Monday, June 30, 2008

Farm Lobbies abandon Farmers

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused the big farming lobby groups, government departments, politicians and Ministers representing agriculture of ignoring science and abandoning farmers to unjustified carbon taxation.

The chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, claimed that there was no justification whatsoever for including emissions from farm animals in any carbon emissions tax scheme.

“Every intelligent farmer can understand the carbon food cycle whereby every bit of carbon dioxide released by farm animals or plants into the atmosphere has previously been removed from the same atmosphere.”

“This simple process is surely not beyond the understanding of all the lobbyists, bureaucrats, researchers and media living off farmers?”

“In the farm sector carbon balance, apart from any fossil fuel used, it is a zero sum game, and all farm animals have ZERO NET CARBON EMISSIONS.”

“Grazing animals have not yet learned to live on coal or diesel fuel, and they cannot create carbon out of rocks, soil or water. Therefore they must extract it, via grasses and grains, from that marvellous gas of life in our atmosphere, carbon dioxide. All foods and organic matter represent carbon that has been sequestered by life processes into living matter. The carbon is simply recycled at ZERO COST.”

“Farm plants and animals are every bit as green as forests. Both farms and forests extract carbon from the air and store it in organic life forms until that organic matter is burnt or decays in the open air, thus returning their borrowed carbon to the atmospheric storehouse.”

“Why then do those who grow forests attract a carbon credit and but those who grow cattle and sheep cop a carbon tax?”

“Australia and New Zealand lead the world in harvesting solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce an abundance of clean green food. Why then are both the New Zealand and the Australian governments proposing to force farm animals into their emissions trading quagmire? And why are they subsidising the conversion of farmland producing food into forests producing nothing but carbon credits or crops producing ethanol motor fuel? What are future generations going to eat?”

Forbes claimed that farmers need to start agitating now or they risk being the only bunnies still paying carbon taxes.

“Motorists who vote and use petrol will escape the carbon tax by sleight of hand – petrol excise will in future be called “carbon tax”. Exporters will get an exemption to enable them to compete with more sensible regimes with no carbon taxes. Other protected species like working families in marginal electorates will get subsidies to cover carbon taxes on electricity bills. Truckies will blockade the roads if politicians add carbon tax to diesel prices. That leaves farmers as the only big group with so few votes and such incompetent leadership that they will pay the carbon tax.”

“Farmers have been abandoned by Ag Force, the Meat and Livestock Authority, CSIRO, the National Party, our “working families” Government and most of the similar organisations in New Zealand. It is not clear whether this is because of a lack of scientific logic or cowardice in the face of electoral hysteria on global warming.”

“But the politicians representing the treasured “working families” in the battling suburbs had better start taking notice of rising food prices or a more soundly based hysteria about the growing shortage of food will sweep emissions trading nonsense from the political landscape.”

Press release above from Viv Forbes, BScApp, FAusIMM, FSIA, Chairman, The Carbon Sense Coalition, MS 23, Rosewood Qld, 0754 640 533, See

Stupid Federal attack on tech colleges

I guess they are not Leftist enough. To attack the most practical part of Australian education is madness

Australian Technical Colleges have urged the Rudd Government to rethink plans to abolish their funding, arguing the states have shown little interest in supporting an apprenticeship program devised by the former Howard government. The colleges claim their model of delivering apprenticeship training to students is more efficient than the federal Government's replacement scheme in which secondary schools can apply for funding to offer their own training centres.

"Our preference would be to remain funded at a commonwealth level because the state response has been less than desired," Nigel Hill, chairman of the Australian Technical College Association told The Australian.

At a time when 40 per cent of first-year trade apprentices are dropping out and exacerbating skills shortages, the Rudd Government has allocated $2.5billion over 10 years for schools to establish trade training centres. The Government is also spending $1.9billion over five years to provide 630,000 new training places, including 85,000 apprenticeships.

But Mr Hill believes the approach of the colleges in attracting students while they are still in school and having them work closely with industry is the key to improving retention rates. An example is the ATC at Sunshine in Melbourne's west, whose chairman Barry McCarthy is also the manager of car giant Toyota's training and development planning centre. Enrolments at Sunshine have this year doubled to 120. "We think this is a good model going forward, but we need to ensure that industry connection," he said.

About 3000 school students are enrolled in the technical colleges, federal funding for which will cease at the end of 2009. The Government is working to integrate the colleges on a case-by-case basis into the existing training education system, which is largely a state responsibility.


Australia: Crackdown on underpaid guest workers

Australia's new centre-Left government seems mad-keen to increase immigration but their union supporters don't like that at all. The measures below are an attempt to placate the unions. The unions have long been the major source of anti-immigration sentiment in Australia so there is no doubt that they will put the brakes on the do-gooder ambitions of their government

Harsh penalties for employers of 457 visa workers and increased powers for immigration officers are part of a shake-up of Australia's temporary skilled migration program to be proposed today by the Rudd Government. Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the new laws would help prevent the exploitation of foreign workers and ensure the wages and conditions of Australian workers were not undercut.

Senator Evans will today release a discussion paper on proposed reforms to the 457 visa regime, as part of a major review promised in April. Proposed changes include expanded powers for immigration officers to enter and search workplaces to determine whether employers are complying with sponsorship obligations.

Employers could also face penalties of up to 10 years' jail or $110,000 fines for providing false or misleading information, and naming and shaming if they fail to remedy breaches. Government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office would also be able to share information to determine whether visa holders were being paid the correct amount.

The proposed changes, planned for September, come as Australia has dramatically increased its intake of permanent and temporary migrants. For the first time, the temporary skilled migration program will exceed 100,000 over the 2007-08 financial year.

In the discussion paper, the Government also seeks feedback on additional obligations that sponsors may have to temporary foreign workers. Unions have demanded guarantees of market wages for workers on 457 visas and tough requirements for bosses to prove skilled jobs can't be filled locally.


Rudd feels the sting of a self-inflicted wound

KEVIN Rudd has been slapped about by political reality. No one ever seriously expected Labor to win the Gippsland by-election. It's a Nationals seat. But the 8.4 per cent swing against Labor is a stern reminder that voters pay on results, not talk.

Since taking office, Rudd has faced difficult obstacles not of his own making, including the global oil crisis as well as the inflationary pressures that built up last year under John Howard's watch and have continued to push interest rates upwards. But the new Prime Minister has also damaged himself. During last year's election campaign, Rudd led people to believe he could do something about the prices of fuel and groceries. Although it is true he made no specific promises, instead vowing that monitoring would put downward pressure on prices, he used the power of suggestion for political gain. Now he is paying. Grocery and fuel prices have increased.

Then there was Rudd's first budget, with its tax on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks pathetically disguised as part of a fight against binge drinking. It was a revenue-raising measure. People might have respected it had it not masqueraded as something else.

The risk of Rudd's political strategy is that it opens him to criticism as someone who talks a lot and does nothing. Worse than that, he looks mean, tricky and wowserish on the issue of alcohol excise. Such themes are already at the heart of Brendan Nelson's political strategy. Apparently, they have registered with the voters of Gippsland.

In some ways, it's unfair. Rudd is undertaking a huge amount of behind-the-scenes and vital reform in areas such as health, education and inter-governmental relations. This will be highlighted on Thursday when a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments slashes red tape affecting business. Such reforms are meaty and important. In retrospect, they will be universally lauded. But they take time to produce results and they are too obscure to capture the public imagination.

The fat swing in the Gippsland by-election - an 8.4 per cent swing turnaround in only seven months - ought to be a cause for concern in Labor ranks. It should ring alarm bells about Rudd's political strategy. It is too glib - it assumes people are stupid and unable to see through spin. It is time for Mr 24/7 to inject greater authenticity into his style of government.


Australian astronomical Society warns of global COOLING as Sun's activity 'significantly diminishes'

A new paper published by the Astronomical Society of Australia has a warning to global warming believers not immediately obvious from the summary:
Based on our claim that changes in the Sun's equatorial rotation rate are synchronized with changes in the Sun's orbital motion about the barycentre, we propose that the mean period for the Sun's meridional flow is set by a Synodic resonance between the flow period (~22.3 yr), the overall 178.7-yr repetition period for the solar orbital motion, and the 19.86-yr synodic period of Jupiter and Saturn.

Or as one of the authors, Ian Wilson, kindly explained to me: It supports the contention that the level of activity on the Sun will significantly diminish sometime in the next decade and remain low for about 20 - 30 years. On each occasion that the Sun has done this in the past the World's mean temperature has dropped by ~ 1 - 2 C. Oh. Global cooling coming, then. Obvious, really.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

An interesting by-election

An 8.4% swing against the Labor party was more than the normal by-election swing of about 5% but it may be even worse for them than that looks

If the Gippsland by-election result was replicated around Australia, the Rudd government would be in strife, a senior academic says. Dr Nick Economou, a senior lecturer in politics at Monash University, says Gippsland was an excellent result for the coalition, with its strong anti-Labor swing. "Swings against the government in a by-election are not unexpected - that tends to be the norm," Dr Economou told AAP. ``But I draw Labor's attention to the disastrous results in what should be very safe Labor voting areas (of Gippsland) - Morwell, Churchill and Traralgon. "It's dangerous for Labor and it's the sort of pattern observable in 1996 when safe Labor electorates turned against them and Labor lost in a landslide."

He said the result sent a warning to Labor and the collateral damage was that it will lose support in traditional blue-collar electorates. "Labor has a number of those in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania, and if the sort of reaction to Mr Rudd seen in the La Trobe Valley was replicated in those other states Labor would be in a lot trouble," Dr Economou said.

Dr Paul James, a professor of globalisation and social sciences at Melbourne's RMIT, believes Mr Rudd's relationship with the electorate has changed after making some bad decisions. "He's been trying to micro-manage his public relations in a way that prime ministers should never do," Dr James said. Dr James says the fuel tax issue and Mr Rudd's intervention in the Belinda Neal affair from Japan had not done him any favours. "John Howard would never have responded to a minor altercation back home - such as one of his backbenchers doing something crazy," Dr James said. "On a whole lot of issues (Mr Rudd) has shown himself to be petty or increasingly, a kind of school master approach, in how he deals with the public service. "Those things have an effect and the by-election is an example of that."

Ms Neal, the federal MP for the NSW Central Coast seat of Robertson, and her NSW MP husband John Della Bosca, are being investigated after a run-in with staff at Iguanas Waterfront at Gosford.


Rudd, the lone ranger

Rudd's two closest advisers are a pair of 28-year-olds who've risen almost without trace and whose relationship with their 50-year-old boss is more like that of sons to their father. Alister Jordan is his chummy deputy chief of staff and Lachlan Harris his legendarily terse senior press secretary. Sinodinos's notional successor as chief of staff is David Epstein, who worked in the same capacity for Kim Beazley. Paul Keating once described him as someone so indecisive he wouldn't get out of bed in the morning without a poll to work out on which side. Lyons says this sells him short and that he's a political pro, having been in and around politics for 20 years. But, he says, "Epstein's history is largely in spin; in the Hawke and Keating governments he ran the propaganda unit, known as Animals: the National Media Liaison Service." He also credits Epstein with Beazley and Rudd's utter preoccupation with the 24-hour news cycle.

The unmistakable impression is that Rudd, a former head bureaucrat in the Goss government in Queensland, is acting as his own chief of staff. Plainly he's a control freak who doesn't trust most of the people who work for him and can barely delegate tasks even to senior ministers. Nor does it sound as though any of his inner circle can tell him things he doesn't want to hear. This was reinforced by Lyons's anecdote about the Prime Minister sitting in his office at Parliament Office at the beginning of this month, watching Senate estimates, of all things. Apparently he became infuriated by the accusation that he'd broken an election promise to give every secondary student a computer.

Julia Gillard and "the team" were summoned, minions were told to chase down everything he'd said on the subject before polling day, and there was a flurry of meetings. Every transcript was analysed and the day's scheduled appointments were cancelled. This is no way to lead a party -- let alone to govern the country -- and the abler people in caucus all know it.

On any given day, prime ministers always have far more pressing and important tasks to attend to than watching Senate estimates. After all, hardly anyone else pays them any heed. It's beginning to sound like a whim-driven office, run by a Prime Minister with too much time on his hands and no higher priority than trying to manage the 24-hour media cycle. In media management terms, if potentially damaging accusations emerge, a cheer squad of Labor senators is always there to counter them and there are staff galore to sift the evidence, without tying up the Government's two most senior ministers, the people most able to get the Government back on the front foot.

Lyons says that if Rudd keeps governing as he is doing now, "he'll earn the nickname Captain Chaos". He's alluding in passing to Captain Wacky, the nickname former ALP national secretary Gary Gray gave to Keating in the lead-up to the 1996 federal election. Another anecdote from last Saturday's story goes a long way to justifying the prediction.

Last month cabinet's national security committee was scheduled to meet but the meeting was delayed for several hours and Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Michael L'Estrange were left loitering in corridors. In the old days Sinodinos would at least have invited them into the cabinet antechamber, offered profuse apologies and asked for their thoughts on the day's agenda. It was widely construed as a snub, although it may simply have been appalling management. In any event, this is no way to conduct matters of state and it's hard to conceive of other business that could plausibly be given a higher priority.

Rudd's management style and his worsening relations with top-level bureaucrats were the subject of another fascinating piece in The Australian on Wednesday by Paul Maley entitled "Yes, Prime Minister". It's worth noting that the two main people quoted in the article were Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Stephen Jones and Australian National University politics professor John Wanna. Neither could be considered as hostile to the new Government, yet it can have drawn little comfort from their conclusions.

Jones voices the complaint of many public servants who are required to produce reams of advice and research papers at very little notice and without much confidence that they're even being read, let alone attended to. "I'm also hearing that everything is centralised. Based on the way I run my own office, there's a limit to how much information you can process, and I'm running a union, not the country."

Wanna agrees, seeing Rudd as presiding over a government that's busy but not particularly effective. "What you hear is that there's not much process, that people don't know what's going on. That a lot of stuff goes into Rudd's office and they're waiting for it to be spat back out again, and that there are time delays."

Will many people outside Canberra care about overworked bureaucrats getting their noses out of joint and feeling under-appreciated? Perhaps not, or at least not yet. However, the level of obsessive micro-management and the chaos in the Prime Minister's office tell us quite a lot about his character and don't augur well. They suggest that he'll be hopeless if he ever has a real crisis to deal with and hard decisions that need to be made quickly.

Wanna also says Rudd seems to have reverted to his modus operandi as head of the Queensland Cabinet Office, where he acquired the nickname Dr Death because of his fractious relations with the public service. He's surprised the Prime Minister hasn't learned from the experience. "He worked 100-hour weeks. "They tried to control everything and the more they tried to control it, the more the public service and the interest groups stepped outside the control."


School has a "plan" to deal with bullying (but does nothing)

As long as the paperwork is in order, who cares about anything else?

A high school student accused of bullying may be legally banned from going near his 12-year-old victim. In a landmark court case, the 13-year-old Year 8 student is facing an application for a peace and good behaviour bond, which could prevent him attending his school on the Darling Downs. In the Children's Court last week, the parents of his alleged victim said the Education Department failed to act to protect their son from daily attacks. They are considering suing the State Government for neglect, arguing the department failed in its duty of care. "The department has been treating (the accused boy) with kid gloves, yet he is running riot," said the alleged victim's father, who cannot be named for legal reasons. "When we complained to the school, we were told our son had anger-management problems. The school is 100 per cent liable, yet will not admit any liability."

The case will be considered at a hearing early next month. The court could ban the student from going within a certain distance of his alleged victim, which could keep him out of the school grounds. The father told The Sunday Mail: "Thousands of parents would go through this every day, and the schools don't want to get involved."

The alleged victim, who has been put on detention himself over the conflicts, says he is subjected to regular threats of assault, including blows to the back of the head.

The mother of the alleged bully has defended her son, despite admitting he had a history of schoolyard violence which included being suspended from primary school for bullying. She said he was recently suspended for five days following an attack. "He is not totally out of control," the mother said. "I am not saying he is 'a home angel and a street devil'. I have had a lot of contact with the principal since the incident and (the boy) has been removed from the class. There is not much more the school can do." She said she would fight a court order, on the grounds her son was too young.

A check of court records shows there is no case in Queensland of a student being granted such a bond over another student for bullying. However, in the New South Wales city of Newcastle, a 13-year-old school bully was placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond in September 2003 after grabbing a small boy by the neck and demanding he give him $5 the next day.

Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford last week defended Nerang State High School, where an alleged bully has avoided suspension despite attacking a former fellow student at a bus stop.

Education Queensland has declined to comment on whether it has breached a duty of care to the alleged victim in the Darling Downs case. A spokeswoman for Education Queensland said only: "Under common law, teachers owe to all students a duty of care to adhere to a reasonable standard of care to protect them from foreseeable harm. The department respects the process of law and will respect the terms of any decision made by the court." [Big of them!] She said the school had a responsible-behaviour plan in place as part of last year's introduction of the state-wide Code of School Behaviour.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Elizabeth Fraser said if students were not satisfied with a school's response, they could raise concerns with the commission's complaints team, which could be an advocate for them.


Another childcare meltdown

The proper place for little kids is in a loving home

A TODDLER went missing from his Strathpine childcare centre and wandered along a busy main road, and nobody noticed for two hours. Tiny two-year-old Tyler Brown - nicknamed "Midget" - walked out of the unlocked fire escape of Strathpine Trainease Childcare Centre and sauntered 500m down Gympie Rd, past an open stormwater drain and the railway line. He ended up in the car park of a small shopping complex where a courier driver noticed him toddling between the cars about 10.30am yesterday.

The driver took the boy inside to a chemist who figured he must belong to a playgroup operating at children's clothing and artwork shop, Patch Place. But owner, Fiona Patching said he was not one of theirs. "He had a Westfield Strathpine balloon so we called them to see if they had any missing children reported but they hadn't. So then we rang Petrie police and advised them," Mrs Patching said.

While waiting for police, Mrs Patching thought she'd try a nearby childcare centre on "the off chance" he belonged to them. "I was told 'no, we're not missing any children', and then the director came on the phone. She said, 'I'll come down and make sure'," she said. The child was quickly identified as Tyler and the centre then contacted his mother, Elizabeth Brown, just before midday. "When I got down there, and police were there with two lady officers I said, 'Right, I want answers'," Mrs Brown said. "I said, 'Have you looked at video surveillance?' and the police looked at Robyn (the director) and she said she didn't know how to work it. There's so many unanswered questions, like how did he get the balloon?"

Mrs Brown said she took Tyler straight home and would not be returning to the centre. "They couldn't explain why he got out, but he obviously wasn't being watched," she said. "He took my hand and showed me how he got out, through a fire escape door. Any child could have done the same."

Director and licensee of the centre Maurizio Pizzato said the incident had been very distressing to staff. "This child has just gone past our guard. It should never have happened and we're trying our hardest now to make sure it never happens again," he said. He confirmed the child had "escaped" through the fire door which he said had to remain unlocked in line with fire safety regulations.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, Robin Sullivan, said she had referred the matter to her department to make sure no other children were at risk. Police said the investigation into the incident was now in the hands of the Department of Communities. A spokesperson from the department said the matter was being treated as a "serious safety breach". "Regional officers have already conducted an unannounced inspection of the service this afternoon, and will continue their investigation," the spokesperson said.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Immigration stressing Australian infrastructure

There are large political difficulties in providing new infrastructure. Just to take a very obvious example: More people increases the demand for water. So build news dams to supply it? Not if the Greenies have any say! And they do. The problems are political, not technical -- but that does not mean that they can easily be overcome

The congestion problems in the news this week have the same cause as a lot of other problems that make the Herald's front page. They're due to our increasing population, or more precisely, our failure to make adequate provision for it.

This might seem obvious, but in fact Sydney is in a state of denial about population increase. We don't prepare for it adequately and seem constantly surprised that public services and infrastructure fail. When they do, we blame politicians, or climate change, or the greed of people (other people) for cars and houses and air conditioning. Anything but what is often the main cause, population growth. This comes from births, migration from other parts of Australia, and immigration, but it's only the last category we have much control over.

This week the Bureau of Statistics announced that last year the nation's population grew at its fastest rate since 1988. The growth rate was 1.6 per cent, or 331,900 people. Net overseas migration contributed 56 per cent of that increase. As is well known, a large proportion of those people settle in Sydney. But for years, Sydney has just pretended it wasn't happening..

Water is a good example because it's so simple. A Water Supply Strategic Review prepared for the Water Board in 1991 noted that since Warragamba Dam had been completed in 1960, Sydney's water storage capacity had been increased by only 2 per cent. This was despite an increase in population from 2.3 million to 3.6 million. The report noted, given the projected future population increase, "if measures are not taken to provide Sydney with additional storage, early in the next century there will be a real risk of serious water restrictions being necessary".

The rest is history, but try to find anyone today who will admit our water restrictions are the result of population growth and the failure by governments to respond adequately. Much easier to blame drought and global warming.

The same thing can be seen with other issues. Just this week in the Herald there's been coverage of a report on road congestion by the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies. Among other things, the report advocates building more roads to keep pace with population increase. The Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, rejected the report as the work of "academics in ivory towers". He also rejected a proposal by the institute for congestion pricing of traffic.

So what do the streetwise guys in government propose as a response to population pressure on our roads? In relation to the size of the problem, just about nothing. When you consider the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics has predicted an 18 per cent increase in car use by 2020 due to population growth, maybe we need something better.

Why has the link between immigration numbers and the above issues been ignored? One reason is that state governments have no say in those numbers. And the Federal Government has no (direct) responsibility for most of the problems they cause. If Kevin Rudd knew that when he bumped immigrant numbers up he'd be responsible for all the extra schools, hospitals and roads that would be needed, he might think twice.

Another reason immigration has been ignored is because to question it is to be seen as politically incorrect, even racist. This could why the environmental movement has largely ignored it, despite its central role in the problems the movement talks about all the time. The Australian Greens' record on this has been documented by author and conservationist William J. Lines. Writing with Natalie Stone in People and Place in 2003, he noted: "Originally promulgated in 1995, the [Green] party's population policy was revised in 1998 and again in 2002. With each revision the Greens altered their principles, lessened their commitment to limiting population growth . [and] replaced concern about population and environmental degradation with a social justice, global human rights platform."

Before the policy launch for the 1998 federal election, "the Greens' immigration policy proposed that 'Australia's voluntary immigration program be reduced as part of a strategy to achieve eventual stabilisation of the Australian population'. Subsequent policies dropped this strategy entirely and made no recommendation to reduce immigration. In fact the [policy] targets now openly encourage immigration". Another rollover occurred in the Australian Conservation Foundation. In his book Patriots (UQP), Lines describes how in the 1990s "each successive leader [of the ACF] displayed an extreme reluctance to discuss population".

Barry Cohen, the former Labor politician, noted recently that it is bizarre to hold apocalyptic beliefs about human-induced climate change while supporting near-record levels of immigration.

It's time for a national conversation about immigration numbers. We'll be starting from a long way behind. At the moment the Government doesn't even have an overall number for immigration for next year, which is strange when you consider the Prime Minister's belief in planning and targets. The issue of population was treated in a trivial manner by the 2020 Summit, which arrived at the following vision: "By 2020 we will have a sustainable population and consumption policy: while the population grows, net consumption should decrease." Let's get real.

Steve Bracks, the former Victorian premier, has called for the premiers' conference to devise a population policy and then look at how the nation will cope with the resultant immigrant numbers. He wants the Commonwealth to give more money for this purpose to the states. Whatever figure is arrived at, this sounds like a sensible approach.


Government child safety agency fails yet again

There are a lot of dead kids to testify to their bureaucratic incompetence

The desperate plight of three children found murdered by their violent father yesterday was known to the NSW Department of Community Services, which gave up on them. Just days earlier, the children's father Gary Bell, 44 was released by police on bail after bashing his wife, with the officers notifying the beleaguered department about Jack, 7, Maddie, 5 and Bon, aged just 18 months.

Last night, hours after their tiny bodies and their dead father were found in a 4WD at the family's home at Pericoe on the Far South Coast, DOCS admitted it failed to reach the family and offered the excuse that staff had tried. It is believed the children and father had been dead for days. The Daily Telegraph can reveal DOCS had been notified twice previously over concerns for the children, once in 2005 when Bell was charged with assault, and again in 2006.

The children's shattered mother Karen was being comforted by her mother in Bega last night, where it is believed she had been staying since leaving her husband. Mrs Bell's father Harold last night told The Daily Telegraph that Bell had "never touched the kids until now". "He shouldn't have killed the kids. He should have just killed himself," the shattered grandfather said. He said his daughter, 33, had an opportunity to take the children and leave following last week's assault "but she didn't".

It is understood Bell was released on bail by police on Sunday because he had just one prior charge of assault in 2005. He was due to appear in court on July 15 on the domestic violence charge.

Neighbours and those close to the couple yesterday described the horrific abuse suffered by Mrs Bell over several years with injuries including black eyes and bruises. Neighbour Tony Boller said he received a desperate call from Mrs Bell last Saturday. "There was a disturbance, there was a lot of screaming and yelling while she was on the phone to the house. She was being assaulted," Mr Boller said. Mr Boller, who lives on the site of the former commune named Two Creeks where the Bells lived, said Mrs Bell fled the property after the weekend assault. Other neighbours said police had hunted Bell in bushland on the property at 3am on Sunday. "She left. I just don't think he was coping with looking after the kids," Mr Boller said.

The children were murdered in a large 4WD which had piping connecting it to a generator. It is believed they were drugged before dying from exhaust fumes. Police made the horrific discovery at 11.15am yesterday.

"He should never have been released (this week)," another neighbour said. "I wanted to ring DOCS, you don't know how much I regret that. They were beautiful, sweet little kids."

Another neighbour, pensioner Rick O'Hara described the area as a "gulag". "It really is the valley of failure. This place is rotten," he said.

DOCS were notified this week by police of the latest assault but in a statement last night the department attempted to defend itself with claims it was unable to reach the family. "In recent days, DOCS was informed that police had taken out an apprehended violence order against the children's father," the statement said. "DOCS staff subsequently made a number of attempts to contact the family to provide support but was unable to reach them." [phone calls only, no doubt] ...

The family had lived at Two Creeks, which has attracted people wanting an alternative lifestyle since the 1970s, for about five years.


Muslim fraud on the taxpayer

Australian Islamic College founder Abdallah Magar and two of his principals have been charged with fraud in relation to $3 million of Government funding. The Major Fraud Squad laid the charges after an 18-month investigation into offences alleged to have occurred in relation to the management of the AIC schools in Thornlie, Kewdale and Dianella. It is alleged the colleges defrauded $653,073 from the WA Government and $2,513,087 from the Federal Government from 2005 to 2006. Mr Magar and the two principals allegedly defrauded State and Federal government student subsidised funding programs by claiming for students who were not attending the colleges.

Mr Magar, 69, of Attadale, was charged today with 10 counts of gaining benefit by fraud for another person and five counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception. Mark Brian Debowski, 50, of Nedlands, was charged with two counts of gaining benefit by fraud for another person and one count of obtaining a financial advantage by deception. Aziz Magdi, 53, of Alfred Cove, was charged with six counts of gaining benefit by fraud for another person and three counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

Police said this morning that the charges resulted from inquiries conducted into material seized from search warrants executed by state police, helped by the Federal Department of Education and Workplace Relations Investigations Unit, at the three colleges on 30 January 2007 and subsequent interviews with witnesses.

The State Government gave the college $4.3 million in per capita grants in 2004-05. The Federal Government provided $13.3 million in 2006 and $11.5 million in 2005.

Education Minister Mark McGowan said that he hoped the Islamic Colleges would stay open. But Mr McGowan said that new auditing processes had been put in place to ensure that funding was based only on real student numbers as for all private schools. Mr McGowan said if there were a guilty finding, the WA Government would work with the Commonwealth and "pursue all avenues" to recover the allegedly defrauded money. "There's various ways in which we can do that,"" Mr McGowan said. "We can cut back on future grants. We can seek a repayment from the school. They're the avenues we'll adopt if there is a guilty finding." He said the future operation of the school would be determined by its school board.

In January last year, police raided the three colleges and Mr Magar's office in Booragoon in relation to the allegations. A team of six full time investigators were involved in the investigation, with 200 statements taken, and more than 200 archive boxes, 12 filing cabinets and 15 computers examined. Both the State Department of Education Services and the Federal Department of Education and Workplace Relations were involved in the investigation. All three men will appear in the Perth Magistrates Court on July 2, 2008.


GM wheat superior in Australia's dry climate

Will Australia's farmers fall for the charms of drought-resistant wheat, even if it's genetically modified? Faced with climate change and a growing food crisis, enthusiasts certainly hope such traits will help overcome aversion to GM technology.

Of 24 strains of GM wheat tested in field trials, two lines exceeded the yield of the non-GM variety by 20 per cent under drought conditions, according to German Spangenberg of the Victoria Department of Primary Industries in Melbourne, Australia. The results were presented last week at the Bio2008 convention in San Diego, California.

Environmental groups remain unconvinced. "The main driver of genetic engineering is to make it possible to patent crop strains. That won't help farmers in developing countries who need to keep back seeds for their next year's crop," says Louise Sales of Greenpeace Australia in Sydney.

Australian farmers may yet be persuaded. The forecast for this year's wheat crop has just been trimmed by 9 per cent because of dry conditions, although it may still be up by 10 million tonnes compared to last year's drought-devastated crop.


Friday, June 27, 2008

New ambulance computer system still cactus

Maybe they did not oil it enough. See my second post of the day on 23rd for background

For the second time in a week Emergency Services' $6 million computer system has crashed, forcing operators to log jobs on a "big whiteboard". The Emergency Services Computer Aided Dispatch system failed without notice at 11:30am for no apparent reason. It was back online fairly quickly - unlike last week's 90 minute outage - which was blamed on a maintenance issue.

The expensive new computer system went "live" in Brisbane on May 1 despite the concerns of fire service communications operators. Officers who contacted The Courier Mail expressed fears problems experienced in the southwest region would be repeated in the busy metropolitan area with serious consequences. The problems included delays in the system and unexplained outages, like today's crash.

Emergency Services management has previously stated its complete confidence in the escad system which was initially delayed to provide officers with extra training.


Rudd's high-cost global warming policy has already been tried -- and it achieves nothing

By Andrew Bolt

KEVIN Rudd has a plan to cut your emissions that won't work, will hurt and isn't needed. In fact, if the Prime Minister has any sense, he'll check the soaring prices for oil and coal and say his painful plan has been tried on you already, and has failed, failed, failed. Or does he want Labor to lose the next, unloseable election?

Rudd's plan is to cut our greenhouse gases - the ones he claims are heating the world to hell - by making power plants and businesses pay for tradeable licences that let them gas on. You emit, you pay. That means hitting the biggest sources of carbon dioxide the hardest - petrol and coal-fired power in particular - in the hope the pain of higher prices will force consumers (like you) to switch to something less gassy.

Your petrol prices will therefore soar, perhaps by 30 cents a litre, suggest the Liberals. So will your power bills, by as much as double, warn power generators, some of whom may actually be driven bankrupt. Prices of anything trucked or flown to you will also rise, of course, as well as anything made with lots of power, like steel or even food.

And to avoid this pain? Well, you'll need to, say, buy a brand new Prius. Walk to work. Build a smaller house and bunk up. Refit your home with the latest green gadgets, like a $20,000 solar heating system. Stuff that will hurt, unless you're as rich as Rudd.

All this will start just two years from now. In fact, those higher bills will start coming in in the middle of an election campaign, unless the increasingly nervous Government blinks. No wonder Rudd is jittery, repeatedly refusing to admit how much he'll make petrol prices rise and pleading with the Opposition on Wednesday to "consider their responsibilities" and not mount a "scare campaign on petrol".

I had to laugh at the hypocrite. Him, complaining about a scare campaign? This is the bloke who in the same breath went on to warn Parliament that without his grand plan 1400 Australians a year would drop dead of heat exhaustion, while plagues of dengue fever and malaria would ravage our land, and seas two metres higher would flood our towns. Yeah, right. The man should sell snake oil.

Even so, we're still sick with apocalyptis and many Australians still seem to think the pain of Rudd's plan is worth every pang if it manages to cut our greenhouse gases and avert doom. Indeed, there are so many such people that even the timid Liberals have been forced to say they, too, support an emissions trading scheme of the kind Rudd promises, but without yet endorsing his target of slashing gases by 60 per cent by 2050.

But the big question is: could Rudd's plan even work? Let's ignore the basic fact that the world hasn't actually warmed since 1998, according to the Hadley Centre. Ignore also that the seas have actually fallen for the past two years, according to Colorado University's Centre for Astrodynamics Research. Ignore even the 31,000 scientists who last month signed a petition warning there was actually no proof man was heating the world to dangerous levels. And, finally, ignore that Australia's emissions comprise just 1.5 per cent of the world's, and that we could shut off every light and machine and not change a thing, especially while China, the biggest emitter, refuses to take its foot off the gassy pedal.

As I say, ignore everything that screams we're fools for even wanting to slash our gases with an emissions trading scheme that even a too-cheery CSIRO report this week says will cost at least $8 billion a year. Let's focus instead on this: can Rudd's plan work? Will his emissions trading scheme slash our gases by anything close to what he wants? There are two reasons to say that it hasn't the slightest hope. That all Rudd will do is raise green taxes, not cut greenhouse gases.

First, of course, is the fact the European Union has the only such emissions trading scheme in the world - and it's a flop. The European Environment Agency this month reported that emissions from the 12,000 factories and plants covered by its trading scheme actually rose over the past two years. Europe's emissions overall fell just 0.3 per cent last year, thanks to a mild winter and higher petrol prices, and there is little sign it can cut its gases by anything like the 60 per cent it's promising. In fact, the only reason Europe's emissions are still 7.7 per cent below what they were in 1990 is that the old, gassy ex-Soviet industries of Eastern Europe and East Germany collapsed in the 1990s. For developed Europe, the emissions have simply kept rising - by 4 per cent over 1990 levels - and will keep rising still.

But we don't have to look simply to Europe to realise carbon trading is a false hope, richer in rorts than promise. Check the price on the petrol pump, already 40 cents a litre higher than it was just a year ago. Feel that pain? It's the de facto carbon tax that's already been levied on us, even before Rudd gets to work and slugs you even more through his emissions trading scheme. You see, all of our main sources of carbon dioxide emissions have already had huge price hikes imposed on them by the markets, thanks to an economic boom, especially in China and India. Since 2001, oil prices have gone up 700 per cent. Thermal coal, for power, has gone up 400 per cent. Coking coal, for making steel, has gone up 600 per cent.

These are astonishing rises, hitting consumers even harder than Rudd yet dreams of hitting with his emissions scheme. That's your carbon tax, right there. But have emissions fallen as a result? Not at all. World emissions since 2000 have instead risen faster than ever. Even these record prices for carbon-intensive sources of power cannot cut the world's greenhouse gases. Nor have they cut our own. Those top prices you now pay for petrol, air travel, power and the rest may hurt us plenty, but they still haven't hurt enough to make us switch en masse to greener alternatives -- most of which haven't yet been invented. Australia's emissions are instead booming, according to government figures released this week. Our gases are up 6 per cent on 1990 levels - or by 31 per cent once we exclude the largely one-off savings we got from halting land-clearing.

Bottom line: There is no chance any time soon that we can even stop our emissions rising, let alone slash them by Rudd's 60 per cent. So Rudd will hit us with a carbon emissions scheme that will lift prices still more, but do little more than raise him extra taxes - unless he's mad, and cranks up carbon prices so high that he shuts down entire industries.

So I'm not surprised voters are now growing wary of such green plans to "save" the planet from a threat that may well not exist, and which in any case would be best solved by technology - like nuclear power - and not taxes. Only last week, a Galaxy poll in Queensland found 71 per cent of voters were against an extra petrol tax to cut emissions, and that's even with most journalists and politicians still refusing to tell them the full truth about the great global warming swindle.

Such scepticism will only grow, especially while the planet refuses to keep warming - a fact now so unmissable that even The Age may report it this side of Christmas. Already the sweaty Government is thinking of ways to dodge the backlash to come, this week reportedly considering delaying any price rises until after the election (more fool you), or making them so low that you won't feel the pain - but won't cut your emissions, either.

What a farce. For once I'm hoping Rudd will be true to type and be all spin and no substance, giving us a green tax too low to work, but just high enough to make him seem he's Doing Something. A hypocrite is better than a wrecker, after all. Unless, of course, you really, really think another 40 cents at the pump will do for the planet what the last 40 cents couldn't. But then you'd be crazy enough to believe in catastrophic global warming, too, wouldn't you?


Judges who think they can legislate

IF you want to understand the battle under way within the judiciary these days, the US is an ideal place to start. Here, activist judges have a secret weapon in their fight to remake the law in their preferred image without having to bother with getting changes through parliament: the law of large numbers. If enough of them do an end run around the legislature, the appellate courts and the politicians won't be able to keep up with them. The modus operandi was neatly summed up by Stephen Reinhardt from the Ninth Court Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco. Described as the "liberal bad boy of the federal judiciary", Reinhardt hears about 500 cases each year. Even though the US Supreme Court has a propensity to overturn his overtly activist decisions, Reinhardt boasts that "they can't catch 'em all".

In Australia, too, we have lower court judges who like to cook up the odd bit of new law. They chafe under the scrutiny of a High Court that in the past decade at least has generally accepted that new law should be made by parliaments, not courts. Enter Keith Mason. The former president of the NSW Court of Appeal used his recent retirement to spit the judicial dummy, demanding that the High Court stop being so critical of judges on lower courts who aim to improve and expand the law.

In the case of traditionalists v innovators, Mason believes he is on the side of innovating angels. He says he is no traditional black-letter lawyer who defers to precedent. He prefers a sexier judicial role. He is a legal innovator, as Chief Justice Jim Spigelman described Mason in his effusive praise at the Banco Court a few weeks ago. Innovator is code for judicial activist. Still smarting from a High Court case last year that overturned a decision of the NSW Court of Appeal, Mason - the judicial innovator - is incensed that the High Court snubbed his court's attempt to expand the law to his liking. Without boring you with the arcane details of restitution, Mason went on a frolic, trying to extend the scope of unjust enrichment. The High Court refused to join in, basically telling the NSW Court of Appeal to do the right judicial thing and apply precedent.

Behaving like a judicial version of a woman scorned, Mason attacked our most senior court for claiming a monopoly in the development of common law in Australia. "If lower courts are excluded from venturing contributions that may push the odd envelope, then the law will be poorer for it." By refusing Mason's attempt to enrich the law, the High Court was adhering to "blinkered methods". It had an "unduly inward-looking focus". It was "shutting off much of the oxygen of fresh ideas".

Let's tease out the claims of this malcontent. The High Court is the nation's final appellate court entrusted with declaring the law of the land. That aside, if every innovating judge attempts to push the envelope by creating new law, then it follows that precedent - quaintly known as the rule of law - counts for naught. The law becomes a moving, unknown beast. Unfortunately, such mundane matters as legal certainty don't much matter to judges who wish to immortalise themselves by creating law to suit their concept of justice.

Judicial kvetching reached even more ridiculous levels last year when Mason said the High Court was guilty of using personally offensive language when it graded an error by a lower court as serious. He is not alone in that complaint. Perhaps the aim is to have the High Court imitate the misguided teacher who won't tell a naughty kid he flunked a test in case it hurts his feelings and damages his self-esteem.

Toughen up, gentlemen. In the US, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia fights the march of judicial imperialism with language that would make our precious Australian judges tremble. When Scalia disagrees, he tells you so. He said one majority judgment deserved a "prize for the court's most feeble effort".

Alas, some judges do make grave errors. Some deliberately ignore precedent and the judicial oath to do "justice according to the law". In other words, some judges get it wrong. Sometimes badly wrong. When they do, they deserve to be criticised. Sometimes strongly criticised. However, Reinhardt's law of large numbers is broadly correct. Final appellate courts cannot keep track of every maverick decision by politicking judges. There's just too many of them these days. That's why judicial decisions need constant scrutiny by the press and by parliament.

Take the Aurukun nine rape case that attracted worldwide media attention after The Australian revealed that Cairns District Court judge Sarah Bradley chose not to impose jail sentences on the nine males who raped a 10-year-old girl at the Cape York community of Aurukun. Public criticism exposed a serious judicial error, ultimately corrected on appeal. "These errors were so serious as to produce a clear miscarriage of justice," Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said. The Court of Appeal sentenced five men to jail for up to six years. The other four, who were juveniles at the time of the rape, will all serve a period of detention.

Consider the British judge at the Special Appeals Commission who last week decided to release from detention Jordanian-born cleric Abu Qatada, who appears to have impressive terrorist credentials. Terrorism experts describe Qatada as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe. He was convicted in his absence in the Middle East for involvement in 1998 terrorist attacks. The British judge released Qatada on condition that he not hang out with bin Laden or drop into any mosque and that he wear an electronic tag. That must make Britons feel safe. The Conservatives correctly branded the decision as offensive. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the Government would be appealing to have Qatada deported.

It's worth noting that the judges who are most vocal in their objections to criticism tend to be those innovating judges who prefer to mould the law to suit their conception of justice. Public outrage is rebuffed as populist nonsense. Critics in the media are described as bully boys. Attempts by parliament to hold them to account are ridiculed as an intrusive attack on their independence.

But the answer for these judges is obvious. If you want a quiet judicial life, stick to the more traditional judicial method. If you prefer to push the judicial envelope, don't be surprised if others will describe your judicial method and decisions as flawed. Even gravely flawed. This tiresome allergy to criticism will only intensify as the battle between innovators and traditionalists over the judicial role continues.


Photo crackdown hits parents' proud moments

ACCORDING to recent reports, parents have been forced to ask for permission to photograph their kids at some children's sporting clubs. Other clubs have prohibited the taking of snapshots altogether. Many parents are understandably distressed at the idea that they cannot provide themselves or their children with permanent and special images of their offspring's athletic accomplishments. But what do these extraordinary measures suggest about us as a society?

What point have we reached when we either have to ask permission or are prevented from doing what parents have done ever since the camera was invented: that is, create pictorial records of our children playing sport? What sort of hysteria is guiding these decisions? Suddenly, any adult with a camera within range of a child is looked at askance, and their motives are not only under suspicion but also their entire character is assassinated. Many adults with cameras at playing fields on weekends have reported being verbally abused, to the point where threats were made against them and accusations screamed, often in front of their own, shaken and confused, children.

Recent debates in the media and interest-group fuelled fears have ensured that no longer are these snap-happy grown-ups able to lovingly capture moments to place in the scrapbook of memories. No. Instead, innocent adult intentions are maligned and these people are branded pedophiles - loudly and publicly by other angry and frightened mothers and fathers.

Some people are attributing this extreme response to the recent Bill Henson photographic exhibition fiasco. But I'm afraid they're off the mark. This same excessive effect has occurred before, such as when bathing children at South Bank were surreptitiously photographed a couple of years ago.

While Henson's provocative images have allowed an important debate about children and sexualisation to continue, we also have to be sensible around these types of discussions and the outcomes they generate. But instead of moderation, we're allowing frenzied desperation, finger-pointing, ugly and unjust accusations, demonisation and panic to govern our responses.

We start to see "peds under beds" everywhere and construe the most benign and innocent of gestures as sexual; the most normal and natural of desires (such as wanting to photograph children) as sick and unnatural. In other words, we start to view other adults through a pedophile's lens.

There's no doubt that pedophiles and their perverted practices sicken most people. But the fact is that pedophiles sexualise children no matter what. They are aroused by images and ideas that bear little or no relation to what would be considered sexual by those with normal, healthy, adult appetites. They delight in the combination of innocence and provocation and seek out that kind of stimulus and generally, no matter what preventive measures we put in place, find or create it, even where none originally exists. They also hide their practices and are, generally, very successful at this - hence the huge police operations to uncover pedophile rings and the shock when one is unearthed.

The overwhelming majority of us are not pedophiles. It may come as a surprise considering the alarmist rhetoric out there, but most of us are decent and caring and appreciate young people and want the best for them. Sometimes, that means hugging them when they're upset or hurting, even when they're not our children. It can also mean taking photographs as significant mementos of childhood experiences. It also means setting reasonable and realistic boundaries around children and those who come into their orbit and organising and monitoring our children's exposure to age-appropriate material throughout their developmental years.

Being aware of and concerned about pedophiles does not and should not mean viewing every adult in a child's life with a jaundiced and unhealthy eye. As Professor of Media Studies at the University of New South Wales, Catherine Lumby, stated in a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday night, "we don't want to raise our children to believe that their bodies are dangerous" or "that they can somehow provoke child sexual abuse with what they wear or what they don't wear".

The one thing we must not do as a community is live our lives or constrict our children's because we're afraid of pedophiles. If we do that, then our children are already victims - and so are we. If we allow this misguided and now misdirected, panic-stricken fear of pedophiles to regulate our actions and reactions, then the pedophiles have already won. Our fear has managed to control us and our relationships, to our children's and everyone's detriment. To label someone a pedophile because they show a "normal" level of interest in children is ridiculous. It is also slander. To hurl abuse at them in public because we're suspicious and judgmental is highly dysfunctional and sad.

Soon, everyone will be a pedophile and we'll end up raising a generation of detached and lonely youngsters afraid of shadows we have created and ashamed of what their little bodies might potentially arouse in a person they will likely (thank goodness) never meet. It is so important that we continue to discuss issues around childhood protection, sexualisation and pedophiles, but not at the expense of those we're trying to shelter.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Brand-new road closing for maintenance already

This is absolutely typical of government roadworks, sadly. I have seen it often. Just on my drive this morning I found a road half closed that opened only weeks ago. Anybody who wants to put more things into the hands of government reveals his appetite for destruction of the society he lives in.

The Tugun Bypass [connecting Qld. roads with NSW roads] will be closed for three nights from tonight for routine maintenance, despite only having been open for three weeks. The closures will take place between the hours of 9pm to 5am tonight, Wednesday and Thursday, but the new road will remain open throughout the day. Several detours will be in place for drivers, with most having to use the Gold Coast Highway through Tugun.

A Main Roads spokesperson said the maintenance would be carried out as part of traffic management system's commissioning period. ``Our aim was to implement the works at a time which would be less of a hassle for drivers so that's why the operations are being conducted at night,'' she said. ``All the work is concentrated to within the tunnel and we will be looking thoroughly at the intelligent transport system. ``This is being done because we're still in the commissioning process and are making sure that everything is running smoothly."

The long-awaited Tugun Bypass opened a day late on June 3 after heavy rain prevented final line marking work from being completed in time for the scheduled opening. A boom gate malfunction on June 11 left southbound motorists stranded for up to an hour at the entrance to the bypass tunnel, with traffic further back diverted through Tugun.


Crass public hospital management kills little girl

Exhausted doctor didn't notice brain bleed. What was the hospital management thinking of to assume that a doctor did not need sleep? It's a wonder this sort of disaster does not come to light more often. The hospital manager should be sued for manslaughter

DOCTOR fatigue and the safety of bunk beds are among the issues being probed by an inquest into a girl who died hours after she was sent home from hospital. Elise Neville, then 10, struck her head in a fall from a bunk bed while on a family holiday at Caloundra, in Queensland, in January 2002. Bleeding in her brain went unnoticed by Dr Andrew Doneman, who was in the 20th hour of his 24-hour shift at Caloundra Hospital. The hospital had a policy of not admitting children and the Toowong, West Brisbane, schoolgirl was discharged.

She went to sleep on her parents' bed in Caloundra but was critically ill when her family woke at 7am. An unconscious Elise was flown to Brisbane for treatment. and died days later.

The court was told that in 2004, Dr Doneman pleaded guilty to unsatisfactory professional conduct but the issue of fatigue was raised. Health Practitioners Tribunal judge Debbie Richards said then that it seemed "extraordinary" that anyone should be working such long hours. "If this tragedy does nothing else, it should lead to the abolition of such brutally long shift hours," she said.

Queensland Health's acting director of medical workforce advice Suzanne Le Boutillier said an "alert doctors" strategy was being rolled out to help make doctors aware of fatigue. "Focusing solely on the hours of work does not make patients safe," she said. "There are a whole range of other factors that contribute to fatigue." Ms Le Boutillier said the strategy had gained support among doctors. "The great successes are where doctors drive this on the ground," she said.

The safety of bunk beds will also come under the scope of the inquest and how future deaths might be prevented.

Outside court, Elise's parents Gerard and Lorraine, said they hoped the inquest would identify and improve deficiencies in the health system. "There's been changes, that's great, but I need to see more," Mr Neville said. He said many Queenslanders lived in places removed from Brisbane and the bigger centres and they needed care too. "We were only one hour from Brisbane - one hour - and this is what happens," he said. Mrs Neville said: "I want people to see how beautiful she was and she's just always going to be a part of our lives. "We're Elise's voice and we'll see it through."


"Child protectors" lose girl

The Department of Community Services says it will review its procedures after a 13-year-old girl it placed on a train alone from Parramatta to Dunmore, near Wollongong, vanished. Lauren Maree Ryall was reported missing on Monday afternoon after she failed to arrive at her destination. Police today said she had still not been found. DOCS caseworkers had dropped the girl off at Parramatta station about 1.40pm on Monday. She was given a train ticket and lunch money, said Helen Freeland, DOCS executive director for operations. "Lots of 13-year-olds travel on their own on the train," she told 2UE.

But her mother, Judith, said Lauren should not have been left to travel alone. "It should never have happened it should never happen to any child," she told 2UE. "Now my child is missing and DOCS have since told me that they can't do anything to help look for her because it's now in the hands of the child protection agency and police."

DOCS director general Jenny Mason said it was working with police to find Lauren as soon as possible. "Unfortunately she did not go to the agreed destination and in hindsight there may have been a more appropriate response for this child," Ms Mason said. "We are looking at our procedures and policy to minimise the chances of this happening again."

Judith said Lauren had called her on Tuesday night to say she was with a friend in Wyong. But Lauren hung up after less than two minutes when she found out police were looking for her, Judith said. Lauren had travelled to Wyong with a girl, who had also been placed on the train at Parramatta by DOCS on Monday. She had been placed in DOCS' care at the weekend after returning to her Wollongong home from a friend's house and finding her mother missing. "She had gone out on Friday, I'd given her permission to go to a friend's place [and] I'd come to my cousin's house," said her mother. "Lauren didn't realise I was at my cousin's place and gave herself to police on Sunday night." Police were duty-bound to report the matter to DOCS, Judith said.

Lauren's parents were separated, and her father lives in Queensland, 2UE reported. Lauren's mother said she had previously contacted DOCS to help "straighten my family out". But she was upset DOCS had placed her daughter on the train alone. "If I can just save one child or one parent what I've been through in the last 48 hours, all of this would be worth it," she said.

Ms Freeland said: " The choice that our caseworkers have to make is do they spend a whole day either driving her home or taking her by train or do they go out and respond to the urgent cases that have come over the weekend, and these are very difficult choices that we make every day."


Climate policies will increase fuel prices even further, says Kevin Rudd

He obviously wants to lose the next election

KEVIN Rudd has warned that energy prices - including petrol - will rise under his green emissions-trading scheme due to start in less than two years. The Prime Minister told Parliament yesterday that higher energy costs were an unavoidable fallout of slashing carbon emissions. But he said the Federal Government would introduce a comprehensive compensation package to help families and business cope as he accused the Opposition of running a scare campaign. "If you adopt a position of acting on climate change it does have an impact on energy prices. That is just the truth," he said.

Mr Rudd did not say how much petrol prices would increase but the Opposition has claimed they could jump by as much as 30c a litre. A major petrol company has warned of a price hike of 17c a litre. But, as revealed by The Courier-Mailyesterday, one option being considered by the Government is the phased introduction on an emissions trading scheme over two years. This would allow the scheme to start in 2010 but petrol would be left out until 2012 - well after the next federal election.

Mr Rudd acknowledged that petrol had risen sharply in the past year and told Parliament that the Henry tax commission would examine the federal petrol excise of 38c a litre. It came as the nation's consumer watchdog Graeme Samuel strongly defended the Government's proposed FuelWatch scheme and the plan to penalise service stations which lower prices during the day. Mr Samuel said a system of hefty fines would force retailers to offer their best price all day. "They have their backsides up against the Bunsen burner every day," he said.

In Parliament, Mr Rudd seized on a landmark study by the State Government into the impact of climate change in Queensland to argue the need for urgent action. The report, entitled "Climate Change in Queensland - What the Science is Telling Us", said Queensland had more to lose than any other state from global warming. It identified the Great Barrier Reef and wet tropics rainforest as especially vulnerable. Most of the population, which lives on the coast, could face severe flooding from sea levels expected to rise by up to 2m by the end of the century.

"Queensland, because of the structure of our economy and the distribution of our people, has more at risk because of climate change than any other state in Australia," Queensland Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara said.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another confirmation of long Australian lifespans

There was a similar finding reported 18 months ago. Pesky that Australians are exceptionally long-lived despite the typical Australian diet being just about everything the food-freaks deplore. There are certainly a lot of nonagenarians about in Australia who grew up on food fried in dripping (animal fat) -- fried steak particularly. Fried steak and eggs was a routine breakfast for many Australian working men up until a few decades ago. And they would only have eaten nuts at Christmas. And to this day, very fatty meat pies (see pic above) and sausage rolls are a great favourite.

Going by the results of double-blind studies (e.g here), however, it is doubtful that type of diet has ANY influence on longevity. The fact that two long-lived populations -- Australians and Japanese -- have radically different diets also supports that conclusion.

The explanations for Australian lifespans given in the news report below are entirely speculative. An equally plausible explanation is that traditional Australian skepticism causes most Australians to ignore food freaks.

The only thing about diet that increases lifespan is restricted calorie intake. Which is probably why the Japanese -- who had very little food for much of the 20th century -- live so long. Restricted calorie intake also stunts growth -- which would also explain why older Japanese are so short. So attributing the high Japanese lifespan to a "healthy" diet is also just a guess that fails to consider other possibilities

Australians are living longer than ever as death rates from the big killers of heart disease and cancer fall and smoking continues to wane in popularity. The Australia's Health 2008 report, released yesterday, shows Australians can now expect to live for 81.4 years - and that we have leap-frogged Sweden and Iceland to claim the No2 spot on the world's life expectancy tables, second only to Japan.

Overall, the latest snapshot of the nation's health paints a mixed picture, showing that while Australians are cutting down on smoking and doing better against cancer and heart disease, we are also fatter, boozier, more likely to catch a sexually transmitted infection, and still likely to end up in hospital for something that could have been avoided.

In 2005-06, more than 9 per cent of hospital admissions were considered potentially preventable. We also too rarely make the diet and lifestyle choices that would ward off diabetes, high blood pressure and other problems, and there are poorer outcomes for people of lower socio-economic status which happens worldwide]. While asthma has receded as a health threat, others such as oesophageal disease, are looming larger.

And the picture for indigenous Australians is also mixed: the gap in death rates between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians appears to be narrowing, but otherwise indigenous adults seem to be slipping even further behind the health of their non-indigenous countrymen. [If you saw the way blacks often live, you would not be surprised. Methanol ("metho") is not a healthy drink]

Launching the report in Canberra yesterday, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said it was a "great achievement" that "highlights both the good and the bad". "We can take heart that an Australian born between 2003 and 2005 can now expect to live 42 per cent longer than those born in 1901-10," Ms Roxon said. "That's an extra 25 years for most people." Once the danger years of youth and middle age are past, men who reach 65 can expect to live to 83, and women to 86 - about six years more than a century ago.

The AIHW said one of the biggest factors in extending life was the drop in smoking rates. About one in six Australians were daily smokers last year, one of the lowest rates in the world. Vaccination also continues to enjoy widespread support, with more than 90 per cent of children fully immunised against the major preventable diseases such as whooping cough, measles and mumps.

As well as asthma affecting an estimated 10.3 per cent of the population in 2004-05 - down from 11.6 per cent in 2001 - other good news is that illicit drug use appears to be falling. The percentage of people aged 14 and over who admitted to using marijuana fell from a high of 17.9 per cent in 1998 to 9.1 per cent last year, while those using methamphetamine or "ice" fell from 3.7 per cent in 1998 to 2.3 per cent last year.

Ecstasy use remained level and only cocaine showed any upward trend, being used by 1.6 per cent of respondents to last year's survey, compared with 1 per cent in 2004.

However, AIHW director Penny Allbon said Australia could do more to tackle the main risk factors for chronic diseases. "In rank order, the greatest improvements can be achieved through reductions in tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, high blood cholesterol and excessive alcohol consumption," Dr Allbon said. "The prevalence of diabetes, which is strongly related to these risk factors, has doubled in the past two decades.

"Excessive alcohol consumption not only brings costs in terms of personal health, but tangible social costs in terms of lost productivity, healthcare costs, road accident costs and crime-related costs that have been estimated at $10.8 billion in 2004-05."

The report shows that alcohol caused 3.8 per cent of the burden of disease for males, and 0.7 per cent for females. Four in five Australians aged 14 and over drank alcohol, and one in 10 did so daily. However, the report said these rates "have been fairly stable since 1993".


Australians have been getting richer

Under a conservative government. What the new Leftist government will bring forth may be another matter

AUSTRALIAN consumers may not be doing it as tough as many believe. With another round of tax cuts due next week, and taking inflation into account, the average person is more than $425 per month better off than six years ago, an analysis by Commonwealth Securities shows. This is despite 12-year high interest rates, record petrol prices and rising living costs.

"While some consumers are indeed struggling, that is by no means the rule,'' CommSec's chief economist Craig James said. "Living costs have certainly been rising, but so have wages. "And in a few days time another a round of tax cuts will be delivered - the sixth consecutive time that either tax thresholds have been lifted or rates have been cut.''

The analysis shows that people who took out a home loan in the past two years may be be struggling under the weight of higher interest rates and rising living costs. But those who took out home loans more than three years ago are more likely to still be in front, despite numerous interest rate increases. An average wage earner, who took out an average home loan back in July 2002, would have seen their monthly salary rise by $1014 since then, Mr James said. However, the interest rate on their home loan had risen from 6.55 per cent to 9.45 per cent, lifting home loan repayments by $299.16 per month. Assuming the same basket of goods and services has been purchased over that time, it would be dearer by $287.20 per month.

"Taking into account all these snakes and ladders, Jo Citizen would still be in front by $427.64 a month, allowing her to save more or enhance her standard of living,'' he said.

The more recently a home buyer took out a mortgage, the more likely they would be experiencing some decline in net income, with cost increases more than offsetting wages and lower taxes. "But interestingly, if Jo Citizen receives a 4 per cent annual wage increase in the next few weeks, it would boost her monthly wage by $138 ... more than covering a couple of rate hikes as well as the high petrol prices over 2008,'' Mr James said. "That means she would be back in front - whether she took out her home loan last year or six years ago.''

Mr James admits the analysis depends on the assumptions used, but the basic point is that higher wages and lower taxes have, over time, put more spending power in people's pockets. While plenty of attention is paid to higher living costs, increases in after-tax wages tend to happen quietly in the background, he said. "Events like rate hikes or soaring petrol prices tend to get plenty of attention, depressing consumers and causing knee-jerk adjustments in household spending. "But once the initial effects have passed, it is the lasting impact on budgets that really matters.''

Consumer spending will remain "fluky'' in an environment where there is significant media attention on rising living costs. ''(But) consumers will gradually filter back into the shopping malls once they realise they can indeed continue to spend.''


A State of steam?

The devious reasoning in the report below is amazing. If the temperature were to increase by 5 degrees, we would be living in a steambath with constant rain -- not drought. Do these lamebrains not know that higher temperures cause more evaporation? And that evaporation off the oceans is where rain comes from? Have they ever seen steam come off a hot kettle? And with increased CO2 as well the crops would REALLY be lush. CO2 is prime plant food

QUEENSLAND's average temperature could increase by five degrees celsius by 2070 - bringing less rainfall and more intense tropical cyclones, a report warns. Entitled Climate Change in Queensland - What the science is telling us, the government report says Queensland's annual temperate had increased at a faster rate than the national average since 1950. Under the current high emissions scenario, Queensland's temperate would rise by 2.8 degrees by 2050 and five degrees by 2070.

The report warned the state would experience less rainfall, more severe droughts, an increase in flooding rains, sea level rises, more intense tropical cycles and an increased risk of storm surge. The Great Barrier Reef and wet tropics rainforest were vulnerable, as were most of the population, which lived on the coast. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were drastically reduced now, the build-up and long life of those gases guaranteed climate change would continue for the next few decades at least, it said. And there was a "growing body of evidence" that emissions were currently tracking above the highest emissions scenarios used in research.

Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara said the report showed the state had much to lose if action did not"No part of the Queensland community will be untouched by the impact of global warming and climate change," he said. Mr McNamara said Queensland's key industries of agriculture and tourism were particularly vulnerable.


Dole payment plan for illegal immigrants

TAXPAYERS would be forced to pay thousands of illegal immigrants the dole under controversial measures now being considered by the Rudd Government. For the first time asylum seekers and illegal immigrants fighting to stay in the country would be allowed to work and claim welfare benefits while taking the Immigration Department to court.

The proposal will mostly apply to illegal immigrants on tourist visas who fly into the country and then claim asylum when ordered to leave, rather than the stereotype of people who arrive on leaky boats. They are not in detention centres and are given a so-called "Bridging Visa E" until their cases are sorted out. The latest figures show there are 5624 people on the visas but the number often swells to as high as 7000.

Although overstayers would pay taxes if they found a job, taxpayers would have to pay millions in Centrelink and Medicare payments to those unable to find work. As well, taxpayers would have to foot the cost of appeals to the Migration Review Tribunal, the Federal Court, the full bench of the Federal Court and the High Court. Some court cases last a decade or more. Sources have told The Courier-Mail of one case involving a man who arrived in the 1980s and claimed asylum who was finally kicked out last year after exhausting all his appeal options.

The Opposition has denounced Labor's plan, warning that without safety measures taxpayers would bear the brunt of vexatious claims. It also said illegal immigrants would target Australia if the law was relaxed.

But Immigration Minister Chris Evans intends to speed-up the appeals process and close the loophole that enables some illegal immigrants to remain in the country for years while seeking numerous judicial reviews. "The Rudd Government is aware of concerns in the community about the difficulties faced by asylum seekers who are denied work rights or access to Medicare, " Senator Evans said. "The department is currently assessing the issue and will consult with a range of stakeholders when developing any changes to bridging visa policy. "It is also vitally important that the bridging visa regime is not open to abuse."


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Doctor numbers nosedive in Australia

When there are heaps of people wanting to get into medical schools this is just plain government negligence. Why is money being spent on useless "postmodern" courses when funds for medical education are so limited?

AUSTRALIA'S doctor shortage is becoming critical, with new figures revealing a plunge in the number of GPs. A report to be released today shows the number of practising GPs fell 9 per cent between 1997 and 2005.

The release of Australia's Health 2008 will reignite tensions between doctors and the Rudd Government. Health Minister Nicola Roxon said GPs should rethink their roles as medical "gatekeepers" in light of the finding. "Why, when families struggle to see their GP, when people often end up in their local hospital because they can't get frontline care from their local doctor, do we need gatekeepers?" she said.

The Australian Medical Association argues that doctors must be the gatekeepers of the health system to ensure patient safety


Dud medical regulator to be sued

RAPE victims of a deviant doctor are planning to sue Victoria's peak medical watchdog for failing to act on sex assault complaints. The women have engaged Slater & Gordon to investigate suing the Medical Practitioners Board for failing to suspend dermatologist David Wee Kin Tong after two patients said he molested them. Dr Tong was jailed in March for at least 5 1/2 years for sexually assaulting 14 patients. His last victims were assaulted three years after the first complaints were made.

The women claim inaction by the profession's watchdog left Dr Tong free to abuse up to 12 more unsuspecting victims. It is believed the board, a statutory body charged with investigating complaints and protecting the public, did not hold a formal hearing into the allegations after an investigation into Dr Tong. A second complaint to the board in 2005 led to Dr Tong being reprimanded. The board is not required to pass complaints on to police.

After a victim went to police in 2007, investigators were initially refused access to the board's records on Dr Tong and were forced to serve a warrant for the material to be released. Victoria Police's sexual crimes squad raided the board's headquarters, but had to fight a legal challenge in court to use the files. The board has since apologised publicly for its handling of the complaints, but a police source says that the board's actions were tantamount to a "cover-up".

The Herald Sun has learned the wealthy doctor tried to divest himself of his Toorak mansion before it could be confiscated to pay his victims' compensation. Victoria Police restrained Dr Tong's Toorak property, which he had sold for $2.35 million, only days before settlement. The proceeds of the sale were later confiscated. Already gone were antiques and paintings, many of which Dr Tong bought at Sotheby's and Christie's auctions.

Dr Tong, 40, pleaded guilty to seven counts of rape and seven counts of indecent assault involving 14 patients at clinics at Clifton Hill, Malvern, and Preston. The offences occurred between October 2001 and 2007 during examinations. He also lost his right to practise medicine. Another two women have since come forward with allegations against Dr Tong.

During a search of Dr Tong's home, police found 120 pictures of naked women -- some of them patients -- placed in small photo albums. Dr Tong told many of the women, aged between 22 and 34, they could get moles on their genitals and required a full-body examination.

Kay, who was the first victim to come forward, said although compensation was an issue, she wanted the board to change its investigation procedures to ensure the safety of others. "I was the first, but they just didn't follow up," she said. "I felt really violated and they (the board) hadn't listened to anything I said to them and took his word for it."

The MPB has since reviewed cases involving potential sex offences and apologised to victims. "Why the hell didn't they stop it back in 2004 when we complained," Kay said.


Public hospital and its head surgeon facing negligence lawsuit

MELBOURNE'S The Alfred Hospital and its former head of trauma, Thomas Kossmann, are facing legal action alleging medical negligence. Law firm Slater & Gordon has told The Australian it is preparing several cases against the hospital, and possibly Professor Kossmann, for allegedly negligent surgery performed on trauma patients.

The cases come in the wake of a damning peer review into Professor Kossmann's surgical and billing practices, which were first revealed in The Australian in April. The review alleged he had exaggerated his experience on his CV, conducted risky and unnecessary surgery, and rorted government insurance agencies, including the Transport Accident Commission. It also alleged he had put lives at risk with bungled surgery that involved grave errors in more than half of the 24 cases that were examined.

Professor Kossmann has denied any wrongdoing and attributed complaints from doctors about his surgery to competitive jealousy. He condemned the peer review, led by orthopedic surgeon Bob Dickens, as a "witch-hunt", and several of his former patients have come forward to praise his surgical performance.

When the review was released last month, Jennifer Williams, the head of Bayside Health, which operates The Alfred, absolved the hospital of any legal responsibility. But Slater & Gordon medical negligence specialist Paula Shelton said her firm was preparing several cases involving allegedly unsuccessful or unnecessary surgery performed by Professor Kossmann at The Alfred. "They are all people who have got significant problems," she said. "There are certainly a couple of them that I think are serious. It's fair to say they relate to poor (surgical) outcomes." For the cases to succeed, the victim must prove at least 5 per cent physical impairment and that the surgery done was poorer than could be reasonably expected at the time. Slater & Gordon is still investigating the cases and expects to obtain the medical records from the hospital and launch action within a few months if independent advice confirms the alleged negligence.

A spokeswoman for Professor Kossmann said the surgeon was not aware of any claims against him and therefore could not comment. Ms Shelton said she was unable to give details of the cases, but The Australian has spoken with one of Professor Kossmann's patients who is not among the existing cases, but is considering joining any action against the hospital.

The patient, who declined to be named, claimed he had complications after Professor Kossmann operated on him in 2004 following a car accident. He claimed he suffered a post-operative infection following the original surgery. "At the time I found him to be very professional and thought the complications which arose both in the short term and long term just came with the territory; however, reading the reports coming out now makes me wonder about that," he said. "About a year or so later, my leg played up again so I went to a doctor to have a look at it and they found deep-vein thrombosis, which he attributed to the original injury ... X-rays showed that a titanium screw placed in my knee ... had snapped during that surgery and had been left there."


Another negligent "child protection" agency

Two years to act? Gravely ill children as a result

Fourteen malnourished children have been hospitalised and a mother has been charged with neglect after up to 21 starving children were found crammed into one suburban house. The children's plight was uncovered after one boy, aged five, was taken to hospital suffering hypothermia and malnutrition.

The horror inside the squalid Adelaide property shocked authorities, who raided the Parafield Gardens home and a second property at Elizabeth Grove yesterday. Last night, six children - aged between two and six - remained in hospital. The 28-year-old mother of those children - who may be formally taken into care today - was charged with five counts of criminal neglect.

Up to 21 children - aged from 10 months to 16 years - are understood to have lived at the Parafield Gardens home at any one time. Two families whose mothers are sisters were involved in the raids - one with seven children and the other with 12 children. At least 16 children were taken to hospital.

Yesterday neighbours said they had phoned police several times about the welfare of the children, who were often seen wandering in the rubbish-strewn backyard during the evening. "(Children at the house) would be outside late at night playing in their nappies," one neighbour said. "I've got little kids. You just don't let them do that sort of thing."

Welfare authorities admitted receiving three child protection notifications about the family of 12 children since June, 2006. The worries included lack of school attendance, non-payment of rent and the state of the mother's health.

Yesterday South Australian Families and Communities Minister, Jay Weatherill, said he was shocked by the number of children in "such poor health". "It's fortunate the mother sought medical help for one of her children," he said. "We have some very gravely ill children and I am concerned that we could have had a death in this situation. "Given the physical state they're in, I think it would be difficult to imagine them being at school and teachers not being immediately aware of their circumstances and making the relevant notifications." He said the mother of the family of seven children - who has been refused bail - had a history of children protection interstate. The neglect case follows the slow death of twin toddlers in Brisbane last week. [also unattended by any welfare agency] Children protection workers will make a further assessment of the two families today.

Mr Weathergill said the family of 12 children would be monitored and the children removed if authorities were convinced they were "unable to keep those chidren safe". Police involved in the raids described the homes as appalling. Police Superintendent Bertie Pit said "this job was shocking for everyone involved". "There is no evidence of injuries inflicted by anybody. The injuries or illnesses they have result from lack of proper food and general sustenance."

Yesterday the mother-of-12 denied she had maltreated her children. Her sister - who has been refused bail - will appear in court today.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Australia's alleged "fat bomb"

I would rather like the report below to be true. It claims that Australians are extraordinarily fat. Since Australia has one of the world's longest life expectancies, it would help to slay the myth that obesity is unhealthy. Some skepticism about the report has already been expressed, however. The report comes from a nonprofit, not a university, so may simply be a trawl for funds. I have left it for a few days to say much about it as I wished to see details of the research first. The sample would appear to be far from random. I have however not so far been able to find the full report online. It is not linked from their home page and there has been some suggestion that their international comparisons are erroneous. The report is certainly deliberately deceitful in failing to note that it is extremes of weight rather than obesity which is unhealthy. The longest life expectancies are for people of middling weight. Not to put too fine a point on it, the alarmist claims of the report are total junk

AUSTRALIA has become the fattest nation in the world, with more than 9 million adults now rated as obese or overweight, according to an alarming new report. The most definitive picture of the national obesity crisis to date has found that Australians now outweigh Americans and face a future "fat bomb" that could cause 123,000 premature deaths over the next two decades. If the crisis is not averted, obesity experts have warned, health costs could top $6 billion and an extra 700,000 people will be admitted to hospital for heart attacks, strokes and blood clots caused by excess weight.

The latest figures show 4 million Australians - or 26% of the adult population - are now obese compared to an estimated 25% of Americans. A further 5 million Australians are considered overweight. The report, Australia's Future 'Fat Bomb', from Melbourne's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, will be presented at the Federal Government's inquiry into obesity, which comes to Melbourne today.

A grim picture is painted of expanding waistlines fuelled by a boom in fast food and a decline in physical activity, turning us into a nation of sedentary couch potatoes. Those most at risk of premature death are the middle-aged, with 70% of men and 60% of women aged 45 to 64 now classed as obese.

But some weight specialists have questioned the tool used to measure obesity, saying "entire rugby teams" would be classified as obese if their body mass index (BMI) was calculated. BMI is measured by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. A BMI of over 25 is considered overweight while more than 30 is obese. But the tool does not distinguish between muscle and fat, prompting calls for the BMI overweight limit to be raised to 28.

However, even leading nutritionist Jenny O'Dea from the University of Sydney - who recently claimed Australia's childhood obesity epidemic had been exaggerated - has backed the new figures, which suggest that the crisis for adults has been drastically underestimated. Professor O'Dea said that while being fat was not necessarily a health risk for everyone, there was no doubt obesity was taking its toll on the nation.

It was previously thought that around 3 million adults were obese. But many past surveys were seen as unreliable as they often required participants to guess their own weight. The latest data was based on more than 14,000 people at 100 rural and metropolitan sites in every Australian state and territory. Each had their BMI recorded by having their weight, height and waist measured as part of a national blood pressure screening day last year.

The report's lead author, Simon Stewart, said that even allowing for the BMI's potential failings, the best case scenario was that 3.6 million adults were battling obesity. "We could fill the MCG 40 times over with the number of obese Australians now, then you can double that if you look at the people who are also overweight - those are amazing figures," Professor Stewart said. "And in terms of a public health crisis, there is nothing to rival this. If we ran a fat Olympics we'd be gold medal winners as the fattest people on earth at the moment," he said. "We've heard of AIDS orphans in Africa, we're looking at this time bomb going off where parents have to think about this carefully," Professor Steward said. "They're having children at an older age, if you're obese and you have a child do you really want to miss out on their wedding? "Do you want to miss out on the key events in their life? Yes you will if you don't do something about your weight now."

The obesity inquiry in Melbourne will be told that a national strategy encouraging overweight Australians to lose five kilograms in five months could reduce heart-related hospital admissions by 27% and cut deaths by 34% over the next 20 years. Among the radical solutions proposed in the report is a plan to make fat towns compete for "healthy" status in national weight loss contests tied to Federal Government funding. Towns that lost the most weight would be given cash to build sports centres and swimming pools. And like the "Tidy Towns" program, communities would have to meet targets to be eligible for a share of the funding pool.

Other suggestions from Professor Stewart's report include subsidised gym memberships, personal training sessions for heavier people and restricting weight loss surgery to those who show they can lose some weight on their own first.

One of Australia's leading obesity experts, Boyd Swinburn, will tell the inquiry in his own submission that a crackdown on junk food marketing to children is paramount in the fight against the epidemic. With the fastest growing rate of childhood obesity in the world, Australia must make radical changes to the way unhealthy food is promoted if the rate is to be reduced, his submission reads. Professor Swinburn, director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, will argue that better nutritional labelling and more funding for effective treatments such as weight-loss surgery are also necessary. "We've got a huge problem here and we can't bury our head in the sand any more," Professor Swinburn will tell the inquiry. "The previous federal government blamed parents and individuals and told them to pull up their socks . that's not going to achieve anything but make us fatter as a nation. "It's good to see the Rudd Government take obesity seriously with this parliamentary inquiry and the preventative health strategy but that has to be turned into proper policy, regulation and funding."

Ian Caterson, director of the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney, said innovative government "thinking outside the square" policies were necessary because, "as we get fatter and older as a nation things are just going to get worse."


Not again! Another government computer system fails

And a dangerous one. My local Yellow cabs and Pizza Hut have great computer systems for managing customers and Bill Gates sells programs that are a thousand times more elaborate. What's wrong with the bureaucratic boneheads? Nobody gives a damn. That's what's wrong. The system was "innovative", of course. Governments should only buy tried and tested systems. They bungle anything else

A $6 MILLION computer system crashed within hours of being turned on last week, leaving Emergency Services staff using pen and paper to dispatch ambulances and fire engines. The Queensland Ambulance Service computer-aided dispatch system, known as VisiCAD, went down for six hours on Wednesday and communications centre staff said patient lives were put at risk across the state.

"Once the crash occurred the computers froze . . . Many other dangerous technical difficulties then occurred," a QAS employee told The Sunday Mail yesterday. The informant said that in the chaos and confusion, two patients with non-life-threatening conditions who had requested ambulances were overlooked. "No one died, but it definitely put lives in danger," the employee said.

He said the Queensland Fire and Rescue ESCAD system crashed for 2® hours at the same time. Queensland's Emergency Services has spent millions of dollars in the past decade trying to find a suitable computer-aided dispatch system. Sources said the new model was rushed in without being properly road-tested.

A QAS spokesman played down the system crash. "The Department of Emergency Services is currently implementing one of the nation's most innovative dispatch systems, called VisiCAD," he said. "The new system will link all QFRS and QAS communications centres with a single state-of-the-art computer-aided system." He said the cause of the "outage" of about 90 minutes late on Wednesday was related to a maintenance issue ["maintenance"? How do you maintain a computer program? Do you oil it?], not the system. "There have been no reports of any significant impact on service delivery." The spokesman said senior management was unaware of any evidence to indicate lives were put at risk.


Stupid woman revives failed Leftist idea

The heavy diversion of teacher attention to problem students required in "integrated" schools deprives normal students of needed attention

QUEENSLAND Liberal Senator Sue Boyce has called for special schools to be scrapped and disabled children sent into mainstream education. Senator Boyce, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, said it was time someone was "brave" and "crazy" enough to push for total integration of students. "We won't fix education until we abolish special schools," Senator Boyce told a Down Syndrome Association of Queensland fundraiser last week. "If mainstream schools had no option but to accept children with disabilities, they would concentrate on how to make it work, not how to avoid getting involved. "And if all the human and funding resources currently tied up in special schools were handed over to the mainstream system, it would be so much easier to make it work."

Senator Boyce said her 24-year-old daughter had always gone to mainstream schools and is now a bakery assistant. "In the 60s and 70s, no one believed a child with Down syndrome could be educated," she said. "Special anything is a way of excluding them from the community."

She said she had yet to express her opinion to her Liberal Party counterparts because it was her "personal view". But Education Minister Julia Gillard said special schools had an important role in educating many Australian students. "The Rudd Labor Government has promised an education revolution to ensure no Australian kids miss out on a quality education," Ms Gillard said last week. "Unfortunately, it seems the Liberal Party's only plan for education is to shut down schools."


Jensen defends keepers of the Bible

Note that unlike "modernists" such as Spong, Jensen does not need to wear a pectoral cross etc in order to reinforce his Christian identity

SYDNEY'S Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, has defended a breakaway conference of church leaders in Jerusalem as the true keepers of the authority of the Bible. In an interview with the Herald before the opening yesterday of a conference of 1000 conservative Anglican leaders from 27 countries - including 280 bishops - Dr Jensen described the formal separation of the church into conservative and liberal groupings as a tragedy. The split has emerged since the ordination in the United States five years ago of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.

"We're not dealing with the secular world here. We're dealing with the Christian church, and the Christian church has a constitution which is the Bible," Dr Jensen said. "Now the difficulty here is for a person to claim to belong to the Christian church while at the same time breaching the constitution. It's as if you're a member of a clan and you decide to break the rules of a club. That's understandable to the man on the street, surely."

While he remained committed to the Anglican Church - and refuses to describe the present situation as a split - Dr Jensen said the church would not reunite until the divisions over human sexuality were resolved. "I am passionately committed to being Anglican. I respect very much Christians from other denominations and I don't think being Anglican is the greatest thing in the world, but I believe in it and our intention is not to leave the Anglican Communion," he said. "There is no reason why we should leave the Anglican Church because we have not shifted. It is others who have shifted. We are committed to the Anglican church and want to see it do as well as it possibly can."

Dr Jensen said he would not attend the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of Anglican leaders called by the Archbishop of Canterbury in England next month. "I have decided, as have a number of leading bishops, particularly from Africa, that no, we're going attend this conference alone while this crisis remains unresolved. In the meantime we'll be here and we're working on what the future is going to look like," he said.

Dr Jensen said gay men and women had no reason to feel discriminated against by the stance he had taken on human sexuality. "Furthermore, we strongly abhor any violence or unjust discrimination towards those kinds of people in the community," he said.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

More photography paranoia

This also happens in England but it is even crazier in Australia. You can display nude pictures of little girls as "art" but cannot photograph your own children. Beat that!

Parents are furious after being banned from taking photographs of their children at weekend sporting events. They say the Bill Henson affair has made sports clubs paranoid about allowing them to photograph their children. Henson was cleared after police seized naked photographs of a 13- year-old girl from an art gallery.

Netball, basketball, rugby league, AFL, cricket, soccer and baseball clubs have imposed rules to prevent photos of young players being taken without the consent of all parents and coaches. NSW's Macarthur junior baseball league president Maud Goldfinch said parents had to sign a form confirming they would not take photographs without permission. Ms Goldfinch said that as a parent, she did not agree with the policy, which deprived children of happy sporting memories. "A lot of parents don't agree with what's going on. "They're quite upset by not being able to take photos of their children - they see it as an invasion of their privacy. "The Bill Henson (saga) brought it to a head. It's made people more aware ... and it brings debate around the topic."

Parents also need to give permission before photographs are uploaded to the club's website. One father said he was made to feel like a pedophile while photographing his eight-year-old daughter on the netball court. Michael Bianchino lodged a complaint with the Hills District Netball Association after it forbade him to photograph his daughter, Mia, during an under-nine match at Pennant Hills Park on May 31. "The way I was treated, I was made to feel like a pedophile," Mr Bianchino said. "I just said: 'I'm taking photos of my daughter - if anyone has a problem with their child being in the image, let me know."'

Club president Jennie Thompson repeatedly refused to comment on the incident, but said the club's policy was that parents could take photographs only after seeking permission. "Our stance and our club's stance is that we ask people to obtain permission prior to taking photographs of junior players," she said.

Cherrybrook United Netball Club president Debbie Whittle said it was hard to get permission from every parent, so few photographs were taken. "You want to get these memories for your children to keep. "It's an important part of their childhood, and you're limited because of all these rulings about getting permission," she said.


Dangerous public hospital blood blunders

PATIENTS' lives are being put at risk in Queensland hospitals because of an alarming level of blood-type identification errors, experts have warned. A medical conference in Brisbane last week was told that a recent study of Townsville, Royal Brisbane, Wesley and Greenslopes hospitals in Queensland revealed four patients had been given potentially fatal incorrect blood transfusions. The six-month study to December 2007 also identified a further 26 cases of blood-related errors.

The Patient Safety Symposium at the Brisbane Convention Centre was also told two patients had their blood type wrongly identified in the emergency department at Gold Coast Hospital last weekend. There were 117 "adverse blood events" found after an analysis of Queensland Health's reporting incident system since December 2006. But Queensland Blood Management Program clinical adviser Dr Simon Brown said the real problem was even worse, as these were "only the incidents being reported". Dr Brown revealed an estimated 25 patients received incorrect blood transfusions in the state's hospitals every year. Patients given the wrong blood type can suffer severe allergic reactions, respiratory distress, excessive bleeding, kidney failure and death.

Queensland Pathology transfusion expert Tony Ghent is so concerned with the problem that he has developed a barcoded armband to alleviate confusion. The armband will be trialled at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and the Gold Coast Hospital in the next few weeks. Investigations into blood errors have begun because of requirements under the National Blood Agreement, signed in 2003. Part of the agreement is to develop a framework to monitor the safety and delivery of the blood supply in each state and territory.

Dr Brown said an examination of Queensland Health's reporting system in the 12 months to December last year found 90 blood "incidents" in the state's hospitals. Queensland receives 250,000 fresh blood components annually. A paper delivered by Dr Brown in October to the annual conference of the Haematology Society of Australia and NZ said blood identification errors were common during the collection and administration of fresh blood components, and result in the incorrect blood component being transfused.


Senior students opting out of bullsh*t courses in English

ALMOST a quarter of Queensland's senior students are studying an easier communications subject rather than mainstream English, according to latest research. Some students admit they are dropping out of English because they regard the course as too hard, and too big a risk in terms of getting a pass to ensure a Senior Certificate. Of the 44,000 senior students studying English subjects last year, 10,500 students chose English Communication, an increase of 300 on the previous year. The course had 209 students when introduced in 1995.

Education Minister Rod Welford is not concerned about the numbers, arguing English Communication with its emphasis on practical assignments rather than poetry, suits students headed on vocational pathways. However respected principals and English academics believe an investigation is needed into the teaching of mainstream English at both state and independent schools. They fear the English curriculum, with its emphasis on "deconstructing" texts and poetry, is creating a generation of students "burnt out" and capable of only writing "gibberish" at university.

Dr Tim Wright, headmaster of Sydney Church of England Grammar School, believes English should no longer be looked upon as a compulsory subject after Year 10 and students could be given more input into the curriculum. "I think in education, the voices that we often least listen to are the voices of the kids," he said.

English Teachers Association of Queensland president Garry Collins said he could see the value in a system which was voluntary, but believes students also needed to study English through to Year 12. "The vast majority of students should do some English throughout school. It is an important part of managing teenagers to allow them to make their own informed choices," he said.

The English Teachers Association of Queensland has prepared a submission on the English curriculum, but Mr Collins declined to comment until it was reviewed by the Queensland Studies Authority. Mr Welford is confident on the outcome of the current review of the English curriculum after concerns students were learning "mumbo jumbo" due to the emphasis on critical literacy theory.


Catholic bishop defends pedophile

Rather incredible

The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane - in defiance of the Pope - continues to allow a convicted pedophile to remain a priest and celebrate Mass next to a school. The Sun-Herald has learnt the priest - Father Ronald John McKeirnan, 69, of Toowong, in Brisbane's inner-west - enjoys the support and protection of high-ranking church officials, including Archbishop John Bathersby, despite having served a year in prison in 1998-99 for the sexual abuse of children. Their decision to support Mr McKeirnan conflicts with a statement by Pope Benedict XVI in April that the church "would absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry ... who is guilty of pedophilia cannot be a priest".

Mr McKeirnan, a former deputy director of Brisbane Catholic Education, now works on Catholic church websites and conducts private Masses for priests. He pleaded guilty on two separate occasions in Brisbane to abusing children. He was jailed in 1998 for molesting nine boys in the 1960s and '70s. In sentencing Mr McKeirnan, the judge cited a "gross breach of trust" and said the impact of the abuse on the victims was "catastrophic". In Brisbane District Court in 2003, Mr McKeirnan also pleaded guilty to three further charges of indecent treatment of a boy during the 1960s and '70s. He was given a suspended sentence.

Last week The Sun-Herald tracked him down to Marist Brothers' House, a Catholic accommodation centre, in inner-city Paddington. Outside the house, Mr McKeirnan refused to answer questions. A fellow priest shielded him from the camera and directed him back inside the house. The Sun-Herald has learnt that Mr McKeirnan is a regular visitor to the house, and on Thursdays celebrates weekly Mass there. The house adjoins Marist College, Rosalie, and overlooks itspool.

A parent at the school, Jan Menzies, said she was "very uneasy" about Mr McKeirnan being so near the school when her son did swimming training. "I started going there at training time just to keep an eye on the dressing rooms," she said. "I don't think many in the school community knew McKeirnan was regularly so close to the school."

In 2006, another parent whose son attended the school wrote to the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, to complain about Mr McKeirnan and what she considered a "cover-up" by the Brisbane Archdiocese. "Having a convicted pedophile so near the students was never made known to the community, yet parents were encouraged to drop their children at swimming training when he was there," she told The Sun -Herald. "Cardinal Pell replied that the issues at Rosalie were a matter for the Brisbane Archdiocese."

Archbishop Bathersby has said through a spokesman that under canon law he had "a responsibility to care for priests, active or retired, in his archdiocese ... [when] penalties are imposed on a cleric, provision must always be made so that he does not lack those things necessary for his decent support". Mr McKeirnan's lawyer, Terry O'Gorman, said his client "had done his time and he's entitled to get on with his life and that includes celebrating Mass".


Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Paternalism" helping black children

It may not be ideal but it sure does a lot more good than admiring blacks as "noble savages" and "respecting" their dysfunctional alcohol-sodden culture. And too bad that it upsets lots of simplistic Leftist pretences to wisdom. Welfare payments destroyed most of what was left of traditional Aboriginal society so attempts to remedy that damage are proper. And since a complete welfare cutoff is not on the cards, paternalism seems to be needed to unscramble that egg -- insofar as it is possible at all. The thing that would do most good is making welfare payments available only in areas where there is work available -- such as Victoria's fruit-growing areas -- and there does appear to be some mental movement in that direction

In June last year, when controversy over the newly announced Northern Territory intervention was at its height, lawyer Noel Pearson slayed its critics with a powerful argument: "Ask the terrified kid huddling in the corner, when there's a binge-drinking party going on down the hall, ask them if they want a bit of paternalism," he said. "Ask them if they want a bit of intervention, because these people who continue to bleat without looking at the facts, without facing up to the terrible things that are going on in our remote communities, these people are prescribing no intervention, they are prescribing a perpetual hell for our children."

Twelve months after former prime minister John Howard announced the emergency intervention, following revelations of horrific and widespread child abuse, the difficult and painstaking process is advancing slowly. The former and current governments both deserve credit for abandoning failed, decades-old approaches. A start has been made, with 9000 health checks, more police, a drop in gambling, drug-taking and alcohol abuse, and improvements in school attendance and fresh food consumption.

Importantly, the intervention has shifted remote Aborigines to the centre of mainstream political debate, after a generation during which mainstream Australians became disengaged from their plight. During this period, welfare "poison", as Pearson identified the shambolic, failed models of indigenous governance and an obsession with the rights agenda among urban elites, brought about the near-disintegration of remote indigenous communities. Parenting skills were lost, law and order deteriorated and education, health and living conditions fell to Third World levels. The critics of intervention were so lacking in their understanding of how dysfunctional the communities had become they vastly underestimated the magnitude of the task at hand.

Now, slowly but surely, the communities themselves, lawmakers and the public are realising that effective measures are essential to give indigenous children and adults the same protection as others from sexual abuse, domestic violence and assault.

The Howard government's indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, kicked the process off with a proactive, determined approach. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indigenous Affairs minister Jenny Macklin have also established themselves as pragmatic realists in indigenous policy, focused primarily on outcomes rather than ideology. After making the long-overdue apology to the Stolen Generations, the Government has moved on with the herculean task of helping indigenous Australians close the 17-year life expectancy gap between themselves and the rest of the nation.

At least some of the early improvements discernible across the Territory from the intervention so far are due to the fact that about 12,000 indigenous Territorians are having their pensions "income managed", quarantining money for necessities such as fresh food and medicine. The initiative announced by Ms Macklin yesterday to mark the intervention's anniversary was a sensible extension of the "tough love" approach. From early next year, a pilot program in Hermannsburg, Katherine, Wadeye and the Tiwi Islands will link Centrelink welfare payments, for black and white families, with school attendance. These, as Ms Macklin pointed out, must be turned around. It is also appropriate and fair that the trials will be extended to the wider urban white society as well.

The next stage of the intervention will be largely shaped by the Rudd Government's review, headed by Kimberley indigenous leader Peter Yu, due to report in September. Beyond the basics of food, clean water, education and health, a view is emerging that longer-term issues of investment, infrastructure and employment could require a kind of Marshall Plan, as Nicolas Rothwell foreshadows in The Weekend Australian today. This could mean resources and tax incentives being directed in a way that allowed the strongest communities to emerge as viable, sustainable centres in the regions that produce most of Australia's exportable wealth. Already, Ms Macklin has foreshadowed mining royalties being used more productively for the benefit of communities. For generations, the proceeds of mining have underpinned one of the highest standards of living in the world for much of white Australia. The ultimate challenge of indigenous policy is to ensure the benefits are shared by those who live where the wealth is produced.


The Prius is a huge waste of resources

The following is a clearly correct letter to the editor of "The Australian" by Anthony Hordern of Jamison, ACT

POLITICIANS’ comments about “green’’ cars are merely techno-babble they have picked up somewhere but don’t really understand. 

Hybrid vehicles are at best expensive and inefficient. Inefficient because they have two power sources instead of one, two control systems instead of one, two losses in converting mechanical power to electrical power and back again, two sources of electrical ``slippage’’ (generators and motors) instead of none in a manual transmission, plus they have heavy batteries to carry around. And those costly batteries need to be replaced every two to three years.

Meanwhile, so-called “zero-emission’’vehicles require much new science before they are available in the showroom, if ever. Hydrogen takes more power to produce than it replaces and “plug-in’’ electric cars are not the answer either. Techno-illiterates assume that pollution in the Latrobe and Hunter valleys simply disappears.

Turbo diesel is the way to go right now. The technology is well proven, diesel engines are inherently more efficient than petrol ones and they last longer.

Surely the four-cylinder engine plant Holden is closing at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne could readly produce modern turbo-diesel engines with minimum re-tooling and without funds from the taxpayer.


Hospital Emergency Dept. 'like war zone'

South Australia: Flinders Medical Centre's emergency department "is frequently overwhelmed and resembles a war zone", the hospital's general manager has admitted. The comments were made in a letter of apology to a patient who had made a complaint to the department. The letter is from Flinders' general manager, Associate Professor Susan O'Neill, and apologises on behalf of Dr Di King for any distress the patient, Kathryn Gibbons, of Encounter Bay, had suffered. Dr King was one of several doctors to see Mrs Gibbons that night.

"Your comments regarding the level of overcrowding and strain on the ED at the time Dr King totally agrees with," it says. "Regrettably, the ED is frequently overwhelmed and resembles a war zone. "Staff struggle to maintain basic patient comforts and service, however patient safety is our highest priority and this was maintained." Mrs Gibbons suffers a rare and severe form of asthma, known as "brittle asthma".

In January, she went to Flinders to seek treatment for her asthma but, after a long and frustrating wait during which she felt her needs were ignored, she drove back to Victor Harbor to get treated.

In May, she wrote a letter of complaint to Flinders. On June 13, she received the letter from Associate Professor O'Neill, which goes on to assure Mrs Gibbons that she was in no danger and that her treatment was appropriate.

Southern Area Health Service chief executive Cathy Miller, speaking on behalf of Associate Professor O'Neill, said the letter was paraphrasing Mrs Gibbons' own words. She added that the emergency department was getting busier and putting additional pressure on workers. "There's no doubt the EDs are busy places and we've experienced an increase of 5 per cent from last financial year to this financial year, which is an additional 3000 patients," she said. "It is an emotive place to work and people are passionate about what they do. It can become a busy place (and) it can look quite chaotic."

Ms Miller said they were having success with new measures to improve patient flows and that the redevelopment of the department would also help. "It is the time lag between demand going up and other processes kicking in," she said.

The letter's release comes in the middle of a bitter and prolonged dispute over pay and conditions. Up to 85 per cent of the emergency specialists from the state's public hospitals have handed in their resignations, effective on Friday. FMC emergency medicine senior consultant Dr David Teubner said the doctors were resigning because the overcrowding in emergency department was risking the safety of patients. "It is impossible to practice safely in an overcrowded environment (and) the majority of the time there are more patients than there is space for them," he said. "It's undignified, it's just an awful environment in which to work. It's just soul-destroying. "To deal with (the overcrowding) we need adequate numbers of senior staff and we're unable to attract such people from interstate because of the pay."

Dr Teubner also said this year was the worst it had ever been, and that it would get even worse with winter. "The hospital is doing an enormous amount . . . to make things better but we're busier than ever and there's pressure from the Department of Health to close beds to save money," he said.

Health Minister John Hill said there was a "huge increase" in presentations at Flinders, but the State Government was working to address the issues. "We know thousands more people are going to FMC every year seeking help in the ED. Our ageing population and the shortage of GPs in the south are resulting in this huge increase in presentations," he said. "And the State Government is addressing this through the $153 million redevelopment of FMC, including building a brand new ED with increased capacity. "The expanded and redeveloped emergency department will include 21 additional treatment cubicles, to cater for an extra 14,000 people seeking treatment every year."

Mr Hill added that a GP Plus Health Care Centre at Marion and extra staff being employed by the Government would also help. Doctors and the State Government met again at the Industrial Relations Commission last night to discuss the enterprise bargaining agreement. Industrial Relations Minister Michael Wright said a new offer to the state's public doctors had been put on the negotiating table. He said talks were "progressing well", and they would possibly continue over the weekend. SA Salaried Medical Officers Association senior industrial officer Andrew Murray said there were still "significant issues" to be resolved.


Science, dogma and dissent: Ross Garnaut's Heinz Arndt lecture

What a disappointment. I hoped that Prof. Garnaut would use his Heinz Arndt Lecture to describe the balance he intended to strike in his recommendations between evidence for risky climate change and a growing body of evidence that the risks are low to moderate (at most). Given his well-known views, I expected to find the balance tilted in favor of the former but I hoped to find that it would be moderated by recognition of the latter. Unfortunately, Prof. Garnaut paid no attention to any scientific facts and made no attempt to strike a balanced risk assessment.

Instead, what really struck me was what the speech implied about the religious nature of Prof. Garnaut's own adherence to the 'climate-alarm' view. Ross Garnaut seems to believe that 'scepticism' about climate change is analogous to... or is, 'dissent'. That is, he prefers to describe critics of his views using a term drawn from religious history, identifying someone who rejects a dogma. My reaction on first reading was surprise at the use of a term that implies acceptance of man-made global warming is really a faith from which critics may 'dissent'. Did Ross Garnaut understand that (obvious) implication, I wondered?

Of course, he would not be alone in describing climate change conviction as a faith. Charles Krauthammer recently offered a similar observation in his Washington Post OpEd. But it was not a view I expected Prof. Garnaut to adopt.

Answering the question whether it is possible for 'dissenters' can be scientists, Ross Garnaut invokes Gallileo, whom he wrongly describes as a 'dissenter'-Gallileo was no such thing; Gallileo's conflict with the Church was about the appropriate role of empricism and contained no basic doctrinal dissent-as an exception that proves his rule. Garnaut agrees that dissenters may have scientific points to make, but he adds that this contrary example tells us little about modern science. The illustration does, however, tend to confirm that he considers those whom he describes-a little pompously-as being in the majority with the 'learned academies in the countries of greatest scientific accomplishment' (p.6), are in some sense an ekklesia.

It would, I suppose, be fair to call 'skeptics' dissenters if they were merely aesthetic or doctrinal opponents of the environmental religion. But the 'small minority [some minority - pwg] of reputed climate scientists' whom Garnaut acknowledges reject the vague, over-blown claim of the IPCC (dignified by Garnaut as 'bayesian uncertainties') do so on the basis of emprically refutable claims. These claims include, for example, the entirely scientific (because testable) assertion that the statements in his Interim Report about an alarming acceleration of increases in global temperature are wrong in fact (witness the evidence of the temperature record for the past decade) or based on basic statistical errors in sampling and estimating a time-series trend.

When Prof. Garnaut concludes 'the Dissenters are possibly right, and probably wrong', what evidence does he adduce? None. Not a shred. This is depressingly consistent with the approach taken in his Interim Report. He does not consider that the science offered in contradiction of the IPPCC pronouncements (the hypotheses of 'those who are best placed to know'-see p. 5 of his address) calls anything into question because it is 'dissent' and not science.

So much for name-calling. What positive reason does Prof. Garnaut offer for accepting the 'uncertainties' of the IPCC as reasonably indicative of a probability? No scientific reason, as it turns out. This is the most curious argument of all in his address. His reason for accepting the need for elaborate, 'impossible-to-measure' schemes of carbon-emission mitigation (the second two-thirds of his address) is a religious reason.

Prof. Garnaut invokes "Pascal's Wager" (p.7)-a sort of bargain struck de profundis in the heart of this brilliant but deeply disturbed 17th century philosophe-to accept the existence of God on the basis of faith alone, rejecting the counsels of reason, out of fear of the (metaphysical) consequences. Pascal resolved to accept the existence of God out of an irrational fear of an eternity of torment in hell should he deny God and happen to be wrong.

This is a sympathetic tale, of course. It's a 'wager' that many adolescents face at some point in dealing with a personal crisis. But as a psychic convenience, it is the abnegation-the abjuration-of science. Disagreements about climate change polices are not a personal crisis. They are a challenge to rational, democratically-informed, public policy. They deserve informed assessment and a careful dissection of interests (of present and future generations, in this case). In his address, Ross Garnaut has promised us elaborate economic models and detailed regulatory schemes based, ultimately, on an irrational framework (the models might not be all that reliable, either).


Friday, June 20, 2008

People who refuse to pay their rent cannot get housing so it is everybody elses's fault?

And it was even a subsidized welfare rent. But they can afford to feed pets! Boo hoo!

A Tasmanian family living in a broken down car for the past five months is no closer to getting a home -- with the only offer of help being for their dogs. The Mercury yesterday revealed the plight of Glenn Charles, 32, his partner Shelley, 37, and her daughters Caitlyn, 13, and Courtney, 10. Until this week they were also sharing the car on the Devonport foreshore with a dog and six puppies, but they were seized by the RSPCA on Tuesday because of the unsuitable living conditions.

Mr Charles, who has a life-threatening illness, said none of the many authorities he had approached would help his family. Despite the family's renewed plea for help the only offer of assistance came from a Hobart boarding kennel which said it would accommodate the dogs until the family found suitable accommodation.

No such offers were forthcoming for the family. And if the comments on the Mercury's website are an accurate reflection of the community it is perhaps not surprising. Although the story created a huge response, almost none of the comments expressed any sympathy. Instead Bob of Hobart said "I'm glad they are living in their car -- they don't deserve a state funded house". And Bronwyn said: "He would be on blood thinners to fix the DVTs so he could work, not drop dead any minute although not a bad idea as it is one less to worry about sleeping outside."

Colony 47's chief executive Therese Taylor said the tone of the comments demonstrated how hard it was going to be to educate the community about the complex issue of homelessness. "A very strong blame mentality was revealed in those comments and I don't know how that is going to take us forward," Ms Taylor said. "From the comments it seems people don't care as long as they are all right." She said she found it incredible no one had commented on the welfare of the two young girls. Ms Taylor said although she had no personal knowledge of the case it appeared the family had exhausted a lot of their options.

Director of Housing Tasmania, Mercia Bresnehan, yesterday said although the family had been reclassified as priority one applicants it might be some time before a suitable property became available. Ms Bresnehan also confirmed the application had been suspended because of a failure to enter into a repayment plan for an outstanding debt of $8655 from a previous tenancy.


A little bit of fun

Read the following and see what you think

New research compiled by Australian scientist Dr Tom Chalko shows that global seismic activity on Earth is now five times more energetic than it was just 20 years ago. The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of "global warming" is comprehensively and urgently addressed.

The analysis of more than 386,000 earthquakes between 1973 and 2007 recorded on the US Geological Survey database proved that the global annual energy of earthquakes on Earth began increasing very fast since 1990. Dr Chalko said that global seismic activity was increasing faster than any other global warming indicator on Earth and that this increase is extremely alarming. "The most serious environmental danger we face on Earth may not be climate change, but rapidly and systematically increasing seismic, tectonic and volcanic activity," said Dr Chalko.

"Increase in the annual energy of earthquakes is the strongest symptom yet of planetary overheating. "NASA measurements from space confirm that Earth as a whole absorbs at least 0.85 Megawatt per square kilometer more energy from the Sun than it is able to radiate back to space. This 'thermal imbalance' means that heat generated in the planetary interior cannot escape and that the planetary interior must overheat. Increase in seismic, tectonic and volcanic activities is an unavoidable consequence of the observed thermal imbalance of the planet," said Dr Chalko.

Dr Chalko has urged other scientists to maximize international awareness of the rapid increase in seismic activity, pointing out that this increase is not theoretical but that it is an Observable Fact. "Unless the problem of global warming (the problem of persistent thermal imbalance of Earth) is addressed urgently and comprehensively -- the rapid increase in global seismic, volcanic and tectonic activity is certain. Consequences of inaction can only be catastrophic. There is no time for half-measures."

For further information please read Dr Chalko's scientific article published at NU Journal of Discovery. Dr Tom Chalko, MSc, PhD, former Melbourne University academic (between 1982-2001) is Head of Geophysics Division at Scientific Engineering Research, Mt Best, Australia.


It sounds sort of plausible, doesn't it? Until you think about it. How can minor changes in the atmosphere affect events deep down beneath the earth? I downloaded the story from a press-release service that Tom Chalko used to circulate it. So did quite a few other people. No need to think much more about it, however. It is pseudo-science -- as even a Leftist blogger pointed out.

The amusing thing, though, is that Associated Press -- the great grand fact-checking news service that newspapers worldwide rely on -- was also taken in and included it in their feed. And even the proudly-fact-checking CBS (remember Dan Rather?) was taken in. They have however now taken it down. If you have forgotten the CBS Dan Rather fun and games, see here. Once again pajamas beat the (largely mythical) media fact-checkers.

For yet another AP booboo see here (fifth picture caption).

Doctors old, foreign and busy

This is pretty absurd. There is no shortage of people wanting to get into Australian medical schools. I sure am glad that my GP has a similar background to mine. It makes visits a lot more pleasant

MORE than half of the GPs working in Australia were born overseas, with one in seven GPs in Queensland having only arrived in the country since 2001. An analysis of data from the 2006 census shows Australia is increasingly relying on overseas-born, ageing and overworked doctors - a situation condemned by a leading health expert as "an absolute crisis" and a risk to patients' lives.

According to the census figures, more than 50 per cent of Australia's 35,000 GPs were born overseas, compared with 22 per cent of the general population. At the time of the census, one in 10 of Australia's GPs - and 15 per cent of those in Queensland - had lived in the country for less than six years. Among specialists, 41 per cent were born overseas, with about 9 per cent here for less than six years at the time of the census. Of those medicos arriving in Australia in the previous five years, one in five GPs and nearly a quarter of specialists came from India.

The figures also show Australia has more older doctors in the workforce, with 12 per cent of GPs and 14 per cent of specialists aged 60 or over. And Australia's doctors are working long hours, with city-based GPs working an average of 49 hours a week.

Founder of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance, Professor John Dwyer, said the statistics showed the national health system was in a dire state. "At the moment, patients are being very much short-changed," he said. "Definitely lives are at risk." He said the situation was even more worrying in Queensland, with the census figures showing a shortage of doctors compared with other states. Only Western Australia has fewer GPs per head of population than Queensland and only the Northern Territory has fewer specialists per head of population. Data from the Queensland Medical Board showed more than 5000 oversea- trained doctors are registered to work in Queensland.

Incoming Australian Medical Association president Dr Mason Stevenson said many regional and remote areas were heavily reliant on foreign-trained medical officers. "You actually have some hospitals that are manned 80 per cent by overseas doctors," he said. "In fact, outside of southeast Queensland, 50 per cent of GPs are overseas-trained doctors - not just overseas-born, overseas trained. They are indispensable to fill the void."

A meeting of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission in Brisbane yesterday heard calls for a 100 per cent Medicare rebate for doctors in rural and remote areas. The Brisbane-based Need More GPs support group also told the commission it should be easier for overseas doctors to move into GP roles.


A separate orthodox branch is justified by homosexual bishops, say Conservative Anglicans

A new "orthodox" movement must be created within the Anglican Communion because of the divisive issue of homosexual clergy, claims a leading traditionalist. Dr Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney, said Anglican leaders in America had driven the worldwide church to the brink of schism by ordaining the first openly gay bishop, the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, in 2003.

He insisted he and other conservatives were trying to preserve the Communion and remain faithful to scripture by proposing new structures. Dr Jensen said, at the start of a breakaway summit in Jerusalem: "If there is a schism we believe it is the North American churches that have rent the Communion and it is us who are trying to renew the Communion."

As The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday, a document produced by the leaders of the Gafcon conference states that "there is no longer any hope for a unified Communion" because of divisions over homosexual clergy and same-sex unions. Some hardliners say the only way they can remain faithful to scripture is through "amputation" from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the establishment of a new wing outside the existing church.

However Dr Jensen said the crisis over sexuality would just lead to a "realignment" in the balance of power to Africa and South America and a new movement within the Communion. He said issues such as homosexual clergy are of "such monumental significance'' that the creation of a new orthodox branch was justified.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kevin Rudd firm on move to cut welfare

A Leftist government cutting welfare? A bit different! It's mainly aimed at middle-income people though. And discouraging savings through superannuation is really dumb and shortsighted. So it really is pretty Leftist despite initial appearances

The Rudd Government has vowed to act within a fortnight to protect welfare payments to charity and church workers facing average losses of $50 a week, but will push ahead with its own plans that will cut benefits to hundreds of thousands of Australians. Wayne Swan and Families Minister Jenny Macklin yesterday promised low-income workers for charitable organisations, who maximise government benefits by using salary-sacrificing and fringe benefits to reduce their assessible income, would have their concerns addressed before planned tax changes kick in on July 1.

The changes to the income-assessment of fringe benefits for charity workers were introduced two years ago by the Howard government but the extent of the effects were discovered only when employees were notified in April. The Treasurer said he would ensure the plans were altered before July 1 to protect low-income workers in charitable organisations.

But the Government yesterday stood by its own changes, which cover the inclusion of salary-sacrifice as income for the purpose of calculating family tax benefits and a raft of other programs that are due to come into effect on July 1 next year. As the Opposition yesterday accused the Government of inadequate attention to detail, Mr Swan vowed to push ahead with Labor's plans to standardise the definition of income for means-testing benefits. The changes, which will save the Government more than $500 million, will cut a range of benefits to hundreds of thousands of people by raising their assessible income. Yesterday, The Australian revealed a family with seven children whose sole breadwinner made little more than $100,000 a year would be left almost $200 a week worse off once the new income rules were applied to family tax benefits.

Despite yesterday's backdown on fringe benefits tax exemptions for charity workers, Mr Swan vowed in the Government's first budget last month to create a fairer and more equitable tax system by closing loopholes, such as those used to exploit the definition of income. "The Government will put fairness and integrity back into the income tax and transfer systems by better targeting benefits to families, making income-testing arrangements more comprehensive and tightening the fringe benefits tax and employee share scheme provisions," the budget papers said. "Fairer systems will generate budget savings and support the delivery of the Government's broader economic and social policy in a fiscally responsible manner."

At his budget press conference, Mr Swan said: "This is a tough budget, but it's a fair budget. And if there are loopholes which have emerged in tax systems, they should be closed. There's one that we're closing: when it comes to a rort which has developed with meals and that people have escaped the fringe benefits tax. And we are going to attack those sorts of loopholes in the system. And we have done a number of them in this budget." Among the changes he flagged were including salary-sacrificing for superannuation in income for the purpose of means-testing for Family Tax Benefits Part A and B, closing a large loophole.

More than a dozen other government benefit programs, including the Medicare levy surcharge, the baby bonus, the senior Australians' tax offset, drought relief and veterans' support will be affected by the changes due to be introduced next year. Mr Swan said that while he would take action to stop workers being made worse off by the Howard government's changes, his Government's changes close a "big loophole" that allowed some workers to receive much higher welfare payments than families on similar incomes by making large pre-tax contributions to superannuation.

Discussing charity employees and the decision to wind back the Howard government's fringe benefits tax changes, Mr Swan said: "I don't think there was a thorough knowledge of the savage impact this was going to have on the charitable sector". Mr Swan admitted that Labor had given support to the measure, which he said at the time was delivered in the context of child support reforms designed to stop deadbeat dads hiding their true income. But the party was at the time unaware of the unintended consequences later identified.

Ms Macklin said the Government would take action before the end of the financial year to help the charitable sector but would not explain how. She said there was a range of options being considered. Mr Swan said the Howard government's changes would have other "knock-on" effects. "This does then point to the need for a comprehensive review of the factors involved that have caused this," he said. He said the tax review ordered by the Government and led by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry would investigate the issue. "We think that having a look at the fringe benefits tax issue in the context of its application to low-income earners, when its original intent was to apply particularly to executives, is something that the Henry review will certainly take into account," Mr Swan said. He added the Rudd Government's changes should not be confused with the Howard administration's measures and affected fewer than 4 per cent of families.

The Government has estimated that at least 74,400 families will lose all or part of their family tax benefit because of the changes to superannuation salary sacrificing. The Treasurer has not supplied any estimates on the number of people affected in other programs. The total saving from the Rudd Government's changes is more than $500 million. Queensland Nationals senator Ron Boswell yesterday questioned how Ms Macklin could be unaware that 200,000 workers in not-for-profit groups and hospitals would be adversely affected by her own budget measures. "Two weeks ago I asked questions on this exact issue in Senate estimates and the department acknowledged it, cited recent publicity and had even written letters to affected people, so how could the minister not know of the effects of her own policy?" he said.

The Government was also forced yesterday to defend another measure that would see small numbers of veterans' partners lose some payments under new income eligibility tests.


Not enough medical staff to use badly-needed donated organs!

Dying Queenslanders desperate for transplants are missing out because the state's leading hospital is giving donated organs to interstate patients. At least twice this year interstate surgical teams have flown to Brisbane to retrieve organs turned away by Prince Charles Hospital. The fiasco has been blamed on staff shortages and surgeons with "large egos and voluminous hip pockets".

Queensland Health has confirmed organs donated by Queenslanders were being sent interstate because of the "unavailability of transplant service surgical staff with the appropriate specialised skills at the time of the offer". It refused to reveal whether anyone on the heart or lung waiting list had died after organs had been sent interstate. Under the national donor scheme, organs which become available in a state are meant to be offered to residents in that state first. In Queensland, two people are waiting for hearts, eight for lungs and two for heart/lung/liver transplants.

The stunning revelations have been exposed by Professor Russell Strong, the first surgeon to perform a liver transplant in Australia and medical director of Queensland Health's Queenslanders Donate. In a strongly worded letter to Queensland Health acting director-general Andrew Wilson, he argued Queenslanders had a better chance of a transplant if they lived interstate. "I wish to draw your attention to a situation that must be regarded as unacceptable and with the potential for severe repercussions," Professor Strong said in the April letter, obtained by The Courier-Mail.

He argued the hospital should be stripped of its transplant services. "It is highlighted by two events in the past three weeks (where) two young healthy males were involved in motor vehicle accidents, received traumatic brain injuries and became multi-organ donors," he wrote. "In the first case, the heart and lungs were offered to The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH), were accepted for heart/lung bloc and two names given for a cross match. Within half an hour, TPCH rang back declining the organs due to a lack of surgeons to remove the organs and perform the transplant surgery. "The organs were offered interstate and an interstate team came to Queensland to retrieve the organs. "


NSW Ambulance inquiry to hear 'bullying and intimidation'

Bureaucracy stifles paramedics who try to blow the whistle

An inquiry into the NSW Ambulance Service is expected to hear evidence of deep-rooted problems of intimidation and bullying. But the parliamentary inquiry, due to start in less than three weeks, could suffer the same fate as previous investigations, with paramedics too afraid to speak publicly, fearing retribution from their superiors. Nurses recently gave evidence behind closed doors, during the Royal North Shore Hospital and NSW Public Hospitals inquiries, scared they would later suffer harassment from management. Almost all the submissions lodged by ambulance officers are either anonymous or cannot be published.

Upper House MP Robyn Parker, who is overseeing the inquiry, said there were already common problems evident from ambos who have submitted evidence. "Anecdotally we can see there is a high suicide rate among ambulance officers," she told The Daily Telegraph. "It also appears management are using rosters and the transfer system to bully officers. I will be probing the department on both those (issues) on the first day." Low morale is plaguing the service, which has been the subject of internal and governmental investigations.

Ms Parker said: "The officers need a place where they can air their grievances and I will be demanding answers from the (health) department. "But this will also be putting the Government on notice and hopefully they will act."

The Daily Telegraph recently reported the overstretched service was relying on firefighters to respond to medical emergencies. Trucks are equipped with trauma kits and defibrilators attending to patients when ambulance crews do not cover the area. One ambulance officer said some Sydney suburbs were completely without emergency medical coverage. "Many areas in Sydney are inadequately covered by ANSW due to a deficit of stations," the submission said. "In the areas known to me there are three suburbs Carlingford, Berowra and Galston, that are at best 15 minutes from an ambulance. For a first-world country in the 21st century, that's embarrassing."

Another anonymous worker said inexperienced junior staff were attending jobs unsupervised. "I cannot remember the last shift I worked where we stayed wholly in our station area," the submission said. "We constantly move resources and become stretched to the limit and some areas end up with no coverage. The fact the NSW Fire Brigade is covering ambulance jobs is testimony to this."


Crown-of-thorns starfish on wane at Great Barrier Reef

Global warming was often blamed for the starfish plague so I guess this proves global cooling.. Since the climate IS cooling, maybe this is one they got right!

The potentially devastating crown-of-thorns starfish is in retreat on the Great Barrier Reef, with its numbers hitting a 20-year low, researchers say. Findings from the Australian Institute of Marine Science released Tuesday, June 17, indicate the latest outbreak of the coral-eating pest is near an end. Surveys of the Reef in 2007 detected fewer crown-of-thorns starfish than in any year in the past two decades, the head of AIMS' long-term monitoring program, Hugh Sweatman, said. "There were outbreaks on 6 per cent of the 104 reefs surveyed in 2006, and on just 4 per cent of the reefs we surveyed in 2007," he said. "Historically, the numbers of the starfish have increased drastically every 15 years, and in 2000 up to 17 per cent of the reef was afflicted." However, the crown-of-thorns starfish remains a "mysterious phenomenon", according to AIMS, and it is not known when the next outbreak could begin.

AIMS researchers have also detected a fall in coral cover on outer sections of the Reef due to coral diseases, particularly a disease known as white syndrome. The cause of the disease was unknown but it killed off massive areas of coral on previously healthy reefs, Dr Sweatman said. "The disease is found particularly where hard coral cover is high," he said. "What we see is that the healthy reefs with lots of coral cover are the ones at risk."

Seven reefs in the Capricorn-Bunker sector and six in the Swain sector of the Great Barrier Reef were surveyed. No crown-of-thorns starfish were recorded on Swain reefs but scuba surveys found the starfish for the first time at Fairfax Reef in the Capricorn-Bunker group.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red tape choking childcare industry

And it all adds to the costs that parents pay

New government reporting requirements for childcare centres are eroding the amount of attention that can be given to the children, workers in the industry say. And staff numbers are dwindling as workers leave jobs where every move is monitored, judged and reported.

Registered childcare centres now have to independently report on 708 indicators which Federal Government inspectors use when conducting compulsory inspections every two years, Childcare Queensland president (Glynn Bridge said. If a childcare centre fails to get a tick for any of the 708 boxes under the Government's Quality Improvement and Accreditation system, it could lose accreditation. "The red tape is killing us," Ms Bridge said. Fear of losing accreditation has prompted some centres to introduce monthly checklists, which include directors reporting on more than 40 workplace practices, ranging from nappy-changing and hand-washing to childcare philosophy.

The industry fears more regulations are looming under a Rudd Government proposal to introduce a grading system for childcare centres. Centre owners say they are not opposed to inspections or health and safety requirements for their businesses, but fear losing experienced staff as a result of "unreasonable processes".

Kerrie Lada, the director of Hardy's Road childcare centre at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast, is among those trying to juggle childcare and government paperwork. She said that would prefer to "get down on the ground" with children rather than sit in the office with piles of paperwork. "My job as director has changed over 20 years," Ms Lada said. "I'm basically doing paperwork rather than supporting staff and children and families. It's basically ticking boxes to say we have done it".

Another childcare centre director contacted by The Sunday Mail , who asked not to be named, said she had recently lost a senior employee and others had complained of stress because they feared letting down colleagues and the centre if they failed to get a "tick" on any of the criteria. "The stress levels are definitely high. What's confusing is the criteria changes every time. And you feel like you're being judged and watched," she said.

More than 900,000 children from about 700,000 families Australia-wide use childcare each year. About 10 per cent of centres in Australia failed to receive accreditation last year.

Ms Bridge said she had recently briefed Queensland Minister for Communities Lindy Nelson-Carr on industry issues and had requested a meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss the complex regulation of centres.

The article above is by Paul Weston and appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 15, 2008.

More public hospital negligence

After all the publicity about meningococcal meningitis and its drastic outcomes, it's incomprehensible that it is not looked for as a first step. One suspects another underqualified immigrant doctor. Public hospitals employ almost any doctor at all and don't look too closely at their qualifications

A FAMILY is seeking a $7 million payout after their 10-month-old son was left blind, deaf, brain-damaged and disabled by an undiagnosed bout of meningitis. Jeremy Netherway, now 8, was diagnosed with a viral infection when his worried parents rushed him to Perth's St John of God Hospital in Subiaco on May 29, 2000. But the boy's parents, Nicola and Peter Netherway, claim the hospital and a doctor, Anita Cvitanovich, failed to recognise that Jeremy had pneumococcal meningitis.

They are suing the doctor and the hospital for $7 million, saying Dr Cvitanovich failed to carry out tests to confirm meningitis and delayed giving Jeremy antibiotics to treat the illness. They also claim the hospital failed to keep the doctor fully informed of Jeremy's condition.

The damages amount has already been agreed to by all parties but the doctor and hospital have denied liability and blame each other for Jeremy's condition. The liability issue is on trial in the District Court, with judge Shauna Deane presiding over the matter, which is listed for three weeks.

Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Netherway choked back tears as he described the day his son was rushed to hospital. "He was listless, he had his eyes shut, his head was tilted back. He was very, very pale," Mr Netherway said. His wife, Nicola, earlier told the court that Jeremy had been admitted to hospital for the night after Dr Cvitanovich diagnosed him as having a viral infection, saying he needed to be rehydrated. She said the doctor had told her meningitis was a possibility but that it was unlikely. But Ms Netherway said that after sleeping for two hours, her son's condition became progressively worse. He was suffering from a fever and vomiting constantly until he was dry-retching, she said.

By the time Dr Cvitanovich returned at 8am on May 30 to check on Jeremy's condition, the baby was grunting and breathing coarsely, Ms Netherway said. It was then that the doctor placed him on intravenous antibiotics and took blood before he was rushed toPrincess Margaret Hospital for Children.

Ms Netherway told the court she saw Dr Cvitanovich a few days later in the intensive care unit, where she was informed that Jeremy may suffer paralysis from his illness. He now requires full-time care.

The court has already heard that Dr Cvitanovich did not see Jeremy after 10.30pm on May 29 but had told nurses to contact her if Jeremy was vomiting, had not urinated or his temperature had risen above 38.5C. She did not return to the hospital until 8am the next day when Jeremy's condition had worsened considerably, Ms Netherway said.


Muddled "Green" policies

By Barry Cohen (Barry Cohen is a former environment minister in the Hawke Labor government)

I'm confused. And I'm not alone. For eons environmentalists have been rabbiting on about our dependence on coal, oil and the carbon emissions they produce. "Let's go solar," was their cry, for the one thing Australia was not short of was sun. And we have the skin cancers to prove it. With our engineers and scientists in the vanguard of solar technology it appeared the way to go. I was convinced to go solar many years ago. While the electricity bill remained unchanged, I gained a psychological advantage over my critics. As environment minister, there was no shortage of those. The introduction by the Howard government of an $8000 rebate on solar panels, had tempted me to try again. The balance of $12,000 was a small price to pay for that feeling of superiority and the warm inner glow.

The dream ended when the budget restricted rebates to those with incomes of under $100,000. Overnight, 90 per cent of orders were cancelled. The industry, unable to sustain that level of cuts was, to put it mildly, thoroughly pissed off while environmentalists are having difficulty recognising the Government that received a standing ovation in Bali.

Environment minister Peter Garrett, asked at Question Time to apologise to the solar industry, had an interesting response. He told the house that the program, "was oversubscribed and would have overheated and produced, in the solar industry, demand fluctuations such that it would have made this industry very difficult to be sustainable. Compressing the plan for five years to three years the industry would have greater sustainability." Having spent a lifetime in business, I had difficulty grasping how an industry going gangbusters could be in trouble. My experience had been the opposite.

The decision, we were told, was an exercise in cutting down on middle-class welfare. However, the rebate was not welfare but an incentive to encourage as many people as possible to go solar to cut carbon emissions. What difference does it make if those that do are rich, poor or middle class? The result is the same. If anything, the more affluent are likely to use more electricity and produce more carbon emissions. Ask Al Gore.

Equally confusing was the decision to whack the rich by pushing up the price of luxury cars. Now, I define the rich as anyone who earns more than me, so I'm all for making them suffer but surely the way to go is to use the tax system to encourage motorists to switch to fuel-efficient cars. Again, it doesn't much matter who cuts down carbon emissions as long as it happens. The rich can afford to pay and think how good they'll feel. The recent budget was the opportune time to abolish the tariff concessions on 4WDs. Introduced originally as a subsidy for farmers, it became a fashion statement for yuppies who rarely, if ever, went off-road. OK, I have one but so would you if you owned a wildlife sanctuary and had to drive up and down cliffs.

I've previously 'fessed up to being a climate-change sceptic which, these days, is marginally better than being a pedophile but I will support any measure that reduces pollution and congestion. If the Government is serious about climate change, then they should use the taxation system to lower the cost of fuel-efficient cars and increase the price of gas-guzzlers. There will never be a better time.

The most surprising omission from this, and past budgets, was the failure to end the financial advantage given to those who drive to work over those who use public transport. The former can claim all car expenses against their taxable income while the latter can't claim anything. Work vehicles aside, it should be the other way around.

Soaring fuel prices have already caused hundreds of thousands to switch to public transport but isn't that what we wanted? Reverse tax deductibility and it will snowball. Cities will become livable again and our transport system will be profitable.

Finally to an obsession that has been with me since I entered parliament 40 years ago: controlling our population growth. I was stunned at the recent news that next year Australia will bring in 300,000 immigrants. That's about double the average over the past 50 years, so we can expect to have 30 million within 20 years. Guess where most will live? In our capital cities, of course. Imagine Sydney and Melbourne each with about an extra three million. It's madness. As global warming and climate change are the direct result of individual demand for more and more energy then surely we should be trying to contain our population growth?

"We need more skilled workers," the pro-migration lobby cries. Fine, bring in skilled workers and limit the other categories.

I'm reluctant to give prime ministers advice, mainly because they don't take kindly to advice from feather dusters. Let me make an exception. Prime Minister, there is, at the moment, an extraordinary amount of goodwill in the nation towards you and your Government. Australians understand there is a crisis and are prepared to make sacrifices and suffer pain providing you take them into your confidence and the pain is fairly and evenly distributed. They also want consistency. At the moment there are too many contradictions.

At the risk of being melodramatic this is the time for you to go Churchillian and call for "blood, toil, tears and sweat", not palliatives and cosmetics.


Another case of blaming anybody but the person responsible

THE hotel industry has been spooked by the debate over who is responsible for drunken behaviour. And hotels are expected to clamp down even harder on serving drinkers who have already had alcohol. The stricter approach is likely after Coroner Stephen Carey berated the Dover Hotel in his findings on the death of a patron who fell into a river after drinking at the pub in October last year.

Peter O'Sullivan from Tasmania's liqour and gaming branch said the rules over serving alcohol to patrons who appeared drunk were very clear. But he said the broader debate about at what point those who drink to excess are responsible for their own behaviour could be murky. Hotel licensees can be fined $12,000 if charged under the Liquor Licensing Act with serving alcohol to a person who appears drunk. Staff members can be fined $6000.

On Monday, Coroner Carey said staff at the Dover Hotel had indirectly contributed to the death of John Larkins who fell down a river embankment opposite the pub while stopping to urinate on his walk home. The hotel has not been charged under the Act but the coronial "slap" has caused the hotel industry to take a closer look at responsible serving practices.

Australian Hotels Association general manager Steve Old said the association was talking with the publican at the Dover Hotel about the issue. "It is a tough one. But I do not want to delve into the broader issue of personal and industry responsibility at this stage because the publican is dealing with some legal issues," Mr Old said.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Government health service condones illegal drug use

The Sydney West Area Health Service has denied a leaflet it has published encourages young people to take drugs. The controversial leaflet is titled "Choosing to use but wanna keep your head together", and advises teenagers on what to do if they choose to take substances like ecstasy and cannabis. It is being distributed at schools and community facilities, and includes advice for students to wait until they turn 18 before experimenting with drugs, and then to "use only small amounts and not too often".

The director of drug and alcohol services, Kevin Hedge, says the leaflet does not encourage young people to take drugs. Mr Hedge says the leaflet clearly states that there is no safe drug use, but its advice is based on the realistic view that most young people experiment. "Our materials were designed originally to be distributed amongst agencies that deal with marginalised young people, homeless young people and people at high risk of drug use," he said. "From that perspective, the materials are a genuine public health approach to preventing harm."

But Jo Baxter from Drug Free Australia says the leaflet will confuse young people who are looking for guidance from drug use specialists. "They want to know whether or not these drugs are going to harm them," she said. "A message like that gives a sort of unintended message that they would condone the use and there is such a thing as safe use, when in actual fact we don't believe there is a safe use of illicit drugs."

Tony Trimmingham lost his son to a heroin overdose 11 years ago and has since founded Family Drug Support. He supports the leaflet and says people have to be realistic about the common use of drugs and alcohol in society. "They grow up in a world where drugs are prevalent and every single person in Sydney, and in fact the whole of Australia, will in some point encounter drugs and will be faced with the dilemma of whether to use or not," he said. "We can't evade that and I believe they do need education on how to deal with those occurrences."


Juvenile crime stupidity

So Weasel has finally been convicted of serious crimes and is doing time in prison. At last. He has made the courts and the prosecutors look supine and gullible. He has repeatedly taunted police, lawyers and even judges. He has proven to be an incorrigible combination of stupidity, aggression and menace. But of course we cannot name him.

No. That would be unfair. That would be wrong. Criminal. I could be prosecuted. The Herald would be given a punitive financial penalty. Because he was under the age of 18 when he entered the criminal justice system. It also appears his identity will remain protected ad infinitum and ad nauseam, while even the reasons for this suppression are suppressed. In order not to trample on Weasel's prospects for rehabilitation, or the sensibilities of his upstanding family, or the mandates of the court, we use the pseudonym, Weasel. This is his story:

At a recent court hearing, Weasel, 18, was convicted on four counts of armed robbery, with five other offences noted. Acting in company, he had been knocking over service stations. During the sentencing, in a closed court, the judge issued directions that Weasel's name be suppressed. He directed that his family's identifying details, including names, be suppressed. family's names be suppressed. Not even their initials could be used. The family's names have already been suppressed for some time. That is a lot of suppression.

Such is the perversity of the opaque and oppressive culture created by the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987. Weasel is protected by a system he has besmirched at every point of contact. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has even presented him as a key Crown witness in two trials, with the full and certain knowledge that he is an incorrigible liar.

I have Googled Weasel's real name and found not a single reference. Not even police and prosecutors can gain access to his criminal record unless it is directly related to a new case, because of privacy laws related to juvenile offenders. Allow me to summarise his anonymous parade through our criminal justice system:

* June 2003: confrontation with police. Tells them: "You can't do anything. You can't touch us." Tells a police officer: "F--- you, you slut. You will get yours." Spits at a police officer, saying, "F--- you, you pig c-----". Charged and convicted of assault. No time served.

* January 2004: attacks a teenage girl. Convicted of aggravated assault. No time served.

* April 2004: assault with a weapon. Lying to police. No charges laid.

* June 2004: recorded in a telephone conversation saying he will lie in court.

* January 2005: commits perjury in a pre-trial hearing.

* July 2005: called as a Crown witness in a trial. Commits perjury.

* February 2006: called as a Crown witness in another trial, despite his earlier performance. Commits perjury. No charge laid.

* February-August 2007: engages in a series of criminal acts, acting in company.

* August 2007: charged on multiple counts of armed robbery. Incarcerated.

* May 2008: receives featherweight sentence (within sentencing guidelines). Identity suppressed. Non-parole period of two years and six months. Eligible for parole in August next year.

I have saved the worst for last. Weasel was once fleetingly and inadvertently named by the broadcaster Alan Jones when he read out a news report in The Daily Telegraph (a reference soon extinguished). The newspaper had published his name by mistake in breach of a suppression order.

Under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act, it is illegal to publish or broadcast the names of juveniles involved in court cases in any capacity, even as a witness or a victim, and even if the victim is dead, unless the judge lifts the prohibition, which the legislation allows them to do. The penalties include a criminal record and up to 12 months' jail. This case was heard by the Deputy Chief Magistrate Helen Syme. She rejected Jones's defence, found him guilty of a criminal breach of the act, fined him, put him on a bond, and upbraided him, saying he had "ample time" between reading the article and going on air to check whether the newspaper had approval to name the witness.

Syme, like every other judge or magistrate who has had anything to with Weasel, ended up looking deluded and naive. Breaches of suppression orders are so rare it would be absurd to check every news report ever quoted. Even if Jones's staff had checked that morning, the Telegraph would have had no idea it was in error. In the wider context of pubic safety and community values, Syme delivered a sanctimonious lecture on behalf of a bad person, a bad law, a bad principle, and an odoriferous prosecution. Her decision was dismissed on appeal.

At the time I asked the Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, who once excoriated "talkback terrorists" in a speech, why there had been such determination to prosecute Alan Jones for an unintended slip but not the reporter who made the error (let alone the flagrant perjury of Weasel). "It is my office's role to prosecute matters referred to it by investigators," he replied. "My office can only do its job in response to investigations and charges undertaken and put on by others."

Then who were the "others"? Cowdery suggested I ask the police prosecutors, or the Attorney-General's Department, where decisions involving prominent cases are often made. Bingo. No wonder so many of the criminals depicted in the book and TV series Underbelly were able to operate for so long and with such impunity. They may have been stupid and reckless, but they knew how the legal system works.


Outcry over intensive care shortage for babies in Victoria

The state's most fragile newborns are being sent interstate because Victoria's neonatal intensive care units are stretched to breaking point. Over the past week, Victoria's 72 neonatal intensive care cots have been full, forcing dangerously premature babies or mothers with high-risk pregnancies to be flown interstate for life-preserving care. Four acute babies or mothers with high-risk pregnancies have been flown to Canberra or Adelaide in the past fortnight.

At the same time, the Brumby Government celebrated the opening of the new $250 million Royal Women's Hospital, which has been widely criticised for being too small to cope with a rising birthrate.

The Department of Human Services yesterday revealed that 12 newborns from regional areas, who would normally be treated at Melbourne hospitals, had been flown interstate for care in the past year. This was up from just three in 2005-06 and nine in 2006-07.

The new Royal Women's is equipped with 18 neonatal intensive care cots but can accommodate an extra two when stretched -- the same as the hospital it replaced.

Newborn Emergency Transport Service state medical director Dr Michael Stewart said the system was under pressure from a surge in demand. He said no babies had been harmed by the recent journeys. "It is obviously not ideal to have to do this, but we are looking at what is the safest and most effective for the whole system at the time as well as being very cognisant of the individual baby and their families," he said. "I don't think in the ideal world it is good to move an adult, a child or a baby from one hospital to another or out of the state if they need intensive care, but the reality is that is occasionally what we need to do. "These peaks can last for a few days to a week or so, sometimes they last several months, but the tip of the peak we hope just lasts for several days because that does get very difficult to manage."

The new $1 billion Royal Children's Hospital will have an increase in its number of neonatal intensive care cots when it is completed in 2011. Monash Medical Centre and Mercy Hospital for Women are the only other Victorian hospitals with units to sustain the dangerously premature newborns who need help to breathe.

Dr Stewart said the state usually coped with less than 60 babies needing intensive care at any one time and "cot-block" had improved since 2000 when there were just 48 Victorian neonatal intensive care unit cots. But Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Christine Tippett said there were simply not enough neonatal intensive care cots to meet demand. "The four units are constantly running at or near capacity and the pressure on staff and equipment is at an unsustainable level," she said.

Department of Human Services spokesman Steve Pivetta said babies in border areas were often closer to interstate hospitals and denied a lack of resources was to blame.


New black separatism

In the build-up to last year's election campaign, a small news item got largely lost in the melee. Recently, however, the reported topic has assumed a new importance in the Australian political agenda. On September 13, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The assembly recorded 143 votes in favour, 11 abstentions and four votes against. The last were cast by Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.

The Howard government said it objected on the grounds that the declaration would impair the territorial and political integrity of the Australian state by supporting the creation of separate indigenous states. The declaration makes it clear that this is indeed its aim. Article 4 says indigenous peoples have the right to freely determine their political status and to pursue self-determination and autonomy. In short, it supports the old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission demand for a sovereign black state.

The declaration was strongly influenced by input by Australian Aboriginal activists. Most involved was Mick Dodson, co-author with Ronald Wilson of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report on the Stolen Generations that accused Australia of genocide. Dodson is still engaged with the UN, serving as a member of its Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

As well as a black state, the declaration endorses other policies long demanded by radical Aboriginal activists. It supports the establishment of a body very much like ATSIC; that is, for the revival of a separate indigenous parliament.

In the face of the manifest failure of the separate Aboriginal school curriculum that made the learning of English optional - an experiment now notorious for leaving this generation of Aboriginal adolescents and young adults functionally illiterate - the UN declaration nonetheless demands more of the same.

It endorses customary law and wants indigenous tribunals to determine breaches and punishments. Apart from the fact indigenous people remain entitled to all the host nation's welfare and citizenship benefits, the latter's legal system does not rate a mention.

The UN also supports the principle that indigenous people should determine who qualifies as indigenous. It wants their rights enshrined in treaties and agreements between the state and those who define themselves this way. In other words, the UN has endorsed a program that, if introduced in Australia, would revive the entire separatist agenda of Aboriginal politics of the Hawke-Keating era, an agenda that, apart from lucrative positions here and abroad for a select class of tertiary-educated activists, has had no positive outcomes for Aborigines to speak of, and whose awful failings are reproduced with depressing frequency in the reports of one commission of inquiry after another.

Even though the Rudd Government has not yet officially declared its hand, it has already made it clear that action is only a matter of time. It not only endorses the UN agenda in principle but will specifically affirm its support for the declaration to the General Assembly. After the favourable media response to the apology to the Stolen Generations in February, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith confirmed the Government was preparing to ratify the declaration. He told the Ten Network he was consulting with stakeholders about reversing Australia's opposition.

At the 2020 Summit in Canberra in April, the forum on the future of indigenous Australia was dominated by calls for the revival of an ATSIC-type representative body, by special constitutional recognition, and for a treaty. The Government's appointee as co-chairwoman of the sessions, Jackie Huggins, said she was very pleased these issues were back on the political agenda.

The published report of the summit, Australia 2020, listed its first "top idea" as: "The establishment of a new philosophical framework through which we negotiate a new definition of our relationship and how we might define it in the Constitution or treaty or settlement is necessary." The first of the low cost ideas endorsed by the same session was: "Support the UN Declaration on (the) Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

Kevin Rudd has powerful reasons of his own to go down this track. One of the pillars of his foreign policy is support for multilateral organisations, especially the UN. That is why Smith was the first in cabinet to signal the Government's intentions. To give the impression of being wedded to a minority group of rich, white dissenting countries is not how Rudd wants to be seen by the UN community.

The recommendations from the 2020 Summit were passed on to a parliamentary committee to mould them more to the Government's own political agenda. The first issue this committee raised in May was a new preamble to the Constitution to give special recognition to Aborigines. At the moment there is bipartisan support for this, with Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson publicly supporting the notion.

A constitutional preamble of this kind, coupled with a government announcement to the UN accepting its declaration on indigenous rights, would have a dramatic effect on the political landscape. It would re-establish the same old agenda that has failed for the past 30 years: self-determination, land rights and a separate Aboriginal parliament.

Meanwhile, the obscene contrast between the lives of most Aborigines and the Aboriginal political elite will remain unaffected. The losers will be the women and children in those dysfunctional communities that produce some of the world's highest rates of murder, violence and sexual abuse. The winners will be the activists, who no doubt are already booking their first-class air tickets and hotel suites in Geneva and New York for the upcoming rounds of meetings and conferences.


Monday, June 16, 2008

The nanny state has spoken on binge-drinking. But who’s listening?

By Janet Albrechtsen

The nanny state has apparently spoken. I went to bed last night feeling happy after a night out with friends. I wake up in the morning to news that I am a binge drinker because I indulged in more than three glasses of wine.

If you had four middies of beer last night, join the club. You are a binge drinker. That is according to the boffins at the National Health and Medical Research Council who have reportedly drafted new guidelines on safe drinking for Australians. While the Council is refusing to confirm reports in the Fairfax media until the release of its final report next month, perhaps the Council could do with some community feedback on their apparent eagerness to label so many of us binge-drinkers.

Yes, binge-drinking is a problem. Yes, alcohol driven violence is a problem. But surely that means addressing these real problems rather than conflating the issue of alcohol abuse by setting consumption limits at ridiculous levels. Health bureaucrats, whatever their well-intentioned beef, be it setting down eating and drinking guidelines for pregnant women or these latest drinking rules for the rest of us, always seem to frame their rules for the lowest common denominator brain. They treat us all like a bunch of feather-brained numskulls incapable of making sensible decisions about just about anything to do with our lifestyle. Now, we apparently have to endure being labelled a “binge-drinker” if we exceed 4 drinks during a pleasant evening out with friends.

There is another label that comes to mind. It applies to this kind of bureaucratic overreach. It’s called infantilisation. Reducing us to the status of children, they set down rules that end up neutering our ability to take personal responsibility for our actions. Like moves to ban the advertising of fast food, this is just another step by Big Brother to interfere in our choices by applying scary labels of binge-drinking to behavior that many of us would regard as normal.

Former federal health minister Tony Abbott is right to describe these new guidelines as fostering a “moral panic, which is taking over the land.” There is, says Abbott, “no doubt that binge drinking is a problem, but it is no worse than in the past. I am in favour of people improving society but you have to be reasonable about it. Usually these debates are more about establishing the virtue of the people leading the way. In the end what an individual does is his or her responsibility particularly with something that is legal.”

The medical boffins so keen to mould their own vision of utopia should keep in mind that this kind of dogmatic overreach comes with its own risks. When health guidelines are set at patently unreasonable levels, it might just mean people stop listening to these bodies about anything they have to say. It might undermine what is an important educative function if they start laying down rules that seem so preposterous to the social drinker. As Lenore Taylor said on the ABC’s Insiders today in response to claims that the delightful Belinda Neal MP had been the victim of sexism, we need to be careful about devaluing the currency by flinging about inappropriate labels. Likewise, binge drinking should be reserved for real alcohol abuse.

Before the chaps who are so keen to impose new nanny state drinking rules on us conclude their final report next month, they need to get out more. Perhaps have a drink or two with a few social drinkers who take umbrage at this new Puritanism. Labelling us all as binge-drinkers will do nothing to address the real problem of alcohol abuse.


The latest in the saga of the failed computer system for Australia's submarines

Only a billion dollars and 15 years down the drain so far. When will they ever learn that it is hubris to buy ANY defence equipment unless it is "off the shelf"?

The first Collins-class submarine to be armed with a new combat system will be battle-tested against US forces in Hawaii later this month. The navy is nervously awaiting the performance of HMAS Waller under fire, hoping the submarine's new combat system will hold up and end one of thedarkest chapters in Australian defence. HMAS Waller will participate in the world's largest maritime exercise, RIMPAC 08, as part of war games involving 10 nations over five weeks from June 27.

HMAS Waller is the first of the navy's six submarines to befitted with the so-called Replacement Combat System, ending a six-year, billion-dollar fiasco caused by the failure of the initial submarine combat systems. The flawed combat system was the most serious defect of the Collins-class submarine project and has prevented the fleet from achieving maximum performance during its first 15 years of operation.

The new combat system by Raytheon is modelled on that developed for US navy nuclear submarines with slight modifications for Australian conditions. It aims to combine the submarine's various arrays of sonars, periscopes, radars and other sensors into a single plotting solution for the commander, making the submarine a far more deadly opponent. "This is the first opportunity for Waller to prove the enhanced capabilities that are provided by the upgraded combat system," a Defence spokesman told The Australian. "This system will provide the submarine with enhanced detection, tracking, classification and navigation capabilities."

Waller has tested the new combat system in sea trials, but has not yet trialled it under battle-like conditions. The system is being progressively installed in each of the six Collins submarines with the last due to be fitted in 2010.

Derek Woolner and Peter Yule, in their recent book The Collins Class Submarine Story, wrote: "The mechanical problems of the submarines have long been resolved and with the new combat system they will finally be able to perform at the level envisaged by the planners in the early 1980s." The original combat system supplied by US company Rockwell never worked and had to be junked. It was cumbersome, slow, difficult to operate and failed to handle data effectively. It was outdated by the time it was ready for installation.

HMAS Waller is at present on a six-month Pacific deployment that will include RIMPAC. "RIMPAC will allow Waller to test boat and crew in all elements of submarine warfare in a simulated multi-axis threat environment," a Defence spokesman said. Woolner told The Australian: "The big thing you would expect to get out of RIMPAC is to prove this (US) combat system was the right decision. "It ought to be able to link in seamlessly with American units there. It should be a lot faster and more stable than the old one."

RIMPAC will involve 35 surface naval vessels, including a US carrier strike group, six submarines, 150 aircraft and 20,000 personnel representing 10 Pacific rim countries. The Royal Australian Navy will contribute three surface ships, HMAS Waller and two helicopters, while the air force will send two AP3C Orion spy planes and the army two mechanised landing craft. A spokesman said the exercise would also practise the evacuation of civilians.


The Chilling Costs of Climate Catastrophism

VACLAV KLAUS has given us a salutary reminder of the seriousness of the danger Australia is now facing from the "warmists". Both the Rudd government and the federal Opposition, currently led by Brendan Nelson, have promised us an emissions trading scheme; in the case of Prime Minister Rudd, by 2010. The responsibility of advising the federal and state governments on how such a decarbonisation regime should be established lies with Professor Ross Garnaut, a noted economist and diplomat, and a passionate advocate on the benefits of free trade and of the advantages of an ever-closer relationship between Australia and China.

The Garnaut Inquiry has issued two interim reports and Garnaut has given a number of papers to professional audiences in recent months. Three observations emerge from immersion in these documents.

The first is the childlike, unquestioning belief which Garnaut has in the IPCC story of global warming caused by anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, which, if not curtailed, will result in climatic and economic disaster for the whole world. Many people have noted the religious-like quality of faith in this story of human sin (particularly of Western mankind); the calamitous consequences following failure to repent; and the possibility of redemption through repentance and sacrifice under the wise guidance of green prophets such as Al Gore, James Hansen, Bob Brown, Peter Garrett, and now Ross Garnaut.

The second is the refusal to face the political reality posed by Chinese and Indian "intransigence" in the face of demands from the West, the EU in particular, to decarbonise their economies. India and China are embarked on trajectories of extraordinary and historically unprecedented economic growth. China is commissioning two new coal-fired power stations every week. Both countries are also operating and building nuclear power stations. China has ten operating nuclear power plants, one under construction, and six planned; India has fifteen operating nuclear power stations, eight under construction, and four planned. These are not countries devoid of technological and scientific expertise. The idea that they should give up their dash to modernity has been repeatedly and emphatically rejected by their most senior political leaders.

The third is the Orwellian use of the words market and price to persuade people to accept a degree of control over their lives which is unprecedented in the Anglosphere, except in time of war. This control is the necessary consequence of permanent decarbonisation regimes which will dramatically lower living standards.

The foundation on which the Garnaut (and Stern) prescriptions for global decarbonisation are based has to be repeated. It is taken as given that global temperatures have increased, are increasing, and will continue to increase to catastrophic levels because, and only because, mankind is emitting greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular, and that these emissions have caused atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to rise, and global temperatures to increase as a consequence.

In order to save the planet (redemption in religious terms), mankind must stop "polluting" the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. This means reducing the current emission rate of approximately 25 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum (7 gigatonnes of carbon) to 5 or 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. There is competition between the various prophets of decarbonisation as to the extent of the purification process required to save the planet. They are united, however, in the great urgency of the task. Delay in decarbonisation, they insist, will be disastrous, and they conjure up a "tipping point", some magical proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will bring about runaway heating, or alternatively, perhaps, the next ice age. The tipping point is rather like the second coming of Christ, that final moment in history when Christ will come again in glory and power to judge the world.

As I argued previously (Quadrant, March 2008), such massive decarbonisation can only take place if the entire world's current stock of coal-fired power stations is replaced with nuclear power stations by 2050 (the currently favoured target date). At the same time all motor vehicles, ships and aeroplanes currently using liquid hydrocarbons (kerosene, petrol and distillate) as fuel for their engines, will have to convert to hydrogen, or accept batteries in lieu of internal combustion engines. The only alternative approach which will achieve the degree of decarbonisation the Greens and Garnaut demand, is to return to the living standards which were characteristic of Britain and North America in the eighteenth century, before the Industrial Revolution. China and India have rejected any such option.

Returning to the way of life of Adam Smith's Britain and George Washington's North America is not a politically feasible project, at least not in the Western democracies. So the Greens and their allies in this project go to considerable trouble to disguise their ambitions. One tactic they use to disguise the cost is to conduct econometric studies which predict very modest decline in GDP over the decarbonisation period, or even no decline at all. The fundamental problem with this is that per capita GDP is not a reliable measure of living standards and prosperity. As Frederick Bastiat pointed out over a century ago, deliberately smashing windows and then producing and installing replacements will contribute to GDP, but at the same time reduce living standards, because the resources required to build and install the new windows will have to be diverted from other more productive activities.

The decarbonisation parallel is that measured GDP will not be affected by the extra resources required to build wind farms relative to the resources required to build the same quantity of coal-fired capacity. However, because those extra resources will have to be diverted from producing other goods and services of value to consumers, the building of wind farms will, other things being equal, reduce living standards. Accordingly, using estimates of changes in GDP as an indicator of the costs of shifting away from carbon-based energy sources is not only misleading, but shoddy economic practice. Garnaut is guilty of this practice, a misdemeanour made worse by the way in which his modellers "assume" in their models that the price signals embodied in ever-rising prices for coal-based electricity and liquid fuels for transport will bring forth, in a cargo-cult fashion, new technologies which have not yet been invented, let alone deployed, but which will suddenly enable the world to reach a new, green, nirvana, and take the place of the old and proscribed technologies.

Arnold Zellner, one of the giants in the development of econometric analysis, relates this amusing story in a long interview published in the International Journal of Forecasting:

"Steve Peck and I simulated the Federal Reserve- MIT-PENN econometric model of the US economy that had over 170 nonlinear equations. Our simulation experiments showed that the model had very strange properties that were unknown to the model builders. From these results we concluded that the model was not safe for use in analysing serious economic problems."

Further he commented:

"I do not know of a complicated model in any area of science that performs well in explanation and prediction, and have challenged many audiences to give me examples. So far, I have not heard about a single one. Certainly the large scale econometric models and complicated VARs [very awful regressions] have not been very successful in explanation and prediction."

We can conclude that the debate about decarbonisation, and the various emissions trajectories which could be mandated to achieve the required state of purity, cannot be illuminated by econometric models. We are concerned here with the most basic building blocks of Western civilisation. We are entirely dependent upon liquid hydro-carbons for our transport needs and upon electricity for our energy and communications requirements. If petrol supplies are curtailed, all economic activity is seriously affected. If electricity supplies are shut down as a result of storm damage, for example, then those affected find that their lives are completely disrupted.

Much more here

More of that brilliant government "planning"

Brand new Emergency Dept. building but not enough staff to man it. An almost British level of bureaucratic incompetence

The $22 million Redcliffe Hospital emergency department revamp is struggling to cope with demand, the Redcliffe Herald has been told by patients. Just weeks after the launch of the state-of-the-art extension, the ED came under fire from a Clontarf mother, who did not want to be named, who told the Herald her feverish 14-month-old son had to wait three hours for treatment. "He was taken there by ambulance with a 39 degree temperature and was mottled looking,'' she said.

"I was told to ask for his temperature to be taken every 30 minutes. After the first time it took three hours of me hounding them before they tested him again. I was told three doctors were off sick and there were too many patients.'' She eventually took the boy home and later consulted her GP. "It's a real slap in the face when they build all these nice and flash buildings but it's the same old problems. The needs basis is there and the shiny new Emergency Department isn't fooling me."

The Herald was also told of an 18-year-old man who, last month, waited about seven hours for surgery after being badly bashed at Scarborough. While the Herald has published a litany of complaints over the past three years about the ED, it has also received many letters of support from patients.

The new, larger ED has 41 treatment areas and a new five-station triage zone. It's capacity is expected to grow from 47,000 annual patient treatments to 50,000. At its opening Health Minister Stephen Robertson acknowledged the Peninsula had an "increased demand" for hospital services but said the new ED would help responses to the demand. State Member Lillian van Litsenburg, who is travelling overseas, previously said the new ED would "improve patient flow and in turn enhance the day to day running of the hospital"...

One mother, a former nurse, who had seen the Redcliffe ED full said the service was still being clogged up with unnecessary patients. ``There are lots of people who don't need to be there, but they won't pay $60-$70 to see a GP and they go to the hospital for a snotty nose,'' she said. She knew of people from northern Brisbane suburbs who saw Redcliffe hospital as the closest option for treatment. ``They look at Redcliffe compared to the Royal Brisbane as easier to get to,'' she said. ``But they need to consider Prince Charles Hospital as an option, which has an under-utilised ED.''

Queensland Health held a community forum last night to discuss the construction of a GP super clinic at the Redcliffe Hospital. It will be a 24-hour, bulk-billing service aimed at taking the pressure off the ED, by servicing less urgent medical issues.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Results falling at primary schools

The Leftist domination of education brings the expected results. Destruction is what the Left is good at. Why so? Because destruction of the society they live in is their real aim. All the rest is camouflage

LITERACY and numeracy levels have dropped alarmingly in Queensland primary schools, new figures reveal. State Budget figures show many Queensland students failed to meet national benchmarks for reading, writing and maths from Years 2 to 7. Of the 24 targets set by the State Government for 2007-08, only nine were met. Scores were down in 17 of 24 areas, compared with 2006-07. The worst results were for 11 and 12-year-olds in Year 7.

The Government set a target of 82 per cent of students achieving the national benchmark in numeracy but only 73 per cent passed. In reading, the target was 86 per cent but reached 81.7 per cent. It is the fourth year in a row they have under-performed. In 2004-05, 93.1 per cent of Year 7 students achieved the national benchmark in reading. That mark has dropped by 11.4 percentage points in three years.

For maths, it was 82.3 per cent in 2004-05. Now it is 9.2 percentage points lower. The Government hoped 54 per cent of indigenous Year 7 students would achieve the maths benchmark but only 45.9 per cent passed.

Opposition education spokesman Stuart Copeland expressed concern at the failure to meet the national benchmarks. "Every child should be taught the basics to function in today's society. They should be able to read, write and add up," he said. Former chairman of the Australian Council for Education Standards Colin Lamont said it reinforced his view that children were being "dumbed down". He said while teachers held some responsibility, he blamed bureaucrats who "experimented far too frequently" with the curriculum. "Everything has to be 'relevant' today . . . they have taken away what I call enrichment knowledge and that is a great shame."

Education Minister Rod Welford said he was not overly concerned by what were small fluctuations in the annual figures. "We are setting higher benchmarks these days than 20 years ago . . . I never panic about any one year's results through the primary years," he said. "If the changes have been more significant . . . then that is something we will need to monitor."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said there were "real question marks about the validity of national testing". "If the benchmarks are down, then that is something that needs to be addressed," he said.


How soft on crime can a Leftist government get?

Convicted rapists, robbers, thugs go free

ALMOST 150 Queensland rapists, armed robbers and violent thugs convicted in the past year were never jailed. The shocking statistics were confirmed by Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine. In 2007-08, 18 rapists, 88 armed robbers and 39 people who committed brutal bashings avoided jail time despite their serious offences. "This highlights the soft approach the Beattie-Bligh Government has taken on crime," Liberal leader and Opposition justice spokesman Mark McArdle said. "The courts are not able to hand out sentences that are a real deterrent . . . what message is that sending out?"

Mr McArdle said the government figures also revealed that of 826 people convicted of rape, attempted rape, armed robbery, robbery and serious assault, not one received a maximum sentence. "Surely some must have warranted a maximum sentence," he said. "If you take 10 per cent, that is about 80 people. One per cent, about eight people. But in Queensland in the past year, not one person received the maximum sentence."

The release of the data followed the re-sentencing of nine males who avoided jail over the gang rape of a 10-year-old girl at a Cape York Aboriginal community. An appeal by Mr Shine resulted in the overturning of non-custodial sentences given to the three adults and six youths. The Court of Appeal jailed the three men for six years, while two of the youths got three years' detention.

Mr McArdle said the public would be stunned to discover that 18 rapists convicted this year were walking the streets. "It is bad enough having attempted rapists on our streets, but how do 18 people guilty of rape not go to jail? Society demands that rapists spend time behind bars." Mr McArdle said blame lay with the Government: "Courts cannot act outside the parameters set by Government. The Penalties and Sentences Act needs to be overhauled."

But Mr Shine said: "The task of sentencing offenders is the responsibility of judicial officers. As Attorney-General, if I believe a sentence imposed is manifestly inadequate, I can appeal that sentence."


South Australian hospital crisis

Penny-pinching socialist government needs to fire some of their precious bureaucracy and put the money into medical pay

DOCTORS in retirement and on holidays could be called back to work under contingency measures to combat SA's growing public hospital crisis. Health Minister John Hill said yesterday the Government was developing a plan to try and keep the hospitals functioning if as many as 115 emergency doctors and anaesthetists follow through on resignations by the end of next week. Mr Hill said other possible measures included recruiting doctors from interstate, nurses taking on additional duties and GPs being drafted into public hospital emergency wards.

Doctors are seeking a pay rise of up to $111,000 a year while the State Government said it was offering to incease the current annual package for emergency department consultants from about $313,000 to about $356,000. The State Government's packages include on-call allowances, leave loading and salary sacrifice benefits. Mr Hill revealed the measures under consideration yesterday as:

DOCTORS warned more will quit as part of a rolling campaign.

EMERGENCY doctors gave emotional accounts of overcrowded and under-staffed hospitals.

DOCTORS revealed they were starting rescue funds to help those planning to quit pay mortgages and bills.

QUEENSLAND said it would welcome disaffected SA clinicians, who are also being targeted by agencies recruiting for other states.

Mr Hill said the Government was considering a range of options to plug holes left by the resignations in the public health system. He said patients would face "very long waits". Some emergency wards could close, with less serious cases diverted to GP services. "We have to take them seriously and we are working through contingency plans now," Mr Hill said. "We are looking at how you'd bulk up the services; in the city we'd need to keep the spine hospitals - the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Lyell McEwin and Flinders - functioning.

"I am very worried about the circumstances if they do resign. "It might be that GPs come in to the emergency department; some nurses could come in and do the minor things; people who have retired, they might want to come back to work; doctors on leave might come back early . . . or those working part-time might do more work. "Those are the kinds of options we have to look at."

The doctor resignations have been prompted by an impasse in a bitter eight-month long pay and conditions dispute and are effective two weeks from lodgement. Doctors say they want pay parity with their interstate counterparts to attract more doctors as well as equality in a system where groups of doctors in the past have negotiated separate loadings.

SA Salaried Medical Officers Association senior industrial officer Andrew Murray baulked at the Government's contingency suggestions - and accused the Government of not having a plan. "If people who deal with the most seriously sick people that go to EDs suddenly aren't there, what's the contingency for that?" he said. "Does he really expect an old, retired doctor who hasn't practised medicine in five to 10 years to deal with a major road trauma? "As a first fallback, probably the most closely related specialists in dealing with people in trauma are intensive care doctors and anaesthetists . . . hang on, didn't someone tell me the anaesthetists are quitting tomorrow? They don't have a plan."

Mr Murray said the emergency doctors who had quit represented about 75 per cent of those available in the state, not 50 per cent as reported this week. RAH emergency consultant Dr Tony Eliseo said it would be "impossible" for the Government to replace their level of expertise at short notice. Yesterday, more doctors said they would quit over the industrial dispute - including the Women's and Children's Hospital's head of general medicine, Dr Christopher Pearson.

Dr Pearson, who started at the WCH in 1971, said his resignation was "for the future of health in SA". "Without a sufficient package, it will not be possible to attract the bright young minds who will become the senior consultants of the future," he said.

Dr Jane Edwards and Dr Terry Donald, forensic pediatricans in child protection at the WCH, also said they would hand in their resignations tomorrow. Dr Edwards said the pay inequality across specialties in SA was leaving doctors disenchanted. "By giving deals to small groups of doctors, the Government has introduced a cancer to the whole of the health system," she said. "It's festering and pitting doctors against each other; people become jealous and feel they are not worthy." Dr. Edwards also said the hospital was struggling to fill two positions in child protection because they could not compete with other states.

Another 70 anaesthetists also planned to resign tomorrow, but Mr. Hill said a child-protection expert earning a salary package between $198,000-$215,000 would go up to $324,000 under the Government's offer. He also said there were no vacancies in general medicine. Mr Hill said doctors needed to be consistent in their claims, as "the problem we are having is different pockets of people with different goals". "They say they need extra money to recruit and retain doctors; the offer we made would help us with that," he said. "Then they say they want extra money to put them (in line) with `intensivists'. "We had to put extra money into intensivists, that's what the market dictated. It's a different market in other areas."


Geologist: 'Earth has had massive changes in temperature unrelated to carbon dioxide'

The booming Northern Territory economy is at risk of being "destroyed" by government policy responses to climate change, an academic has said. There will be winners and losers under the system and reducing carbon dioxide emissions is expected to cost industry a lot of money.

But University of Adelaide mining geology professor Ian Plimer says all the expense will be for nothing, as climate change cannot be stopped -- and it isn't even caused by human-created carbon dioxide. "There is no relationship between carbon dioxide produced by industry and climate change," he said.

Professor Plimer said the scientific community had not reached any kind of consensus that carbon dioxide causes global warming. "There's no such thing as surety in science -- 32,000 North American scientists signed a document saying humans don't create global warming whereas the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only has 2500 scientists saying it does."

Professor Plimer said other factors influenced climate change, such as volcanic eruptions, variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun and the sun's own heat-producing cycle -- none of which had anything to do with human activity. "There's a huge body of evidence showing no correlation between carbon dioxide and global warming," he said.

"Through the geological record we can look back in time and show the Earth has had massive changes in temperature unrelated to carbon dioxide." "Why make massive economic decisions when the science is extraordinarily uncertain?"

Professor Plimer said a misallocation of capital due to government greenhouse gas policies had the ability to destroy industry. "We've had a hint as to what rising energy costs do to food and fuel costs," he said. "If we want to restructure the economy on ambiguous information then we have a suicide wish and will totally destroy the economy. "In Darwin, you'd better look for a cave to live in -- because that's going to be your economy."

Professor Plimer said the only reason the climate change ""scare scenario" had become so popular was because of widespread scientific ignorance.

But Environment Centre NT spokesman Justin Tutty said Professor Plimer was at odds with the "overwhelming" weight of consensus led by the IPCC. "The IPCC's solid analysis has led business and industry groups, such as the Business Council of Australia, to realise the costs of policies to cut emissions are more acceptable than the economic costs of inaction," he said. "Now that the NT Government has come to the table, committing to develop a climate change policy, we hope real progress can be made to reduce the carbon burden of the Territory's future economy."

Mr Tutty said the document Professor Plimer cited had been roundly discredited for "having a very loose methodology". "It's a bit of a stretch to compare an unvetted online petition with a forum of experts appointed by the world's governments," he said.

But Professor Plimer said a lot of the signatories had been senior scientists. "I know many of them personally," he said. His comments come after the Territory Government released a discussion paper on climate change issues last week.


Risk has its rewards

An encouragingly intelligent essay from a minister in the present Federal government: Craig Emerson

When previously in government, Labor was the party of competition and compassion. In this political philosophy, the role of policymakers is to allow the market to create prosperity and, out of that prosperity, to expand opportunity, not the welfare state. This is the philosophy of like-minded people I call market democrats: the modern champions of traditional Labor values of prosperity, fairness and compassion.

Some say competitive markets bring out the worst in people: greed and avarice. Oddly, they don't say the same about the Olympic Games, football, cricket, netball, music and dance competitions, all based on our most competitive instincts. As Bob Hawke was teaching me the intricacies of betting on horseracing, when I was a fresh recruit to his staff in 1986, he said: "Son, in any race, back the horse called Self-Interest because you know it will be trying."

Self-interest is not synonymous with selfishness. Athletes, singers, artists, dancers, authors and scientists are self-interested but not necessarily selfish. Some may be arrogant and rude, some selfish, others humble and altruistic, but all are self-interested. Without self-interest, economic and social progress is impossible.

The Hawke government began opening up the economy, dismantling the regulatory shackles that had been progressively applied through decades of mainly conservative governments. I came to understand that those Liberal-National governments were not champions of free enterprise but of private enterprise (although they quite liked the ideas of socialising private losses by bailing out insolvent businesses). The conservatives were keen regulators, protecting their private business supporters from competition.

My moral questions were answered through the competitive yet compassionate philosophy of the Hawke and Keating governments, a philosophy that sat easily with Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. There was, I concluded, no inherent conflict between markets and morality. Labor values of prosperity, fairness and compassion fit well with supporting an open, competitive economy that rewards effort, risk-taking and entrepreneurship, and where opportunity, not welfare, is available to all.

Competitive markets reward effort, risk-taking and entrepreneurship, and they encourage innovation essential to the growth of a market economy. The forces of competition create pressure on businesses to be efficient and apply new ideas in producing goods and services valued by consumers.

Yet markets are chaotic and wasteful. Predicting prices produced by markets is hazardous. Markets force businesses to close, wasting infrastructure and obliging employees to seek work elsewhere. But far more wasteful and chaotic are central planning and governments pretending to be good at running businesses in so-called mixed economies.

Of course, it is unfair if the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. But why should governments try to prevent the rich from getting richer if the poor also get richer as a consequence of the wealth-creation process? Albania, Bangladesh and Ethiopia have more equal income distributions than Australia, but most would agree that Australia's society is fairer. Many Australians earning below-average incomes choose to forgo higher pay in favour of spending more time with their families or just relaxing. By doing so, they are making measured income inequality worse but, through free choice, they are making their own lives better.

In a flourishing democracy, government serves the people. Yet at every twist and turn governments come up with new taxes and new regulations that subjugate the people to the state. By intervening, taxing heavily and regulating, governments have sought to restrict individual freedoms, stifle initiative and inhibit self-reliance. In a market democracy, governments should serve the people instead of seeking to subjugate them to the will of government through high taxes and heavy regulation.

By allowing markets to reward hard work, risk-taking and entrepreneurship without unnecessary interference, market democrats advance freedom and self-fulfilment. If governments are to bring out the best in people, they should not erect disincentives to creating prosperity and good social behaviour such as honesty.

Governments must not imprison the disadvantaged by subjugating them to the state, robbing them of self-esteem and condemning them to a life of dependency; governments must liberate them by providing opportunity for all in a truly fair society. Let us not make the disadvantaged the experiments of social engineers yearning for a different social order but lacking the stomach to practise it in their own lives. It is this social experimentation of romanticising traditional life in the harsh outback that has caused Australia's most vulnerable - indigenous people - to be trapped in misery.

Good on Warren Mundine and Noel Pearson for exposing the immorality of those asserting moral superiority but whose pomposity perpetuates the disadvantage of our indigenous brother and sisters. And good on Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin for having the courage to set her own course.

Market democrats oppose the relentless expansion of the welfare state, where higher taxes are used to obtain revenue for recycling - often to the same people - in return for political support. This was the hallmark of the previous government and, judging by the objections of the Opposition Leader, the shadow treasurer and the Opposition spokesman for families to means-testing the baby bonus and family payments for stay-at-home mothers, remains a defining feature of the Coalition.

The modern welfare state extends beyond recycling tax revenue; it is a state of ever-expanding government regulation. This regulatory welfare reinforces the culture of dependency by discouraging people from taking responsibility for their own actions and their own lives. Regulatory welfare is inimical to a market democracy, since it discourages individual initiative and business risk-taking.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Toxic police culture in Victoria

Paul Dale twitched his broad shoulders nervously as he listened to himself lose his temper. "They're just f..king c...s trying to f..king ruin my life," the former detective yelled down the line to his mate Silvio Montesano. His fury was sparked by news that several police investigating Mr Dale's suspected involvement in an underworld double murder had just paid his friend a visit. "Mate, they've got absolutely no power in the world to f..kin' get you to make a statement," Mr Dale told Mr Montesano. "You have f..kin' done nothing wrong by knowing me."

These words, caught on a telephone intercept on July 3 last year and played back to Mr Dale in a public hearing this week, have returned to haunt the man suspected of involvement in the 2004 double murder that exposed corrupt links between Victoria Police and the underworld. Knowing Mr Dale has become a dangerous pastime, not just for criminals, but also for the detectives who worked with him.

This week, Mr Dale's most loyal mates inside the force - a small cabal of foul-mouthed, old-school, bully-boy coppers - were skewered by the state's police anti-corruption watchdog for putting mateship above the law.

For the Office of Police Integrity, it was the perfect sting. In April, they summonsed three serving policemen and Mr Dale to answer accusations ranging from leaking confidential information to interfering in a taskforce investigating the double murder for which Mr Dale is a prime suspect. Then this week, they called these same men back for a public hearing during which they played them telephone intercepts that in some cases directly contradicted their original evidence. The men sat stunned, squirming in their seats as they listened to their careers being shredded as the invited media took notes.

For the OPI it was a name and shame exercise, an ambitious attempt to expose a toxic culture in which serving police leak and exploit confidential information for their own ends. As former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox said after the three-day hearing: "I am surprised and appalled at the looseness of the lips of so many people, particularly those involved in detective work in the police force."

But the hearing has also raised fresh questions about Mr Dale's suspected involvement in a crime seen as central to links between corrupt police and Melbourne's underworld. In May 2004, an intruder broke into the East Kew home of Terence and Christine Hodson, forced them on to their knees and pumped bullets into the back of their heads. They were murdered shortly after a police dossier was leaked to the underworld revealing them as police informants. As the OPI said this week, whoever leaked the dossier did so with the intent of provoking a murderous response. Mr Dale is a suspect because he had access to the dossier and a motive - Mr Hodson was about to testify against Mr Dale over his alleged involvement in a drug theft.

Mr Dale has denied leaking the dossier or being involved in the Hodson murders. But the OPI hearing this week revealed Mr Dale had been working to undermine the group of police, known as Taskforce Petra, who are investigating the murders and Mr Dale's suspected involvement. At a closed OPI hearing in April, Mr Dale denied he had interfered with witnesses and denied giving a warning to his friend, Mr Montesano, not to co-operate with police.

But Mr Dale was contradicted by a telephone intercept, played to the hearing this week in which he told his friend: "Do not co-operate in any way shape or form. I would be most disappointed if I ever see a statement with your name on it. Tell them to go and get f..ked." As a result, Mr Dale faces a possible jail term for misleading an OPI inquiry, which carries a one-year sentence. More serious perjury-related charges or charges of perverting the course of justice may also be recommended against him.

The OPI says Mr Dale was seeking to silence another potential witness when he told his friend, Detective Sergeant Dennis Linehan, to visit publican Mick Jesic to "give him a bit of free legal advice, if you know what I mean". Mr Dale said he only meant for Sergeant Linehan to assist the Serbian in understanding his legal rights. Sergeant Linehan has denied the event took place.

Telephone intercepts show Sergeant Linehan to be a loyal foot soldier for Mr Dale, with the OPI alleging that he interfered with Taskforce Petra to protect his longtime mate. In one intercept of July 23 last year, Sergeant Linehan is heard talking to Mr Dale about Taskforce Petra, saying he had "got a bit of an update for you which I'll give you when I see you". Mr Dale later told the hearing that Sergeant Linehan may have been talking about a camping holiday, prompting an exasperated Mr Wilcox to say, "Oh, come on."

The intercepts showed Sergeant Linehan, who was suspended this week, harboured a deep hatred of both the OPI and the police Ethical Standards Department, which he called "the filth". "F..k 'em. Hope they f..king die, the c...s. I hope they're f..king listening too. Every last one of the c...s dies."

This week's hearing is the second time in eight months that the OPI has alleged that serving officers have deliberately undermined an investigation into police links to gangland killings. However, the relief that comes from seeing this corrupt culture exposed is tempered with the realisation that it is also deeply ingrained.


Teaching Kids about the Environment, Government Style

Interesting that the blue-eyed blonde is the villain in the graphic below. But putting the nuclear disarmament symbol on the chest of the Greenie is frank enough

University campuses receive a great deal of attention due to the political and cultural indoctrination and activism that some academics try to pass off as education.[1] However, government education bureaucrats are eager to ensure that their prescribed views are etched on the slate of the human mind at a much earlier age. For this reason, the most shameless political and cultural activism is often directed, under the guise of environmental and social education, at young children attending government primary schools.

In Australia, governments have adopted environmental education programs that teach children that human intrusion into nature is to be condemned and that man's life must be subordinated to the preservation of nature, by government force if necessary. Under this view, nature is not to be preserved for the benefit of man, but rather, it is to be preserved for its own sake against the encroachments of man. This is the philosophy of environmentalism, and the standard viewpoint of environmentalists, according to philosopher Michael Berliner:
Nature, they insist, has "intrinsic value," to be revered for its own sake, irrespective of any benefit to man. As a consequence, man is to be prohibited from using nature for his own ends. Since nature supposedly has value and goodness in itself, any human action which changes the environment is necessarily branded as immoral. Environmentalists invoke this argument from intrinsic value not against lions that eat gazelles or beavers that fell trees; they invoke it only against man, only when man wants something. The environmentalists' concept of intrinsic value is nothing but the desire to destroy human values.[2]

Since explicit philosophical argument about the alleged intrinsic value of nature and the subordination of human values is too complicated for young children - and since explicit argument would demonstrate the environmentalist paradigm to be irrational - education bureaucrats instead adopt these principles implicitly as the normative basis for their environmental curriculum. This curriculum is not designed simply to teach facts about the environment - it is designed to alter behavior in ways that are acceptable to environmentalists and government bureaucrats. For example, according to a newsletter from the Cessnock City Council's Sustainability Programs Officer,
Changing any behaviour is difficult, which is why we try to instil the proper behaviours in our children from the very beginning. When it comes to the environment, knowledge on its own can be very disempowering. There has been lots of recent research on how to address the issue of "ecophobia" and in the school environmental education area you can't go past the work of David Sobel and B.B. Jensen. Sobel's work focuses on engaging the heart - learning to love the environment first then to protect it.[3]

Thus, rather than engaging the intellect of children to teach them basic facts about nature, education bureaucrats instead seek to "engage their hearts" - a process which is entirely antithetic to genuine education.

Planet Slayer - Government Funded and Approved

To get a taste of the approved "environmental education" activities of government bureaucrats, we can do little better than looking at a games website called "Planet Slayer," recommended for children under the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative adopted by various Australian governments.[4] This games website, hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and created with the assistance of Film Victoria (both government bodies), introduces itself as follows:
Get the dirt on greenhouse without the guilt trips. No lectures. No multinational-bashing (well, maybe a little . ). Just fun and games and the answers to all your enviro-dilemas [sic].[5]

To assist in their "fun and games" and answer all their alleged enviro-dilemmas, children are guided by the protagonist cartoon character, "Greena, the Worrier Princess." Greena is of course the archetypal image of bohemian environmentalist virtue - a spunky green-eyed red head with funky glasses and a nose ring, a khaki T-Shirt with a peace sign, green pants with eclectic colored patches, and sandals.

Greena invites children to use the website's Greenhouse Calculator[6] to "find out what age you should die at so you don't use more than your fair share of Earth's resources." This calculator helps children to determine how much of a "greenhouse pig" a person is by answering questions about how much the person spends and consumes. On the basis of these answers the calculator determines the person's CO2 consumption, which is depicted by making the cartoon "greenhouse pig" look bigger, fatter, dirtier and angrier. When the child has answered the questions they are instructed to click on a skull and cross-bones symbol to find out when the person should die, depicted by having the pig explode in a bloody cartoon mess leaving only a pool of blood and a curly tail. For example, according to the calculator, the consumption of an "average Aussie pig" is 24.6 tonnes of CO2 per year. At this level, the calculator states:
Based on the emissions from your greenhouse usage, you used up your share of the planet by the time you were 9.3 years old! . You should die at age 9.3.

Some trial-and-error calculations quickly show that most of the questions affect the outcome very little. However, the most significant factor affecting the calculation is the amount of money spent in the past year, with people who spend large amounts of money being condemned to an early death. Thankfully there is salvation for these high spenders, since the calculator allows a longer life to those who invest in "businesses or organisations that make environmentally responsible products."[7]

Aside from learning when they should die, children can also share in Greena's adventures as she battles against all sorts of politically incorrect villains. In Episode 10, which bears the subtitle "Meat Is Murder . But Who Is that Dodgy-Looking Sheep?" Greena sees a dim-witted skinhead eating lamb and drinking beer in a restaurant.[8] She consults her "Activist Tactical Field Guide," which tells her:
REMEMBER: Most meat eaters are total hypocrites. Try confronting them with a live version of their favourite meat.

Lumberjacks and skinhead meat eaters aside, Greena's real arch nemesis and the central villain of the website is a young woman called X-on (presumably a play on Exxon).[9] This insidious character is of course the exemplar of the materialistic bourgeoisie - a blue-eyed blonde in a pink shirt, short pink skirt, pink sunglasses and high heels, with a French poodle and a pink handbag.

In the "This is your Lifestyle" section children answer questions on what items they would choose to buy or consume. When asked whether they would buy their drinks in a plastic bottle, a glass bottle or an aluminum can, our hero Greena shouts "Forget the packaging, it's all cultural imperialism!" Forget the packaging? This statement is particularly revealing, since it demonstrates that the lesson that the website is designed to impart is not primarily environmental, but political.

In the "Planet Slayer" game, children can choose to help Greena save the planet by opposing logging, nuclear waste, war, consumerism, and other evils, and supporting such good things as composting, clean transport, solar power, and protesting. Whereas Greena is again depicted as the virtuous savior of the planet, her nemesis, the bourgeoisie X-on, tries to destroy the planet by supporting the various bad things mentioned in the website - she not only supports consumerism, as is obvious from her clothing and accessories, but apparently also supports nuclear waste and war! Of course, since war is not primarily an environmental issue, this is presumably included to show that hippy types like our protagonist Greena desire peace, whereas materialistic bourgeoisie types like X-on apparently enjoy war.

For those who suspect me of exaggeration in these explanations, I welcome them to have a look for themselves. You really can't make this stuff up (well, not unless you're being funded by the Australian government anyway).

What this tells us about government education bureaucrats

While the "Planet Slayer" website is a particularly galling piece of environmentalist propaganda, the dry rot of government education for young children goes far deeper than a single website. Rather, "Planet Slayer" is reflective of the standards and inclinations of the education bureaucrats who design educational policies and curricula for children.

More here

NSW Govt easing gun laws

The Greens have accused the New South Wales Government of courting the Shooters Party to help ease the passage of controversial legislation to ease the state's gun controls. The Bill, introduced to the Upper House by Shooters Party MP Roy Smith, would relax some safeguards and remove the 28-day waiting period for people with a registration waiting for a second gun.

Mr Smith says he expects State Government support, given the Bill has been drafted in consultation with the Police Ministry. "We drafted this legislation over a period of 12 months and we've had ongoing discussions with both the Police Ministry and NSW Firearms Registry," he said.

Greens MP Sylvia Hale says it is extraordinary that the ministry was involved. "That's amazing access," she said. "It indicates the Government is really keen to duchess the Shooters."

The Government allowed the introduction of the bill to be fast-tracked last Thursday. Ms Hale says that is suspicious treatment of the cross-benches. "This really does ring alarm bells. It suggests there's been some sort of conniving where the Government has agreed to let this Bill go through in return for some sort of deal," she said. "There are two deals at the moment. One is about electricity privatisation and the other would be the planning bills. I suspect it's the planning bills."

Police Minister David Campbell's office has confirmed talks were held between the ministry, the Premier's Department and the Shooters Party, but insists it in no way helped draft the Bill. A spokeswoman for Premier Morris Iemma says it is not unusual that the Shooters Party held talks with the ministry and the department. She says the Bill is yet to be considered by Cabinet and will have the same consideration as any bill proposed by the Greens

The legislation would also remove the need to register guns made before the 1900s and allow more people to apply for a self-loading or pump-action shotgun to use in clay target shooting competitions. Mr Smith says they are simple changes. "They are really just a tidying up of red tape," he said. "No-one's talking about returning semi-automatic military firearms to the community or anything like that." There would also be more exemptions for people without a licence to shoot at ranges.


Paid maternity leave will 'cripple' small business

An industry-funded maternity leave scheme would cripple small and medium retailers, the Productivity Commission heard yesterday. The Australian Retailers Association said its members should not have to pay parental leave or be burdened by administrative costs of any compulsory scheme. "SME (small to medium enterprise) retailers simply can't afford it," the ARA's executive director, Richard Evans, said.

Larger chains would be more able to absorb the costs of paid parental leave, including administrative costs, but the 149,000 retailers with one or two businesses would find it difficult to afford, he said. "The compliance costs associated with an industry-wide maternity, paternity and parental leave scheme would be crippling for SME retailers and would seriously harm their economic viability and financial survival," he said. "We strongly dispute that such a scheme needs to be supported by employer contributions."

The ACTU and the Australian Institute of Family Studies yesterday endorsed a national scheme offering 14 weeks' minimum paid leave to all new mothers. ACTU senior industrial officer Cath Bowtell told commissioners all women would benefit from such a scheme, funded by the Federal Government at the minimum wage plus 9 per cent superannuation. The 14 weeks' pay -- plus existing paid maternity entitlements -- would then be topped up by employers to match the usual wage. Ms Bowtell said the cost to business would be minimal, though greater for those employing higher-paid women.

New research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies on mothers returning to work has found relatively little difference between those on paid and unpaid leave. "This should not be all that surprising, given that unpaid parental leave provides job protection and the paid leave that is available is generally for a relatively short period of time," it said.

The commission will release a draft report on national paid maternity leave in September, then hold more public hearings before its final report.


Friday, June 13, 2008


Three current articles below

Grammar guide for English teachers 'full of basic errors'

Amazing illiteracy. A "postmodernist" displays her utter ignorance of her subject. She tries to portray the points mader by Prof. Huddleston as peculiar to him but the reverse is the truth. What he says has been basic to English grammar for hundreds of years -- basic in fact to an undertstanding of any European language (with the possible excerption of Euskara). What hope is there for the kids when this twisted soul is teaching them? -- JR

A teachers' guide to grammar circulated by the English Teachers Association of Queensland is riddled with basic errors, leading an internationally respected linguistics professor to describe it as "the worst published material on English grammar" he has seen. A series of articles on grammar published in the ETAQ's journal intended as a teaching resource is striking for its confusion of the parts of speech, incorrectly labelling nouns as adjectives, verbs as adverbs and phrases as verbs.

University of Queensland emeritus professor Rodney Huddleston, one of the principal authors of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, said it took the association about one year to correct the errors, and even then it confined most of the corrections to its website rather than in the journal and did not republish the guide. "These articles contain a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion," he said. "They constitute, without question, the worst published material on English grammar by a native speaker that I have come across. "(The author) clearly does not know enough about English grammar in general to take on work of this kind. "Anyone who analyses 'won't' and 'capable of' as adverbs, 'a pair' and 'set of' as adjectives, or 'Sam's' as a possessive pronoun has no business to be preparing a resource on English grammar for teachers."

The articles, published with the general title Grammar at the Coalface, were prepared by Lenore Ferguson, the editor of the ETAQ journal Words'Worth and published over a series of months last year. Dr Ferguson printed three examples of the errors in the March edition, saying they were "the result of the usual mishaps with work that undergoes several drafts and is proofed and edited by the original writer".

Last night, she told The Australian the points Professor Huddleston identified were differences of opinion rather than mistakes. "They weren't all mistakes as he described but differences of opinion and that's the way of the world," she said. Dr Ferguson said Professor Huddleston did not follow traditional grammar but had invented his own type, called the Cambridge grammar, which was unique and had reclassified terms, such as calling prepositions conjunctions. "It's a totally different perspective and a totally different way of organising and thinking about language," she said.

Dr Ferguson is an education consultant, a former president of the association and has worked as a senior education officer for English in the Queensland Education Department. A CV included with a paper presented at a conference by Dr Ferguson says she has taught in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and has a long history of involvement in curriculum development and professional development at state and national levels.

ETAQ president Garry Collins said the mistakes were "relatively minor" and the association had published an article on grammar by Professor Huddleston in the journal and alerted readers through a newsletter to his longer critiques published on the website. "Ideally the errors wouldn't have been there but these things occur in the best-regulated households," he said. "If coming upon these couple of minor inaccuracies caused teachers to be having conversations about grammar in staff rooms then I would see that as not a bad thing."

Mr Collins accused The Australian of reporting educational issues with a particular slant, representing minority views, and said highlighting the Words'Worth articles would hamper teachers' engagement with grammar. "It would be useful if the paper didn't seize on minority views but try to report in ways which are relevant to what really does happen in classrooms," he said.

Professor Huddleston provided The Australian with a list of 20 defects that summarised the errors in the ETAQ teachers' guide, which take 10 pages of explanation in his reply article on the ETAQ website. "A lot of them are very elementary," he said.

In Dr Ferguson's first article, The Structural Basics, published in March last year, she says "won't" in the sentence "The small boy won't eat his lunch" is an adverb when, in fact, it is a verb. "Sam's" in "Sam's folder" is classified as a possessive pronoun when it is the possessive form of a proper noun; "what" in "They saw what lay before them" was called a conjunction but it is a pronoun; and "a pair" is classified as an adjective instead of a noun group comprising a determiner "a" and a noun "pair". In the sentence, "The small boy is capable of eating his lunch", the term "capable of" is called an adverb when it is not a grammatical unit of any kind but an adjective followed by a preposition.

Similarly, in "a set of bowls", Dr Ferguson calls "set of" an adjective when it consists of the noun "set" and preposition "of". Syntactic constructions such as "have a peep" are classified as verbs, while "something" is classified as a pronoun and "everything" as a noun.

Professor Huddleston said he believed teachers would be discouraged from reading his corrections because it was described in the journal as being "complex, requiring readers to have extensive knowledge of traditional, structural and functional grammars". It also repeatedly refers to traditional grammar as "his grammar".


Class-hatred invades English grammar

The debacle surrounding the resources developed by the English Teachers Association of Queensland, designed to "help teachers to defend and explain the place of grammar in the school curriculum and in our classrooms", underscores our dumbed-down education system. In the words of Rodney Huddleston, a retired professor in linguistics, the material contains "a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion. They (two of the resources) constitute, without question, the worst published material on English grammar by a native speaker that I have ever come across." The errors Huddleston uncovers include confusing adverbs with verbs, adverbs with adjectives and conjunctions with pronouns.

That the material is flawed is partly because of the priority given to a functional linguistics approach to grammar. Functional grammar, similar to critical literacy, is imbued with the view that language has to be analysed in terms of power relationships. Students have to be taught how standard English is used by more powerful groups in society to oppress others. With functional grammar, children are no longer taught things such as parts of speech or how to parse a sentence; instead, the focus is on so-called real meaning and real contexts where language is defined as a socio-cultural construct.

Nouns become participants, verbs are described as process and adverbial clauses and phrases are changed to circumstances. Such is the dense and arcane terminology associated with functional grammar that former NSW premier Bob Carr had it banished from the curriculum. Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford boasted last year in relation to the new English syllabus: "Curriculum waffle is out, clear English is in." It's a pity, however, that he didn't follow Carr's example.

The in-service training for English teachers organised by Education Queensland, while mentioning traditional grammar, gives priority to a functional linguistics approach. In notes titled Getting a Grip on Grammar, verbs, clauses, phrases, nouns, subject and predicate are secondary to descriptions such as processes, participants, circumstances, mood, modality, cohesion and theme. The result? Not only are teachers bamboozled but parents are unable to help with their children's work.

Many of those responsible for training English teachers and writing syllabuses are committed to a progressive, cultural-left approach to English as a subject, represented by functional grammar and critical literacy. As a consequence, not only do most Australian syllabuses fail to include a systematic treatment of formal grammar but many teachers lack the knowledge to deal with thesubject.

No wonder thousands of primary school children start secondary school illiterate, many Year 12 students enter university incapable of writing a lucid essay and employers complain about the language skills ofworkers. In The Literacy Wars, Monash University academic Ilana Snyder condemns me and The Australian for promoting a "manufactured crisis" in English teaching. One wonders what she will make of the latest incident.


Silencing grammar

A mocking editorial from The Australian below:

The precision of our language must be preserved. The "arguability of a text", the English Teachers Association of Queensland told its members in its journal last year, "can vary according to the degree to which the speaker/writer closes down the dialogue to suppress or limit divergence, or opens it up to divergent positions."

Regardless of whatever discourses are foregrounded, marginalised or silenced, however, it cannot be argued, after a dominant or resistant reading of any text, that an adverb is a verb. And while not wanting to privilege traditional grammar rules over a sociocultural critical appraisal model, no amount of licence can turn a pair into an adjective instead of a noun.

Such elementary mistakes, unfortunately, are among the string of errors in articles published in the ETAQ journal last year. Written by consultant Lenore Ferguson, "Grammar at the coal-face" was presented to help when "colleagues, parents, employers and politicians ... accuse us of not knowing or teaching grammar."

Retired University of Queensland professor Rodney Huddleston, one of two principal authors of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, said it was the worst material on English grammar by a native speaker he had seen. He identified "a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion". "Set of" in "a set of bowls" was classified wrongly as an adjective, instead of a noun and preposition. The word "what" in "They saw what lay before them" was described as a conjunction. And "Sam's", in "Sam's folder", was labelled a possessive pronoun instead of a possessive noun.

ETAQ president, Garry Collins, is unconcerned about such "relatively minor" mistakes, and derides The Australian for reporting the matter. However, parents - tired of school handouts dotted with bad spelling and confusing "there" and "their" - will take a more serious view. They and their children will not be surprised at the erudition of some of the learning activities proposed in the articles. These suggest that students identify nouns and verbs by analysing newspaper previews for Home and Away and Neighbours. Pathetic.

Regrettably, what is "silenced" in the ETAQ material is the lifelong importance, for their wellbeing and career advancement, of students from all backgrounds learning to write and speak correctly. Preserving the precision of our language is important, regardless of the ravages of texting, slang and even critical literacy jargon. While language evolves, it needs to do so within acceptable parameters of semantics and rules. "Alternative readings" of what is acceptable risk English degenerating into woolly and imprecise meaninglessness.

If the ETAQ magazine reflects grammar and English teaching generally in Queensland, the state's Education Minister, Rod Welford, should instigate remedial classes - for teachers. Suitable instructors, however, might prove thin on the ground. The ETAQ journal, Words'Worth, would be the last place he should advertise.


Bungling quarantine bureaucrats

A BREAKDOWN at the highest levels of Australia's quarantine system was ultimately responsible for last year's outbreak of horse flu, says the scathing official report into the disaster that cost the racing industry $1 billion. Former High Court judge Ian Callinan QC has delivered a merciless and brutally frank assessment of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services' systems for handling imported horses.

Mr Callinan's recommendations ensure that the running of this year's Melbourne Cup, which was in doubt earlier during his inquiry, can go ahead.

It is understood that the report, to be released today, is critical of AQIS procedures under the Howard government, and has pointed the finger at the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station, in western Sydney, as being the source of the outbreak of equine influenza that swept through NSW and Queensland last August. It is also understood Mr Callinan has been highly critical of senior management of AQIS, and the failure to include the horse industry in disease control laws.

The recommendations from Mr Callinan had the potential to shut down this year's Melbourne Cup if he recommended banning horse imports through Tullamarine, as earlier indicated. But it is expected Mr Callinan will not suggest a ban on Tullamarine horse imports until new quarantine facilities are built at Melbourne's Sandown Quarantine Station. The Rudd Government's response to the Callinan inquiry will also be released today.

After the EI outbreak - tracked back to five mares airlifted from Japan and then spread beyond the Eastern Creek Quarantine station to horses in NSW and Queensland - all Australian racing was stopped for a week. It led to the cancellation of the Sydney Spring Carnival and the Queensland Summer Carnival, threatened the 2007 Melbourne Cup, and stopped breeding and exports, which meant losses of $1billion.

In NSW and Queensland, no metropolitan horse racing was allowed for three months, bans were put on horse transport and the horse industry was disrupted for several months. In NSW alone, 193 thoroughbred race meetings were cancelled and 250 trotting and pacing events were stopped.

John Howard appointed Mr Callinan last year as horse disease legislation to levy the industry to cover the costs of disease containment was introduced in the federal parliament. The horse industry had not been a signatory to animal disease control levies, and Mr Callinan was told of systemic failures in Australia's pre-quarantine assessment procedures and handling of horses.

Mr Callinan gave his report to the Agriculture Minister Tony Burke at the end of April. Mr Burke on Tuesday announced the industry would not have to contribute to the $108 million costs of cleaning up and containing the outbreak. Mr Burke said it would be unfair to make the industry pay through a levy because he would not ask it "to pay for the former government's failures".

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics estimated that the direct costs of the flu outbreak were $500,000 a day for disease control and $4.6million a day in lost business. The total cost of containing the spread of the horse flu and cleaning up after the outbreak, as well as the financial and income assistance provided to the industry and workers, came to $342million.

Mr Burke said the industry had proposed joining the animal disease levy scheme long before the outbreak and the former government had failed to act. But Mr Burke has urged the horse industry to sign "without delay" a scheme for a levy on the industry to pay for future disease outbreaks.


Early warning system delayed, and delayed

Once again we see the stupidity of not buying already proven and running stuff off the shelf. Blind Freddy knows how badly and how regularly new defence projects blow out

PROJECT Wedgetail, Australia's $3.5 billion airborne early warning project, is now officially running three years late. Boeing confirmed yesterday that the first of the six planes would now be delivered in 2010 -- 36 months behind schedule. The Wedgetail project is designed to provide the RAAF with a highly sophisticated airborne surveillance system. When integrated with combat aircraft, refuelling tankers and the Jindalee radar, it will form the critical element of Australia's future air defence.

Australia has been the lead customer for the Wedgetail aircraft. The first aircraft, based on the Boeing 737-700 airliner, were due to be delivered in January last year. Wedgetail is one of four Boeing-managed programs currently on the Defence Materiel Organisation list of troublesome projects. They include a $600million project to modernise the defence force's high-frequency communications system, and Project Vigilare, a $130million contract to create a new air defence command and control system for the RAAF.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


Looks good, sounds good but empty-headed. Four current articles below

The new Mad Hatter

Rudd is just a bureaucrat trying to remake himself as a policy wonk. Comment below by Greg Sheridan

KEVIN Rudd is in danger of turning what should be his greatest strength into a serious weakness. I refer to his weird and increasingly ratty habit of announcing foreign policy initiatives of soaring ambition and utterly amorphous content on the run, half baked, with no detail and no credible prospect of success. In the past week alone we've had Rudd threaten to "take the blowtorch" to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil and lower prices, nominate Dick Woolcott to reform Asian security and trade structures, and now appoint Gareth Evans to head a commission to end nuclear proliferation and secure nuclear disarmament.

If you announce twice a week that you're going to save the world and you manifestly lack the means to give the slightest effect to your pronouncements, the world soon loses interest. The chief casualty is your credibility. In foreign policy, Rudd at the moment rather reminds me of Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad. Now I yield to no man in my appreciation of the redoubtable Malaysian's many complex qualities, just as I appreciate our own beloved PM. But through the years Mahathir earned the reputation in foreign policy of shooting his mouth off to no particular consequence. Rudd is not as silly or offensive as Mahathir at the end of his tenure but, then, Rudd has been PM for only six months.

I remember Mahathir wanting to bring peace to Bosnia, not to mention Palestine, reform the Organisation of Islamic Countries, establish developing nations' solidarity, set up an East Asian economic caucus and much more. Malaysian journalists were required to cover all this stuff in deadly earnest. Internationally, people stopped paying attention and none of Mahathir's grand schemes amounted to a hill of beans. Where he did do well was in managing the Malaysian economy, although it is spooky that his biggest economic mistake was his insistence on a Malaysian car. Will Rudd one day christen a greenhouse-friendly Neutron to match Malaysia's Proton? And it is positively freaky that Rudd has stolen Mahathir's slogan, Vision 2020.

It is impossible to take Rudd's foreign policy initiatives of the past week seriously. How is he going to apply the blowtorch to OPEC? This formulation is so nutty it gives populism a bad name.

Then there is the Woolcott mission. Let's be clear. Woolcott is a fine man and an outstanding diplomat. But it has been revealed that he was given his mission, to create an Asia-Pacific union, only a couple of hours (if that) before Rudd announced it in a speech. What was the rush for? Simply to get it into the speech? That is not the way to make good policy.

At one level Rudd's speech was unexceptional. We need to make the region's institutions work better. But it was intentionally ambiguous about whether this involved a new institution or merely greater co-operation and effectiveness among existing institutions. So the proposal is entirely woolly. No serious policy work has been done on it. Key international interlocutors have not been properly sounded out. Woolcott's mission is maddeningly vague. Indeed, what would Rudd have done if Woolcott had said no?

The new commission to end nuclear proliferation and bring about nuclear disarmament is the silliest and least prepared of all. Rudd compares it with the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, set up in 1995, whose report had absolutely no consequence at all on these issues. But when the Keating government announced the Canberra Commission, it also announced all its members, its mandate and its timetable. It was a silly proposal, but at least it was a well-prepared silly proposal. Not like this week's effort. Not even the Japanese had committed to participate in Evans's commission before it was announced. We have no idea who the commissioners will be or what, really, will be their mission.

Woolcott last week. Evans this week. Pretty soon Rudd will run out of living national treasures to appoint to commissions and reviews. Surely Kim Beazley, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and perhaps Gough Whitlam himself will soon be pressed into the service of planetary reform. Can Dame Edna be far away?

Nuclear disarmament sounds wonderful but is a self-contradictory, inherently absurd proposition. You cannot disinvent nuclear weapons. Even if the US destroyed every single one of its nukes, it would still possess ballistic missiles and be in a position, with its large nuclear industry, to reconstitute weapons very speedily. Nuclear proliferation, on the other hand, is a deadly serious business. But on the very few occasions when nations have given up nuclear weapons programs, it has been because they changed their whole political orientation, such as South Africa in 1990, or because they are scared of US power, as in Libya recently or even when Taiwan abandoned its nuclear weapons program.

The US-led Proliferation Security Initiative has been pretty effective in preventing North Korea from engaging in nuclear and other smuggling, but it is based on tough, military enforcement, not the sort of feelgood, do nothing, blah blah of multilateral talkfests. The inherent politics of proclaiming nuclear disarmament suggests that somehow the nuclear weapons held by the US and other Western nations are illegitimate, whereas if you want to promote effective counter-proliferation policies you would be well advised to try to maximise US power.

It seems that Rudd wants an announceable out of almost every foreign policy speech. That is just silly. I thought Rudd's pre-election promises of endless reviews indicated a taste for sound process. Half-baked ideas to fit the timetable of endless speeches is the opposite of that.

The most devastating piece of journalism in the Rudd era was written by my colleague, George Megalogenis, when he described Rudd as our first federal premier, governing by the gimmick-a-week rules of state politics. Certainly that is the way he's doing foreign policy at the moment. The sole ambition seems to be three headlines a week. It involves high-level tactical innovation and complete strategic anaemia. Who would have thought it of Rudd?


Rudd's Green car and credulous climate policies

Comment below by Piers Akerman

Giving Japanese car manufacturers millions to build green cars in Australia is the 21st Century equivalent of paying people to paint rocks white. It is yet another example of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's propensity to make up expensive, meaningless, policy on the run. This stream-of-consciousness decision is the latest in an exponentially expanding list of Ruddelusions that would be marked as harmless except for the fact that they all come with a huge price tag for already suffering Australian consumers.

In this case, the ticket to dream costs $70 million in federal and Victorian government funds -- a huge bonus for carmaker Toyota which was planning to build hybrid cars here with or without such a generous subsidy. One of the 20-somethings running Rudd's office should have asked the Japanese before flashing the chequebook but that is not the way of this shoot-from-the-lip adolescent team's approach to management. Again, they have ignored the best advice from the Productivity Commission which has also warned against the idiotic FuelWatch program and ploughed ahead, tossing away taxpayers' hard-earned dollars as fast as the Mint can print the stuff.

There are other problems, too. Even though Rudd and Victorian Premier John Brumby have guaranteed Toyota sales into their car fleets (ignoring the usual tendering processes), current sales of such hybrids are extremely limited. Even if the price of fuel continues to rocket despite the Rudd Government's pledge to keep downward pressure at the pump, as well as keeping a watch on groceries, housing affordability, whales, nuclear disarmament, OPEC, Asian region diplomacy, and the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan, the reality is motoring experts claim small diesel cars are more fuel efficient and emit less greenhouse gases than hybrids.

This is by no means the end of the anthropogenic global warming madness inspired by Rudd's friend Al Gore, who also makes it up as he goes along. Rather than listen to the growing numbers of eminent scientists who challenge the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Rudd Government has bought its line in the face of numerous peer-reviewed scientific reports which find that none of the so-called evidence on which the IPCC's reports were based confirms a relationship between emissions of greenhouse gases and any harmful climate effect. Let's face it, so-called consensus science can get it wrong. It was wrong in its prediction of global starvation in the '60s, it was wrong in its forecast of an AIDS pandemic in the '70s and it was wrong on the Y2K virus.

In a thoughtful speech delivered in Canberra last week, the Liberal MP for Tangney, Dr Dennis Jensen, looked at the damage and cost to consumers of the Rudd Government's short-sighted policies. He listed the removal of the condensate exemption, which will result in a net gain of revenue of $2.43 billion but will significantly damage the international competitiveness of the resources industry, and the decision to reintroduce the CPI increase on the diesel excise levy, which will result in increased (and inflationary) costs to transport, increased costs to mining (and reduced productivity and hence the tax take) and increased (and inflationary) costs to agriculture, threatening farmers' livelihoods.

He saved his big attack for the Rudd Government's approach to energy and the environment, where he said the Government "is shown to be clueless hypocrites". "Look at Labor rhetoric on carbon dioxide emissions and contrast that with their actions," he said. "State Labor governments in NSW and Western Australia have decided to build new coal-fired power stations. What happened to gas, never mind renewables or -- God forbid, in the eyes of some Labor and particularly Greens members -- nuclear power? "This seems to be a pattern: A lot of whingeing about problems when in opposition but nary a solution when in government. Labor's spin puts youths with hotted-up cars doing burnouts to shame."

Dr Jensen, originally from South Africa, didn't dwell on negatives, he leapfrogged Labor's nihilistic debate and asked why Australia is not investing in the Sasol oil-from-coal process which his native country was forced to rely on when South Africa was subjected to trade sanctions which cut its energy supplies. According to Dr Jensen, the process, which uses the Fischer-Tropsch process, developed prior to World War II, was used by Germany to produce synthetic fuel during the war. Largely ignored by the rest of the world during the era of cheap fuel, it produces an extremely clean fuel and in the current climate is extremely cheap -- producing oil for between $27 and $55 a barrel.

Australians are now beginning to realise to their cost how expensive their experiment with Rudd Labor is but it will really hit home when Ross Garnaut delivers his report on the cost of carbon emission trading. Rudd's ministers are already referring to him as Ross Mugarnaut, in a savage comparison with the destroyer of Zimbabwe, as they speculate on the damage his report could do the nation. In hindsight, white rocks will be seen to be less harmful than a fleet of green lemons.


Rudd's grand international gestures: Doomed from the outset

Comment by Andrew Bolt

Kevin Rudd's ministers were starting to worry about his erratic performance even before his latest big announcements. So how do you feel today, boys? Truth is, I'm alarmed, too, by the Prime Minister's latest thought bubbles - a new Asian union and a new committee to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. (Yeah, right.)

Can't the man do something I could praise, if only to let me show I'm fair? Instead, Rudd is tossing off one half-baked scheme after another in what seems an increasingly manic attempt to distract his growing band of critics. Consider these two latest plans - and Rudd's terrible misjudgment in visiting the Hiroshima shrine.

Rudd last week announced, with no warning, that he wanted to create a new Asian union so that China, India, Japan, the US, Australia and the rest of the region could form policies on security and economics. It wouldn't be like the European Union, he added, "but what we can learn from Europe is that it is necessary to take the first step". But as even former Labor prime minister Paul Keating said in rebuke, even the EU's first step in forming a regional government - its European steel plan - was "not necessarily an appropriate one" for Asia. How could nations ranging from democracies to totalitarian regimes form any union in which they gave up some sovereignty? Why would nationalistic China want to? And why would we surrender any rights to countries not democratic?

It may well be that Rudd had no such notion, but his plan was so light on details who'd know? In fact, it seemed so hastily cobbled together that few, if any, neighbours knew it was coming. Even more damning, it was only two hours before his announcement that Rudd asked former diplomat Richard Woolcott to be the regional envoy for the plan, and sell it to the rest of Asia. Why Woolcott? He may have been a top diplomat, but he's also 80 - and Rudd's plan is to have his union in place by 2020, when Woolcott would be in his 90s. Did Woolcott just happen to be free that afternoon? Here was another plan that seemed a passing thought, unnecessary for anything other than to distract the press from Rudd's FuelWatch fiasco.

I say unnecessary because we already have APEC, for instance -- which discusses economic issues, but whose members refuse to add security to the agenda. So why reinvent the wheel? Was it because a new body would had the virtue of being something dreamed up by . . . Rudd?

That may be too harsh, but it fits with his second big announcement of the week - a new international committee, headed by Australia, to scrap all nuclear weapons. Yet again, Rudd had invented what already exists. Australia is already a member of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, which lists as its first goal the "cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament". Nor has that been the only such international group working on this. The Lowy Institute's Rory Medcalf, a disarmament expert, yesterday listed some: "The 1995-96 Canberra Commission; the 1998-1999 Tokyo Forum; the 2005-06 Blix Commission; the ongoing work by various US advocacy bodies spearheaded by elder statesmen Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn; a February 2008 Oslo conference; a June 2008 New Delhi conference . . . the world is well served by studies, discussions and blueprints, government-sponsored or otherwise, on why nuclear disarmament is a vital global security imperative . . ."

The reason why all those efforts have failed, as will Rudd's, is that none of the eight known nations with those weapons is remotely likely to give them up. Would China? The US? Russia? Israel? Pakistan? India? That means Rudd's plan is just more of what he's now infamous for - more make-busy bureaucracy that will churn out nothing but paper.

But here is the real worry, beyond the complaints by public servants and (privately) Labor politicians that Rudd is frantically busy doing nothing but spin. It's that he's tailoring even our foreign policy for easy applause. Which brings me to his visit on Monday to Hiroshima's peace park, built to commemorate those who died when the US dropped a nuclear bomb to hasten the end of World War II and prevent the killings of countless more.

There is a reason that Rudd was the first serving Western leader there. As politicians who've been there have told me, to visit is to encourage the offensive notion that the Japanese were victims of a Western crime, and not of their own insane militarism. I do not accuse Rudd of having that view. I think he was just over-eager to have a success in Japan, which he'd offended by snubbing on his last world tour, wooing rival China instead.

Well, the Japanese sure are happy with Rudd now, and will give him some little reward to make another day's happy headline. But for those who want a government that lives beyond one day's headlines, Rudd's flightiness grows ever more alarming.


Tariff wobbles: More Rudd kneejerk policy coming?

He knows and understands nothing of the subject but still looks like ignoring advice from those who do

Kevin Rudd likes to project himself as the heir of the Hawke-Keating reform agenda. But Bob Hawke and Paul Keating reformed even when it hurt politically. The Government's own data shows that automotive industry assistance and tariffs are costing the economy the equivalent of almost 30,000 jobs. Rudd and Innovation Minister Kim Carr should demonstrate the same ticker for reform by phasing out tariffs.

Last Thursday the Productivity Commission released its report into the economy-wide modelled effects of removing automotive tariffs and support. The commission's modelling found that the benefits could be as high as $500 million, with most of the gains coming from removing tariffs. The present tariff rate is 10 per cent and is scheduled to be reduced to 5 per cent in 2010.

The commission's report coincided with the announcement by Holden it would cut 500 jobs at its Fishermans Bend plant. Following the announcement, Carr gave the strongest hint yet that the Rudd Government would act to protect jobs by freezing the tariff phase-out. A tariff freeze would be a disaster for the Australian automotive industry and Australians generally. The problem the industry has suffered from is that government support has shielded it from the need to adapt to changing consumer demand. It isn't until consumer demand collapses that the industry faces a crisis and adapts. During the past 20 years consumer demand has shifted towards smaller vehicles and sports utility vehicles.

Advocates of a tariff freeze believe it will protect jobs. It won't. Instead it costs sustainable jobs in viable industries. Australian Bureau of Statistics data demonstrates the cost to jobs caused by tariffs. In the 1980s, tariffs were as high as 57.5 per cent and Australia exported slightly less than $400 million worth of road vehicles. Since then tariffs have been gradually phased down to 10 per cent. In 2007 Australia exported $4 billion worth of road vehicles.

Rudd and Carr should let the numbers speak for themselves: higher tariffs equal fewer exports, lower tariffs equal higher exports. Analysis of the Government's data shows the true cost of protection. Import duties on passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in the 2006-07 financial year totalled $1.2billion. According to the latest ABS data, the average full-time Australian income is $57,860.40. A simple calculation shows tariffs have cost the Australian economy the equivalent of 20,740 jobs. Similarly, between 2001 and 2015 the industry will receive $7.2billion of assistance through the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme. This program amounts to about $480 million a year in assistance. The ACIS program alone costs the equivalent of 8296 average Australian jobs.

Advocates of tariffs will argue that losing these 30,000 jobs comes at the expense of saving the present 61,200 jobs in the industry. But such an argument is based on false logic. In the absence of existing jobs, the capital used to pay their wages would be redistributed to other sections of the economy, creating sustainable jobs elsewhere. Government trying to protect jobs during a skills shortage is absurd. Australia is importing labour from across the world to fill a growing void. Yet the Government thinks it is appropriate to act to protect jobs for workers who are in dire need in other industries.

Tariffs are also unduly cruel on those working in the industry. Temporarily propping up jobs creates disincentives for workers to reskill and adapt to the changing market. Instead they are encouraged to stay in their present jobs until the industry falls apart. Then they are left high and dry. They have only the Government's tariffs to blame.

But, ultimately, the cost of tariffs are felt by ordinary Australians. They are the ones who have to pay higher prices for vehicles because of tariffs. Now the Government is going to splurge a further $35 million of taxpayer money to subsidise Toyota to build hybrid cars in Australia. Doing so is building an industry on false foundations. It is a symbolic measure so Rudd can appear as if he is doing something to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to support jobs.

Rudd shouldn't go weak at the knees because Holden has finally cut unsustainable jobs. When the automotive industry review's report comes to cabinet, Rudd should prove his commitment to reform, promoting innovation and reducing the burden on working families. He can do all of this by opposing a tariff freeze.


A nasty education bureaucracy tries to get revenge on someone who stood up to them

Reinstated teacher given a difficult job for which she is not trained. What does it say about a bureaucracy that fills positions with unqualified people? Someone needs to crack down on these petulant sulkers

A WOMAN who won back the right to teach after being suspended for posing nude for a magazine says she cannot take the position she has been offered because she is not qualified to do the job. Lynne Tziolas, 24, was last month dismissed from Narraweena Public School on the Northern Beaches after she posed naked with 45-year-old husband Antonios for a feature in Cleo magazine.

She has since successfully fought her case for reinstatement, but received an email on Tuesday informing her she would be offered a new temporary position - at a Northern Beaches school for children with learning difficulties and behavioural problems.

Mr Tziolas yesterday said his wife, who was due to take up her new role today, planned to instead inform the Department of Education and Training that it was unacceptable. "It's quite unsatisfactory really - I think they've tried to offer her a job that's not in the mainstream school system to basically get her out of the way," he said. "Teaching at this school is something she's not qualified to do. It's not why she became a teacher. There are teachers out there who have studied specifically for learning difficulties and behavioural problems. These kids require a very specific and formalised type of teaching."

Mr Tziolas said his wife's decision to take part in the Cleo feature, in which she revealed intimate details of her marriage, had resulted in her being asked by the department to prove why she did not belong on a prohibited employment list. "That list includes paedophiles, child pornographers, convicted drug dealers and incompetent teachers. It's pretty much like a criminal record as far as teaching or working with children is concerned," Mr Tziolas said. "That was sorted out and the response was that she had been reinstated but reinstatement, to my mind, means putting you back in your previous position. "She hasn't lost her teaching approval but they suspended her from Narraweena Public School, so it's really not clear to us what her status was or is. It's still pretty confused."

While they did not regret the decision to take part in the feature, for which the couple was paid $200, Mr Tziolas said the matter was blown out of proportion. "It seems like it's just dragging on. It's difficult to be motivated as a teacher with all this scrutiny," he said.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe yesterday said the Department of Education needed to fill the position with a suitably qualified candidate. "One would hope that the teachers at the school in question had appropriate qualifications and training and experience to teach," he said. "The federation would have some concerns if a teacher was being compelled to work in a school such as the one she has been appointed to. We wouldn't see that as fair, either to the teacher or the students involved."


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wealthy get faster access to surgery even in public hospitals

Rather surprising that rich people go to public hospitals at all. Over 40% of all Australians have private health insurance and Australian private hospitals are generally first-class. The rich go public mainly because they or their doctor "knows someone", I suspect. Bureaucracies are particularly susceptible to that. If you are "in favour" in a bureaucracy, they will throw the rule-book right out the window for you on occasions. I have seen some remarkable examples of that in my own circle

Rich people have the shortest waiting times for elective surgery while middle income earners wait the longest, a new report on public hospital waiting lists shows. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study shows middle income earners wait an average of 31 days for elective surgery while the rich wait just 24 days. The poorest Australians wait 30 days for surgery.

And living in a big city doesn't guarantee faster access to a public hospital operating table -- those living in inner regional areas get into hospital faster, waiting an average of only 27 days for surgery, while those in big cities wait 29 days.

Private health insurance membership has nothing to do with the rich getting faster access to hospital. AIHW spokeswoman Jenny Hargreaves says the waiting-time figures applied only to public hospitals and had no connection to a person's insurance status. And she could give no explanation for the finding that rich people had shorter waiting times than others.

The report shows private hospitals are now carrying out 61 per cent of the 1.6 million elective surgery procedures every year while public hospitals perform just 39 per cent. The rich were more likely to use private hospitals, with the report finding 261,358 of them went private for elective surgery. But over 73,000 wealthy people used a public hospital when they had elective surgery.

More middle income earners used private hospitals than public for elective surgery, with 127,596 going public and 184,617 going private. Only the poorest Australians relied more on public hospitals than private, but 149,571 still used the private system.

The report found the waiting times varied a great deal depending on the patients diagnosis, with cancer patients waiting on average 15 fewer days before surgery. The longest waiting times were for knee and hip replacements. Those with gonarthrosis of the knee had an average waiting time of 119 days, and one in five waited longer than a year for surgery. Patients with senile cataracts waited much longer for access to surgery than other cataract removal patients.

More than 87,910 patients had an adverse event connected with their elective surgery. Over 23,000 had complications with the hip and knee replacements or other implants inserted during surgery.


Healthy living campaigns seen as 'patronising'

Why? Because they are. What people do with their own bodies is their business. They don't need fad-happy do-gooders lecturing them

A Queensland researcher says healthy living campaigns are not getting through to people from low socio-economic backgrounds. Julie-Anne Carroll from the Queensland University of Technology has conducted a study which found many felt "patronised and overwhelmed" by advertising urging them to exercise. It also found they were reluctant to exercise in public because of poor body image.

She says health professionals need to create more targeted campaigns. "There's a big socio-economic divide when it comes to people being overweight and under-active," she said. "Health professionals need to respond to this public health problem in a more targeted way by designing messages and interventions that resonate more effectively within poorer contexts."

Ms Carroll says exercise is a low priority for many people from disadvantaged backgrounds due to cost and accessibility. "People from poorer backgrounds don't relate and don't feel like these sorts of goals are feasible or achievable given the number of challenges, and these need to be taken into account when physical activity is being promoted," she said. "There need to be local resources for children and even adults and mothers can go to that don't cost anything."


Rudd blows $70 million of taxpayers' money for nothing

Car giant Toyota had already decided to make a hybrid version of its Camry sedan in Australia and did not need the $70 million of taxpayer-funded subsidies promised by the federal and Victorian governments yesterday. Kevin Rudd, speaking at a meeting with Toyota executives at their Nagoya plant in Japan, yesterday pledged $35 million to the company from Labor's new Green Car Innovation Fund as an incentive to assemble the vehicles at the Altona facility in Victoria. Victorian Premier John Brumby matched the $35 million figure.

But the funding promise has been undermined by local Toyota chiefs, who told The Australian the decision to make petrol-electric hybrid Camrys in Australia had already been made and was due to be announced "within months". Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen said the subsidies meant the announcement was brought forward. It would have gone ahead without the $70 million cash injection, which was not critical to the proposal, he said. "It would have happened regardless and we wouldn't bring it to market unless we're going to make money," Mr Breen said. "It's always nice to have support but it comes back to a business decision."

Toyota has been explicit about its wish to produce a hybrid version of the Camry in Australia since the model went on sale in Japan two years ago. At yesterday's announcement, Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe refused to say if his company would have opted to build the hybrid in Melbourne without the taxpayer assistance, under which the Government will offer $1 for research and development for every $3 spent by the company. But Mr Watanabe confirmed Toyota "only recently" heard it would receive a $35 million subsidy from the Australian Government's $500 million green car fund "so we are not sure how we will use it".

The hybrid Camry will go down the same assembly line as the petrol version already built at Altona, with all the engine components imported complete from Japan ready to drop into the car.


Greenie feelgood fades

Comment by Janet Albrechtson

Kevin, we need to talk. We need to talk about our future. Don’t get me wrong. The early days of carefree symbolism were fun.

Signing the Kyoto Protocol provided a nice, cost-free inner glow to our collective conscience about climate change. Turning off our lights for Earth Hour was a similarly low-cost bit of climate change fun, as we sat by the dreamy glow of candlelight. And who can forget going to the movies to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, shedding tears for humanity and those poor polar bears? Now that the gimmicks are over, we need to get serious about our relationship. Our relationship with climate change. We need to talk about cost. Yes, I know, money is such a gauche topic. But we need to talk about just how much confronting climate change is going to cost us. Kevin, isn’t it time to start telling us how it will affect petrol prices, the cost of our groceries and our electricity bills?

Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that Rudd’s climate change policies were a welter of half-truths and platitudes dipped in soaring rhetoric to make them saleable. But now that the glossy pre-election promises are being analysed, probed and costed, the Rudd Government’s carefully constructed appeal to environmental morality is unravelling.

We now know, for example, that the mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent of power generation is very likely to be an expensive waste of time and money. While the solar and wind industry enjoy being propped up by government, the Productivity Commission has pointed out that mandatory targets for renewables, operated in conjunction with an emissions trading scheme, will drive up energy prices while doing nothing to reduce emissions that the ETS can’t do on its own.

We also now know that the ETS is likely to make life very expensive for the Prime Minister’s beloved working families. Rudd told the National Climate Change Summit in March 2007 that “climate change is the great moral challenge of our generation”. He made the issue a quasi-religious matter impervious to matters of mere money. Similarly, when he spoke to the Global Foundation a few weeks earlier, he committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, cut greenhouse pollution by 60 per cent by 2050 and introduce a national emissions trading scheme because “our planet is calling us to action”. More morality. No mention of costs.

Rudd’s aim was to seduce, not spook, voters. Indeed, apart from Work Choices, Rudd’s critical election winning promises were that he would answer the moral call to environmental arms while simultaneously reducing the financial burden on working families. More than six months later, Labor is being slowly mugged by reality. Penny Wong belled the cat last week when she finally admitted that the ETS “would have an impact on different prices in the economy”.

It now turns out that even a “soft” start to the ETS where carbon is priced at $20 a tonne will see the average household pay $200 per year more in power costs and petrol would jump 5.6c a litre. At $45 a tonne, three out of the four brown coal power stations in Victoria and others in South Australia, NSW and Queensland would close. Household power bills would be up by 50 per cent.

Even more frightening is modelling by Deutsche Bank that suggests the carbon price should at present be $65 a tonne, rising to $105 by 2020. These sorts of estimates explain why one industry association head has speculated that electricity bills could double and petrol could increase by 17c a litre.

The Rudd Government has good reason to feel nervous. When asked recently whether they would support a small hike in the price of petrol if the extra money was used to tackle climate change, 63 per cent of survey respondents said no. When the Government started means testing the solar rebate, guess what happened? The solar panel business dropped off. Turns out that working families are not so keen on climate change mitigation when it hits their hip pocket.

Having sold an alluring dream last year, Rudd will now need to do some fancy footwork to maintain any semblance of public trust on the issue. And already the soft-shoe shuffle and the fudging have started. The Government’s climate change expert, Ross Garnaut, is foreshadowing a “soft” start to the ETS, with its full rigours being introduced only in 2013. Phew. That’s two elections away, Rudd must be thinking.

In truth, these might be sensible compromises. However, Australians might have appreciated this kind of candour when Labor was whispering sweet nothings in our ear last November. There are a few things the Rudd Government needs to do immediately to start rebuilding its fragile hold on our affection. First, it needs to scrap the promise to plough taxpayers’ money into funding a green car after the Productivity Commission has shown how much it will cost and how useless it will be. It will only end up confirming what we already know: governments are lousy at picking winners.

Critically, they could start telling the truth about carbon capture and storage: so-called “clean coal technology”. The sad truth is that while Martin Ferguson is right to point out how valuable such technology could be to a country long on coal, Labor needs to remind working families about the costs. Billions will be spent and power bills will be much higher. The collapse of the Rio Tinto/BP $2 billion plant in Western Australia and the US FutureGen project suggests that CCS will not be a short-term solution.

And given that storage of carbon waste attracts similar problems to storing nuclear waste, Labor’s confected outrage against nuclear power makes little sense and prevents a sensible debate of all the issues.

It may be that the real reason the Rudd Government refuses to come clean on climate change is that it would force it to think about the unthinkable. Come on, Kevin. Don’t be just another environmental playboy. The commitment-phobes in Labor won’t like it. But if we’re to have a future, there’s another thing we need to talk about. Nuclear. 


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moonbattery Sweeps the Planet: Obama Understands Australia

Post below lifted from Jammie man. See the original for links

This is getting way out of hand. Because Barack Obama spent a few years as a young child in Indonesia and had a couple of stopovers in Australia, probably in an airport, neophyte Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd now declares The Messiah has an 'acute understanding' of the Asia-Pacific region.

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has an acute understanding of the Asia Pacific region, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says... Mr Rudd today said he believed Senator Obama had a "considerable understanding" of our part of the world. "Remember, he spent part of his time growing up in Indonesia," Mr Rudd told ABC radio.

"On his way back to the United States from time to time he would drop off in Sydney. "He has many strong and positive memories of our part of the world. "And therefore, because of where he has grown up, I think (he has) a pretty acute understanding of some of the challenges in the Asia Pacific region."

How does he know this? What is in Obama's resume or political record that demonstrates he has the slightest knowledge of Asian affairs? When has he spoken of any knowledge of current affairs in Asia? Has he said a peep about what is happening In Myanmar? In China? In Australia? I've had layovers in all sorts of places. It doesn't mean I know anything about the area.

This insanity has got to stop. This guy has is not an other-worldly being. He's a two-bit political hack from Chicago with an extremely thin resume, very suspicious friends and a smooth rap. What else can this knucklehead Rudd judge him on other than his press clippings?
Mr Rudd said he believed Senator McCain had an intimate knowledge of the region as well.

He believes it? Based on what? This senseless, fawning idolatry is getting to be dangerous. It's as if a pre-pubescent crush has overtaken otherwise rational adults. Snap out of it, people.

I'll never forget during the 2000 election cycle we were constantly reminded George W. Bush has no international experience and when Dick Cheney was brought on the media gushed he had gravitas. Now a one-term senator all of a sudden understands the world? Does he need some gravitas or will he simply walk on water on his way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Deliberate blindness to crime problems in immigration policy

The destructiveness of the Left on view again. Polynesians are a high crime group. They have no respect for personal property whatsoever most of the time. Yet Rudd want to bring them in " to ease labour shortages"

AUSTRALIA is preparing to open its shores to thousands of "guest workers" from the Pacific as part of a radical plan to ease labour shortages in the bush. Kevin Rudd's bold "Pacific solution" will see as many as 5000 islanders granted special visas to work on farms and in vineyards. Federal Cabinet could endorse the migration scheme as early as next week, with the Prime Minister keen to unveil his plans to revitalise the region at a meeting with Pacific leaders in August. It will help sweep away the legacy of John Howard's foreign policy. The former prime minister had a rocky relationship with many Pacific leaders during his time in power.

The Coalition says it now has an "open mind" on a guest worker scheme, amid concerns it could undermine the integrity of Australia's migration program - and strip local workers of jobs. Under the plan to be considered by Cabinet, on June 19, workers from up to five nations - Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu - will be involved. But Fiji will be "black-listed" from participating in the trial - a move likely to further inflame relations between Canberra and Suva.

Senior Government figures have confirmed islanders will be granted visas of up to seven months to work in regional communities. The Government will guarantee they receive Australian-award wages and conditions. Basic training will also be provided, in the hope these skills can be used when they return to their home countries. Known as Regional Seasonal Employment (RSE), the scheme has been successfully trialled in New Zealand, with Pacific islanders restricted to working in horticulture and viticulture.

Mr Rudd's support will send a very positive message to Pacific leaders, who have been lobbying Canberra to back the plan for years. It will be a key plank in a longer-term plan for the Pacific, aimed at transforming so-called "busted arse" countries and making them economically viable. Each year, Australia funnels hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid into the Pacific. But concerns have been raised that Papua New Guinea and other close neighbours need a longer-term partnership in order to survive. Both PNG and East Timor are likely to be involved in the scheme over the longer term.

The New Zealand trial has attracted strong interest, with the head of the Department of Immigration, Andrew Metcalfe, recently leading a high-level delegation to take a first-hand look. Shadow foreign affairs minister Andrew Robb is heading to New Zealand today, also to examine the guest worker scheme there. He said the Coalition has an "open mind" on the RSE plan.

In a critical breakthrough, ACTU president Sharan Burrow and Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes have both endorsed the RSE scheme.


School English too hard - principal

There's NOTHING that is "too hard" in today's dumbed-down schools. Let them try learning Latin, as we all once did

The head of one of the nation's elite private schools has questioned whether English should be compulsory for the senior years, saying the courses being taught are beyond the intellectual ability of most students. The headmaster of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) in North Sydney, Tim Wright, told a symposium on a national curriculum in English at the weekend that parents felt alienated from the English syllabus and were deeply cynical about it.

In his speech, Dr Wright said the NSW English course for Years 11 and 12 was a major challenge for many students. "The intellectual challenge is, in fact, beyond many students," he said. "It is seen as arbitrary and from time to time the anguished cry comes: 'Why can't we just read the book?' "I question whether it (English) ought to be compulsory ... at senior level. It is not enough to simply say that like cod liver oil, English is good for you."

The symposium, hosted by the University of Sydney's Arts English and Literacy Education Research Network in the education faculty, was opened by NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca and also heard from the NSW representative on the National Curriculum Board, Tom Alegounarias. Mr Alegounarias said the content of any national curriculum had to capture what the community -- not teachers -- thought was essential for students to learn. "The test for inclusion of content will not be what the teaching profession wants, or teacher educators or bureaucrats for that matter," he said. "Its contents should be measured against its purposes, which are to meet the community's interests. It is an expression of the community's intent and expectations."

Mr Alegounarias dismissed the idea of a curriculum as a technical document or specialised product for teachers alone.


When animal rights go wrong

THEY oppose kids keeping goldfish. They oppose people riding horses. They even oppose blind people using guide dogs. But who would have thought that some so-called animal rights groups would end up promoting animal cruelty? That is exactly what has happened with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) protests calling for an immediate ban to mulesing.

It is not the first time this organisation has been on the absurd side of an argument. The reason for mulesing is simple - it prevents the sheep from being killed by flesh-eating maggots. Our merino sheep were developed through selective breeding, some time around 1870 - about the same time the blowfly made it here from South Africa. The folds in the breach of the merino's skin together with the introduction of the blowfly became a lethal combination, creating a new disease: flystrike, where the folds in the skin become infested with maggots and the sheep dies a slow and painful death.

That's why mulesing was first introduced. Removing some of the wool and skin around the breach prevents the sheep being eaten alive. Farmers don't enjoy doing it, but the alternative is far worse.

The American-based organisation PETA knew that Australian industry had agreed to a 2010 phase-out of the practice to provide time to develop alternatives to mulesing. Some of the alternatives being developed have involved clips, sprays and selective breeding. But then earlier this year PETA decided to embark on a campaign which, if successful, will only cause more sheep to die through flystrike.

They called for mulesing to be banned immediately. Then they went to different retailers around the world and tried to talk them into boycotting Australian wool because we had not met our 2010 deadline. That's right. PETA complained that a 2010 deadline had not been met in 2008. Industry is confident it is on track to have alternatives in place for 2010. That allows us to work towards improving animal welfare while still supplying the best quality wool in the world. In the meantime, extremist organisations should drop their attacks on Aussie farmers.

If PETA had its way and wool growers stopped mulesing today, we'd see an immediate rise in the number of sheep dying through flystrike. It's yet another case of extremists harming the cause they claim to support.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Another Leftist attack on school discipline

Teachers warned for 'shouting'

TEACHERS have launched legal action against the NSW Education Department after being put under scrutiny for shouting while trying to control students. NSW Education Department officials are investigating teachers for shouting at students to "put that down'', "leave him alone'', "sit down'' or "pick up those papers'' and demanding to know, "who told you that you could go there?''

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained letters sent from the department to teachers, asking them to explain their actions. One letter stated: "It is alleged that while you were employed as a teacher you engaged in unreasonable conduct towards students, contrary to the Code of Conduct 2004, in that on unspecified occasions in class you unnecessarily yelled at students''.

Teachers have launched legal action against the department, claiming the investigations are eroding their authority and affecting discipline. The situation has resulted in 750 school principals signing statements of concern. Teachers Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe said the investigations were a consequence of a decision by the department in December last year to cut back on the number of investigators who hold teaching qualifications.

"A number of teachers have been investigated for yelling in the classroom,'' he said. "These sorts of investigations can undermine their capacity to maintain reasonable discipline in their classes and the prolonged investigations often cause significant harm to teachers' wellbeing.''

Independent Education Union secretary Dick Shearman said the problem was a result of over-zealousness, with some teachers being accused of abuse after raising their voice. "It's been a battle to distinguish between what might be normal discipline or genuine psychological abuse,'' he said. "In some schools, there's overzealousness of this approach. If someone raises their voice on one occasion, this can be interpreted as child abuse. "You can harm a child without physically harming them. "It's not the notion we have a problem with, it's the interpretation of it. "We're not criticising child-protection legislation.''

Despite the letters ordering teachers to explain why they yelled at students, the department denies it investigates them for shouting. "A teacher raising their voice at a student will not prompt an investigation by the department,'' a department spokesman said in a statement. "The Employee Performance and Conduct Unit investigates staff for serious misconduct and poor performance.'' Almost 1000 teachers and other staff are currently listed on the department's not-to-be-employed list.

Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner said teachers were left to deal with ill-behaved children who were not being disciplined at home. "I certainly got the cane at school a lot because I was a little bugger,'' he said. "I don't suggest we bring it back, but let's say discipline was a lot tougher in former years. "The Government has taken away a lot of teachers' powers to discipline children in the classroom. It's no wonder teachers sometimes end up yelling at unruly and difficult students.''

Sarah Redfern public school principal Cheryl McBride said the investigations had resulted in an erosion of discipline. "A normal disciplinary action to prevent dangerous or threatening behaviour is being interpreted as something that needs to be reported as a child-protection incident ... whereas that might be very appropriate discipline for the child,'' Ms McBride said."


Celebrities unite to battle animal activists

SOME of Australia's biggest names have told an extreme US animal rights group to back off in its campaign to boycott a national icon. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) convinced another international retailer to boycott Australian wool that has been mulesed, leading fashion designer Alex Perry has thrown his weight behind the wool industry. "PETA needs to back off," Mr Perry said. "I understand where they are coming from, there needs to be alternative to mulesing, but give farmers a chance to develop it." Mulesing involves cutting the skin and wool from a sheep's backside to stop blowflies from laying eggs.

Mr Perry, along with rugby league star Nathan Hindmarsh, Myer, country music singers Gina Jeffreys, Shannon Noll and John Williamson want PETA to stop attacking wool farmers. Mr Perry, the judge of Australia's Next Top Model, said executives sitting in offices overseas like New York should not be making a decision to boycott goods without all the facts. He used Australian wool in his recent winter collection and vowed to continue to use it in the future. "Wool is a huge export and the rest of the world gets our best, but PETA goes to the extreme and it doesn't understand how it impacts on our industry," he said.

The industry - which last year exported 395,000 tonnes of wool valued at $2.09 billion - has agreed to phase out mulesing by 2010 and is already using alternatives like anaesthetic and plastic clips. But the group has not backed off.

Fifth-generation wool grower Jamie Swales, who runs 10,000 sheep near Armidale, said he was gradually phasing out mulesing. "We will try and gradually breed out wrinkly backsides by selecting sheep with less wrinkle, but it takes time, it doesn't happen overnight," he said. "Farmers don't mules sheep to be cruel, it's the better option available. Instead of crucifying us, (PETA) should be working with us to come up with alternatives."

PETA claims it has convinced 34 international companies with more than 3000 stores across the US and Europe to join its campaign. The latest is German-based companies, Adidas and Clemens and August, which have followed in the steps of Swedish-based AB Lindex, to black-ban Australian wool that has been mulesed.

AB Lindex spokeswoman Sara Carlsson confirmed PETA had been "steering" the company over animal rights issues. She could not explain what mulesing was or why it was done when The Daily Telegraph questioned her about the issue "I have never seen this. I can't explain it to you," she said. "We are a fashion company not an expert on how to treat animals. We want to shame Australia into seeing that mulesing ends, it's important to put pressure of Australian industry to look at other options."

Myer National Corporate Affairs Manager Mitch Catlin yesterday added: "Myer is throwing its support behind our Aussie farmers, given we are Australia's largest department store and the home of leading Aussie designers and fashion."


More bureaucratic bullying of health workers

Must not blow the whistle on health propblems

A DISPUTE over a memo has cost Queensland taxpayers more than $120,000 in legal fees, and patients the services of a veteran therapist. Senior speech pathologist Quaneta Greenwood, was suspended, with pay, 13 months ago after she wrote a memo exposing a staffing problem that threatened federal funding for a state nursing home. Fraser Coast health district manager Kerry Winsor said the memo portrayed Queensland Health in a bad light, and she banned Ms Greenwood from seeing patients, gagged her from speaking to the media and accused her of misconduct.

As a result, taxpayers are stuck with a growing legal tab and are paying Ms Greenwood not to treat patients. Records show the bill for Queensland Health's lawyers, Minter Ellison, totalled $120,000 by September. Health Minister Stephen Robertson recently denied health workers were still being bullied by health bureaucrats. Yet Supreme Court documents filed by lawyers for Ms Greenwood include bullying and harassment among the claims. A Queensland Health spokeswoman said: "Since this is a matter between the employee and the department, it is inappropriate to comment while the process is ongoing."

The case hinges on a single-page memo, dated April 17, 2007, written by Ms Greenwood and a co-worker to five colleagues about speech pathology services to Yaralla Place nursing home. The memo said the district did not have enough staff to meet extra speech-therapy services requested by federal inspectors who found the home deficient. "To attend to these (referrals) we would be spending much of the day, every day at Yaralla Place, which is simply not possible," Ms Greenwood wrote. "Our department is not resourced to provide such services."

In a memo a month later, Ms Winsor accused Ms Greenwood of suspending nursing-home services without authorisation and demanded she turn in her work keys and stop treating patients. Ms Greenwood, who had spent 23 years treating cancer and stoke victims with speech and swallowing problems, was devastated by the accusations. In a court affidavit, she said she exposed the problems to help the health system and the public. "It is wrongly asserted I withdrew services. In fact I worked over the Easter holidays to provide patient services to those I had objectively assessed as needing a rapid response. I was simply doing my part to try and see to it that accreditation would go ahead. "The Aged Care Accreditation team were threatening sanctions if the dietetics and speech-therapy-patient backlog was not dealt with."

Barrister Stephen Keim, SC, is representing Ms Greenwood, who is seeking to have Ms Winsor stopped from taking further disciplinary action. Mr Keim argued that the bureaucrat could not be impartial in determining misconduct because she had shown bias against Ms Greenwood. But Justice John Byrne dismissed the application, which is being appealed at a further cost to taxpayers


Man Drought

Australia's new government recently sparked a lively public debate when it signaled its intention to substantially increase immigration. The chatter has focused on what kind of immigrant Australia needs, and where they should come from. That all misses a vital point, though. What Australia needs now more than anything is a few (more) good men.

A shortage may seem improbable given Australia's unshakably masculine image. In the immortal words of our poet laureates, the pop band Men at Work: "Do you come from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder?" No one actually knows what that means, but it is suggestive that we have the whole gender thing worked out. Yet despite the image of Australia being entirely populated by males - square-jawed, bare-chested and draped in an Akubra hat - there is in fact a shortage of us blokes in the land down under.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the national gender ratio is 98 males to every 100 females. Compare to a global average of 102 males to every 100 females, and to countries like China, which has 107 males for every 100 females. Australia might not be the worst off in this regard; America's ratio is 97 males to every 100 females, and Estonia's is a distressing 85:100. But within Australia, the differences can be pronounced. Six out of Australia's eight states and territories have lower numbers of males than females.

One of Australia's leading demographers, Bernard Salt, has labeled the phenomenon a "man drought," and he argues it could have serious repercussions, especially since there are also pronounced swings in the gender ratios within age groups. While overall there are 27,000 more men in their 20s than there are women in the same age range, among 30-somethings women outnumber men by 15,000. Once you hit the 40s, women outnumber men by 23,000. And again, regional differences pop up. In parts of Sydney, there are only 85 men in the 25-to-35 age bracket for every 100 women in that category.

Where have all the men gone? Part of the disappearance is due to the risk-taking male psyche. Men are statistically more likely to engage in dangerous activities in their teens and 20s, too often with tragic results. But this is nothing new, and Mother Nature has compensated for it since time immemorial: At birth, males outnumber females by about 105 to 100. As for the rest, the Australian government estimates that there are about 900,000 Aussies living on a permanent or long-term basis in a foreign country. They're often drawn overseas by the lure of a better career. And a lot of these are men, relatively young, well educated and rich.

In the marriage accounting, this is taking a lot of good assets entirely off the balance sheet. Note that the man shortage becomes more pronounced just at the age when people tend to start thinking seriously about marriage and childrearing. But if you are a woman looking for a husband in this age group, chances are the only thing you are being squeezed by are the numbers. The shortage of men in this critical age group is thought to be contributing to Australia's low fertility rates. Although we have had a small increase in fertility recently, Australia is currently well below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman that is required just to replace herself and her partner. In 1961, Australian women were having an average of 3.55 children. Today it is 1.8 children.

Faced with similar fertility numbers, other governments around the world have resorted to dramatic measures. For example, Singapore has a government-run dating agency, the Social Development Unit, which encourages university graduates to meet each other with a view to marriage. Fortunately, Australia need not resort to such an extreme. We can import our way out of this dilemma and get the eligible men of the world to move to Australia. Migration is actually one of the few things that can fix this imbalance, short of stopping outward-bound Australian men at the border.

Clearly, we as a country need to be more focused on attracting men. Indeed, the government may already be doing so. Consider Australia's recent international tourism campaign that featured pictures of a bikini-clad woman posing the question: "So where the bloody hell are you?" The "you" clearly refers to men. It is worth repeating - where are you? The statisticians and the women do not know.

But if more guys come to our shores, can international men compete with that paragon of manliness, the Australian male? It will be tough, but I am optimistic (and more importantly I think Australian women will be too). Yes, we are the country that produced the likes of Hugh Jackman and Errol Flynn, but male migrants who might once have been intimidated by our raw masculinity can take comfort in our budding new-age sensitivities. In a survey released last month it was found that only 5% of Australian men regularly play a game of football, 50% do not lift the bonnet of their car and shed ownership has dropped by a staggering 27%. Moisturizer sales have gone through the roof.

The high-jump bar is high, but to the men of Japan, China, India, Korea, Thailand and beyond, the land of opportunity (and females) is here. Come for the beaches, but stay for the women. [The likelihood of an Anglo-Australian woman choosing an Asian male is very low. Caucasian men getting grabbed by Asian women is however quite common -- JR]


Sunday, June 08, 2008

'Aboriginal wars' memorial plan under fire

There were NO Aboriginal wars, though there were retaliatory raids after attacks by Aborigines on isolated whites. Leftist historians have simply inflated almost any conflict into a "war". I see no harm in a memorial to Aborigines but I see a lot of harm in the official perpetuation of a lie

In the wake of the Stolen Generation apology, the Rudd Government is considering erecting an official memorial in Canberra commemorating indigenous Australians killed by white settlers in the so-called "Aboriginal Wars". The plan, which was immediately rejected by the RSL, would see a memorial erected alongside existing statues and sculptures to Australia's war dead on Anzac Ave, leading to the Australian War memorial. The proposal comes from The Canberra Institute, headed by ACT Labor Senate candidate and former Hawke government adviser Peter Conway.

The government responded last week, advising Mr Conway the proposal would be considered by the Canberra National Memorials Committee, which approves the erection of national memorials on national land.

In its submission, the institute argued that the government's recent decision to erect a national memorial for the Boer War - "a British Colonial War conducted over a century ago" - meant an "Aboriginal Wars" memorial was also justified. The submission nominates a number of conflicts to be commemorated, including the Pemulwuy-led Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars from 1790, the Black Wars of Tasmania, the Port Phillip District Wars from 1830 to 1850, the Kalkodoon Wars of North West Queensland 1870 to 1890, and the Western Australian Conflict of 1890 to 1898.

The institute points out other colonial wars conducted at the same time as the "Aboriginal Wars" are already recognised in Hall of Valour dioramas at the Australian War Memorial.

If such a memorial is built, it will face fierce resistance from the RSL. The RSL's Major-General (Ret) Bill Crews told The Sunday Telegraph the RSL would oppose the plan. He said there was already a memorial for Aboriginal service men and women behind the Australian War Memorial. "All of the memorials that have been established generally commemorate the role of Australians in conflicts outside Australia and there is no precedent for a civil-style conflict to be commemorated," he said.

The Federal Government yesterday announced the inclusion of the Myall Creek Aboriginal massacre site, near Inverell, on the National Heritage List at a 170-year memorial service.


Schools encouraging childhood obesity

Lack of exercise is a major factor in weight gain and kids are being denied their normal activities

TRADITIONAL playground games such as kick-to-kick footy, chasey, hopscotch and even marbles are being banned in schools across Victoria. Games using tennis balls and running on school property have been axed and some schools have prohibited footy, cricket, soccer and netball during lunch breaks. The increasing number of bans on games are because of a fear of injury and subsequent litigation from parents. But parents groups, education experts and some teachers have hit back, saying play is a vital part of a child's development. A Sunday Herald Sun survey of schools found:

CARLTON Gardens Primary School has banned cricket bats and removed its monkey bars and climbing equipment.

ST MICHAEL'S Primary School in North Melbourne has banned children playing football and soccer in the schoolyard.

ASCOT Vale West Primary School has banned games deemed "too rough".

ST PETER Chanel Primary School in Deer Park has outlawed tackling in football and soccer to avoid injuries.

Melbourne University researcher Dr June Factor said a primary school banned marbles because of "arguments". "But for goodness sake how do children learn to resolve arguments if they don't have any?" she said. Dr Factor said the perception parents would threaten litigation if a child was hurt wasn't based on fact. "There have been very few such cases in Victoria," she said. Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said playgrounds had become more restrictive as parents and teachers had become more anxious and over-protective.

A school not opting for the draconian approach to play is Preston West Primary School. Principal Mark Ross said play was "part of a child's normal development". "As long as there is no safety issue, we encourage kids to engage in play," he said. [Goodbye to football, then, I guess]

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood said: "This is a school-by-school decision and we encourage all students to be active and healthy."



AUSTRALIAN industries may be crippled if they are forced to meet ambitious targets for tackling climate change, the Rudd Government has been warned. The Queensland Government, Australian Workers Union and big business across the nation fear forcing businesses to pay for the pollution they create would cause economic upheaval. The State Government fired a warning to Canberra in Tuesday's budget, urging it not to set over-ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions for fear of destabilising the economy.

It comes as the AWU is set to join forces with some of the country's biggest companies to warn an emissions trading scheme could send investment abroad and cost jobs. AWU national secretary Paul Howes last week won the backing of his national executive to make emissions trading his union's main political priority for this year. With about 90 per cent of AWU members in emissions-intensive industries - such as steel, aluminium, oil and gas - Mr Howes said a blanket carbon tax could send investment, and jobs, offshore. "We could end up in a scenario where you have offshoring of facilities to countries where there are less environmental regulations than we have here already, with the problem just compounding itself," he said.

The widespread angst about the planned carbon tax is set to become a major challenge for the Rudd Government, which has committed to introducing an emissions trading scheme in 2010. Households have already been warned that the scheme will drive up energy and fuel bills and the Rudd Government's top climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, has hinted that high-income earners will bear the brunt of the cost.

More here

Corrupt health boss revelations

QUEENSLAND Health is again fighting corruption claims over the expenses of one of its most senior executives, information chief Mr Paul Summergreene. State corruption fighters are investigating the monthly corporate credit card invoices of Mr Summergreene, the chief information officer. These have allegedly reached up to $25,000 - leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab for limousine hire and expensive entertainment bills.

Queensland Health acting director-general Andrew Wilson, who was made aware of the allegations against Mr Summergreene, inferred The Courier-Mail could face legal action if it revealed the details. The complaint was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission by Queensland Health, as required by law.

Some staff, who have transferred out of the department or quit, have also raised concerns about the amount of alcohol consumption on the premises. It is alleged a private company contracted to Queensland Health is paying for some of the alcohol.

Staff have also questioned why IT companies have helped pay for or arranged for Mr Summergreene, a former policeman, to attend the Australian Open, Grand Prix and State of Origin. For the past three years the CMC has spent thousands of dollars investigating Queensland Health and former health minister Gordon Nuttall. Investigations are still ongoing.

Mr Summergreene is the first bureaucrat during the Bligh Government to face probes into alleged financial misconduct. In a statement Dr Wilson refused to reveal whether or not Mr Summergreene had been stood down. "Queensland Health does not routinely confirm nor deny that Ethical Standards Unit inquiries are under way," he said. "This is done in the interests of fairness and any internal inquiries should be allowed to run their course without being played out in the public arena.

"Queensland Health abides by its statutory obligation to refer any matters of suspected official misconduct to the CMC. "Allegations such as those you raise are extremely serious and publication of speculative material could prove to be defamatory." Mr Summergreene worked for Queensland Transport before he took up his new position with Queensland Health last year.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Muslim school fakes it

They send their dumber kids to TAFE so that their results do not show up as attributable to the school

YEAR 12 students at a private school in Sydney are forced to complete HSC subjects at TAFE if it appears they will not score high marks. Malek Fahd Islamic School, in Greenacre, joined the top 10 HSC performers in the Herald's league table for the first time last year, ranking ninth - a jump from 15th position the previous year. Malek Fahd students, who pay fees to attend the school, make up close to half the free HSC chemistry class at Bankstown TAFE this year.

Ken Enderby, who co-ordinates the Bankstown TAFE HSC program, said in recent years students had told him they had to take HSC subjects at TAFE because they could not sit them at Malek Fahd. He said one Malek Fahd student who was asked to leave the school achieved a lowest score of 60 per cent and a highest score of 72 per cent at TAFE. "I have had parents in tears because their children have not been allowed to sit subjects at the school," he said. "I'm happy to have those kids here. These are very good students - well behaved and a pleasure to teach."

Twenty-one year 12 students from Malek Fahd enrolled at Bankstown TAFE this year to complete studies in subjects including physics, mathematics and chemistry, all offered at the school. Of the 24 students enrolled in the Bankstown TAFE HSC chemistry class, 11 are from Malek Fahd. Mr Enderby said eight students from Malek Fahd were taking legal studies at the TAFE.

The principal of Malek Fahd, Intaj Ali, said yesterday his school offered 11 HSC subjects, including advanced English and mathematics, biology, business studies, chemistry, physics, studies of religion, and legal studies. Dr Ali denied that he had encouraged poorer performing students to study at TAFE. "No, no, no," he said. "There is no such thing. It is only when they want to change a subject." The 71 students who completed the HSC at the school last year achieved 126 results in band six, which are marks of 90 per cent or more.

Dr Ali said the school had gradually increased its subjects and its student numbers. Since the school was established by Australian Federation of Islamic Councils in October 1989, the student population has grown from 87 children from kindergarten to year 3 to more than 1700 children from kindergarten to year 12.

The school has rapidly improved its performance in the Herald's HSC results league table, which is based on the number of student scores of 90 per cent and above divided by the number of examinations attempted. Malek Fahd only receives credit for the subjects that are completed at the school. TAFE colleges receive credit for Malek Fahd students who sit their examinations at TAFE.

Mr Enderby said 13 Malek Fahd students were at Bankstown TAFE last year. The HSC co-ordinator at Granville TAFE, Dougal Patey, said some Malek Fahd students also studied at his institution.

Year 12 students at Malek Fahd pay about $1600 in fees for the year. The school received $3.6 million in state funding and $9.3 million in federal funding in the 2006-07. The funding had increased 14 per cent over four years. It earned $2.4 million from fees and recorded a surplus of $3.4 million for the year ending in December 2006, $500,000 more than the previous year.


Another failed computer system

When will they ever learn? Large organizations are constantly commissioning their own systems and getting a shambles for their money. Britain has just spent $25 BILLION on a health service system and it is not working yet. And we won't mention Australia's submarines. Large organizations should only buy already-proven systems and programs.

RATEPAYERS have pumped almost $30 million into fixing Brisbane City Council's ``basket case'' computerised payroll system - and it still doesn't work. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman admitted the council kept pouring funds into a "black hole", but blamed the previous Labor administrations under Jim Soorley and Tim Quinn, which he said were responsible for its implementation.

"It was poorly conceived and poorly executed," Cr Newman said. "Every year we just keep pouring money into the black hole to fix it, to work around it, to patch it. It is a basket case of a system which has cost ratepayers this sort of money (and) we just have to cop it."

But Labor claims Cr Newman has had every opportunity to provide an alternative. The human resource information system (HRIS), introduced in 2005 was supposed to cost only $6 million but has now blown out to $31 million, with up to $2 million already being spent this financial year.

Cr Newman's comments come in response to a further list of concerns raised by state Auditor-General Glenn Poole in an interim report. Issues raised include paying staff too much, lack of accountability, monitoring and compliance problems and inefficiencies. Cr Newman would not reveal how much council employees had been overpaid, but said in the past there were instances where people weren't paid at all, including himself. "At times I haven't been paid, councillors haven't been paid. The pay system has caused us huge problems," he said.

The report also said the council had developed a formal policy on salary overpayments and recoveries, which was in the final stages of approval. The Courier-Mail revealed just a month into the system's implementation that a quarter of the council's 8000 staff were either receiving no pay, were overpaid or underpaid.


Public hospital patients being treated by a mad killer psychiatrist

It sounds like a pulp novel but it's actually happening in a NSW government hospital

NINE years after he shot and killed his wife, George Sliwinski was back in his job as a psychiatrist, treating mentally ill patients in public hospitals. Dr Sliwinski himself had a history of mental illness. This led him to either leave or be dismissed from four medical facilities in the 1980s. In 1987, after a decade of chronic drug and alcohol abuse, he shot his former wife, Alice, four times, a month after their divorce. One of the shots, to her head, killed her.

But Dr Sliwinski was released on parole in 1990. And he was employed as a resident medical officer at the Central Coast Mental Health Service in July 1994, shortly after successfully appealing to the Medical Tribunal of NSW to be re-registered. The Australian Medical Association publicly opposed the re-registration. Dr Sliwinski was employed as a psychiatric registrar at Gosford and Wyong hospitals in 1996, and continues in this role. But, to this day, many of his patients are unaware of his past - and there is no obligation for DrSliwinski or authorities to tell them.

The case of Dr Sliwinski raises difficult issues of a patient's right to know the record and background of their doctor and the ability of someone to redeem themselves and begin a new life. In 1994 the Medical Tribunal said it had "some difficulty" deciding whether he was fit to be a doctor. But it concluded he was suitable because he did not intend to kill his wife, had no history of violence and was supported strongly by three psychiatrists who gave evidence that he had been fully rehabilitated and was very unlikely to relapse.

And yet questions remain unanswered. The Health Department will not reveal how it monitored Dr Sliwinski to ensure he met strict conditions imposed by the tribunal, such as regular urine and/or blood tests, psychiatric treatment and constant supervision. The tribunal also appeared to be unaware that Dr Sliwinski's wife alleged he had a history of violence against her. It found the killing was an "isolated occasion", despite her allegations, set out in an Apprehended Violence Order summons issued in the year before her death.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists - which is responsible for ensuring the suitability of psychiatrists - has refused to comment on what processes it undertook to assess him. And in the 1990s the NSW Medical Board was not required to independently notify employers of a doctor's restrictions. A spokeswoman for the board, Edwina Light, said it was prohibited from revealing why DrSliwinski's strict conditions were lifted in 1999.

Doctors are not legally obliged to tell patients they are working under conditions or have been deregistered in the past, and the Health Department has no policy requiring disclosure.

Dr Sliwinski went on trial in the Supreme Court for the murder of Alice on October 1, 1987, a month after they divorced. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the fourth day of his trial, in 1988, and was sentenced to a maximum of eight years' jail. He had shot Alice four times but said he could not recall the incident and successfully argued diminished responsibility because of his intoxicated state. In sentencing him, Justice Ray Loveday said there was no motive for the killing and described it as "quite bizarre".

According to the tribunal's 1994 judgment, he had been abusing alcohol and a cocktail of prescription drugs, mostly tranquillisers, for almost a decade and had sought psychiatric help several times from 1979, including stays at psychiatric hospitals in 1985 and 1987. He feared "dying and going mad". His drinking dated back to the late 1960s, when he drank on the job as a medical trainee because he found attending cancer wards difficult. His father died of bone cancer when Dr Sliwinski was 11 and his mother had schizophrenia.

The drug addiction began in 1977 after his first wife, Barbara, left him with their children and a doctor gave him Serepax after he was unable to administer anaesthesia due to a panic attack at Moree Hospital.

However, in its judgment in 1994 the tribunal concluded that Dr Sliwinski was not an intrinsically violent person. "[The shooting] does not indicate a tendency to vice or violence or any lack of probity. It has neither connection with nor significance for any professional function. There is no evidence that the appellant [previously] committed acts of violence towards his ex-wife or any other person ." the tribunal said.

However, a summons was issued to Dr Sliwinski over an allegation that he assaulted her by attempting to choke her in August 1986. The AVO application, seen by the Herald, alleged that Dr Sliwinski, who had been drinking heavily, said to his wife, "If I hear you have done anything to foul up my career I will kill you", and had assaulted her three or four times during their five-year marriage. The AVO was withdrawn by his wife.

Three years before the killing, he was twice told to take sick leave from his job as a psychiatric registrar at Morriset Hospital due to his depressed mental state and concerns that he was suicidal.

More here

Attack on fatherhood defeated by Christian party

The Rev Fred Nile from the Christian Democrats has successfully amended a NSW same-sex reform bill some feared would see the genetic father's name deleted from birth certificates of children born to lesbian partnerships. The amended bill was agreed to by the NSW lower house late yesterday. On Tuesday, Mr Nile's amendments found the support of all members of the MLC bar the four Green Party members.

The Attorney General John Hatzistergos said he accepted Mr Nile's two amendments because `it is not the Government's intention to modify the way birth certificates are issued in the sense of removing the names of mothers and fathers'.

Mr Nile has thanked his colleagues in the Legislative Council for their support `in ensuring we retained recognition of fathers and paternity under the law'. "I'm pleased we have managed to look beyond our own political differences and agenda and come together in recognising the important role fathers play in the lives of children," he said.

Mr Hatzistergos argued that the reforms were primarily aimed at ensuring the children of same-sex couples had the same rights that every other child has in a family, such as access to workers compensation, access to victim compensation benefits, and the rights of inheritance. "At the moment, if the birth mother were to pass away, the same-sex partner who has been in a relationship with the birth mother and who has been raising that child would have no legal nexus to that child. This legislation simply reflects reality, and that reality is based on decisions that have already been made by this Parliament," he said.

Earlier, Christian groups, including the Sydney Diocese's top ethical body, had raised serious concerns about the reform. In its briefing document released earlier this week, the Social Issues Executive of Sydney Diocese says it was concerned that the change to identify `social parents rather than genetic parents' would deny children `the possibility of knowing about their genetic origins'.

More here

Friday, June 06, 2008

A race riot in Australia

Those evil intolerant whites? The KKK? No. Indians versus Africans. But with no whites involved, it will be forgotten overnight, unlike the hugely publicized events at Cronulla a few years ago. Indians are generally very peacable people so ....

RACIAL tension may have been behind a brawl this week when taxi drivers turned on each other outside a Tullamarine cafe. Up to 30 drivers, some brandishing weapons, spilled onto Melrose Drive from the Melrose Lounge, a witness said. A 25-year-old man was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with a cut above his eye, bruising and swelling.

It was initially suggested the fight was between Sudanese and Indian drivers. However, other witnesses said the fight began between a Somalian driver and an Indian driver before mushrooming into a brawl between Indians and drivers from various African nations.

A leader in the recent taxi protests in Melbourne's CBD told 3AW the fight was sparked when an Indian driver tried to skip the queue. "The Indian driver tried to jump the queue, and one of the Somalian drivers said, 'You can't jump the queue, you have to do the right thing, this is wrong', and they started fighting."

Other taxi drivers and airport staff claimed racial tensions were often evident at the airport rank, with queue-jumping enough to spark mass arguments and violence. Taxi driver Nabjot Gall said the fight broke out just before 8pm Wednesday. Drivers used carjacks as weapons and one man was smashed in the face, he said. "The fight went on and got bigger and bigger," he said. An Australia Federal Police officer confirmed members attended a "minor" incident at the cafe, but refused to comment further.


Economic rationality under attack

The final installment of the very beneficial Hawke/Keating reforms is being opposed on the usual narrow-minded grounds. Very sad that one Labor government seems intent on undoing the good work of another

At least one Australian car maker could be forced out of business under a new push to slash automotive tariffs. In a submission to the Bracks Review of the car industry, the Productivity Commission called for auto tariffs to be halved to 5 per cent and other industry assistance scrapped. And it lashed out at a plan by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a $500 million green car fund, saying it would not help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission said cutting tariffs would cost jobs, but it might not be a bad thing for the industry if a local car manufacturer closed down. "Were one of the local assemblers to cease operations at some point, the volumes achieved by the remaining assemblers would increase," it said. The commission said each automotive job "saved" by tariffs was costing taxpayers $300,000. Slashing assistance to the car industry would add $500 million to the Australian economy, it said.

Unions and the car industry attacked the report. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union vehicle division secretary Ian Jones said there would be huge ramifications if a major car company player left Australia. "It would place the entire supplier sector in jeopardy, and as a consequence, that would place the entire industry in jeopardy," he said. "To simplistically say that one car manufacturer should leave is an absolute demonstration of ignorance about the way the industry works."

Ford, which recently announced its Geelong engine plant would close, said the company was committed to Australia. "We certainly are not going anywhere," a spokesman said. GM Holden voiced a similar commitment, while Toyota's local operations are going strong. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said the commission's claim that the closure of one car maker could help other players in the industry was wrong.

The Federal Government has sidelined the Productivity Commission by appointing former Victorian premier Steve Bracks to complete the review on the car industry. A spokeswoman for Industry Minister Kim Carr yesterday said the Government would not be commenting on individual submissions to the review.

Mr Rudd is expected to discuss plans for the hybrid Toyota Prius to be built in Australia when he meets executives in Japan next week. The Government's $500 million green car innovation fund will run for five years from 2010. The PM yesterday told Parliament he was determined to help the Australian car industry lift its international competitiveness and make more fuel-efficient vehicles.


The invisible critics of global warming

By Andrew Bolt

The boys from the ABC's Chaser [a satirical programme on public TV] show a map of Australia in their new show at the Athenaeum with a pink dot to indicate the whereabouts of our very last global warming sceptic. Actually, there's just a single pink dot in that entire expanse, and it's plonked right over Melbourne. Over this tower with Herald Sun on top, in fact. To be absolutely specific, it's over this very chair in which I'm now sitting, typing furiously with a mad cackle and hair all wild.

This is chuffy news, and I yesterday asked Julian and the guys to send me a copy of their Power Point presentation as soon as they're through with it. I figure it will give me terrific bragging rights in a decade, or probably much sooner, when suddenly the landscape will be crowded with experts who've sprung like instant weeds after drought-busting rains to say, ahem, they never fell for this scare either. They'd warned all along it would end in tears of laughter. But I'll expose those fair-weather pundits. I'll drag out the Chaser's map and say: Hah! Where's your pink dot?

But I'm fantasising. I know the glory isn't mine alone. The country has mysteriously turned out to be filled with sceptics already, and the real marvel is why the Chaser and its braying audience can't see them. It's as if hundreds of thousands of people, some of them prominent scientists, are made of glass and cannot be detected by an ABC-trained eye. Nor can even the noisiest of them be heard by an ABC ear - or the ear of almost anyone in the media.

Take Dennis Jensen, for instance. This federal Liberal MP, who has a PhD in physics, gave a speech in Parliament outlining the latest scientific evidence that the world stopped warming a decade ago. He had charts from the four international bodies that measure world temperature, including Britain's Hadley Centre, showing that since 1998 world temperatures have stayed flat, contradicting all official predictions. And he warned: "This data shows that the temperature has flatlined over the last 10 years. "Observation does not fit theory and yet the theory is deemed correct."

You'd think evidence that the world may no longer be heating - indeed, say some sun-studying scientists, may even start cooling - might be of interest to reporters, given our governments are spending billions to pretend to stop a warming that may not be happening, and may not be our fault. Or even bad. Yet not a single newspaper or television report mentioned Jensen's speech. He was so invisible that there's no pink dot for him on the Chaser map.

In the two days since Jensen spoke, the evidence he's right has firmed. Now the University of Alabama in Huntsville, one of those four temperature monitors, has found that the temperature of the lower troposphere has cooled more in the past 16 months than it warmed in the previous 100 years. A blip, maybe, but unexpected.

And, with satellites and weather balloons not detecting any warming of the troposphere in tropical regions, again contradicting the predictions of every global warming model, it's no wonder 31,000 scientists, including Australia's Prof Bob Carter, last month signed a petition declaring there was still no proof humans were warming the world to hell. But Carter is also so invisible that there's no pink dot for him, either.

Nor are there pink dots for the several Rudd ministers and parliamentary secretaries who, like some senior Liberal frontbenchers, admit they doubt man is heating the world to Armageddon, either. Not that these heroes deserve to be dotted, since they keep so schtum in public.

Yet why not a pink dot for, say, Michael Costa, the NSW Treasurer? Here's a man who makes news every time he opens his noisy mouth, except when he croaks "global warming is a crock". Then he can't be heard, or not so clearly that the Chaser will dot him.

In fact, the whole country has just gone dotty without the Chaser managing to notice. If we really do think man's gases are cooking the world into a stew we must, of course, stop using all this petrol, and all this cheap but very gassy coal-fired electricity. And at first both the Liberals and Labor thought we indeed wanted to do just that. That's why both went to the last election promising to bring in an emissions trading scheme, to whack up the prices of gassy things so high that we'd use something else.

Kevin Rudd's climate guru, Ross Garnaut, for instance, cheerily recommended we pay more for petrol - maybe 20 cents a litre at least - so we'd drive solar-powered shoes instead, or cars run on mung beans. But, oops. Fact is, voters now confess they're actually so mad about prices at the bowser that hang global warming: they'd rather save petrol money instead.

Shocked, the Government is now backpedalling fast, promising now not a planet-saving 20-cent-a-litre green tax (sshhh!), but a vote-saving cent-a-litre FuelWatch saving instead. And maybe even a cut in the GST on petrol. The Liberals are offering even more - a five-cents-a-litre cut in excise - and they add that they sure won't include petrol in their emissions trading scheme. Save the planet from warming? Are you crazy?

So hand the pink dots around, and I urge you all to wear them with pride. Do not be ashamed to be dotty, because global warming is a faith that even its loudest preachers seem not quite to believe. Do you think Al Gore really believes the gassy doom he predicts in An Inconvenient Truth? Then why does he use in just one of his three homes 20 times more power than the average American family uses in a year? Dot him.

Do you think golfer Greg Norman really thinks global warming is such a menace that this is why he's told staff they must fly "carbon neutral on their Qantas flights"? Then why does he offset his own air travel not by planting trees for the planet, but by asking his ex-wife to pay half his $17 million tax bill on his private jet? Dot him, too.

And do you think Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson really means it when he warns "the clock is ticking" on our warming doom? Then why did he use a private chopper this year to drop into Brisbane to chat about his latest gassy whiz - selling joyrides into space?

Come on. Who really believes this global warming faith, when it's high priests include Sir Richard Brazen? It's a creed preached by sinners to the insincere. So let the Chaser strike us all pink - such a healthy colour, after all. But first feed my ego, boys. Print me off a copy of your map


Victims of crime do have rights, says judge

Some unusual sanity in the justice system -- where the overaching aim always seems to be the softest possible treatment of the criminal

The Supreme Court's most experienced criminal judge has defended the rights of victims to be taken into account when sentencing offenders. Justice Philip Cummins yesterday criticised as "misconceived" a Victorian barristers' publication that had said that victims' rights were irrelevant. "Accused persons have important rights, rights which I fully support," the judge said. But victims had important rights also, he said, adding: "All citizens are entitled to the protection of the law."

Justice Cummins said some rights were enshrined in legislation and common law, and others were a matter of treating people with decency. He said a Victorian Bar News editorial was misconceived. The magazine had said: "Victims are members of the community and as such they do have rights. But those rights are not relevant to the sentencing process."

Justice Cummins outlined eight rights of victims during a pre-sentence hearing for convicted murderer John Thomas Glascott, a clairvoyant who shot dead solicitor David Robinson in Fairfield in 2006. The rights of victims listed by Justice Cummins were:

THE right to a full and prompt investigation.

THE right to be treated with respect and sensitivity during investigations.

THE right to be informed and consulted by the prosecution.

THE right to minimum delays in the court system.

THE right to be treated by the court with respect, consideration and understanding.

THE right to be heard at sentencing by way of victim impact statements.

RESPECT for victims in the sentencing process.

THE impact on victims and their families to be taken centrally into account during the sentencing process.

Justice Cummins yesterday took into account victim impact statements from Mr Robinson's widow and their three sons. Mr Robinson, 56, was shot dead on July 10, 2006, in a lane outside his law practice after he had taken his son Nick there to print out his homework. Glascott, who a jury had found guilty of murdering Mr Robinson, held a grudge against him for losing his home in a divorce settlement.

Prosecutor Susan Borg said yesterday that in his short statement, Nick -- then 16 and now 19 -- blamed himself because he was the reason his father returned to his office. Justice Cummins replied: "He should not blame himself."

Mr Robinson's wife of 21 years, Helen, said in her statement that the investigation had taken a toll on the family. "They have also lost Mr Robinson as a breadwinner and as a confidante and someone who the boys, her three boys, can look up to," Ms Borg said.

Glascott will be sentenced on June 30. Ms Borg said sons Tom, 21, and Hugh, 16, wrote about the milestones in their life that their father would miss.


Thursday, June 05, 2008


Kevin Rudd's honeymoon is officially over, with his approval rating taking a significant slide, according to the latest polls. While the Prime Minister is still way ahead of Brendan Nelson in the popularity stakes, the petrol [gasoline] debate has seen Mr Rudd's approval rating plummet. In the past three weeks, Mr Rudd's approval rating has dropped a whopping 10 points. The Essential Research poll also found the Coalition is closing the gap on a two party preferred basis, gaining five approval points to bring them up to 44 per cent, as Labor lost the same amount, bringing them down to 56 per cent.

The voter backlash comes just three weeks after the Government delivered its first budget and suggests last week's Cabinet leaks on the FuelWatch scheme have done them no favours. 'It's clear that the petrol debate and the Opposition leader's prosecution of it has done the Opposition some good and the Government has taken its first big hit in the polls,' said Essential Media Communications' Ben Oquist. In another blow for the Government, the polls showed most people would not be willing to pay more for petrol, even if the money raised was used to tackle climate change. 'It shows the magnitude of the problem for the Government in prosecuting its case for a broad-based emissions trading regime,' said Mr Oquist.

The Opposition has its own challenges, as speculation continues about the future of former Howard ministers like Peter Costello and Alexander Downer. The poll suggests a majority of voters would prefer it if the Liberal MPs stepped down, with just 26 per cent of people wanting the pair to stay in Parliament. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer says he won't be pressured into making a decision either way but says he will make up his mind 'fairly soon'.


Scared nurses' secret evidence of intimidation from public hospital bureaucrats

The bullying of nurses by hospital management is so rife that about a third who gave evidence at the State Government's inquiry into hospitals chose to do so in secret, fearing retribution if they publicly revealed their stories. Some nurses were too afraid even to be seen seated at the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals, said Bob Whyburn, a lawyer employed by the NSW Nurses Association support nurses who gave evidence.

The nurses union was so concerned about nurses refusing to come forward due to fears of intimidation by management that it employed Mr Whyburn to attend every one of the 34 sitting days. "Roughly a third gave evidence in closed session and it's likely that a lot of them did because of fear of retribution, because that was expressed by the others in open hearings," Mr Whyburn told the Herald. "In some hospitals we went to the nurses were so concerned about what might occur if they did give evidence that they didn't even come along and listen to any evidence that was given. They were frightened to be even seen near the commission." Mr Whyburn said at one hearing at Westmead Hospital, three senior managers reserved the front row and stared down witnesses during their evidence. "The three of them stayed there all day and scowled."

Marguerite Cullen, who has been a nursing unit manager for almost 30 years, told the inquiry at Westmead on April 10 that nurses who spoke up inevitably experienced "payback". Some nurses cried because of the way they were treated by managers and felt "totally demoralised", she told the inquiry. She also told the inquiry some nurses were too afraid to attend. "They said, 'It's not worth my job. It's not worth it. The repercussions if I went down there would be too much,"' she said. "They are too intimidated. I find that quite distressing."

Besides bullying and poor morale, nurses complained of poor workplace conditions - heavy workloads, double shifts and wards staffed by too many junior nurses. Some cried while giving evidence. They also complained about a lack of consultation when NSW Health issued directives that affected their work practices.

The Nurses Association's submission to the inquiry reported widespread frustration and fatigue. Nurses described their hospitals like a "war zone" or being "in the trenches". "When people become nurses they know it is hard work . but they don't know it is unsafe, that you don't get a break and you are not supported," one nurse said. "Some shifts feel out of control."

The submission recommended an overhaul of policies to prevent and resolve bullying and harassment, saying NSW Health had failed to address a "culture of fear and intimidation embedded throughout the public health sector".

The Minister for Health, Reba Meagher, has been forced in Parliament to defend the Health Department's response to bullying, particularly at Royal North Shore Hospital. A study conducted by the University of Sydney on behalf of unions for the inquiry showed that 60 per cent of nurses said they were exhausted at work and, within the previous 12 months, 60 per cent had seriously considered leaving. The inquiry has concluded and the commissioner, Peter Garling, SC, is due give his recommendations by July 31.


Ambulance bureaucrats block use of heart-saving system

Sadly, it's just the sort of thing you expect from socialized medicine. Paperwork trumps people every time

When John Plant felt his chest tighten on the drive to work two months ago, he thought his life was over. Less than 70 minutes later, the storeman was in an intensive care unit with a stent in his heart. He was lucky. The ambulance that responded to his emergency in Minchinbury was one of hundreds in Sydney fitted with a system called ETAMI, or early triage for acute myocardial infarction. It allows patients to be taken directly to one of two major hospitals, bypassing all smaller facilities, and getting vital treatment more than an hour earlier, saving lives and limiting damage to the heart muscle.

But more than 70 per cent of Sydneysiders are missing out because the NSW Ambulance Service has instructed most of its staff not to use ETAMI. It believes 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) machines, used to diagnose patients, should be operated only by highly trained paramedics and that junior staff should not be required to manage cardiac arrest patients for the additional time it takes to transport them to one of the major hospitals.

The instructions have angered cardiologists. "We know that the quicker a person is treated, the higher their chance of survival," the director of cardiac services at Westmead Hospital, Pramesh Kovoor, said. "But not everyone who calls an ambulance will get the same treatment and that's unfortunate because I don't believe it requires a paramedic to operate it."

For an ETAMI trial carried out between 2004 and 2007, 20 ambulances were fitted with 12-lead ECG machines capable of sending results by mobile phone to the emergency departments at Westmead or Royal North Shore hospitals. The study, in the European Heart Journal, found about 1500 patients were delivered directly to Westmead's coronary care unit during that time, with 73 per cent on the operating table within 60 minutes and 66 per cent having angioplasty within 90 minutes, compared with 2 per cent of people taken to community hospitals.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said the results of the trial were still being analysed and the NSW Ambulance Service would issue a statement on the matter within weeks. For Mr Plant, 58, from Sadleir, in Sydney's south-west, the quick treatment meant only five days in hospital and a second chance at life.


Feminists have tragically misled many women

The strategic silences of feminism are having profound effects on society. For all the brilliant choices ushered in for women - the freedom to forge ahead with careers, to stay single, if that was their wish, not to be tied down by family and babies, if that was their choice - feminism failed women by refusing to inform them that their new-found choices came at a price.

By failing to remind women about their biology and their declining fertility, feminism deliberately ignored the innate desire of most women to have a child. The silence continues. It is there in the classroom where, like previous generations of young girls, the present generation is still not taught that fertility cannot be taken for granted. Fortunately, there are moves to fill in the silence about infertility. If it happens, it may allow young women to make more fully informed choices about work and babies, avoiding the sorrow that afflicted many of their childless forerunners.

Unlike women in the 1950s and '60s, the liberated generation of women that followed in the '70s and '80s had the world at their feet. Yet feminism's mantra of choice made little room for women who chose to eschew careers for babies. Indeed, if we are honest, feminism never had much time for babies. Having babies meant leaving the workplace, opting out of the career track, at least for a time. With its unwavering focus on encouraging women to make great strides in the professions, making their presence felt in the boardroom, the courtroom and parliament, the feminist movement deliberately ignored motherhood as a legitimate choice for women.

The cost of feminism's silence about fertility is etched in the faces of those women who pursued dazzling careers and carefree singledom but ended up childless. Women such as ABC presenter Virginia Haussegger, who a few years ago openly wrote about the price she paid for listening to the feminist mothers, who encouraged us to reach for the sky but failed to tell us the truth about our biological clock. Said Haussegger: "Here we are, supposedly 'having it all' as we edge 40; excellent education; good qualifications, great jobs. It's a nice caffe-latte kind of life, really." But something was missing. "I am childless and I am angry. Angry that I was so foolish to take the word of my feminist mothers as gospel. Angry that I was daft enough to believe female fulfilment came with a leather briefcase."

The cost of feminism's silence about infertility is engraved in the experiences of those who, having delayed motherhood and unable to conceive, underwent in-vitro fertilisation at a great physical and emotional cost. Women such as Jodi Panayotov, who described how her mental anguish at not becoming pregnant had her rifling through her rubbish bin to check whether the second line on her discarded pregnancy test had appeared in the hour since she threw it there, along with dozens of others. "If I thought IVF would be the answer to both my reproductive issues and my mental issues, I was mistaken. Yes, it produced a baby. But it took ages to recover from the emotional toll."

Infertility affects one in six Australian couples. While the causes are many, a woman's age is a critical factor. By age 26, a woman's rate of infertility doubles from one in 10 to one in five. By her mid-30s, a woman has a 15 per cent of becoming pregnant each month. By her early 40s, it falls to 5 per cent. Add in miscarriage rates of 25 per cent for women aged 35 to 39, and 50 per cent for women aged 40 to 44, and the rate of chromosomal abnormalities, which increases from a risk of one in 600 for a 20-year-old woman to one in 39 for a 42-year-old woman, and one realises that female fertility is not a given.

Of course, with male infertility accounting for 40 per cent of cases, there is a need for both sexes to understand fertility. Unfortunately, there is a profound gap between perception and reality. A study by the Fertility Society of Australia in 2006 found that 57 per cent of women in their 30s and 43 per cent of women in their 40s believed they would be able to conceive without any problems. The survey of 1200 women and 1200 men found that 40 per cent of childless men and women in their 30s were still saying they were not ready to have a child. While choosing to marry later and have babies even later may fit the career choices of young men and women, the report concluded that "a real tragedy could occur if these people reach their late 30s and decide they have changed their minds and do want children, only to find that it is biologically too late for them".

The FSA recommended an education program informing young people about their fertility. Last week, a similar plea was made in Britain by new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority head Lisa Jardine.

It is a message echoed by Candice Reed and Rebecca Featherstone, two young women who call themselves "IVF-lings". Reed, a journalist in New Zealand, was Australia's first IVF baby, born in 1980. Featherstone, a Sydney agent for media personalities, was conceived in Bourne Hall, Cambridge, where Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, was born. In the next few weeks, Reed and Featherstone will be sending letters to state education and health ministers across Australia asking that schoolchildren be taught about fertility and IVF.

Featherstone told The Australian students were not receiving enough information. "The only things I was taught at school were about sexual education, condoms and STDs, that sort of stuff. I never learned anything about infertility or how many people go through IVF. I was never taught how a woman's fertility decreases." Ask a schoolteacher. Nothing has changed.

Featherstone says it's critical that young girls learn about their biology. "They may hold off having babies and do the career thing. And then they're like: 'Oh no, I'm 35 and I'll have to do IVF.' She says IVF should not be treated lightly as a fallback position for the next generation of career women. "It's not something nice to go through."

With studies showing that mothers in their late 30s and 40s who have baby girls are perhaps compromising their daughters' ability to have children, the trickle-down consequences of infertility will be profound and many of them yet unknown. One thing is clear. For all of feminism's focus on women's choices, its failure to treat motherhood as a legitimate choice did women no favours.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Economy grows at robust pace

This is of course the John Howard economy we see. Labor has not had a chance to mess it up yet. All the Howard arrangements are still in place

AUSTRALIA'S economic growth rate has surprised analysts, with the economy growing by 3.6 per cent over the year to March 31, with household's adding to the expansion despite higher interest rates. The March quarter growth figures are the first for which the Rudd Government assumes full responsibility since winning the November election. [Nice of them!] The surprise jump will provide the Government will strong ammunition to the federal's opposition questions on its economic credentials at a time when petrol prices and interest rates are quickly rising.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.6 per cent in the March quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said today. This compared with an upwardly revised rise of 0.7 per cent in the December quarter. Analysts had expected the economy to grow 0.3 per cent in the March quarter and 2.9 per cent over the year.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the main contributors to GDP growth were household consumption, despite two official interest rate rises in February and March, indicating Australia's were still happy to spend over the first three months of the year. Engineering construction and defence investment also added to the expansion.

The data come one day after the Reserve Bank decided to keep interest rates on hold at 7.25 per cent, which kept standard variable mortgage rates at around 9.5 per cent. After eight official rate rises in three years, the central bank left the official cash rate unchanged as it anticipates an economic slowdown.


Balance of payments very lopsided

The article below talks as if that were a problem. Yet with the Federal budget in surplus that is far from the case. It just reflects justified confidence in Australia as an investment destination. Private debt is a private problem -- if it is a problem at all. If it were a problem overall, the capital inflow would not be happening

AUSTRALIA is still failing to reap the benefits of the commodity boom with our deficit to the rest of the world reaching a 56-year record in the first three months of the year. However, the Reserve Bank says it is winning the battle to slow the economy in the face of soaring commodity prices, and has decided to keep rates on hold for another month. The $19.5billion current account deficit is equivalent to 6.9per cent of GDP and is the worst since the collapse of the wool boom in 1952.

"This current account deficit underlines how the Lucky Country is pushing its luck," Morgan Stanley chief economist Gerard Minack said. The deficit eclipses the level of 6.1per cent of GDP reached in 1986, which inspired the then treasurer Paul Keating to warn of Australia becoming a "banana republic". It has risen by a full percentage point in the past year. While export revenue struggled against the effect of flooded mines in Queensland and Western Australia and drought in much of rural Australia, imports ranging from plasma televisions to jet aircraft poured in.

However, Australia is having no problem paying for imports, with global investors eager for Australian bonds. Banks raised a record $52.1billion in bond and money market issues in the first three months of the year. Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said it had become more difficult for consumers and business to borrow in the past year, with higher interest rates and tighter standards imposed by lenders. "The evidence is that this is helping to produce a moderation in demand," he said. The central bank board was reassured by signs that households were reining in spending, including lower car sales, weaker retail spending and a drop in housing loan approvals.

However, the Government is concerned there may be further rate rises in store and is trying to prepare the electorate for moves it fears would be seen as its responsibility. "We must treat the RBA's decision with caution," Kevin Rudd told parliament yesterday. "When you have inflation running at 16-year highs, we are faced with increased upward pressure on inflation and, together with that, continued upward pressure on interest rates." Mr Rudd noted that many countries were facing rising inflation as a result of loose budgetary settings and global rises in food and oil prices. "This will be a 15-round fight; it is going to go on for a long time. There is no knockout blow when it comes to inflation but we are resolved with absolute determination on the part of this Government to fight the fight."

The Reserve Bank was keeping its options open, saying it would remain alert for any revival in demand growth, or any sign that expectations of continuing high inflation were influencing wage and price levels. "Considerable uncertainty remains about the outlook for demand and inflation," Mr Stevens said. While the trade deficit rose from $6.6billion to $8billion, the cost of interest on Australia's $615billion foreign debt, and dividend payments to foreign investors added a further $11.4billion to Australia's total external current account deficit.

The best export growth is being achieved, surprisingly, by the motor industry, which achieved a lift of 28.3per cent in the last year, despite the rise in the value of the dollar.


Corruption right at the top of the Australian Federal Police

Boss Keelty is at least a bungler. He needs to go

Veteran Australian Federal Police officer Gerry Fletcher has waited a long time for vindication. The highly decorated fighter of organised crime - lauded by AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty in 2004 as a credit to the police in taking down drug syndicates over three decades - could hardly be blamed for dancing over the public humiliation of his professional nemesis.

Mark Standen, the assistant director of the NSW Crime Commission, who was arrested and charged this week over his alleged masterminding of a massive drug importation plot, had made three separate complaints of corruption or misconduct against Mr Fletcher in the past decade. All were later dismissed. The last, made at a private meeting with Mr Keelty in 2005, accused Mr Fletcher of tipping off a Sydney drug boss, the now deceased Michael Hurley, to an AFP Crime Commission investigation. This prompted Mr Fletcher's sacking.

The former narcotics strike team boss has since been reappointed to the AFP but is still waiting for a public apology from Mr Keelty. The Australian understands Mr Keelty and Mr Standen were members of a small group - the so-called 1979 club - of officers who had been with the AFP since its inception. Colleagues have said the two men worked closely together in the Redfern office of the AFP in Sydney in the early 1990s and went jogging together in the mornings. Mr Keelty refused to discuss his relationship with Mr Standen yesterday, although a spokesman for the commissioner denied that the two had been close. The spokesman also refused to respond to The Australian's question as to whether Mr Keelty would be offering Mr Fletcher a public apology.

Despite being cleared, and reinstated to the AFP this year on the orders of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, Mr Fletcher's reputation has continued to suffer under the stain of MrStanden's allegations. But no more. Mr Fletcher, in an interview conducted through his Sydney lawyer, Terry Boyle, told The Australian yesterday he had been shocked by the reaction among the rank and file of the AFP to Mr Standen's arrest. "The change of attitude towards me of some people in the AFP, and outside, has been really surprising," he said. "My reputation was totally damaged from what he (Mr Standen) did, what the AFP did."

Mr Fletcher is constrained from revealing his full emotions because of the charges against Mr Standen, but says he could never understand why the allegations were not properly investigated. "If one person makes a complaint that doesn't stick, who cries wolf, wouldn't the next step be to look at testing the crying of that person?"

When the AFP was questioned by The Australian about whether the force intended to review Mr Fletcher's case and the Hurley tip-off, a spokesman for Mr Keelty said it would be inappropriate to comment on specific investigations. "The AFP is currently reviewing a range of matters involving potential connections to this investigation," the spokesman said. "It is not appropriate to outline the extent of these inquiries."

Mr Fletcher cannot hide his disgust at the way he was treated, and says he is still paying the price. Despite his reinstatement to the force, nine months after it was ordered by the AIRC, he is yet to be returned to operational duties, and now answers telephone calls from the public.

Mr Fletcher's latest trouble began when Mr Standen, at a private meeting with Mr Keelty in 2005, alleged that Mr Fletcher had tipped off Hurley about an investigation, allowing him to escape police. Hurley was later captured, and died last year before standing trial. The matter arose in April 2005, when Mr Fletcher answered his work telephone and agreed to meet a mystery caller the next day at a cafe across the road. His coffee companion was Hurley, then under investigation by the AFP and NSW Crime Commission for importing cocaine from South America through a gang with links to airport baggage handlers.

An old-style investigator, Mr Fletcher was widely known among criminal circles because of his arrest record and preference for building contacts and finding informants. After the 40-minute meeting, Mr Fletcher made a report to his superiors detailing the conversation, in which Hurley had said he would "soon be departing Australia for good". Before his death from cancer, Hurley was asked about Mr Fletcher's reputation on the street. "One hundred per cent honest," he said. "I think he's locked everyone up you can talk about."


NSW crime body polluted too

Would you believe it? The crooked Federal cop was also big in the NSW crime watchdog!

The Iemma Government was under pressure to replace all senior officials of the NSW Crime Commission last night in order to have an independent investigation into the ramifications of drug charges against the body's assistant director Mark Standen. Because Mr Standen was facing serious charges, every criminal investigation involving the commission should be reviewed by a new leadership team, said former National Crime Authority chairman Peter Faris QC. "The fallout from this will be massive," he said.

Other states needed to launch their own reviews of criminal prosecutions because the NSW Crime Commission was frequently involved in national investigations, Mr Faris said. The cross-border nature of much of its work meant the state-based system of regulating its activities was inadequate, he said. Mr Faris said the AFP, which had been aware Mr Standen was under investigation, would also need to explain what information about drug investigations it had made available to the NSW Crime Commission.

The commission, which was established in 1986, is responsible for assembling evidence for the Director of Public Prosecutions and has a particular focus on drug trafficking and organised crime.

Crime Commissioner Phillip Bradley rejected calls for a royal commission into the affair yesterday but said Mr Standen's arrest had been "very damaging".

Mr Faris said the matter proved the need for a new national anti-corruption watchdog that could match the cross-border activities of law enforcement agencies. "Crime knows no borders," he said.

However, NSW Police Minister David Campbell defended the current arrangements and said the episode involved just one officer. "To my knowledge, the allegations of corruption relate to one individual and there is no evidence before me to suggest that this matter spreads any further," Mr Campbell said.

But Mr Faris said Mr Standen's seniority meant any review could not be confined to those areas for which he was directly responsible. It needed to cover every matter involving the commission. "Decisions on all sorts of things would have gone to the most senior ranks of the commission," Mr Faris said. "All sorts of extremely sensitive information would have been shared by and with other agencies."

Some of the commission's well-known cases include the jailing last year of former Balmain rugby league star Les Mara for importing cocaine and the arrest of 14 men in Sydney and Melbourne over an international drug ring dealing in cocaine, ice and ecstasy.

Calls for a better system of regulating the commission were also made yesterday by Sydney University criminologist Mark Findlay, criminal lawyer Phillip Boulten SC and legal academic John Anderson. Mr Boulten said the crime commission should answer to parliament and needed a permanent inspector with the powers of a royal commissioner. Professor Findlay said the commission was characterised by a tight-knit police culture that was resistant to oversight. "It has been said in the past that it was more open to corruption due to its internal and rather protective organisational structure," he said.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Economic boom lures Australians home

One can only hope that the new Labor government will not meddle too much with the conservative policies that enabled the boom

Australia's booming economy and its lowest unemployment rate in more than a generation is luring home thousands of expat Aussies from Britain and the United States. As signs of an economic downturn emerge in the UK and recession looms in America, Australian bankers, lawyers and other professionals are flocking back to their homeland. About 34,000 Australians have returned from Britain in the past 12 months, the highest number ever registered, according to international placement firm Link Recruitment.

In the first quarter of 2008, there was a 14 percent decline in the number of Australians heading to London for work, according to a survey conducted by Link Recruitment. The boomerang trend is fuelled largely by economic factors but also helped along by the superior lifestyle Australians know they can experience in Melbourne or Sydney compared with London or New York.

For decades it has been a rite of passage for Australians and New Zealanders to head to Britain to gain valuable work experience. Whereas in the past they may have been scruffy backpackers crammed into dingy flats in Earls Court, these days they are more likely to be highly qualified professionals. But the trend appears to be reversing - temporarily, at least. While the City and Wall Street are reeling from the credit crunch, Sydney is brimming with multi-million pound corporate deals. Fuelled by a commodities boom, Australia has become the world's fourth largest mergers and acquisitions market so far this year.

"Australia is more interesting, there is a lot more going on here in the fixed income markets than a few years ago," said Mr Lovett, 40, now head of fixed income at UBS Australia.

Unlike the flagging economies of the northern hemisphere, Australia is into its 17th year of consecutive growth. Unemployment is at a 33-year low, companies are struggling to fill job vacancies and the Aussie dollar has hit an 11-year high against the pound. Much of the growth has been built on the commodities boom, with Australia selling billions of pounds' worth of coal, iron ore and other resources to China. The country is awash with cash, with the government enjoying a huge surplus and the national mandatory retirement savings scheme, known as superannuation, now exceeding A$1 trillion.


A flawed system of medical training

I have just failed my final examination before being deemed a medical specialist, along with half the people who sat the exam. This is despite each and every candidate being of the highest calibre, then working in the field for several years and undertaking backbreaking preparation for several months. A large proportion of the candidates had never failed anything academic before this final hurdle. A considerable number were sitting for the third or fourth time. Each had to pay several thousand dollars for the privilege.

Welcome to the college system of training doctors. It is a system grounded in traditions and old-school philosophies, much of it a throwback to the English guilds of previous centuries. Until recently, the results of these exams were handed to the candidates in the hallowed halls of college buildings. A door would then open for those who passed, who were offered a glass of sherry or soft drink, while those who failed were given directions to the nearest taxi rank.

There are few professional equivalents as archaic. The closest would possibly be the bar association for barristers, but even they have examination pass rates of up to 80 per cent. The market is then free to value their services accordingly. If a university course were run where half the students failed, the course would quickly be modified, dropped or there would be an urgent review of the selection processes. If a business undertook training of staff for a particular task and later found half to be incapable of doing so, the business would be highly dissatisfied and undertake immediate measures to ensure the vast majority were ready. They would have every incentive to do so.

The colleges have absolutely no incentive to pass anyone. Each and every person who passes represents a new competitor with access to the total pool of fees from specialist services. The same doctors deemed unqualified to practise independently are often doing the work of the specialists within the public hospital system while their bosses are running lucrative private practices.

The system is a reflection of the many inefficiencies and difficulties of our health system - rule by committees which are unable to respond to consumer needs and changing trends, little "outcomes measurement" and a disabling level of bureaucracy and duplication.

Last month, just before the 2020 Summit, Dr Bill Glasson, an ophthalmologist and former president of the Australian Medical Association, called for a greater range of health professionals to address the hopeless shortage of workers that our system suffers. This kind of statement would have been a heresy during his days as the AMA boss. But it is a reflection that our current system of training health workers simply does not meet the needs of consumers. Nowhere is this more true than with doctors, where it takes a decade and a half to produce independent practitioners who are then grossly overqualified for the relatively routine presentations they deal with each day. And when you consider that despite this and the gross shortage of doctors, that colleges do their best to keep the numbers as low as possible, it is a travesty.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already had multiple dealings with some colleges, particularly the surgeons, who have been forced to amend many of their practices as a result. And this year there has been a submission to the ACCC by a group representing training psychiatrists. If that is not enough, the Productivity Commission is investigating the low pass rates in several colleges.

As monopolies go, one feels that the number is almost up for this one. Macquarie University is attempting to set up an alternative path for training surgeons, despite huge disapproval from specialist bodies such as the AMA. In Britain, the system has been overturned, for many of the reasons stated above. While it has been implemented poorly and caused initial chaos, there is widespread agreement in Britain that doctors' training will be shorter, more streamlined and better equipped to deal with the public's needs.

Any changes here will take time. Meanwhile, I remember what a silver-haired eminent cardiologist said in my final year of university. After a casual teaching session, he gave me a stern look and said: "Son, now that you're almost finished the course, my advice to you is to get out as soon as you can. Things are going from bad to worse and it will be very difficult for you lot. Get out while you can." While I shrugged off the comments back then, now that I am demoralised and heavy with resentment, trapped within a public hospital system that utterly devalues me, I feel he was right. I regret not taking his advice.


Battle for Rudd's mind

Rudd is good at tokenism. But more than that is now needed

WHEN Martin Ferguson wrote to his cabinet colleagues in his now famously rational letter pointing out the socially regressive and market distorting effects of Kevin Rudd's proposed FuelWatch petrol price monitoring scheme, he did so in economic terms. What Ferguson remained silent on was his political strategy. But according to those closely involved in the intense and now obviously divisive negotiations surrounding FuelWatch, Ferguson's aims went beyond the economic.

What the Resources Minister was trying to do with his letter, though he did not refer to it directly, was to re-cast a strategic template which he feared would ultimately engulf the Rudd Government and place it in jeopardy. That template was this: the Carr, Beattie and Bracks state Labor Governments which have dominated the past decade. Why, you might ask? Weren't they all electorally successful over successive polls? Well yes. But were they seriously reformist governments? No. Are we all now paying, across the nation, for their lack of foresight and initiative in areas such as health and urban infrastructure? Yes.

Those involved in the FuelWatch saga say that apart from the obvious economic nonsense of the scheme, Ferguson's overarching concern was that to cede to such nonsense so early in the term of the Rudd Government would be to see federal Labor inevitably set on the same course as the Carr, Beattie and Bracks administrations.

The message, I'm told, from Ferguson was that there are governments dedicated to "actions" and there are governments dedicated to "outcomes". And in Ferguson's judgment federal Labor's state antecedents were in the former category; lots of largely meaningless activity that captured the 24-hour media cycle, but which ultimately amounted to not much in policy terms. Ferguson, rightly, wants the Rudd Government's reputation to be based on "outcomes", code for dedicating itself to the big structural reforms. "That is the lesson from the Hawke and Keating governments," he has told colleagues.

Why should we be surprised by this? After all it was Ferguson who pushed through the final reform of Labor's absurd "three mines" uranium policy from Opposition, and from his position as a scion of the Left. Ferguson, like Lindsay Tanner and Craig Emerson, the other ministers who opposed FuelWatch, wants to come to the task of government as a Labor, market-driven moderniser. If it comes to a choice they each would prefer to make a difference over the long term in favour of the nation's prosperity and wellbeing, rather than simply perpetuate themselves in office.

Implicitly in the crosshairs here is Chris Bowen, the young yet apparently already politically fully formed Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Consumer Affairs. Watching him in parliament the impression you get of the 33-year-old Bowen is that he spent his entire youth watching question time tapes of Paul Keating. Except that Keating was almost always about substance. Ferguson sees Bowen as being quintessentially spawned from the NSW state Labor Right, cast in the form of Bob Carr; dedicated to "actions" - like FuelWatch - rather than "outcomes"; the quick political fix, rather than the big structural shifts.

Ferguson would know. While he now occupies a Melbourne seat, courtesy of his previous role as ACTU president, he originally cut his teeth on NSW state politics where his father, Jack was the longtime left-wing deputy premier to Neville Wran.

This "actions" v "outcomes" paradigm is the internal battle for Rudd's heart and mind that is yet to play out inside the Labor Government. The victors and vanquished will be judged by history. For his own sake let's hope Rudd goes down the Ferguson rather than the Bowen road.

More here

Rage about Rudd from a self-proclaimed cultural elitist

Kevin Rudd represented mainstream Australia in expressing disgust at an "art" exhibition that used young girls in erotic poses. Below is part of the backlash from the arty-farties. The febrile and impotent rage is amusing. Are they going to support the conservatives now? Hell would freeze over first! Unsurprisingly, the writer is a philosophy academic

Elizabeth Farrelly, in her tour de force on this issue, "Adults overboard", points to the Henson affair as a turning point in the history of the Rudd administration. She claims that until now it has been possible to remain optimistic towards Rudd, but now there is the sinking feeling that things are no different under Rudd. As a fellow member of Australia's small cultural elite, those who are somewhat alive to artistic considerations, I share Farelly's feeling, and this is precisely the point: Rudd's comments have powerfully alienated the Australian cultural elite. And this was not a smart move politically.

Though the cultural elite are not the opinion-leaders they might be in some other societies, nor large enough in numbers to matter electorally, we are somehow an important part of the fragile consensual coalition gathered behind Labor's conquest of state power.

Rudd's 2020 summit always seemed to me to be a mark of how seriously he took our role. But it's hard to overstate how offended we are by his philistinism. For me, Rudd's comments were much more disturbing then anything Howard ever said, because with Howard we knew he was evil and hoped for deliverance via a Labor victory. With Rudd, there's no hope for salvation.

Now, this might generally incline us to allow Rudd his populist foibles. The problem is here that he's crossed an absolute line by associating himself with a crackdown on high culture itself. Rudd in these circumstances becomes unsupportable for a cultural and intellectual elite for whom free speech is everything (that and grant money, but free speech first, please).

Indeed, with Malcolm Turnbull taking the opposing view on this issue, and with it being very likely that he will lead the Libs sooner rather than later, this becomes a cultural wedge issue that confuses the choice of who to support for intellectuals who grew unquestioningly antipathetic to the Coalition during the Howard-era history wars.

Source. (H/T Leon Bertrand)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Climate advice is poisoned by fear

(By atmospheric physicist Dr. Garth W. Paltridge, an Emeritus Professor from University of Tasmania, who was a Chief Research Scientist with the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research before taking up positions in 1990 as Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania and as CEO of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Center)

I HEAR on the scientific grapevine that CSIRO's biggest problem when providing formal advice to the federal Government on the matter of climate change is to say nothing that can be interpreted as giving aid and comfort to the army of irresponsible sceptics out there who are doubtful about the dreadful consequences of global warming.

One can only feel sorry for the Government. Where can it go these days to get unbiased advice on the issue of global warming? Its official sources are poisoned by the fear among many scientists that they may be labelled by their colleagues and by their institutions as climate-change sceptics.

Basically, the problem is that the research community has gone so far along the path of frightening the life out of the man in the street that to recant publicly even part of the story would massively damage the reputation and political clout of science in general. And so, like corpuscles in the blood, researchers all over the world now rush in overwhelming numbers to repel infection by any idea that threatens the carefully cultivated belief in climatic disaster.


Another brainless Leftist

Relations between the Rudd Government and the federal public service have hit a new low with revelations senior bureaucrats have nicknamed Health Minister Nicola Roxon "Bi-polar Ni-cola" because of her behind-closed-doors displays of temper. The leaking of the offensive nickname signals that parts of the federal public service - which has been pushed to breaking point by "24/7" Kevin - now regard themselves as being at war with Labor.

While senior Health Department bureaucrats are furious at their treatment by Ms Roxon, they also blame Mr Rudd. They say his obsession with micro-management of health policy means the department is log-jammed. "Nicola won't move without his approval," one source said. "She's terrified of making a mistake. The result is nothing gets done."

Bureaucrats say they don't object to the Rudd Government's habit of calling them in the pre-dawn hours for "urgent" briefings. However in the case of the Health Department, they say, they often hear nothing back for weeks, if not months. "Roxon has no idea about how to deal with either her own staff or her department," one source said. Sources were also critical of Ms Roxon's decision not to take departmental officers with her when she met stakeholders and interest groups.

Overworked public servants have deluged Canberra talkback radio, accusing Mr Rudd of making their lives "a nightmare". Faced with her detractors, Ms Roxon said: "I appreciate the professionalism of my department and I acknowledge they have been working hard on our more than 85 election commitments and I thank them for their work."


Sydney to grow by a million people

SYDNEY'S population will grow by nearly 1 million people by 2021 due to the Rudd Government's expansion of the immigration program - putting huge strain on the city's public transport, health, education and housing. A leading demographer, Bob Birrell, said the immigration intake would pump up the city's population to more than 5.1 million, up from about 4.3 million now and 350,000 more than planners had expected. His prediction comes on the eve of tomorrow's state budget, in which the beleaguered Iemma Government is expected to pour $58 billion into infrastructure over the next four years.

Dr Birrell, director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, said the Rudd Government was giving too much weight to Treasury Department advice that raising the intake of skilled migrants would prevent a wages breakout and help cap inflation. "This is adopting a one-track mind to immigration, one that fails to recognise that Sydney historically absorbs about one-third of the people who arrive in Australia," he said. "It also fails to recognise the fact that their arrival imposes such huge stresses on existing resources that without the allocation of further funds to accommodate them, it can end of costing taxpayers and governments plenty."

In its budget last month the Rudd Government promised to increase the migration program by 37,500 places to 190,300 a year. Of the additional places, 31,000 are slated for skilled migrants, to meet the need for workers in a tight labour market driven by the resources boom in Western Australia and Queensland.

Dr Birrell said the population explosion would come despite Sydney losing up to 30,000 people a year to other states. He said that, apart from the increased intake, Sydney's population explosion would be driven by newly arrived migrant groups who tended to have higher fertility rates.

The Iemma Government's announcement at the weekend of $46 million extra for maternity wards to cope with a baby boom illustrates some of the effect on state infrastructure of an unexpected population increase. The Treasurer, Michael Costa, said yesterday that population growth was not just a matter for NSW. "This is a national issue," he said. "As the population grows, so does the demand for more services and infrastructure. "We'll keep working with the Federal Government to ensure that an appropriate portion of the $20 billion Infrastructure Australia budget goes to addressing issues such as urban congestion."

The Federal Government's boost in migrant numbers and its impact on Sydney infrastructure will have little effect on tomorrow's budget, because the effect will take years to be felt. But it will heavily influence the NSW bid to the Loans Council, now that it has been restored as the controller of Commonwealth and state borrowing limits. And it will play a big role in the NSW bid to the Grants Commission for a bigger share of the GST revenue.

The dean of the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of NSW, Peter Murphy, said federal governments generally took little direct interest in cities. If the Government wanted to pump up immigration, it needed to put money into state and local governments, "and that, typically, is where there has been a breakdown", he said. Although Sydney's share of new migrants had diminished due to the cost of accommodation and other factors, he said, "the numbers are still large, and Sydney has the largest share of the Australian economy".


Businessman angers feminists with 'virtual wife' ad

ARE you humble enough to clean the boss's shoes, brush his cat and buy gifts for his family? You could be the "virtual wife" Cameron Clancy seeks. The 37-year-old sales consultant has placed an advertisement with an online job website in the hope of finding a woman with "excellent support abilities". Describing himself as a "busy, single professional", Mr Clancy says he wants help around the house so he can concentrate on building his business. His "virtual wife" would have a long list of chores, including ironing, shopping, making lunch and dinner, and preparing food menus for his cat. He expects all to be done in four to 16 hours a week.

Mr Clancy, of Forest Lake, in southwest Brisbane, said he had been unable to find a real wife. "I'm drowning in work and I need your help," he said in the advertisement. "I'm not looking for strictly a professional housekeeper and neither am I looking for strictly a personal assistant ... kind of a virtual wife. "So, you need to be humble enough to do my washing as well as savvy enough to make appointments with professional people."

His quest has angered feminists and academics, who say Mr Clancy's attitudes are ridiculously old fashioned. Dr Vivienne Muller, a gender expert at Queensland University of Technology, said she would be surprised if any women responded. "This man is way behind the times," she said. "He is hugely undervaluing women and has got the role of a modern wife completely wrong. "Many men do these household tasks for themselves today, and many women take an entrepreneurial role."

Domestic violence worker Chantal Eastwell, who is helping co-ordinate Brisbane's Feminist Conference, was shocked. "What angers me is that some men do think they have the right to control women in this way," she said. "It's terrible to have the attitude that women are subservient, and I hope no one wants to take this job."

But yesterday Mr Clancy, who says his ideal woman is actress Sandra Bullock, defended himself. He told The Sunday Mail 10 women had applied for the job, though he would not reveal the salary. "This could be the perfect job for someone," he said. "These are not actually tasks I expect a real wife to do, but using the term 'virtual wife' was the best way I could describe what I am after."


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Plans to drill for oil off Sydney

Greenie reaction predictable but it seems it is going to happen -- unlike the American situation, where almost all coastal waters are blocked from exploration

PLANS to drill for oil off the NSW coast have been revived because of sky-rocketing world oil prices. In a move that has outraged green groups, an Australian joint venture has announced it will establish a drilling rig 22km offshore between the Central Coast and Newcastle to look for gas and oil deposits. One of the firms, Perth-based MEC Resources, has been conducting air surveys of the area since January following a review of geological formations and says there are early indications of petroleum stores at the intended dig site.

"MEC was reviewing new data from an airborne survey conducted east of Newcastle which detected evidence of petroleum seeps on the sea surface,'' it says in a document lodged with the Australian Stock Exchange on Friday. The only thing delaying the operation is the availability of a suitable sea-drilling rig. A joint contract led by Australian firm Bounty Oil and MEC Resources is expected to be executed this year. "A rig is to be secured, in the near future, to fulfil the work commitments,'' MEC said ahead of a June annual meeting.

The target exploration site is part of the massive Sydney basin which stretches inland and includes coal seams from Newcastle to the Illawarra. The MEC report contains optimistic estimates that undersea reserves could contain one billion barrels of oil and enough gas to meet Sydney's entire needs for the next decade.

MEC has told shareholders the price of oil has prompted renewed interest in the site. "Based on the present oil price exceeding $US80 per barrel (and) perceived future demand ... hydrocarbon exploration in the area is justified,'' it says. The project has applied to the State Government for an extension of a licence to explore the site while awaiting the arrival of a drilling rig to Australia. A spokeswoman for Premier Morris Iemma yesterday confirmed the application had been received.

MEC has told shareholders it expects the application to be approved. News of the potential drilling close to the NSW coast has outraged green groups. Greens MP Lee Rhiannon yesterday slammed the idea. "A world oil shortage is no justification for pushing ahead. We have to adjust to the fact the petroleum products are now in short supply,'' she said. "The chance of having an oil spill would be considerable and the damage that would do to the tourism industry, the marine industry and fisheries just isn't worth it. "It would be highly irresponsible for the amount of oil we might be able to produce.''

The companies are confident they will book a drill by November, but the unit could take a further six months or more to arrive. Initial exploratory digging is expected to take as little as three weeks. "By pursuing the exploration and drilling of (the reserve), the company is targeting an oil and gas project with potential in the hundreds of millions of dollars,'' the report reads.

MEC is attempting to get shareholder approval for a restructuring of its gas and oil assets to improve access to capital for exploration. In a document for shareholders, regarding the Sydney basin, it says there are four other large leads in the area, each with significant potential gas recoveries. "If available estimates were to be realised, (the area) would be on a par with some of the largest gas reserves in the world. "Should an oil play be established, potential oil resources could be in excess of one billion barrels in place. Oil has been recorded from some 55 locations within the onshore basin. "The potential reward from a successful drilling program makes this a very attractive exploration opportunity.''


Public hospital emergency patients in mass walkout

Long waits can be very difficult for seriously ill people

Almost 100,000 patients walked out of NSW emergency departments last year, without being examined by a medical professional. The number of fed-up patients is revealed in a new Federal Government report that exposes the full extent of NSW's public hospitals crisis. It's the highest number of walk-outs on record, dwarfing all other states and territories and representing a 25 per cent rise in just two years. It means more than one in every 20 non-admitted emergency patients went home, rather than wait for treatment. "Patients have no faith in the health system, when they are not even prepared to wait to see a medical professional," shadow health spokesperson Jillian Skinner said.

Frustrated by long waits, 97,956 patients "did not wait to be attended by a health care professional" in 2006-07, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported. Incredibly, 11,085 were "emergency" or "urgent" cases. A further 25,919 people abandoned emergency departments after an initial examination, but before further treatment was complete.

Last week NSW Treasurer Michael Costa warned that Rudd Government changes to private health insurance would only increase pressure on the public health system. Mr Costa said Budget changes to the Medicare levy surcharge would send privately-insured patients flooding into the stretched public system.

Father-of-two Brad Roberts, 38, was sent home from Nepean Hospital emergency department last year after complaining of severe chest pains. His wife took him to a private hospital, where he was told he had suffered a heart attack and had surgery within an hour of admission.


Schools falling apart at seams

One-in-three schools across NSW has a serious maintenance problem, despite repeated State Government pledges to address the backlog of repairs. The State Government will this week unveil plans to spend a record $267 million on public school and TAFE maintenance this financial year. The figure represents an increase of $11 million on last year - or just over four per cent, which is almost the same rate as inflation.

A NSW Teachers Federation survey conducted in May and obtained exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph showed 34 per cent of teachers ranked the situation in their school as "very serious". Another 33 per cent saw maintenance issues as "serious".

The State Government will on Tuesday reveal plans to spend a capital works program of up to $15 billion to improve roads and transport infrastructure. Facing growing criticism over the state of NSW hospitals, trains and roads, the Iemma government is desperate to showcase tangible improvements in time for the 2011 election. However, The Sunday Telegraph has learned the move will not be without casualties, with a senior Labor source claiming the State Government plans to cut recurrent spending over the next few years to fund the ambitious works project.

Treasurer Michael Costa is understood to have told Cabinet last week that the increased spending on capital works will mean ministers will be required to cut spending on services. The Government is also relying heavily on securing the estimated $10 billion it wants from the sale of its power industry to pay for the works. Many infrastructure works will also be delivered through partnerships with the private sector.

In education, three new schools in Elderslie, Middleton Grange and Rouse Hill will be built under the arrangement. Mr Della Bosca said a record $733 million would be spent on building and upgrading schools and TAFE facilities - an increase of $116 million on previous years. Among the 16 schools to benefit from new building works will be Carenne School at Bathurst, Casino Public School, East Hills Boys', East Hills Girls' and Kempsey High School. Granville, Hamilton, Macquarie Fields and Temora TAFE will be upgraded as part of 12 major building improvement projects.

The works will also fund the construction of 20 new school halls and gyms and 52 upgrades to school toilets. Food technology units at eight schools would also be improved.

Mr Della Bosca said the spending commitment would vastly improve the state of public schools and TAFE facilities in NSW. School maintenance has been an ongoing issue for the State Government since the damaging Vinson report released in 2003, which found many schools to be in Third World conditions. A follow-up survey by the teachers' union to 5000 principals found the situation had failed to improve. Teachers were asked to rank the seriousness of maintenance issues on a scale of one to five.

The cost of clearing the maintenance backlog is estimated at around $82.6 million. Of the $267 million to be spent on school maintenance, $13.5 million would go towards 1300 urgent repairs. The repairs on the so-called accelerated maintenance program include painting works, new carpeting, playground and roof upgrades.


More contempt for the Bible from the Church of England

Though I think it is more the Church of the Environment these days

VICTORIA'S first female bishop has vowed to listen, lead and stand as an example of what women can achieve. The consecration of the Rev Barbara Darling, the second female bishop in Australian history, was marked with loud applause from hundreds of supporters at Melbourne's St Paul's Cathedral yesterday.

Bishop Darling said she hoped her new role would provide inspiration for others. "I hope it means that, like having a new woman to be a governor-general or deputy prime minister, there are openings for women in many different areas," Bishop Darling said. "I want to be able to walk alongside people, to hear them, to listen to them, to join in their joys and their sorrows."

Bishop Darling said the long road to recognition for women in the church had been beneficial. "It's been helpful that it's taken a while because those of us in ministry have had the experience." Bishop Kay Goldsworthy - who became Australia's first female bishop St George's Cathedral in Perth in May - attended the service.


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