benefits available to Aborigines.  She does genuinely have some very remote Aboriginal ancestry but even that seems not to be needed if you tell a good story

Meet Mick. 

The person on the right is what a real Aborigine looks like.

If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know he's the pale fellow on the left.

A man of many talents, Mick is an Aboriginal Elder, Traditional Owner, Business Owner and also holds several important positions the Indigenous Industry.  He is on the Board at Mt Buller, the Board of Native Title Services Victoria (NTSV), and a Council Member of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC).

Not bad for a man who didn't find out he had Aboriginal heritage until he was 25.
Since 2006, groups all over the state of Victoria have been scrambling to achieve what is known as 'RAP' status  (which stands for Registered Aboriginal Party).  Having RAP status is a pretty big deal.  It allows the group granted RAP status the right to be involved in Cultural Heritage Management of a particular area.

So what is this Cultural Heritage Management?

Well, let's pretend for a moment that we're a Property Developer.  We purchase a large parcel of land on which to build a housing estate, and begin the necessary steps to get approval.  Part of this approvals process involves getting a CHMP (Cultural Heritage Management Plan), and for this, we need to approach the local group who have RAP status.  They will in turn, send out someone to come and assess the land, and prepare a report.  If any Aboriginal 'artefacts' are found on the land, a CHMP sets out how these 'artefacts' are to be managed.  This can involve anything from having to pay site supervisors (from the RAP) to come and oversee the work while it takes place, to moving them to a local museum, to just ignoring them - and everything in between.  It can be a long, often expensive process or alternatively, it can be a joke.  Sometimes, it's both.

The original promise of the Aboriginal Heritage Act of 2006 was to allow Aboriginal people to be involved in preserving their heritage and culture, to provide protection to our most sacred sites.  The reality is, in most cases, it has done completely the opposite. 

To apply for RAP status, you will need to engage the assistance of two specific groups.  Native Title Services (for help getting the claim off the ground) and second, the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (who make the decision on who does, and does not, get RAP status).   You may be surprised to know that many of the successful RAP applications that have gone through to date have come from 'Traditional Owners' who serve on the boards of one or both of these organisations.  Conflict of interest?  Ah, thems just whitefella words.

Is it any wonder so many of our pale-skinned, so called 'Elders' or 'Traditional Owners' also classify themselves as experts in Cultural Heritage, and often have side businesses that are dedicated to managing it for a hefty fee?

Mick, as we discovered earlier, is part of the NTSV and VAHC cheer squad.  His 'Taungurung' people received RAP status for a large area, originally applying for land from just outside Healesville, all the way across to Euroa and taking in places like Mansfield, Broadford, Lancefield, Kilmore and Heathcote. Mick has claimed often and with great passion about his strong connection to country and has spoken emotionally about the dispossession of his ancestors from their 'cultural home'.  Surprisingly, it is a place he today, chooses not to live.  Instead, you will find him living in Gippsland,  far away from his 'stolen land'. 

If you have a spare few minutes, I highly recommend this video interview by Mick:-

Don't be fooled by the Message Stick in his hand.  Like most Fauxborigines, he's using it wrong and paying it no respect.  It is in his hand not for some deeper spiritual or cultural reason, but, as a prop to fool unwitting watchers into believing this guy knows his stuff.  Cultural credibility that he manufactured in his own workshop, no doubt.

I like how Mick waffles.  Most Fauxborigines, when talking about their heritage or culture, will often resort to this very same trick.   They talk in circles, often spending an inordinate amount of time describing small, inconsequential things.  Like a shield they once saw, or an Elder they spoke to.  Often, they'll use a small smattering of an Aboriginal language they've revived in a windowless room in a University to punctuate their speech with more credibility.  It is quite an art form, but ultimately, they do horrendous damage to a culture they have no right to speak of. 

How much are you truly honouring a culture when you step on tradition to make a buck?

For all those Elders out there, who stay on their country, devote their lives to making their communities a better place, who worry endlessly about their people who are suffering, I take my hat off to you and offer nothing but my respect and support.  For too long you have sat unnoticed, uncared for, and unrecognised while self-appointed opportunists claim you don't exist and step in to take your place.  It is time to say, no more.

More HERE  (See the original for links)

Racist child welfare  bureaucrats forcing little girl back to neglectful family

Living with foster parents since she was 36 hours old, two-year-old could soon be forced to leave only family she knows

A LITTLE girl cherished by her "mum and dad" has been ordered to leave the only family she knows and live with strangers.

In a few short weeks, bureaucrats will force this loving family to separate, and will break the heart of a girl they are meant to protect.

Since she was 36 hours old, the "little one" has lived with her foster parents, but now, almost three years later, Child Safety Services has ordered she live with her Pacific Island relatives, who were found late last year.

The foster parents, who cannot be named under Queensland law, are fighting to keep their "big brown-eyed girl".

The carers have doted upon the girl since she was abandoned by her birth mother, and when she was 18 months old, Child Safety asked them if they would become permanent guardians.

"(That's when) your whole mindset changes, (you think) she's going to be part of the family for the next 18 years and beyond," the central Queensland foster mum said.

But when the girl was 22 months old, a university student on work experience with Child Safety Services tracked down an aunt in north Queensland - a task that seasoned staff could not achieve.   The family did not know the girl existed.

Child Safety arranged for the girl to meet with her aunt 14 times over several months and then ordered she move in with her on June 1.

The foster parents, who won a stay to keep the girl until a decision is made in September, told The Sunday Mail the girl would be emotionally scarred if she had to leave them, and her life would dramatically change.  "She's so heavily attached (to us). To pull the rug from under her . . . she will feel abandoned," they said.  "We pour all our love into her (and) the only identity is the one we created for her. It's almost like we gave birth to her."

They said they were concerned that the aunt may not be a permanent Australian citizen.

The foster parents, who have two other foster children and their own adult children, said they tried to encourage a relationship with the girl and the aunt's family, but the culture shock and forced overnight visits had proved traumatic.

They said the girl screamed, "No aunty" and had been diagnosed with a separation anxiety disorder. Their GP believes the girl may have been so stressed by the forced contact that she broke out in hives.

They've been told they are in for a tough fight because they are white and the girl's relatives can teach her about her heritage.

The girl's mother, who originally told Child Safety she did not want her family to know about her baby, still does not want a relationship with her daughter. She is not the primary carer for any of her four children.

The foster parent said the aunt told them the girl "belongs to us, to our family".

The Child Protection Act requires a child's security and emotional wellbeing be taken into account, and if possible, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children be with their own. There is no mention of people of Pacific Island heritage.  [But she's black and that's good enough for them]


Slicing up a bigger national pie

How often do we hear that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, or that the Howard government’s tax and benefits policies were too generous to the rich? These assertions are often made with little reference to the facts. So let’s look at the facts.

Every five years or so, the Australian Bureau of Statistics gives us an illuminating snapshot of average incomes, taxes paid, and social benefits received by households in five income groups, from the bottom 20% to the top 20%. The figures for 2009–10 were released recently and shed light on changes in average household incomes, their distribution, and the redistributive impact of tax and benefit policies.

The first point is that while the rich got richer, so did everyone else. After adjusting for inflation and household size, the smallest increase in average private income (that is, before taxes and benefits) compared with 2003–04 was 17%, and that was for the middle of the five income groups. For the top 20%, the increase was 27% and for the bottom 20% it was 39%. After taxes and benefits, the smallest increase for any quintile was 20%. As befits an era of national prosperity, improvements in living standards were widespread.

The second point is that Australia’s tax and benefit system is highly redistributive. The 20% of households at the bottom of the private income scale received just 2.4% of total private income, but took home 10.3% after taxes and benefits were factored in. Conversely, for the top 20%, their 46.5% of total private income was reduced by tax and benefit policies to a 35.1% share of final income.

While the inequality of final incomes is much less than that of private incomes, some say it is still too unequal. Ultimately, this comes down to a value judgment, but in making that judgment everyone needs to acknowledge two matters: a) the extent to which tax and benefit policies already redistribute income, and b) the economic costs of working the redistribution machine even harder.

The third and final point concerns the change in distribution from 2003–04 to 2009–10. For all that is said about changes in tax and benefit policies during that period being too generous to the better-off, the truth is that very little had changed.

The share of final income going to the top 20% did go up slightly, but this was mainly because of an increase in their share of private income rather than the impact of favourable tax and benefit policies. The shares of the bottom three quintiles fell slightly, while the share of the fourth quintile was unchanged. The equalising impact of tax and benefit policies was slightly less in 2009–10 than six years earlier, but hardly enough to enrage those who want more redistribution or hearten those who want less.

Now it’s up to the public to decide whether they want to make informed comments about incomes and their distribution or twist these facts to suit their arguments.


Doctors call for hormone replacement therapy rethink

It has been 10 years since an alarming US study found HRT increased a woman's risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attack.  But a decade later, medical professionals agree that those findings were flawed.

Doctors say the pharmaceutical industry has withdrawn from sale half of all the available therapies, while extreme product warnings are unnecessarily frightening and outdated.

But there is still confusion amongst women and GPs about the best treatment.

Gynaecologist Dr John Eden, head of the Sydney Menopause Centre at the Royal Hospital for Women, says the 2002 Women's Health Initiative Study in the US changed the lives of millions of women.

"It terrified women, there's no doubt about that, it was laced with fear," he said.  "Probably the most dramatic example is that before Women's Health Initiative (WHI) I would hardly ever prescribe an anti-depressant, since WHI I've become an expert in anti-depressants, and that's because I see there's a small group of women, probably around one-in-eight, who have severe, intractable sweats and flushes day and night for the rest of their lives."

Margaret Miller is one of those with severe symptoms.  "It was pretty uncomfortable. You're sitting in a meeting room, you might have 20 other people in that meeting and all of sudden you start - it looked like your head started to leak with water and it drips down your face; it is so embarrassing," she said.

The 56-year-old endured more than two years of this before turning to Hormone Replacement Therapy.

She was aware of the WHI study linking HRT with a higher risk of breast cancer but nothing else worked.  "I was the stage where I would have taken a cyanide tablet. I didn't care as long as it stopped the sweats and this itching and this terrible feeling all the time that you weren't human," she said.

The US study saw women abandon HRT in droves but a decade on doctors say many did so unnecessarily, because the findings were flawed.

Dr Eden says the majority of participants were aged over 60, were not newly menopausal and would not normally be treated.  In fact, for many women under 60, doctors say the benefits outweigh the risks.

Australasian Menopausal Society president Dr Jane Elliott says women should have had easier access to HRT.  "I think a whole decade of women have missed out on the option of that treatment," she said.  "It's not for everyone, it's not a panacea, but it certainly should be something where women at least feel they can consider it."

Dr Elliott says the options are now limited and the warnings on products are extreme.

"The problem is the actual number of TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) options has decreased in Australia," she said.   "The number of PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) options has decreased in Australia and there are what's called black box warnings on HRT preparations that women read. They're really out date."

Dr Eden agrees.  "We've lost almost half of our hormone therapies over the last decade and the pharmaceutical industry is quite open about it, they've withdrawn them because of business reasons, sales have gone down and that means we've got fewer choices now," he said.

And the bureaucrats don't care

A spokeswoman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration says the extreme warnings on HRT products are considered current.

She says the safety information would not change without a comprehensive review, which is normally initiated by an application from the sponsor of the product.


28 July, 2012


27 July, 2012

Increased dependence on overseas countries for Australia's petrol supply

With Bass strait crude and local refineries, Australia once got close  to complete petrol independence  -- a clear strategic desideratum

NSW will be fully dependent on foreign sources of oil within two years as a result of Caltex's decision yesterday to close the Kurnell refinery, prompting the federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, to warn there is a long-term risk to Australia's energy security.

The closure will result in the loss of 330 in-house jobs and put at risk an unspecified number of the company's 300 contractors.

It will also leave NSW without any refining capacity. Instead, Caltex said, it would buy refined oil from Singapore, Korea and India for sale in Australia.

Mr Shorten told the Herald the decision heightened fears that Australia could start experiencing energy security problems in a decade or so.

"We're an island nation and if it ever becomes a situation where the security of our sea lanes were threatened, decisions like this will come home to haunt us," he said, echoing the views of his former union, the Australian Workers Union, which represents refinery workers.

It issued a research paper in March warning that Australia's dwindling refining capacity - driven by the high dollar and the emergence of huge refineries in Asia - was increasing the nation's reliance on imported fuel. In 2003 Australia had eight refineries. When Kurnell closes, it will have five.

Mr Shorten's comments contrast with those of the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, who said Caltex's decision would "not jeopardise Australia's energy security".  "This decision will see imported supplies of crude oil being replaced by imported refined product," he said.

Last month Shell brought forward by 12 months the closure of its smaller Clyde refinery, which it is also converting to an import terminal with the loss of more than 220 jobs.

Caltex said Kurnell lost $208 million last year and a further $60 million in the first three months of this year, which has forced it to close the refinery.  "We have taken a decision that's going to secure the position of Caltex," said the managing director, Julian Siegal.

The closure would not influence petrol prices. "The competition is pretty fierce," he said, pointing to the Australian dollar, the price of crude oil and the Singapore refinery margin as affecting Australian prices.

Graeme Grace, an operator at the refinery, said he felt "betrayed" by Caltex's decision, since for the past year staff had been "working our butts off" to make the refinery more efficient.  "I've been a refinery operator for over 30 years. As refineries are shutting down, I've got nowhere else to go," he said.

Caltex said it would spend $260 million to remediate the site. Much of this work is to begin from 2015 once refining has stopped. This is expected to take several years.

The executive director of Renewables Fuels Australia, Bob Gordon, said the decision would add to Australia's growing fuel deficit, which was more than $18 billion, up from $600 million in 2000, unless big oil companies started investing in renewable fuels.

Some Kurnell residents hope the closure will let the area show off its strengths.  "It's probably the best-kept secret in Sydney with the beachside," said Rosemary Marney, from Silver Beach Realty.

Tony Orchard, who works near the refinery, said: "Without the stench of the gases, it's probably going to improve the place. I think people who live here would probably welcome the fact that they are closing - not withstanding the fact that a lot of people are going to lose their jobs.'


Parents with children in private schools fear reduction in Federal  subsidies

PRIVATE school parents are worried that less federal government money as a result of the Gonski review of school funding may force them back into the public system, according the NSW Parents' Council.

More than 90 per cent of parents with children at independent schools fear that unless the federal government maintains full indexation of private school funding their school fees will rise, a survey of 660 parents shows.

Indexation has been running at 6 per cent for the past decade but private schools fear this will be slashed to 3 per cent under the government's response to the Gonski review.

If this happened 70 per cent of parents say they would struggle to pay school fees; 30 per cent say they would consider withdrawing their child from their independent school.

The federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, returns from holiday on Monday with the government still struggling to detail its response to the Gonski report, which it received in December. The report recommended an urgent injection of $5 billion (in 2009 dollars) across the entire school system but Mr Garrett is yet to win Cabinet support for funding.

Private schools have made full indexation the centrepiece of their pitch. "We ask that the government guarantee funding certainty for schools by announcing a six-year funding cycle with guaranteed indexation equivalent to historic levels of around 6 per cent", said Geoff Newcombe, the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.

"Independent school parents simply ask for a fair deal. They currently save governments billions of dollars each year and it is important that governments recognise this and support their choice by ensuring the value of funding is maintained from year to year," said the president of the NSW Parents' Council, Stephen Grieve.

The survey, conducted by UMR Research, also found nearly half of parents believe implementing the Gonski funding model will result in less funding for independent schools.

A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett said the government would not introduce changes that mean schools lose funding per student.  "The Gonski review recommended investing more money into all school systems, not less," she said. "We won't introduce any new model that favours one system over the other or reduces parental choice."

Mr Grieve said he supported the proposals outlined by the review headed by David Gonski, but was unclear about the government's response. "We certainly support them in principle but it's difficult to go beyond that because we don't know the detail. I'd love to know more detail but we don't know what the government has in mind," he said.

An opposition education spokesman said this week the question of funding should be resolved at the next federal election and vowed any legislation would be repealed by a future Coalition government.

But Mr Grieve said more funding will be vital when Australia stops riding on the mining boom.  "Investment in education is a big deal for Australia. It might be a lot safer if we rode on the backs of a terrific bunch of teachers and schools right across the nation, regardless of what system they come from - government, Catholic or independent," he said.


Surgery on hold as cost cuts slow major Queensland hospitals

QUEENSLAND'S biggest hospital is facing a $50 million budget cut while others have wound back critical elective surgery amid financial stress.  The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital will lose funding of almost $1 million a week while Metro North district faces an $80 million cut.

The cost-cutting comes as new figures show Queensland's hospitals wound back elective surgery by as much as 19 per cent last month.

The cutbacks have sparked union concerns about patient safety.  "People's lives are going to be put at risk by the failure of the Government to properly fund the health system," Together Queensland secretary Alex Scott said.

Metro North district acting chief executive Martin Heads confirmed last night that the district's board was targeting cuts to the RBWH this financial year of $50 million, more than 5 per cent of its 2011-12 budget.  He said cuts of $80 million to the Metro North district, which takes in Prince Charles Hospital, were also on the cards.

The reduction has already claimed 30 beds at Prince Charles, prompting concerns about surgery and emergency department delays.

A spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg would not comment on the cuts, referring questions back to the board. Local health boards began operating this month.  But he said the LNP would increase district funding in its September budget, possibly by as much as $447 million, to $9.713 billion.

New figures show Queensland's hospitals wound back elective surgery by as much as 19 per cent last month.  The Queensland Health statistics reveal the state's hospitals treated almost 300 fewer category one patients (7 per cent) in June compared to the same time last year.

Category one patients are classed as having a condition that could quickly worsen and become an emergency and should have surgery within 30 days.

Category two patients, supposed to be treated within three months, fared worse with 11 per cent, or about 550 less patients, treated statewide.

Mr Springborg's spokesman defended the reduction, saying the floods and Cyclone Yasi early last year delayed elective operations.

He said that created a backlog and hospitals later had to ramp up elective surgery which peaked in June, artificially inflating that month's statistics. He said this year's figures had returned to normal levels.

Of the state's biggest hospitals, Princess Alexandra was the worst performer last month with category one elective surgery cuts of 19 per cent, a reduction matched by The Prince Charles.

The reductions are likely to add more patients to already long surgery waiting lists.

One worker said the 30 beds slashed at Prince Charles had previously been used to care for elderly people as they negotiated placement in nursing homes, which could take up to two months.

"We do open heart surgery here, that would equate to eight or 10 surgeries not being able to go ahead because there's no access to the ward beds," the worker, who did not wish to be named, said. "So if you multiply that by 30 bodies, it equates to a lot of blocked access.

"Those patients will sit in either an acute hospital ward or a rehab ward and block access to other patients."

Mr Springborg's spokesman said the beds were put in place because of issues getting elderly patients into aged care facilities, but that was only a temporary arrangement.


University boss has memory failure over whistleblower

Reminiscent of Alan Bond

UNIVERSITY of Queensland acting Vice-Chancellor Debbie Terry has sent a video message to UQ's 7500 staff to reassure them about the referral of the UQ nepotism scandal to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In the message, sent on Wednesday night following a report in The Courier-Mail, Prof Terry reminded staff that UQ had conducted its own investigation and had since been co-operating with the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

UQ's probe, by barrister Tim Carmody under instruction from solicitor Eddie Scuderi of law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, found no evidence of misconduct. It has never been made public and has only been seen by a handful of senior UQ officials.

"I know that the recent news may cause concern to staff and members of the UQ community," Prof Terry told staff, adding they could make an appointment to see her to discuss it further.

In the video, Prof Terry denies that the ousting of misconduct investigator Phil Procopis was a reprisal for his role in unearthing the UQ nepotism scandal.  "I can assure all staff that the University of Queensland does not tolerate any reprisals against whistleblowers," she said.

Prof Terry also claimed Mr Procopis was not a whistleblower - saying the real whistleblower was still an employee of the university, and their identity was protected under Queensland's Public Interest Disclosure Act.

But ethics expert Howard Whitton, who drafted Queensland's first whistleblower protection laws in the 1990s, said Prof Terry appeared to misunderstand the current Act.  "It prohibits retaliation against any person being taken in the belief that they may be a whistleblower, whether they were or not in fact," he said.

Mr Whitton called on UQ to reveal the details of what Mr Procopis uncovered and the paper trail that led to his job being cut.

The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed that a review panel report, which Prof Terry has said led to the removal of Mr Procopis, made no such recommendation.

Prof Terry has told The Courier-Mail that changes to the proposal were signed off by the University Senate "and we briefed the CMC".

But asked this week whether the CMC was informed specifically about the removal of Mr Procopis, Prof Terry said: "I can't remember exactly what was in the letter."


Pardon My F*?#$! French

Are bad language, swearing, cussing, profanity, impiety and blasphemy part of being Australian?

IN HINDSIGHT, Craig Symes realised he shouldn't have gone to work that early summer day in 2011. Before he started his 5.30am shift at the Linfox Armaguard depot in Brisbane, Symes had a fight with his wife, and in his evidence to Fair Work Australia says he was feeling frustrated.

Symes, who worked on the security vans transporting cash to the city's ATMs, soon found himself attending a communications meeting, where operational matters were discussed with the road crews.

Political scientist Lauren Rosewarne: 'The biggest effect of the media would be normalising language, letting people know that it's actually OK.'

Things went quickly from bad to worse. Symes became aware he'd been allocated a vehicle with a faulty indicator, and left the room to get it fixed.

His manager told him to return to the meeting. What happened next is subject to debate, but one thing is certain: Craig Symes told his boss to "get f---ed".

There was some further heated discussion, but the end result was that Symes was dismissed. But as Fair Work Australia has ruled, telling his boss to "get f---ed" was not grounds for dismissal. Linfox Armguard was ordered to give Symes his job back.

The crux of the case involving Craig Symes revolves around what's regarded as acceptable in that particular workplace. Commissioner Helen Cargill found his use of swear words to his manager was "totally inappropriate and unwarranted".

But she also considered evidence that the workplace was one in which bad language was commonly used, and there were mixed messages given to employees about swearing.

The case has divided opinion, sparking a debate about not only what's tolerated in the workplace, but what counts as acceptable - or at least tolerable - in general society. Was the early morning encounter at the Armaguard depot in Brisbane part of a bigger phenomenon in Australian society, where once-taboo swearing is widespread?

Invariably, the incident inspired some wistful discussion among the general workforce. Who hasn't at some stage in a working life considered the appeal of telling a difficult boss those exact same words uttered by Craig Symes?

This kind of empowering fantasy usually has conditions attached - a Monday morning after a multimillion-dollar Tattslotto win. But in the case before Fair Work Australia, the worker was able to deliver the words because of the context in which they were used.

And there lies the nub of this debate: it's all about context and what's considered acceptable by different sections of society. Different workplaces have different standards. It's impossible to imagine that same exchange being acceptable in a suburban banking office, for example.

Yet it is clear that swearing can play an important part in the esprit de corps of some workplaces. Work done by researchers at New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington has reinforced the fact that swearing can be part of the fabric of the workplace.

The 2004 study looked at a New Zealand soap factory, and found that "f---" was the most common swear word among a tight-knit group of workers nicknamed the Power Rangers. But in the context of a close-knit workforce, it wasn't considered offensive.

Based on extensive recordings of their daily conversations, the study found that strong expletives, and especially forms of f---, "are extensively used within the Power Rangers as a positive politeness device".

"Forms of f--- occur frequently in certain contexts and serve a range of functions, including the role of positive politeness strategy. F--- is regularly associated with expressions of solidarity, including friendly terms of address and speech acts which unambiguously serve the function of solidarity construction," the study found.

Language - good and bad - is a dynamic thing, always evolving. Swearing has a long and colourful history. Consider how the curses of Elizabethan England regularly found their way into Shakespeare's works. Blasphemy was, appropriately, the greatest sin. Shakespeare used "minced" curses such as "zounds" and "sblood" - contractions of God's wounds and God's blood.

Swearing has always been part of the Australian character. Think "bloody", the great Australian adjective. In a paper on swearing, Monash University's Kate Burridge and Keith Allan noted Australians have always regarded their colloquial idiom as being a significant part of their cultural identity.

"The standard language is more global in nature and many Australian English speakers see their colloquialisms, nicknames, diminutives, swearing, and insults to be important indicators of their Australianness and expressions of cherished ideals such as friendliness, nonchalance, mateship, egalitarianism, and anti-authoritarianism," they wrote.

And there is also evidence that swearing can make you feel better. Recent research by Britain's Keele University found that swearing can produce short-term pain relief - although the effect was greater for people who don't swear regularly. The findings replicated early research that showed people can withstand an ice-cold water challenge for longer by repeatedly swearing, compared with those who used neutral words.

There is clearly something deeply primal about the way we swear and how it makes us feel.

But there remains the wider question of when we can swear, and to whom.

Anecdotally, there appears to be a growing acceptance of public swearing, particularly the word "f---". Take the example of the FCUK trademark of fashion label French connection. The passage of time and familiarity means that initial shock value may be diminishing - at least for some.

Last year, lord mayor Robert Doyle was clearly offended by a billboard advertising the company as he drove towards the Bolte Bridge after a trip to Canberra.

"Do the advertisers think this is clever? That the transposition of two letters somehow makes this a sophisticated word play rather than a cheap obscenity?" Doyle wrote in a newspaper column. "It is not clever. It is not funny. It is an insulting and gratuitous blot on our urban landscape."

But is Doyle part of a minority? There are signs that a significant liberalisation is occurring within society.

Television arguably remains one of the best barometers of social change; the extent of swearing is inextricably linked to those who view it.

Take as an historical benchmark American comedian George Carlin's 1972 routine about language and the seven words you could never say on television. They are, tidied up for this publication, shit, piss, f---, c---, c---sucker, motherf---er and tits.

These were the words, Carlin said, that will "infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war".

Following a performance in Milwaukee, Carlin was arrested and bailed on a charge of disturbing the peace. A judge found the monologue to be indecent, but he upheld the right to free speech, and found there was no evidence the peace had been disturbed.

Carlin's routine went to the Supreme Court after it was broadcast by a New York radio station. The end result was a ruling that authorities could set a "watershed" time before which obscenities could not be broadcast, with the aim of protecting children.

A few years later, Australia had its own obscenity controversy - although much tamer - that proved Carlin's case.

On his national tonight show in "living colour", Graham Kennedy uttered his infamous "crow call" in March 1975. In a live ad for Cedel hairspray, Kennedy said the word "faark!".

The station was inundated with protests, as burnt orange paint peeled from the walls of offended households and lava lamps bubbled to boiling point. Kennedy received a caution from the broadcasting control board.

In typical Kennedy fashion, he responded the following week by asking the audience to take part in a mass crow call. Kennedy was banned from live broadcasts.

Almost four decades on, the King's performance remains undeniably funny; it's certainly inoffensive. Today, we live in an era where the full-blown "f---" peppers everything from cooking shows to stand-up comedy routines to reality programs.

More here

26 July, 2012

Watching the Greens Kill Australia

By Alan Caruba

Fortunately for America, President Obama’s effort to impose a cap-and-trade law on carbon dioxide emission failed in a Democrat controlled Congress that saw how disastrous its impact would have been in a time of economic distress.

It would have imposed higher costs on everything involving the use of energy and would have done so on the basis of the all the lies about global warming, greenhouse gases, and Obama’s anti-energy policies. Using the Environmental Protection Agency, he has been bludgeoning the coal industry and, via the Department of the Interior, thwarting the exploration and extraction of oil on all of the vast land holdings of the federal government.

As I have often noted, there hasn’t been any planetary warming since 1998 when Earth began a normal cycle of cooling and carbon dioxide plays no role whatever in either warming or cooling. It is a mere 0.038 percent of the atmosphere.

For several years now I have been watching the destruction of the Australian economy by its elected leaders. David Archibold, a climate scientists and energy analyst based in Perth is a visiting fellow of the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. where he teaches a course in strategic energy policy. On July 1, he gave a speech at an anti-carbon tax rally in Sydney.

“There is no doubt that we are ruled by evil men and evil women who are fully aware of the damage they are doing to our economy, and to the warp and weft of our society, and who seem to be in a manic rush to do as much damage as possible in the time left to them,” Archibold told those attending the rally. Sadly, they already knew the truth of this.

An Australia friend of mine recently wrote to say “the Australian carbon dioxide tax—or as our lying government calls it ‘price on carbon’—came into effect on July 1, 2012. Already our electricity prices have risen by up to 20%, refrigerant gas gone up 300%. Landfill and tip fees have increased by 30%, food is up. The tax has been imposed on EVERY item we buy in some form or other”, adding that “I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a similar tax if Obama wins in November. We are slowly destroying our economy.”

A word about refrigerant gases; these are required for your home and car air conditioning, your refrigerator, and for a stand alone freezer. Most food items, liquid or solid—particularly meats, poultry and fish—require refrigerated transport. The Australian carbon tax adds thousands of dollars to these costs of operation and affects everyone.

The Greens, whether as part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or as groups in various nations, have done everything they can to thwart energy use, to replace oil, coal and natural gas with the useless, costly “renewable energies” of wind, solar, and biofuels. Humans, they insist, are destroying the Earth, but it is the Greens who are destroy Australia these days.

Australia is a case history of what happens when Greens and those in power join hands to use the instrument of government to destroy a successful nation. As Sam Fielding recently reported in an article on, Australia went from a thriving economy under former Prime Minister John Howard who served from 1996 to 2007, only to elect Kevin Rudd’s left-wing Labor Party in 2007. By 2009 “a six year run of budget surpluses gave way to the largest deficits in modern (Australian) politics. His deputy was Julia Gillard who challenged him and won election, promised that “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”

If this reminds you of all the promises President Obama made prior to taking office and plunging the U.S. into $17 trillion of debt, it is exactly the kind of duplicity that has ruined Australia when Gillard engineered the controversial tax.

Obama visited Australia in November 2011 and expressed support for the carbon tax saying, “I think that’s good for the world…I actually think, over the long term, it’s good for our economics as well, because it is my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers—we’re all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon.”

As is the case of the IPCC,  many of Australia’s scientists were corrupted. Archibold said, “As a scientist, what saddens me is that most of our scientific institutions have failed in their duty to serve and protect the Australian people” referring to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, government bureaus, and the universities—“these have all failed us and sold their souls for a handful of silver.”

“The notion of global warming,” said Archibold, “was concocted to provide a cloak of scientific respectability for a massive socialist redistribution of wealth.” If that sounds like what is happening in America today, you’re right.

My Australian friend also took note of a mining tax that has been imposed, not unlike Obama’s attacks on the U.S. mining industry. America sits atop enough coal to provide electricity for hundreds of years to come, but it is being systematically destroyed. “Australia is in a world of hurt and all so unnecessary. See what socialist, radical, green, lefty governments bring us?”

Yes, look at Australia and see what lies ahead if Obama is given four more years to complete his destruction of America.


An expensive catfight  -- expensive for the taxpayer

RTA forced to rehire lawyer in $1.5m case

THE state government has been forced to reinstate a senior RTA lawyer after illegally sacking her for questioning the pay scales of colleagues, in a case that has cost taxpayers $1.5 million.

After one of the most expensive legal defences mounted by a NSW government against an unfair dismissal claim, it has been ordered to give the woman her job back and pay $300,000 in back pay.

In its judgment, the Industrial Relations Commission also questioned the evidence of one of the government's most highly paid public servants, Helen Vickers.

Lawyer Rosanna Ganino was sacked in 2009 for, among other things, allegedly accessing a document that showed the pay rates of fellow lawyers, including the wife of ALP heavyweight Paul Howes.

Lucy Howes is a senior RTA lawyer. The RTA alleged Ms Ganino used information obtained about her and other solicitors for personal gain.

Senior government sources last night admitted it was a "mystery" why the RTA pursued the case for so long at such a significant expense to the taxpayer.  [Personal animus?]

According to tender documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph, a contract for the RTA's legal defence provided by Minter Ellison was awarded in 2009 at a cost of $350,000.

The tender was amended in 2010 to a total cost of $1.15 million.

In its July 13 judgment, the IRC found in favour of Ms Ganino and said her sacking was not only unfair but "harsh". She was originally accused of accessing confidential documents relating to the pay of senior lawyers in the RTA and was sacked for misconduct.

More than 20 allegations of misconduct were levelled against Ms Ganino, including claims she was "insolent and disrespectful" towards general counsel. The RTA withdrew eight allegations.

In his findings, Commissioner Inaam Tabbaa said: "I find the nature of the misconduct contained in the remaining allegations relied on by the respondent was not sufficient to warrant the termination. I accept the applicant's submission that the penalty of dismissal is disproportionate and consider the termination to be harsh."

He also found that "Ms Vickers acknowledged in her evidence that her evidence was different to what was conveyed to the external investigator".

Ms Vickers was not responsible for Ms Ganino's sacking and was appointed acting general counsel at the RTA later in 2009.

Last night the Roads and Maritime Services, the department which has now incorporated the RTA, said the costs of the case would be determined in "separate proceedings".

It acknowledged Ms Ganino was to be reinstated to her former position "as soon as practicable" but did not confirm whether that had yet occurred.

"Helen Vickers was not the general counsel at the then RTA when Rosanna Ganino was dismissed and she did not terminate her employment," the RMS said in an issued statement.

Ms Vickers' own employment at the RTA had been the subject of a NSW Ombudsman's report in 2009 when staff and salary issues within the legal branch of the RTA were first raised.

The report raised concerns about a $640,500 contract to employ Ms Vickers for 12 months at the RTA, which the Ombudsman's report claimed was awarded without apparent documentation, tender, merit, selection process or consideration of potential "conflicts".

Ms Vickers is now general legal counsel to the new super-department, Transport for NSW.


Queensland male nurse fined for throwing cup of water at patient

Queer behaviour!

A QUEENSLAND Health nurse has been reprimanded and ordered to pay $3500 in costs for momentarily losing control of his emotions and throwing a cup of water in a patient's face.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told James Anthony Geary threw water into a female patient's face after she hurled her medication onto the floor during a "verbal exchange."

QCAT deputy president Fleur Kingham, in a just published five-page decision, said the incident occurred while Mr Geary, a Queensland Health employee, was working as a nurse in a mental health unit in September 2009.

Judge Kingham said Mr Geary has already faced "other consequences of his action" under the Public Service Act 2008, but that there were grounds to take further disciplinary action against him after a complaint from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

"However, it (the Tribunal) declines to impose (any further) sanction," she said.  "In the circumstances of this case, the Tribunal reprimands Mr Geary but imposes no other order, except that he pay the costs of the Board, fixed at $3500."

Judge Kingham said Mr Geary's actions were due to a momentary loss of control and that the patient later apologised to him.

"The incident involved a female patient in her mid 20s with a history of disruptive and aggressive behaviour," she said.  "In the past she had assaulted both other patients and staff.

The tribunal was told on the day of the incident, Mr Geary approached the patient with her medication and a cup of water.

"After some verbal exchange, the patient threw the medication to the floor ... (and) Mr Geary momentarily lost control of his emotions," Judge Kingham said.  "He threw the water into the patient's face ... (and) then picked up the medication and left the room.  "Later, the patient apologised to Mr Geary and he to her."

Judge Kingham said Mr Geary "bore a responsibility" to behave professionally in the face of the difficult and challenging behaviour.

"His response (to the patient) was not in self defence, nor was it a proportionate response to a verbal exchange," she said.  "Mental health nursing is a demanding occupation, but Mr Geary did not employ the strategies expected of those who care for such patients."


Another Collins submarine bursts a hose and floods

Sounds like they should try a new hardware store

FRESH from sinking an old US warship during a major defence exercise off Hawaii, Australian submarine HMAS Farncomb has sprung a leak.

The incident occurred today as the Farncomb cruised at periscope depth operating its diesel engines to charge its batteries.

"HMAS Farncomb suffered a minor flood in one of the submarine's machinery spaces," the Australian Defence Force (ADF) said in a statement on Thursday.

Standard procedures were immediately executed and the situation was dealt with quickly.

The Farncomb surfaced as part of the normal response, with the problem traced to a split in a hose in the submarine's weight compensation system.

No one was hurt and the vessel has returned to Pearl Harbour in Hawaii to replace the hose.

There will be an investigation into the incident.

The ADF said major changes had been made to procedures and equipment on Collins submarines following a near disaster in 2003 when a hose on HMAS Dechaineux burst when the submarine was deep under water.

One change was the automation of closure of all hull valves should a similar situation arise. That has been installed on the Farncomb.

The vessel is participating in the major multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.

It successfully fired a live Mark 48 torpedo against a decommissioned US navy vessel, the 12,106 tonne former USNS Kilauea.


Dentist found guilty of injury still registered

A DENTIST who carried out nearly $75,000 worth of dental work on a patient - despite knowing it was unnecessary and would be ineffective - is still able to practise despite the NSW Supreme Court yesterday ordering him to pay more than $1.7 million in damages for intentional injury.

Mark Phung, whose practice is in the south-west suburb of Beverly Hills, saw patient Todd Dean 53 times in one year after Mr Dean was struck on the chin by a piece of wood in a workplace accident in 2001.

Though the court found Mr Dean suffered only "limited damage to a small number of otherwise healthy teeth" after his accident, Phung fitted all his teeth with metal crowns, performed numerous root canals and inserted bridging.

But despite the finding, Phung is still listed as "registered" by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency because the issue of his registration needs to be dealt with separately before the Dental Tribunal.

The court described Mr Dean's treatment as "entirely unnecessary and ineffective to address the plaintiff's problems" and said "the dentist must have known that to be so when he embarked on the course of 'treatment"'.

In a report tabled as evidence, consultant dentist Andrew Howe said: "All of Dr Phung's treatment for Mr Dean would be described as inexcusably bad and completely outside the bounds of what any reputable dental practitioner might perform."

After the court last year ordered Phung to pay almost $1.4 million in damages, he continued to practise. Yesterday's ruling upped those damages to nearly $1.8 million to account for non-economic costs to Mr Dean after Phung was found to have fraudulently represented procedures to him for financial gain and knowingly caused harm.


25 July, 2012

State of secrecy over University of Queensland job loss

They fired a whistleblower but bribed him to stay silent about his job loss.  Big Bikkies, no doubt!  Taxpayer bikkies

THE University of Queensland will have us believe that Phil Procopis, the whistleblower in the uni's nepotism scandal, was made redundant simply because his department was restructured.

Procopis was the director of a unit known on campus as ARMS, an acronym for Assurance and Risk Management Services. ARMS no longer exists.

Procopis's position was abolished and he signed a confidentially agreement to receive his payout. Restructures happen. So does nepotism. So does secrecy.

Vice-chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield and his deputy Michael Keniger left the university after The Courier-Mail revealed a "close family member" [his daughter] of Greenfield had gained entry to the medical faculty without the proper entry requirements.

Greenfield denied any wrongdoing, saying the relative was admitted to the medical school as the result of a misunderstanding.

Procopis is central to the story because The Courier-Mail recently revealed he was the mysterious whistleblower who raised concerns about the improper admission with Chancellor John Story.

The scandal got a head of steam, I believe, because it shattered our perceptions that post-Fitzgerald Queensland was relatively free of cronyism and that our society had at last become a (cliche alert) "level playing field".  In a broader sense, it also challenged national ideals of egalitarianism and the fair go.

Until the university scandal, most of us naively believed Queenslanders were rewarded on merit. The truth was a little different. Now we know it will not harm your prospects to have friends or relatives in high places.

Nepotism exists in Queensland across business, the arts, law, medicine and even the media.  Premier Campbell Newman admitted it existed in government and shrugged his shoulders when asked what he was going to do about it.

The university controversy also got a head of steam because the venerable institution at first issued misleading press releases about Greenfield and Keniger leaving. Greenfield was forced out after the university commissioned an investigation by Tim Carmody, SC. Carmody's report remains secret and we don't even know for sure the name of the student at the heart of the affair.

The university made a mockery of the the new regulatory body, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, by refusing to hand over the Carmody report.

TEQSA chief commissioner Dr Carol Nicoll told a Senate estimates hearing the uni would not release the document, claiming confidentiality and privilege.

Tertiary Education Minister Senator Chris Evans was cryptic, telling the hearing it was a "complex case", and not as "straightforward" as some suggest.  Was he suggesting universities are beyond the reach of Federal Cabinet?

Greenfield walked away with a payout of $952,000, reports tabled in Parliament revealed. His deputy, Keniger, a key figure in the imbroglio, also quit. He got $695,000.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has completed its investigations into the scandal and its brief of evidence is in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the university has not released all the details surrounding the exit of Procopis. It should.

The academic committee set up to evaluate ARMS was chaired by Dr Len Gainsford from Victoria. It praised Procopis's unit and gave it seven "commendations".

"ARMS is widely respected by managers across UQ," it reported. "The unit consists of a committed and dedicated team." It said ARMS "responded well to governance initiatives" and its audits were "well regarded".

It added: "The introduction of a risk-management framework and development of commitment towards its progress has been effective."  Despite the glowing report card ARMS was abolished.

Vice-Chancellor Deborah Terry says the restructuring was the result of a "routine, cyclical" review initiated before the admissions scandal.

Terry says "it would be inaccurate and wrong" to link the role of Procopis in unearthing the scandal to his redundancy.

Procopis's redundancy and the disbanding of his department happened despite Terry announcing on May 17 that Procopis would have a central role in misconduct matters under a package of governance reforms.

Terry told The Courier-Mail recently that at the time of her May announcement, "the proposed reorganisation ... had not been finalised".

In a letter to staff she added: "The review and the re-organisation were unrelated to the fact that Mr Procopis communicated to the Chancellor information he had received (about the scandal). It was entirely appropriate for Mr Procopis to do this, as UQ policy identified his position as a receiver for disclosures of this nature."

As the only ARMS employee made redundant, Procopis must be feeling unlucky. An insider tells me Procopis never wanted to be a whistleblower. He was just doing his duty.

Until recently he was also chair of the Crime and Misconduct Commission's audit committee.

Who tipped him off remains a mystery. "The university will not disclose their identity," says Terry.


Canada spy case rocks Australian spooks

AN ALLEGED Canadian spy has compromised Australian intelligence information in an international espionage case that has sent shock waves through Western security agencies.

Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a naval officer, is alleged to have disclosed a vast trove of classified information to Russian agents on a scale comparable to the alleged handover to WikiLeaks of United States military and diplomatic reports by US Army private Bradley Manning.

Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's activities have been the subject of high-level consultation between the Australian and Canadian governments and were discussed at a secret international conference in New Zealand earlier this year.

Much of the information allegedly sold to the Russians was more highly classified than the disclosures attributed to private Manning, and included signals intelligence collected by the "Five Eyes" intelligence community of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Australian security sources have privately acknowledged that the security breach compromised intelligence information and capabilities across Western intelligence agencies, especially in the US and Canada but also including Australia's top secret Defence Signals Directorate and the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

Australia's High Commissioner to Canada, Louise Hand, was briefed by the Canadian government on the case shortly after Delisle's arrest on January 14.

Information released under Australian freedom of information laws shows Ms Hand discussed the case with Stephen Rigby, National Security Adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But her cabled report, classified "secret - sensitive" and sent to Canberra on January 30, has been withheld in full on national security grounds.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was also briefed on the Delisle case through liaison with its counterpart, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which also discussed the matter at a security conference attended by ASIO in NZ in February.

Another Australian diplomatic cable dated February 1 that refers to the case has also been withheld in its entirety.

Delisle worked at the Royal Canadian Navy's Trinity intelligence and communications centre at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He previously worked at defence intelligence headquarters in Ottawa. He was arrested after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concluded he was passing classified information to Russian operatives.

Although Canada has for diplomatic reasons avoided publicly identifying Russia as the foreign power involved in the case, several Russian diplomats in Canada were recalled to Moscow before completing their postings.

Delisle is accused of communicating classified information to an unnamed foreign entity between July 2007 and January 2012. He faces possible life imprisonment.

His information access reportedly covered signals intelligence produced by the US National Security Agency, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, Canada's Communications Security Establishment, Australia's Defence Signals and NZ's Communications Security Bureau.

An Australian security source told The Age that Delisle's access was "apparently very wide" and that "Australian reporting was inevitably compromised".

"The signals intelligence community is very close, we share our intelligence overwhelmingly with the US, UK and Canada," one former Defence Signals Directorate officer said.

A former Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation officer and now adjunct professor at Macquarie University, Clive Williams, said: "Close intelligence relations inevitably result in some overlap in espionage cases, because of the very extensive sharing of information."

An Australian Defence Department spokesperson said that "consistent with long-standing practices, the Australian government does not comment on intelligence matters".

Delisle will appear before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for a preliminary hearing in October.


Members furious over union spending

UNION members have reacted with fury to revelations that millions of dollars of their money found its way into the coffers of the union boss Michael Williamson and his family.

The Temby report, an internal investigation into allegations of corruption within the union leaked to the Herald, revealed that companies controlled by Mr Williamson and his family received $5 million from the union over the past four years.

The report revealed that Canme, the company of Mr Williamson's wife, was paid $385,000 from 2005 to 2009, but that amount could be as much as double, as the Herald understands Canme was being paid up to $15,000 every two months from about 2000. Mr Temby raised questions as to whether the work was actually performed.

While the average salary of Health Services Union members is between $50,000 and $60,000, Mr Williamson was collecting more than six times that amount. His union salary was revealed to be $395,000; on top of that he received another $150,000 from union-related board positions.

Mr Williamson received a 25 per cent pay rise last year. He achieved only a 2.5 per cent rise in wages for his members.

It is understood that the union's administrator has cut off Mr Williamson's salary and payments, including the $1000 a day he was charging the union for legal costs while dealing with ongoing police matters, including the legal dispute over the contents of Mr Williamson's bag which was seized during a police raid on union headquarters.

Law enforcement sources have indicated that the prosecution of any HSU official could prove difficult as there were no corporate governance regulations in place within the HSU East branch and trade unions are "registered associations" under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act.

"If he was director of a company it would be a completely different matter," a police source said.

"The use of company funds to buy personal benefits by a director is prohibited," said James Lonie, a partner at Henry Davis York. "Time and time again, courts have held that personally benefiting through the misappropriation of company funds is simply wrong." For breaching their director's duties, company directors face fines of up to $200,000, and if the director has been reckless or intentionally dishonest, imprisonment for up to five years, he said.

The opposition spokesman on workplace relations, Eric Abetz, yesterday criticised the government for not instituting tougher penalties against unions. "We moved an amendment in the Parliament to ensure the same penalty applies to union bosses as apply to company directors [five years imprisonment and a $200,000 fine] if members' funds were misappropriated. Labor, the Greens and Craig Thomson voted it down. You've got to ask: if this is a one-off, why won't they increase the penalties?"

Senator Abetz said that Labor's penalty of a $6600 fine was insufficient. "How is a small fine an effective deterrent from a multimillion-dollar rip-off?"

Vandy Kang, a former HSU-east member and a drug and alcohol counsellor in Surry Hills, quit the union in disgust just before Christmas last year.

"It makes me angry and very upset. We are lower-paid workers and have paid the union for years and years, so to hear of the misuse of union fees is very hurtful to me," he said. "This is a democratic country. How can you let this group of people abuse members' fees for so many years?"

Meanwhile, a union organiser, Bob Hull, yesterday launched his election campaign to run the union when a ballot takes place later this year. "Of all the other tickets running in this election, the Bob Hull and the Members First Team is the only one not of self-interest, we aren't running for the ALP or Kathy Jackson. We are running for the members," Mr Hull's press release said.

Ms Jackson was in the Federal Court seeking to overturn last month's decision to appoint the retired judge Michael Moore as the administrator of the union.


Time for more competition in the taxi industry

DOES changing the government make much difference? Both sides of politics always assure us it will. But judging by the infrequency with which we do change, we seem doubtful.

At the state level the national swing from Labor to the Coalition is almost complete, providing a good opportunity to test the question. And a good test is the regulation of industry.

Despite both sides' protestations of undying concern for the welfare of ordinary voters, it gets harder to avoid the suspicion that governments regulate industries for the benefit of the businesses rather than their customers.

Take the case of taxis. We've been dissatisfied with the service provided by taxis for many a moon. They're expensive, but often don't offer good service: they're too hard to find at certain times, they don't turn up or take far too long to arrive. Too many drivers don't know where to go, or are unfriendly.

But the outgoing Labor government did far too little to improve the position. It got so bad in Victoria the Baillieu government promised action and appointed Professor Allan Fels, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to conduct an inquiry. The government is now considering his final report.

The taxi industry is highly regulated. What's the goal of this regulation? It's supposed to be to ensure we're provided with a safe and reliable taxi service at a reasonable price. In practice, the goal has evolved into the protection of a highly lucrative financial investment, the taxi licence plate.

Since about the time of the Depression, governments have sought to control the number of taxis by issuing a limited quantity of licence plates. Initially, and for many years, these licences were issued free to people wanting to drive taxis.

Because the supply of licences was limited relative to the demand for them, licence plates became valuable in their own right. They exist in perpetuity, and people who'd been given one by the government were able to sell it to someone else.

That someone may be a person who wants to drive a taxi, but doesn't have to be. And ownership of taxi plates doesn't imply ownership of the car to which those licence plates are screwed. You can ''assign'' (rent) the plates to a taxi operator for a fee, who buys the car and puts it on the road. Operators may drive the car themselves, or they may get others to do the driving.

Thus did the taxi licence plate transform into a valuable financial investment, with an active market in their purchase and sale. According to Fels' interim report, the value of plates has been rising for years and Melbourne plates now change hands for up to $490,000 a pop.

Licences are assigned to operators for a fee of about $35,000 a year, thus yielding a direct return to their owners of about 7 per cent. Allow for capital gain and the overall return rises to about 16 per cent a year.

Not a bad investment. Now get this: according to the Fels report, in 1985 only about 4 per cent of Victorian taxi licences had been assigned to others. By 1998, about 45 per cent of metropolitan licences had been assigned. And by December last year it was up to about 70 per cent.

Because assignment fees are so high, not enough income is left for taxi operators and even less for drivers. Taxi fares are controlled by the government and the need to pay drivers more - they get an average of about $13 an hour, according to Fels - is often used to justify fare increases. But every time fares increase so do the assignment fees charged by the licence owners, justifying a further rise in value of licences.

Fundamentally, however, what causes the rising value of licences is their growing scarcity relative to demand. Who is it that limits the number of licences on issue? The government. Who does this benefit? The owners of licence plates. The industry is being regulated largely for the benefit of absentee landlords, so to speak.

Taxi drivers get a terrible deal. They generally get 50 per cent of their take, but they're not employees and have to bear many costs themselves. They get no workers compensation cover, no holidays or superannuation and have to pay the goods and services tax.

Is it any wonder the quality of drivers is often poor, turnover is high and it's hard to get recruits? And yet most of our complaints about taxis relate to the performance of drivers.

Fels' key proposal is for the government to issue new taxi licences to any qualified person for a fee of $20,000 a year. New licences would not be transferable and issued only to owner-drivers. This would make it easier for drivers to become owners. It would force the existing licence plate owners' assignment fee down to $20,000 a year, still leaving them a reasonable return, but lowering the capital value of their plates to about $250,000.

Taxi operators would benefit from the lower assignment fees and this would allow the drivers' share of their take to be raised to 60 per cent. This, in turn, would justify making greater demands on drivers, including requiring them to pass a more stringent street and location knowledge test.

Now you see why licence-plate owners are opposing these reforms so vigorously. We'll see if Ted Baillieu stands up to them with any more fortitude than his Labor predecessors.


24 July, 2012

Shaping nation part of who I am, says Kevin Rudd

A revealing confession of Leftist arrogance.  What if the people don't want the shape Rudd wants?  What about letting the people shape their nation by their own individual actions and choices?  This idea that a "shape" can be imposed from on high is pure Fascism

HE is not supposed to be talking about a comeback, but former prime minister Kevin Rudd has given an interview in which he opens up about wanting to shape Australia's future well into the next decade.

Mr Rudd, who unsuccessfully challenged Julia Gillard for the Labor leadership in February, has told the Australian Women's Weekly that shaping the nation - which is somewhat difficult to do from the backbench - is "part of who I am, and you gotta be who you are".

Mr Rudd's decision to grant an interview to the magazine, which hasn't hit the streets yet, is causing ructions in Canberra, where leadership speculation is again roiling.

It comes just weeks after his wife, businesswoman Therese Rein, gave an interview to The Sydney Morning Herald in which she said the family would be happy to serve, if called upon.

The Rudd interview was granted to the Women's Weekly as part of a feature on the arrival of Mr Rudd's first grandchild, Josephine Therese Tse, born to his daughter Jessica and her husband Albert Tse in May.

The 54-year-old told the magazine the arrival of the baby had prompted "a feeling about what sort of country you want this new generation to be brought up in".

"Without wanting to sound too sort of pious about it all, you just have a keen eye to where will the country be in half a century's time when this little one's contemplating grandchildren," the former prime minister says.

"I mean, the judgments I make in my life I think are pretty simple at the end of the day. What do you believe in and why? What can you do about it? "And so that frames my approach to what I do.

"And if you're pretty passionate about this remaining a decent place to live for kids and now for grandkids (you have to serve)."

Mr Rudd softly presses his credentials, too, saying: "Everything around Australia has been changing rapidly ... the world's been dominated by Western English-speaking democracies. We live in a decade where that will cease to be as China becomes the largest economy in the world."

Asked directly whether he wanted an ongoing role for himself, Mr Rudd said: "Oh definitely, it's just who I am. You gotta be who you are."

He was quick to say that "the position you occupy in life is less important".  "What's more important is being involved directly in shaping the nation's future, to the extent that you can," he said.

"So I suppose what I'm saying through all that is: when you see this little possum ... you think of where she'll be beyond that and what sort of Australia and what sort of world she lives in.

"So many things that we take as certainties now will not necessarily be certain (when she grows up) so, you know, having always been a bit of a nerd about these questions, unapologetically so, and that is trying to think through the future and how we secure a good and fair and prosperous future for the country. And now there's a real personal dimension."

Mr Rudd tells the Women's Weekly that he happily renominated for his Brisbane seat of Griffith, despite every poll saying Labor will be in opposition by the next election.  "Queenslanders are very optimistic people," he says.


Labor support drops in latest Newspoll

The latest Newspoll shows federal Labor's primary vote falling below 30 per cent for the first time in three months.

The poll, published in The Australian newspaper, shows the Government's primary vote has dropped three points to 28 per cent.

The Coalition's primary support was 46 per cent, down two points, while the Greens remained steady on 11 per cent.

Two-party preferred results were steady – the Coalition maintained its 56 per cent to 44 per cent lead over Labor.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott gained one point as preferred prime minister, extending his lead to four percentage points over Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Forty per cent of respondents said Mr Abbott was their preferred leader compared to 36 per cent for Ms Gillard.

The poll has a three per cent margin of error.


Dick Smith blasts News Ltd over ad 'censorship'

If I were asked to publicize some criticism of myself, I wouldn't do it either

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith has blasted the head of News Limited, accusing the organisation of biased and intimidating reporting.

In a scathing letter to News Limited CEO Kim Williams, Mr Smith says the organisation has no interest in free speech, merely profits for its shareholders.

In the letter, he writes that Mr Williams' recent claims the Government is endangering freedom of speech is "claptrap".

As an example he accuses News Limited of not running one of his paid advertisements because it criticised the organisation.

More here

Time to move town for much of country Australia

I recently spent nine days driving 4,500 kms across remote NSW – from Wagga Wagga to Ivanhoe, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Collarenebri, Moree, Boggabilla, Toomelah, and Dubbo. Aside from giving me an appreciation for how vast Australia is, the field trip also highlighted the changing fortunes of country towns.

The beautiful, old sandstone post office at Wilcannia conjured up more prosperous times when the town was known as the ‘Queen City of the West.’ Today, boarded-up shops with barred windows line the main street; only a service station, pub and a few shops remain open. Even the larger town of Broken Hill is showing signs of decline, with ‘for lease’ signs in front of many shops on the main street and old pubs and motels closed down.

Locals told me of the changes wrought by multinationals buying up land to grow cotton, irrigation depleting the rivers, the clearing of trees removing shelter needed to raise sheep, and the run-off from fertilizers and pesticides killing the weeds needed for oxygenating rivers.

The sides of the road across the Moree plains looked as though it had snowed recently because of the large amounts of cotton that had fallen from the bales on their way to cotton gins. Cotton farms now employ only a few people as just about every process has been mechanised.

Those towns that have found ways to adapt are doing slightly better. Although the opal industry has dwindled, enterprising locals in Lightning Ridge have found other ways to make a buck. One miner has transformed his 100-year-old mine into a gallery by carving more than 500 beautiful sculptures into its walls and enticing tourists with his creations.

Others, such as the Toomelah community on the site of an old mission 14 kms from Boggabilla, are clearly going backwards. Over the years, I have visited many different Aboriginal communities but I have never seen as many houses so obviously vandalised as those in Toomelah. Two out of three of the 50 or so houses had holes kicked into the walls, windows smashed, parts of the roofs missing, and graffiti painted over them. The sense of rage and despair in the air was palpable.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald in May suggested the government was considering closing down Toomelah and relocating residents elsewhere. Tracker denied this was ever the case, and that the story was based only on the words of a frustrated government employee fed up with trying to improve a community resistant to change.

Whatever the truth may be, propping up towns artificially clearly is not working. Toomelah is no better off despite millions of government funding over the last two decades. The question that needs to be asked is, should government and townspeople let natural attrition and decline continue or should they do something about it? Residents of Toomelah, like many country folk before them, have to ask themselves why they want to stay and what is there for them in the future?


Australia has spies too

The secret service has delivered an unprecedented glimpse of the character of Australia's spies - nearly half of them women, of mixed ethnic heritage, and overwhelmingly young.

And the self-confessed man of "carefully cultivated shadows" confirmed Australian spooks have helped with the arrest of dozens of terrorists in south-east Asia as recently as a few months ago.

Nick Warner, head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, delivered a landmark speech in Canberra yesterday on the transformation of Australian espionage to a packed audience - including at least three officials from the Chinese embassy taking copious notes.

Mr Warner said the work of the service had new urgency and importance, from the collection of secrets to include operations against terrorist networks, people smugglers and alongside troops in Afghanistan.

It marks the first time in the 60-year history of the secretive outfit a serving director-general has given a public address.

"ASIS reporting has been instrumental in saving the lives of Australian soldiers and civilians, including kidnap victims," he said.

But he also offered a rare insight into the work of intelligence officers in the field, describing "a cadre of highly trained intelligence officers" that recruit human sources overseas known as agents to obtain secrets and every year produce thousands of reports.

"Intelligence in our particular realm can be defined as secret information gleaned without the official sanction of the owners of that information," he said.

In the crowd was former Australian ambassador Jeremy Hearder - son of one of the three founders of the secret service, former British army officer Roblin Hearder, who in 1952 based the espionage operations out of a military base in Melbourne.

For years, Mr Hearder was unaware of his father's secret work until he was officially briefed as a diplomat about the existence of ASIS.

"We knew he was working in Victoria Barracks, but we assumed he was working in retirement for the Defence Department," Mr Hearder said.

Mr Warner hinted at the "far-flung" operations of Australia's spies across Asia, the Pacific, south Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East - naming threats from extremists in Indonesia, Pakistan and Somalia.

With regard to Afghanistan, he said: "The ASIS personnel deployed with the ADF have developed strong bonds, and it's difficult to see a situation in the future where the ADF would deploy without ASIS alongside."

He also warned of cyber operations as "the most rapidly evolving and potentially serious threats to our national security".

About 65 per cent of his spies are aged between 25 and 45 - with 20 per cent of recent recruits drawn from an ethnic background. Three quarters speak a second language.

He said Australian spies do not use violence, blackmail or threats - but its officers can use weapons in self-defence or to protect agents.

Mr Warner said ASIS operated on an annual budget of $250 million.


23 July, 2012

BOMs new data set, ACORN, so bad it's funny

What would YOU make of a data set that showed minimum temperatures larger than the maximum temperatures?  BOM is the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australia's authority on global warming (Don't laugh!)

When independent auditors found errors, gaps and deep questions about the HQ (High Quality) dataset for the official record of Australian temperatures, the BOM responded by producing a completely new set called ACORN in March 2012. But this set is also plagued with errors. One of the independent auditors, Ed Thurstan writes to me to explain that though the BOM says it aimed for the “best possible data set” and specified that they check internal consistency of data (one such check is to make sure that the maximum on any given day is larger than the minimum) when Thurstan double checked ACORN he found nearly 1000 instances where the max temperatures were lower than the minimums recorded the same day.
This raises serious questions about the quality control of the Australian data that are so serious, Thurstan asks whether the whole set should be withdrawn.
Why are basic checks like these left to unpaid volunteers, while Australian citizens pay $10 billion a year to reduce a warming trend recorded in a data set so poor that it’s not possible to draw any conclusions about the real current trend we are supposedly so concerned about.

The BOM goes to great lengths to assure us it’s high quality, peer reviewed, and rigorously checked, but with a days work, independent audits find major flaws

Errors in ACORN_SAT Data
Ever since the documentation for ACORN-SAT was released, I have had doubts about the ability of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to honour their published intention to release all software that generated the ACORN-SAT data. ( I might amplify that thought later.)
In March 2012 the BOM released the report
“Techniques involved in developing the Australian Climate Observations Reference Network – Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) dataset CAWCR Technical Report No. 049  Blair Trewin
This specifies in great detail both the background to the development of the database, and the checks applied to the data. As Blair Trewin writes in the Abstract of this report:
“The purpose of this data set is to provide the best possible data set to underlie analyses of variability and change of temperature in Australia, including both analyses of annual and seasonal mean temperatures, and of extremes of temperature and other information derived from daily temperatures.”
I decided to take that document as a Program Specification, and write code to perform those data checks.
The very first check specified in section 6.1 of the above report is
“1.   Internal consistency of daily maximum and minimum temperature
 Since the temperature recorded at the time of observation (09:00 under current practice) is an upper bound for minimum temperature on both the day of observation and the following day (i.e. Tnd ≤ T0900,d and Tnd+1 ≤ T0900,d), and a lower bound for maximum temperature on both the day of observation and the preceding day (i.e. Txd ≥ T0900,d and Txd-1 ≥ T0900,d), daily maximum and minimum temperatures must satisfy the relationships:
Txd ≥ Tnd
Txd ≥ Tnd+1
If one or both of these relationships was violated, both maximum and minimum temperatures were flagged as suspect unless there was strong evidence that any error was confined to one of the two observations.”
In testing my code for the first of the two conditions specified above (which says simply that the maximum temperature recorded on any day must be greater than the minimum temperature recorded for that day), I found violations of this condition in the BOM data.
The following are extracts from the full violation log. The errors occur in many different sites and are spread across many decades:

In total, the ACORN-SAT database released in March displays about 1,000 (one thousand) violations of that simple rule that for any day

The Maximum Temperature must be greater than the Minimum Temperature.
This is a blindingly obvious type of error which should not have escaped quality control. It throws serious doubt on the whole ACORN-SAT project. In my opinion, these violations indicate that the entire ACORN-SAT database is suspect, and should be withdrawn for further testing.
Ed Thurstan
thurstan AT
July 16, 2012


Ambo wait puts lives at risk at Cairns

CAIRNS paramedics are being forced to wait more than one hour before patients find a bed at Cairns Base Hospital, a situation a key union says is putting lives at risk.

The waiting times, which can vary anywhere between 45 minutes to several hours, coincides with a spike in emergency calls in the past month.

As a result, paramedics and emergency department staff are being forced to engage in the practice of "ramping" patients on ambulance stretchers more often until hospital beds are made available.

The Cairns Post witnessed seven ambulances ramped outside the ED at Cairns Base Hospital’s ambulance bay yesterday afternoon, with eight patients waiting for beds.

The situation left only one remaining ambulance for the entire Cairns region.

When this unit was called to an emergency at Mt Sheridan, Mareeba ambulance station was the closest first responder.  [Mareeba is hours away]

"It has been a huge issue for us, probably our No.1 issue, for the last couple of years," United Voice Far Northern region state councillor Craig Crawford said.  "In the last month, it’s got worse, as in there’s been more patients ramped for longer periods of time."

The total ramping time for ambulances yesterday at the ED was 8.25 hours, with the longest individual ramping time for a patient clocked at 45 minutes.

Mr Crawford said while a range of factors was to blame for ramping, including a greater influx of hospital patients over the past month, paramedics were being frustrated by the "bed lock" problem.

"It’s heart wrenching for our crews because they’re standing on the ramp at our hospital listening to our comms department trying to get a crew … and there’s no one that can do it. It’s madness," he said.  "Someone could die out there in a house or in a car accident because we cannot send an ambulance, and we’re getting closer and closer to that mark."

Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District chief operating officer Robin Moore agreed ramping had been a strain on ED staff and paramedics, but denied there was a communication breakdown between first responders and hospital management.

"We have experienced unprecedented numbers through the ED, especially over this weekend, it’s been very busy," Mr Moore said.

"QAS and I are regularly in touch as soon as there’s any look of ramping, we’re in communication so QAS know what our processes are and how long they will be in that situation."

Meanwhile, Mr Crawford implored the government "to take control" of the ramping issue and implement the recommendations outlined in the recent Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative to improve hospital management practices.


Bungling bureaucrats ready to flood Brisbane again?

THE State Government should speed up plans to reduce Wivenhoe Dam to 75 per cent capacity because of the threat posed by wet winter weather, an Ipswich councillor says.

Flood victim Paul Tully, whose Goodna family home was destroyed by last year's floods, is concerned that Wivenhoe has reached 99.4 per cent capacity.

"We have had a wet autumn and winter and there are only 19 weeks to summer but the dam is being held at levels reminiscent of the weeks leading up to last year's flood," he said.

"Wivenhoe Dam engineers admitted to the floods inquiry they paid no regard to weather forecasts in managing the dam and let nature take its course."

Weather bureau statistics support Cr Tully's concern about the wet winter.

Up to 60 per cent of the state experienced above-average falls in June.  Across the state, three daily rainfall records and four monthly records were broken last month.  The average rainfall was 33mm, which represented the highest figure in five years.

The wettest month was recorded by Tomewin, near Tweed Heads on the border of Queensland and NSW, where 338.4mm fell.  But places such as Noosaville had 293mm and the Sunshine Coast airport recorded 114.4mm in one day.

Seqwater confirmed they had begun minor releases of water from Wivenhoe after two weeks of rain.

But Cr Tully doesn't believe the state should wait until November to follow flood inquiry recommendations to lower dam levels to 75 per cent to accommodate the inflows from the coming wet season.

"It is incomprehensible they have buried their heads in the water and crossed their fingers hoping for a dry summer," Cr Tully said.

"Residents are fearful of another Brisbane River flood and feel the bureaucrats have abandoned them in their quest to maximise dam levels."

Cr Tully also suggested the State Government consider building another dam in southeast Queensland to enable Wivenhoe Dam to be used principally for flood mitigation.

"(Former premier) Joh Bjelke-Petersen promised Wivenhoe Dam would prevent major Brisbane River floods," Cr Tully said.  "Seqwater is playing with people's lives and again is mismanaging the operation of Wivenhoe Dam."


Why W.A.  teachers exit 'toxic' system

SWAMPED teachers who quit the classroom say their passion has been "killed off" and they feel "overwhelmed and undervalued".  And the profession has been described as "toxic" with a possible "crisis" looming.

The damning descriptions are part of exit surveys of 261 teachers and staff who resigned from the Education Department between January 2011 and January 2012, outlined in a report obtained by The Sunday Times this week.

The report also shows:

* More teachers blame poor work-life balance and workload pressures for their decision to quit, with those reasons cited in 13.4 per cent of resignations.

* Eleven per cent cited family reasons and just under one in 10 said they wanted to pursue other interests.

* Health issues were blamed by 8 per cent of those who quit in the past year.

* Staff said the department's methods for dealing with disruptive students needed the greatest attention.

* Seven out of 10 teachers leaving the department said they would consider returning in the future, indicating most were generally happy.

One experienced teacher, who described the first 10 years of teaching as "very rewarding", said the passion had been "killed off".

"Over the past four years, I have seen a steady decline by the department on the importance of children's self-esteem and social and emotional wellbeing only to be replaced by ridiculous tests (NAPLAN)," the teacher wrote.

"The children at my school need help to develop as a whole child as they have many home- life issues.

"I believe the department is only interested in achieving results and running schools like a business rather than thinking about what is important the children.

"I want my children to have fun while learning, develop skills and be happy. Not to just be able to spew out useless information so that their school 'looks good'."

Another employee called for a "closer look at schools with extreme behaviour management problems" because the administration was "encouraged to hide/cover up the behaviour management issues in their school to look better".

"If students are swearing, bullying and attacking other students and staff, they should have consequences," the employee wrote.

A qualified teacher told the department to "get your act together" after being told to "reapply for the same job every year, offering no job security" despite forecasts of teacher shortages in the coming years.

Another leaving employee said the department "should hang its head in shame" for the way it managed its restructure, from 14 districts to 75 school networks in eight regions.

"The last six months in this department have been terrible," they wrote.  "It is such a toxic work environment in here that it has affected me physically and emotionally. It upsets me greatly to sit back and watch such hard-working, dedicated officers treated so appallingly.

Another employee said "after many years of teaching", they felt workload pressures had become a "forgotten issue".

"Morale in schools is very low and as the baby boomers retire I fear a crisis will happen as younger teachers will not put up with the demands that are increasingly placed on teachers' time and efforts," they wrote.  "Much of the goodwill that teachers used to have has gone as they feel overwhelmed and undervalued."

Another teacher said they had simply "run out of steam to keep going" when they saw the "debacle with the national curriculum".

Some said they wanted more job security, better pay and greater recognition, while others said they loved their job and seeing the children flourish.

"My days at work were very happy and rewarding ones," one wrote. "I felt true achievement when in the classroom teaching students," another said.

Education Department workforce executive director Cliff Gillam said "only a tiny proportion" of leaving staff completed the voluntary survey, with 978 resignations, including 366 retirements.


22 July, 2012

Junk food companies and lack of playgrounds behind obesity crisis, academic says

There is no such thing as "junk" food.  A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potato.  If that is bad we are all in the poo.  And the best evidence is that demand levels of fat, salt and sugar are harmless.  Too little salt can in fact kill you (Google hyponatremia if you doubt it)

FAT people are not to blame for being overweight, a top Melbourne academic claims.

Dr Samantha Thomas, who spoke at the annual Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference in Melbourne, said the war on obesity was failing because society put too much emphasis on personal responsibility.

"Obesity rates are still increasing because we put all the responsibility on the individual, but are completely reluctant to tackle the corporations that are part of the cause - the junk food companies, the soft drink companies, even the town planners who design new suburbs with no backyards or playgrounds," Dr Thomas said.

Dr Thomas, a senior research fellow at the Monash University School of Marketing, said more should be done to prevent obesity, rather than simply telling people to lose weight.

"It is easy to say 'I do the right thing, why don't they?', but for some people, for a variety of reasons, it is very hard to make the right decisions. We really need to create a healthy environment to help people do that," she said.

Dr Thomas said the anti-obesity fight should be similar to the war on smoking, with big tobacco companies blamed rather than individuals labelled weak or lazy.

"With the anti-smoking movement, we realised that tobacco was being heavily marketed at adolescents and we were disgusted," she said. "Junk food is heavily marketed at children and adolescents but, instead of trying to stop that, we just put all the responsibility on parents."

Dr Thomas said more than 60 per cent of the population was overweight or obese, so the situation affected more people than many would admit.

But YMCA Victoria spokesman Stephen Bendle said while environment did play a role in health, people needed to learn to make the right choices themselves.

"The YMCA encourages people to take responsibility for their weight and, just as importantly, for their overall health and wellbeing," Mr Bendle said.


Global warming takes a break in chilly July

Report from the Northern Territory

TERRITORIANS were left shivering last night as some of them endured the coldest July in 35 years.

Alice Springs residents experienced overnight lows averaging -0.4 C - a long way below the average of 4.1C that is normal for this time of year.

The last time nights were this cold in Central Australia was back in 1977.

Top End rural residents woke up with teeth chattering after the mercury dropped to 9C overnight.

In Darwin things weren't much warmer, with the thermometer registering 16C, the coldest overnight temperature in 10 days.


'Dangerous' NSW mum wins back stolen kids

It's appalling that a mere opinion can lead to such punitive official action

ROBBED of her beloved kids and branded a "dangerous" mum, a NSW woman has spoken of her joy of being reunited with her daughter after nine years of separation.

For 19-years, the mother struggled to keep her family together as childcare authorities were hellbent on tearing them apart.

But her courage and conviction has finally won. The baby "stolen" from her 23 days after she entered the world in 2002 is safely by her side.

The youngster has spent her life in foster care after childcare authorities believed the mum suffered from the discredited condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy in 1993.

"I've been waiting 10 years to bring my baby home," said the elated mum, who has requested not to be identified for the childrens' sake. She was labelled with the condition, in which mothers harm and even kill their children to gain attention, after her second-born son failed to thrive. Her next two children were removed as well.

Community Services Minister Pru Goward told The Sunday Telegraph she was pleased the matter had been resolved, but has demanded an explanation from her department.

"This will help my understanding of the events which led to the removal of these children," said Ms Goward, who made representations on the mother's part when she was in opposition.

With three children removed between 1993 and 2002, the woman went on the run to give birth to a son in December 2003 to avoid detection. Authorities made the child a ward of the state in her absence and when she was tracked down in October 2008 in Moree, they removed the boy who was then four.

After an 18-month court battle, the boy was returned to his mother in April 2010 and has lived with her ever since.

The two older children are grown up and no longer wards of the state. Her nine-year-old daughter had expressed wishes to be returned to her real mother and after her foster carer relinquished care, the child was returned.

"She gets in bed with me in the morning and says: 'I'm so happy', it's just beautiful',' the woman said.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy was coined by British paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow.

It was discredited in 2003 after Meadows' evidence wrongly jailed three women for murder.


Schools are adopting a new 'tough love' teaching initiative

SCHOOLS are clamouring to adopt a revolutionary "tough love" teaching initiative - replacing empty praise and gold stars for coming last.

KidsMatter is a radical shift from three decades of enhancing student self-esteem through positive reinforcement and rewards.

Students are now getting lessons in reality and learning self-management, responsible decision-making, and coping with difficulties and mistakes.

Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said it was time for all teachers and parents to focus on social and emotional competencies.

"Young people in Sydney would be far better off if we spent time teaching them anger management, problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution, and how to name and recognise not just their own thoughts and feelings but those of other people, too," Mr Carr-Gregg said.

Carlton Public School in Sydney's south this week introduced the social and emotional learning skills.

Principal Stephen Cooper said it emphasised personal and social development and relationship skills.

"I think the modern generation of kids are protected and they need to be exposed to situations that challenge them," he said.

Despite a successful pilot in 2006, the take-up of KidsMatter remained slow. Of the 800 primary schools across Australia implementing the program. the majority have signed up this year.

It was developed in collaboration with Principals Australia, the Australian Psychological Society, and BeyondBlue. The federal government and BeyondBlue will fund rollout to another 1400 schools by 2014.

Psychology professor Dr Helen McGrath said schools were rethinking the emphasis on self-esteem.

"Change in any sector such as education can be slow but I think there are an enormous amount of schools aware of what is happening," she said.

However, one western Sydney principal said some parents pressured schools to recognise their child with awards.

"I think it's come generally from society in that you can't fail any more," he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said the self-esteem movement protected children from failure, robbed them of loss and grief and created a spate of anxiety disorders in young people unable to cope when they leave the protective cocoon of school or home.

"The idea of not actually allowing kids to be inspired by misfortune and the terrible things that can happen to them from time to time is almost cruel," he said.


Federal anti-gun push blocked

RIFLE shooters will keep their historic home in southern Sydney after a court ruled that the federal government had no right to evict their organisation.

In a major blow to plans to convert the Malabar headland into a national park, the 150-year-old NSW Rifle Association yesterday won its court battle against the government to stay at the Anzac Rifle Range.

A Supreme Court judge found the government unfairly tried to evict the NSWRA, which has called the Malabar range home for nearly 45 years, without first finding it an alternative home.

The government issued three "remedy notices" earlier this year, claiming the shooters had failed to keep its buildings in good condition.

It gave the NSWRA a little over two weeks to repair damaged asbestos and comply with a fire-safety plan or be driven out for licence breaches.

However, the association claimed the real motive was to fulfil election promises made by local MP Peter Garrett.

Yesterday NSWRA chairman John Fitzgerald said forcing the group out without a new base would have been "devastating" for the sport in the state.


21 July, 2012


20 July, 2012

Blackman blacklisted by horse name censors

One of Australia's top trainers has been ordered to change the name of one of his young racehorses.  Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes has been told two-year-old filly Blackman cannot keep her original name.

The filly, whose father is Excellent Art, was named after renowned Australian artist Charles Blackman.

But the change was ordered by Racing Information Services Australia (RISA), which controls the registration and naming of racehorses, after it received one complaint.

"Certainly the name itself is a surname and certainly respected the connection back to the artist Charles Blackman after which it was named," RISA spokesman Myles Foreman said.

"But (RISA) also found that where the name is used without the known context back to a surname, it could be construed as being offensive which is where ultimately the complaint started.

"Through a consultative process what we've landed at is retaining the original part of the name but placed Lady in front of it so that it is now known as Lady Blackman."

Mr Foreman said requests to change inappropriate names were rare.

"I think probably on average a name would be changed where a complaint has been raised about once a year, and we name around 13,000 names a year."

Hayes was not available for comment but he has been quoted as saying "it's the most ridiculous thing, the biggest reaction I've ever seen".

His view is shared by Sydney trainer David Payne.  "I think it's crazy," he said.  "What happens if you call a horse Whiteman? Would you have to change the name as well? It's just ridiculous."

Payne said he was forced to change the name of a horse in his native South Africa.  "One of my clients called it Islam and we had to change the name, but I think that's more serious than Blackman."

Peter Jurkovsky from the Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association of Victoria says the case highlights the perils of naming. "In the context of how the horse was named in particular, I think that is the most disappointing aspect," he said.

"The horse is by a stallion called Excellent Art and it was named after a famous painter and therefore in the context it is Blackman, not black man.

"It was one complaint. We find that a little bit incongruous. "But having had a look at the rules again, they are fairly clear that the registerer can do whatever they please and whatever they deem necessary under the rules."


Unqualified child safety workers forced to deal with at-risk children

I think a social work degree is usually more a hindrance than a help so am not too concerned about this

A BURN and churn of stressed-out Queensland child safety workers has left unskilled officers taking a frontline role in caring for vulnerable children.

With more Queensland children in state care than inmates in prison cells, it's been revealed many child safety workers have no formal qualifications in caring for disturbed children or communicating with dysfunctional families.

PeakCare, an umbrella group for child protection services, says hundreds of social workers have fled the sector because of the stress, and poor decisions are being made which can rip apart families.

PeakCare, representing more than 580 organisations, will use the newly created Queensland child protection inquiry to push for mandatory qualifications for key child safety personnel.

It will also use a landmark British childcare study to pressure a "process-driven" bureaucracy to allow a more flexible approach to child safety, with a view to reducing the number of children removed from families."

It is an extraordinarily stressful job and the turnover of staff has just been immense in recent years," PeakCare executive director Lindsay Wegener said.  "Many social workers have just left the area altogether."

The disappearance of social workers from the field coincides with a worrying rise in children being removed from families.

The child protection inquiry revealed on Tuesday there were 7602 children in some form of out-of-home care, a jump from 5972 in 2000. By contrast, there are 5527 inmates in Queensland prisons.

Mr Wegener said governments had been left with little choice but to fill frontline positions with unqualified workers. Social workers have historically been the preferred professional group to work in the field of child protection.   "Now many no longer want to work for the department," Mr Wegener said.

Many of the former teachers, police and nurses hired over the past decade as youth workers and residential care officers had brought a valuable skills base to the sector, Mr Wegener said.

He said the Government would argue that newly recruited child safety officers had tertiary qualifications.

"The point is that for some time, it has been unlikely that their qualification will be a social work degree or even a human services or psychology degree," he said.  "It is more likely to be a criminology degree, teaching degree or some other degree."

A landmark British study on child protection, the Munro review by Professor Eileen Munro, highlighted the need for the skilled social workers to be at the frontline of child protection.

"Experienced social workers should be kept on the frontline even when they become managers so that their experience and skills are not lost," the Munro review recommends. "The expertise and status of the social work profession should be improved with continual professional development that focuses on the skills needed in child protection."

In the Queensland inquiry, Commissioner Tim Carmody has painted a disturbing picture of the state's most vulnerable.

Katherine McMillan, Senior Counsel assisting at the inquiry, has made it clear staffing will be a crucial area for examination at the 10-month inquiry.

But Ms McMillan said the most "vexed question" the inquiry faced was whether and how a child assessed as an unacceptable risk could be kept safely in their home.


Legal system out of touch with social media

LAWS designed to protect an accused person's right to a fair trial are out of touch and in need of reform, journalism lecturer Catharine Lumby said, referring to comments on social media after the arrest of the alleged killer of teenager Thomas Kelly yesterday.

Within hours of the charging of Kieran Loveridge, Twitter and Facebook users had published his photo and prejudicial comments about him.

Such publication had a "very high potential to interfere with the administration of justice", warned media lawyer Mark Polden, as it could influence witnesses in their identification and might also impact on future jurors should the case go to trial.

The difficulty was enforcing the laws prohibiting such publication and holding the websites responsible because they often did not have a real presence in Australia which put them beyond the reach of injunctions by Australian courts, he said.

But technology lawyer Philip Argy said the case differed little from comment in traditional media at the time of the Chamberlain case, it was merely the technology which had changed.

He said the potential of social media to have an impact on a trial might be exaggerated, saying: "My gut instinct is we haven't yet reached the stage where the ordinary person who sits in a jury would have been influenced by what's on social media because they are unlikely to follow the Twitter feed."

But, he warned, reporting by traditional media of trends on social media might bring the problematic publication to the attention of jurors and worsen the problem.

Dr Lumby said the law was behind in its understanding of technology and society. "The law has a fantasy … of being able to tell people what to do and control people. It's not how the world works any more … the law needs to catch up with society."

David Vaile from the cyberspace law and policy centre at the University of NSW said regulators and lawyers had failed to take early action against social media, and in previous cases they had only been warned, rather than hit with heavy penalties.

In England, attempts to use injunctions to restrain publication of stories about celebrities deemed to breach their privacy largely failed because of the difficulty of restraining social media. In NSW, the courts recently recognised the difficulty in controlling publication on the internet in media beyond the websites of traditional media companies.

Mr Vaile said the ability to enforce current laws which prevent comment on matters which are sub judice was questionable, but what was needed was a change of culture and emphasis on ethics.

In Australia, tweets posted on the social networking site Twitter have become the basis for defamation cases.

Liberal Party pollsters Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor are suing federal Labor MP Mike Kelly for defamation over a tweet in which he accused their campaign consulting firm of push polling.

Joshua Meggitt, a man wrongly named as the author of a hate blog, is now suing Twitter.


S. Aust.: More hospital beds won't fix Flinders Medical Centre's hold-ups, say experts

POOR hospital management rather than a lack of beds is to blame for ramping at Flinders Medical Centre, a report into ambulance queueing has found.

Dr Mark Monaghan's report, released yesterday, found the state's hospital system was ailing under outdated patient flow processes.

His report contains 52 recommendations, including that Flinders immediately establish a temporary supervised "holding bay" of stable, assessed emergency department patients who were ready to be admitted.

A long-term response must then be established at the site within six months.

Health Minister John Hill admitted ramping had occurred at Flinders, after earlier denying this was the case.

The Monaghan report found it was "inappropriate and unreasonable to recommend that (Flinders emergency department) cease their current practice" of ramping.  It also found changes must be developed by clinicians and management locally at each site.

The Australian Medical Association and nursing union said staff must be supported to make changes because all hospitals were operating above capacity.

The report found access to care was constrained at Flinders and other hospitals because senior clinicians were not available at all times, holding up surgery and patient discharge.

It also found that the $111 million previously poured into patient flow improvements under the department's former chief achieved "very little improvement".

Speaking by video link from Western Australia, where he has led similar reform, Dr Monaghan said extra beds would not fix the problem at Flinders.  "Unless you get very good processes, adding beds on to those inefficient processes doesn't actually get you a lot," he said.

Mr Hill said the hospital must now determine how to use existing beds, resources and staff in the most productive way.

Opposition health spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith said the report was damning.  "The report outlines a litany of ED process issues which Labor should have fixed over the last 10 years," he said.

AMA state president Peter Sharley said many questions remained unanswered, but solutions were needed immediately to alleviate overcrowding.  "Every public hospital is feeling the same pressures," he said.


19 July, 2012

A glut in public hospital admissions causes ambulance delays, prompting a 'code orange' health alarm, according to Ambulance Victoria

VICTORIA'S ambulance service was so overwhelmed yesterday that it activated the government's emergency response plan to put doctors on notice so they could be called in to help.

A spokesman for Ambulance Victoria yesterday said high levels of winter illness had caused it to call a "code orange" between midnight and 8.30am.

The code is the second highest level of alert in the state's Health Emergency Response Plan, which was designed to manage healthcare for disasters such as bushfires and mass-casualty transport accidents.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Danny McGennisken would not tell The Age how often the emergency plan was invoked for normal winter demand, but said it was "not unusual" to use it during peak times.

However, the ambulance union and state opposition said it was extraordinary for the service to use the plan for predictable increased demand in winter, and they questioned why the service could not bolster its own resources to respond adequately.

The move came as the service also revealed it had introduced a controversial new plan to drop less urgent patients in emergency department waiting rooms to reduce the time spent handing patients over to medical staff.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said he had heard of the

service invoking the emergency plan only a handful of times, including during a heatwave and on one night last year when a man died after calling for an ambulance 11 times.

"This is an ambulance service in crisis," he said. "There would not have been one additional staff member put on yesterday and, if anything, they were probably below their minimum resourcing requirements because they're not filling shifts when people are off sick.

"This is day-to-day ambulance work. Winters have been going for hundreds of years and we can't plan for it?"

Mr McGhie said although the government had partly honoured its commitment to increase paramedic numbers by about 200 of the 310 promised, the service was losing about 150 a year through resignations.

Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings said the government was failing to meet demand with its own resources. "It's extraordinary. The plan was not meant to be used for this reason," he said.

Ambulance Victoria has also started trialling a plan for paramedics to leave less urgent patients in emergency department waiting rooms rather than staying with them until a full handover to medical staff.

The plan has infuriated Australian Medical Association state president Steve Parnis, who said he had not been notified of it.

"If a patient is deemed unwell enough that they needed to be transferred to hospital by ambulance, it would be completely unacceptable for them to be unloaded into a waiting area or any other part of the emergency department without a proper form of clinical hand-over. It would be dangerous and completely inappropriate," he said.

"A huge aspect of risk management is safe and thorough clinical handover, so if the problem is with a lack of resources, that's the thing that needs to be addressed here … cutting corners at the risk of patient safety is unacceptable."

Dr Parnis, an emergency physician, said hospitals had been under enormous pressure in recent weeks as high levels of flu had hit Victoria's ageing population.

Mr McGennisken said the trial involved paramedics having some discussion with hospital staff. "Patient safety is imperative and normal handover practices at hospitals are always followed," he said.

Health Minister David Davis did not answer questions on the issues last night. However, he said the emergency trial would help free up ambulances while he worked to deliver a $151 million election commitment to boost the ambulance service.


Twist in 'sex on the job' payout case

A public servant who fought for and won workers' compensation for an injury sustained while having sex in a motel room on a work trip could have the money taken away after the Commonwealth appealed to a full bench of the Federal Court.

In November 2007, the woman - who cannot be named - had been sent by her government employer to a country town for a departmental meeting and put up in a hotel.

The night before the meeting she suffered facial and psychological injuries when a glass light fitting came away from the wall above the bed as she was having sex with a male friend.

The Commonwealth workers compensation agency Comcare originally rejected her application for compensation - a decision upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

But earlier this year Justice John Nicholas of the Federal Court overturned that decision, finding that the woman was entitled to compensation on the grounds that she was "in the course of her employment" when the injury occurred.

However, Comcare has now appealed this decision to a full bench of the Federal Court. Court documents show that Comcare will claim that having sex on a work trip was not an activity that was "expressly or impliedly induced or encouraged" by the woman's employe.


A Big Picture View of Problems in Australia's Maths Curriculum

Re: Ferrari J.,New maths course inadequate, The Australian, 18/7/12

Dear Professor  Wildberger

I should like to suggest for your consideration that the problems that you have identified in the proposed new national curriculum for Year 11 and 12 maths are likely to have a systemic cause which implies a need for a different curriculum development process. While this will not be immediately obvious, the cause of the problem is likely to be the biases that limit the effectiveness of ‘rational’ centralised decision making.

Your reported criticism was that "The draft national curriculum replaces core material such as algebra, geometry, and applications of calculus with a lot of advanced statistics and, for the higher strand, tertiary-level topics”. As an engineer who has done a lot of work related to the social sciences, it seems to me that the proposed national curriculum is biased towards to needs of (say) social science and medical research in which statistics play a major role, at the expense of the algebra / geometry / calculus needs of the applied sciences and engineering.

It can be noted that the national history curriculum contains a similar dysfunctional bias (see Proposed National History Curriculum: Information without Understanding?, 2010). And, as with the proposed national maths curriculum, this bias reflects a lack of concern for practical issues.
    Explanation: The national history curriculum sought to impart understanding of diverse societies, without ensuring coverage of the societies and ideas that had contributed directly to Australia’s institutions and character. Culture has practical consequences which are significant in causing history – so it is important to ensure that students gain a solid understanding of those that have led to practical success (and why this is so). The national history curriculum does not seem to do this. Though this will not be immediately obvious, the importance of ensuring understanding of what has led to success and failure in history can be seen by considering current unresolved concerns about Australia’s response to asylum seekers (see The Biggest Issue Missing from the Asylum Seeker Debate).

In both these cases the problem is arguably that reform proposals have been developed (and in one case already implemented) on the basis of a particular point of view, and this has not taken account of other considerations that are outside the expertise and experience of the persons involved. In relation to this, it is further noted that:
    There are limits to human rationality that are recognised in management, public administration and economic literature. For example, the inability of central planners to acquire the information required to make appropriate decisions is economists’ primary justification for a market economy;

    The application of reforms to governments and universities which involved an autocratic implementation of particular ideologies has led to severe problems (eg see Toward Good Government in Queensland , 1995 and A Case for Restoring Universities, 2010). In the Queensland Government case (which was replicated in various ways Australia wide - see Decay of Australian Public Administration, 2002) attempts to ‘reform’ government across-the-board on the basis of particular (but narrow) understandings of what was required led to the elimination of much of the knowledge and skills which was vital for practical success in government operations - but which the ‘reformers’ did not appreciate. Crisis prone government administration across Australia over the past couple of decades is the consequence. A general account of the problems facing government in Australia is in Australia's Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building (2003+). This emphasises the need for institutional reforms for which one important focus involves enabling complex issues that are beyond simple ‘rational’ prescriptions by potential reformers to be better managed.

A better approach to developing curriculum (as with the other concerns above) would involve a shift away from centralised attempts to make ‘decisions’ towards centralised efforts to identify the issues requiring change while encouraging proposed responses to emerge from existing practitioners. This would ensure that new curriculum would build on existing strengths while taking into account new requirements, rather than being biased towards the central decision maker’s perception of the new requirements while potentially eliminating existing strengths that are not centrally understood.


G20 summit helps seal Queensland's place in political sun

The G20 leaders summit to be held in Brisbane in 2014 will be the biggest political meeting ever held in this country. The G20 represents two-thirds of the world's population and 90 per cent of its gross domestic product. The right to host the meeting sparked a State of Origin war between Queensland and NSW, which, as usual, Queensland won.

The only other time the G20 met in Australia was the meeting of central bankers and finance ministers in Melbourne in 2006. It was a very successful meeting, but it generated awful television coverage for the city. A self-styled "Stop G20" movement surrounded the venue and tried to prevent delegates getting in and out.

Aid groups attacked the forum as being indifferent to, or conniving in, global poverty. The celebrity aid activist Bono gatecrashed the event to hold forth on how the leaders were failing the world. And the Victorian police allowed demonstrators to smash property - even police property - as part of a rampage through city streets. The pictures of Melbourne beamed around the world looked just like the scenes we are now seeing from riots in Athens or Madrid.

I should make it clear that frontline police did a magnificent job and were appalled by the violence and disruption. Their commanders were keen to take a tougher line, but this was the time when Christine Nixon was the commissioner of Victorian Police. Sensitive policing meant giving young anarchists a free hand and picking them up after they had caused their vandalism and damage.

When it was all over, Nixon saw no fault with her policing methods. She said the mayhem showed it was not "appropriate" to hold such events in major cities. In other words, ministers and leaders who obey the law should stay away from Melbourne because protesters and demonstrators do not. After that experience there was no chance Melbourne would host another important international event like that again - at least not while the G20 and that theory of policing were fresh in the memory.

Sydney and Brisbane see the value in staging large international political and diplomatic events. If New York can host the United Nations, if Washington can host the International Monetary Fund, if London, Toronto and Pittsburgh can host the G20, why shouldn't Sydney and Brisbane put themselves on the international map? Brisbane will be the centre of the world for a weekend in November 2014. It will come of age as an international city.

In 1956 Melbourne put itself on the international map by hosting the Olympics. It reflected ambition and confidence. In 2000 Sydney, which by then was a lot more brassy and confident than Melbourne, hosted the Olympics. And with the G20 summit the centre of gravity will move north again.

This is in keeping with the direction of economic opportunity and the population growth that is following it. Queensland is profiting from a mining boom just as Victoria did in the 19th century. It does not see itself as a provincial backwater. Nor will the global media as they report the deliberations of world leaders in 2014.

Sydney and Melbourne will have to get used to growing political clout coming out of Brisbane. Queensland now has 30 seats in the House of Representatives compared with 37 for Victoria and 48 for NSW. On current polling there could be as many as 29 Queensland Liberal National members elected to the lower house at the next election. They could be the largest state bloc in the Coalition party room. With more members, they will claim more seats in the cabinet. One reason the next Coalition government will be different from the last will be the enormous sway held by the Queenslanders.

The landslide victory of Campbell Newman in the state election has given the Queensland LNP enormous confidence. Newman sees himself as the "can-do" Premier. He is not afraid of controversial decisions. He wants to change the state. He is intent on turning Queensland around and making it an economic powerhouse.

Over the past 18 months, Coalition governments have been elected in each of the three eastern states. It will be natural for people to compare them. If Queensland becomes the pacesetter on reform, it will put a lot of competitive pressure on the other states to lift the tempo of their efforts.

Melbourne's lord mayor, Robert Doyle, said the city did not want to host the G20 summit. If so, Melbourne took the attitude of Hobart and Adelaide.

But Sydney still has ambition. As does Brisbane. Which is now gaining on its once more fancied rivals.


18 July, 2012

Proposal to end 'sacrosanct' confessions

Parliament can propose but the church will dispose.  Are they going to lock up priests who adhere to their canons?  Not very likely

CATHOLIC priests may be forced to reveal if they heard about crimes during confession under a proposal before Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse.

Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions but priests say they will resist any such moves, the Herald Sun says.

A parliamentary committee also will look at new laws that would see bishops face criminal charges for the misconduct of their priests.

The committee is asking those making submissions whether they think mandatory reporting rules should be imposed on the confessional.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne would not comment because it did not want to pre-empt the work of the inquiry.

Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has previously said the confessional must remain sacrosanct.


Australians eating the "wrong" foods?

I don't know what business it is of anybody but the eaters -- and the fact that Australians have one of the world's longest lifespans is not addressed

SOARING obesity rates, falling fruit and vegetable intake and a fast-food industry cashing in on an appetite for fatty foods - Australians seem to be gluttons for punishment.

A damning government report on nutrition and dietary habits said more than 60 per cent of adults and almost a quarter of children aged 2-16 are either overweight or obese.

It's leading to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, costing more than $8 billion a year in health care and lost productivity.

But it's little wonder our waistlines are growing, with almost 30 per cent of the average household food budget spent on fast food and eating out.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found the average family spent more each week on alcohol than meat, fruit and vegetables.

Even when families buy healthy food, much of it ends up in the bin -- with an average $600 worth of food thrown out annually per household.

Of an estimated total $5 billion worth of food disposed of annually, $1.1 billion was fruit and vegetables.

AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said more than 90 per cent of adults did not eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day -- and half did not eat enough fruit.

"The good news in all this is that we know the state we're in and we know what we can do about it," she said.

"We can all start with small changes like just having a couple of extra pieces of fruit or serves of vegetables."

Newcastle family day-carer Robinanne Lavelle said she often saw parents packing their children's lunch-boxes with processed foods, sandwiches smothered in chocolate spread and lollies.

"We're in a society where we have a lot more money than we did a few decades ago and children are often becoming the ones who choose these products," she said.

"I believe working parents who are short on time might not want the hassle while they are out at the shops so they will buy something just because the children want it."

According to the report, lower income earners, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were most at risk from poor diet and obesity. With healthy food costing up to 30 per cent more for people living in rural and remote regions, they too were at increased risk.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesman Dr Trent Watson called for a fundamental change in the way authorities tackled the problem, with more funding for prevention.

"Unless we start shaping our health care system to target these determinants of health as an absolute priority, we're going to be in an unsustainable position," he said.


Don't let the prudes deprive us of the spice of sexual banter

IT'S been a red-hot month for sex therapist Marty Klein. The well-known Californian psychologist - soon to give a lecture tour in Australia - has spent more than 30 years writing about sexual issues, often attracting the blowtorch of indignation from the US's powerful conservative groups. But he's never experienced anything like the frothing-at-the-mouth nastiness he's experienced since commenting on a recent controversy over an unwanted sexual invitation.

It started when a woman, Elyse Anders, was speaking at a sceptics' conference. She was approached by a couple she'd had contact with through Facebook who presented her with a SwingLifeStyle card that included their names, phone number and a semi-naked photo of them. They then left.

Anders posted a seething blog on her website, ranting about how offensive this was, how it undermined her professionalism. "I do important work. The work I do saves lives. And yet I still have to worry about whether I'm worthy or if I'll ever be respected beyond my f---ability. And that's bullshit. I deserve better than that."

In his regular column in Psychology Today, Klein took up the issue, perhaps foolishly disguising some details of the case to present a more general scenario. But he made a powerful argument, suggesting the issue here isn't sexual harassment but rather unwanted sexual attention. He then described the legal, ethical and social differences between the two.

Klein argued that sexual-harassment law was never designed to protect women from merely feeling uncomfortable and that in a typical workday, for instance, both men and women face many sources of discomfort: the infertile face co-workers' desks with photos of their kids; fundamentalist Muslims and Jews face people dressed with arms and legs uncovered; atheists face people wearing crosses. Why do we privilege unwanted attention that happens to involve sexuality?

We all cope with unwanted attention every day, Klein said, coming up with some telling examples: overly personal stories from strangers on planes; awkward compliments from co-workers; grocery clerks sympathetically inquiring about the brace on your wrist; and "Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormon missionaries asking if they can talk with you for just a moment about their invisible friend in the sky".

Klein pointed out that he had fought hard against sexual coercion and sexual harassment but suggested the whole "Eek! An unwanted sexual invitation - gross! My day/week/year is ruined" is a bit precious. He concluded that surely we should be able to handle a friendly sexual invitation in a genuinely safe environment without losing our composure.

He makes a good point. It seems extraordinary that Anders got her knickers in a twist about simply being handed a piece of paper, with no pressure to make any further response.

Since Klein's article was published, Anders has responded with 5000 words of venomous blog, tearing him apart and nit-picking about his inaccuracies, but never discussing the important issues he raised. The article also led to hundreds of furious comments, blogs and threats to interfere with his regular writing assignments.

There's a very real issue at the heart of this silly controversy - namely, the notion that sex is peculiarly dangerous and the rules of normal adult interaction must be adjusted when the subject is sex so no one ever feels uncomfortable.

Look at the constant skirmishes now taking place in workplaces, where the wrong joke, comment or sexual reference risks accusations of sexual harassment. Yet, as even the feminist website points out, there are women who make and enjoy sexual banter. As this site suggests: "Overbroad restrictions on sexual material infantilises women and shores up destructive Victorian stereotypes that women are (or should be) so pure that any expression about sexuality offends and demoralises them."

Sexual banter, the exchange of jokes and flirty comments can be the welcome spice of life for women, as well as men, and it's foolish to let the prudish in our midst determine what is appropriate behaviour.

Demonising sexuality inevitably distorts a proper perspective on sexual crimes, leading to politically inspired calls for absurdly longer sentences, misinformation about the likelihood of offenders to reoffend and exaggeration of the emotional damage to the victims of minor abuse. Our prurient interest in sex crimes often robs the perpetrator of any chance of redemption - as the sad death of cricket commentator Peter Roebuck bears witness. This is why allegations of child sexual abuse feature so regularly in fierce battles over child custody - the hint of sexual misbehaviour is a weapon like no other, leaving a lifelong taint on character.

The absurd overreaction from Anders and her colleagues to Klein's serious discussion of unwanted sexual attention makes the case that reason disappears when sex rears its head. Klein has spent his career arguing that sexuality deserves better treatment, and that's what he'll be talking about in Australia in October.


Rates gap a fair price to pay for safer banks

As I'm sure you've gathered, a surprising number of our industries are going through a painful, job-shifting process economists euphemistically refer to as "structural adjustment". You've heard at length about the tribulations of mining, manufacturing, tourism, retailing, aviation, bookselling, newspapers and free-to-air television.

Then there's all the angst and words spilt by the media, politicians and people with mortgages over structural change in banking. Huh?

When people have been carrying on about how the banks have stopped moving mortgage interest rates in line with changes in the Reserve Bank's official interest rate, they've actually been complaining about just one consequence of the structural change that's being imposed on banks around the world in reaction to the devastation wrought by the (continuing) global financial crisis.

Just how the banks are being forced to change was explained by the deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Philip Lowe, in a speech last week (on which I'll be drawing heavily).

All of us can remember the halcyon days before the financial crisis when mortgage interest rates moved in lock step with the official rate. Unfortunately, they were only halcyon on the surface. Underneath, big trouble was brewing.

Particularly in the United States and Europe, there was a lot of cheap money flowing around, so the banks got quite slapdash about whom they lent to. They lent at interest rates that were artificially low, failing to reflect the riskiness of the project and the chance they wouldn't get their money back.

They also greatly increased their "gearing" - the ratio of borrowed money to shareholders' capital they used to finance their activities. When business is booming, becoming more highly geared accelerates the rate at which your profits grow. When business turns down, however, it hastens the rate at which profits shrink and turn to losses.

As we know, the day of reckoning did come, many banks in the US and Europe got into deep trouble and had to be bailed out by their governments to prevent them collapsing and causing a depression. Even so, the North Atlantic economies dropped into deep recession, from which they've yet to properly emerge.

In the meantime, the bank regulators and the global financial markets are forcing the world's banks to change their ways and lift their game - in short, to operate more safely, reducing the risk of getting into difficulties. Although our banks are well regulated and didn't get into bother, they're still affected by this tightening up.

Banks are now required to hold a higher proportion of their funds in shareholders' capital and a higher proportion of their assets in liquid form, making it easier for them to cope with a surge in depositors wanting to withdraw their money.

The financial crisis made Australians realise how dependent our banks had become on using short-term overseas borrowings to meet the needs of local home and business borrowers. Before the crisis the interest rates our banks paid on these foreign borrowings were unrealistically low; now they're much higher, to adequately reflect the risks involved.

Our authorities, and our sharemarket, have been pressing the banks to do their overseas borrowing over longer periods and raise a higher proportion of their funds from local depositors.

Do these efforts to make our banks safer and more crisis-proof sound like a good thing? They are. But, like everything in the economy, they come at a price.

What banks do is act as intermediaries between savers on the one hand and borrowers on the other. The costs they incur in performing this invaluable service (including the return on the shareholders' money invested in their business) are called the "cost of intermediation", which is the gap between the average interest rate they charge on the money they lend out and the average interest rate they pay to depositors and other lenders.

The cost of making our banks safer - by requiring them to hold higher proportions of share capital and liquid assets - has raised the cost of intermediation. Most of this higher cost has been passed on to the banks' mortgage and business borrowers.

The higher cost of borrowing abroad and borrowing from local depositors has also been passed on.

This explains why, since the early days of the financial crisis, the banks have been raising mortgage rates by more (or cutting them by less) than movements in the official interest rate. Over the 10 years to 2007, the variable mortgage rate averaged 1.5 percentage points above the official rate. Today, it's about 2.7 percentage points above.

That's what all the complaints have been about. Now you know why it's happened. But this bad news has been accompanied by three bits of good news which have had far less attention.

First, much of the increase in mortgage rates is explained by the very much higher rates being paid to depositors as the banks compete furiously for our money. Before the financial crisis, deposit rates were well below the official rate; now they're above it (particularly on internet accounts). Depositors outnumber people with mortgages by two to one.

Second, safer banks mean people who invest in bank shares (which is everyone with superannuation) are running lower risks - meaning their profits don't need to be as high. The boss of Westpac, Gail Kelly, said recently its return on shareholders' equity had fallen from 23 per cent before the crisis to 15 per cent.

Finally, to reduce the pressure on bank borrowers caused by the banks' now higher margin above the official rate, the Reserve Bank has cut it by about 1.5 percentage points below what it would otherwise be.

Structural adjustment is always painful - but there's always someone who's left better off.


17 July, 2012

Malcolm Turnbull: A loser popular with the Left

What is it about Malcolm Turnbull that enraptures so many people?

At swanky dinner parties across town, you can be sure eyes will light up at the mere mention of the climate enthusiast, gay marriage advocate and former republican activist. On the ABC talk-show circuit, it's the subject of intense conversation: if only the enlightened Turnbull replaced that nasty right-winger Abbott!

Take last week's Q&A. "Liberals shot themselves in the foot when they ousted Turnbull as leader," read one tweet. A few moments later, a panellist held up a placard which proclaimed "MALCOLM for PM" and implored her fellow guest to challenge Tony Abbott. With that, the studio audience burst into wild applause.

But the Turnbull who is so adored on the ABC's flagship program is also the man who once led the Liberals to near catastrophe

We all too often forget history in the 24/7 internet and media environment. But an account of Turnbull's record as opposition leader three years ago helps explain why ordinary Australians shrug their shoulders with a profound lack of interest. All that he displayed as leader was an ignorance of his party's core beliefs, a detachment from a clear majority of the electorate, and his own arrogance and inexperience.

Go back to those dark days of 2009. The average two-party preferred vote was of Gillard-esque proportions, in reverse: Labor 56, Coalition 44. The Liberals lost their credentials as economic managers. And the leader's personal disapproval rating skyrocketed. Disaster loomed everywhere.

And yet Turnbull looked like one of those doctors in Grey's Anatomy who had observed the ailment but misdiagnosed it. He insisted that failure to support Labor's emissions trading scheme would destroy the Coalition.

Journalists admired him for his courage and conviction in trying to stare down the party's sceptics. But it was a foolish and dangerous tactic, one that would be his undoing, and reveal his lack of political nous once and for all.

Turnbull had failed to grasp that the key to successful opposition is to make and win arguments. To repudiate your own base, and pretend bipartisanship exists when it does not, plays into the hands of the government and leads to the political wilderness.

Such a strategy might resonate with global warmists who, in any case, won't vote for the party of Menzies. But it is self-evidently not in tune with middle Australia, where the centre of political gravity is decidedly to the right of your typical Q&A audience on a cold winter's night. To slam Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt might appeal to trendies in Glebe and Newtown, but it alienates your own people in the suburbs.

If Turnbull had compromised and made the ETS conditional on the outcome of the Copenhagen talks or US cap-and-trade legislation, history might have been different. He could have emerged as a credible leader after the UN's failure to reach a binding global deal and the US Senate's refusal to even debate a modest climate bill.

But having been influenced by David Cameron - another Tory wet who has tarnished conservatism in Britain - Turnbull ran to the left of his party, even publicly denouncing his colleagues. Liberal Party members had been upset for months, angered by what they saw as their leader falling over himself to accommodate Labor at every turn. But discontent had also spread into the federal parliamentary party. A rebellion on his front and backbenches presaged his downfall.

But it wasn't just that Liberal partisans felt ignored and ill-led. It was also that crucial swing voters were turning off.

All this vindicates Abbott's strategy to oppose aggressively Labor's agenda. By making the case against Kevin Rudd's ETS, and then Julia Gillard's carbon tax, Liberals have won back key segments of working and lower-middle class families who are mortgaged to the hilt. These pragmatic and patriotic voters, based in Sydney's outer west and Queensland's sun-belt seats, are primarily motivated by hip-pocket issues.

For these folks, Labor's policy to increase energy prices when our trade competitors refuse to decarbonise their economies is not in the national interest. Nor is it a vote winner, especially during a global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Turnbull demonstrated precious little evidence of competence. Recall the Godwin Grech scandal: here he was calling for the treasurer and prime minister to resign on the basis of what turned out to be a concocted email produced by an eccentric bureaucrat.

If Abbott had shown such appalling judgment, the press gallery would have written him off. In the eyes of the media, however, Turnbull is the Teflon politician who is virtually immune to criticism.

In fairness to Turnbull, he is an independent thinker who can digress on anything from demography and US-China relations to classical history and the Jewish diaspora. Warm and engaging in private, he is also a formidable shadow minister.

One can concede this self-made man has his strengths and talents and still believe he is not fit to lead the Liberals again.

Abbott might be a boo-word in polite society, a shorthand for extremism, negativity and John Howard on steroids. The cold, hard reality, though, is that since he replaced Turnbull in late 2009, the conservative vote has dramatically increased. Moreover, since Gillard's controversial backflip 16 months ago, the Coalition has convincingly led Labor in the polls. The carbon tax continues to rile a lot of Australians. It is also the main point of difference between Abbott and Turnbull.

For any politician, the big danger is vanity and a belief in his own publicity. Q&A types merely feed Turnbull's sense of entitlement to the Liberal leadership. But the obsessions of metropolitan sophisticates are of little interest in the parliamentary party and most parts of the nation.


Negligent Melbourne public hospital kills baby

A MELBOURNE couple, who tried for eight years before finally having a baby, are angry and relieved after a coroner found her death was preventable.

Heartbroken parents Shashi and Vasudev Madamshetty lost their daughter, conceived through IVF after eight years of trying, one month after her birth on August 30, 2007.

Victorian Coroner Kim Parkinson's finding on Monday, that Dishita's death could have been prevented if hospital staff had monitored her more closely, brought some relief.

"Yes I am happy just to an extent ... but still our baby will not come back. We lost her," Mrs Madamshetty told journalists.

"But it gives us a little bit of relief because it's the hospital's fault it has happened."

Dishita suffered severe hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, during her birth at Sunshine Hospital and died a month later.

Ms Parkinson found the death could have been prevented if the hospital had acted earlier to monitor and deliver the overdue baby within 48 hours of Mrs Madamshetty's visit to the hospital on August 27.

For Mrs Madamshetty, looking at other babies playing still reminds her of Dishita.

"Yeah, I'm angry but at the end of the day, even I'm angry, if I have frustration on them, unfortunately my baby will not come back."

The coroner also found the hospital delayed too long in responding to a foetal heart monitor, which showed a rapid decline in Dishita's heart rate on the day of her birth.

Ms Parkinson said doctors should have been more engaged with the couple and recommended that the hospital adopt formal foetal heart monitoring procedures.

The Madamshettys had agitated for a caesarean and complained of a lack of communication by the hospital.

The couple's lawyer Dimitra Dubrow said the couple will be seeking compensation from the hospital.


Loss of Christian values ominous

Given the Judeo-Christian origins of our long-held tradition of caring for the frail, census data indicating the demise of Christianity and the ageing of Australia's population could herald a perfect social storm.

The 2011 census makes clear that Christian affiliation is diminishing, falling 7 per cent over the past decade to 61 per cent. The slack has been picked up by the "nones", those claiming "no religion", with almost 5 million of us, or 22.3 per cent, turning our backs on God (or, at least, on God's registered brands). That's up 7 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, we're getting older. The median age rose in the last decade from 35 to 37. That might not sound like much but it indicates a significant increase in the number of elderly people in our community. HammondCare, a leader in aged-care and dementia services, notes that by 2050, one in 20 Australians will be 85 or older. Coupled with this is an expected increase in the number of us with dementia, from 269,000 to a million.

And here's the problem. For almost 2000 years, the biblical claim all humans are made in the "image of God", and so are profoundly and inherently valuable, has called on those who believe that idea to treat men and women as "sacred", regardless of capacities or contributions to society.

Of course, the secularist will point to all the evils of Christendom. But these just show Christians haven't been Christian enough. They don't obscure the fact it was the Judeo-Christian view of the human being that gave the West its hospitals, charities and the language of the "rights" of the weak. As yet, there is no alternative narrative that can guarantee the inherent dignity of all, regardless of capacities.

Of course, most of us love our grandmas. We don't need religion to tell us to look after them. But as more Australians move into high-care facilities and dementia units, sometimes at a great distance from family, society will need a solid intellectual ground for increasing contributions to those who can no longer give back.

Ancient Greece and Rome, the cultures against which Christianity first competed, had little by way of philosophical reasoning that could guarantee the inherent worth of those lacking rational capacity or social utility. So infanticide was common and social welfare for the aged and dying was virtually non-existent.

Christianity changed this. It inherited from the Jews a theology of human dignity and a program of social welfare, and added the thought that Christ had died for the world, even for the lowly and neglected. Compassion was due to all, especially to the overlooked. And so was born the tradition of "charity".

Educated Greeks and Romans criticised Christianity for this. To them it was a religion for the poor and useless. Atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the first in the modern era to admit that the "death of God" meant the end of objective ethical values. He didn't mean that we would all descend into immorality as soon as we stopped believing in a creator, only that at the philosophical level a secular society has to abandon the notion of a universal "moral law". Ethics could, henceforth, only be based on social convention or practical utility.

The secularist may feel like saying humanity is "inestimably precious", atheist philosopher Raimond Gaita says, but "only someone who is religious can speak seriously of the sacred".

Yale's great philosopher-theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff goes further in his book Justice: Rights and Wrongs. He argues that a rational justification for treating humans as "inestimably precious", regardless of capacities, can only be found in a theistic framework. Only if the abandoned infant on the hills of ancient Rome or the estranged resident in a Sydney dementia unit is created in the image of God, can we secure an intellectual basis for treating both individuals with the same dignity we afford society's most able.

If he is right, we should all be concerned that there is an ageing population at the same time there is a decline in belief in a transcendent narrative of humanity's sacred worth. The secular West may one day be able to offer an account of human dignity equal in power to the biblical one. Or perhaps one of the other religions on the rise in Australia will take Christianity's place in providing the conceptual framework for "defending life's disinherited and condemned"'. Until then, I worry that "we all love our gran" won't cut it in the long run.


In business, comfortable and rich don't go together

Propping up the weak a spanner in productivity works

Why do firms innovate? According to the bureau's survey, three-quarters of innovative firms report undertaking innovation to improve profits. About 40 per cent also wanted to increase or maintain their market share and a quarter needed to develop products that were more competitively priced.

That's pretty much what you'd expect, but the second source of productivity gain is less obvious and less benign: it improves when production in an industry shifts from low-productivity firms to high-productivity firms.

A study of Australia firms in the 1990s found a remarkably wide range in their efficiency. The labour productivity of the most efficient firms was about four times that of the least efficient. Only about half this difference seems to be explained by differences in size.

So the productivity of an industry is improved when low-productivity firms are taken over or otherwise cease to exist, and also when new businesses with bright ideas start and grow.

Few people realise how much turnover there is of firms, even when the economy is growing strongly. According to figures from the bureau, about 8 per cent of firms close down each year. And about 40 per cent of new firms exit in less than four years.

Get this: overseas estimates suggest the net effect of the entry and exit of firms accounts for between a fifth and a half of the improvement in labour productivity over time. In high-technology industries, in particular, start-ups play an important role in promoting technological adoption and experimentation, Gruen says.

Hint to politicians: "Policies that act to slow the movement of resources will tend to limit this source of productivity improvement."

Another way to study productivity at the firm level is to look at management practices. Like productivity, management is about how well resources are used in production. So if you can rate particular management practices and give management teams a score, maybe this will help explain productivity differences across firms and even across countries.

One long-running study is doing this for 9000 medium and large manufacturing firms in 20 countries. It gives good ratings to firms that monitor what's going on in the firm and use this information for continuous improvement; set targets and track outcomes, and promote employees based on their performance.

The study shows management practices in Australia are mid-range: well below the United States, Germany, Sweden, Japan and Canada, but similar to France, Italy and Britain. And we have a larger tail of companies at the poor management end of the distribution compared with the US.

Looking at the performance of Australian firms, large manufacturers tend to be much better managed than small ones - a worry because our firms tend to be smaller than those in other countries. And it does seem clear better-managed firms are more innovative and have higher productivity.

Gruen argues periods of significant structural change - as at present - are often periods of growth and reform for the economy.
For a firm that's been doing the same thing for a long time, changes in business models are risky, difficult and may well require staff lay-offs. But when structural change means doing the same old thing is likely to be unprofitable, the opportunity cost of transforming work practices is substantially lowered.

Structural change usually involves firms coming under greater competitive pressure. And tough competition and innovative activity seem to go together.

In Australia, firms that report having more competitors, that are in industries with low mark-ups, that export, or that experience downward pressure on profit margins are more likely to be innovators.

Case studies of Australian manufacturers hit by the reduction of import protection in the 1980s and '90s show the firms that succeeded did so by changing their practices. The number of plants diminished, plants became more specialised, model ranges were cut and world-best technology introduced.

Of course, some firms close down and leave the industry. But that's the harsh part of the lovely sounding productivity improvement: Competition boosts productivity partly by moving resources to more successful firms.

Get it? When politicians protect firms from closing, they risk stifling productivity improvement. For countries, comfortable and rich don't go together.


16 July, 2012

Guidelines say daycare centres must remove unvaccinated children

Where taxpayer-subsidized childcare facilities are concerned, I would make a full vaccination record a condition of entry.  Fanatical anti-vaccination parents can set up their own  centres and infect one-another

CHILDCARE centres are facing pressure to suspend unvaccinated children, sending them home during disease outbreaks.

Peak body Childcare Queensland has urged providers ignoring National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, which also recommend centres keep a record of unvaccinated children, to follow the rules.

The Sunday Mail yesterday revealed that parents refusing to vaccinate their children were still being paid thousands of dollars in immunisation incentives.

A spokeswoman for federal Childcare Minister Kate Ellis said the guidelines were issued to help centres control infectious diseases.

"It would be of great concern if providers were not taking all reasonable steps to ensure they maintain healthy environments at all times," she said.

Childcare Queensland chief executive officer Gwynn Bridge said centres were required to remind families to keep immunisation up to date.

"Maintaining a current list of children who are not immunised is vital as these children must be excluded if there is any outbreak of a disease (that can be immunised against)," Ms Bridge said.


Ethics experts slam University of Queensland over retrenchment of whistleblowing official who highlighted nepotism scandal

Mr  Procopis himself has not spoken out so I suspect that a lot of taxpayer money has been spent on buying his silence.  The whole affair is execrable

ETHICS experts have slammed the University of Queensland's decision to retrench the official who highlighted the nepotism scandal at the institution last year.

They say it smacked of revenge and would discourage people from speaking out in similar situations.

The Courier-Mail revealed this month that Phil Procopis, UQ's respected top fraud and misconduct investigator, had been made redundant under a governance shake-up by acting vice-chancellor Deborah Terry.  His was the only post removed.

"It seems to be a case of the classic public service revenge strategy - to make someone redundant by finding their position is unnecessary," said Howard Whitton, an ethics consultant to the Federal Government and an expert on whistleblowers.

Professor Terry told The Courier-Mail this month that replacing Mr Procopis, who reported directly to the vice-chancellor, with three more junior officials "embedded" in the university's corporate operations division would bring UQ "in line with international best practice".

But Mr Whitton said the comment was hard to understand. "If anything, international best practice in this area would require a senior person in exactly the role occupied by Mr Procopis to be reporting on integrity risks direct to the chancellor or the VC or a top committee of senate," he said.

Mr Whitton, who drafted Queensland's whistleblower protection legislation in the early 1990s, said the ousting of Mr Procopis was potentially a breach of today's equivalent of those laws, which prohibit reprisals in relation to public interest disclosures.

Professor Charles Sampford, director of the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law at Griffith University, said the decision should be externally reviewed.

"He has shown considerable courage in what some might have seen as a risk to his career," Prof Sampford said.  "The fact that his career at UQ is over doesn't send a very good message to the next person called on to exercise such courage.

UQ must realise that such a move at this stage will arouse suspicions.  "The best way to allay those suspicions would be to have the entire process vetted by a clearly independent body."

Mr Procopis, director of assurance and risk management, alerted the university last September about the irregular admission of a close relative [daughter] of the then vice-chancellor, Paul Greenfield.  ["My daughter the doctor"?]


Endangered lungfish among many fish perishing due to lethal Paradise Dam design

I am so anti-Greenie, I could almost be described as a Brownie  [joke] but even I am concerned about this.  The lungfish is remarkable and unique and has a very limited range so I fully support the recommendations of Barrister Chris McGrath

THE Paradise Dam has become a $240 million killing machine for hundreds of fish, including the threatened lungfish.

The fishways which were an important condition of the dam being built in 2005 do not work and the dam's stepped spillway is a death trap.

The $20 million fishways were supposed to allow the animals to swim past the dam wall in either direction. Going upstream, they are transported by a "fish lift" which uses large bins to transport them over the dam. Going downstream, the fish are supposed to swim into a large pipe which delivers them to the bottom of the dam wall.

Instead they are being killed on the spillway, which - rather than being smooth - was designed with a series of steps to dissipate water energy. In overflows, fish, turtles and eels are smashed to their deaths on the concrete steps.

A study by government-owned agency SunWater found the spillway, 80km south-west of Bundaberg, was killing lungfish at such a rate that it would have a major impact on their numbers.

In 22 days, 733 fish were killed when washed over the dam's spillway, of which 152 were large lungfish.

SunWater yesterday declined to respond to questions on the fishways or the stepped wall.  A spokeswoman said its reports had gone to the Agriculture Department for a response.  "SunWater will work closely with the department ... and consult with stakeholders to address issues raised in the report," she said.

Water Minister Mark McArdle said he would immediately request a full briefing.  "If this information is correct it would be of serious concern to me and the Government," he said.

The controversial dam, finished in 2005, was an election promise by former Labor premier Peter Beattie. At the time, Labor was being pressured by the sugar industry for more irrigation supplies.  The then-Opposition backed farmers, labelling the government anti-infrastructure.

Barrister Chris McGrath, who lost a court case in which he argued the fishways did not work, said the study covered only fish that were found, not those swept away and focused only on 2010, not last year's floods in which more animals would have died.  "It must be complete carnage," he said.

Dr McGrath called on SunWater to convert the stepped structure to a smooth spillway.


Is preventing ‘another stolen generation’ racist?

Until a decade or so ago, members of the media shied away from detailing the problems in Aboriginal communities, lest they were accused of cultivating ‘racist’ stereotypes.

That an ABC journalist (no less) would ask a Coalition minister why the state government hadn’t intervened in Toomelah in Far North NSW and introduced a John Howard-style ‘emergency plan’ to fix the policing, drink, crime and child abuse problems besetting the community shows how far the debate about Aboriginal Australia has come.

Leigh Sales was also prepared to ask the hard question whether governments are afraid to remove Aboriginal children from hell-holes like Toomelah ‘for fear of being accused of racism, and given what we saw happen with the Stolen Generation?’

The conservative commentator Andrew Bolt has often suggested that the misplaced fear of creating another Stolen Generation is impeding the proper protection of Aboriginal children.

This maybe so, but I think the situation is more complex.

Since the 1970s, child protection authorities have favoured ‘family preservation’ and have removed children – white or black – only as a last resort.

The Stolen Generation issue only came to prominence in the mid-1990s, by which time the current anti-removal practices were already the norm.

The publicity generated by the 1996 ‘Bringing Them Home’ report has probably increased sensitivities and reinforced the reluctance to separate Aboriginal families.

However, the major impact has been on what happens to Aboriginal children who are eventually removed from their families. These days, these children are more likely to enter 'kinship care' and reside with a relative or another community member.

This is called the ‘Aboriginal Placement Principle’ and is designed to balance safety and cultural concerns by ensuring Aboriginal children who cannot remain safely at home have ongoing contact with their heritage.

Sounds fine in theory. But a number of official reports suggest that Aboriginal children are placed in inappropriate and dangerous situations because – in the rush not to repeat past racist errors – the suitability of kinship carers is overlooked.

By putting culture before safety, children are being removed from the frypan of family dysfunction to the fire of extended family and community dysfunction.

We do not know how big a problem this is because of the lack of research on the outcomes for children in kinship care. But the idea that Aboriginal children end up in placements that fail to meet basic standards, and receive ‘a lesser standard of care than non-Aboriginal children,’ is certainly alarming.

If this is happening, then the anti-racist determination to prevent ‘another Stolen Generation’ is promoting perverse and essentially racist outcomes. Black and white children are being treated differently based on the colour of their skin.


15 July, 2012

Chaos at Canberra public hospital

Emergency patients walking out after 8 hour waits to be seen  -- and that's in the national capital

As many as 773 patients are walking out of Canberra Hospital's emergency department every month without having seen a doctor after arriving looking for treatment, according to ACT Health.

Monthly figures for the department – currently embroiled in a data scandal – show in the past two years as many as 16 per cent of arrivals walked out after being triaged.

The emergency department's clinical director, Michael Hall, said the hospital's latest research showed about half the people who walked out did so through frustration because they had waited too long. "The numbers aren't what we want them to be," Dr Hall said.

"We think getting [the percentage of walkouts] to 5 or 6 per cent would be acceptable."

The hospital does not record why the vast majority of these people walk out but if its own research is used as a guide, it means at least 2700 people a year are leaving the emergency department because they are tired of waiting.

ACT Health says the number of hours these people spend in the emergency department is not counted in the emergency department's overall waiting figures.

One woman, former nurse Clare Knox, told the Sunday Canberra Times she walked out of the emergency department after waiting eight hours.

This was despite still experiencing a severe adverse reaction to medication. Mrs Knox, 68, said she asked that her reasons for leaving be recorded, but said she was told this was not the usual practice.

The Kambah woman said her long wait for treatment, which saw her walk out of the department at 3am one morning last September after arriving by ambulance, was traumatic. It was her only visit to the department in the past four years. "It was really cruel to ignore me," she said. Mrs Knox said she also complained to the hospital about what she said was incorrect record keeping. She said her records indicated her blood sugar level was taken at 9.15pm, while she maintained it happened an hour later. An ACT Health spokesperson said the directorate could not talk about her specific case for privacy reasons.

Opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said her complaint could have alerted the ACT government to the data scandal earlier, if the protocol breach had been properly followed up. "You've got an extraordinary number of people simply giving up," Mr Hanson said.

ACT Health figures show the walkouts for the past year have averaged 9 per cent. In the previous year it was slightly higher with 12 per cent. The worst month was February last year, when 16 per cent (773 patients) left without being seen by a doctor.

The ACT Auditor-General's office recently found as many as 11,700 of the department's presentations were deliberately manipulated between 2009 and this year to improve overall performance information and reporting of the emergency department.

The hospital's executive director of critical care, Kate Jackson, has admitted that in 2010 she began tampering with the department's electronic files to improve waiting time results. Now nobody knows what the true waiting time results are for the city's largest emergency department. The department has just experienced its busiest fortnight ever with 2721 patients through in 14 days, or between 185 and 210 a day.

Meanwhile, department staff were being hampered by delays in other wards, according to Dr Hall. Between 30-50 per cent of patients to be transferred from the department to another ward wait up to eight hours for a bed and spend this waiting time in the department, he said.


Doctor Greg Canning quits James Cook University teaching post over feminist colleague Betty McLellan's 'sexual vilification' of men

She sounds a very hormonal lady

JAMES Cook University is embroiled in an ugly battle of the sexes which has resulted in one academic resigning in protest at the lack of discipline of his "extreme" feminist colleague.

JCU School of Medicine adjunct senior lecturer Dr Greg Canning has quit his teaching job of 10 years, claiming the university failed to caution Adjuct Associate Professor Betty McLellan, who he has accused of publicly practicing sexual vilification.

Dr McLellan, from the School of Arts and Social Sciences, is a feminist ethicist and psychotherapist, with more than 20 years experience. She has written several books, and regularly contributes opinion pieces to radical feminism websites such as the Coalition for a Feminist Agenda.

Dr Canning, who is a men's health advocate, said he took great offence to some of Dr McLellan's writings. An opinion piece, written by Dr McLellan on website Radfem Hub titled 'The Question on Nobody's Lips', states "even with all the evidence we have that something's not quite right with the male of the species, there is still impenetrable resistance to focusing on men's behaviour and asking: what is it about men?"

Dr Canning, who also works as a skin cancer specialist, said the article clearly painted all men as violent or sexual predators.

"She's at the extreme side of feminism, which started out as a movement of equality to bring equal rights to men and women," he said.

"But even though that's largely been achieved, there's still a group of people who believe men are evil.

"The fact people like this are teaching students really bothers me."

Dr Canning made an official complaint to JCU, accusing Dr McLellan through her activities and writings of breaching the university's guidelines for ethical conduct and bringing JCU into disrepute.

JCU, however, reviewed his concerns and found there was no evidence Dr McLellan had breached the university's code of conduct, nor brought it into dispute.

Dr Canning handed his letter of resignation into the School of Medicine last month. He said while university management did not overtly condone the sexual vilification of men, failing to even caution Dr McLellan was a "reprehensible moral and ethical shortcoming".

Dr McLellan said it was ridiculous to suggest she supported violence against men, or vilified them.

"I don't support violence from anybody to anybody: men, women, anybody," she said. "How am I vilifying anybody, really?"

She believed Dr Canning was going over the top by resigning from his teaching position.  "It speaks of a man, really, who is fairly desperate because he's not getting his own way," she said.  "He's not able to silence a woman who has an opinion." 

[Queensland does have anti-vilification laws even if they are expressed as an opinion.  They are however rarely activated  -- JR]


News Ltd CEO Kim Williams vows to fight media censorship in the High Court if necessary

NEWS Limited chief executive Kim Williams has upped the stakes in the media regulation debate, declaring he is willing to go to the High Court to protect free speech.

Speaking at an SA Press Club lunch in Adelaide yesterday, Mr Williams outlined a case against both "Finkelstein" and "Convergence" reviews now before Federal Government.

He said the "preposterous and foolish" Finkelstein recommendations should be treated with caution.

The Finkelstein recommendation for press standards to be overseen by a super regulator was "prima facie bad" because journalists could be fined or jailed with no right of appeal.

When asked how far he was willing to take the company in the fight against the proposed regulations should they be implemented, Mr Williams was unwavering in his response.

"We'll take the matter as far we can - I'll take it to the High Court. If people intend to have this stoush ... let's have it."

Promoting a "consumer first" model of reporting, Mr Williams said it should be the public, not the government, who set the news agenda.  "Consumers anoint the winners, not governments or regulators," Mr Williams said.

"Australians don't need dangerous new laws to give them greater media diversity; they just need a mobile device, or a television or a laptop.

"We should be celebrating this  tidal wave of change and  freedom of information rather than running to hide behind new rules to try to bring it under some tired and inevitably futile form of old-fashioned, unthinking control."

Mr Williams also endorsed the company's print products and said despite the changing media world, News Limited was well positioned to move  forward.

Mr Williams also spoke about recent announcements at News Limited, publisher of The Advertiser, to streamline the company's operations into a "one city, one newsroom" model.

"News Limited has announced a plan to put the customer front and centre of everything we do - to invest and innovate and streamline our organisational structure so that it is fit for purpose for today's world."



Four current articles   below

The relentless Warmist drone of false prophecy
January 4, 2008

This drought may never break

IT MAY be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

“Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones.

Sydney’s nights were its warmest since records were first kept 149 years ago.

“There is absolutely no debate that Australia is warming,” said Dr Jones. “It is very easy to see … it is happening before our eyes.”

Four and a half years later – drought in Australia is at historic lows, and Sydney just had their coldest summer on record.
February 15, 2012

Sydney’s record cool weather to continue

WESTERN Sydney is experiencing its coldest summer on record thanks to cloud and rain associated with the La Nina weather cycle.

Tom Saunders, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, said Penrith had experienced average maximum temperatures of 26.2C, while Parramatta recorded an average of 24.6C.

Blacktown hit an average 25C.

Meanwhile, Sydney was only able to record an average 24.6C, putting it on track for the coldest summer since 1953.

SOURCE  (See the original for links and graphics)

Scientists agree the Barrier Reef is fast deteriorating

I have been hearing this claim every year for at least the last 50 years, long before global warming was thought of

A diving expedition to the Great Barrier Reef towards the end of this century is likely to be a weird and disappointing experience, for anyone who had seen footage of the reef thriving in our time.

It will be paler, smaller and emptier. Many of the thousands of species of fish, turtles, dolphins and sea birds will have dispersed, and everywhere the crumbling bones of dead coral will be peeking through.

"It's going to be very boring out there," a James Cook University scientist, Janice Lough, told reporters in Queensland this week, at the world's largest gathering of coral researchers.

The bleak vision isn't an exaggeration designed to shock, but the logical consequence of processes that are unfolding now, scientists explained in their daily briefings.

This edition of the four-yearly conference was remarkable for the unified message presented by the 2500 researchers. A statement, said to represent the participants, called for action on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which are making the world's oceans more acidic as they absorb extra carbon dioxide from the air.

"This combined change in temperature and ocean chemistry has not occurred since the last reef crisis 55 million years ago," it said. "A concerted effort to preserve reefs for the future demands action at global levels, but also will benefit hugely from continued local protection."

Reefs are caught in a pincer between local pollution and overfishing on the one hand, and rising temperatures and ocean acidification on the other. Dealing with the local threats would put corals in a stronger position to stave off the global problems of heat and acidifcation, which are expected to intensity later this century, said Jeremy Jackson, a senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

"Of course, how long this will work, we don't really know," Professor Jackson said. "Climate change is inexorable and we're seeing progressive effects. So, how long local protection will serve to increase resilience is anybody's guess."

Reef decline is worldwide, though some reefs are adapting better than others and those remote from human activity are holding up the best, he said. "If you think about this, the Great Barrier Reef is the best-protected reef system in the world, and still we're seeing these aggressive declines."

Dr Lough, who studies the massive coral skeletons beneath reefs, said warming of the water was contributing to a huge stunting of coral growth in many reefs.

Although corals thrive in tropical waters, their level of tolerance for temperature change can be very small. As global air temperatures have crept up about 0.7 degrees over the past 100 years, water temperatures near the surface have also risen by half a degree, on average. This has driven a global epidemic of coral bleaching and coral diseases, while the higher carbonic acid content of the water means coral structures are often weaker.

"Tropical coral reef waters are already significantly warmer than they were and the rate of warming is accelerating," Dr Lough said. "With or without drastic curtailment of greenhouse gas emissions we are facing, for the foreseeable future, changes in the physical environment of present-day coral reefs."

The change in reef habitat is likely to have a corresponding effect on fish. A coral expert from James Cook University, Philip Munday, described a recent experiment where fish in tanks were exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide. Of the exposed fish, some adjusted to the changes over time, but others showed neurological changes that made them less effective at escaping predators.

"Like coral, there will be winners and losers and the communities of fish we see on reefs in the future are likely to be different to those of today," he said.

The research director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Peter Doherty, said Australia appeared to be "losing the war" to save the Great Barrier Reef.

It remains to be seen whether the statement endorsed by the reef research community has any lasting effect, but at least policy makers cannot be accused of having unambiguous advice before them, researchers said.

"The reef consensus statement is just the beginning," said Steve Palumbi, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University.

"With only the consensus statement there will be no change - it's political leaders that change the world, it's people that change the world. The turning of the corner from science to policy is really difficult to do. That's where we are right now, and that's why we're reaching out to the political leaders of the world."


Another new idiot Greenie tax

A NEW tax on glass and plastic drink containers could push up an average family's grocery bills by more than $300.

The Greens are heavily lobbying for the container deposit scheme to be introduced nationwide and the federal government supports it.

The scheme could cost some families up to $470 a year more as the new charge pushes up prices on drinks containers by 20c - with industry experts saying it could mean paying $4 more for a case of beer.

Analysis of the proposal by consultants ACIL Tasman suggests middle-income families could expect to pay an extra $312 a year for their groceries and low-income families could be slugged $137, while the wealthiest 20 per cent could expect a $473 rise.

The overall average is a $306 per annum price hike.

The analysis was based on a scheme introduced this year in the Northern Territory, which lifted prices by 20c a bottle - double the 10c refund price paid on the empty containers.

The analysis by the economics and policy consultancy firm was commissioned by the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which is strongly opposed to the move.

The Greens have introduced legislation in federal parliament in an effort to force the states into a national scheme.

The proposed increase is a 10c levy or deposit per container, which would be refunded if the consumer returned the empty bottle, but the industry claims transport and set-up costs would make the increase double that.

The ACIL Tasman analysis is based on a 20c increase on all drinks containers up to three litres and exhaustively breaks down the average household spend on drinks in each of five income bands.

AFGC spokeswoman Jenny Pickles called on the government to abandon the plan, which she said was "another tax that will push up the cost of grocery bills for families".

"Cost-of-living pressures are already hurting families. The last thing they need is another tax on basic groceries.

"Just as they're dealing with hikes in electricity and gas bills, they'll also have to pay more for milk (and) soft drinks, and beer could go up by an extra $4 a slab."

Environment Minister Tony Burke said Labor would not force a scheme upon the states.

Instead, he wants them to agree on a national framework through the Council of Australian Governments, with a COAG committee due to decide on the matter next month.

Mr Burke said the cost increases would depend how the states set up their schemes, but that it might not involve imposing a levy on every single container.

The Greens said the reason NT prices increased by 20c a bottle was because of profiteering by the beverage industry, and handling costs might even be as low as 1c to 3c.


Call to cut climate change 'propaganda':

CLIMATE change "propaganda" would be removed from Queensland schools and unions would have less access to workplaces under motions passed by the Liberal National Party (LNP) conference.

Hundreds of LNP members, meeting in Brisbane for the party's annual state conference, passed a motion on Friday calling on Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek to remove "environmental propaganda material", particularly "post normal science about climate change", from the curriculum.

The member who moved the motion said the material was political, but one speaker argued it was dangerous to dismiss different points of view.


14 July, 2012


13 July, 2012

Bills skyrocket with GST on top of carbon tax

AUSTRALIANS are facing a surprise "tax on a tax", as the GST is applied on top of the carbon tax to power bills, appliance repairs and other everyday costs.

PUTTING the GST on a carbon tax is inefficient and revisits the old era of hidden wholesale sales taxes, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says.

News Ltd reported on Thursday that energy companies, waste disposal firms and appliance repairers are among businesses charging consumers GST based on carbon tax costs.

Mr Hockey said the "taxes on taxes" scenario revisited the pre-GST era of hidden wholesale sales taxes and would make the economy inefficient.

"The only area where you still have taxes on taxes is insurance which is the most hideous area of tax," Mr Hockey told the Seven Network.

"The best way to get efficiency in the economy is to have only one tax on a product, not an embedded tax and then another tax on top of it which is what's happening with the carbon tax."

But cabinet minister Tony Burke said GST charges have been levied in the same way since it was introduced in 2000.

"The mechanics of how the GST works across the entire economy have been set down for more than a decade now," Mr Burke told the Seven Network.

Some companies are grappling with how to apply the 10 per cent GST to the carbon tax, amid fears the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will crack down on illegal pricing.

One of the country's largest waste disposal firms, J.J. Richards, was threatened with fines of up to $1.1 million after informing its customers the carbon tax will cost "$25.30 a tonne including GST".

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the claim - outlined in an "Important Notice to Our Customers" issued by J.J Richards - was "wrong and the Government will refer it to the ACCC".

"Any businesses jacking up their prices and falsely blaming the carbon price could be liable for fines of up to $1.1 million," Mr Combet's spokesman said.

Air-conditioning firms, data contractors and waste companies have all begun applying the GST on top of the carbon tax, according to invoices seen by the Herald Sun.

NSW electricity companies confirmed the 10 per cent GST would be applied to power bills after the carbon tax had been added to the bill.

Origin Energy confirmed that it was normal practice. As the carbon price was an input cost to supply of electricity to customers, it was added to the cost of supply.

The GST, as mandated, must apply to the total retail cost of a good or service, but companies are cautious about publicising this, as customers already are angry at the rising costs of the carbon tax.

In another case, the cost of repairing a household air-conditioner was inflated by several hundred dollars, because the price of refrigerant gas has risen 90 per cent.  The GST was then added to the overall bill, increasing it by about $40.  An apologetic repair man told his customers he was forced to increase his price by several hundred dollars "due to the carbon tax".

Tax experts confirmed the GST would add to household and business costs as the carbon tax was rolled out across the economy.

"Consumers will be paying tax on a tax, which is 10 per cent GST on top of the carbon price that some businesses will be passing on," said Yasser El-Ansary, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.


How bureaucracy can obstruct the provision of goods and services

Housing developer held up for 12 years by red tape.  Not many people would have had his staying power

WHEN developer Keith Johnson first planned to build 2500 houses in the lower Hunter, John Howard was prime minister - that was four federal elections and 12 long years ago.

Mr Johnson waded through layers of bureaucratic red tape and persevered through planning delays before the first blocks could go on sale last weekend.

"Because it was a site identified by the government, I thought it would take two or three years at most," Mr Johnson said.

Watagan Park in North Cooranbong was a master-planned, 2500 lot development in the key growth corridor identified in the state government's Lower Hunter regional strategy.

But over more than a decade, Johnson Property Group faced a series of roadblocks, including the council adopting new planning guidelines in 2004 and being told to write a new environmental study which added three years to the project.

There were delays for new studies going on public exhibition and arguments over the infrastructure funding.

Six years in, Mr Johnson applied to have the project assessed by the state government instead of the council. That cost $500,000 and meant he had to start the process from the beginning.

Eight years in, the land was finally rezoned. But then the council required increases in infrastructure payments than the existing plan, from $16,000 to $45,000 per block. The negotiations took more than 18 months.

It took another year before a development application to subdivide 48 lots was approved by the council, but then the agreements on who would fund upgrades to sewerage and water infrastructure to new homes changed again.

The GFC had struck, and banks were not lending to developers to fund infrastructure unless there was 100 per cent pre-sales. "We got it approved but there was a lack of funding ability," Mr Johnson said.

Finally, 12 blocks went on sale for up to $168,000 -- and Mr Johnson said residents could be in by Christmas. "Once you get it up, buyers are waiting and they are very keen," he said.

A green paper to rewrite the entire Planning Act is to be handed down within weeks.

Mr Johnson said he hoped new laws would resolve infrastructure funding. "I am hopeful there will be more certainty, and better efficiencies," he said.


Should TV broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings be  fair and accurate?

A rather unfunny Leftist satirist argues below that he should NOT have to be fair and accurate

In Australia the regulations for parliamentary broadcasts state: broadcasts may only be used for the purposes of fair and accurate reports of proceedings, and must not be used for satire or ridicule.

The reason for this law is not entirely clear. The provisions were included in the very first trial of parliamentary broadcasting for television in 1991. At the end of the trial period, the Parliament held a review of the rules. Paul Bongiorno, from Channel 10, questioned the rule, noting: "There are such things in newspapers as cartoons which daily hold up to ridicule our leaders, our politicians and our church leaders at times. They make them look very silly and we all laugh at them. On television, if you are going to do, for example, a political satire or cartoon, naturally enough you are going to hold up the politicians or our leaders to some sort of ridicule."

The response of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Televising was far from comprehensive: "The committee views the medium of television as being a much more powerful medium than any other and therefore discounts any suggestion that televising of proceedings should be as unrestricted as publishing in newspapers and magazines."

The argument is intriguing - we don't mind being ridiculed as long as it isn't by a powerful medium. The most common justification for the rule given to me has been "to protect the dignity of the house". If you have watched question time recently, where cat calls and guffawing pass the time before the daily call for the suspension of standing orders, such dignity may have evaded you.

Is this law actually a restriction on freedom of speech? True free speech does not restrict the tone or type of speech. It does not say, you may discuss your government, but only in polite tones. It does not say, you may criticise your politicians, but only in a well-researched op-ed piece.

As the US Supreme Court has accepted, the criticism of public figures "inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate"; public figures will be subject to "vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks".

Much more HERE

Big retailers not so greedy after all

As you shop, think about all the costs involved in getting a product to the shelves

WHEN you buy something in a supermarket or a department store, how much of the price that you pay is the store's mark-up? And of that mark-up, how much covers the store's costs and how much is clear profit? Everyone has their own answers to these questions. But I suspect most of those answers are based on vague impressions and long-held prejudices rather than hard evidence.

When I was growing up, we were always hearing about the depredations of "middlemen". The poor farmers got terribly low prices for their meat and other produce, but by the time that produce went through many hands to reach us in the city, the prices were sky-high.

These days, we hear continually about the evil practices of the two big supermarket chains. They're busy screwing the life out of dairy farmers and other suppliers, just so they can use cheap milk and bread to lure us into their stores.

This may sound like a good thing for consumers beset by an ever-rising cost of living, but don't be fooled, we're told. The wicked retailers may be undercharging for a few staples, but they make up for it by overcharging for everything else.

Then there are all the people discovering from the internet just how much lower prices are in other countries. More proof we're being ripped off.

In the hands of the media, it's a morality tale. The farmers and manufacturers are the good guys getting squeezed; the big retailers and other middlemen are the bad guys raking it in and doing us down.

It would be good to measure all these impressions against some hard statistical facts - facts supplied by an article in the latest issue of the Reserve Bank's Bulletin, on which I'll be drawing heavily.

Part of the problem is our lack of imagination. Many of us have only a vague idea of the role played by the businesses that operate between primary and secondary producers and you and me.

Most retail goods - including food and non-alcoholic drinks, clothing, footwear, electrical equipment, furniture and home appliances, and motor vehicles, but not "meals out" or takeaways - are produced in factories, whether locally or overseas.

The basic cost of producing those goods includes the cost of transporting them to wholesalers' warehouses, plus import duty where still applicable. Wholesalers incur costs in storing goods and transporting them around the country to retailers, plus normal administrative costs. Retailers incur costs of rent, storage, display, finance and other costs.

Naturally, both wholesalers and retailers employ many workers to help them carry out their role, not of making goods, but of distributing them into hands of consumers across the nation. Indeed, the work of this "retail supply chain" accounts for about 7 per cent of the final value of all goods and services sold in Australia (gross domestic product) and about 10 per cent of total employment. So one worker in 10 is employed as a supposedly unproductive "middleman".

On average, the manufactured cost of the goods we buy accounts for about half the retail prices we pay. About 40 per cent of the prices we pay covers the costs incurred by wholesalers and retailers, with wage costs accounting for a bit less than 20 per cent and other costs for a bit more than 20 per cent.

That means the wholesalers' and retailers' net profits account for only about 10 per cent of the prices we pay, with about three-quarters of that going to the retailers.

Of course, these overall averages differ for different products. Whereas the gross profit margin (that is, before allowing for expenses) averages 50 per cent, it's closer to 60 per cent for clothing and footwear, a bit over 50 per cent for electrical equipment, a bit under 50 for furniture and appliances, about 40 per cent for food and drink, and just 25 per cent for motor vehicles.

Gross margins also vary according to the size of retail outlets and the speed at which stock turns over. Margins are higher in boutique stores than department stores, and higher in small convenience stores than big supermarkets, where the profit-making emphasis is on rapid turnover rather than high margins.

The Reserve Bank's detailed examination covered the figures for the nine years to 2007-08, though other checks suggest they have not changed much since then. It found the production prices of locally manufactured goods rose quite strongly over the period. As well, the wage rates and other costs paid by wholesalers and retailers rose by more than 3 per cent a year.

Even so, the final prices of retail goods rose by only about 1 per cent a year. So much for the notion that retailers have been getting greedier.

But how have they managed to turn costs rising by 3 per cent or so a year into retail prices rising by 1 per cent and do so without suffering any squeeze in their net profit margins?

Because, though business people are always assuring us there's nothing they can do but pass higher costs on to us, in truth there's a lot they can do.

One thing they've done is increasingly substitute cheaper imported goods for ever-more-expensive locally made goods. If that worries you, have a look at my little video on the website or iPad app.

The other thing they've done is raise the productivity of their labour, with the volume of their sales rising a lot faster than the total hours of the workers they employ. They've invested in labour-saving equipment.

And note this: why have they been working so hard to limit their price rises? Because of the power of market forces - in this case, customers who don't like paying more.


12 July, 2012

More official abuse of "child welfare" provisions

You can be an Aboriginal child who is badly abused and neglected by your parents and the  authorities will do nothing.  But get FAT and that is another matter.  Obesity is mostly genetic so this is punishing people for something over which they have little control.  And harassing people about it just makes it worse. People may slim down for a while but in well over 90% of the cases they will eventually put it all back on again -- and more

VICTORIAN welfare authorities have begun using extreme obesity as a reason to support children being separated from their parents - and experts predict more cases as the population gets fatter.

The Department of Human Services has cited obesity in at least two child protection court cases this year.

One case involved a pre-teenage boy who weighed 110 kilograms and the other a teenage girl whose waist circumference of 169 centimetres was greater than her height. The department would not reveal the exact number of cases.

Associate Professor John Dixon, of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said he expected more such cases, but that they would not become common.

"I would not want parents out there with overweight or obese children to in any way feel that it's through their negligence that we have a growing obesity issue in children today," Associate Professor Dixon said.

"That would be very wrong indeed … This is a community problem, an Australia-wide, a global problem that we're not addressing very well at the moment.

"We shouldn't be blaming the parents for our environment. The parents and the children who are obese are really victims of the environment."

In the teenage girl's case, experts stressed to the department that her weight problem needed urgent attention.

She had gained 30 kilograms in 18 months and was described by a Children's Court magistrate as "incredibly unhealthy … To hear that her waist measurement is greater than her height is so concerning."

The court was told it would be impossible for her to reduce her weight to a healthy range within a year and a more realistic goal was to lose 15 to 20 kilograms and keep it off. Doctors had concluded that the weight gain was not genetic and had to have come from eating. [Of course it comes from eating   --but it is the genetics that causes the overeating]

The girl's mother told the court that she wanted her daughter returned home or placed in residential care. The department said foster care was not an option because there were no families available who could help with her needs.

The magistrate ordered the girl remain legally in the care of the state. She and her mother had had a breakdown in their relationship that had led to the girl not living at home.

In the case of the pre-teenage boy who weighed 110 kilograms, another magistrate ordered that he be removed from his mother's care and put into a "therapeutic setting".

The boy had been referred for medical intervention but it had no effect and he had been sitting in his room, eating and inactive.

The department said it could not work with the boy's mother until he was removed from her care.

A spokesman for the department told The Age that obesity was not of itself grounds for child protection workers to become involved with a family.

But he said "obesity may be a symptom of other issues that could place a child at risk or harm that would warrant child-protection involvement".

Some of Victoria's most obese children are referred to the Weight Management Clinic at the Royal Children's Hospital.

But The Age understands that the clinic is struggling with a lack of resources to deal with families where there are several obese children who need intervention.

Non-urgent referrals to the clinic face a wait of between nine months and a year, but the clinic warns that in some cases, the delay could be longer. A smaller clinic operates at Melton.

Associate Professor Dixon said there were many determinants of obesity in children and adolescents but parental neglect was not usually considered to be one. "Severely obese adolescents and their parents are under enormous stress and there are often other issues in the family," he said.

"It wouldn't only be obesity that would lead to a child being removed."

He said any cases where extremely obese children were removed from their families should be seen as rare.

Associate Professor Tim Gill, of Sydney University's Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating, said if the only reason for removing a child from their parents was weight, it was not appropriate.

"There are a whole range of issues which drive weight gain, particularly in children," Associate Professor Gill said.

"We are going to see more children in that [extreme] weight category and in some ways, yes, it's a failure of parents, but it also reflects a failure of society - that we could create a circumstance that would allow and encourage kids to overeat and under-exercise to such an extent that they get to that weight."


Provocation defence  gets Korean man off murder charge

Who's the galoot in the hat? You might ask.  It's actually the trial lawyer, Winston Terracini, who got the Korean guy off the hook

A MAN who caught his wife in bed with his close friend has been found not guilty of murder on the grounds of provocation.

Joachim Won came home from work sick in May 2010 to find his 44-year-old wife, Anna, having sex with his friend Hyung Mo Lee.  Won, then 56, went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and stabbed Mr Lee, 48, seven times, allegedly shouting "you must die" or "he must die".

A NSW Supreme Court jury took less than an hour to return a verdict of not guilty to murder. Won was automatically found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Won was overcome with emotion when the verdict was delivered yesterday.

Won's barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, said: "It's a very satisfying result and Mr Won, through his legal representatives, had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter from the very beginning but the Crown rejected it."

Mr Terracini had told the jury his client was acting under "provocation", in that he was so shocked by what he saw he lost self-control.

The jury was asked to decide if the act of finding a spouse in bed with someone else could have induced an ordinary person in the position of Won to have so far lost self-control as to have formed an intent to kill, or to inflict grievous bodily harm.

The case is the latest to focus public attention on the law of provocation, which is the subject of an inquiry by the NSW Parliament. The inquiry began last month following the case of Chamanjot Singh, who was given a six-year jail sentence for slitting his wife's throat with a box cutter.

In May, Singh was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder after a jury accepted his claim that he had been provoked by a stream of verbal abuse from Manpreet Kaur, 29, including an alleged threat that she would have him deported.

Mr Terracini said the principle of provocation had been seen as valid since the 19th century.

Reacting to the verdict, the victims' advocate Howard Brown said cases where provocation is argued should be left to judges, not juries.

The defence of provocation was abolished in Tasmania in 2003 and Victoria in 2005, following a recommendation by the Victorian Law Reform Commission which found the law "partly legitimates killings committed in anger".


I am going to be all multicultural here and note that, when normally great  Asian patience is pushed beyond its breaking point, the result is often explosive.  The man "runs amok", as they say in Malaysia.  So I think that on multicultural grounds at least, the defence of provocation should remain available,  with juries in the best position to sort out the claims in particular cases,  as they did above

Comet man could lose his job

Panic-stricken bureaucracies do very often cut the wrong things

A WORLD-RENOWNED NSW astronomer, who has discovered more than 400 comets and asteroids, may be forced to abandon his work searching the night sky for objects on a potential collision course with Earth.

Rob McNaught has lost the NASA funding he relies on as the only astronomer in the southern hemisphere working on a survey to find and track near-Earth objects and possibly help prevent catastrophic collisions.

The Australian National University has stepped in to temporarily support Mr McNaught's position, but has told the Herald long-term funding needed to keep the work going beyond the end of this year is "not going to come from the university".

Mr McNaught's record working in the Uppsala Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran in northern NSW, is formidable.

Since 1987, he has discovered 70 comets, more than twice as many as any other astronomer in history.

According to Mr McNaught, the Siding Spring Survey, the only project observing near-Earth objects in the southern hemisphere, "get[s] a chance to see objects that the northern hemisphere surveys can't research".

Since 2004, the survey has discovered 412 near-Earth objects, including 80 classified as a potential hazard because they have a diameter of between 100 and 150 metres and an orbit that comes within 7.5 million kilometres of the Earth's orbit.

A fellow astronomer at Siding Spring, Peter Poulos, describes his friend as "the guardian of all of us, in many ways".

"He doesn't wear a uniform or a cape, but in the end he's the hero in the movie. He's the scientist that will discover the bad thing heading our way."

Mr McNaught has been "extraordinarily successful", said the head of ANU's school of astronomy and astrophysics, Harvey Butcher. "We think he's just wonderful … one of the best in the world. This is work that very much needs to be done."

But Professor Butcher said without a new, more powerful telescope and better facilities likely to cost "a couple of million dollars", there is "no clear channel of finance" to continue it.

Mr McNaught said he had appealed to the Minister for Science and Research, Chris Evans, and the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet, to fund the program.

"There is no reason why NASA should fund every space program in the world," he said.


Fossil fuel (gas) better than "renewable" wood?

Nobody expects Greenies to be consistent, I guess

Wood heaters will be banned in the new residential suburbs of the Molonglo Valley, with the government citing threats to air quality in the large new development.

The wood heaters will be prohibited in Coombs and all future suburbs in Molonglo Valley, but the existing suburb of Wright will be exempt.

The decision follows the release of the annual Air Quality Report for 2011, which identifies domestic wood heaters as the biggest source of air pollution in the ACT.

Wood heaters are already banned in Dunlop and East O'Malley, according to Environment Minister Simon Corbell.

"We know that wood smoke can be a problem in the ACT which is why the Government recently launched the "Burn Right Tonight" campaign to raise the public awareness of correct wood heater operation," he said.

The air quality report identified four breaches of air quality standards in the colder months of May and July last year, but Mr Corbell said the report highlighted an excellent overall quality of air in Canberra.

Greens environment spokesman Shane Rattenbury welcomed the government's decision to ban wood heaters in the Molonglo Valley.

But Mr Rattenbury described it as a first step, and urged the government to do more to tackle wood heater pollution caused in the ACT.

"The Government knows that wood smoke pollution has a detrimental impact on people's health and Canberra's environment, which is why it needs to go further than it has,' Mr Rattenbury said.

"We need to take action on wood smoke all parts of Canberra, not just in the new Molonglo developments. Tuggeranong Valley remains an area of particular concern," he said.

The government and ActewAGL currently run a wood heater replacement program that gives residents a rebate of up to $800 to make the switch to gas flued systems.

The Greens have proposed improvements to the buy back program alongside legislation that would introduce stricter efficiency and emissions standards for wood heaters in the ACT.

Mr Rattenbury said the Greens had also proposed ways of better enforcing wood heater use, and ways to phase out older, dirtier wood heaters.


11 July, 2012

Should Australian students study Australian history?

A history teacher (Bantick) argues below that it should only be taught as one part of global history.  While I can see the point of that, I see no reason why global events can not be referred to in outlining Australian history. 

So I would argue exactly the opposite.  Australian history is more likely to be interesting to Australian students than the  history of places they have never seen so world history should be introduced via Australian history.  Early Australian history was certainly much influenced by British politics and events -- so  explaining what happened in Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries as an outcome of what happened in Britain at that time  is far more likely to leave a strong impression of British  history than study of British history as a standalone subject  would do. 

Similarly, a well-taught explanation of Australia's involvement in Vietnam would lead to some understanding of U.S. politics then and since  -- JR

Australian history is set to lose its sacrosanct place in the national curriculum and might only be taught as part of global history. Should we care? Not really.

THE decision by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority to remove Australian history as a stand-alone subject in the national curriculum for history makes sense. It is long overdue.

Predictably, the Victorian History Teachers Association is rushing to the barricades over the demise of Australian history. It is too little, too late. Gone are the glory days when Australian history was a heavyweight subject. Last year just 1170 students were enrolled, out of more than 45,000 students statewide.

Still, this is not quite as dire as Renaissance history, which, as a boutique subject with fewer than 300 students, has reached critical mass and is unsustainable as a study at VCE level. Australian history is going the same way. Should we care? Not really.

The reality is that Australian history has suffered from two significantly deleterious movements. The first is the teaching through ideology and the second is repetition. The fact is that Australian history has become highly politicised. For example, you can no longer say that colonists were not all bad in their treatment of Aborigines and the environment. Settlement is now replaced with invasion. Meanwhile, Ned Kelly is a hero. His murder of police is explained away.

Then there is the repetition. The First Fleet pretty well runs aground by year 4. Still it moved down the sliprails year after year. So too with gold. Sovereign Hill is kept viable by school excursions; some are repeat visits. And Gallipoli is the annual national identity fix.

While there are many other examples, it makes sense to study Australian history as a component of global history. It is illogical to study Australian history as some kind of historical excrescence that existed in isolation in the Southern Ocean. Australian history is umbilically linked to 19th-century British history specifically, but also to European and, to some extent, post-revolutionary American history. It is a no-brainer to view it otherwise. Yet this is exactly what has bled it dry.

The argument that is often touted about the sacrosanct place of Australian history is that it is somehow a conduit for understanding national identity. The argument runs that students need to know about their own past so they can have a sense of belonging. This is so flawed as to be offensive. This suggests that there is simply one history and one identity that is the ballast of who we are as Australians. Yet an identity that emerges from social Darwinism, suspicion of race and bellicose jingoism is not one to be proud of or to endorse.

But what has also contributed to the death of Australian history is the demise of the narrative approach to the past. There is no Australian story, it seems, just topics. Still, Simon Schama, consultant on the British national curriculum for history, notes, "narrative drive and force of events have brought readers back to history and liberated them from 'the past'."

Teachers are not exempt from the killing of history. This is largely through a lack of methodology and knowledge. Australian history has been taught by non-specialists for a generation. Non-specialists who are not historically inclined are a bad sell for the past.

Schools desperate to cover classes have all too often parachuted staff into the teaching of history. That and the dreaded studies of societies and environment. What SOSE did was declare that history was a subject without a distinctive methodology and corpus of knowledge. It was in effect gutted as a subject.

There is no reasonable and substantial persuasive argument to suggest Australian history should be anywhere than part of global history.

For Australian history to survive at all, it must take off its black armband and be put into an international context. Leaving aside the long prehistory of Australia, which surely is a candidate for ancient society historical analysis under the national curriculum rubric, Australian history is modern, global history.

How different these arguments were when I participated in the national curriculum debates on history at Ruskin College, Oxford. British history was seen as a given. It was to be taught as a stand-alone subject, but the problem was the content, not its place in the curriculum. It was not about identity but about teaching history to a multicultural society.

The fact is that Australian history has to now give an account of itself. Why should it be studied at all? There is not a case that convinces as to why it must be seen as the marquee or beacon mandated history in schools.

Australian history's survival in a very different form is global. In this, ACARA not only makes sense but has probably saved the subject as such.


Hoagy is back!  With straight-out, unproven Warmist propaganda

Danish Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was a great prophet of doom about the Great Barrier Reef until his own research showed the reef was in no danger.  He fell silent for a few years after that.  But we see below that he has now managed  the usual Greenie trick of ignoring the facts and is back at his old stall

For the record, the ocean is  very alkaline. There would have to  be huge changes for it to become acidic. And the claim that warming would cause acidity goes against Henry's law, anyway. A warmer ocean would outgas CO2 and hence reduce the incidence of carbonic acid.   The laboratory studies reported below therefore have no real-world significance

NEMO the clown fish, high on "acid", heads from the safety of home with no fear and no sense of smell, straight into the jaws of a predator.

No, it's not a dark sequel to the Pixar animated movie hit, but a reality facing one of the Great Barrier Reef's signature species clown fish.

The International Coral Reef symposium in Cairns yesterday heard disturbing new evidence that burning fossil fuels was not only pushing up global temperatures, but also ocean acidity that in turn could send the brains of some fish species haywire.

"It shows the next Hollywood release will not be so pretty," University of Queensland's Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said. "Nemo does not get so lucky next time."

About 2500 of the world's top reef scientists yesterday shared the latest research into coral growth and fish behaviour under climate change.

Townsville-based James Cook University researcher Phillip Munday and his team found clown fish, made famous in the movie Finding Nemo, as well as damsel fish and open-water predators like tuna and spanish mackerel, suffered adverse effects under high acidity.

They said laboratory studies showed increased acid levels affected the main neuro-transmitters in fish brains, causing a malfunction in the sense of smell, hearing and perception of risk, and an increased tendency to stray from safe reef areas.

"We're not talking about extinction (if acidity continues to rise) but changes in abundance," Mr Munday said.

Other dire predictions yesterday included a warning that bleaching could leave many reefs a white "stumpy" mass dominated by only a few coral species covered in a "brown scuzz" or "green, slimy sludge".

"Within 20 years, some coral species will have been nailed into the coffin," Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said. "It sounds like alarmism, but that is what the biology tells us."


Toxic health dumping scandal in NSW

The dreaded Mr  Achterstraat is back in action!  The incorruptible and outspoken Dutchman has been a regular source of embarrassment to NSW governments

The dangerous disposal of hazardous substances including liquid uranium and contaminated objects, the dumping of the confidential records of patients and the mishandling of asbestos have exposed a culture of mismanagement in Sydney hospitals.

A former NSW health contractor turned whistleblower is alleging that a lack of proper procedures and controls has led to breaches of state regulations at Royal North Shore Hospital, and serious compliance issues in several other hospitals.

Phil Clare, whose company In The Shed Asset Management was contracted with local health area services to manage surplus assets, said he has tried for years to expose the practices in some hospitals.

He filed a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman's office earlier this year about the mishandling of asbestos at Royal North Shore and now demolished buildings at Manly Hospital.

He claims that alerting the authorities to the information, as well as details of corrupt asset stripping of Health Department property, led to all his contracts with the department being cancelled. He is in dispute with NSW Health about the payment of outstanding bills.

"The management issues I uncovered are pandemic and they are continuing today," Mr Clare said.

"I saw numerous cases of improperly managed assets, equipment, records and asbestos as well as the theft of public property and corrupt conduct, but I eventually ran up against politics and favouritism."

Mr Clare has alleged that during his five-year contract between 2006 and October 2010, his workers discovered a raft of problems, including:

* Radioactive materials and liquid uranium that had been abandoned in a former research laboratory. Mr Clare said two workers were told by senior hospital staff to wash it down the sink;

* Private patient records dumped in non-secure areas of Royal North Shore Hospital;

* Hazardous chemicals, human tissue samples and contaminated sharps scattered around;

* Piles of asbestos next to a rusted airconditioning unit on the 12th floor at Royal North Shore Hospital;

* Asbestos contamination problems at the former Callan Park mental hospital in Rozelle.

NSW Health has rebutted Mr Clare's claims as old and unsubstantiated. A spokesman for Royal North Shore Hospital, where many of the incidents are alleged to have occurred, said Mr Clare never reported the allegations.

However, The Sun-Herald has obtained a dossier of photographs and reports Mr Clare said he provided to health officials documenting the incidents as each hospital project was undertaken.

The Sun-Herald has also obtained an internal review dated 2008, prepared for the former Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service (now Northern Sydney Local Health District), which takes in Royal North Shore Hospital, advising there were serious problems with the storage of patient medical records, constituting a breach of state record laws.

The document, Archiving - Preliminary Report, warned that "in some departments patient records are held in insecure storage" and "certain areas where records are stored on hospital or health centre sites are unsuitable for the purpose - the ramifications of this could be serious".

It also advised that there is "no standard records management process across the area" and "archiving methods and procedures … do not meet state records legislation requirements".

A spokeswoman for Royal North Shore Hospital said that Health Information Services, a department within Northern Sydney Local Health District, kept records centrally and complied with the act. She also said it had begun implementing an electronic medical record system.

The allegations of mismanagement follow warnings by the NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, that asset and contract management in NSW Health needed to be vastly improved.

Mr Achterstraat, who conducted a review released in December, criticised NSW Health's lack of central systems to keep track of contract work and revealed that there was no long-term asset management plan in place for medical equipment.

Mr Clare has compiled a series of reports that outline the problems he found when he first took on the contract to manage surplus assets for NSW Health's area health services in 2006.

In an initial pilot program, Mr Clare's company identified millions of dollars of surplus assets and equipment across seven hospital or health area sites. A brief document prepared in response by the NSW Health procurement department, and obtained by The Sun-Herald, approved Mr Clare's plan, which advised NSW Health could save up to $30 million.

The document also warned it was "imperative that the pilot proceed to the final asset redeployment/realisation stage to prove the concept … as well as avoid embarrassment should the extent of the problem be exposed".

In one of its first reports to officials about its work, Mr Clare's company warned about "significant asset management issues" and critical issues involving dangerous and inefficient storage practices of hazardous substances, missing equipment, regulatory and occupational health and safety non-compliance.

In later reports, Mr Clare warned about the discovery of asbestos fibres in 2008 next to a rusted airconditioning unit on the 12th floor of Royal North Shore Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said that as the airconditioning unit had been "completely contained and not accessible by staff or patients, there was no risk of contamination" and WorkCover was not notified.

The general secretary of the NSW Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said he was very concerned about any incident where people might have been exposed to asbestos.

"Any suggestion that this has been happening needs to be fully investigated," Mr Holmes said. "We would be calling for WorkCover or the Dust Diseases Tribunal to make sure if there has been a problem in the past, it has been fixed and equally that there is a notification system."


Adelaide study finds junk food products making confusing nutrition claims

The underlying assumptions in the article below  are largely conventional superstition.  The best double blind studies, for instance, show that a low fat diet has NO EFFECT on  health.  And reducing salt can be positively harmful

CHILDREN are being conned by food companies who are making fatty and sugary foods appear to be healthy, an Adelaide study suggests.

Some of Australia's most popular brands, including Kellogg's and Nestle, have been accused of making food that appeals to children look healthier than it actually is, the Flinders University study shows.

Researchers, led by lecturer Kaye Mehte, found 157 products on a major supermarket chain's shelves with packaging designed to appeal to children through the use of cartoons, competitions and give-aways.

More than three-quarters of these products were deemed to be unhealthy, because they are high in fat and sugar.

However, more than half of them had prominent nutrition claims on the packaging, boasting that the product is, for example, "99% fat free", "high in calcium" or has "no artificial colours", they found.

"This has the potential to mislead and confuse children as well as parents who would be more inclined to purchase products carrying claims about health and nutrition", Dr Mehte said.

Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition said that "using these techniques to attract children to unhealthy food at a time when childhood obesity is at record levels is simply unethical".

A Nestle spokeswoman denied the company misled children or made unhealthy food appear to be healthy. A Kellogg's spokesman said products had daily intake guidelines which show the amount of sugar, salt, fat, sodium and kilojoules per serving on the front of the packs.


Australian  Mosque in strife with other Muslims after encouraging polygamy

VICTORIA'S largest mosque has been forced into an embarrassing back-down after women were told they must "fulfil the rights" of their husbands and share him with other women.

In a move that has outraged local Muslim women, at least one Preston Mosque committee member authorised a post on its official Facebook page instructing women that polygamy was a better alternative to divorce and husbands were "someone you share".

"It is very important for a wife to fulfil the rights of her husband. Why? Because Allah commanded her to, after marriage Jannah is through her husband, and also the husband is your partner. A partner is someone you share with not someone who does things for you," said the post.

"If a man is saying to his wife I will marry another woman, this is far better than saying you are divorced every time he is upset.

"Now where is the problem. If a man divorces his wife three times he has destroyed his family. They can no longer return to each other. Islam only allows two divorces and returns.

"So if your husband is telling you that he wants to take another wife and you are not doing the right thing by him, then know that he is thinking straight and using a weapon that doesn't have severe consequences."

The advice was pulled down after complaints and the Facebook post has been condemned by community leaders .

"We are deeply concerned by the advice provided by Preston Mosque; it reflects a poor understanding of marital discord in Muslim families," said Joumanah El Matrah, executive director of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights.

"Research from the Islamic world unequivocally demonstrates that polygamy contributes to marital discord, it does not resolve it.

"We are further concerned that the mosque is encouraging of polygamous marriages when they have no legal standing in this country - as this is a key requirement of Islam. Muslim marriage is a partnership, it is not a woman serving a man."

A spokesman for Preston Mosque refused to comment, but the secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Sherene Hassan, also condemned the post.

"The comments on the Facebook post are inappropriate and unacceptable," Ms Hassan said. "The fact that the post was removed . . . very shortly after it was posted is encouraging.

"However, this incident further substantiates the community's calls for greater conversations about these issues."


10 July, 2012

Labor Party powerbroker says Greens 'bordering on loony'

KEY Labor powerbroker Sam Dastyari has attacked the Greens for accusing the ALP of having no values, saying the party is "bordering on loony".

The Labor powerbroker last weekend called for his party to no longer automatically favour the Greens in any future preference negotiations.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young responded by saying Labor would be a sell-out if it handed the coalition control of the Senate.

Speaking today, Mr Dastyari repeated claims the Greens were operating in their own self-interest.

"These people aren't our friends, they don't share our ideology, they don't share our values, they don't share our history," he told Macquarie Radio.

"I think for too long the Labor party, particularly in NSW, has really been giving the Greens a free ride. A lot of the Green agenda isn't in the interest of Labor voters."

Mr Dastyari, whose branch holds its conference in Sydney this weekend, said the Liberals, Nationals and Labor should no longer remain silent about the Greens' agenda.

"Sarah Hanson-Young ... started jumping up and down on radio saying 'oh there's no values, they show there's no values'.

"These are the type of people that if you don't have their values, if you don't agree with them, you're automatically discounted in the Australian political debate," he said.

"The biggest problem with the Greens isn't their aspirational policy agenda which is, you know, bordering on loony in half a dozen different areas, it's this refusal to compromise....

"You're not dealing with a bunch of kind of harmless hippies from the seventies anymore, these are a cold-hearted ... political party."


Sydney's Greenie mayor vetoed over traffic

LORD Mayor Clover Moore's utopian dream of a car-free CBD, exorbitant on-street parking and an extensive bike path network has been dealt a crushing blow.

Transport for NSW boss Les Wielinga, now also chairman of Sydney's traffic and transport committee, has effectively run a line through several controversial ideas from Ms Moore, in a bid to bring "some sort of sensible planning" to the city.

Top of his list is Ms Moore's divisive bike paths.

Under Mr Wielinga's new powers - which require the City of Sydney to defer all decisions on CBD roads to his committee for approval - the council must now prove each new bike lane contributes to the economic development of the state and improves movement for the majority of people.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Weilinga also ruled out the city's intention to make on-street parking as expensive as commercial carparks.

"We will always have a situation where cars need to get into a fair proportion of the CBD," Mr Wielinga said.

"At the moment 16 per cent of people choose to come into the CBD by road.

"For many people, the only viable option for getting to and from work is by road. I don't think anybody can dispute that the operation of the CBD is affected more broadly than just by the CBD."

He said existing bike lanes won't be ripped up but future lanes considered on their merits and their impact on "the future economic welfare of the state".

The traffic and transport committee was engineered by Premier Barry O'Farrell, who also introduced laws banning mayors from sitting as members of parliament - effectively terminating Ms Moore's dual role as Lord Mayor and Sydney MP.

"The Sydney CBD is too important to be held hostage to the political constituency of Clover Moore," Mr O'Farrell said.

"It's very clear Clover Moore's pitch for re-election is built around more bike lanes and making the CBD as unfriendly to cars as possible."

Mr Wielinga said congestion on York St was foremost in his mind and suggested running buses down Bridge St or the Cahill Expressway.

Ms Moore has accused the Premier of playing politics and merely adding another layer of bureaucracy. In a mayoral minute about the committee, said she hoped the committee would "rise above politics, headlines and shock jocks".

For Mr Wielinga, there is only one clear goal.

"I would like to see an increase in community satisfaction with how the CBD operates," he said.


Mosque proposal in ACT unpopular

ACT planners have been told that women in burqas will scare children in Gungahlin if Canberra's Muslim community proceeds with plans to build a mosque in the area.

The ACT Planning and Land Authority has received more than 50 submissions in response to the proposed development on The Valley Avenue.

It follows a campaign by a group called the "Concerned Citizens of Canberra" that urged residents to object to the development because of its "social impact" and concerns about traffic and noise.

The Canberra Times revealed on Saturday that the group's spokesman, Irwin Ross, is a Christian fundamentalist activist who describes himself as a pastor with Olive Tree Ministries.

More than 30 submissions lodged with ACTPLA object to the development on grounds including traffic, parking, design, lack of consultation and, according to one anonymous submission, claims the mosque is not "compatible with Australian values and Australian law".

But a further 20 Canberra residents wrote to the government in support of the development, some complaining about the anonymous anti-mosque flyers that were delivered to their homes.

One objection to the mosque asks the ACT government if it can "assure the citizens of Gungahlin that this centre will not be taken over by extremists, bent on bringing chaos to our immediate community".

Another claims the sight of women wearing burqas will be "perturbing" for children in the area.

One Gungahlin resident complains Muslims have to: "obey the Koran and therefore Sharia law. This means that Sharia law will always come first and Australian law second".

"I am particularly worried about the women and girls," the resident's letter states.

"In the DA [development application] several rooms are allocated for weekend classes - which means that all the girls from early age on will have Koran lessons and therefore will have no real chance to get integrated in Australian society."

A number of objections use template letters supplied by the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, while several others complain the mosque will create too much traffic congestion.

However, 20 letters urge the ACT government to approve the development, with one submission stating it will "complement the two existing churches". "As a resident of Gungahlin town centre I would be materially affected by this development," the submission states.

"As such I strongly support this development.

"It is appropriate to the town centre, an appropriate design and the road network is designed to handle the surges in traffic."

Another resident complains about the flyer they received from the Concerned Citizens of Canberra and says the group's objections to the mosque are "flimsy at best and outright bigoted at worst".

"Though I am not a religious person I feel that someone should be just as free to build a mosque as a church and having it near Gungahlin town centre seems as good a location as any in the area," the submission states.

A spokeswoman for the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said additional submissions were still arriving by post and were being accepted, provided the letter was stamped before the deadline for comment.

Meanwhile, the Australian Motorists Party candidate for Ginninderra Chic Henry said he believed the development would create traffic congestion.


A pedophile  priest with friends in high places?

The NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, is under fire for letting a senior staff member with links to Father Finian Egan block the release of government documents relating to the alleged paedophile priest.

Damien Tudehope, Mr Smith's chief of staff, refused access to the documents despite once having worked as Father Egan's solicitor. The priest was arrested in May and charged with multiple sex offences against boys and girls stretching back decades.

Mr Tudehope's brother Anthony Tudehope, a barrister, attended the police station with the Catholic priest when he was charged.

Mr Smith used to attend Father Egan's church in Carlingford and thanked him in his inaugural speech to Parliament for his "Irish wit and pastoral devotion to his flock".

Despite the web of links, it was Damien Tudehope who ruled that an application lodged by the NSW opposition under the Government Information (Public Access) Act was out of bounds. In his response, dated June 14, Mr Tudehope told Labor MP Adam Searle that documents relating to Father Egan existed, but would not be released.

The documents come under the categories of "formal and informal briefing notes concerning Father Finian Egan delivered to or held by the Attorney-General" and "reports from the Director of Public Prosecutions" in relation to Father Egan.

Mr Tudehope said there was an "overriding public interest against disclosure", saying it would result in the release of material "provided to the minister in confidence".

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, called on the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, to take decisions on freedom-of-information requests out of the hands of people who know the accused priest. "Why on earth would the Attorney-General think it was appropriate for Damien Tudehope to make this decision?" he said. "The Premier should step in and review this decision immediately."

Mr O'Farrell's office declined to comment directly but said there was a "range of mechanisms of appeal" for declined requests.

A spokesman for Mr Smith said: "The chief of staff acted on the advice of the Crown Solicitor."

The question of Mr Smith's support for his former priest was raised earlier in the year when reports emerged he had dismissed the claims of one alleged victim as being motivated by "getting $1 million out of the church". Mr Smith has said that he does not recall making the remark.

Father Egan is on bail and has not entered a plea to the charges.


Public hospital doctors kill seriously ill boy by neglect

A MOTHER has told a coronial inquest how she knew something was "terribly wrong" with her disabled son when he became ill and was subsequently refused a potentially life-saving brain scan at two major Perth hospitals and died days later.

Vaughn Rasmussen, 15, died in the early hours of November 17, 2009 after undergoing brain surgery following days of vomiting and constant pain.

The teenager had developed fluid on his brain because a shunt fitted inside his head when he was a baby malfunctioned, causing the intellectually disabled teenager to vomit and suffer immense pain.

A coronial inquest is examining the circumstances leading up to the teenager’s death because his parents Donna and Richard claim doctors at both Fremantle and Princess Margaret Hospitals refused their requests that a CT scan be performed on their son when they took him to both hospitals several times before he died.

Today the inquest was told that when the teenager’s condition rapidly deteriorated he was taken to Fremantle Hospital on November 15 at which stage “his parents began to panic.”

He was given morphine but went into respiratory arrest and later underwent surgery at PMH where it was discovered the shunt in his head was indeed blocked and had malfunctioned.

His life support machine was switched off shortly after his surgery because his brain had been severely damaged at that stage and was not receiving any blood flow, the inquest heard.

In his opening address to the inquest today counsel assisting the coroner Sergeant Lyle Housiaux said Vaughn lived a fulfilling life despite his disability.

Sgt Housiaux said the inquest would examine a number of things including whether the treatment Vaughn received at both hospitals was adequate, if hospital guidelines with regards to treating patients with shunts was followed and whether a neurologist could have seen the teenager earlier.

The inquest heard that when Vaughn’s parents first took him to Fremantle Hospital on November 12 due to his vomiting and pain, a doctor told them that the shunt in his head was unlikely to be the problem and that he probably had a gastro bug.

Mrs Rasmussen, was the first witness to give evidence this morning.  As she read a prepared statement to the court her voice broke and she paused numerous times to compose herself.

“He was a strong boy,” Mrs Rasmussen said.  “When Vaughn became ill on the 12th of November 2009, my husband and I knew there was something terribly wrong.”

Mrs Rasmussen said that shortly before her son became unwell she had taken him to a chiropractor twice because he had developed a hunch in his back.  She said the chiropractor was patient and understanding of her son’s condition and that she was always present when the appointments were carried out.

However she said she soon began to see a change in her son’s behaviour and his facial structure.  “He was irrational and he was sleeping more,” she said.  “There was just something about his face structure…you learn to read your children.”

The inquest before coroner Dominic Mulligan is expected to finish on Friday.


9 July, 2012

E-health bungledom

Just for fun, I decided to enrol myself in the new, sparkling, all-singing, all-dancing  e-health record system just introduced by the Gillard government.

As you might expect from government, it was a lengthy process with lots of time-consuming questions to answer.

One surprise was the number of "secret" questions you had to nominate in order to verify your identity.  Most sites require only two questions.  This mob wanted five!  I rather ran out of ideas after a while and ended up nominating my dead dog's name for one of them.  I wept when he died  -- as people do.

But in the end it was all for naught. I got to the stage where I had to enter the surname of the last medical specialist I had visited.  I entered it and, Hey Presto!  Up came the following message:

We have encountered an unrecognised fault and can't continue with your request. For security purposes, the process has been cancelled

Where do I go from there?  They didn't say.  With a start like that,  who would ever rely on them for anything?  My advice:  Don't!

A brief thought on economics

Ronald Reagan and Bob Hawke both had degrees  in economics and both introduced intelligent reforms that were immensely beneficial to their respective countries.

Gough Whitlam probably ran the most shambolic government Australia has ever seen and he admits to this day that he does not understand economics.  Julia Gillard is a lawyer and Kevin Rudd has a degree in Chinese.

Tony Abbott has a degree in economics.  Australia has a bright future.

Corruption in the choosing of an Australian Olympic team

Choosing lesser performers on the basis of their family connections is not the way to win, one would think.  Australia was  once a land of great horsemen.  Do we not even aspire to win equestrian events these days?

"YOU have to love keeping it in the family!" pronounced Lyndal Oatley when she heard her cousin Kristy was joining her on the Australian Olympic equestrian team to compete in London. But, in the world of dressage, the love didn't spread far at all.

Instead, the selection of the two Oatleys - granddaughters of the billionaire Bob Oatley, a sponsor of grand prix events in the sport in Australia - has exposed bitter tensions at the perceived influence of wealth and patronage in the sport.

Kristy Oatley gained her spot at the expense of Hayley Beresford under a discretionary selection process. Yet, only two weeks ago, Beresford was ranked 111th in the world, well ahead of Oatley's ranking of 283, as judged by the Federation Equestre Internationale. Both women represented Australia in Beijing.

Then, last Thursday Beresford confirmed form, too, was on her side, beating Kristy Oatley in Aachen in Germany - only hours before the Court of Arbitration in Sport, sitting in Sydney, closed the final legal door to her Olympic dream. She finished the event in tears.  "I am deeply devastated and at this moment cannot find the words to explain the selection process," she said on Facebook.

Beresford last night told the Herald Lyndal was clearly the best rider but that selectors were biased towards Kristy.

Other riders are speaking out, claiming the selection process was altered to favour Kristy Oatley, who was added to the shadow Olympic team after it had been finalised despite not having competed for nearly two years. Another change allowed riders to use a second horse in London.

The top-ranked Australian dressage rider Heath Ryan, who did not seek Olympic selection for London to allow his wife Rozzie to participate, said he found the changes "very disturbing".

"I am very concerned the changes were made by power and money to favour the wealthiest individuals. You cannot change Olympic [selection] criteria like that," he said.

"There are people out there who have dreams of riding for their country but if this is the way Equestrian Australia is going to conduct itself then really it is only [a sport] for the rich."

A grand prix judge, Berni Saunders, said the sporting community was shocked by the decision. "Everybody is absolutely horrified," she said. "It would be like Cathy Freeman having two years off running and then deciding a few months before the Olympics 'I'd like to have a go'."


Government contractor loses data on thousands of people

How British!  It rather shows what government promises of security for your personal information are worth, doesn't it?  Losses like this have happened time and again in Britain

And note that this galoot was a specialist in data SECURITY!

A federal government contractor that was paid more than $1 million to deliver e-security alert services to Australians has lost 8000 subscribers' personal information in the postal system.

AusCERT, which was paid $1,199,484.52 by the federal government to run between July 18 2008 and June 30 2011* lost subscribers' data after using Australia Post to send it to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) on April 11 when its contract to run the alerts service expired.

In an email to the site's 8000 subscribers sent at about 6pm on Friday, the "Stay Smart Online Team" said information that had "gone missing" on the DVD included subscribers' user names, email addresses, memorable phrases and passwords. It said passwords were "unreadable" (stored as a cryptographic hash).

The DBCDE claimed it had "no reason to believe" that subscribers' information had "been found and misused by any third party" and therefore did not believe that there was "a privacy risk".

But it did not provide any evidence to support this claim, and suggested subscribers "consider" whether they should change their "user name, memorable phrase and/or password for other websites or services".

The DBCDE said in a statement that AusCERT was responsible for the security of the subscriber data.

Neither the DBCDE or AusCERT has said whether registered post was used to deliver the data via Australia Post's "express post service" or why the data was not sent electronically. AusCERT refused to comment, saying media enquiries were being handled by the DBCDE.

Australia Post said the disc containing subscriber's personal information sent by AusCERT to the DBCDE was not posted using registered post, which it recommended using for sending sensitive information.

Geordie Guy, an "online rights and digital policy geek" who has previously worked for Electronic Frontiers Australia, joked in a blog post that he had to check his calendar to see if it was April 1 (April Fools' day).

"This isn't likely to be the last data leak this year, it's unlikely to be the biggest, but it's above and beyond the most embarrassing for a government department with a long history of poor practice (despite its preaching), and I think I speak for a lot of the online rights community when I say it'll be a long time before we get another [thing] this funny."


Scientists call for action to "save" reefs

There have been headlines in Australia like the one above for at least 50 years.  Like all natural phenomena, nothing stays the same over time on the reef and there have always been attention-seekers trying to create panic over the changes they observe

Thousands of scientists have signed a statement calling for immediate action on climate change to save the world's remaining coral reefs.  ["Remaining"?  The Great Barrier reef is the biggest reef in the world and is as extensive and as diverse as ever.  This call is plain dishonest]

MORE than 2500 marine researchers signed the consensus statement from the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, which calls for global action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The statement calls for action to prevent rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification  [There is no acidification.  There is a possible reduction in  alkalinity but that is a long way from acidification], overfishing [Fishing is now banned in most of the reef area] and pollution from the land  [Unproven theory].

"The international Coral Reef Science Community calls on all governments to ensure the future of coral reefs, through global action to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and via improved local protection of coral reefs," the statement says.

Professor Terry Hughes, convener of the symposium and director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said Australia's Great Barrier Reef was a prime example of a reef in need of protection.

"Unfortunately in Queensland, the rush to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as quickly as possible ... has pushed environmental concerns far into the background," he said.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently released a report that was highly critical of Australia's management of the Great Barrier Reef.

It said the reef could be listed as a World Heritage site in danger unless high-risk coastal developments including new ports in Queensland are shelved.


8 July, 2012

Blatant Leftist bias in national curriculum could damage our democracy

The draft shape of the national curriculum's "civics and citizenship" subject was released last month. It is blatantly ideological. It displays its progressive, left-of-centre politics like a billboard.

The national curriculum was announced by Julia Gillard in 2008 and is forecast to be implemented in Victoria and NSW sometime after next year. The curriculum authority is rolling out one subject at a time.

But from the start, the curriculum's politics were obvious. In its own words, it will create "a more ecologically and socially just world". The phrase "ecological justice" is rarely seen outside environment protests. Social justice is a more mainstream concept, but it's solidly of the left - it usually refers to "fixing" inequality by redistributing wealth.

Civics is a small subject in the curriculum, but a crucial one. The national curriculum wants to sculpt future citizens out of today's students. So the emphasis civics places on certain political ideas will echo through Australian life for decades. And when a group of academics tries to summarise the essential values of our liberal democracy, we should pay attention. After all, they hope to drill them into every child.

So what are our nation's values? According to the civics draft, they are "democracy, active citizenship, the rule of law, social justice and equality, respect for diversity, difference and lawful dissent, respect for human rights, stewardship of the environment, support for the common good, and acceptance of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship".

It's quite a list. Some of the values, such as democracy and the rule of law, we all should agree on. But most are skewed sharply to the left.

Where, for instance, is individual liberty? The curriculum describes Australia as a liberal democracy but doesn't seem comfortable with what that means: a limited government protecting the freedom for individuals to pursue their own lives.

Conservatives should be troubled "tradition" is absent. Our institutions are the inheritance of centuries of experiment and conflict. To respect tradition is to value those institutions. Yet tradition only pops up when the draft talks about multiculturalism. It's part of "intercultural understanding". In other words, we are merely to tolerate the traditions of others, not value our own.

And liberals should be appalled at the emphasis on "civic duty". The curriculum could have said that individuals and families living their own lives in their own way is virtuous in itself. After all, people who do things for others in a market economy contribute to society as much as the most passionate political activist.

But instead the civics subject will pound into children that they should work for international non-profit groups to pursue "the common good".

This may be uncontroversial to the left but it is political dynamite. Liberals are sceptical of the common good because throughout history it has been used to justify nationalism, oppression, militarism, intolerance and privilege. It's one of the reasons liberals support small government. But the common good has been tossed absent-mindedly into the civics draft, alongside that other vague and loaded concept, social justice.

It gets worse. The suggestion we have a duty to be "stewards" of the environment comes straight from green political philosophy. It reduces humans to mere trustees of nature. This directly conflicts with the liberal belief that the Earth's bounty can be used for the benefit of humanity.

Politics drenches the entire curriculum. Three "cross-curriculum priorities" infuse everything from history to maths. They are: sustainability, engagement with Asia, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Perhaps on first glance the priorities don't seem too political. But the history curriculum will offer perspectives on "the overuse of natural resources" and "the global energy crisis". The English curriculum will teach students how to "advocate … actions for sustainable futures". The ideology here is so flagrant teachers might as well just tell the kids who to vote for.

And imagine the priorities were, instead, material progress, the Australia-US alliance, and British culture. Progressives would line up to condemn the curriculum's reactionary politics. Remember the outrage over conservative bias in John Howard's citizenship test? And that was just for migrants. The curriculum is for every Australian child.

The irony is that this iteration of the national curriculum wasn't Labor's idea. The Howard government set the ball rolling. The Coalition was unhappy how terribly left-wing state curriculums were.

So people who are pleased with the curriculum as it stands should think how it could be when an Abbott government takes over. We may hear again the same dark warnings about ideologues taking over the education system that we heard during the Howard years.

In theory, teaching all students the virtues of liberal democracy is a good idea. But if educationalists can't do so without imposing their own political values, we may be no better off than where we started.


High cost and nil effect: that's Australia's  carbon tax

ONE of the main reasons the Gillard government is so unsuccessful in selling its carbon tax is that its overall narrative is so utterly dishonest.

Here is the key example. The government and its countless, mostly paid, carbon tax spruikers would have you believe that the Australian carbon tax is in line with most international practice.

Here is a sharp reality check. Nowhere in the world, in any significant jurisdiction, is any carbon tax or market-based mechanism having a significant economic or environmental impact.

There is a thick cloud of fantastic obfuscation and misleading falderol all around this issue.

So I asked Warwick McKibbin of the Australian National University, formerly a board member of the Reserve Bank, and the Australian economist who has done the most serious academic work on carbon markets and the like, about it.

I don't want to verbal McKibbin and attribute to him views he doesn't hold. He supports a very specific type of carbon market mechanism, completely unlike the one the government is introducing.

However, on the matter of simple fact, I asked McKibbin whether any market-based system anywhere has produced any significant greenhouse gas abatement.

His reply: "Right now, no. The only evidence is in the models."

That's a very telling statement. No market mechanism has had any success in greenhouse gas abatement. The only evidence that it might have some success is in the modelling the various schemes' designers have contrived in their heads and on their computers.

McKibbin continues: "There is no evidence of substantial reductions in emissions through a market-based mechanism, nor any other mechanism really, except building nuclear power stations."

I put the same question to Nicholas Linacre, who now runs a consultancy in Washington. He was director of carbon markets in the Climate Change Department in Canberra until Kevin Rudd abandoned the proposed emissions trading scheme. He left the public service and went to Washington where last year he wrote the World Bank's official State and Trends of the Carbon Market 2011 report.

He told me he agrees with McKibbin's assessment: no existing market mechanism is having much effect anywhere.

But what about the European carbon market that the government makes so much of?

Says McKibbin: "The recession in Europe has brought down emissions much more than any carbon price the Europeans have implemented."

The US has no national carbon price, but what about the couple of US state-based schemes?

McKibbin again: "The recession in the US has brought down emissions much more than the state-based systems. People I speak to in the US are very pessimistic about their current schemes ever having an effect."

There are two main US state-based schemes. The western scheme is based on California but it doesn't start until next year and is very unlikely to have any substantial effect. The other, in the northeast, has such a high cap and such a low price that it has negligible economic, or greenhouse gas, consequence.

Yet the government talks of these schemes as though they have been up and running for years, turning whole economies away from carbon. That's a giant, giant con. It just ain't remotely so.

The truth is, as the Productivity Commission concluded, no economy anywhere in the world is doing anything like the Australian carbon tax with a price of $23 a tonne.

Says Linacre: "No one's doing anything comparable (to the Australian tax). Australia is setting the highest price.

"Carbon prices across the globe are relatively low, so many Australian companies are keen to buy (carbon) credits internationally because in theory they'll get a lower price. This is why (Climate Change Minister Greg) Combet is trying to renegotiate the floor price with the Greens."

The Gillard government's carbon tax is designed not to lower Australia's greenhouse gas emissions but to make them increase more slowly, and we are to buy our carbon reductions on the international market.

This is the Green Development mechanism. However, Linacre does not believe such an international trading scheme will ever really work.

He says: "This mechanism of carbon credits may not survive because Europe is turning away from it. Most low-cost carbon credits are coming out of China, and Europe won't accept those any more. So will we be buying the credits Europe won't buy?"

I did not get to explore this issue with Linacre but Europe won't accept China's credits because everyone knows they are mostly shonky. There has been a certain amount of actual fraud. There has been a lot of spurious activity undertaken and then forgone wholly for the purpose of creating carbon credits. The whole thing is absolutely ropey. No intelligent person would waste two bob on it if politics didn't require it.

The Gillard government and its acolytes talk incessantly about the fact that a couple of Chinese provinces have talked about the possibility of trialling a market mechanism.

They treat this airy policy speculation as though China already had a carbon price and carbon market and was utterly committed to this.

Says McKibbin: "The Chinese prices they are talking about are tiny. What we have hit the economy with is a very high price."

Says Linacre: "In the case of China I find myself very sceptical. They say they are going to do something one day but they are arguing so strongly against the European aviation carbon trading scheme. They won't provide the information the Europeans need for their calculations. I don't believe the Chinese are going to do anything myself."

The New Zealanders have watered down their low-price scheme. The Canadians say they will never have one. The Japanese lost interest in a carbon market after Fukushima; and while the South Koreans have made a notional pledge to start a scheme in 2015, it is yet to be designed and is likely to be infinitely less consequential than ours.

In other words, we are imposing a cost on our economy unlike that imposed by any other government. You can probably find the occasional carbon price notionally greater than Australia's, but it is inevitably levied on such as small a segment of the economy, and paid by so few that its impact is not comparable.

No one in the developing world is going anywhere near this line of policy. Indonesia, a country I love, sometimes talks a good game on carbon. Many countries do this for political reasons. But only actions count. Indonesia continues to give huge fuel subsidies to its people. This is the opposite of a carbon tax. It is a carbon subsidy.

The Australian carbon tax is a species orphan, the Collins-class submarine of global environmental policy. It is environmentally inconsequential, economically costly, administratively nightmarish and unlike anything else in the world. Policy folly that it is, the Gillard government would still have a better chance of selling it if it occasionally told the truth about it.


Prayer rooms for Muslims are indicative of the coming changes to the Australian way of life

Stories in past months about the plans to place prayer rooms for Muslims inside Australia’s football venues provide yet another sign of the changes that are happening in our country. It has been reported that prayer rooms are to be compulsory at all AFL grounds.

These prayer rooms are being touted as “non-denominational”, but considering that it has been Muslims campaigning for them, to facilitate the Islamic practice of praying five times a day whilst facing in the direction of Mecca, there is little doubt that their primary purpose is for the use of Muslims.

Various changes are happening in our society. Change, in general, is inevitable, but that does not mean that all change is good. The rise of communism and fascism were changes, but they were not changes for good. Likewise, demographic genocide via massive Third World immigration, intrinsically linked to political multiculturalism and creeping Islamification, is not good either.

There are now separate facilities in some educational institutions for Muslims, there are swimming pools that have closed at certain times for Muslim women, there are foods with the Muslim “Halal tax” appearing in our supermarkets, there are butchers who have been on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour because displaying pork in their store windows has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, retailers who have been attacked because selling alcohol has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, the blind who have been refused taxi service because having a guide dog in the car has been regarded as offensive to Muslims, and the list goes on. Let’s not even mention the Muslims who celebrated the terrorist attacks upon the West (oops, we just did mention it) or the Muslims who have attacked free speech by dragging pastors into court (with the government’s connivance) for “vilifying Islam”.

Sure, it’s all been a misunderstanding, or there is a certain reason for it, or because it’s a special case. Or maybe it’s only because of a certain percentage of fundamentalist Muslims that these things happen; but these fundamentalist Muslims certainly seem to get around a fair bit, don’t they?

The presence of so many fundamentalist Muslims in Australia is a concern. Not because “they are all terrorists” (how often do you hear that very phrase coming from the multiculturalists, who like to treat ordinary Australians with contempt, as if the average Australian would think all Muslims are terrorists), but because they favour a culture that is not conducive to the well-being of the Australian way of life, and because many of them want to impose their beliefs upon us; at this stage, it is just in so many little ways, bit by bit.

Many Muslims, including fundamentalist Muslims, have fled Islamic countries, in part because of potential dangers from the extremist Muslims there; but fleeing from danger does not change the beliefs of fundamentalist Muslims, it merely changes their location. Once here, free from the stonings, beheadings, and killings, many seek a fundamentalist lifestyle; a lifestyle free from the Taliban-style extremists and the deaths they cause, but a fundamentalist lifestyle nonetheless. Many of the non-extremist Muslims want some changes in their favour too, and that assists the fundamentalists in their cause.

If our society is undergoing so many changes now, with the Muslim component of the population supposed to be less than 2%, what changes will be dealt out to us if and when the Muslim population reaches 10% or higher? How many of them will be fundamentalists, demanding that we change our way of life to suit them?

The calls of caution about the coming changes are like a bell tolling in the night, ringing out a warning – a warning of changes that are coming, of changes that won’t be good for the future of our people. The deathly sound of this bell tolling can be heard right across the landscape of our entire country. Fellow Australians, do not ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for thee.


Another example of how the Left spend YOUR money

IT'S the dunny drama that could wipe away whatever is left of the former Bligh government's credibility.  The Courier-Mail can reveal the ousted administration spent more than $1000 fixing the lid of a luxury loo installed in the office of former environment minister Vicky Darling.

While toilet seats sell for as little as $6 at Bunnings, Ms Darling's department splashed out nearly 170 times that amount to mend the Cabinet member's personal water closet.

So exclusive is the lavish lavatory fitted in the minister's office that only one supplier of its hydraulic soft-close seat could be located in Queensland.

The final bill of $1017 included three hours labour to fit the hi-tech seat, as well as the purchase of a spare just in case the replacement seat failed to pass the test.

It remains a mystery how the seat in the George Street office was broken to begin with.

However, reviews on the top-priced toilet from Swiss brand Laufen describe it as "well proportioned" and "with all the features that you have come to expect with great design".

Another says it "reflects the dynamic synthesis of rational, poetic forms" while the seat can be "simply removed with a flick of a wrist".

Internal department emails show even the public servants baulked at the bill, and wanted to put the skids on spending $1000 to fix the seat.

"Has the world gone mad?" one senior public servant wrote. "Are we really paying $1017 to replace a toilet seat?  "Is there some way of checking this?"

Another responded by insisting there was no other option.

"Apparently the toilet seat that is in the minister's office is quite unique as there is only one supplier in Brisbane that can supply it," the bureaucrat wrote.

"Somehow the seat was broken and they had to contact the supplier to get another seat and found there is only the one supplier and it took some time to replace."

It is not the first time a politician's powder room has entered public debate.

The Beattie government was accused of outrageous extravagance after it was revealed it spent $93 on a toilet roll holder and $255 on a waste bin during the $600,000 upgrade of a minister's office.

A spokesman for Premier Campbell Newman said paying that amount to fix a toilet seat showed blatant disregard for taxpayers' money.

"We're not surprised to learn Labor would splash out for a minister's private toilet - another example of the former Government's ridiculous spending," Mr Newman said.


Abbott plays down crash first-aid efforts

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has played down his first-aid skills after going to the aid of a woman whose motor scooter crashed into his car in Brisbane on Friday night.

MR Abbott lent a hand after the 45-year-old woman broke her leg in the collision, which happened about 7pm at the intersection of Adelaide and Wharf Streets in the city as the opposition leader was being driven to a private function.

Mr Abbott was in the back seat of the car when the scooter hit the car's passenger door.

He said he did not see the accident coming.

"I was back seat of the car with my head buried in some briefing papers," Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

"It was the sort of thing that regrettably happens."

Mr Abbott, who is qualified in first aid through his work with surf life saving and the Rural Fire Service in NSW, said a number of people had gone to the woman's aid.

He said he had helped make sure the woman was in the right position and comfortable while waiting for an ambulance.

"It was a marvellous example of how Australians help each other when times are tough," Mr Abbott said.

"I did what anyone would do in that context; I got out of the car and did what I could to help.

"The important thing is that the young woman on the scooter is going to be alright. She's now in the best possible hands."


7 July, 2012


6 July, 2012

New book: Educating your child: it’s not rocket science

 Kevin Donnelly is a  very experienced teacher and one of the voices of reason in Australian education.  He is a good antidote to Leftist fashions in that field.

I don't agree with him on all issues but if you want an alternative view to what your kid is probably getting at school, this book should be helpful.  Donnelly stresses that parents have a huge educative role too.  Some of his major recommendations:

*    Say ‘no’ to children and teach them respect and self-control

*   Always have dinner at the table and make sure TVs, computers, game boys, electronic readers and mobile phones are turned off (and no computers in the bedroom)

*   Surround children with myths, fables, legends, music, creative and practical arts

*   Let children take risks and give them the space to make mistakes

*   Give children a moral compass that will help them decide right from wrong

*    Respect teachers and support schools in educating your child

*   Understand that every child is different

*   Understand that you cannot live your child’s life

*   Realise that you are your child’s first teacher

*    Enjoy and love being a parent – there is nothing that will ever equal the experience

He gives his reasons for each of those ideas in his book.

You can get it here.  His website is here.

One area where I am less wary than Donnelly is in computer usage.  I allowed my son to play computer games to his heart's content.  But he is bright so always did well at school nonetheless and is now in Australia's premier university mathematics Dept. working on his Ph.D.  So a lot depends on the child.

No God or Queen for Guides

TONY Abbott has hinted that he wasn't in favour of the Girl Guides cutting ties with the Queen and God.

The Opposition leader said his daughters and wife were all involved in Girl Guides, which he considers to be a fine organisation.

“Speaking for myself, I don't mind pledging to both God and the Queen. They are OK by me. I don't want to drop either of them,” Mr Abbott told the Nine Network today.

Debate on the issue was a hot topic on radio and TV this morning.

Promising to serve God and the Queen and pledging obedience as they have for more than half a century, has been ruled old-fashioned and out of step with modern Australian life by junior and senior Guides.

Australia's 28,000 Guides will instead vow to serve their community and country, and "live with courage and strength".

The change to the Guiding Promise and Guide Law begins in units across the country from today.

Girl Guides spokeswoman Belinda Allen said it was up to members to decide if Queen Elizabeth's photograph was removed from Guide Halls.

"They may decide they still like to have pictures of the Queen around but . . . we have to move on," Mrs Allen said.

About a million Australian women have been part of the Guiding Movement since it began in 1910.

The review of the wording has been under way for two years and involved a survey of all members. "(The Queen) is not part of the Australian Citizenship pledge and being responsible to one's community is one of the essences of Guiding," Mrs Allen said.

The Australian Scouting movement made pledging its duty to the Queen optional in 2001 but retained God in its Promise.

Twelve-year-old Girl Guide Rebecca said not all Guides followed the same religion.  "I think it's pretty cool, most people have different religions or views and this takes it into account," Rebecca said.

Guiding has already tried to modernise. Brownies and Rangers have been cut and uniforms swapped for informal clothes.

But the famous three-fingered salute devised by Robert Baden-Powell remains.

The Queen has a long-standing relationship with the organisation. Her wedding cake was made from ingredients supplied by Australian Girl Guides.


Thug bouncers at Melbourne casino

A CROWN casino patron had died after an unnecessary and "extraordinary display of violence" by security staff, a magistrate said yesterday.

The aggression and arrogance of the casino's security staff was "quite breathtaking", magistrate Peter Reardon said.

Anthony Dunning, 40, died in hospital four days after an altercation with bouncers at the casino on July 3 last year.

He was with friends when he was allegedly held down on the gaming room floor for several minutes.

Security guard Matthew Lawson, 27, faces a manslaughter charge over Mr Dunning's death.

Fellow security guards Quoc Tran, Benjamin Vigo, 24, Cameron Sanderson, 40, Nicholas Levchenko, 26, and Jacques Fucile, 30, all face assault-related charges.

Mr Reardon said the bouncers had obviously been trying to preserve order, but their behaviour was "completely out of proportion".

Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard that after an intoxicated Mr Dunning was asked to leave the venue, his friend, Olivia Ferguson, slapped Mr Tran because she believed he had said something insulting.

It is alleged Mr Tran then threw Ms Ferguson to the floor and restrained her for more than 50 seconds.

Mr Reardon said this reaction was "out of all proportion to the situation".  "This led to a train of events that ultimately led to Mr Dunning's death," the magistrate said.

He said the "aggressive, arrogant attitude demonstrated by Casino security" was "quite breathtaking".  Mr Reardon said there was absolutely "no necessity" for the "extraordinary display of violence".

"It's hard to imagine where the bouncers at Crown casino, or anywhere else, think they're entitled to throw patrons to the ground for any reason," he said.

Mr Reardon said the job of security staff was to calm situations, not inflame them.  He said it was astonishing the guards had reacted as they had despite knowing they were filmed on CCTV.

Mr Reardon rejected a no-case submission by Mr Tran's lawyer, saying he believed there was enough evidence for the accused to stand trial.


Coalition targets welfare 'bludgers'

A COALITION government will "break the cycle of idleness and habits of apathy" that can develop among those on welfare, according to leaked speaking notes provided to opposition MPs.

"The Coalition will renew the commitment to mutual obligation" and allow people to "give back" in return for assistance, making welfare "a disincentive to those who just want to bludge", the 135-page "Coalition Speaker's Notes" say.

Opposition MPs have also been told to reassure constituents the Coalition believes there is "workplace relations fatigue" in the community, and its approach in government would be problem-solving and pragmatic, not ideological.

The notes propose this response when MPs are asked: "You are on the record attacking Labor's workplace laws. How can we trust you when you say that you now support the Fair Work Act?"

Covering all policy areas and dated July 1, the notes have been published on the Crikey website.

They suggest that MPs say the main industrial relations problems are with militancy, lack of flexibility and inadequate productivity trade-offs.

Among the lines on IR are that "we have well and truly absorbed the lessons of the Coalition's 2007 defeat, as well as the different lessons of the current government's failures.

"We will seek a mandate for any changes to the Fair Work Act at the 2013 election ... The Coalition will always work with the independent umpire, Fair Work Australia."

When asked "are we worried about increased wage outcomes, particularly in the building sector?", the suggested answer is: "The larger concern is that big wage rises seem to come with no trade-off for increased productivity."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been anxious to take a middle course on workplace relations to minimise Labor's scope for a fear campaign, despite a more gung-ho approach by some in his party.

MPs are being given heavy ammunition against the Greens.

The Greens "believe in legalising same-sex marriages ... in reintroduction of voluntary euthanasia laws  in the NT and ACT ... support holding a plebiscite for an Australian republic ... will legalise the use of cannabis for specified medical purposes".


5 July, 2012

Whistleblower who brought University of Queensland nepotism scandal to light made redundant

This stinks to high heaven.  Is the new administration just as corrupt  as  the old?

THE University of Queensland has made redundant the whistleblower who brought to light the nepotism scandal that cost the Vice-Chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy their jobs last year.

Phil Procopis, the institution's top misconduct and fraud investigator, left the university this week after 18 years' service.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that it was Mr Procopis who first brought the affair to the attention of senior officials including the Chancellor, John Story.  The newspaper understands that Mr Procopis went to the Chancellor in early September after stumbling across the irregular admission of a close relative of Mr Greenfield to the university's medical faculty while investigating an unrelated matter.

Mr Story then launched an investigation, the results of which have never been made public.

UQ confirmed Mr Procopis had had "an initial role in passing the complaint to the Chancellor" on September 9.  Mr Procopis declined to comment.

Friends and colleagues said he was a man of integrity who fiercely guarded his department's independence.  "He's a truth-speaker," one said.

Mr Procopis's redundancy and the disbanding of his department comes despite Mr Greenfield's replacement, Professor Deborah Terry, announcing on May 17 that Mr Procopis would have a central role in misconduct matters under a package of governance reforms.

Prof Terry told The Courier-Mail this week that, at the time of her May announcement, "the proposed reorganisation of ARMS had not been finalised".  She said the restructuring was the result of a "routine, cyclical" review initiated before the admissions scandal and had been done with the blessing of the CMC.

Mr Procopis's post is the only one to have been cut.  But, Prof Terry said, "it would be inaccurate and wrong" to link the role of Mr Procopis in unearthing the scandal to his redundancy.

"Our code of conduct encourages staff to report matters like this to the appropriate university or external authorities, and as a senior person responsible for assurance and risk management, it would have been a problem had he not communicated it," she said.

The CMC is due to table in Parliament a report into the UQ admissions scandal in the coming weeks.


Newman cuts again

2000 Queensland Rail workers facing the axe.  Queensland Rail has been a sheltered workshop for decades

MORE than 2000 staff face the chop at Queensland Rail, with the State Government planning a 30 per cent reduction in the workforce.

Those under pressure include a "bloated corporate office" which includes 12 senior executives who each earn an average of $377,500 a year.

The Courier-Mail also understands 500 jobs are set to go from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, which employs more than 4000 people.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads is also facing a reduction in staff.

The cuts follow the loss of thousands of workers whose contracts expired last week.

After confusion last Friday about the number of job losses, Premier Campbell Newman said yesterday "the union figure of 3000 was probably in the ballpark".

The Cabinet Budget Review Committee has discussed the need to "rip the guts" out of Queensland Rail and slash job numbers from 7200 to 5000.

Transport Minister Scott Emerson yesterday confirmed Queensland Rail was facing a major upheaval following a review of the Government-owned corporation's "bloated executive".

"There is $4.53 million being paid to 12 senior executives, each paid above the CEO level for Government departments," Mr Emerson said.

"Over the past two years, staffing has increased by 68 per cent in the communication, stakeholder and marketing area, 122 per cent increase in (the) finance area, and 66 per cent in strategy and corporate services.  "Labor oversaw a bloated corporate office that the Queensland taxpayer can no longer afford."

The news follows Translink staff being told 20 per cent of positions have to go from the agency which co-ordinates train, bus and ferry timetables and administers the go card.

The news was delivered on Tuesday, 100 days since the LNP took office.

About 400 people are employed by Translink, which has 353 full-time equivalent roles.

The number of job cuts being considered by the Government has shocked Queensland Rail staff who were issued with an order on Monday to "focus on efficiency and eliminate waste".

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Mr Newman's repeated claims about not knowing specific numbers of job losses were "completely false".  ""Can Mr Newman now guarantee no slackening of service and safety standards throughout our rail system?" Ms Palaszczuk said.


Industry fumes as refrigerant costs soar

Apparently caused by a combination of direct and indirect hits from the carbon tax

Farmers, retailers and other sectors of industry are concerned about a huge jump in the price of refrigerants.

The price rises - some as steep as 400 per cent - kicked in at the same time the carbon tax came into effect.

But the Federal Government has questioned the carbon tax's impact on refrigerant prices.

The scale of the refrigerant price increase has fishmongers and farmers fuming.

According to one industry price list, the cost of popular commercial refrigerant R404A jumped $285 per kilo, an increase of more than 300 per cent in just a fortnight.

But a carbon price calculator provided by the Department of Environment shows the increase from the carbon price on R404A should be $75.

John Brent, chairman of farmer lobby group AUSVEG, says he does not know why the price has increased by so much.

"One small recent example that we've had where the cost now is around $4,500 to re-gas, we are now looking at close to $20,000 for that same refrigerant to go into that same system should there be a problem," he said.

"Some of these things are very difficult to determine. But I don't know of any particular product in the market today where you have multiples of a price rise for any type of product at all.

"And obviously being the product it is, it's in everyday usage, in every industry across Australia."

"The purpose of the levy is to reduce emissions of fluorocarbon refrigerants," he said.  "Refrigerants have the same impact on global warming as carbon dioxide, they just have it at a very severe rate and level."

But Mr Edwards questioned the size of the increase in the cost of some refrigerants, and said the industry was struggling to understand the magnitude of the price hike.

"It seems an odd thing to do for the suppliers of refrigerants," he said.

Refrigerants Australia, the industry group which represents suppliers and users, says prices will increase by between 300 and 600 per cent.

On its website it says there are other costs, such as financing, insurance and compliance, which all contribute to the rise, which estimates will cost the industry $270 million.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet was unavailable for an interview.

However, a spokesman told AM that some price rises seem to be larger than what would be expected under the carbon tax.


Legal action against corrupt temperature records

In New Zealand there is an ongoing legal action against the government producer of the New Zealand temperature record, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research Limited [NIWA].

Researchers found the temperature record produced by NIWA had a warming bias which basically created a warming trend of 1ºC per century when the raw data showed no increase at all. After being stonewalled by NIWA the researchers issued a Statement of Claim seeking a Judicial Review of the temperature record.

The Defence issued by NIWA was novel in that it claimed there was no official New Zealand temperature record [clauses 6 & 7].

An Amended Statement of Claim was issued and the case is now at the Affidavit stage.

Could a similar case be brought in Australia challenging the validity of the Australian temperature record which is prepared by the Bureau of Meteorology [BOM]?

There are similarities between BOM and NIWA: both have adjusted their temperature record and both have created a warming trend through the adjustments.

The BOM’s temperature has adjusted their temperature by approximately 40%. This appears not to be consistent with criteria laid down by Torok and Nicholls and Della-Marta et al.

However a complication with BOM is that they have replaced the former High quality network [HQ] with the new improved ACORN adjusted temperature network. In ACORN supposedly the problems with the HQ network which involved the creation of a warming trend have been corrected. However the temperature trend in ACORN is greater than in the HQ network!

Clearly the ACORN temperature network has not corrected the problem. But is it possible to litigate the ACORN temperature record and, as in New Zealand, seek a Judicial Review that the ACORN record is flawed and misleading?

More HERE (The article goes on to argue that a legal challenge is possible but expensive)

4 July, 2012

Thanks, Gough, for giving us all a chance at university

This is utter rubbish:  The usual Leftist garbage.  It was Menzies who made universities open to all  -- if you had the ability.  And it was a Labor government that ditched Gough's scheme

The Commonwealth scholarship scheme set up by Menzies made the reasonable assumption that only the top third of high school graduates would do well at university and gave that subset both a living allowance and free tuition at university.  I myself got a Commonwealth scholarship  -- and I too come from a poor working class background.  And I ended up with a Ph.D.

Whitlam on the other hand made university "free" to all -- a policy so expensive and wasteful that it was abandoned by the next Labor government  -- under Bob Hawke.  Hawke reintroduced fees and gave loans instead of grants.

I think the Menzies scheme was by far  the most fair, generous and effective of the three systems.  The expansion of university education beyond the top third has simply led to lower standards and a mass of graduates who are no more employable than they would be without a degree.  The unemployed graduate was virtually unknown in my day.  These days it is common.  And a lot of the employed ones are working at McDonald's

So I was able to cruise through university despite having no rich father (and no support of any kind from him at all).  My son, by contrast, also cruised -- but only because I was readily able to pay for his upkeep and his fees  -- which I did.  So which system was fairer to the poor?

Note that I appear to be the same age as the writer below, Geoff Cooper, so he had the same opportunities that I did. 

Gough Whitlam's visionary tertiary education scheme opened up doors for many.

Officially I am two years too old to be classed as a member of the baby boomer generation but I was one of the many fortunate people whose life was absolutely changed through the policies of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, Australia's greatest ever visionary.

As a working-class kid from the then very poor working-class suburb of Yarraville, it was beyond my wildest dreams to even consider having a tertiary education.

Even completing secondary education to sixth form (year 12) was not on my radar.

My old alma mater, Footscray Tech, only went to year 10 and if you lived anywhere west of the Yarra, your biggest decision after completing secondary school was to join the laudable but limited careers of carpentry, plumbing or other of the building trades. Whitlam changed all that.

Never has one man had such an impact on our nation in such a short time. No-fault divorce, universal health insurance, the first real recognition of indigenous people, a major step towards equal rights for women and access to justice for all, to list just a few of his major achievements.

But for me and many thousands like me, it was his creation of TEAS, the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, that changed my life and I believe allowed many of us to add so much more to our communities because of it.

At the ripe old age of 31 I was able to undertake what previously had been denied me; I gained entrance to Monash University. The rush of mature-age students into tertiary education in the late '70s indicated just how many of us had missed out on an education during the previous 23 years of conservative rule.

The consequence of Whitlam's education policy went well beyond just personal improvement.

Education has far greater impact for society than just leading people into professions or occupations, it often rounds them off as active members of their community and society gains because of this.

I had followed the usual course of the "Westie" masses and become a carpenter, then moved into teaching as a trade teacher. Thanks to Gough, my degree allowed me to teach history and politics in high schools, where I like to think I was able to influence many of the young charges under my care to think about matters political. (Unbiased, of course.)

Higher education also gave me the confidence and knowledge to participate in local government and play roles in other community activities throughout my life.

Forget the Khemlani affair and Rex Connor's delusional plans to run a gas pipeline across Australia, the fact that our country was dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century is something that all Australians should be grateful for.

Thirty-seven years on, today's modern Australia is a direct result of the Whitlam years.

Happy birthday, Gough, and so many thanks for giving me and many of my generation a chance at life that previously had only been the realm of the rich.


A fight for free speech in Australia

CITING the Magna Carta, free speech and commercial freedom, the bosses of most of Australia's major media organisations have implored the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, to block further media regulation.

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, told the Herald last week he would take to cabinet within weeks a plan to regulate the media and impose on owners a public interest test.

A public interest test would compromise billions of dollars of Australian and international equity assets, according to the strongly-worded letter, signed by the heads of Foxtel, APN, Seven West Media, NINE, AAP, News Ltd and the Australian News Channel.

"The Convergence Review has not even been able to define such a test," the bosses wrote. "Frankly, such an approach is quite unacceptable as the basis for managing billions of dollars in asset value in the media sector and will compromise those asset values (and accordingly Australian and international equity holders) negatively - this is both unfair and inequitable."

Letters addressed to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader commend the Coalition for its public support of press freedom.

They claim if the government's public interest test (which could apply to the Fairfax majority stakeholder Gina Rinehart) is approved, there would be a "massive increase in regulation" on "subjective, vague and imprecise" grounds, which would stymie free speech.

"While a 'public interest test' may have an appealing-sounding ring to it, it is really, in our view, nothing more than a political interest," the bosses argue.

"It has the capacity to be misused by politicians of all persuasions to block the acquisition of media companies by people they do not agree with or simply do not like."

A Fairfax spokesman said the company did not add its name to the letter because "we didn't think it was the right tone".

The joint move by the seven companies is an escalation of the campaign against government interference with the media. But most recent debate has focused on Mrs Rinehart amid concerns she could interfere with the company's editorial independence.


Ceiling on housing affordability reached, and won't be breached

For years when people at dinner parties worried about houses becoming too expensive for the younger generation to afford, I used to tell them not to worry: it was logically impossible for prices to rise to a level no one could afford. Why do I remind you of this? Because it's starting to look like I was right.

When prices are rising, and have been for many years, it's easy to conclude they'll go on rising forever. Even easier to conclude - as every real estate agent encouraged us to - is that house prices can only ever go in one direction.

As we're discovering, it turns out not to be true. According to Saul Eslake, of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Australian house prices rose by 142 per cent between 2000 and their peak in late 2010, but in the 18 months since then have fallen by a national average of about 7 per cent. (In Sydney the fall's been 5 per cent; in Perth, 9 per cent, Melbourne 11 per cent, Brisbane 12 per cent.)

There's no shortage of people, particularly foreigners, who're convinced this increase went way beyond what the "fundamentals" of supply and demand could justify - a bubble, in other words - and it won't be long before the bubble bursts and prices come crashing down, as they have in the US and various other countries.

They may prove right, but I'm with Eslake, who argues it's unlikely. He estimates the present level of house prices is fully justified by the change over several decades of the two main factors determining the affordability of housing: household income and the level of mortgage interest rates.

The Australian median house price rose from 2.8 times average annual household disposable income in 1993 to four times in 2001. Since then it's been relatively stable. What allowed that multiple to rise so greatly was a "structural decline" in mortgage interest rates that occurred in the 1990s with the return to low inflation and the shift to the official interest rate being set by an independent central bank rather than politicians.

We could have used that fall in interest rates to pay off our homes much faster, or to increase our spending on other things. Instead we decided to use it to borrow more and move to a better house.

Because so many of us made that choice at pretty much the same time, we weren't all able to move to "better" (bigger, better appointed or better located) homes. Rather, the main thing we achieved was to bid up the prices of homes generally.

In the jargon of economists, we took that essentially once-only fall in the average level of mortgage interest rates - which Eslake estimates to have been about 4.5 percentage points - and "capitalised" it into the value of our homes.

Eslake argues house prices aren't likely to come crashing down because we have the income and borrowing capacity to afford the price of housing at roughly its present level, because we haven't been building more homes than the growth in the population justifies (in fact, we've been building too few), and because we haven't been borrowing against our homes to finance other consumption.

Eslake does predict, however, that house prices will rise much more modestly over the coming decade or two than they did in recent decades. Whereas they rose at the rate of 9.5 per cent a year during the noughties, he predicts rises averaging 3 per cent or 4 per cent a year in future.

Why? Because there won't be another, one-off, structural fall in the level of interest rates that greatly increases our capacity to borrow without increasing our monthly repayments. (Don't confuse the Reserve Bank's ups and downs in interest rates as it manipulates rates to manage the economy through the downs and ups of the business cycle - which get so much attention from the media - with the underlying average level of rates over a longer period.)

Without a structural shift in interest rates, house prices can't rise much faster than household incomes are growing. The indirect flow-through to households of the ever-rising prices we were getting for our mineral exports caused household disposable income to grow at an average rate of about 7.5 per cent a year over the past decade or so.

That compares with 4.5 per cent a year during the 1990s. Now commodity prices have stopped rising and are easing back, a more modest rate of growth is likely in coming years.

Which brings me back to where I started. The value of your home is easily determined: it's worth what you can find someone willing to pay for it. The value of homes generally can be no higher than what people generally are willing to pay and able to pay.

While it's always possible for prices to be higher than particular individuals can afford, it's impossible for them to be higher than most people can afford.

But it's surprising how much flexibility - room for give and take - there is in the system.

Many parents understand that, from their own privileged position as home owners, they have to assist their children to make the expensive step up to a home of their own.

For as long as enough parents see it that way, house prices will stay roughly where they are.

Were too many parents to be unwilling to help their kids make the step up, however, house prices would have to fall. This generation sells its homes to the next generation.

I take the present small falls in house prices as a sign the limits to affordability have been reached, and won't be exceeded


Fairfax will surely sell to Rinehart if price is right

Peter Costello

Don't get too misty-eyed about the directors' support for the charter of independence.

I WOULD like to see Australia have more newspapers, not fewer. It would be a great pity if Sydney or Melbourne became a one-newspaper town along the model of Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth. Sure, there are national titles that compete in those markets, but I would like to see them compete with two metropolitan dailies as is currently the case in the bigger cities. Or more than two.

It is good to have diversity of opinion and I would like to see more of it. Australian papers should be more critical of each other. When one makes a factual error, the others should point it out. It is likely to make the competitors more careful about being accurate in the future - something that is in everyone's long-term interest. And more reliable papers might win more readers.

But I am not so dedicated to the idea of press diversity to mortgage my house, take out a huge loan and plough my life savings into media stocks. Media stocks have been in long-term decline. When Rural Press merged into Fairfax in 2007 the share price was more than $5. Yesterday it was about 60¢. Think of that. You can buy nearly three shares for the price of one paper.

So in the current climate of gloom arising from retrenchments and plant closures, what does a newspaper company need more than ever? It needs owners who have deep enough pockets to stick with an investment that is not necessarily going to give them a short-term return. If the loyal readership were prepared to buy up the stock to keep the papers unchanged then the problem would be solved. But they aren't. So when someone comes along who is prepared to buy the stock and put a bit of money on the line they deserve to be treated with respect.

The objection to Gina Rinehart is that she is the wrong type of person because she is, after all, a miner. Well, so was David Syme, who came to Australia to dig for gold and made enough to buy into the insolvent Melbourne Age and run it for the next 50 years. The whole city of Melbourne grew off the back of the mining industry, which provided the readership that kept the newspaper in business.

In any other company a shareholder who had near to 20 per cent would be entitled to board representation - not control, but certainly substantial representation. I have read the board's statement of June 29, which explained its objections to Rinehart joining the board. There were two, but they were not consistent. The first is that she is seeking control without paying a premium. The second is that she has not signed the charter of editorial independence.

Let us suppose Rinehart makes a bid that contains a control premium. Will the directors recommend it? If it is high enough, of course they will. They are not going to die in a ditch for a charter of no legal effect. The board does not pretend that the only people who can buy Fairfax shares are those who have signed a charter. Hedge funds and speculators are trading these shares every day.

The board puts its charter argument another way. It says that if the charter goes, the readership will go. It is an interesting hypothesis. A prospective owner would do well to think about it. But if they do not sign the charter and the readership walks, who is going to suffer the loss? Why, the new owner will, of course. They might thank the board for drawing the risk to their attention and decide to take their chances.

Alongside owners with deep pockets, a newspaper needs readers. People will buy it if the quality is good. The readers will judge if the stories are accurate and informative. This does not turn on charters but the quality of the writers. In my view, the broader the stable of writers the broader the audience. This is the strongest discipline on a new owner. If they narrow the readership they will kill off their own investment.

What the Fairfax board is really saying is it wants a better price. It would like the charter if that came along for no significant cost. But at a suitable price these directors will sell, charter or no charter. Dear journalists and readers, do not get too misty-eyed about these directors.

The Fairfax directors were not appointed for their political views. They do not come from a long background in the newspaper industry. They do not represent a particular editorial line. They are professional directors appointed to maximise shareholder value. Their legal duty is to shareholders. And their biggest risk, if current interest wanes, is that the share price could go lower.

I did not sign the recent letter of "eminent people" who wrote in support of the Fairfax charter of independence. I noticed that the owner of The Monthly, Morry Schwartz, did. He makes no effort to publish a diversity of views in publications that he owns. When his editor proposed to publish an article by me in response to one by Kevin Rudd she was not allowed to do so. Shortly after, she left. It is not my idea of editorial independence.

But The Monthly will never be a mass-circulation paper. If its owner wants to fund a particular point of view he is free to do so. The more narrow the view, the more narrow the readership. Fairfax's metropolitan dailies aspire to mass circulation. A wide diversity of views will bring a wide diversity of readers. That applies to any new owner as much as it applies to the current publication.


3 July, 2012

More to come in the Azaria Chamberlain case?

How can the terrible injustice done to the bereaved mother ever be explained?  Bigotry against the members of a small but benevolent religion (SDAs) was probably part of it but is that all?  The initial coroner's verdict was correct.  Was bigotry enough to get it disregarded?

MICHAEL Chamberlain is still waiting for an apology from the Northern Territory government over the handling of his daughter's death.

Chamberlain is yet to hear from the government following the June verdict that a dingo killed Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in  1980.

On June 12, 2012, Deputy Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris confirmed that a dingo killed nine-week-old Azaria while the family was on a camping trip.

Chamberlain, from Lake Macquarie in NSW, said he had mixed feelings about the verdict, while talking to AAP about his newly-released book Heart of Stone: Justice for Azaria.

"It was a bittersweet experience for me, and I felt in one sense sobered but elated by this because it was a 32-year-old battle, and now justice for us had turned full circle," he said.

Chamberlain said the Deputy Coroner's speech was overwhelming and he had not expected it to be so emotional.

"The coroner doesn't have to apologise, although the first one did, but that was an absolute bonus; unexpected," Chamberlain said.

"Pity though the Northern Territory government hasn't come good. Still waiting.

"... I don't mind just a blanket apology from the Northern Territory government because I think not just us but I think everybody now waits to hear their ultimate response."

He said he also has plenty of questions left unanswered.

"I have peace and gratitude in my heart that Azaria's spirit now lies rested, and I have gratitude and peace in my heart because justice has been done for us, but why did this happen to us? Why did it take so long? And why were there consistently a whole lot of mistakes made? It was systemic; it just wasn't one or two."


Green light for boats is the worst of both worlds

For overseas readers: The long-nosed female in the toon is a caricature of Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia.  She is blaming the conservatives for the results of her own policies -- outlined on the signs

Am I naive to be waiting for a minister in the federal government, a government which now has so much blood on its hands, to take responsibility for the policy failure and resign?

During the past 19 months at least 363 people are known to have drowned while trying to make their way to Australia on fishing vessels.

Fifty people died off Christmas Island in heavy seas on December 15, 2010. On November 1, 2011, eight drowned off Indonesia. Several weeks later, on December 17, about 200 people drowned in Indonesian waters while on their way to Australia. On February 1 this year, 11 people drowned off the coast of Malaysia on their way to Australia. On June 21, 90 people drowned en route to Australia. About another 120 were pulled from the water. Last Wednesday, four more people drowned and 130 escaped death only because two commercial vessels were passing nearby. Many were women and children.

All the deaths at sea are directly linked to policies introduced by the Rudd Labor government and implemented by the Gillard government, when the effective border security arrangements inherited from the Howard government were dismantled. This re-created a problem that had ceased to exist.

Ten years ago, the Howard government used a variety of policies to bring the hammer down on the asylum-seeker traffic. The flow of boats abruptly fell to a trickle. During the six years from 2002 to 2008, just 301 people arrived on 18 boats, an average of three boats and 50 people a year.

The role of Julia Gillard in this is instructive. Almost exactly 10 years ago, on August 26, 2002, she told the Parliament that in the five years between the election of the Howard government in 1996 and the Tampa controversy in 2001, "We know that in respect of those boats - some 213 boats carrying 11,513 people - the Howard government did nothing …

"In the face of these unauthorised arrivals, the Howard government did nothing except maintain Labor's policy of mandatory detention … The so-called Pacific solution … is really no more than the processing of people offshore in third countries. It is a policy that Labor does not support, because it achieves nothing and costs so much in so many ways … And we know that it delivers absolutely no outcomes … "

Such irony. The "Pacific solution" proved so effective that Gillard, as Prime Minister, has been seeking to send asylum seekers to Malaysia to help staunch the billion-dollars-a-year black hole in her government's credibility on border security.

Clearly, Labor gave a green light to the people-smuggling industry and has sought to deflect blame for the results. It has created the worst of both worlds: a system that is punitive but ineffective, and wildly expensive.

To justify this failure, the government has resorted to lying. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, along with relevant ministers, have all parroted the line that under the Howard government, the "Pacific solution" - the processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea - was no more than a very costly posture because nearly all these asylum seekers ended up getting residency in Australia.

This is simply not true. Nauru and Manus Island housed 1637 people, of which 1153 were found to be refugees. But only 705 were settled here, while 448 were resettled in other countries.

Now contrast the current success rate of those who arrive after destroying their documents and bypassing immigration. About 90 per cent are being given residency and welfare payments. Yet those who seek to enter the country as skilled migrants are subject to an arduous and protracted vetting process, which just got harder.

As of yesterday, those seeking to arrive as skilled migrants can now be placed in limbo for years under new regulations. Perhaps the government does not even realise what messages it may be sending to prospective skilled immigrants, who are expected to make up 125,000 of the immigration intake this year, or 68 per cent.

The government may not fully understand the possible impact of its new regulations because the Department of Immigration and Citizenship communicates in classic bureaucratese. Here, in the language of the department's website, is the thrust of the changes which became law yesterday: "From 1 July, 2012, the Migration Regulations 1994 are amended to … support the new skilled migrant selection model, known as 'Skill Select', by harmonising skill requirements across skilled visa subclasses and introducing an invitation requirement for some key visas."

I am advised by an immigration lawyer that what this means, in plain English, is that it is has just become harder to get a skilled migrant visa. The "invitation requirement" raises the barrier to entry.

What it means, the immigration lawyer advises, is this: "If you are applying in the skilled migrant group, you will no longer be able to make an application to migrate to Australia. Instead, you will file an 'expression of interest' and stay in the system for two years until an employer or a state government sponsors you."

I am also advised that the new regulations make it harder to get into Australia as a business migrant.

We thus have the disconnect at the heart of Labor's immigration and refugee regimes that the people who are the least forthcoming, the least qualified, the least vetted, and who have done everything to bypass the vetting system, enjoy the greatest prospects of gaining permanent residency.

The green light for people smuggling is still on. Expect more boats, more deaths, more blame-shifting, and more cost. Just don't expect anyone in this government to accept responsibility for the failure and resign when the next boat sinks. That would require a code of honour, when all that exists is a code of survival.


State Government axes Queensland solar energy scheme, nation's largest

AUSTRALIA'S biggest solar energy scheme is dead in the water, torpedoed by the withdrawal of funding by the Newman Government.

The State Government is pulling $75 million out of a renewable energy power project, effectively killing off up to 400 jobs.

Regional Queensland was set to be home to one of the biggest combination solar and gas power plants in the world under a $1.2 billion scheme, a joint Federal-State Government and private partnership.

The Solar Dawn project would have used Australian-pioneered technology and transformed Chinchilla and the western Darling Downs into the nation's mixed-energy capital.

But the Liberal National Party has found a way to back out of an earlier Bligh government agreement and halt its contribution.

Premier Campbell Newman signalled soon after winning the March state election that he would look at pulling the plug on the $75 million investment if he could do it without risk to taxpayers.

Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle wrote to federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson last week to confirm he had cut the Queensland contribution.  Mr McArdle was understood to have told Mr Ferguson Solar Dawn was unable to meet the State Government's funding agreement.  As a result, the agreement between the two governments was "terminated".

Mr McArdle apparently expressed "disappointment" at the outcome and hoped the project would still work with federal backing.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had committed $464 million, saying the project would support Labor's carbon tax and keep the environment clean.

But George St insiders said the LNP was able to stop the contribution because Solar Dawn and the state-owned electricity utility Ergon were unable to negotiate a power purchase agreement.

Construction on the Solar Dawn project - about 300km west of Brisbane - was due to start in 2013 and be completed within three years.  It was expected to create 300 new jobs, indirectly support up to 100 jobs and save 500,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. It would have powered the energy of 70,000 homes.

Mr Ferguson yesterday described it as a disappointing development.   "The Solar Dawn project offers Queensland the opportunity to be at the forefront of solar thermal technology and home to one of the largest solar power stations in the world," he said.  "These opportunities have to be grabbed, but the Queensland Government seems content to let them slip by."

He said the future of the project would be determined by the independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency.


Leftist politician mocks concerns over carbon tax

Joe Hockey says Craig Emerson is a ‘circus clown' after dance act.   During a TV interview yesterday, Mr Emerson started dancing and singing "no Whyalla wipeout, there on my TV" to the tune of 1975 Skyhooks single, Horror Movie.

Mr Emerson's reference to Whyalla follows comments from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the carbon tax would wipe the South Australian town off the map.

Mr Hockey wasn't amused and says the trade minister's disgraceful behaviour reflects the attitude of the Federal Government to the concerns of everyday Australians about the carbon tax.

The singing was bad, but Mr Emerson stands by his performance.    "What we're making light of is Mr Abbott's doom and gloom prophecies," he said.

It was awkward and out-of-tune and Mr Emerson has been accused of mocking the people of Whyalla and other industrial towns fearful that the penalty on carbon emissions might cost many jobs.

Today he said he had made an important point but admitted he was a better minister than singer.  "Singing is not right up there with my other abilities," Mr Emerson told Sky News.

"But I was trying to get an important point through here. And that is, we've had a year or more of Mr Abbott terrifying communities and they have taken this to heart - they have been very worried."

His parody of Tony Abbott's carbon tax claims was well planned - he cleared the use of Skyhooks' tune Horror Movie with band member Red Symons.

Liberal front bencher George Brandis was not impressed by the song.  "I don't know what he was thinking," he said. "I think that he's certainly earned himself star billing in Coalition election campaigning for the coming election campaign."


2 July, 2012

Are Australians Really Dumb, Drunk and Racist?

A comment from India below.  Repeated research has shown that the average IQ of white Australians is the same as that of whites in Britain and the USA.  There are over 40 countries with higher alcohol consumption than Australia. Australians are generally more outspoken so may express racist views more freely but, unlike Britain and the USA, I can think of no racially-denominated killings in Australia.  And we won't mention the bride murders in India, will we?

That’s the central question of a new television documentary series currently showing in Australia. Fittingly, it’s called Dumb, Drunk and Racist – a provocative line coined in a Mother Jones feature last year, which told of an Indian call centre trainer describing Australians as such.

The premise of the six-part series revolves around a whistle-stop, three-week tour of Australia undertaken by four Indians, in which they’re planted in various situations. They’re traveling with the host, Joe Hildebrand, a laconic, left-wing newspaper commentator whose role is to decode Australia for the Indians and the Indians for Australians.

The four – a call centre worker, a law student, a television news anchor and an overseas education advisor – were selected to take part, as most had experience relevant to the show. One woman had been racially abused during a Sydney holiday seven years earlier, while another had reported extensively on interracial relations.

Australian attitudes towards race have been under the scanner in recent years in India, after highly publicized violent attacks on Indians there led to breathless, often hysterical, media coverage in India.

The effects were immediate: Within months, student enrollments to Australian universities fell dramatically, an issue of great alarm to education institutions which rely heavily on foreign fee-paying students.

Earlier, in 2005, ugly scenes of a drunken mob directing their fury towards Lebanese Muslims at Sydney’s Cronulla Beach – known locally as the “insular peninsula” – were aired around the world. This, too, did little for Australia’s desire to raise its profile in the international community.

The show is essentially an attempt to hold a mirror to Australian society and work out just how dumb, drunk and racist it really is.

One episode has so far gone to air, receiving substantial publicity and ratings in Australia. Shot vérité style, the first of six episodes introduces the concept, the participants, and follows them around Sydney, during which they stumble across a verbal altercation between a potty-mouthed Muslim man and a seemingly erudite artist painting a wall mural reading “say no to the burqa,” in a liberal inner city suburb. For the first time, they witness the confused rhetoric of Australian attitudes towards race and religion.

A blog post written by the host on a news website has garnered more than 600 comments (a lot by Australian standards; remember, this is a country of just 22 million people – less than that of Haryana). And during the airing of the pilot last Wednesday, Twitter was aflame with commentary.

“Some revelations were more obvious than others,” said series producer Anita Jorgensen in an email interview.

“It was surprising to discover that our survey in India about Australians confirmed our reputation as ‘dumb drunk and racist,” claimed Ms. Jorgensen. “When it came to racism we wondered if we’d struggle to open the debate in any meaningful way, but once we took four Indians into the streets, strong opinions soon found us. I was appalled to see our Indian travelers openly abused in the street.”

In another example the experiences of call centre workers are recorded, and the kind of comments made by Australians don’t make for easy listening.

“There’s so much abuse, I’m embarrassed to even say,” says Radhika Budhwar, one of the Indian participants, before listing a stream of foul-mouthed abuse that would make a sailor blush.

But other experiences were a surprise: one episode takes the four to a Bachelor and Spinster Ball, or B&S Ball, a cherished tradition in country Australia of drunken, earthy revelry. “The boys had a great time,” says Ms. Budhwar. “And everybody, boys and girls, kept flashing us.”

“The racism debate is often characterised by either knee-jerk anger and defensiveness or a complete lack of interest. We hope the show will open up discussion as to what the word ‘racism’ actually means and to what extent we see it here,” said Ms. Jorgensen.

Still, both Ms. Budhwar and Ms. Jorgensen are tight-lipped about revealing too much of what ensues during the journey across Australia: producers are hoping that an Indian network will pick it up.

So are Australians dumb drunk and racist? Ms. Budhwar won’t say on the racist point, as all is revealed in the final episode. “Dumb, no, I don’t think they’re dumb, I met many very intelligent and wonderful Australians. Drunk is, well, there’s an episode dealing with all the drunk encounters. I’ve travelled all over the world and in comparison I think yes, Australians do drink a lot.”


Labor Party government putting on a brave front  about the carbon tax despite latest polls

100% wipeout of Federal seats predicted for Labor in Qld. -- and after a 90% wipeout in the State election, that's believable

It's grim reading for Labor in the polls this morning as well, as voter backlash against the carbon tax grows.

Speaking on the first business day of the tax, Ms Gillard said people could make up their own minds "not based on the claims of politicians but from by what they can see in their own lives".

"What people are going to see is tax cuts ... and people are going to see that the claims like the coal industry is going to shut down is all untrue," she told the Seven Network today.

Ms Gillard acknowledged there would be some flow-on effects from about 300 big polluters paying $23 a tonne on carbon, but said tax cuts would benefit seven million people.

A Nielsen poll published in Fairfax newspapers found opposition to the carbon tax had risen three points to 62 per cent.

Just over half of those surveyed thought they would be worse off as a result of the tax.

According to the latest Newspoll, Labor's primary vote in Queensland is down to just 22 per cent.

The results mean federal Labor MPs in the state are facing a swing against them of 10 per cent, which would unseat every Labor MP, The Australian reported.

But Ms Gillard said implementing a price on carbon wasn't about the polls. "This is about what is right for our nation's future," she said.

"We have had some very divisive debates in the past - the GST, universal superannuation, Medicare ... and when the dust has settled and people have had the opportunity to judge it all for themselves they recognised it was the right thing for the nation."

Ms Gillard said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would create a "fiddle" and only pretend to scrap the carbon tax if he wins power.

But Mr Abbott said the Coalition would get carbon emissions down without saddling the coal and gas industries with extra costs.

Mr Abbott is today campaigning hard to convince people it will be all financial pain for no environmental gain.

He is warning it will kill off the gas and oil industries.  "The whole point of a carbon tax is to use less coal, less gas, less oil," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio.

The Coalition would do things differently, he said.  "We want to get emissions down without loading up the coal and the gas industries with these kind of additional cost imposts," he said.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said Mr Abbott could not and would not repeal the carbon pricing scheme.  Mr Combet is confident the Government will be able to win back the Australian public's support once it has "lived" the carbon tax.

"We're taking a lot of the revenue from that paid by the largest polluters and using it to implement a significant income tax reform that will treble the tax free threshold from $6000 to $18,200 liberating one million people from having to pay tax and file a tax return," he said.

"As the message gets through and we keep arguing our case, I'm sure that we can win people's support back."


Australian climate views have moved on

THE Gillard government hopes Australians will change their minds this week, when the introduction of the carbon tax doesn't result in sudden and startling changes to the economy or their standards of living. But a close reading of Lowy Institute polling since 2005 suggests the government's hopes may be misplaced.

Our polling tells a strong story: that Australians supported tough action on climate change, and were prepared to pay for it, when they thought it was a real and pressing problem. But as they've come to see climate change as less of a problem, with no global solution in sight, they have steadily turned against action and are less willing to pay to address it.

When we began polling in 2005, Australians ranked improving the global environment equal second (with protecting jobs) as a foreign policy priority, more important than combating terrorism, countering the spread of nuclear weapons and stopping illegal migration.

In 2006 addressing climate change was thought to be the No 1 foreign policy priority and in 2007 the most important domestic policy priority.

In this mood, Australians supported strong action on climate change. In 2006 more than two thirds of the people we surveyed agreed with the statement , "global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs."

There was daylight to the next most-supported proposition, with less than a quarter agreeing global warming would have gradual effects and should be dealt with gradually, using low-cost measures. Just 7 per cent opted for the wait and see option.

People were reasonably willing to contribute through electricity bills. In 2008 we asked people how much they were prepared to pay. The largest number (almost one-third) said they would be prepared to pay up to $10 a month, another fifth said they'd pay between $11 and $20 extra a month, and 19 per cent said they'd pay more than $21 a month. Seventy-one percent were prepared to pay something towards dealing with climate change, compared with 21 per cent not prepared to pay anything at all.

That was Kevin Rudd's first year as prime minister. Two-thirds of people we asked said his decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as one of his first actions in office hadn't solved the problem of climate change but was a step in the right direction. The following year, 60 per cent of people said the problem of climate change had become more urgent, while 80 per cent said that the prospects for a solution were either steady or improving.

Then things started to change. Australians' attitudes on climate change have shown remarkable variation over the nine years of Lowy Institute polling. In 2008, people still saw climate change as the second biggest threat we faced, on a par with terrorism, but dealing with climate change had slipped to fifth most important foreign policy goal, down 9 per cent from 2007. In 2009 it had slumped to seventh, down 10 per cent from 2008 and 19 per cent from 2007. Climate change dropped to the fourth most worrying threat, down 14 per cent from its 2008 levels.

People were losing their confidence in the government's ability and willingness to address the issue. When we asked people for their opinion on the most convincing option for reducing carbon emissions in 2008, the fewest were convinced by one of the government's most preferred options: carbon capture and storage. Renewables, biofuels, hydroelectric and even nuclear were considered more convincing. In 2008 51 per cent were not confident that the government could address climate change; by 2010 people gave the Rudd government a mark of five out of 10 for its handling of the issue. By last year, three-quarters of those we polled believed the Gillard government had done a poor job in addressing climate change.

Falling confidence in the government's handling of the issue drove further declines in the seriousness with which people took climate change. In 2010 and 2011, dealing with climate change ranked third last among 12 foreign policy priorities, down 29 per cent since 2007.

The majority of commentators argue the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009 led to the sudden falls in support for action. Our polling suggests otherwise. In 2010, 72 per cent of respondents still thought Australia should act to reduce its carbon emissions even before a global agreement.

Our figures show two factors behind the erosion of public support for climate change action. The first is a steady slide of concern about the problem - from 75 per cent seeing it as a foreign policy priority in 2007 to just 46 per cent last year. The second is growing alarm about the economic impact of climate action, particularly as the global economy lurches from crisis to crisis. By this year's Lowy Institute poll, the number of people who thought global warming serious enough that we should act now even if it involves significant costs had fallen to 36 per cent from 68 per cent in 2006.

This combination of public perceptions is bad news for the government's hopes of a poll bounce now that the carbon tax has come into effect. The situation has exactly reversed from 2005-2007. Now, as they're less and less concerned about the problem, they resent the financial impact of dealing with it more and more. This means that even if the economic impact of the carbon tax is less severe than Tony Abbott suggests, there won't be a whole lot of returning warmth for a government whose major piece of policy is seen to be addressing a problem that most people don't see as a priority.


What happened to free government schools?

Not so free in South Australia

THOUSANDS of parents have been prosecuted for failing to pay public school fees this year.  They include 271 parents who have had warrants issued for their arrest for failing to turn up in court - more than five times the number issued two years ago at the height of the financial crisis.

Tougher economic times and parents' high debt levels are being blamed for the surge in cases, according to an investigation by The Advertiser and Sunday Mail into the recovery of unpaid school fees.

Between July last year and May this year, the department recovered $670,181 in unpaid fees on behalf of 179 schools - up 24 per cent from $542,095 the previous year.

It referred 2005 debt cases to the magistrates court in the same 11-month period to force parents to pay - up from 1333 cases in 2010-11.

Education Department deputy chief executive Gino DeGennaro said the collection of school fees and charges was managed at a local level by the schools, including any letters sent to families.

"For families who are struggling to meet these costs there are assistance programs in place, and I urge them to speak to their school about their individual circumstances so they can work together to resolve any issues," he said.  "Arrest warrants are only used as a final resort for those parents who decline to pay."

South Australian Association of School Parents Clubs president Jenice Zerna was shocked to hear that arrest warrants were being issued against parents over outstanding fees as low as $234. "It's disappointing to hear that it's come to parents having arrest warrants put out for fees," she said.

"We would hope that schools would take all measures to go out and talk to the parents at any time if they're having problems paying fees."  Ms Zerna believed a school should only use a debt collector as the "very last resort".

SA Primary Principals Association president Steve Portlock said rising debt levels impacted on all students. "This is a concern, because less fees means less money to spend on students," he said.

"There are some parents who believe schooling should be free and won't pay fees on a philosophic basis, while others simply can't afford to."

Opposition education spokesman David Pisoni said SA had the highest public school fees in the nation. "There is no doubt it's tough economic times for the Government ... but what the Government has done is turn to parents through increasing fees and expectations of fund-raising," he said.

The Australian Education Union said it wanted greater government funding to make schools fee-free.

Between January 1 and June 19 this year, the courts issued 271 arrest warrants against parents who failed to turn up at hearings to resolve the matters.  Only 54 parents had arrest warrants over their heads in late 2010.

This financial year, the Education Department has recovered an average $61,000 a month in unpaid fees - a 35 per cent increase on the previous financial year's $45,000 average.

Most unpaid fees were recovered through mediation. Average school fees for materials and services at public schools this year are $234 for a primary student and $363 for a secondary student.


1 July, 2012

An owner must not be allowed to run his own business?

That clearly Fascist point of view seems to apply among many journalists

by David Flint

It is only in recent years that is has been suggested that the operation of a newspaper should be beyond the control and influence of those who actually own it.

The curious system of a charter of independence, written by journalists, was allegedly introduced at Fairfax  after the departure of the family in 1987. This followed young Warwick Fairfax’s ill-advised attempts to take over the company.

But the charter doesn’t mean the board has no role. The charter is only a promise to maintain standards and an affirmation that the editor is independent. This is balanced by the fact that the editor is not tenured. He or she can be dismissed at any time. That’s the key. That is why judges were given tenure during England’s Glorious Revolution. It was to make them independent of the King.

Instead of Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Stephen Conroy insisting on their interpretation of the Fairfax Charter, why don’t they practice what they preach? Why don’t they restore tenure to the top public servants so they can start getting independent advice as governments once did? 

For two decades now, successive Fairfax boards have hidden behind the charter. To them it has not been a charter of independence – it has been an abdication of responsibility. The board has abandoned the running of newspapers to the journalists while they have concentrated on “growing” the company business.

Instead, the business declined, exacerbated by the drying up of those famous rivers of gold, classified advertising. Roger Corbett’s Canute like defiance of the advertising drought, as recounted by Eric Beecher, would be funny if it were not so tragic. That the classified drought was coming was obvious. But successive boards and management were unable to rise to the challenge in the way any capable media mogul would have.

Fairfax has been run too long by a board full of accountants and management men most of whom - with the exception of the passing appearance of John Fairfax - knew absolutely nothing about the running of newspapers. Worse, they seem to have had little interest in doing so. Contrast that with the typical media mogul who is totally obsessed with and entranced by the media. The fact is, to make any media outlet a success, you have to know the media intimately.

Faced with the abdication of responsibility by the Fairfax board, the journalists went their own way. A succession of charter based editors accepted that they were at most first among equals in these cosy, politically correct collectives. They result was those once great journals of record, the Age and the Herald, were converted into fey mouthpieces of the bicycling vegan inner-city elites whose lives are far removed from the mainstream.

The journalistic collectives took the papers in a direction which first irritated and then outraged their traditional readerships. For years I have been told by countless numbers of people that they have given up their subscriptions to the Fairfax papers. Invariably, they mention the letters page which they see as a forum for the inner-city left. In both papers conservative, suburban, Australians are the subject of condescension and ridicule.

What has happened at Fairfax is not the dawning of some new paradise. It is an aberration and it is doomed to failure. This is not about the adoption of some Charter of Independence, but an abdication of management in favour of a journalistic collective.

The only equivalent experience among great papers was at the Paris based newspaper, Le Monde. There journalists were empowered with shareholdings and the right to vote in the management. It ended in tears, with white knights having to come in to save the paper from bankruptcy.

In fact most great newspapers have enjoyed powerful proprietors. Indeed they were probably great because of that formula for success - powerful proprietors who were fascinated by the business and who were determined to get good journalists and put them under strong and capable editors.

As with so many other human institutions, there is need for a strong hierarchy, notwithstanding all the claptrap about horizontal organisations. The only problem is when the hierarchy is not up to the job. The media mogul is today an endangered species in Australia. Now there's no identifiable single dominant proprietor at Fairfax, most commercial TV and, of course, the ABC and SBS.

And the point is there is nothing wrong at all with a proprietor intervening. The question surely is what the purpose of the intervention is. On one occasion, Lord Wakeham, then Chairman of the British Press Complaints Commission, asked Rupert Murdoch to intervene to persuade a recalcitrant News Limited editor to observe its rulings. Murdoch did. And what was wrong with that? But under a charter it is said he shouldn’t.

Today the Fairfax board is in a state of panic. Do they seriously think they will sell significantly more tabloid Heralds than the broadsheet version? The issue is not size. It’s quality.

They should be trying to get back the vast number of subscribers turned off by the left bias and condescension of the past, and a young market keen for an outlet which is just not a mouthpiece for the inner city elites. Their first aim should be turn their two mastheads back into the journals of record they once were.


"Green" cars hit hardest by Australia's new carbon tax (?)

The most environmentally focused cars on the market will cost more to run from tomorrow when the carbon tax is introduced.

As the reality of the carbon tax - initially set at $23 a tonne - kicks in, motorists seem likely to absorb some price increases, although exactly how much isn't clear.

With petrol, LPG and diesel exempt from the tax, though, it's drivers of electric vehicles likely to be hardest hit.

In dollar terms, and the average motorist will be up for about an extra $97 in carbon-related costs a year - if we had to pay it.

Yet all motorists may notice a range of incremental increases in the costs of running - or buying - a car, as manufacturers and retailers settle into a bold new era designed to steer consumers to cleaner, greener energy.

Big industry starts paying the carbon tax from tomorrow, and it will be us, the public, who are likely to carry the cost, especially if you're considering one of the new breed of electric cars.

There are three EVs on the market - the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Tesla Roadster and just-released Nissan Leaf - with at least two more due by the end of the year.

    I drive a plug-in/hybrid/electric car, don't I deserve a break? No. Using green electricity to recharge a car reduces the theoretical emissions to zero. But electricity companies charge a premium for "green" power and it is inevitable that prices will rise. However, Origin Energy has announced it will cut the cost of its renewable electricity surcharge from July 1.

So far sales of electric cars have been minuscule, with the biggest seller - the i-MiEV - last year accounting for just 30 of the 1 million-plus new cars sold. That's less than 0.003 per cent of the market; for an idea of how niche the $50,000 hatchback is, Ferrari outsold it by more than four to one in 2011.

The $23 carbon tax sum doesn't sound like much, given that the most economical Holden Commodore emits only 210 grams of the odourless, colourless, climate-warming gas for each kilometre it travels. However, over an average 20,000 kilometres of annual driving that's a massive 4.2 tonnes of the stuff coming out the exhaust pipes a year.

Put that in dollar terms, and the average motorist will be up for about an extra $97 in carbon-related costs a year - if we had to pay it.

We won't, though. That's because the government has quarantined fuel from the carbon tax, which would otherwise have added more than 6¢ to each litre of juice squeezed in the tank, saving the average V6-driving motorist about $100 a year.

However, the motorist will eventually pay more to run a car longer term because of the carbon tax - even though automobiles are not the biggest polluters.

According to federal government data, cars account for about 8 per cent of total CO2 emitted, a figure that rises to about 13 per cent once you add trucks and buses. By comparison, coal-fired power stations are responsible for about 50 per cent of Australia's greenhouse-gas emissions, while agriculture (that's the back-end of cows and so-on) accounts for approximately 27 per cent.

The executive director of motoring interest group Australian Automobile Association, Andrew McKellar, thinks cars are unfairly tainted, especially when other industries use them as a benchmark for pollution by saying closing a factory is the equivalent of taking a certain number of cars off the road.  "Cars are far from a major source of emissions," he says.  "It's worthwhile putting into perspective how little cars contribute [to] CO2 emissions."

Cars, then, aren't quite the environmental vandals they're made out to be.

So, what aspects of car ownership will change under the carbon tax? Walk into a showroom and slap your money down on a locally made car, and something will be different.

Because Ford, Holden and Toyota all build cars here, the carbon tax will bite - and for one of them, harder than the others.

The only Australian-based car maker that will need to pay for its carbon outputs directly is Toyota. That's because it's the only one of the trio that makes it on to the federal government's list of 294 of the country's largest polluters - those producing more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year - that will need to pay for their carbon output.

According to a Toyota spokeswoman, Beck Angel, the only reason the car maker is listed among the highest polluters in Australia is because of the "carbon intensity" of its operations, which includes casting engines as well as building the V6-engined Aurion and four-cylinder Camry and Hybrid Camry for both domestic and export markets.

Toyota has calculated that the tax will add about $15 million to the company's bottom line, or about $112 a car built on its Melbourne-based assembly line.

Angel says the car maker will wear the extra cost rather than pass it on to buyers.  "Given the competitive and price-sensitive nature of the Australian market, we would find it very difficult to pass these costs on, especially when most vehicles imported to Australia come from countries that do not impose a carbon tax," she says.

Costs at Ford and Holden are also expected to increase as the price of components - particularly raw materials such as steel - from larger corporations subject to the tax jumps, eroding their competitive edge against fully imported models benefiting from the strength of the Australian dollar.

"The new-car market remains extremely competitive and it is that competitiveness in each segment that drives pricing more than any single tax or tariff," a Ford Australia spokesman, Martin Gunsberg, says.

Holden says it will face a bill of up to $30 million on its locally made Commodore large car and ute, and Cruze sedan and hatchback range - but only once the tax takes hold, and there's no word on when that may be.

Ford has quoted similar numbers for its Falcon large sedan and Territory soft-roader range, which would add between $200 and $400 to the sticker price, depending on the model.

But the situation gets even trickier for Holden, which plans to introduce its first plug-in hybrid car - the petrol-electric Volt - to Australia later this year.  The car won't be made here, but with the carbon tax sure to add to household power bills, the standard benchmark of costing only a cup of coffee a day to recharge the Volt's bank of batteries may extend to include a coffee scroll with that cup of java. Not even Holden is sure yet what will happen come tomorrow.

But while Australian car makers suffer, the importers will get a free ride. Imported brands don't build cars here, so buyers shouldn't notice a jot of difference.

Everyone that Drive spoke with about the carbon tax - other than Toyota - could not give a straight answer as to exactly how much motorists will pay.

In short, it's because no one knows. The knock-on effects of the costs that the 294 biggest polluters accumulate are just too hard to measure while there are still so many unknowns.


Freedom to play

Sara Hudson

A few days ago, I was watching three children under the age of nine happily play unsupervised in the mud on the foreshore of a bay. No adults were in sight and the children were laughing as they poked sticks into the muddy water. The freedom they were experiencing reminded me of my own carefree childhood when I was allowed to roam my neighbourhood streets until it got dark.

Unfortunately, most children in Australia no longer experience such freedom. Their time is so strictly regimented between school and structured activities after school that they are losing the art of play. According to a MILO State of Play study in 2011, 45% of children in Australia don’t play every day. Curtin University research claims that in just one generation, outdoor play has decreased from 73% to just 13% of total play time. Such are the time limits on children today that some parents are structuring in time for unstructured play!

We don’t organize anything and the kids play. You know? Like, we just sit around in the back yard and let the kids be kids. We still watch them, of course.

One reason for this is over-anxious parents who worry that if they let their children out of sight, some calamity will befall the kids. This obsession with safety is permeating all aspects of Australian society. A recent article in Crikey suggests that some people actually like Australia’s ‘nanny state’:

When I get back to Australia and I’m not allowed to throw a Frisbee at the beach and I have to get a special council permit just to mind my own business ... I’ll say a prayer of thanks to Nanny, and enjoy the freedom - that’s right, haters, freedom – of feeling safe and protected.

Australia is fostering a risk-averse culture where people are reluctant to put themselves or their children ‘at risk’. What is deemed risky has become more tightly defined – so the independence granted to children in the past is now viewed as parental negligence. For example, children using a public toilet without an accompanying adult, walking to school by themselves, or simply crossing the street unaided.

Of course, children below a certain age do need supervision, but it seems the age children are considered old enough to do things independently is getting older and older.

It is time to take a stand against the paranoia gripping parents and remind them that although the worst-case scenario might happen one day, most of the time it doesn’t. Meanwhile, their children are losing out on developing valuable skills such as resilience, imagination and independence that come with unstructured play.


Indigenous education – a poor performer

Emeritus Professor Hughes

Indigenous education in Australia has made little or no headway since NAPLAN testing began in 2008. The number of Indigenous students failing NAPLAN literacy and numeracy tests is increasing and will not meet COAG targets for many more decades.

Our latest report, Indigenous Education 2012, shows that while the majority of Indigenous students in Australia are performing well, the significant minority who are failing come from either low socio-economic backgrounds and attend under-performing mainstream schools, or attend Indigenous schools.

We know that children from welfare-dependent backgrounds are subjected to a family life that lacks the routine found in non-welfare dependent families. Children who witness their parents staying at home and not working have less to aspire to, compared to regular families with a working mother and father.

Chris Sarra has shown how the critical role of low expectations in Indigenous educational failure is fuelled not only by students themselves but also by their parents, teachers and schools. With 40% of Indigenous students coming from welfare-dependent families, it is clear that welfare dependency plays a role in the poor NAPLAN results.

Even more of a problem are the under-performing mainstream schools, which have high failure rates for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. About 40,000 Indigenous students attend these poorly performing schools. Their performance, like those of the poorly performing non-Indigenous students, is linked to the substandard education they receive at these ‘residualised’ schools.

Indigenous schools (schools where more than 75% of students are Indigenous), however, are some of the worst performing schools in Australia. About 20,000 students attend these schools, and only a handful of them are attaining mainstream education outcomes. Poorly performing schools are subjugating our young to a less-than-average education. This robs them of future opportunities and means the cycle of welfare dependency is likely to continue.

At this rate, on Australia’s education ministers’ timetable, Indigenous children will not achieve the same education outcomes as other Australian children until 2028. This is unacceptable. Indigenous children deserve the same standard of education as their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Government needs to respond to these results by bringing non-performing and under-performing schools up to speed within the decade. Giving principals greater autonomy in hiring and managing staff and doing away with programs they see as unproductive would contribute greatly to improved educational outcomes.


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