Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Army fined for cadet's peanut allergy death

This is pretty ridiculous. Its undoubted outcome will be to remove peanuts from all military rations and all foods sold to children. But peanuts and peanut butter are favourite foods for kids. Why should one kid with a problem be allowed to deprive all kids of something? I would have called the death a "death by misadventure". The kid surely knew he had an allergy and should have been more careful. And the parents should have made enquiries about what rations he would be served

THE Australian Defence Force has been fined more than $210,000 over the death of a teenage cadet who had an allergic reaction to peanuts in a ration pack meal. Scotch College student Nathan Francis, 13, died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to peanuts in his meal on March 30, 2007. The Melbourne boy was taking part in a Scotch College army cadet unit exercise in the Wombat State Forest in western Victoria.

Comcare, the Commonwealth occupational health and safety authority, took action in the Federal Court against the Australian Defence Force, lodging a writ last June. Justice Tony North said the case was "every parent's worst nightmare".


Muslim values at work -- in Australia

A man used a butcher's knife to stab his stepdaughter up to 20 times because he believed she was a "slut" who was interfering in his marriage, a court has heard. Khaled Ibrahim Mohamed Ellaimouny, 38, was today jailed for 12 years for the attempted murder of his stepdaughter Amanda Lee Smith, who was 24 when her stepfather stabbed her in the chest, arms, legs and face as she sat on the lounge of the family's Shailer Park home in January 2007.

In the Supreme Court in Brisbane, Crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy said Ellaimouny, an Egyptian national who married Ms Smith's mother after meeting her online, moved in to the Smith family home in January 2006. Mr McCarthy said Ellaimouny, who worked as a chef at a restaurant in the Logan area, got along well with his stepdaughter until late 2006 when he discovered semi-nude photos of her and her boyfriend on a family computer and began referring to her during arguments with Ms Smith's mother as "the slut daughter."

Following marital troubles in late 2006, Ellaimouny moved out of the home. He met with his wife at a local tavern on January 14 and told her to choose between him and her daughter, whom he claimed was interfering in their marriage. He later turned up at the family home where during an argument he spat in Ms Smith's face and slapped her before she and her mother locked him out of the house. However Ellaimouny got in through a side door, grabbed a butcher's knife with a 21cm-long blade from the kitchen and screamed "Now I'm going to kill the bitch" before stabbing and slashing Ms Smith's chest and arms, Mr McCarthy said. "You've ruined my f---ing life; I want you to die," Ellaimouny reportedly said.

Friends of Ms Smith arrived at the house as Ellaimouny was leaving, covered in a blood and carrying the bloodied knife. He allegedly told them: "I stabbed the slut. I wanted to kill her, but unfortunately she's still breathing."

Ms Smith was taken to hospital where she was treated for 20 wounds, including a severed radial artery of her right arm, severed nerves and a 4cm gash into her lung cavity.

Mr McCarthy said Ellaimouny told his wife after the incident: "I stabbed her because she's a f---ing slut, she deserved that. All I wanted to do ... just get rid of her." On the first day of his trial today, Ellaimouny pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder and a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which related to him sending a letter from jail encouraging his wife to convince Ms Smith not to proceed with charges against him.

Justice John Byrne said the attack upon Ms Smith was "frenzied and sustained" and would have been "a terrifying experience for her." "She is fortunate to have survived," he said. He sentenced Ellaimouny to 12 years behind bars and declared him a serious violent offender, which means he must serve 80 per cent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He will be deported to Egypt upon his release.


Up to 10,000 Asian refugees expected to head to Australia

"Asia" apparently includes the Middle East these days. More of those lovely Muslims to hate us while sponging off us

A MASSIVE influx of up to 10,000 asylum seekers is expected to head to Australia, Indonesian authorities have warned.

About 1500 asylum seekers have already arrived in Indonesia from Malaysia by boat this year and registered for refugee status, while the same number again are believed to have arrived and not registered, Fairfax newspapers report.

Malaysia is used as a staging point to obtain tourist visas before refugees seek passage to Australia via Indonesia. The refugees are believed to include people from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and Iraq.

An Australian immigration enforcement official says the high volumes of people present a similar situation to the thousands who began arriving in the late 1990s.

With Australian financial and technical support, the Indonesian government will announce on Wednesday a strike team of 12 dedicated police to combat human trafficking. But the sheer number of asylum seekers from Malaysia will put pressure on the new security measures.

Coordinator of the Malaysian immigration support group Tenaganita, Aegile Fernandez agreed that up to 10,000 asylum seekers in Malaysia were planning to come to Australia. "I would put the blame on these agencies that have been promising Australia as the destination,'' she said.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has 49,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in its records in Malaysia and estimates there are 45,000 unregistered illegal immigrants.


Queensland teachers can fail literacy, numeracy test

Talk about the blind leading the blind! It's bad enough that some kids go right through primary school without learning to read and write but having teachers that bad is really the end of the road. It shows how desperate the government is to find people willing to stand up in front of an undisciplined mob day after day

Graduate teachers will be allowed to repeatedly fail a new test of their literacy and numeracy skills and still be let loose in Queensland classrooms. The State Government will not cap the number of times the test can be taken and will register graduates as teachers as long as they eventually pass. The landmark new test, recommended by education expert Geoff Masters, is being introduced to improve the low standards of Queensland students.

Premier Anna Bligh said it was fair to allow graduates to sit the test repeatedly because they may be sick [Sheet! No matter how sick I am I can still spell!] or have other excuses for their poor showing. "I don't anticipate there would be any limit on the number of times someone can sit, as long as they can ultimately meet the standard," Ms Bligh said. "I think we understand that there are sometimes reasons why people don't do well in tests. They might know the information but might not be well that day. "You would still want to give them the opportunity to demonstrate that, but it wouldn't be the same test."

The Government is yet to figure out what would constitute a pass mark for the tests [It will undoubtedly be low], which will judge proficiency in literacy, numeracy and science. However, a trial will be conducted next year before the official introduction of testing for primary school teaching graduates at the end of 2011 at the earliest. Tests for high-school teaching graduates will be introduced at a later date.

Current teachers will avoid the tests but those transferring from interstate will have to sit the exam before they can practise in Queensland. The Queensland College of Teachers will be responsible for developing and administering the tests.

In his report, Professor Masters found there had been an "absolute decline" in literacy and numeracy between 2004 and 2007. Meanwhile, teachers are ramping up their campaign for higher pay, with a vote today likely to call for further industrial action. The Government has offered teachers a 12.5 per cent pay increase over three years. However, the union has insisted the amount was unacceptable. [The government should fire the lot of them and bring in local retired people to teach. They would know a lot more than the current crop of teachers]



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is unimpressed by the Bruno/Rudd appearances on the Rove TV show. He thinks Rudd is not "fair dinkum"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Qld scientists claim swine flu vaccine breakthrough

Scientists at the University of Queensland have developed a vaccine for swine flu. The breakthrough against the influenza A(H1N1) virus will be announced at the university's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology tomorrow.

Five Australians with swine flu have died while more than 3000 have been diagnosed. "It's one of the first swine flu vaccines made but, unfortunately, it can't be used in Australia yet," a university spokesman said. "It's not registered for use in Australia yet."

Meanwhile, scientists from CSL say its Melbourne laboratory has created an effective sample of a vaccine against the influenza, but human trials are needed to determine the right dosage and may not be available until next winter. Fairfax Media says the federal government has ruled out releasing the vaccine early to vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses.

Rachel David from CSL said results of the trial - involving 240 healthy adults from South Australia - would determine when the 10 million doses ordered by the government would be distributed. Dr David said the earliest the vaccine would be ready for use is mid- to late-August, but if the virus continued to produce mild symptoms the government might delay distribution until next year. The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the government and public health experts, not CSL, would control when the vaccine is available.

All five people who have died in Australia with swine flu - two Western Australians and three Victorians - had underlying health conditions.


Oh dear! Such a funny man. Wise of Rudd to be apprehensive

KEVIN Rudd may have been spared from sharing the Rove Live spotlight with Austrian fashionista Bruno last night, but he nonetheless claimed to be nervous just knowing the flamboyant icon was in the building. "Basically, I'm in a state of induced panic," the Prime Minister told Rove McManus during his appearance on the comedian's show last night, The Australian reports. Pointing to the audience, he added: "Each one of you would be, too."

Asked what had happened to the political adviser who booked him on the Ten Network prime-time show on the same night as Bruno, the alter-ego of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Mr Rudd was candid. "Well, they're in therapy," the Prime Minister joked.

Mr Rudd said he had only found out who else would be on the show after he had already agreed to appear. "I said, 'Are we on together? Like, you know, in the studio at the same time?"' he said.

Mr Rudd, who first appeared on the Ten talk show in the lead-up to the 2007 election, certainly had reason to be concerned - Bruno was not only a hard act to follow, but had also expressed a personal interest in meeting the Prime Minister. "That guy - I saw him backstage - so hot," Bruno told McManus. "You guys have got the hottest Prime Minister."

Bruno then proceeded to fantasise - aloud - about "Ruddy". "It's our 15th anniversary together," he wondered aloud. "Me and Ruddy have adopted two children together. He's massaging my feet in the bath. It could never happen. Could it?"

While waiting in the green room, Mr Rudd would have learnt much about the style thoughts of Bruno, whose eponymous film opens in Australia on July 9. Hitler's personal style, for example, was well-dressed, but "apparently, behind closed doors, he was like a real tyrant - worse than Elton".

He then went into great depths discussing McManus's nether regions. "I haven't seen that much hair since the 80s," Bruno said.

SOURCE. More antics here.

No jail time for killing a woman??

This is preposterous. It is plea-bargaining gone mad. But even after the plea bargain, a jail term could have been imposed

A SECOND man charged over the cruise ship death of Dianne Brimble has pleaded guilty in a Sydney court to involvement in the incident. Letterio "Leo" Silvestri, from South Australia, pleaded guilty in the Downing Centre District Court today to concealing a serious indictable offence.

Ms Brimble, a 42-year-old Brisbane mother of three, died 100 nautical miles out to sea on board the P&O liner Pacific Sky in September 2002. She had ingested a toxic mix of alcohol and the date-rape drug known as fantasy. Her body was found in a cabin belonging to Silvestri, Ryan Kuchel and one other man, who were also charged after a 16-month inquest into Ms Brimble's death.

Last week, Kuchel also pleaded guilty to hindering a police investigation. Kuchel was sentenced to an 18-month good behaviour bond. Kuchel and Silvestri had both been due to face trial in the NSW District Court today charged with perverting the course of justice. Lawyers for Silvestri said the trial could have lasted up to four weeks.

Judge Greg Hoskins has adjourned the matter until 2pm (AEST) while he sees if a pre-sentence report investigating sentencing options can be obtained for Silvestri.


Food fanatic father

I suppose this is one endpoint of the "obesity" war. He sounds like a bit of a nut but you can't entirely blame him for believing all the tripe about "obesity" that is constantly poured out in the media these days

A COURT has banned a Victorian father from weighing his son. The Family Court orders also prevent the dad discussing the nine-year-old's weight with, or within earshot of, the boy, the Herald Sun reports. The man could face sanctions including fines or jail if he breaches the order and a series of others set by the judge.

Justice Nahum Mushin imposed the restrictions at the end of a bitter 16-day custody hearing where the child's health was a major flashpoint. The court heard the dad is fixated on the fact his disabled son's weight exceeds 40kg, and he blames his ex-wife for the blowout. The father - who can't be identified for legal reasons - accused the mother of allowing the boy to watch too much television, eat fatty foods and exercise little.

He was concerned the child's weight was having an impact on the effectiveness of various medications. The boy suffers from a range of medical problems. The mother accused the man of denigrating the boy about his weight, and of using his size as a reason to criticise her.

Doctors and teachers trying to care for the boy were alienated by the man's aggressive behaviour, the court heard. The man's conduct to the child's main doctor was "harassing, aggressive and confrontational", the court found in a judgment published last month. The dad - who wanted his son to change schools - also wrote "derogatory, dictatorial and sarcastic notes" in a diary to a teacher, the court heard.

The judge ruled the children should live with the mother and granted her sole responsibility for decisions about the boy's health and education.

Justice Mushin described the case as "extremely protracted and bitter". "There is enormous antipathy between the parties. Throughout this trial I searched for, and could not find, any point of convergence between them with regard to their parenting," he ruled.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Indian community outraged over lenient jail terms for thugs

The thugs should have been convicted of attempted murder and spent years in jail for it. Sadly the token sentences they actually received are all too typical. No wonder violent crime continues to flourish. This will be a big blow to Australia's standing in India and may just about kill off our overseas student industry. Indian students coming to Australia to complete their education has so far been a considerable source of revenue for Australia

Notice that, contrary to usual practice, no names of the offenders are given. I can't imagine why. I'm guessing that there was at least one "Mohammed" among them and the the surnames would have been mainly Sudanese

The Indian community has reacted with outrage after a magistrate ruled that the young thugs who beat an Indian man almost to death will walk free after serving only six months. On Wednesday, Magistrate Kay Macpherson said five teenagers acted "like a pack of animals" when they bashed Indian student Sukhraj Singh in December and left him in a coma for three weeks. But she sentenced four of them to only 12 months' youth detention - meaning they will be eligible for parole within weeks after serving more than six months on remand. Another youth involved in the attack escaped custody, instead being sentenced to a 12-month youth attendance.

One of the youths - who at 14 already had an earlier conviction for armed robbery - had been involved in 12 violent incidents since he had been on remand, Ms Macpherson noted in sentencing him.

Mr Singh was initially speechless when told of the sentences. "I don't understand this at all," he said.

But a source revealed that all four of the youths had been involved in violence while on remand at the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre. The source said the youths had been kept apart at the centre. "We would have had no hope of controlling them if they had been together," he said.

Mr Singh was bashed by the gang in December in a grocery store in Sunshine. The five youths, then aged between 14 and 17, were originally charged with attempted murder over the attack, which fractured Mr Singh's skull on three sides. But the attempted murder charges were dropped when the five agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of intentionally causing serious injury. The five also pleaded guilty to armed robbery over the attack. Another man and a youth have pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and will be tried later.

Indian community leaders reacted with outrage to the leniency shown by the court. "What sort of a sentence is this?" said Vasan Srinivasan, president of the Federation of Indian Associations, Victoria.


Amazing: Government of Victoria imports the trash of the world's social workers

There is a unending stream of stories coming out of Britain detailing the sheer evil of British social workers -- and we want that garbage in Australia? Their attitudes stem from the Marxist hate they learn in their social work schools: The middle classes are the enemy and the "worker" can do no wrong. Too bad if the occasional child get brutalized and killed. Victoria shouldn't be touching such animals with a bargepole. I regularly post horror stories about British social workers on POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH. Thank goodness the recruitment drive was largely unsuccessful

THE Brumby Government has spent more than $500,000 of taxpayer money in five months to recruit health workers from the United Kingdom and Ireland and fly them to Victoria. The Department of Human Services alone spent $457,051 to lure 50 child protection workers from England, Ireland and Scotland in a recruitment campaign launched last October. But by last March only 19 European child protection staff had started work in Victoria, with a recruitment cost of more than $24,000 per person on top of an average annual salary of $49,800. And at least three have since returned home, citing "personal" or "medical" reasons.

The DHS spent $224,000 on advertising, $134,000 to relocate workers to Australia and more than $1300 on a welcome party, documents obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun through Freedom of Information reveal. Community Services Minister Lisa Neville flew business class to the UK for a "welcome event" celebrating the success of the scheme - racking up a $52,000 bill in the process. Ms Neville defended the spending, saying the Government had taken action to recruit desperately needed staff and expand services. "We make no excuses for trying to find the best people to help stand up for vulnerable Victorians," she said.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said the move was a "stop-gap solution" to a major problem. "Here we are at a time when the Government is trying to promote our workforce and they're bringing in these workers from overseas," she said. "They're spending all this money to bring in offshore workers when they have known about the problems for years and failed to act."

A Government spokeswoman, Peta James, said that as of last week there were 31 child protection workers recruited from overseas in Victoria - seven in regional areas and 24 in Melbourne. She said four more were likely to arrive by the end of July. The workers, recruited from London, Dublin, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast, have been offered two-year contracts in the hope they will stay in Victoria and then train Australian graduates.

The Government paid their immigration and citizenship fees, airfares and short-term accommodation costs to convince them to move to Victoria. Information and interview sessions held in the UK to recruit them cost $91,189. Two DHS staff sent to oversee the process lodged expense claims for almost $15,000.


Rudd reform 'won't reduce child abuse'

VULNERABLE children in the care of dysfunctional or abusive families will be no better off under the Rudd government's revamped child protection program because the reforms make it harder to remove minors from their parents. The planned expansion of child abuse prevention programs could inadvertently lead to more children dying while in the custody of unfit family carers, according to a report by Centre for Independent Studies research fellow Jeremy Sammut.

"Fatally Flawed: the Child Protection Crisis in Australia", argues that seven-year-old Ebony, who was starved to death in 2007 by her parents, could have been saved if not for the failed child protection ideologies that kept her with her dysfunctional parents. "They (the government's proposed reforms) are actually a plan to leave more children with dysfunctional parents for longer, at great risk of long-term harm, on the highly questionable basis that family support services will keep them safe," [What a laugh!] Dr Sammut writes.

Under the umbrella of the recently released National Child Protection Framework the Rudd government has endorsed a multi-million-dollar expansion of programs to help struggling families. But Dr Sammut says there is no evidence this approach works. "A radical family preservation-focused approach to child protection has become orthodox practice inside child protection agencies," he writes. "According to this approach, the best way to protect vulnerable children is to defend parental rights, keep families intact, and try to prevent abuse and neglect by providing support services which attempt to address the parents' complex problems. [What if the problem is simply that a particular parent is a nasty bastard? But Leftists seem to think that all criminals are simply "misunderstood". Too bad about the people they hurt] "This has led child protection agencies, which in most states are sub-departments of much larger departments of community services, to become increasingly confused about their core responsibility to intervene in the best interests of children."

Dr Sammut said child protection academics routinely argue that mandatory reporting, introduced in the 1990s and making it compulsory for professionals and the public to report any suspicions of child abuse, has been responsible for overwhelming agencies and should be wound back. In NSW, only 13 per cent of complaints are followed up with a home visit. But far from being a failure, Dr Sammut argues it has been a spectacular success.

"Mandatory reporting has mass-screened disadvantaged families, capturing an increased level of dysfunction in Australia's expanding underclass of welfare-dependent families which have serious problems including domestic violence, parental drug abuse and mental illness," he says. "The most at-risk children have been identified and re-identified, mostly by mandatory reporters."

In NSW, a quarter of all the hundreds of thousands of child abuse reports are triggered by only 2100 families. Half of the reports are accounted for by only 7500 families. "A relatively small hard core of dysfunctional parents retain custody of their children, and are re-reported 10 and 20 times, because child protection agencies fail to take the appropriate statutory action in thousands of high-risk and potentially catastrophic cases. This was the case for Ebony," Dr Sammut says.

Despite a widespread belief that a lack of funding is crippling agencies such as DOCS, Dr Sammut says money "is not the problem". According to his report, government spending on child welfare is at record levels, having quadrupled in a decade. At the same time, child abuse continues to soar, with substantiations of abuse having doubled since 2000.

Dr Sammut argues the only way forward is for state governments to establish child protection agencies separate from departments of community services. "To do this job properly you need a whole range of skills, good assessment abilities, deep knowledge of child development, as well as the skills of a policeman. Instead, we unleash first-year graduates on the community."


Later retirement age in Australia creates anger

FORCING older workers to wait until they are 67 to qualify for the age pension has little public support, a new poll has revealed. Under the plan announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan in last month's Federal Budget, the pension qualifying age will be gradually stepped up from 65 in 2017, to reach 67 by 2023. The move, which has the political backing of the Opposition, follows concern about Australia's capacity to pay age pensions into the future, given its ageing population.

But a Galaxy poll, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, has found less than a third of Queensland voters – only 28 per cent – agree with the decision. Of the 800 voters surveyed, 69 per cent opposed the increased pension age, while 3 per cent were uncommitted.

Seizing on the poll result, the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association yesterday demanded the Government abandon the move. Policy co-ordinator Charmaine Crowe said it would force more elderly Australians into poverty. "It's going to disproportionately disadvantage those on low incomes," she said. "Cleaners, people in the hospitality industry, construction workers, landscapers, truck drivers . . . These people may not have the physical capacity to continue working full time."

Ms Crowe said unless they qualified for a disability pension, those older Australians would be forced to rely on the "grossly inadequate" Newstart allowance - a maximum of just $226.30 for a single person. She said those who lost a job or couldn't find an employer willing to take on a 65 or 66-year-old would also be forced on to Newstart.

Echoing that concern, 61-year-old Brisbane factory hand Alphonsa James said the politicians who decided to lift the pension age were pen-pushers, who did not understand the toll it would take on ageing workers in physically demanding jobs. "I don't think I would be able to make it until 67," he said. "It's putting more strain on your body and you're going to kick the bucket very, very quick." Mr James, whose parents both died in their 60s, said he was hoping to reach his retirement age in reasonable health so he would have a few years to enjoy his grandchildren.

But defending the higher pension age, Mr Swan has highlighted the longer life expectancy of today's retirees – with an average Australian man likely to live for more than 19 years after retirement by 2017, up from 11 years of retirement a century ago.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics report last year also found older workers were slightly healthier compared with their non-working counterparts. The report found mature age workers – aged 45 to 74 – had lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia is also supporting the move, predicting a saving of about $800 million a year in pension payments alone. CEDA chief executive David Byers said two more years in the workforce could deliver a huge boost to retirees' personal retirement savings, increasing their quality of life in the later years.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Most "asylum seekers" since Tampa heading towards Australia

Wishy-washy Rudd has revived the flow that Howard stopped

THE biggest boatload of asylum seekers since the Tampa crisis is heading towards Australia. The vessel, believed to be carrying up to 190 people, is being tracked by border protection authorities. It recently passed between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra and is believed to be southeast of Bali. Authorities are waiting to see if it heads east towards Darwin or southwest towards Ashmore Reef.

The boat is one of several being monitored by Border Protection Command, which tracks suspect vessels as soon as they leave port. If the numbers aboard are as high as authorities believe, the vessel could mark a turning point in the tactics of people smugglers.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor's office declined to comment, saying it did not discuss operational matters. Most boats in recent times have carried about 20 unauthorised arrivals. But there are bigger profits to be made by smugglers who are willing to load more people aboard old fishing boats and ferries.

The Norwegian freighter MV Tampa rescued 433 asylum seekers from a leaky boat in 2001, prompting the Howard government's so-called "Pacific Solution". The policy was dismantled by the Rudd Government, which axed mandatory detention and closed processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island. It has also stopped billing immigration detainees for the cost of their stay.

The number of unauthorised boats heading to Australia has been steadily climbing, with 15 arriving already this year. The latest came this week, carrying 49 asylum seekers and four crew. The asylum seeker surge will test refugee processing facilities on Christmas Island, which are reportedly close to capacity.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said the Government was failing to deter boat arrivals. "It's on for young and old again," she said. "The people smugglers clearly have a well established pipeline to Australia and they are using the Rudd Government's soft policies to recruit more clients."


Unions getting aggressive again

They know that Rudd hasn't got the ticker to really take them on

UNIONS have flagged plans to beat Julia Gillard's ban on pattern bargaining by lodging multi-employer pay claims and taking co-ordinated industrial action after the new workplace regime starts operating next week.

Employers warned the union strategy was de facto pattern bargaining, increasing their "trepidation" about the new laws, which they said represented "big increases in union power".

At the recent ACTU Congress, union leaders were briefed by a senior official about how they could get around the ban on pattern bargaining.

ACTU senior industrial officer Cath Bowtell said unions were "disappointed we were unable to see the pattern bargaining provisions in the act, (but) we shouldn't overstate what they do".

"There is nothing that prevents unions lodging common claims and even taking co-ordinated industrial action, provided you are genuinely bargaining with each employer," she said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry said employers should be concerned by Ms Bowtell's comments. "That sounds a bit like pattern bargaining by another name," the chamber's workplace policy director, David Gregory, said.

Business expected unions to start pushing for single agreements to cover a range of different employers, he said.

"There is this ability for a single agreement covering a whole range of employers to be established. You would have to think that probably some unions are looking strategically at those sorts of outcomes in terms of the way they co-ordinate claims."

The recent union criticism of the Fair Work Act was a "smokescreen" to camouflage gains by unions, he said.

"These are, by any measure, significant changes in terms of what they introduce, right through from no more statutory individual agreements to all of the things around bargaining and agreement making.

"With the right of entry provisions, unions now won't necessarily need to be bound by an award or an agreement at a workplace to seek to exercise those rights."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said some employers were better prepared than others for the new laws, but "there is a general sense of trepidation about what the changes will mean in practice".

"While some of the hard-won amendments wound back some of the sharper ends of it, there is no doubt employers are going to face a very different industrial landscape with big increases in union power," she said.

The legislation had been "a massive drafting exercise and the law has not yet been tested and settled", Ms Ridout said.

"As problems arise, AI Group will be raising them with the government and seeking amendments to the legislation and regulations where necessary. Parliament needs to remain open to necessary changes."

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said he could not judge how fundamental the new laws would be in swinging the pendulum back to unions. "This is a restoring of the balance, and Labor industrial relations legislation has always been about regulating the conduct of employers and setting out certain rights that workers have," he said.



As in America, the Senate is the crucial battleground

As the US Congress considers the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Australian Senate is on the verge of rejecting its own version of cap-and-trade. The story of this legislation's collapse offers advance notice for what might happen to similar legislation in the US-and to the whole global warming hysteria.

Since the Australian government first introduced its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) legislation-the Australian version of cap-and-trade energy rationing-there has been a sharp shift in public opinion and political momentum against the global warming crusade. This is a story that offers hope to defenders of industrial civilization - and a warning to American environmentalists that the climate change they should be afraid of just might be a shift in the intellectual climate.

An April 29 article in The Australian described the general trend-and its leading cause.
There is rising recognition that introduction of a carbon tax under the guise of "cap and trade" will be personally costly, economically disruptive to society and tend to shift classes of jobs offshore. Moreover, despite rising carbon dioxide concentrations, global warming seems to have taken a holiday....

With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer's latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and is into its third print run in as many weeks. [It's now up to the fifth printing.]

The public is receptive to an exposé of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.

One of the most remarkable changes occurred on April 13, when leading global warming hysteric Paul Sheehan - who writes for the main Sydney newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, which has done as much to hype the threat of global warming as any Australian newspaper - reviewed Plimer's book and admitted he was taken aback. He describes Plimer, correctly, as "one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists," and praised the book as "brilliantly argued" and "the product of 40 years' research and breadth of scholarship."

What does Plimer's book say? Here is Sheehan's summary:
Much of what we have read about climate change, [Plimer] argues, is rubbish, especially the computer modeling on which much current scientific opinion is based, which he describes as "primitive."...

The Earth's climate is driven by the receipt and redistribution of solar energy. Despite this crucial relationship, the sun tends to be brushed aside as the most important driver of climate. Calculations on supercomputers are primitive compared with the complex dynamism of the Earth's climate and ignore the crucial relationship between climate and solar energy.

To reduce modern climate change to one variable, CO2, or a small proportion of one variable-human-induced CO2-is not science. To try to predict the future based on just one variable (CO2) in extraordinarily complex natural systems is folly.

In response, this is Sheehan's conclusion: "Heaven and Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence." This cannot be interpreted as anything but a capitulation. It cedes to the global warming rejectionists the high ground of being "evidence-based," and it accepts the characterization of the global warming promoters as dogmatic conformists.

The political impact has been manifested in a series of climb-downs as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government has been forced to delay its plans for cap-and-trade controls. On May 4, the government announced it would postpone the onset of the scheme until mid-2011, a year later than originally planned.

On June 4, this delayed emission trading scheme passed the House of Representatives despite a vote against it by the opposition. But it now faces almost certain defeat in the Australian Senate. Whereas the Labor government controls 32 votes in the Senate, the opposition Liberal-National coalition controls 37 and is committed to vote against it if the Rudd government will not grant more time to consider the outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference in December and US Senate deliberations. This itself is a compromise position, because many of the coalition parliamentarians now want to vote unconditionally against an ETS in any form.

There are 7 other votes in the Senate: five Greens who say the scheme doesn't go far enough but who could be induced to go along; one independent, Nick Xenophon, who has pledged to vote against the bill unless the government waits till after Copenhagen; and one other, Senator Steve Fielding of the Family First Party, who has decided to investigate the whole thing first hand. Fielding could turn out to be the single deciding vote.

His story is particularly interesting. Andrew Bolt, who has been leading the charge against the global warming hysteria for years, notes that Fielding's investigation "could blow apart the great global warming scare."

Fielding went to the US to assess the American evidence for global warming at close quarters. As Melbourne's Age reported on June 4:
Senator Fielding said he was impressed by some of the data presented at the [US Heartland Institute's] climate change skeptics' conference: namely that, although carbon emissions had increased in the last 10 years, global temperature had not.

He said scientists at the conference had advanced other explanations, such as the relationship between solar activity and solar energy hitting the Earth to explain climate change.

Fielding has issued a challenge to the Obama White House to rebut the data. It will be a novel experience for them, as Fielding is an engineer and has an Australian's disregard for self-important government officials. Here is how The Age described his challenge:
Senator Fielding emailed graphs that claim the globe had not warmed for a decade to Joseph Aldy, US President Barack Obama's special assistant on energy and the environment, after a meeting on Thursday…. Senator Fielding said he found that Dr. Aldy and other Obama administration officials were not interested in discussing the legitimacy of climate science.

Telling an Australian you're not interested in the legitimacy of your position is a red rag to a bull. So here is what Fielding concluded:
Until recently I, like most Australians, simply accepted without question the notion that global warming was a result of increased carbon emissions. However, after speaking to a cross-section of noted scientists, including Ian Plimer, a professor at the University of Adelaide and author of Heaven and Earth, I quickly began to understand that the science on this issue was by no means conclusive….

As a federal senator, I would be derelict in my duty to the Australian people if I did not even consider whether or not the scientific assumptions underpinning this debate were in fact correct.

What Fielding's questioning represents is just the tip of the kangaroo's tail. He speaks for a growing number of Australians who will no longer take green propaganda on trust.

And that's what makes Plimer so influential—not just his credibility as a scientist, but the righteous certainty with which he dismisses man-made global warming as an unscientific dogma. He writes: "The Emissions Trading Scheme legislation poises Australia to make the biggest economic decision in its history"—Australia generates 80% of its electricity from coal, which would essentially be outlawed—"yet there has been no scientific due diligence. There has never been a climate change debate in Australia. Only dogma."

Plimer is not a "skeptic," a term which would imply that he merely has a few doubts about the global warming claims. Instead, he rejects the whole myth outright, and this seems to have emboldened and liberated a great many Australians who were already chafing under global warming conformity. As Plimer puts it:
[T]here are a large number of punters [Australian for "customers" or "gamblers"—in this case, skeptical customers who may or may not buy what the government's selling] who object to being treated dismissively as stupid, who do not like being told what to think, who value independence, who resile from personal attacks and have life experiences very different from the urban environmental atheists attempting to impose a new fundamentalist religion. Green politics have taken the place of failed socialism and Western Christianity and impose fear, guilt, penance, and indulgences onto a society with little scientific literacy.

Australia is not that different from America. If a shift in public opinion against the global warming dogma can happen on one side of the earth, it can happen on the other—especially when the US edition of Plimer's book, scheduled for July 1, hits the stands.

His role, Plimer says, is to show "that the emperor has no clothes." After three decades of relentless global warming propaganda, it's about time.


Using taxpayers' money to save obese people from themselves is futile nanny statism

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

The Rudd government’s National Preventive Health Taskforce will next week call for obese people to be given tax breaks or cash subsidies to offset the cost of gym memberships and fitness equipment.

Public health lobbyists have hailed this step as a new dawn in the fight against obesity. But really, it highlights the mixed success of the last 40 years of public health promotion campaigns – on which Australian governments currently spend about $2 billion per year.

Despite what the misleading Body Mass Index statistics allegedly tell us about the nation’s expanding waistline, the healthy lifestyle message has seeped into the culture. First it was jogging and cutting red meat and dairy out your diet. Now it’s cutting out sugars altogether and going to the gym three times a week.

Many Australians order salad instead of chips. Snack on low-fat yoghurt instead of ice-creams. And pass when the cheese platter comes around. They even pay for gym memberships out of their own pockets so they can work out before or after work or during their lunch hours.

And for their trouble, the government is about to force them to subsidise the unhealthier habits of people who haven’t the will and self-discipline to follow their good example. And to pay for what? Ab-crunchers that will sit dusty and dormant in the garages of the slothful and indolent?

The high priests of the nanny state are at it again. As usual, bad behaviour is being rewarded and good behaviour is punished. And the importance of individual responsibility is being ignored entirely.

The above is a recent press release from the Centre for Independent Studies

Friday, June 26, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on Kevin Rudd's grief about Jacko dying

Economic forecasts show Australia leads the world

Thanks to the strong economy bequeathed by John Howard. There was never any problem with the banks in Australia. They have returned good profits every year without interruption. Rudd's "rescue" of them was just a stunt

AUSTRALIA'S economy is a tower of strength after two respected international reports confirmed it continued to lead the developed world. As national politics was again dominated by the Utegate saga, the International Monetary Fund added its weight to mounting evidence that Australia was powering ahead of its rivals during the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It yesterday upgraded its outlook for our economy, tipping it to retreat by only 0.5 per cent this year before growing by 1.5 per cent next year. It earlier forecast a contraction of 1.4 per cent.

"We currently, among the major advanced economies, have the fastest growth. We have also the second-lowest unemployment," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Parliament. "We have the lowest debt. We also have the lowest deficit."

Mr Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan welcomed the signs of a recovery despite again having to fend off Opposition attacks over allegations Mr Rudd's office asked a senior Treasury official to help John Grant, a mate of Mr Rudd's, gain access to car industry finance. The ploy backfired on the Coalition when the email at the centre of the scandal was found to be a fake. But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is continuing to pursue Mr Swan over claims he gave special treatment to Mr Grant, a car dealer and neighbour of Mr Rudd who loaned the Prime Minister a $5000 Mazda Bravo ute. Mr Swan denies the allegations.

Parliament now goes into a six-week winter break and most MPs are today in their electorates to be greeted with concerns on the economy.

Yesterday's positive IMF forecast followed an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report that commended the Government's stimulus measures. "In particular the IMF has strongly commended the Government's three-stage stimulus strategy, starting with direct payments, moving to shovel-ready infrastructure, followed by major nation-building projects to support jobs and strengthen the economy for the future," Mr Swan said.

The OECD also gave a tick of approval to the Australian economy and the Rudd Government's measures to stimulate activity, including its infrastructure packages. It forecasts the domestic economy will contract by 0.4 per cent this year, the mildest contraction of any of the 30 OECD countries, before growing by 1.2 per cent next year.

Importantly, the OECD believes unemployment will be not be as severe as the forecast in the Budget. Treasury has predicted unemployment will peak at 8.5 per cent mid-2010, but the OECD believes the highwater mark will be 7.9 per cent. Treasury Secretary Ken Henry was not ready yesterday to concede economic forecasts in last month's federal Budget had been too pessimistic. "Of course, the March quarter was stronger than we had expected," Dr Henry said. "It means we are now thinking that gross domestic product growth in the present year, 2008-09, will be somewhat stronger, but it will still be weak relative to trend. It may be that there is some upside to our forecasts, but really it is too early to tell."


Labor governments claim to be the battler's friend. So how come they are giving millions to car dealers, of all people?

OzCar passed by Parliament. The whole think definitely smells. Would you buy a used car from this government?

THE Federal Government's controversial OzCar scheme has been passed by Parliament. Labor will now be able to set up the $850m taxpayer-funded finance scheme, designed to assist Australian car dealers struggling in the wake of the global financial crisis.

OzCar has been in the spotlight since it was revealed the public servant responsible for it, Godwin Grech, may have given false evidence at a Senate inquiry last week.

Following Mr Grech's testimony, the Australian Federal Police uncovered a fake email at his home which purported to show Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office seeking OzCar support for a Queensland car dealer who had supplied Mr Rudd with a ute.


Shame of violent schools revealed

Report from South Australia (Population 1,600,000)

An average of 22 violent attacks, sexual incidents or drug abuse cases are reported each week in our schools, the Education Department has revealed. For the first time, it has released complete details of "critical incidents" serious enough to be reported in writing by schools to head office, ranging from knife attacks to sexual assaults.

In response to a Freedom of Information probe by Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire, the department released details of all incidents in the 2008 school year and 2009 so far, including 406 violent attacks, 97 sexual incidents, 180 threats, 20 abductions or stalking, 35 drug possessions and 24 cases of self-harm. Among the more serious cases at the state's primary and secondary schools were:

CHILD pornography spread on students' mobile phones.

A STUDENT shot in the eye, requiring surgery.

A RECEPTION student stabbing another student with a pencil.

THREE adults found having sex and using drugs in school toilets.

A GIRL held against her will, blindfolded and photographed.

THE stabbing of a student, which was filmed.

A STUDENT breaking into a teacher's house and sexually assaulting her.

A GIRL'S hair being set alight.

A TEACHER at school under the influence of drugs.

Australian Education Union state president Correna Haythorpe said teachers and students were increasingly being put in dangerous situations. "There is absolutely no doubt that these incidents are on the increase," she said. "What we need is a systematic approach which includes more student counsellors and more resources for our schools. "Otherwise it places teachers, staff and students at risk."

SA Secondary Principals Association president Jim Davies said the real concern was "strangers" coming into school grounds. "Those sorts of incidents certainly cause a lot of concern because whilst there will inevitably always be situations where students have a go at another group of students in your school, you have more control," he said. "When there is a third party involved that is not part of your school community, it is very difficult to have those proactive influences over those people coming in."

Child protection expert Freda Briggs said while the statistics were shocking, they were only the tip of the iceberg. "We know that not everyone reports this kind of behaviour, so we won't really know the true extent of what is happening," she said. "The real problem is much deeper. "The dangerous thing is that if this is continually happening in schools and if victims are fearful, they can't relax at school, so you will get reluctance to attend and learn." Including less-dangerous events which posed a threat to student safety but no injury, there were 1271 "critical incidents" reported to the department over the 15-month period, or around four every school day.

Students were by far the worst offenders, with 641 incidents blamed on their behaviour, 215 blamed on parents, 52 on other adults, 25 on former students and 20 on staff members. Knives were the weapon of choice in most armed assaults (38), followed by scissors (8), sticks (5), pens and pencils (6), rocks (5), desks and chairs (2), and garden spades (2). Many of the weapons were improvised from common school items such as a ruler, shot-put, fire extinguisher and wheelie bin.

Mr Brokenshire said it was disturbing that many of the crimes were filmed and the images distributed for pleasure. "This data shows why we need a police-in-schools program to build rapport with students and encourage law-abiding behaviour," he said. Mr Brokenshire said authorities should study school districts which had restricted the incidence of violence and implement these strategies in other areas.

Education Department chief executive Chris Robinson said the reporting of critical incidents was an effective way to ensure that schools got the support they needed. "While many of these reported incidents can be quite minor, we strongly encourage schools to report all incidents so they receive adequate support," he said. "Incident reports filled out by schools stem from reasons such as abusive parents, schoolyard incidents, accidents, after-hours break-ins and intruders. "Many of our schools have close working relationships with their local police and don't hesitate to call when help is required."


Self-serving know-alls fuelled fatal Victorian bushfires

The bureaucratic ineptitude being revealed at the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is at once extraordinary and infuriating. The lessons have implications for every aspect of government in Australia and demand a radical rethink about the dominance of politicised bureaucracies within our lives. The emerging picture eerily imitates Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Government fire services furtively developed their doctrinaire rules, then enforced them with mindless zeal. Fire and emergency supremos were provided with limitless authority to bend citizens and communities to their rigid controls without effective scrutiny or supervision. What emerges is a layer of self-styled bureaucratic intelligentsia devising policies that became sacrosanct in themselves regardless of their original purpose. Ideological processes left no room for common sense, pragmatism or compassion, and opportunities to help vulnerable people were wasted. Policies bore testimony to the assumption that the population was so imbecilic as to need greater protection from itself than from raging wildfire.

Sound familiar? This mindset is magnified by its ubiquity in modern Australian government and alarm bells should be ringing. Failures equally significant but less conspicuous are probably simmering away beneath the whole gamut of populist government decision-making. The danger is fanned by the speed and dimension of decisions that are made under of a veil of urgency associated with recession, security and other confected emergencies.

Day after day, emergency service tsars present themselves to the royal commission as though they are the stars atop the tree of knowledge. The Country Fire Authority seems genuinely bamboozled that a handful of head office executives did not prove to be wiser than its thousands of volunteers who have intimate knowledge of local roads, properties and personalities. Directions, strategies and resources were issued and controlled by executives far removed from the horrific reality that their edicts and regulations created. Volunteers and citizens were left to fend for themselves after bureaucratic strategies descended into chaos.

Rigid and enforced controls were relaxed only when they were mocked into submission by a recalcitrant inferno. The winding trail of blunders growing from stubbornly centralised remote control defies the imagination. Emergency call centres were overwhelmed while extensive volunteer networks lay idle. NSW firefighters were called up with media fanfare and weren't provided with so much as a map. One homeowner was relieved to see a NSW bushfire tanker arrive at his front gate, only to learn it was lost.

ABC radio had been anointed the official emergency broadcaster with little regard for the millions who listen to commercial radio. Descriptions of the official information feed provided to the broadcaster conjure visions of a garbage chute funnelling ad hoc faxes, phone calls, emails and web bulletins. Producers and announcers consumed valuable time piecing together the scraps of intelligence.

To his credit the CFA chief officer continues to roll up to the royal commission to take his medicine. It will be interesting to see if his past and present ministers will also be required to testify and give an account of their stewardship. Neither justice nor recovery will be served if the bureaucrats are hung out to dry by themselves.

The vast body of evidence suggests a great deal of loss and destruction could have been avoided if local knowledge, experience and commitment had been respected and used. Instead, the politicians and their bureaucrats shared a motivation to exert close and uncompromised control. An aggressive resistance to contestable advice allowed policy-makers to deny the existence of culpable knowledge. The mandarins eventually succumbed to their own intoxicating publicity and stared down the risk of their knowledge deficit. Dysfunctionality bred like a virus in a hotbed of intellectual conceit.

The implications are sobering for every aspect of government policy. School principals especially must be crying tears of blood as they witness the obscene waste of money occurring under the ridiculously rigid policies of the so-called Building the Education Revolution.

Of course the critical role of bureaucracy must be respected and communities are happy to oblige. However, such respect does not establish government entities as the sole repository of wisdom. People don't expect governments to be omniscient but they are entitled to hold them to a lie as much as a truth. Including communities in practical policy formulation must go far deeper than the cosmetic consultation most Australian governments practise.

It must also go deeper than community cabinet meetings and a prime ministerial revival of an imagined Australian lexicon. It also goes beyond the federal government's notion of "umpire politics" where decisions are designed to mute the lobbyists rather than genuinely serve the nation.

Real change requires courage and creativity that is shared and accepted with a parity of worth. The view that these qualities are vested exclusively in parliamentary and bureaucratic empires is a dangerous and culpable vanity that Australia simply cannot afford.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

One in four prisoners is black

It's the alcohol that does it. They generally can't handle alcohol -- often getting violent under its influence

ONE in four prisoners in Australia is indigenous and their over-representation in the jail system is only getting worse, a new report states. Aborigines are 13 times more likely to be locked up than other Australians, while the proportion of indigenous women being incarcerated has tripled in the past 20-odd years. Half of the 10- to 17-year-olds in corrective institutions are indigenous.

"The fact is, every year it gets worse,'' Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) executive director Gino Vumbaca said. "The investment in prison cells is clearly flawed. It's not working. "If you build more prison cells, invariably you'll fill them with more indigenous people.''

In the decade to 2007, the number of indigenous Australians in prison rose by 6.7 per cent a year, on average. Aboriginal people went from comprising 18 per cent of the prison population to 24 per cent. The situation is worst in the Northern Territory, where 83 per cent of the prison population is indigenous. In Western Australia, it's 41 per cent. Victoria has the lowest proportion of Aboriginal prisoners - 6 per cent of that state's inmates are black.

The statistics are collated in the ANCD's National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) report Bridges and Barriers - Addressing Indigenous Incarceration and Health. Mr Vumbaca says the report proves tinkering around the edges of the problem hasn't worked and it makes economic sense to invest more in rehabilitation. "What we need is greater investment in things like residential treatment services so judges, magistrates and the police have options other than incarceration.''

The report estimates it costs governments $269 per day to lock up a prisoner. That's compared to just $98 per day for someone in residential rehabilitation.

NIDAC chair Ted Wilkes says treatment provides people with a chance of recovery - which leads to less re-offending. "Indigenous Australians increasingly fill our country's prisons and juvenile detention centres at alarmingly disproportionate rates,'' he said. "Treatment is simply far more effective in terms of outcomes and costs than imprisoning people.''

The report recommends making diversion programs more accessible for indigenous Australians, while simultaneously establishing a network of indigenous-only residential rehabilitation centres as alternatives to jail. It also suggests every young Aboriginal person be given an individual education fund "to assist and promote their participation and retention within the education system''.


Breastfeeding tyranny comes to Australia

The informal oppression of women unable or unwilling to breastfeed is in high gear in NYC and it seems that it has now come to Australia

A Queensland Health campaign hoping to convince new mothers to breastfeed is under fire for using "guilt-inducing" language. The $100,000-a-year campaign is called "12+months on the breast: Normal, natural, healthy".

Women's Forum Australia spokeswoman Katrina George said any campaign to support breastfeeding as a choice was a good move, but she questioned the use of the term "normal". "The use of the word 'normal' in the campaign slogan is ill-considered, as it may imply women who do not breastfeed for 12 months or more may have failed – failed their babies and failed as a mother," Ms George said. "That is an unfortunate message to send to women."

Beyond Blue deputy chief executive Nicole Highet said that, as an advertising campaign, the slogan could risk a negative impact on some people. "This advertisement is great for women who are breastfeeding as it will make them feel better about doing it," Ms Highet said. "But for those who can't breastfeed or are struggling, it can be yet another disappointment and point of view that could make them feel guilty and make them feel like they have failed. "I don't think they have looked at the target audiences who will read this. As a result I don't think they have considered the potential risk this campaign might lead to for those women."

Population Health Queensland acting executive director Sophie Dwyer said the booklet, written by Queensland Health and the Australian Breastfeeding Association, would be given to every mother attending publicly funded antenatal services across the state, backed up by posters and a website. "The content . . . (was) market-tested with Queensland mothers (including pregnant women, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers)," Ms Dwyer said.

The booklet describes how breast milk boosts the health of infants, promotes mother-child bonding and is cheaper than formula feeding, and tells how common problems can be overcome.

Bub Hub co-founder Brad Lauder, whose website has more than 400,000 visitors every month, said the site's feeding forum was one of the most emotive discussion boards. "People feel so strongly about it one way or the other," Mr Lauder said.

Bottle formula was fine for happy baby Nataley. YERONGA mum Ewa Bramwell had trouble breastfeeding soon after the induced birth of her daughter Nataley, now 20 months. Bramwell and her husband Brett decided she would express breastmilk via a pump and bottle feed their baby. They moved on to formula four months later.

"I was taught about breastfeeding in antenatal classes and I was all for it. And then when I tried to breastfeed, it didn't work," she said. "Nataley was really hungry and nothing was working, so my mother-in-law suggested I try to express. I did that, and in between we tried a little bit of formula, because she just needed to eat. "It was stressful to us as parents because that's the way it is supposed to be – a mother to breastfeed a child. It's supposed to be perfect. "Luckily, my milk kicked in after expressing, and Nataley was bottle fed straight away, but only as a delivery method."

Ewa expressed for a few months, but her supply waned and the length of time it took to pump enough breastmilk became cumbersome. "I had to have a life, I couldn't spend all day on a pump. So I stopped and took up formula. She's fine and perfectly happy. "I believe I will breastfeed my next baby. But if I can't I will give it formula. I think that's perfectly fine. I don't think when kids grow up you can say 'That person was breastfed and that person was on formula'."



Four articles below

Global warming isn't real, says Senator Fielding

Family First senator Steve Fielding has made up his mind on climate change - the world is not warming now, and humans aren't changing the climate. The government and the country's top scientists have tried to convince Senator Fielding, who holds a crucial vote in the upper house, that global warming is real. But he's released a document setting out his position.

"Global temperature isn't rising," it says. On emissions trading, Senator Fielding said he wouldn't risk job losses on "unconvincing green science". The document says it is a "fact" that the evidence does not support the notion that greenhouse gas emissions are causing dangerous global warming.

Senator Fielding later sought to clarify his position, saying he believed in global warming, but he did not think the world was warming now and did not think humans were causing global warming. "Over the last 15 years, global temperatures haven't been going up and, therefore, there hasn't been in the last 15 years a period of global warming," Senator Fielding told AAP. "I think that global warming is real, and climate change is real, but on average global temperatures have stayed steady while carbon emissions have increased over the last 15 years. "Man-made carbon emissions don't appear to be causing it."

Because of the numbers in the upper house, Senator Fielding's verdict means the government will have to rely on the opposition to get its emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation passed. The Senate was initially supposed to vote on the ETS this week, but that now appears unlikely as the legislation has been shunted towards the bottom of the agenda....


Senate conservatives delay vote on Warmist laws

KEVIN Rudd attacked the Coalition yesterday for deferring a vote on the emissions trading scheme until August, saying it was more evidence of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's "lack of leadership". "They have such strength of leadership that they have now resolved to vote not to vote ... They cannot unite themselves even to bring on a vote for the simple reason that they fear that they will split right down the middle," the Prime Minister said during question time.

The Coalition wants to delay a final vote on the laws until after the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, but Mr Turnbull told the Business Council of Australia last week he wanted to avoid a double-dissolution election on the issue.

Yesterday's delay was achieved through a deal between the Coalition and Independent senator Nick Xenophon, in which the Coalition promised to bring the laws to a vote for the first time when the Senate resumes after the winter break in August. That commitment means the government could bring them on for a second vote in November, just before the Copenhagen conference, with the necessary three-month interregnum for that vote to be the one that decides whether they become a possible trigger for a double-dissolution election.

Business lobbyists welcomed the delay because it gives them time to finalise negotiations with the government over crucial regulations and proposed compensation. But the Climate Institute think tank said the delay "further hinders low carbon investments and hurts Australia's global credibility".

"Stretching out the squabbles in the Senate on clean energy and low carbon industrial legislation like the renewable energy target and now the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme helps nobody," Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said. The delay came as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a study into the effects of the scheme on small and medium businesses including food processing, plastics and chemicals, and machinery and equipment manufacturing.

The study found the scheme would generate extra costs that would reduce the firms' profitability by between 4 and 7 per cent. A large part of that impact came from the expected inclusion of transport fuels in the scheme from 2014.

Mr Turnbull and his climate change spokesman Greg Hunt have indicated the opposition is "predisposed" to support the government's proposed 20 per cent renewable energy target after it has been considered by a Senate committee, but several Coalition MPs at yesterday's party meeting said they were not inclined to support the laws.


Major changes in views on the environment

We live in a world in which we are constantly bombarded with the results of surveys about attitudes to political, social and economic issues of the day. Even the Australian Statistician undertakes surveys that produce subjective data that has potential implications for government policies.

The state of the environment is a prime survey target as it is now of considerable interest to a high proportion of the community. It is not surprising, then, that last week the Statistician undertook a survey covering environmental views and behaviour. This is the Bureau's first such survey and I examined it with considerable interest.

That led me to write to the Statistician querying the approach adopted and pointing out the importance of taking the utmost care in surveying present attitudes on the environment. What I had particularly in mind was not only the legislation on an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to be debated in the Senate but also the international meeting (in December) in Copenhagen on the mooted global scheme to reduce CO2 emissions.

The attitudes (supposedly) adopted by the Australian public on such issues could have a significant influence on relevant policies adopted by our government and opposition parties. A survey of such attitudes by the normally respected Statistician would assume even greater significance than one by firms involved in the survey business.

The basis of my querying the Statistician is that, while the questions seem largely to fall into the category of having obvious answers, they could be quoted as providing general support for government policies to reduce emissions. The basic survey question was "Are you concerned or not concerned about climate change, water shortage and accumulation of waste". It was the only question asked relevant to those issues.

Faced with such a question, it would be difficult to imagine a majority "Not concerned" answer. That in fact was the case, with "concern" being expressed by nine out of ten about water shortages, around three-quarters about climate change and nearly seventy per cent about the accumulation of waste.

My letter to the Statistician suggested it would have been more meaningful to adopt the approach of some surveys overseas and attempt to identify a wider range of aspects on which people assess environmental issues For example, in surveying views on global warming, the Gallup poll in the US asks "thinking about what is said in the news, in your view is the seriousness of global warming - [generally exaggerated, generally correct or is it under-estimated]?" Note also that the Gallup survey is about global warming not the meaningless concept of "climate change" used by the Statistician.

The US Gallup poll is of particular interest given the reported "passionate" belief of President Obama that the world faces a serious threat of dangerously high temperatures from increasing emissions and the current consideration by Congress of ETS legislation also. Importantly, the Gallup poll for March recorded a big jump in Americans judging the seriousness of global warming to be exaggerated, up to 41 per cent from 31 in 2005 and 35 last year. Evidently the President's passion has had little effect so far.

This Gallup polling also produces a rating of seriousness of various environmental issues and, of eight environmental issues (including water supply and water and air pollution), global warming not only ranked last but had fallen by 6 percentage points in extent of concern since last year. Although a general diminution of concern about environmental issues was to be expected given the economic downturn, the continued relatively low ranking for global warming led Gallup to suggest "something unique may be happening with the issue".

Also of considerable interest is the latest survey by the Pew Research Center. This shows that "Protecting the environment" has dropped from tenth to sixteenth on the priority issues for American voters and global warming was last on the top twenty priority list.

These surveys have obvious implications in terms of the all-important US policy position on global warming- and should also do so for the policy positions of Australia's political parties too. Unfortunately, our major political parties seem way behind the ball game in gauging both community attitudes and the fundamental flaws in the science used in reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


GREENWASH: Shopping centre reserves parking for hybrid vehicles

Shopping mall operator Westfield has installed hybrid-only car-parking spaces at some of their shopping centres.

Here’s a pic I took this morning of the spaces at Westfield Hornsby in Sydney. They are sited directly opposite the main entry. They are empty. They usually are.

What I find fascinating about this is that Hornsby is a battlers’ area so there are very few Toyota Prius cars or other hybrids. Some have noted that the hybrid Lexus RX400h SUV produces 192g/km of CO2 but the non-hybrid Volkswagen Golf 118TSI produces 144g/km of CO2, suggesting that the hybrid designation is arbitrary and does little to assist the environment.

Basically all Westfield have done is removed two of the best parking spaces in the complex and allocated them to those wealthy but environmentally conscious souls who had the money to buy one of these expensive motor vehicles. [VEXNEWS: We are reminded of the former Soviet Union with its special express lanes on highways for ministerial vehicles in the form of Zim limousines. All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.]

This does not benefit their customers, the only benefit is to Westfield. This pointless action gives them a warm, fuzzy inner-glow and something to boast about in corporate communications and with pesky left-wing environment reporters keen to denigrate Westfield’s big shrines to retail as concrete eyesores.

SOURCE (See the original for pix)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is trying to figure out the "utegate" affair

The "Blitz"

Pictured above are a couple of "Blitz" trucks in mint condition. There were a number of variations of them. You see above, for instance, that they came in both 6-wheel and 4-wheel versions. They were made in Canada by both Ford and Chevrolet during WWII as part of the huge Canadian contribution to the war effort. Male Canadians and Britons in those days were men, not the whining mice that most seem to have become under Leftist influence in the postwar era.

My interest in the "Blitz" stems from the fact that my father used to use one in his work as a timber feller ("lumberjack" in North American parlance). Once you have felled a huge forest tree, you have got to get it out of the bush somehow -- either to a rail siding or a road where you can load it onto a truck.

Unlike his father, my father did not use a bullock-team to "snig" (drag) the log along a bush track to its destination. He used a Blitz. A Blitz was originally designed to negotiate the often difficult terrain leading up to battlefields and it therefore had both 4WD and a double-reduction gearbox. It was slow but tough and versatile and could go almost anywhere -- which made it ideal for forest work after the war. And it was immensely popular after the war. They were all over the place in country areas. They were often used as tow-trucks. The picture below is an indication of how many there were before they all eventually wore out.

What I would like to know is how they originated. They were apparently designed in Britain but look like no other British vehicle. My suspicion is that the design was a copy of an Opel Blitz of the period. Opel is/was the German tentacle of GM. So I suspect that the British just copied a successful German design. I have however not been able to find a picture of the Opel Blitz of that period.

The name "Blitz" certainly suggests a German origin. "Blitz" is the German word for lightning. On the other hand, maybe the name is simply ironical: Whatever else the Blitz was, it was certainly not fast.

There must be a million collectors of military vehicles worldwide and a Blitz in good condition would certainly be most prized in such circles so I hope at least one collector reads this and is able to give me the history behind the "Blitz".

Australia to cut skilled immigration, but let in lots of unskilled immigrants

This is typical Leftist destructiveness. Decoding note: The "Pacific guest worker program" mentioned below consists of bringing in totally unskilled Polynesians, a group known for a high crime-rate, obesity and not much else. "Shutting down the Pacific solution" means giving residence permits to illegal immigrants, mostly Middle Eastern Muslims with all their horrible attitudes. Leftist speech is routinely designed to cover up folly so needs a lot of decoding

Skilled immigration will fall due to the global economic crisis, the Federal Government says. ''I expect the numbers of our program to drop next year ... as a reaction to the economic circumstances,'' Immigration Minister Chris Evans told reporters. Senator Evans said the size of the cut would be a matter for cabinet.

The government was very aware that labour demand would differ across regions and economic sectors. ''It's not a one size fits all.''

In Britain the government is hardening immigration laws as unemployment rises amid the financial meltdown. Non-European Union workers migrating to Britain will, from April, have to hold a masters degree and will have to show they earned a salary of at least $44,000 before moving to the UK.

Despite the pressures on immigration, Senator Evans said the Pacific guest worker program would not be reviewed ''at this stage''. However, he did say the government was reconsidering what occupations should be listed on the commonwealth's critical skills list.

The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union has already called for construction jobs to be cut from the list. ''The critical skills list is under review and that's one of the things we will look at as the circumstances change,'' Senator Evans said. ''We will probably have a formal look at that in the next couple of weeks.''

South Australia's Master Builders Association has warned against such a cut, saying the soon to come infrastructure spending by government meant plenty of workers would be needed in the sector.

Senator Evans' comments came after meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. The meeting culminated in the government offering an extra $4.4 million in funding to the body. Mr Guterres admitted the snowballing economic crisis would not help refugees but praised Australia for taking a bigger role in the issue since Labor's election win, especially for shutting down the Pacific solution. ''We believe things are moving in the right direction,'' Mr Guterres said.


Australian Army red tape too much even for Germans

Pretty bad when a suppier would rather lose a sale than cope with all the self-important bureaucratic nonsense

THE army's $450 million plan to acquire new 155mm self-propelled guns faces a one-year delay because of the complexity of the Defence Materiel Organisation's tender process. The revelation comes as one of the two contenders to supply the artillery declined to participate in the final tender negotiation with the DMO.

German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, whose PzH 2000 gun was favoured to win the contest to supply up to 18 guns to the army, has declined to participate in the offer definition and refinement process with the organisation. KMW is competing against Raytheon Australia, which is teamed with Korean manufacturer Samsung Techwin, which is offering the AS-9 gun.

Senior government sources told The Australian yesterday that neither tender had fully met the DMO's tough contractual requirements. Only the Raytheon consortium has chosen to continue negotiations with the DMO. According to informed sources KMW has cited problems with intellectual property as well as a requirement for more equitable risk-sharing with the commonwealth in its decision not to participate in the offer definition and refinement process.

Raytheon is now pushing hard for an early decision but the KMW tender offer will remain on the table and valid until next April.

Last month DMO chief Stephen Gumley told a Senate estimates committee there were a number of "technical issues" that had to be resolved before a decision could be made on a preferred tenderer. The German firm, which is partnered with BAE Systems Australia, has offered brand new surplus Dutch army guns as part of its tender in the Land 17 project.

The PzH 2000 gun is in service with the Dutch military in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan and has impressed the Australian army with its all-round capability.


Yummy donkeys

No doubt the animal-lovers will freak out over this but they wont be able to throw about their favourite word --"endangered" -- this time

WHAT a hide - donkey steaks, processed in Queensland, will soon be sold in China and the skins will be used to boost Chinese womens' libido. The emerging export industry will process meat from feral donkeys sourced from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. Already there are talks with a Charleville abattoir, one of several Queensland operators set up for kangaroos but capable of processing donkeys.

This was confirmed yesterday by Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin, who said China had signed a trade protocol that accepted donkey steaks and skins. "This is a great diversification opportunity for the macropod industry," Mr Mulherin said. "This emerging donkey trade could mean dozens of new jobs for harvesters and processors and more than $20 million into our economy. "All going well, donkey meat will soon be hitting the woks in Beijing and the skins will be used in traditional Chinese medicine in a product designed to increase the female libido."

Donkey meat is considered a delicacy in parts of China where taste buds cover a wide range - anything from slivers of camel hump to pigeon tongues are served up. China has its own supply of donkeys but cannot meet all the demand, with importers regularly advertising overseas for the animal. And Australia has an estimated population of more than five million wild donkeys which would be killed and then transported to Queensland for processing.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Australia's incompetent tax bureaucrats again

An Egyptian TV tycoon has won an epic legal battle with them. This is even dumber than operation Wickenby. At least the bureaucrats won a round or two in Wickenby even if it cost them far more than they recovered. It took them 16 years of farting around in this matter and in the end their case was so weak that the judge threw it out before any defence evidence was called. So the taxpayers of Australia are millions down the drain again --for nothing. The bureaucrats were obviously sure that the "wog" was crooked and he may well be but you have got to prove it. It's oppression by litigation -- a well-known American artform particularly associated with the now fallen Eliot Spitzer. It is a disgrace. I am delighted that the "wog" in this case refused to give in

BUSINESSMAN Mike Boulos is well known for creating Australia's first ethnic pay-TV business. Less well known is the authorities' 16-year pursuit of him over an alleged $1.1 million sales tax fraud. Boulos has always denied wrongdoing - and after several legal battles, a judge has agreed, directing a jury to return a verdict of not guilty to 10 counts of defrauding the Commonwealth, The Australian reports. District Court judge Robyn Tupman told a jury last month, there was "no evidence capable of proving the guilt of the accused and in particular of proving his guilty knowledge in relation to these charges".

It has been an extremely expensive exercise, costing millions of dollars. The result of the trial came only after the jury had heard the evidence in the crown case, which was entirely circumstantial. The investigation by the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Federal Police involved scores of officers and spanned Australia, Europe, South Africa and Singapore. Along the way documents have been (legitimately) destroyed and key witnesses have left the country.

Boulos, who could not be contacted, is no stranger to controversy; his Television & Radio Broadcast Services (TARBS), which broadcast ethnic pay-TV channels, collapsed in 2004. He later set up United Broadcasting International with his wife.

He has been involved in various business-related legal actions in the past. The fraud charges against the Egyptian-born Magdi Boulos, as he is known in court proceedings, date back to January and February 1993 and relate to sales tax refund cheques issued by the Australian Taxation Office. At the time Boulos was involved with a number of companies. One of them, Brendons Advanced Technology (BAT), was a private investment company and Boulos and his wife were sole directors. Computer World Solutions (CWS) was another Boulos-related company, which sold computers. The allegedly fraudulent sales tax refunds involved transactions between CWS, BAT and another Boulos-related company, Trio International.

The tax office believed the transactions never occurred and it began an investigation, which dropped off from 1994 to 2000, only to be renewed when Boulos was raided by the AFP in 2000. By this time Boulos thought he was no longer being investigated. This six-year pause in the case was later described in one the several court judgments relating to Boulos as "an unjustifiable delay by prosecuting authorities".

The AFP wanted to interview Boulos in 2001 but he declined and later left the country. A warrant for his arrest was issued that year - but supporting documentation was found to be faulty - and another warrant was issued in 2002. Boulos voluntarily returned to Australia in December 2004, when he was arrested at Sydney airport and charged with 10 counts of defrauding the Commonwealth to the tune of $1.1m.

A number of legal challenges followed. Boulos was unsuccessful last year in having the charges thrown out of court, and in April this year a jury in the NSW District Court began hearing the case. Evidence emerged that appeared to implicate another employee at the firm, who was involved in the paperwork relating to the computer sales transactions that led to the refund cheques being issued.

At the conclusion of the crown case, before the jury heard from the defence, Boulos's barrister, Ian McClintock SC, rose to his feet and said that there was no evidence Boulos would have known the transactions were bogus. The computer companies were turning over about $50m, dealing with "substantial numbers of computers involving substantial sums of money". Further, he argued, the other employee had direct control over all the companies involved in the computer transactions.

Boulos has spent more than $2m in legal fees but, unless he applies to the Federal Court for an ex-gratia compensation payment from the Government, is unlikely to recover his money. After the trial, Boulos again went overseas, this time with little fear he would be arrested on his return. He is due to touch down in Australia today.


Old lady penalized for having a small amount of savings

If she had blown all her money on drugs, she would have got a tick of approval!

Astrid Bieler is 72 and has four screws in her spine, but in less than three weeks Housing NSW will evict her from the flat where she has lived for the past 10 years. When she was among the first to move into the Tweed Heads development for over 55s, Ms Bieler hoped to remain in her new home for the rest of her days. The flat was purpose built for aging singles like her, she had friends in the area where she had lived for 12 years and she could manage the $130-weekly rent.

In July the landlord, Alby Ross, who had built and run her complex, advised his tenants that he was putting the Banora Point property on the market... It was quickly bought by Housing NSW, which then screened the tenants to work out who could stay and who must go. Ms Bieler desperately wanted to stay but was told that even though she was on a full pension she was too young [at 72??], not sick enough and, with life savings of $20,000 and 5000 Telstra shares [worth $16,000 at current market value], too wealthy.

The department gave her six months to find somewhere else, and when she failed to move, gave her a final month. It has now advised her she will have to leave to make way for someone more deserving unless her last-minute appeal to a Housing Appeals Committee is successful. A spokeswoman for the Housing Minister, David Borger, confirmed Ms Bielder would have to move out but denied she was eligible for public housing, a claim Ms Bielder says is simply wrong. "I was approved for public housing and put on the waiting list in Tweed Heads in August," she said.

Mr Borger's spokeswoman said the department regretted evicting aging tenants but Ms Bielder's savings meant she had to make way for others less fortunate. "Unfortunately, the reality is that there are many people who are doing it tough who need help from Housing NSW - people with no assets at all, no family and who also suffer serious health problems." The department has been trying to help her find accommodation, suggesting options such as caravan parks and places for sale. [What could she buy with $20,000??]

"I just want to stay where I live, where I have my friends," she said. "I can't understand why a government department is doing this to someone my age."


NSW government still bullsh*tting about horror school

A recent successful bullying claim has put the spotlight back on Farrer high school.

IN THE days when boys were allowed to be animals at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School, the end of each school year was marked by "the rumble". Year 12s stood at one end of the oval and the rest of the school at the other, with mattresses padding the intervening ground. At the squeal of a whistle they would launch themselves at one another - 13, 14 and 15-year-old boys against 18-year-old men - in a mass wrestle. Anybody caught punching would be whacked by the principal with a stick. It was an exercise in catharsis for the boys, who had suffered a year of brutal discipline at the hands of the year 12s, but was stopped in the early 1990s after a series of broken bones.

The NSW Department of Education says the Tamworth school now adheres to rigorous anti-bullying policies, promotes friendship between boarders and day boys through the "Farrer Friends" program and has a student welfare system that is regarded as best practice.

But the bullying claim brought by a Farrer old boy that resulted in a payout of nearly $500,000 in the Supreme Court on Friday has whipped up a squall in the community of students, alumni, teachers and parents known as the "Farrer Family". Some have accused David Gregory of whinging and money grabbing, but others have said his experience was neither isolated nor historical, and continues at the school.

"It's a totally traditional thing, in that what went on 20 years ago still goes on, and it's absolutely historical," said one mother, who withdrew her son last year after he threatened self-harm. "In year 7 you've got no rights; in year 12 you've got all the rights."

The conditions for bullying were fertile at Farrer during the 1990s when Mr Gregory was a student, because the school's philosophy was to give year 12s responsibility for the discipline of their juniors, creating what one former student described as a Lord Of The Flies effect.

Old boys have told of punishments such as having their heads held between speakers on loud volume, being forced to fill a pond on the prefects' lawn one cup at a time from a tap 50 metres away and being stripped naked and thrown into an icy pool in midwinter.

Karen Strachan, whose son Jeremy was a contemporary of Mr Gregory, said he was still damaged from his six years at Farrer, which included six boys tying him up one night and simulating sexual acts upon him to humiliate him. "Jeremy asked me not to take it any further, so I didn't. He had a horrific time when he was there. He went in the army and the army is pretty tough but he said his time at Farrer was worse than the army."

Parents say practices to which Mr Gregory was subjected, such as "gnome duty", which requires students to stand outside the year 12 dormitory holding a broom and a rubbish bin lid, still occur at the school. Moreover, they say, a rivalry has developed between the boarders and the day boys, and the school is reluctant to respond to complaints.

Lianne Penfold withdrew her son from the school in 2007 after he complained of bullying, much of which involved fights between the boarders and day boys, and often resulted in his arriving home with cuts and torn clothing. "We thought the selective school and all-boy environment with good role models would be good for him … but he was very unhappy," she told the Northern Daily Leader. "He never had friends over, and he would come home from school and go to his room and stay there."

The other mother, who pulled her son from the school last year, said her day-boy son was a target at Farrer because he was more brains than brawn. "The kids who were bright weren't treated the same as those on the footy team," she said. "Farrer footy team is the golden egg over there, and they were treated differently to everyone else." In this environment a boy such as Mr Gregory, who enjoyed politics and literature, might always have been regarded as an eccentric. But former students say the school has little tolerance for those who are different.

Simon Smart, who attended the school in the 1980s, said he enjoyed it because he fitted in, but he could see in retrospect that it would have been a difficult place for outsiders. "It was a very aggressively heterosexual environment," Mr Smart said. "It had the potential to be a great school, but its great failing was the inability to protect the vulnerable kids."

The NSW Department of Education said it did not accept that there was rivalry between boarders and day boys and conducted regular anonymous surveys to spot concerns including bullying. S"Any incidence is dealt with strongly and thoroughly, through the school's welfare and discipline procedures and by providing necessary counselling and support," a spokesman said.


Reason clouded by CO2 obsession

By Peter Schwerdtfeger, emeritus professor of meteorology at Flinders University in Adelaide

ALTHOUGH there are many doubters of man-made climate change, I am not yet one of them. But I remain unconvinced that carbon dioxide is the sole bete noire. Two decades ago, I pored over the spectral properties of the infra-red radiation of this gas, which is essential to plant life, and found that it was almost completely overshadowed by the radiative properties of water vapour, which is vital to all forms of life on earth.

Repeatedly in science we are reminded that happenings in nature can rarely be ascribed to a single phenomenon. For example, sea levels on our coasts are dependent on winds and astronomical forces as well as atmospheric pressure and, on a different time scale, the temperature profile of the ocean. Now, with complete abandon, a vociferous body of claimants is insisting that CO2 alone is the root of climatic evil.

I fear that many supporters of this view have become carried away by the euphoria of mass or dominant group psyche. Scientists are no more immune from being swayed by the pressure of collective enthusiasm than any other member of the human race. I do not believe for one moment that undisciplined burning of fossil fuels is harmless, but the most awful consequence of the burning of carboniferous fuels is not the release of CO2 but the large-scale injection ofminute particulate pollutants into the atmosphere.

Detailed studies led by internationally acclaimed cloud physicist Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have revealed that the minute water vapour droplets that form around some carbon particles are so small as to be almost incapable of being subsequently coalesced into larger precipitable drops. In short, the particulates prevent rainfall.

Rosenfeld's research group has shown that humans are changing the climate in a much more direct way than through the release of CO2. Rather, pollution is seriously inhibiting rain over mountains in semi-arid regions, a phenomenon with dire consequences for water resources in the Middle East and many other parts of the world, including China and Australia.

Rosenfeld is no snake-oil salesman. As an American Meteorological Society medallist, he has an internationally endorsed research record in cloud physics that no living Australian can claim to emulate. It is more than 20 years since Australia was a knowledgeable force in cloud physics and cloud seeding. CSIRO's relevant division has long been disbanded and its cloud-seeding techniques based on the use of expensive silver iodide have been superseded by the Israelis using an inexpensive and far more natural product: sea salt.

Chinese and Israeli researchers have shown that the average precipitation on Mt Hua near Xi'an in central China has decreased by 20per cent amid increasing levels of man-made air pollution during the past 50 years. The precipitation loss was doubled on days that had the poorest visibility because of pollution particles in the air. This explains the widely observed trends of decrease in mountain precipitation relative to the rainfall in nearby densely populated lowlands, which until now had not been directly ascribed to air pollution.

Some of the most chilling evidence was presented by Rosenfeld's Australian-based research associate Aron Gingis in a 2002 submission to the House of Representatives standing committee on agriculture, fisheries and forestry concerning future water supplies for Australia's rural industries and communities.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's satellite map of southeast Australia, enhanced by Rosenfeld, shows the frightening persistence and longevity of pollutant trails across vast areas, including the all-important Snowy Mountains catchments. It may well be concluded that the increasing emissions from the phalanx of brown coal-burning power stations at Hazelwood and other locations in Gippsland, Victoria, have substantially wrecked the natural precipitation processes over the once hydrologically rich Australian Alps.

If Rosenfeld's scientific interpretations are correct, then southern Australia would greatly benefit from the application of his discoveries. At the very least, Rosenfeld's conclusions should be accorded appropriate evaluation and testing by an unprejudiced panel of peers.

Yet his work so far has been ignored in Australia because it does not fit in with the dominant paradigm that holds CO2 responsible for reduced rainfall in semi-arid regions.

Scientists, like all other people, need to remain open to competing views and avoid the danger of being locked into tunnel vision through group obsession, which is what global warming seems to have become.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Homosexuals shoot themselves in the foot

They've just got the equality they agitated for but don't like it -- so now they want special privileges

July 1 should be a day of celebration for the nation's same sex couples, when their relationships will become formally recognised under many federal laws. But many gay and lesbian Australians are finding that equality comes at a price - literally. From next Wednesday, when the law starts to recognise de facto gay couples, Centrelink [Federal welfare office] will also begin taking into account gay partner's incomes when considering eligibility for benefits. So for a university student who lives with a full-time worker, they may lose their Youth Allowance cheques.

But more concerning, for the gay community, is the effect the new laws will have on elderly couples, who could be forced to go from receiving two single pensions to one couple's pension. [which is considerably lower]

Stephen Page, a partner with Harrington Family Lawyers, who runs an Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Blog, said the law change contained a clear "sting in the tail" for those now too old to return to work. "The Government's view is that when they first flagged these changes in 2007, it would allow people time to make a financial adjustment. "But the reality is people have planned their long-term futures on this and the government has changed the rules."

Ray Mackereth, publisher of Q News, a Brisbane-based gay and lesbian newspaper, said suddenly foisting equality on people who'd been discriminated against their entire lives didn't seem fair. [Good Lord! Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too!] He said for many years elderly gay people had missed out on family tax benefits, medicare benefits, partner benefits or family assistance. "Despite having paid higher taxes all their lives and not being recognised as a same sex couple, now they're going to receive less money in their retirement when their planning was done many years ago," Mr Mackereth said.

"Gay and lesbian people don't want any more than equality; they don't want special rights; they just want to be treated the same as everybody else. "But when somebody's been treated poorly for their entire life and then suddenly the laws are going to treat them poorly again, that makes it awfully tough on those people, especially older people.

Mr Page called on the government to install a grandfather clause, so that people affected kept their current benefits until their situation changed. He said he realised it could be politically difficult to continue paying a gay couple more than a heterosexual couple when they were now recognised as the same by the law. "I can understand the argument but when (a heterosexual couple) decided to retire they would have done research and assessed their finances and they knew what the rules were," Mr Page said. "Gay and lesbian couples did the same thing but now the government has changed the rules. "It's sad that this is happening."

Mr Mackereth said he hoped the issue wouldn't cloud what should otherwise be a great day for the gay and lesbian community. "Equality is a huge thing to celebrate and for most people this is truly a wonderful time," he said. "However there are a few people that will be extremely adversely affected financially, despite their best planning, and we can't let those people fall through the cracks."


An amusing but accurate recollection of Australia's sad gastronomic past

"When I was a kid, lamb was something you had two or three times a week. Lamb chops were overcooked and dished out with terrible mashed potato and frozen peas."


Nowadays I see toddlers around the place eating sushi!

RAKING IN THE CASH: Fury over "Green" Senator Bob Brown’s fundraising scam

Last week Senator Brown, in a soap opera type performance, publicly appealed for donations supposedly to stave off imminent bankruptcy and consequent expulsion from the Senate—a claim backed up dramatically by no less an authority than the Clerk of the Senate, although it is there in black and white in the Constitution, section 44, (iii). Even the hapless lawyer of The Castle could have told Senator Brown that.

Senator Brown’s alleged financial plight was due to having to pay $239,000 in legal costs incurred because of his own personal ill-considered legal challenge to selective logging in the Wielangta forest. This $239,000 comes on top of Senator Brown’s personal costs. According to the Age, Senator Brown said “he had $10,000 cash to his name, and little chance of selling remaining property by the due date. He has already raised more than $600,000 in costs for the case that was lost in the High Court. “I don’t have the money,” he said.


You probably missed it, but Senator Brown slipped into his YouTube broadcast that he actually meant ‘technical bankruptcy’—by which I assume he means not actual or real bankruptcy—but there was no such disclosure in his media release which was faithfully regurgitated by many of the fawning members of the media.

Nor was there any challenge, by the way, to Senator Brown’s vehement condemnation of people who take legal action against him. Legal action against Senator Brown by its very definition, it seems, must be bad. And, of course, legal action, no matter how ill-advised, taken by Senator Brown is also by very definition good. The double standard is easy to ignore if consistency and intellectual rigour and integrity are not part of the framework under which you operate.


We are told Senator Brown’s public appeal resulted in a deluge of support. But what would-be donors were not told last week was that, as at October 2008, Senator Brown’s so-called Wielangta forest fund—but actually the RJ Brown forest account—had already raised $739,000 at a bare minimum. How do we know this? Because, after being shamed into disclosing this fund’s receipts to the register of senators’ interests, Senator Brown had disclosed at least $739,000 in donations by October 2008. Even then he did not detail donations for May to July 2008, nor has he disclosed donations received in the seven months since October 2008. In other words, there are up to 10 months missing.

Clearly the senator does not abide by the same accountability rules he so self-righteously insists be imposed on everybody else. For example, Senator Brown has not disclosed the proceeds of his allegedly successful Wild Photos exhibition held earlier this year. So it follows that prior to his public appeal Senator Brown’s account had undoubtedly received more than the $739,000 he has to date disclosed, and probably significantly more.


Which brings me to the question of Senator Brown’s personal legal costs. So far as the register of senators’ interests is concerned, Senator Brown has only disclosed legal costs of $35,000 for the six months from 1 July 2005 to January 2006. A press release issued by Senator Brown said:

The High Court awarded no costs against Senator Brown because of the public interest of the case … However, the Federal Court’s decision to award costs against Senator Brown may leave him with a bill, including his own representation, of $200,000 to $300,000. However, numerous recent briefings by Senator Brown put his personal legal costs at $600,000.

When pressed on exactly this point last Wednesday evening by Gerard McManus from the Herald Sun, Senator Brown’s office confirmed his personal legal costs were $600,000. Even on this basis, when making his recent appeal he needed less than $100,000 to pay legal costs and maybe nothing at all.


It is extraordinary that, immediately the Herald Sun probed and questioned the apparent healthy state of his fund and the veracity of his claims to be on the verge of bankruptcy, Senator Brown closed down his appeal, saying there had been a huge public response and that any extra money would be put into the campaign to save Australia’s forests.

This includes, the so-called Triabunna 13, individuals facing the Supreme Court for blockading and chaining themselves to machinery, costing struggling contractors tens of thousands of dollars. I wonder how many well-meaning people who gave to save Senator Brown from phantom bankruptcy knew their donations could be used to defend these irresponsible antics.


I understand that Senator Brown is now explaining the discrepancy between what he raised and what he owes by claiming to journalists that his personal legal costs are not $600,000 but $1 million.

Like many of Senator Brown’s claims, this latest claim to be on the verge of personal bankruptcy just does not add up. His approach to fundraising and accountability is reminiscent of Max Bialystok of The Producers.


Senator Brown must now come clean, become accountable, cease flouting his obligations to the Senate and disclose all amounts he has received, when he received them and the amounts paid out and to whom.

The fact is Senator Brown’s legal challenge to selective logging in Wielangta was always ill-advised and dubious.

Sadly, some so-called environmental activists have in the past put cuddly animals on their websites to solicit donations for what are essentially scams, preying upon people’s good nature and gullibility. This latest stunt by Senator Brown, crying poor over legal costs, will be seen in the same light or worse.


For all his talk about Wielangta’s wedge-tailed eagle, the marvellous swift parrot and the ancient stag beetle, the policies advocated by the senator actually contributed to the destruction of their habitat. By this I mean Senator Brown’s calls against selective logging and hyperbole about the mushroom clouds of fuel reduction burns.

Such measures, if allowed, would have mitigated the almost total destruction of Wielangta and the wildlife contained therein in the devastating 2006 bushfire, which killed more stag beetles and destroyed more swift parrot habitat than 100 years of selective harvesting ever did.

The fact is Senator Brown’s legal challenge lost not on a technicality but on the law. Remember the law? It is what everyone else has to abide by unless, it seems, they are a Green crusader. Regrettably, to Senator Brown and his gullible followers, science, the rule of law, accountability and, above all, truth are often relative concepts.

Sadly it seems that, if you bang on enough about how much you really care about forests, some misguided people will give you money—even if you may not need it and even if your policies and legal challenges would see those same forest habitats destroyed.


My challenge to Senator Brown is this: be accountable. Immediately disclose to the Senate, as is required, exactly how much your fund raised prior to last week’s appeal, and disclose and substantiate your progressive personal legal costs. Anything less, Mr President, will be a wholesale abrogation of his duties as a senator and ethically bankrupt.


A most revealing ultimatum from the Victoria Police

Cops told to choose sides -- the crooks or the law! Amazing that such an ultimatum needed to be issued

The state's top anti-corruption cop has warned police who are mates with criminals they must decide between the force and their friends. Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius revealed he was also concerned at links between serving members who were being used by disgraced former colleagues. "If someone feels that passionately about maintaining a relationship - and I want to be clear here, we're talking about avoidable relationships, we're not in the business of busting up families - it comes down to a choice," Mr Cornelius told the Herald Sun in an exclusive interview. "If you value your friendship more highly than your profession, you need to choose between your profession or that relationship."

Since last December, officers have been ordered to make known relationships with criminals, accused criminals, former members convicted or suspected of criminal behaviour and serving members under suspension. Officers' managers can direct a relationship to cease if they deem there is a risk.

The Police Association yesterday said the rules were a "sledgehammer to crack a walnut" but Mr Cornelius said almost all available officers had complied with the system. "It's also given a number of members the courage to say to these individuals, 'We're ruling a line here and I'm not going to associate with you any more'," he said.

Mr Cornelius added: "There are a number of former members convicted of serious criminal offences or suspected of serious criminal offences who seek to actively maintain relationships with serving police. "If there is any serving officer who thinks that relationship is being sought to be maintained for purely social or altruistic reasons, they're kidding themselves. They're being used."

The vast majority of disclosures were of unavoidable links with family members or people from community groups, he said. Mr Cornelius said most of the avoidable associations were with suspended serving police, relationships that are the subject of management plans. "Often these people have worked together for some time, indeed they might be friends, long-standing associates. You need to approach that with some sensitivity. "The critical thing is to make sure we know about it," he said. Mr Cornelius said the policy did not regulate professional contact with criminals - but professional officers were not friends with their informers.

Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said he supported any measure aimed at stopping police fraternising with criminals. But he said the Police Regulations Act already had rules to deal with the wrongful release of confidential information. "This is all part of a very unhealthy, unhelpful and incorrect perception that there are corrupt police under every bed," Sen-Sgt Davies said. "It's a sledgehammer to crack a walnut."

Mr Cornelius said in the first six months of the policy there had been instances where police had been caught leaking confidential information to "persons of interest to us". "It's clear to us that in those cases, the individual police officers have not submitted declarable association reports in relation to those individuals. "Here is clear evidence that the member knew he or she was doing the wrong thing," Mr Cornelius said.


Another blot on justice in Victoria: A crooked Ombudsman, of all things!

A Labor party worker was fired on the basis of a totally unfounded Ombudsman's report. Crooked police; a bigoted "anti-discrimination" Tribunal: Where will it end? Has Victoria become part of the Middle East? Judging by the level of corruption, it is beginning to look like it

VEXNEWS has obtained a copy of the Department of Justice investigation into the Ombudsman’s allegations regarding Hakki Suleyman, who was adversely named in a recent report by the Ombudsman into the Brimbank council. So much so that in effect some in the media were impliedly arguing that Suleyman had forfeited his right to a) hold a job for which he is well qualified and ideally suited and had performed well in, b) participate in the political party of his choice and c) be involved in his local council.

It is a conclusion they must now reconsider unless they wish to be embroiled in defamation proceedings, in light of the findings of this independent investigation into the Ombudsman’s sensational claims.

Simply, the report vindicates and exonerates Suleyman from the serious claims made against him. It says he was involved - although makes it clear there’s no real evidence of it - in a move by some on the council to break a funding commitment to a soccer club. Hardly the biggest scandal in the world, even if it happened. The independent report makes it very clear that the move by some on the council was reconsidered by those pushing it once they had obtained advice on it. The path to hell may be paved with good intentions but in this case intending to make a council decision for political reasons but then thinking better of it can hardly be said to disqualify Hakki from his full civic rights to be a member of our community. Particularly given that he wasn’t even on the Brimbank council in the first place.

The independent report by the advisory panel damns and expressly repudiates the Ombudsman’s report in terms that most political observers will find stunning.

The advisory panel included a former Victorian Government Solicitor and an ex Chairman of the State Services Authority, two of the exact kind of people who would find themselves appointed Ombudsman should there be a vacancy.

They were investigating whether Suleyman should continue as a JP and found he ought not but that predictable finding is not really the most interesting part of the report.

Its their evaluation of the Ombudsman’s evidence and conclusions that is the juicy part.

Seldom has someone’s removal from office been such good fortune. [For the public light it shines on the Ombudsman]

More HERE.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Open Letter to All Members of the Australian Federal Parliament

Soon our elected representatives will be asked to vote on Senator Wong’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

This scheme is not about carbon or pollution. Its main effect is to provide for a cap on the human production of carbon dioxide, a colourless harmless natural gas. Carbon dioxide is no more a pollutant than oxygen or water, the other two atmospheric gases on which all life on earth relies.

The bill will also levy a tax on whatever carbon dioxide is produced, and levy an excess production tax on anyone whose production exceeds the legal cap. It is a carbon dioxide Cap-n-Tax Bill.

There is no human activity whatsoever that does not generate carbon dioxide. Therefore any attempt to measure, cap and tax human production of carbon dioxide must eventually extend to every human activity (the UK government already floated the idea that every person be issued with a personal carbon ration card).

This is a very serious proposal, with wide-ranging implications for all aspects of economic life and personal freedoms. It could only be justified if there was a clear and urgent danger that additional human production of carbon dioxide is highly likely to cause dangerous global warming. There is no evidence that this is the case – just computer models and scare forecasts.

Neither the scientific questions, nor the cost benefit analysis has been subject to any critical independent analysis.

The diagram below illustrates the sequence of decisions that should be made before this bill gets assent. If the answer to ANY ONE of the boxed questions is “NO”, there is no justification for Australia rushing ahead with its Cap-n-Tax Bill.

This diagram, although light-hearted, has a factual basis and conveys some very serious messages.

It is highly unlikely that anyone could honestly answer “Yes” to every question, which is what is required to justify passage of the bill. This suggests that there is a high likelihood that the bill will have NO CLIMATE EFFECT WHATSOEVER and thus be a costly exercise in self delusion.

Start from the bottom left

Start from the bottom left


That great government healthcare again. Broken neck? Take a Panadol

A MAN who broke his neck in a freak accident was sent home and told to take Panadol after hospital staff failed to diagnose his life-threatening injury. Paul Curtis, 31, endured two days of increasing pain and fear after a doctor in the emergency department at Sydney's Ryde Hospital sent him away without ordering an X-ray. He went back to the hospital where another doctor ordered tests. He said Mr Curtis was lucky to be alive or not in a wheelchair.

The Carlingford man went to Ryde Hospital late on Friday May 29 after he and a friend cracked their heads during a church youth group activity. "I drove home but I didn't feel right and my housemate, a nurse, thought I wasn't looking very good," he said. "I told the hospital staff I had had a serious head collision and the nurse noticed a mark on the back of my neck.

"After 2 hours I saw the doctor and told him my neck was sore. He told me I couldn't have an X-ray because the X-ray unit was shut and told me I would be fine. "He told me to go home and take some Panadol."

By Monday his condition had worsened and he returned to the hospital where another doctor ordered an X-ray and a CT scan. With the break detected, he was put in a brace and sent by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he later had surgery and a plate inserted in his spine. "I was crapping myself when they told me my neck was broken - I had been walking around like that for two days," Mr Curtis said. "There was a chip out of my spine and the doctor said it was lucky it hadn't severed my spinal cord."

A Ryde Hospital spokeswoman said Mr Curtis had not complained of a loss of consciousness and told emergency staff he had taken Panadol for the pain. She said hospital records from the Friday night did not show any discussion about an X-ray but said radiologists could be called back to the hospital after 11pm if required. Hospital records showed he returned to Ryde at 9.08am on the Monday, and was in an ambulance en route to Royal North Shore at 9.21am.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said: "It was nothing more than luck that saved this man from sustaining further damage as a result of not being treated properly - quite frankly the fact he was sent home with the injuries he had is enough to send shivers down the spine. "The Rees Labor Government has failed to provide Ryde Hospital with the resources it needs to deal with cases like this. "Ryde Hospital clearly doesn't have enough funding or staff skill mix to deal with cases like this, and that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Health Minister John Della Bosca and his incompetent area health services."

Ryde MP Victor Dominello, a Liberal, defended hospital staff, saying it was not their fault they did not have sufficient resources to treat patients properly.


Once again: The absurdity of making bureaucrats responsible for "care"

Getting them to listen is near impossible. Dad accuses DOCS of ignoring abuse

THE father of a boy who was sexually assaulted by a Government-approved foster carer has accused the Department of Community Services of ignoring continuing abuse. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded with DOCS to remove his two young sons from their mother's care after what he claims is a series of mistreatment. He recently detailed to DOCS an incident where the boys were deadlocked in their home by their mother while she went to visit a fortune teller.

The boys had also complained of living in filth, being hit on the back of their hands with knives, and assault at the hands of one of their mother's boyfriends, their father said. A DOCS foster carer who had minded the boys for their mother in a private arrangement has been convicted of sexually abusing the younger boy and will be sentenced in August.

DOCS sent seven troubled children to stay with the man for "weekend respite care" in the more than four years it used him as an approved foster carer. A spokeswoman for the Community Services Minister, Linda Burney, said the man, who cannot be identified, was accepted by DOCS to care for kids in crisis in February 2004 after he applied for the role. "He underwent standard departmental foster-care training and assessment, as well as thorough checks regarding his background," the spokeswoman said. "All potential carers must undergo these checks … All checks … came back clear. "The department immediately suspended him from being a carer on hearing the allegations in April 2008." The spokeswoman said further investigations show no evidence has been found of "abuse of any of these other children".

The father raised concerns about the man with DOCS in September 2006, but was ignored until he took his son to police last year. They subsequently charged the man with a range of offences including having sex with a child under 10.

The father said: "DOCS ignored me when I told them my sons were at risk from a man who was acting like a classic pedophile - now they are ignoring me again. Do my kids have to be brutalised before they will do something? It seems emotional abuse and risk of harm is not sufficient to make DOCS act. The only people DOCS are concerned about protecting is themselves."

The father is pinning his hopes on a Children's Court-ordered psychiatric assessment of his former partner, which he says was promised by the DOCS director-general, Jenny Mason, in a meeting more than a month ago. Such a report could help his custody case in the Family Court.

But Ms Burney's spokeswoman said a psychiatric assessment had been discussed, not promised. "It was raised as one of a number of possible options available pending a full case review and investigation of his concerns," she said. "The department is taking the father's concerns very seriously, and has launched a thorough investigation in response.

"The department is maintaining regular contact with the family to ensure the children are well supported. At this point in time, there are no immediate concerns for the children's safety."


Revolutionary Australian Artificial heart design

Developed with no government support -- just as with the British inventors of IVF. Propping up failures is what governments do

QUEENSLANDERS have created the world's first artificial heart which fits inside a human body and can mimic the pumping fluctuations of a healthy heart. The titanium device – which is about the size of a fist – will provide an alternative to heart transplants, doctors say. It has the potential to save thousands of lives a year worldwide, and will provide significant savings for government-run and private health systems, its inventors believe.

The device – to be marketed under the name Bivacor – also will deliver an alternative for people with heart disease over the age of 65, who are currently considered by most doctors to be too old for heart transplants. The key element of the Bivacor's revolutionary design is a pump that can duplicate the function of both the left and right sides of the heart in a single, small device. Driven by tiny electromagnets, the pump's twin rotors can alter speed and position to suit blood-flow demands that fluctuate depending on a patient's activity.

Most existing artificial hearts or supportive pump devices are external, and usually pump through just one side of the heart. That places extreme limits on patient mobility and can reveal problems on the other side of a diseased heart.

The Bivacor allows patients to move around and reduces the risk of infection, by being secured inside the body and without external tubes.

A team of biomedical engineers, intensive-care specialists, cardiac surgeons and cardiologists has been working on the project for seven years at Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital, one of Australia's leading heart hospitals. One of the group, engineer Dan Timms, 30, devised key elements of the design after watching his father die of heart failure at the hospital two years ago.

He perfected the artificial heart's impeller – a twin fan inside the pump that can spin at different speeds and also tilt to adjust blood flow and pressure. Dr Timms unveiled his invention at a recent heart conference in Paris.

Professor John Fraser, 40, director of the Critical Care Research Group (CCRG) at Prince Charles and the leader of the Bivacor development team, said the invention was lauded by heart experts. "After Daniel gave his presentation, the conference concluded that the device would revolutionise artificial heart technology," Prof Fraser said. "One of the world leaders in cardiology exclaimed, 'Within 10 years, all artificial hearts will be based on this revolutionary Queensland design'."

Once in production, the Bivacor, which has been patented, is expected to cost about $60,000 a unit. That compares with external heart machines – which cost up to $600,000 each – that are currently used on patients who can wait in hospital for up to six months for a heart transplant.

Remarkably, most of the funding for the Bivacor project – about $250,000 so far – came from the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation raising funds through selling ice creams at the Ekka. [Annual agricultural show] "Despite repeated attempts, there has been no money forthcoming from Queensland Health or Government," Prof Fraser said. "Jon Roberts (chief executive of Prince Charles Hospital) has been outstanding, but can only do so much to support us."

The Bivacor is expected to be in clinical trials in the next three years if the team can secure funding of $3 million. A German company has approached the team to fund development, which has both pleased and disappointed the research team. "It would be a shame to see such a Queensland home-grown project go overseas," Prof Fraser said. Representatives of the CCRG team are in Europe this week to discuss the development of Bivacor with international companies.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Education and politics: Like oil and water

By Jennifer Buckingham, a Research Fellow at CIS -- speaking of bureaucratic waste of Federal "stimulus" spending

If ever there was evidence that politics and education don’t mix, the fiasco of the Building the Education Revolution program is it. How did this policy, which should have been a political slam-dunk, go so spectacularly wrong?

First, it was never about education. According to a 14 June media release from the Minister Gillard’s office, ‘The Guidelines for the Building the Education Revolution are clear and were developed to ensure that this investment supported as many jobs, in as many communities and as quickly as possible, to cushion the effects of the global recession on the Australian economy.’ Nothing there about teaching, learning, student achievement, or anything even remotely scholastic.

To meet the economic stimulus objective, the time frame has been extremely short, and schools have had to accept what would normally be unacceptable in nature and in cost, or risk missing out altogether. But just to confuse matters, in a bid to make the program sound education-friendly, all building works must be mainly for student use, which presents schools with a fairly narrow range of options and not necessarily the most useful ones.

For example, a school in my area already has a new hall/gymnasium and library, so it is using its BER funding to build more new classrooms when it already has several unused ones. What this school really needs is better staff facilities and a building that could be used both in and out-of-school hours to increase parental and community involvement in the school, which is sorely lacking. This does not meet the criteria, however.

On top of all that, the cost of the buildings for public schools is being inflated by the use of state government contractors, substantial project-management costs extracted by state governments, and the price premiums caused by urgency.

Second, by maintaining a sector-neutral approach and offering funding to all schools, the size of the building grants are dependent only on school size. This means that schools that already have every kind of building they could possibly need have been given millions of dollars to build more. Yes, there have been some stuff-ups, with a number of terminal schools being given money for new buildings, but rushing out a funding program of this scope will inevitably get it wrong in some cases. However, the broader issue of school need is fundamental and should have been foreseen.

It is hard not to see this as a missed opportunity for education. Granted, it wasn’t really about schools, it was about creating jobs. In this program, schools were just a politically safe place to dump some money. Nonetheless, a better program could have served both purposes with a much smaller price tag.

The above is a press release from the "Centre for Independent Studies" dated June 19th.

Corrupt Queensland cops whitewash their misuse of Tasers

COMPLAINTS about Queensland police officers' alleged misuse of Tasers are routinely being investigated - and dismissed - by police. Of the 13 complaints made about Tasers since July 2007, only three have been finalised, with two of those found to be unsubstantiated.

Police also dismissed the third complaint - relating to the use of a Taser of a 16-year-old girl at South Bank - finding the constable involved had displayed sound judgment in his actions. However, the Crime and Misconduct Commission disagreed with that finding and conducted its own investigation, which resulted in harsh criticism of police "for failing to learn from their mistakes". Police are still investigating nine other complaints received about the use of Tasers, with the CMC overseeing the latest investigation into the possible Taser-related death of Antonio Galeano, 39, in north Queensland this month.

A CMC spokeswoman said the commission was generally only involved in complaints "of acomplex nature".

Family and friends of Galeano farewelled the 39-year-old yesterday in Ayr, about 5km from Brandon, where he collapsed and died shortly after his confrontation with police on Friday, June 12. Although officers involved have said he was Tasered no more than five times, data from the weapon revealed it was discharged 28 times. An autopsy has found the man suffered a heart attack, but it is not yet clear if the taser triggered that. [Would 28 rapidly repeated high voltage shocks from a Taser cause a heart attack? Nah! Just ONE shot is usually disabling. It's the goon concerned who should be shot]

The incident has prompted a four-week review of Tasers in the Queensland Police Service and temporarily halted the statewide rollout of the weapons.

Civil libertarians have called for an independent investigation into the death, but Queensland Police Union acting president Ian Leavers said investigators should be left to do their job without comment. "Only at the conclusion of all these tests will the actual cause of death be known, and only then will the actions of the officers be able to be properly assessed," Mr Leavers said.


An old, old story: Cops lying to protect fellow cops

HE WAS a friend and colleague - a fellow police officer, with whom Greg Brown was prone to have a beer. And after an inquiry by the Police Integrity Commission into alleged criminality, he is free. Brown, by contrast, is looking at jail for lying to protect him.

Gregory John Brown, a senior constable from Fairfield Police Station, was sentenced to eight months and two days protective custody yesterday for lying to the commission about plans to buy a brothel, covering up for a colleague who was later found to have done nothing wrong.

He was denied an adjournment by Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson, but immediately lodged an appeal and was granted bail unopposed. He will re-appear on August 3. After making bail, Brown refused to say whether there was an unspoken code among police - one where an officer might lie for another.

In sentencing Brown, Chief Magistrate Henson drew on the sentencing of the disgraced former judge Marcus Einfield. "As has often been said," he read from Justice Bruce James's judgment, "each of the offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice strike at the heart of the administration of justice." Being a police officer did not change this, he said. The supposed nobility of the act - of covering for a mate - made no difference.

On December 4, 2007, Brown lied five times at an Integrity Commission investigation into whether Constable Rick Perchtold was involved in criminal activity or serious police misconduct. He had been under oath. Constable Perchtold was a friend - a "professional and social acquaintance", as Chief Magistrate Henson put it - who worked with Brown at Fairfield Police Station. Brown had introduced Constable Perchtold to the brothel owner Sam Lapa at the Marconi Club. He spoke to Constable Perchtold about the latter's plans to buy a brothel.

But when questioned under oath he failed to mention any of this. It was not until the commission heard recordings of conversations he had with Constable Perchtold that Brown conceded it was not an exhaust business his friend was trying to buy. The brothel turned out to be a legal business operation.


School bullying: Qld. Education Dept. trying to shoot the messenger

Because effective discipline has been outlawed, many schools are now unsafe for weaker children but only an ideological backflip could cure that so the Dept. just averts its eyes from the problem. The NSW Education Dept. recently had to fork out $468,000 as a result of a lawsuit by a victim of school bullying so the Qld. mob might find that their victory is a very Pyrrhic one if they successfully prosecute this guy

A BRISBANE dad who took his daughter out of school because she was being bullied has been charged with failing to ensure she participates in full-time education. Vanessa McKenna, 10, has not returned to Sunnybank State Primary School on Brisbane's southside since March 24 2008, after suffering multiple physical attacks.

Her father John McKenna told The Courier-Mail the school had failed to adequately address his concerns about his daughter's safety, despite his numerous calls and letters. "It's been going on for several years," said Mr McKenna. "Her glasses got broken, three boys ran her into a pole chasing her into the toilet and one boy pulled his pants down in front of her in the classroom. "Instead of taking action against the boy responsible, the teacher made Vanessa sit next to him."

Mr McKenna said he had been told the school had no record of the assaults against his daughter. "The teachers have developed a code of silence and cover-ups and it makes parents believe their children are liars," he said. "I don't believe my child is a liar. I've seen the marks on her body. What's got to happen? Does a child have to die?"

Although Vanessa has not attended Sunnybank State School since last March, Mr McKenna said he did not hear from Education Queensland until September. An official from the district office contacted the family to try to get Vanessa into other schools in the area, but Mr McKenna said one "just didn't seem good enough" and the other couldn't promise his daughter would be safe from bullies. "The bloke up there was a very decent gentleman, he was very honest. He said he had five boys who were worse than the boy who assaulted Vanessa and he couldn't guarantee her safety."

Police charged Mr McKenna last Friday with failing to ensure a child in his care was participating in full-time education. He is due to appear in Richlands Magistrate's Court on July 3 and, if convicted, faces a maximum fine of $450. An Education Queensland spokesman said the department was unable to comment on the case because it was now before court. But the spokesman stressed that prosecution of parents over a student's attendance at school was a "last resort".


Friday, June 19, 2009

Killer Queensland police goons: 'I begged them to stop'

A woman claiming to have witnessed a fatal Taser incident in north Queensland last week says she begged police to stop continuously zapping him with the electric stun gun moments before he died. Antonio Galeano, 39, died after being shot with a 50,000-volt Taser stun gun during a violent confrontation with police at a unit in Brandon, near Townsville last Friday. Police initially said Mr Galeano was shot three times but data recorded by the Taser showed it operated on 28 separate cycles during the confrontation.

The Australian newspaper says a post-mortem examination by pathologists found the man - had a pre-existing heart condition - died in handcuffs just 10 minutes after being shot with the Taser. A police source told brisbanetimes.com.au Mr Galeano was "talking and lucid" before he suffered the heart attack.

Brandon woman Sandra Winn - who has made a statement to the Queensland Police Ethical Standards unit - reportedly said she saw police Taser Mr Galeano seven times, and begged the officers to stop. "The police officer states that he only used that Taser ... three times," Ms Winn told The Townsville Bulletin. "He hit him through the window here, the first time, hit him in the chest. "Toni fell down, he hit the ground, I heard him."

Ms Winn declined to speak to brisbanetimes.com.au when contacted this morning, as she was on her way to Mr Galeano's funeral, to be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ayr. Mr Galeano's parents Carmelo and Agata said their son was "dearly loved". His son Blake and sister Giovanna and extended family will pay their final respects at Ayr Cemetery.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson last week said Mr Galeano, who was clutching shards of glass and an iron bar, had assaulted a woman before she ran to a nearby unit and called police. However, police have been unable to confirm how many people were in the unit at the time of the incident.

"I stood up on that chair (and looked through the window from outside) by that time they'd gone in," Ms Winn told The Townsville Bulletin. "The police officer was standing over him and going (makes Taser motions) on his back. "I was screaming (at) this window ... at the police officer stop, stop, stop you are supposed to be helping me. How many times can you hit him with that before you're going to kill him?"

Ethical Standards Command Assistant Commissioner Peter Martin said an investigation into the man's death would endeavour to compare the number of Taser "bite marks" on Mr Galeano's body with the data obtained from the Taser.


Wong is wrong

Actually, she is just a loyal apparatchik doing the bidding of her political master, Kevin Rudd. She is completely out of her depth in anything other than politics

By Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks and Bill Kininmonth

Steve Fielding recently attended a climate change conference in Washington, DC. Listening to the papers presented, the Family First senator became puzzled that the scientific analyses they provided directly contradicted the reasons the Australian government had been giving as the justification for its emissions trading legislation. Fielding heard leading atmospheric physicist Dick Lindzen, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describe evidence that the warming effect of carbon dioxide was much overestimated by computer climate models and remark: "What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong. "In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming-climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own quite removed from science."

Another scientist, astrophysicist Willie Soon, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, commented: "A magical CO2 knob for controlling weather and climate simply does not exist." Think about that for a moment with respect to our government's climate policy.

On his return to Canberra Fielding asked Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to answer three simple questions about the relationship between human carbon dioxide emissions and alleged dangerous global warming. Fielding was seeking evidence, as opposed to unvalidated computer model projections, that human carbon dioxide emissions are driving dangerous global warming, to help him, and the public, assess whether cutting emissions would be a cost-effective environmental measure.

After all, the cost to Australian taxpayers of the planned emissions trading bill is about $4000 a family a year for a carbon dioxide tax of $30 a tonne. The estimated benefit of such a large tax increase is that it may perhaps prevent an unmeasurable one-ten-thousandth of a degree of global warming from occurring. Next year? No, by 2100. The questions posed were:

* Is it the case that CO2 increased by 5 percent since 1998 while global temperature cooled during the same period? If so, why did the temperature not increase, and how can human emissions be to blame for dangerous levels of warming?

* Is it the case that the rate and magnitude of warming between 1979 and 1998 (the late 20th-century phase of global warming) were not unusual as compared with warmings that have occurred earlier in the Earth's history? If the warming was not unusual, why is it perceived to have been caused by human CO2 emissions and, in any event, why is warming a problem if the Earth has experienced similar warmings in the past?

* Is it the case that all computer models projected a steady increase in temperature for the period 1990 to 2008, whereas in fact there were only eight years of warming followed by 10 years of stasis and cooling? If so, why is it assumed that long-term climate projections by the same models are suitable as a basis for public policy-making?

As independent scientists attending the meeting, we found the minister's advisers unable, indeed in some part unwilling, to answer the questions. We were told that the first question needed rephrasing because it did not take account of the global thermal balance and the fact much of the heat that drives the climate system is lodged in the ocean.

Que? What is it about "carbon dioxide has increased and temperature has decreased" that the minister's science advisers don't understand?

The second question was dismissed with the comment that climatic events that occurred in the distant geological past were not relevant to policy concerned with contemporary climate change. Try telling that to geologist Ian Plimer. And regarding the accuracy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's computer models, we were assured that better models were in the pipeline. So the minister's advisers apparently concede that the models that have guided preparation of the emissions trading scheme legislation are inadequate.

These are not adequate responses.

It was reported in the Business Age last July that the ministry of climate change's green paper on climate change, which was issued as a prelude to carbon dioxide taxation legislation, contained scientific errors and over-simplifications. Almost 12 months on, our experience confirms that the scientific advice Wong is receiving is inadequate to justify the exorbitantly costly upheaval of our society's energy usage that will be driven by the government's ETS legislation.

All Australians owe Fielding a vote of thanks for having had the political courage to ask in parliament where the climate empress's clothes have gone. Together with the senator, and the public, we await with interest any further answers to his questions that Wong's advisers may yet provide.

Geologist Bob Carter, carbon modeller David Evans, hydrologist-climatologist Stewart Franks and meteorologist-climatologist Bill Kininmonth attended the meeting between Steve Fielding, Penny Wong, Chief Scientist Penny Sackett and ANU Climate Change Institute executive director Will Steffen. Sackett has so far declined to answer Fielding's questions on this page.


How times have changed: Chinese give PM Kevin Rudd lesson on neoliberalism

KEVIN Rudd has been accused by a leading Chinese economist of being "either short of economic knowledge or misleading his readers" in his famous essay attacking neoliberalism. In a scathing assessment, Xu Xaonian, economics professor at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, lambasts the essay, now translated and published in China, as "shallow and crude", The Australian reports.

Dr Xu says "Lu Kewen" - Mr Rudd's Chinese name - made a "big, big mistake" in forming his "confident opinions" based on "the observation that the crisis came as a result of neoliberalism and the absence of supervision".

Dr Xu, one of China's leading liberal economists, has savaged the Rudd essay in the weekly Chinese newspaper The Economic Observer after the Prime Minister's work was translated and reprinted in China's leading business magazine, Caijing. Dr Xu, who has a doctorate from the University of California and was formerly managing director of the country's biggest investment bank, says it is not time to resurrect Keynesianism, as Mr Rudd proposes. "Instead, it's time to announce Keynesianism's failure, time to announce the emperor Lord Keynes has no clothes."

He says the Prime Minister "has used electioneering-style tactics to brand neoliberalism as dogmatic, to paint a clownish portrait of it, seeking to pioneer popular antipathy to this artificial enemy, casting a moral verdict without seeming to care about truth or logic". Dr Xu says: "Lu Kewen defined Alan Greenspan as a neoliberal, and claiming that his failure and that of the neoliberals is a failure of the market.

"Lu is either short of economic knowledge or is misleading his readers. Greenspan is a Keynesian, and a thoroughgoing one, not a neoliberal. Lu smartly transformed a failure of government into a failure of the market - a form of propaganda by him and his social democrat comrades which now looks as if it is working."

Dr Xu says that Mr Rudd "views himself as an heir of Franklin Roosevelt and Keynes - he wants to use expansionary financial policies to pull the economy out of recession". "Instead, it will only add a fresh failure to the Keynesian list, while piling up votes, in the meantime, for the social democrats," he says. "Although filled with conclusions contrary to facts and unfounded policy prescriptions, it represents a popular post-downturn trend, especially because it comes from a country's prime minister."


Amazing: Tough new Australian laws to make homebirths illegal

Only a few generations ago, all of us came into the world at home. How can something so natural be made illegal?

HOMEBIRTHS will become illegal under tough new laws that prevent women using midwives to have children outside hospitals. The move is set to drive homebirths underground, with expectant mothers and their babies at risk. There are fears women determined to have a homebirth will "go it alone" like birthing advocate Janet Fraser, whose baby died during a natural water birth in April, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Under the draft Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, released last week, a midwife cannot be registered unless she has insurance. But with insurance companies and the Government so far refusing to include homebirths in the indemnity scheme, midwives will face being de-registered if they attend a homebirth.

Women's groups accuse the Rudd Government of stripping women of rights by forcing them into hospitals. Australian College of Midwives boss Dr Barbara Vernon said the Government's intention was obvious. "I had been optimistic until now when you can see it in black and white," she said. "Even though only less than half a per cent of women have homebirths, they should have the same rights as a woman who chooses to have a caesarean. Homebirths won't stop."

About 150 midwives do homebirths in Australia. Called independent or private midwives, most do not work in a hospital and are uninsured. But from July 2010, they will no longer be able to call themselves midwives even though they are trained. Only those insured and registered can use the term midwife, otherwise they face a $30,000 fine.

There are about 700 homebirths a year but some say this may be as high as 2100 as they are under-reported. For TV presenter and marriage celebrant Elizabeth Trevan, giving birth to her 18-month old twins Nash and Harvey at home was an "overwhelming experience." "It breaks my heart to hear that the Government will do this," she said. "This is about choice. "The Government should be driving this and helping midwives who want to (do) homebirths. They will never be able to afford insurance."

Home Births Australia secretary Justine Caines said the new law took away the rights of women. "It technically makes homebirthing illegal," she said. The Royal Australasian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is against homebirths. [Well, they would be, wouldn't they? It is competition for them]


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boom gate madness

And it's not always the drivers at fault. It's the incompetent government railway gate controllers. I have myself driven around lowered boomgates. Why? Because they are often poorly synchronized with train movements. After waiting for some time in front of a lowered gate with no train in sight, I have looked carefully for a train coming and, seeing none, I have driven around the gates. And as long as I could see the crossing in my rear vision mirror there was still no train.

It's about time the media stopped blaming the public and started blaming the incompetent bureaucrats who undermine all faith in the signalling system. And I WELCOME any prosecution over my admission that I have broken the law. I would just LOVE to have an incentive to go to the dangerous crossings with my stopwatch and time what happens there

TWO people were lucky to escape with minor injuries when their car was hit by a train in Brisbane's north in another crash involving boom gates. About 7.30pm the car went around level crossing boom gates on Glenholm St, Mitchelton and was struck from behind by an inbound train.

Local resident David O'Sullivan said he was standing outside his house when the crash happened. "The car was stopped there, the boom was down and the train had already tooted," he said. "The car has pulled out and around the boom gates and half lined up to miss the other boom gate." He saw the train hit the car from the driver's side. "It's right about the slow-motion thing. It felt like forever but it was over in an instant."

He said the man and the woman in the car were very lucky to survive but he often saw people driving and walking around the lowered boom gates. [Obviously one of the mismanaged sites] Both the driver and passenger were taken by ambulance to the Royal Brisbane Hospital with minor injuries.

A Translink spokeswoman said the crash had caused disruptions to night services. "The passengers on that train were transported by bus and we are expecting buses to run for the rest of the night between Mitchelton and Ferny Grove stations," she said. The spokeswoman said services should be returned to normal before the morning peak period.

Despite a $1 million advertising campaign this year warning of the danger of attempting to beat oncoming trains, motorists continue to disobey lowered boom gates at alarming rates. [Funny, that] The first three months of the year saw 53 collisions with boom gates - a rate of four a week.

The T-intersection on Telegraph Rd in Bald Hills, also on Brisbane's north, has had more near-misses and boom gate collisions than anywhere else in the southeast. [So look into the timing there] In the past 16 months, 12 boom gates were hit and broken by motorists and in the past year three near misses with trains were recorded.


Big problems with the latest Qantas airbuses

It's getting bad when business passengers refuse to fly on them. I said from the beginning that I would never fly on one. I think my prophecy that they will become a second De Havilland Comet is becoming ever more likely. Reliance on computerization has been problematic enough on earlier airbuses and the computerization on the new planes is bound to be even more complex and hence more bug-susceptible

Disgruntled passengers on the new Qantas A380 luxury superjumbos have started calling it the A3-Lately or the A-180 (as in degrees), because of delays as long as eight hours. And, according to one Qantas insider, premium business passengers are demanding to be on the old Boeing 747, saying there is "absolutely no way" they are travelling on the Airbus A380 because of the unreliable departures.

The A-180 nickname stuck after one plane, bound for Los Angeles last month, came out of the hangar, loaded up with passengers, had technical problems, unloaded and went back to the hangar - a 180-degree turn. According to one business class passenger, that QF 11 flight took off eight hours late. After several attempts to rectify technical problems, the pilot told passengers he was not happy and unloaded them onto another A380 that took off just before 9pm.

A week later, QF 12 from Los Angeles to Sydney was three hours late due to what the pilot told passengers was an electrical fault with the A380 air-conditioning. Another passenger reported an A380 flying to LA earlier last month had a faulty fuel gauge which showed a full tank halfway into the flight.

There appear to be issues with plane layout as well. According to one flight attendant, when Russell Crowe was travelling in first class in the A380 recently, he complained about the noise from people walking up and down a set of stairs next to the first class suites. (The actor did not return a call yesterday.) The A380 is so quiet first class passengers could hear any clatter nearby. A barrier has since been erected to stop business class passengers using the stairs to access first class toilets.

And while pilots who fly the A380 say they are confident in the planes, the Air France A330 crash last month and other recent incidents involving high tech Airbuses have sparked concerns about over-reliance on technology which has essentially "pilot-proofed" aircraft. Around the world, aviation experts and pilots are debating whether planes are becoming too automated for pilots to control in emergencies, in which computers override pilots.

Essentially pilots are flying a computer in the sky. "And sometimes things go wrong with your computer," says the A380 captain Barry Jackson, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association. "It's pretty hard to reset something in the air." But he says he is "confident going to work" on the A380, that the aircraft is safe, and he will be flying one to Singapore on Sunday. He stressed that the A380 is different from the Air France A330, and in particular that the speed sensor system that appears to have been one of the causes of the Air France crash is not the same. But he agreed airbuses "haven't been having a good run lately".

The problem with the A380 fuel gauge was a design problem that Qantas engineers have since developed a maintenance procedure to prevent. "Technically the A380 has had its teething problems," he said yesterday. But he says 747s had similar teething problems when they were introduced by Boeing.

Investigators of the Air France Airbus A330-200 flight 447 from Rio to Paris which disappeared on May 31 with 228 people, have been looking at technological malfunctions, beginning with the plane's speed sensors, combined with stormy weather, as the cause of the crash. The A330 is typical of the fly-by-wire aircraft that use electronic systems to control the plane rather than hydraulic or mechanical devices.

According to The Sunday Times the pilot's instruments were giving "inconsistent" readings of the plane's speed. And an internal Air France report, quoted by the British newspaper, said "the reliability of these [fly-by-wire] aircraft has the consequence of reducing the pilots' appreciation of risk".

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has also been investigating recent incidents caused by computer glitches on high tech planes. There was the Qantas Airbus A330-303 "in-flight upset" on October 7 last year when the plane surged up and down over Western Australia, before pilots were able to wrest control from the computer and bring it down safely. The aircraft, en route from Singapore to Perth, "abruptly pitched nose-down twice while in normal cruise flight". A flight attendant and 11 passengers were seriously injured. The bureau found the autopilot had disconnected after the aircraft's computer systems started receiving "erroneous data" from the so-called air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs). The bureau also reported "other occurrences" involving similar anomalous ADIRU behaviour" in September 2006 and December 2008. "But in neither case was there an in-flight upset."

In March the bureau investigated another computer glitch which led to a tail strike involving a United Arab Emirates Airbus A340-500 during take-off at Melbourne Airport. The investigation found "an incorrect weight had been inadvertently entered into the laptop when completing the take-off performance calculation prior to departure based on a take-off weight that was 100 tonnes below the actual take-off weight of the aircraft". The result was the plane did not produce enough power to take off and although the pilots managed to override the computer and apply maximum thrust, the plane's tail hit the runway.

Then there was the Air New Zealand A320 Airbus that crashed off southern France on November 28 after what French investigators described as a power surge which made it fly sharply upwards, stall and crash as it was landing in Perpignan.

Jackson says the concern is the prospect that, as planes become more automated, financially strapped airlines will devalue pilot skills. Just this January, flight engineers were phased out of Qantas flight decks because their functions had been automated.

After 22 years with Qantas, Jackson says experience in flying light planes or in the air force is superior to simulator training. "Those skills are still needed no matter how automated planes are." Yet cheaper pilots, with fewer "real world" flying hours are replacing experienced pilots around the world, he says. The importance of pilot skill was clear in the emergency landing of a US Airways plane on New York's Hudson River in January. In this high-tech age we can't forget that the most important safety equipment is a well-trained pilot.


Despicable Dearden again

A judge who just LOVES criminals

A QUEENSLAND father who bashed a man caught molesting his 10-year-old son is facing a prison sentence, while the boy's attacker walks free. In a highly unusual case, Shane Thomas Davidson was spared jail despite pleading guilty to molesting the boy on State Of Origin night last year. Judge Ian Dearden told Beenleigh District Court the sentence was reduced because the young victim's father had wrongly taken action into his own hands and badly beaten Davidson. "There is no place in our community for a vigilante approach," he said. Davidson was sentenced on Monday to a nine-month intensive corrections order.

The boy's father is awaiting trial on one count of grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Today, the father's brother told Radio 4BC's Greg Carey that his sibling snapped after the boy repeated his claim that he had been molested to his mother and then to friends from across the street. "My brother just lost it then; he dragged him (the sex offender) outside", the brother said. He said he arrived at the scene to discover "my brother in handcuffs sitting in the back of a police car". He said it was up to the public to decided whether the pedophile had suffered enough for his crime. The brother said the pedophile's abuse of his nephew had "absolutely put a wedge in all of our hearts".

Child safety campaigner Hetty Johnston yesterday slammed the sentence for Davidson. "In this case, they've got it woefully wrong," she said. "What the offender did was totally unnatural."

In handing down his sentence on Monday, Justice Dearden said adult offenders who committed sex offences against children must serve actual jail time – unless exceptional circumstances were found to exist. "This is one of those rare and exceptional cases," he said. "When an individual takes the matter of punishment into their own hands, the offence committed by the person may be far, far more serious and, therefore, have far more serious consequences then the original offence."

The court was told Davidson was at the child's house at Eagleby in June last year to watch the State of Origin match with the boy's father and a few other people. After the game, Davidson went into the boy's bedroom and began massaging the child's penis under his clothes. When the boy woke up, Davidson asked the boy to show him his penis and offered to do the same. The child refused and went to tell his father what happened.

The man then attacked Davidson, dragging him outside, throwing him on to a concrete path where he struck his head and repeatedly kicking him. Davidson later underwent extensive facial surgery in the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Yesterday Davidson told The Courier-Mail he regretted what he had done but didn't think it was something he should go to jail for. "As far as these sorts of offences go, it's pretty minor," he said.


Bosses show bias against ethnic applicants

People are always going to be most comfortable with people like themselves. You are never going to be able to alter that

THE key to nailing a dream job may be all in a name - your name. New research has found job seekers with ethnic-sounding names have a harder time securing an interview than their Anglo-Saxon colleagues. Researchers from the Australian National University sent more than 4000 fake CVs to employers hunting for staff through job advertisements as part of a 2007 experiment.

Professor Alison Booth said the researchers varied just the names on CVs to take a gauge of "hiring discrimination" and found people with ethnic names were less likely to be called up for an interview.

Job hunters with Anglo-Saxon names had a 35 per cent hit rate with employers in getting a phone call in response to their application. But aspiring workers from different backgrounds had to work more than twice as hard in some instances to get a call back. "To get the same number of interviews as an applicant with an Anglo-Saxon name, a Chinese applicant must submit 68 per cent more applications, a Middle Eastern applicant must submit 64 per cent more applications, an Indigenous applicant must submit 35 per cent more applications, and an Italian applicant must submit 12 per cent more applications," Professor Booth said.

In Brisbane, the research suggested Chinese job hunters faced the greatest discrimination, having to send out more than double the number of applications to get the same results as their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. Italian workers fared better in Melbourne and Sydney but in Brisbane were forced to post almost a third more applications to get the equivalent number of interviews.

The level of discrimination also varied between job types with hospitality employers much less likely to give interviews to Middle Eastern and Chinese workers. Chinese women also had a harder time securing interviews than Chinese men. That trend was reversed for Italian women, who had a better success rate than the opposite sex.

Among the last names surveyed were Rosso, Ferrari and Romano (Italian), Chen, Huang and Chang (Chinese), Kassir and Baghdadi (Middle Eastern) and Tjungarrayi (Indigenous). They were pitted against Anglo-Saxon last names including Abbott, Adams and Johnson.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eat-your-greens fight a lost cause

George Bush Senior became a hero to little boys everywhere when he banned broccoli from all his dinners and said: "I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli"

CHILDREN really do hate their vegies and parents are apparently hopeless at doing anything about it. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's snapshot of Australian children released today shows the level of disdain children have for their greens. The report, A Picture of Australian Children 2009, citing a 2007 nutrition survey, says: "Only a very small proportion of children met the recommendations for daily serves of vegetables (excluding potatoes) - 3 per cent of 4- to 8-year-olds and 2 per cent of 9- to 13-year-olds. "Even with the inclusion of potatoes, the proportions remained low (22 per cent and 14per cent respectively).

National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend one serve of fruit and two serves of vegetables a day for children aged four to seven, one serve of fruit and three serves of vegetables for those eight to 11, and three serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables for ages 12 to 18. A serve is about half a cup.

The report's author, Deanna Eldridge from the AIHW's Children Youth and Families unit, said vegetable consumption was a key concern related to children's health and wellbeing. "This is a crucial figure to highlight, because this is occurring at a time when young bodies are growing and developing," she said.

Accredited practising dietician Kate Di Prima said that however hard parents might find it to get children to eat vegetables, they must persist. "Parents find it very difficult to encourage children to eat green vegetables and fruit," Ms Di Prima said. "They are happy to eat dairy foods and soft pastas and rice, but when it comes to chewing something with more than a bland taste, parents battle."

The prime concern about low levels of vegetable consumption was the lack of fibre in children's diets and the health consequences that flowed on, such as constipation, she said. Ms Di Prima said she advised parents to start small and build up. "Put a bit of carrot and a bit of broccoli on the plate," she said. "Or grate some zucchini and put it in with the pasta. This will put some balance in their diet. It's better than nothing." Don't cave in if a child is not co-operating, she said. Let them go to bed without eating anything rather than take the easy option and fill them up with some milk or yoghurt.

Parramatta mother Alexis Henderson said she improvised to make sure her five-year-old son, Brooklyn, ate enough vegetables. "You can mash them up, hide them, you can cook a cake with pumpkin in it, or make corn muffins," Ms Henderson said. She said Brooklyn did pretty well at home, but getting him to eat vegetables at school lunch was tricky. "It's hard when most other kids are bringing chips and Nutella sandwiches and all sorts of unhealthy things."


Senate votes down Rudd Bank over executive pay caps

I rarely agree with the Greens but some limit on the pay of executives who have run their companies so badly that they need a taxpayer bailout does seem reasonable

THE Government's proposed commercial property bailout fund was last night voted down in the Senate by the Coalition and the Greens in a move the Government said could jeopardise thousands of construction jobs. The Government refused a Greens' demand to put a $1 million cap on the salaries of the banking and property executives whose companies would have benefited from Rudd Bank, reports The Australian.

The Rudd Bank was to have operated as "lender of last resort" for commercial property developers, with an initial capital injection of $4 billion -- $2bn from government coffers and $2bn from the big banks, who were also to have had seats on its board.

Greens leader Bob Brown said it was average citizens who ended up paying the executive salaries that the Prime Minister had labelled "extreme" but that the government was now refusing to limit. "It seems the Prime Minister is backing down from his strong words about executive salaries," Senator Brown said. He said the US and Germany had attached salary limitations to similar bailout funds.

But Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry said the Government could not agree to the Greens' demands because it would create "legal uncertainties" for executives' employment contracts and was not in line with what had been done overseas.

Wayne Swan said the defeat of the government initiative was "yet more evidence of Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey putting their own selfish interests ahead of the jobs ... and the livelihoods of many thousands of Australians tied up in the commercial property sector, including plumbers, electricians and carpenters".

Ahmed Fahour, the interim chief executive of the Rudd Bank, said it was "extremely disappointing that the opposition and the Greens have voted against this sensible policy designed to protect the Australian economy and Australian jobs threatened by the global recession". "I am sorry for any companies and their employees who through no fault of their own have been dealt very harshly by opposition to this legislation."

The property sector was dismayed at Rudd Bank's demise. "It is extremely disappointing since in the end, the sticking point was not something to do with ABIP itself, but the issue of executive salaries, which is being dealt with by the government in other ways," said Property Council chief executive Peter Verwer.


Ice shelves stable over at least the last six years

Yes. Bits of ice do break off and always have but there is no increase in it happening

ANTARCTIC ice shelves are showing no sign of climate change, six years of unique research have shown. Scientists from Western Australia's Curtin University of Technology are using acoustic sensors developed to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to listen for the sound of icebergs breaking away from the giant ice sheets of the south pole. "More than six years of observation has not revealed any significant climatic trends," CUT associate professor Alexander Gavrilov said yesterday.

Professor Gavrilov and PhD student Binghui Li are investigating whether it is possible to detect and monitor significant changes in the disintegration rate of the Antarctic ice shelf by monitoring the noise of ice breaking. The pair are using two acoustic stations, one 150km off Cape Leeuwin, the southwest tip of WA, and another off the gigantic US military base on Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean. "They are part of a network of underwater acoustic receivers, or hydrophones," Dr Gavrilov told The Australian yesterday.

The stations have been used to locate nuclear explosions detonated by India.

More than 100 signals from Antarctica are detected weekly by the Cape Leeuwin station. They are then transmitted to Geoscience Australia in Canberra. "Six years of results is not long in the scheme of things, so we will keep watching," Dr Gavrilov said. The pair will present their research at a conference in Europe later this month.


Your "stimulus" money at work again

AN undercover playground with concrete floors and no doors costs $1.8 million under the Rudd Government's schools stimulus funding, the State Opposition says. And it says that's just one example of how schools are being ripped off. Other documents obtained by The Courier-Mail showed Mulgildie State School west of Bundaberg received $250,000 to build a basic 60sq m shed, after receiving a $29,000 quote from a local shed builder for a similar structure.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said many Queensland schools believed they were being short-changed by ill-suited and overpriced buildings under the Building the Education Revolution funding. Guidelines for BER funding stipulate schools must use a design template but Dr Flegg said this was forcing principals to accept the one size fits all model or risk missing out on the money.

Beechmont State School in the Gold Coast hinterland has received $2 million in BER funding, $100,000 of which will be used for a library extension and the rest for a multi-purpose hall. Beechmont Hall Committee treasurer Greg McKenzie said that, before the funding was announced, it had costed plans for a $1.8 million, 800sq m school and community hall, which included a sports facility, kitchen, stage, and toilet. Instead under the BER funding, builders had told the committee the same amount of money would buy a smaller, concrete-floored, undercover play area, with no doors and a toilet in a separate building.

Mr McKenzie said the committee had based its original costings and feasibility study on an almost identical hall at Moorooka State School. "With no tender process, the school was never going to get a good deal," he said. "We believe we are getting a building worth half the value we should be getting." He said the building contractor, Northbuild, was from Brisbane's north, which also meant no local jobs would be created.

Dr Flegg said many schools had also expressed concerns that they had little say over the position of new buildings. "Privately most schools will tell you they are being railroaded and they fear that if they say they don't think it's the most suitable project, that they'll get nothing," he said.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said principals had expressed concerns "their voices are not being heard".

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said consultation was occurring with schools within shortened timeframes to achieve the objective of stimulating the economy and creating jobs.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees the latest gangland killing in Melbourne as a sign of decline in the quality of Australian life

Health nazis losing obesity war

THE Aussie pie, pizzas and sausage rolls are back in school canteens as the war against child obesity falters and threatens to collapse. Lollies, ice creams, chips and even banned sports drinks have also re-emerged on school menus because thousands of families are snubbing healthier foods.

Nutritionists and dietitians are desperately trying to rescue the $750,000 school health campaign launched five years ago by former Premier Bob Carr. They are offering "low fat" Aussie beef pies, pizzas made with wholemeal pita bread and vegetables and chicken burgers to children who turn their noses up at salads and wraps.

The anti-health push is greatest at secondary level where students leave school grounds to eat at local fast food outlets or order in takeaway pizza on their mobile phones.

Dietitians have told The Daily Telegraph some schools are offering pies to children three times a day - at breakfast, recess and lunch. In a bid to reverse the trend the Healthy Kids School Canteen Association is taking over some school food operations. Low fat pies, pizzas and sausage rolls, with ingredients that meet health guidelines and home-made lasagne are now the front line items aimed at winning customers back.

Friday is pie and pizza day at Holy Cross Primary School at Glenwood in Sydney's west - portion sizes limited to healthy amounts - and the kids are lining up to get their orders. Canteen Association dietitian Jennifer Madz said Holy Cross would become a template across the state. "The problem is parents see the canteen as a treat and expect treat food there. We are trying to change the behaviour," Ms Madz said. "High schools are a special problem where students with money in their pockets go off campus to lunch in local fast food outlets. We are working on a plan to combat that."

Canteens hit by the global recession claim profits have been eroded as students resist low-fat menus.

While most sugary drinks are banned from school canteens, the food industry has manipulated some products to get around the rules. To get a non-milk-based gelato accepted the manufacturer added calcium and reduced the portion size. Banned Powerade became "Powerade Light" and juice was carbonated and sold in a can so children would think it was a softdrink. Under the nutrition rules foods are divided into red (no more than twice a term), amber (to be selected carefully and in smaller servings) and green (fill the menu) categories.

But enforcement has been almost non-existent and the Catholic and independent school sectors are not bound by them.


Black drunk driver negligently burnt to death in a prison van

This is a truly horrible story. Prosecutions must follow

THE Director of Public Prosecutions will be asked to consider criminal charges in the case of an Aboriginal elder who was effectively cooked in the back of a prison van on a scorching day in the West Australian outback. WA Coroner Alastair Hope said yesterday he would ask the DDP to consider whether charges should be laid after finding the death of Mr Ward, 46, whose first name cannot be released for cultural reasons, was “unnecessary and wholly avoidable”.

Mr Hope found “inhumane treatment” led to Mr Ward's death from heat stroke in the pod of the commercially owned prison van, which had no air conditioning and little or no air flow. He criticised the transport company, Global Solutions Ltd (GSL), for arranging Mr Ward's horror 360km journey between the Goldfields towns of Laverton and Kalgoorlie, and accused its custodial guards of colluding in their evidence.

He found the company, the two guards, Nina Stokoe and Graham Powell, and the Department of Corrective Services had all contributed to Mr Ward's “terrible death” on January 27 last year. The coroner found the father of four, from the Goldfields town of Warburton, died of heat stroke when he succumbed to temperatures of 50C inside the van on a searing day, after being picked up for drink-driving the previous day.

Mr Hope said Ms Stokoe and Mr Powell, who provided Mr Ward with only a 600ml bottle of water and did not check on him throughout the journey, had breached their duty of care. He said Mr Ward had no proper method of communicating with the guards, who had colluded before giving unreliable evidence to police about the death. The hearing was told that when Mr Ward eventually arrived unconscious at Kalgoorlie hospital, his body was so hot that staff had been unable to cool him down. Even after an ice bath he had a body temperature of 41.7C. He had a laceration to his head from falling in the vehicle and a 9cm third degree burn to his stomach from lying on its hot metal floor.

Mr Hope said the department had failed to provide GSL with proper means of transport and that the vehicle was “not fit for humans”. The prison van did not have a spare tyre, indicating GSL's “reckless approach” towards the transport of prisoners, he said. “In my view, it is a disgrace that a prisoner in the 21st Century, particularly a prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime, was transported for a long distance in high temperatures in this pod,” Mr Hope said. Among his 14 recommendations, he said the state government must improve its handling of prisoners and review its justice system.

In response, WA Attorney-General Christian Porter said action had already been taken to prevent another “tragic incident” and pledged $3 million and a rollout of 40 new custodial vehicles by December 2010. “Things have improved substantially and I intend to see they improve further,” Mr Porter said. “But it now falls to this government to repair the system that allowed this quite shocking event to occur.”

About 40 protesters demonstrated outside Perth's Central Law Courts, where the coroner delivered his findings. The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee called for improved human rights for Aboriginal people, while Amnesty International called it “a disgrace that a prisoner should be transported in this way in the 21st century”. Aboriginal Legal Services of WA CEO Dennis Eggington said Mr Ward's family was happy with the recommendations but wanted criminal charges laid against the Government.


Victorian government hospital gives woman fatal overdose

Mogadon is well known as a powerful sleeping pill. Why would anybody be given three of them? This sounds deliberate, not accidental. It's not even indicated for depression

A family say they could only watch their mother slowly die after staff at Casey Hospital allegedly gave her an accidental overdose of a sleeping pill. The coroner is investigating the March 30 death of Elsinor Mitchell, 74, who was allegedly given three Mogadon tablets on March 27 when she was not supposed to receive any medication. Ms Mitchell's family say that within 15 minutes of the medication she fell into a coma while being transferred in an ambulance, and they could only watch as her organs shut down over the next three days because doctors were powerless to reverse the damage.

Victoria police have prepared a brief for the coroner, who is reviewing medical records and referring the information to the clinical liaison service for a medical opinion. Southern Health, which runs Casey Hospital, yesterday declined to comment on the incident, saying it was standard procedure not to discuss matters before the coroner. Other medical sources have told the Herald Sun it would typically require a greater dose of Mogadon to overdose.

Ms Mitchell's brother, Alf Hulland, his sister's power of attorney while in hospital, said Ms Mitchell was diagnosed as suffering depression by Casey Hospital doctors and given medication just before being placed in an ambulance to travel to a Heatherton clinic. He claims the hospital's doctors later admitted they realised the mistake only while Ms Mitchell was in transit, but she had already slipped into a coma before they could alert paramedics to the problem.

The Narre Warren mother of five adult children was later rushed to Monash Medical Centre but could not be saved. "A doctor took her youngest son into a room and told us somebody had made a terrible error at Casey Hospital," Mr Hulland said. "She said there would be a big inquiry and it would not be covered up, but apart from that there was nothing more she could do and her organs would shut down so she had 24 to 48 hours at the most to live.

"It is the most distressing thing I have ever had to endure in my entire life - to sit there and watch her die. I think it is absolutely disgraceful. "They had told me that within a fortnight she would be home and back to her normal self again. There was no reason for her to die. "A doctor came over from Casey Hospital the next day and apologised. It is the first time I have seen a doctor cry." Mr Hulland said he could barely recognise his sister in her final hours because her transformation was so severe. "She was a bubbly, happy-go-lucky person who always helped anybody," he said. "She absolutely had a heart of gold."


Pervasive violence is part of traditional Aboriginal life

And only integration and assimilation into mainstream culture offers any prospect of reducing it

In his address to the National Press Club in 2003, Mick Dodson claimed that "violence is not and never was part of Aboriginal tradition ... We have no cultural traditions based on humiliation, degradation, and violation. Let me make this point abundantly clear. Most of the violence, if not all, that Aboriginal communities are experiencing today [is] not part of Aboriginal tradition or culture."

That denies the reality. Pre-contact Aboriginal society was very violent, and that violence and the cultural norms that sustained it continue to generate the extreme levels of violence in today's remote communities.

There is little point in criticising traditional Aboriginal Australia, unless traditions pose dangers for today's Aborigines, and unless we incorporate this reality into policy responses.

Despite considerable evidence that pre-contact Aboriginal Australia had high levels of violence, and that traditional norms concerning violence still operate, policy distortion continues because of a resistance to consider traditional norms of violence.

Even among intellectuals such as Joan Kimm and Louis Nowra, who have bravely pointed to pre-contact origins of today's high rate of Aboriginal violence, evoking the policy implications is resisted.

To secure a less violent, more positive future for Aborigines, today's restrictive conditions on inquiry and policy need to end.

The particularly high level of violence against women in pre-contact Aboriginal Australia can no longer be denied. First-contact explorers and colonists noted with distress the terrible scars and bruises that marked the women due to the frequent brutality of their menfolk.

Stephen Webb's palaeopathology studies of cranial and post-cranial remains verify that before European arrival, violence against Aboriginal women was prevalent across the mainland continent, with women suffering significantly more cranial injuries than men.

The level of Aboriginal violence particularly against women remains shocking. In 2004-05 across four states where records were kept, "indigenous females were 44.1 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than non-Indigenous females".

To open up this restrictive research climate, we need to de-couple some falsely linked concepts.

In his book Race and Culture, African-American economist and social commentator Thomas Sowell writes that the horror of racial oppression and hatred cannot be denied: "It is difficult to survey the history of racial or ethnic relations without being appalled by the inhumanity, brutality, and viciousness of it all.

"But there are no more futile or dangerous efforts than attempts to redress the wrongs of history."

Sowell also argues that morality and causation are confused: "What is most morally revolting, or morally inspiring, about a given situation may not be what is the most important causal factor" and that "no group was a tabula rasa to begin with".

In the case of Aboriginal Australians, the most "morally revolting factor" might well be the white colonisation of this country.

However, insistent blaming of white colonisation as a primary generator of high Aboriginal violence suppresses the uncomfortable fact that within Aboriginal culture, violence continues to have strong, traditional legitimacy.

Hence, reducing Aboriginal violence to around mainstream levels will entail further shifts away from traditional beliefs, norms, power structures and behaviours.

A key upsetting aspect about critical assessment by Westerners and their intervention in Aboriginal violence is that it seems to ring hollow. What allows westerners to take the moral high ground given their history of imperialism and violence?

People are very malleable regarding their attitude and capacity to tolerate violence. It is culture and its associated belief systems, power structures and norms that largely determine people's tolerance and attitudes concerning violence. The key difference between the West and traditional Aboriginal culture is that only very recently, Western culture developed effective philosophies and associated political and legal systems that could effectively reduce violence.

In contemporary liberal democracies, violence is forbidden. For private citizens there is no legitimised violence apart from self-defence. Within traditional Aboriginal culture, there was considerable legitimate scope for people to use violence. Dreamtime law functioned above all else to protect country against sacrilege and to uphold the social order. Enforcement of correct ceremonial procedures and obligations included harsh violent punishment, sometimes death. Moreover, violence as a means to set things right extended beyond the sacred, rendering family and kinship conflict a dangerous realm too. In this traditional zeitgeist, there was no "individual right" to counter this.

Ceremonial mistakes and violations were very frightening events for traditional Aborigines because they triggered the wrath of the powerful ancestral creation beings, threatening the country on which life depended.

In such a context, causation rather than intention was the primary consideration, and members of the tribe, particularly male elders, had the right and obligation to carry out punishment against the wrongdoers. Even accidental sacrilegious acts could be subject to the death penalty.

Furthermore, the identity of a guilty party could be determined through irrational sorcerous or magical means. In one instance described by T.G.H. Strehlow, relatives make a spindle from a murdered man's hair, and watch for when it breaks while it spins into a hair string.

The distance and the direction of the spindle's travel indicate the murderer. Disputes regarding the identity of culprits identified through sorcery could lead to deadly vendettas.

Sacred law discriminated on the basis of sex, with more prohibitions placed on women. Certainly, men faced restrictions on pain of death to many sacred places, objects and ceremonies. However, for a woman, there were more sacred objects that she could not see or touch, more sacred sites that she could not be in or near, and more sacred ceremonies that she should not participate in or witness, even accidentally, on pain of death.

Surely most nerve-racking, this could affect essential daily tasks such as water collection. As noted by the Strehlows, "even waters open to women and children, if they were at all near a sacred site, had to be approached carefully".

W. Lloyd Warner detailed several examples of east Arnhem Land's Murnjin men and women being killed for willing or accidental totemic and ceremonial transgressions, noting that "if women look at a totemic emblem they are killed by their own group".

Even husbands were expected not to save their "guilty" wife, although there were brave husbands who did.

Despite the misogyny of the 18th and 19th century western world, white colonial officials and explorers were shocked by what they saw.

In the 1840s, explorer and magistrate Edward John Eyre wrote very critically of the white occupation of Australia, which he called aggression: "To sanction this aggression, we have not, in the abstract, the slightest shadow of either right or justice; we have not even the extenuation of endeavouring to compensate those we have injured, or the merit of attempting to mitigate the sufferings our presence inflicts."

Eyre's ability to see the colonial injustice and aggression against Aboriginal Australia did not compromise his ability to decry the subjugated status of the Aboriginal women.

"Women are often sadly ill-treated by their husbands or friends, in addition to the dreadful life of drudgery, and privation, and hardship they always have to undergo; they are frequently beaten about the head, with waddies, in the most dreadful manner, or speared in the limbs for the most trivial offences.

"No one takes the part of the weak or the injured, or ever attempts to interfere with the infliction of such severe punishments ... Few women will be found, upon examination, to be free from frightful scars upon the head, or the marks of spear wounds about the body.

"I have seen a young woman, who, from the number of these marks, appeared to have been almost riddled with spear wounds."

Sadly there are thousands of examples of legitimised injurious violence, debilitating beliefs and misogyny of traditional origin that continue to give power to some and to hurt many others in Australia's remote Aboriginal communities.

What shocks outsiders is often seen as ordinary by the communities. This other country is a dangerous country.

Joan Kimm and David McKnight, within their respective fields of legal history and anthropology, recount how the tolerance of violence or thepropensity to behave violently can increase markedly in the same people when they move out of the mainstream and into traditional community. In his book From Hunting to Drinking, McKnight relates how Mornington Island youths were able to treat their white girlfriends well in the mainstream context but became violent towards them in the traditional context.

This suggests that when and where to be violent is a matter of choice. It is a strong indicator that the violence has less to do with Aboriginal men's loss or brokenness due to white colonisation, such as separation from their spiritual lands or being directly affected by the Stolen Generation; or the need for anger management or cultural healing; or even the curse of alcohol or other violence-promoting substance abuse.

No doubt these realities can be contributing factors. Nevertheless, it has more to do with traditional expectations, mores and permissions to be violent.

No matter how unfairly they, their family or their community have been treated or continue to be treated by mainstream Australia, it is - in seeming irony - the mainstream context where Aboriginal violence is more effectively suppressed and less tolerated by Aborigines themselves.

It is in the traditional context, on lands of dreams and ideals hard-won after years of political battles with their white conquerors, where violence is legitimised as a proper tool to uphold male dominance over women.

People generally want to conform to their culture. They tend to be as violent and as tolerant of violence as their culture expects and allows. Strategies to ensure that Aborigines no longer endure cultural contexts where violence is normal just have to be implemented. But the nation's thinkers and policy-makers have been baulking at the task.

In her book A Fatal Conjunction, Kimm laments in her concluding chapter that "the continuing public denial that violence is part of traditional culture remains a large part of the 'root of the problem"'.

Kimm also urges the need to place women's rights above cultural rights in law and sentencing.

However, the powerful implications of Kimm's book - that addressing Aboriginal violence requires strategies that tackle its traditional, cultural roots - are circumvented in her last chapter by her insistence that policy stay within the tenets of self-determination and community control of programs.

Kimm emphasises the need to ensure that Aboriginal women themselves determine their own responses, and points to the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council of Central Australia, in a positive light.

Australian Crime Commission figures compiled by Jane Lloyd, an expert in remote indigenous domestic violence, show that 28 years after the establishment of the NPYWC, the violence on the NPY lands remains catastrophic, clearly indicating that women's initiatives and other responses are not working.

Women from the NPY regions are "67 times more likely to be a domestic violence related homicide victim".

Despite the power of the rest of Kimm's book, one is left with the sense that community violence at higher than the mainstream rate is inevitable, and Aboriginal women's empowerment is about community women themselves running the sadly necessary community women's shelters and night patrols and legal centres to secure some safety. There is no breakthrough here and it sounds little better than surrender. Is this the best we can do as a nation for the Aborigines of remote Australia?

Adjustment to the mainstream is not about taking anything from Aborigines. It is about implementing policies and programs that reverse Aboriginal exclusion from mainstream culture, because this is the only effective broad-scale strategy for the acquisition of strong norms against violence. It is critical that governments encourage integration, otherwise Aborigines are condemned to dangerous traditional norms of violence. Those norms not only cause misery and suffering, they also limit the life chances that many Aborigines could enjoy within contemporary Australia.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Ting Tong

When Tovarich Toaf and some of his comrades on the Australian Left refer to me on their own blogs, they refer to me as John "Ting Tong" Ray -- evidently under the impression that they are characterizing me in some discreditable or at least risible way. So I thought I might mention what that is all about. They are referring to a poem I wrote many years ago. Yes. Some Australian Leftist bloggers even read my poetry! If that is not risible, I don't know what would be. I am sure nobody else reads it!

I put the poem online under the following heading: "I used to write poetry when I was young. I don't think much of it now but I reproduce some of it below for what interest it might have". I reproduce the poem concerned below:


Ting tong, tingtong
The air melts in song
The song of sad happiness
The song of old sadness

Slow, fast, slowfast
The word of the last
Man on earth singing
A song heavenwards winging.

Yes. That is the bit of trivia that has fascinated them. Hard to believe really.

I believe that I ate tofu once (pies, sausages and burgers are more to my liking) and found it rather squishy so perhaps in future I should refer to Toaf/Tofu as Damian "Squishy" Doyle.

Disgraceful Victoria police attitudes on display once again

As shown by what they call their anti-corruption branch. As a psychologist, I would be tempted to see it as "projection"

POLICE caught using derogatory names to describe the force's internal investigators in Victoria will face possible criminal charges. An angry Chief Commissioner Simon Overland is trying to stamp out the nickname "the filth" - commonly used by rank and file officers to deride the Ethical Standards Department. The department, which used to be nicknamed the "toecutters", investigates complaints against police, suspected corruption and incidents such as police shootings where officers could be at fault.

But the Police Association has hit out at Mr Overland's tough stance, saying officers at fault should be educated, not hit with a "big stick".

Mr Overland has outlined his hardline policy in recent addresses to officers, telling them anyone who brands the ESD "the filth" will be disciplined. "The Chief Commissioner has made it clear that he will not tolerate this type of behaviour and believes strongly in the work being undertaken by the experienced and professional ESD investigators," his spokeswoman said. "Depending on the nature of the comments, Mr Overland was making it clear that further action would be considered." Officers caught using the derogatory nicknames would be subject to Victoria Police's disciplinary process and charges would be considered, she said.

Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said he was aware of the use of the disparaging name and discouraged it. But the solution was to better educate police about the work of the ESD, rather than punishing them, he said. "Why would you take a punitive path and punish people when it may simply be that what is said is said in ignorance and not spite," he said. "Educate people, you may just solve the problem, rather than belting them with a big stick."


Labor Party in power emboldens union thugs

Surge in building site standover tactics

CRIMINAL and thuggish behaviour on building sites has soared to record levels as militant unions engage in a campaign of fear and intimidation. As the Federal Government prepares for a stoush with union leaders, a record 69 cases of unlawful activity are being investigated by the industry watchdog. Police are also investigating union threats against Australian Building and Construction Commission staff – including claims of racial, sexual and physical assault.

Union leaders are urging the Government to water down special laws that allow building workers to be compelled to give evidence in court. But yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard rejected this union push and said the Government was committed to retaining special powers to combat lawlessness in the $70 billion construction industry. Ms Gillard will take draft legislation to a meeting of Labor MPs in Canberra tomorrow. "We gave the Australian people a promise and we will be honouring that promise," she said. Her comments ensure a government tussle with union leaders – and many ALP delegates – when the Labor Party holds its showcase national conference in late July.

Building employers claim the level of union thuggery is getting worse – and these concerns are backed up by official ABCC data. Victoria remains the standout state for industrial thuggery – accounting for nearly 50 per cent of current investigations by the watchdog. Western Australia and New South Wales are also key trouble spots as unions defy the economic downturn – and rising unemployment – to step up industrial action. Among the most common forms of illegal activity are union delegates calling illegal wildcat strikes on building sites – in some cases defying orders for workers to return to work.

The industry watchdog is also recording a growing number of cases of union delegates illegally entering building sites – breaching so-called "right of entry" provisions.

The Federal Government plans to disband the ABCC later this year. It will be replaced by a new building industry "cop on the beat", which will be a specialist division within the Government's Fair Work Australia.

In an interview, the head of the ABCC, John Lloyd, said he remained concerned by the level of thuggery on building sites. "The conduct that we continue to see is unacceptable and would not be tolerated in other industries," he said. Mr Lloyd called on the Government to retain special "coercive" powers that compel witnesses to give evidence.

The ABCC was established in 2005 by the former Howard Government after the Cole Royal Commission found an industrial culture on building sites that was riddled with rorts. But the building unions have criticised the ABCC for using Gestapo-type tactics. In April, tens of thousands of building workers marched in cities around Australia, calling for the Government to get rid of the ABCC altogether.

Mr Lloyd said the industry still needed special powers to keep unions in check. "The danger is that we would revert to circumstances where people refused to co-operate with investigations – and so investigations would probably stall," he said.

Master Builders Association chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said employers had noticed a big increase in illegal union activity since the election of the Rudd Labor Government. The unions, he said, "feel emboldened they can return to the days of union thuggery".


Police use Tasers as punishment

They set themselves up as judge and jury. There have been similar cases in the USA

ALMOST two years after his son was hit with a Taser three times while handcuffed at a police watchhouse, Bryan Cook is still waiting for answers. A complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission is still being investigated. And Mr Cook has had no response from the Police Minister or Police Commissioner to his request for the guidelines covering Taser use.

He said he was prompted to speak out about his frustrating battle with authorities after Friday's death of amphetamines addict Antonio Galeano after he was repeatedly hit with a police Taser. "I predicted someone would die from Tasers, and now unfortunately someone has," Mr Cook said. "I have no doubt they will find some health problem that caused this man's death but until there are clear guidelines I fear there will be more deaths."

On August 11, 2007, Mr Cook's son, Nathan, was arrested after a fight outside the Alexandra Hills Hotel. Nathan, who was 23, said he was punched in the mouth during the arrest before being placed handcuffed in a Cleveland watchhouse cell. He became verbally abusive and aggressive when he saw his sister, 18, being frog-marched into another cell, and was taken from his cubicle and allegedly hit repeatedly by a Taser. In his police statement, Nathan said: "I screamed in agony each time and after the third hit I fell to the ground crying."

The incident happened just over a month into a 12-month trial of Tasers and yesterday the Queensland Police Service acknowledged it had learned a lot since then. "The incident ... occurred early in the Taser trial, and it is worth noting that the guidelines on Taser use and the training our officers receive altered considerably as a result of lessons learned during the trial," it said in a statement to The Courier-Mail. It said that Taser deployments were down significantly since the trial ended, with police finding it was generally enough to present the weapon to make offenders comply.

Mr Cook said he did not object to police using Tasers "where officers were being threatened with weapons". "But they also have a duty of care to people in their custody," he said.

The QPS spokesman said arrangements would be made this week to provide Mr Cook with a copy of the Commissioner's circular on Taser use.


Crooked private school still gets Federal "stimulus" cash

Typical of the low level of care that we expect of "stimulus" spending

AN elite Melbourne private school has been showered with new government infrastructure funding despite being under threat of deregistration for chronic mismanagement, including hiring a fake teacher and breaching the rules for its annual federal grants.

Melbourne Montessori School will receive $847,000 of taxpayer funds to build a new hall and classroom as part of more than $6billion in new funding announced by Education Minister Julia Gillard over the past week. Yet the private primary school, which commands fees of about $7000 for its students, is mired in controversy; about 20 families, representing almost 10 per cent of the school's 256 students, are taking legal action against the school. In March, a review by school watchdog the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority warned that the problems at the Montessori school were so severe it "no longer complies with the prescribed minimum standards for registration as a school".

In a desperate effort to survive, the school's board last week dismissed principal Nicolette Correy and briefed authorities about steps taken belatedly to comply with state and federal standards of governance.

Parents who have had children at the school say they have been failed by both the school's former management and also by Victorian regulatory authorities, which they say failed to step in and take decisive action when told of the school's problems. Sean Macdermott's daughter Sadhbh was taught by a fake teacher, Renai Brochard, who used another teacher's identification to get a job with the school in 2006 and 2007. "You take your child to school each day and you trust your school to protect them and it's really scary for a parent when it doesn't happen," Mr Macdermott said.

He was one of several parents to confront the school about Ms Brochard's qualifications when he noticed that she appeared to lack the most basic teaching skills, much less those associated with the alternative, Montessori philosophy. However, Ms Correy and the school board dismissed their complaints and insisted Ms Brochard was a qualified teacher. It was not until the end of the 2007 school year that the Victorian Institute of Teaching found ms Brochard had faked her teaching qualification.

Late last year, at the urging of parents, the VRQA examined the management of the school and in March it produced a damning report saying children were being taught by staff who had a Montessori background but who were not qualified teachers. It also found the school failed to comply with basic governance requirements including legal obligations to report on the performance of the school, its teachers and its students.

The failure to produce these reports meant the school was in breach of its legal requirements when it received $1.35 million in federal funding over the past three years. Parents have withdrawn about 30 students from the school in the past 18 months.

Now about 20 families are taking legal action against the school's insurer to recoup fees and other expenses incurred during the time when their children were being taught by Ms Brochard.

The head of the school's new board, Tony Swain, said the school was taking steps to put its troubled past behind it. "We have tried to deal with the problems that were plaguing the school in 2008 that led to a number of families leaving," Mr Swain said.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

I have been honoured

Once again a Leftist has set up a blog specifically designed to "answer" me. See here. It is by "Toaf", a pseudonym for Melbourne tofu enthusiast Damian Doyle.

Toaf used to comment in reply to my posts on Western Heart but gave that up when I gave him a few zingers by way of rejoinders. His claim that he was married to a "dark-skinned" woman was rather amusing. He seemed to lose his mojo when I pointed out that she was in fact a fair-skinned Chinese woman.

Anyway, his new blog is so far confined to questioning the various occasions when I have pointed out that the perpetrators of violence against Indians in Melbourne have mainly been Africans. What is amusing about that is that he challenged me about that previously -- in a comment on Western Heart -- and when I promptly gave him a link substantiating the truth of my statement he rather withered.

It seems that he only feels safe talking to fellow Leftists now.

Anyway, I clearly should give him some reply. The first thing to note, of course, is that racial aspects of crime are fiercely covered up in Victoria -- as Andrew Bolt demonstrates. So in those circumstances it is not easy to uncover the truth. And the coverup has become almost watertight this year. Last year, however, the censorship was not so tight so a few links from then: For instance, we read here "an article in the Cranbourne Leader suggesting that transit police believed Sudanese men were responsible for 99% of assaults and armed robberies on two Victorian rail lines" -- which is where most of the attacks on Indians come in. Attacks on Indian Taxi Drivers were mainly African. Africans were said to be so involved in street crime that the police wanted them out of Melbourne. We also read a comment about Africans from a police officer contradicting what the police Commissioner was saying: "They walk around in packs," said an officer who wanted to remain anonymous. "It's a real problem at the moment for us." Note that the attacks on Indians have mostly been pack attacks.

The over-riding thing to note here, however, is that my statements have been designed to circumvent a coverup -- so start out under a big handicap. And if Doyle hasn't noticed how rarely anything is said about the race of those who attack the Indians, he is deliberately blind. And if he HAS noticed, he needs to remember the importance of "the dog that didn't bark" in another Doyle's story: "The Silver Blaze".

Anyway, here are a few more headlines about Africans in Australia that Doyle might like to Google. The Africans have not been here long and there are relatively few of them but they sure have made their mark:

Scarborough brawl an isolated incident: police
Burswood attack costs victim eyesight
Bid to stop cab licence for killer
Customer attacked by machete in Coburg cafe
African gangs assault Melbourne taxi drivers
African gang hunted over Victorian taxi robberies
African gang behind Granville stabbing murder
African gang wanted over stabbing murder
Barbaric third world rituals becoming popular in Australia
African gang attacks woman in Wagga Wagga
African arrested over million dollar net scam
Rwandan invader charged with rape
Police vs Africans - Race tensions boil over in Flemington
African gang terrorizing Melbourne hospital visitors
Racial tensions in Darwin’s African community
African mob attacks Flemington police
Violent attacks scar two for life
Charity worker and wife attacked on Christmas Eve
Islander and African gangs rob people in Newcastle
Robbery, Moorooka
Broad daylight bag snatch
Attempted child abduction in Huntingdale
Appeal for information about alleged assault — Ashfield
Police search for backpacker bashers
Armed robbery, Acacia Ridge
Lone Sydney motorist robbed at gunpoint
Armed robbery
Armed hold-up outside train station
African gang wanted over robbery in Moorooka
16-year-old girl robbed in Runcorn
Man stabbed in Eden Hill
Attempted abduction in Raymond Terrace
Teenage girl escapes abductor
Teenage girl escapes latest snatch bid
Robbery at Perth's Curtin University
Armed African gang in wallet grab
African teen punches elderly volunteer unconcious
African wanted over takeaway robbery
Rock-throwing Africans bash and rob motorist
African assaults girl at Sydney pool
Brutal bashing at Melbourne train station caught on film
Ethnic gangs fuelling fears of a race war
Police seek indecent assault witnesses
Charges soon over murder of Sudanese schoolboy
Another assault at ‘house of horrors’
Sudanese gang grabs woman off street
Sudanese refugee ‘possessed’ when he killed wife
Welcome to Noble Park
Sudanese refugee on visa rapes woman in Toowoomba
Mean streets of Melbourne
Sudanese and Indian taxi drivers brawl at Melbourne airport
Sexual assault & robbery

My personal view is that anybody who comes to Australia as a refugee -- be they black, white or polka-dotted -- should be sent back whence they came if they commit crimes of violence against other residents of the country that has so kindly given them refuge.

NAB to introduce Muslim-friendly loans

These sound rather a good idea -- for both the bank and the customer

ONE of Australia's major banks is planning to introduce "Muslim-friendly" loans that do not charge interest, to comply with Sharia law, The Sunday Telegraph reports. Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods. These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.

For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury - or unfair lending - a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit, with the customer then repaying the entire sum in instalments. In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also has the advantage of making the loan immune from future interest rate rises.

NAB said the loans, which will start out small, will have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they meet strict criteria before they can be made available to the public. "We are dipping our toe in the water with this scheme and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas," said Richard Peters, head of community finance and development at NAB. "We suspect there is demand out there, but we don't know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first."

For the trial's purposes NAB will pump $15 million from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute the funds through various community finance schemes around the country.

The bank will monitor the take-up and assess potential demand. Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available to help finance household items, such as washing machines and fridges. The loans would also be available to non-Muslims.


Amazing Queensland government move! The end of the free lunch! Has any other government in the world done this?

CATERED government functions, including free lunches for Cabinet ministers and free car parking and most interstate travel for public servants, will be a thing of the past after Tuesday's State Budget.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Premier Anna Bligh warned everything was under review as they shaped the toughest Budget in decades, and now it seems even more than previously thought will be "off the menu".

Mr Fraser will announce yet another serious crackdown on public service spending – up from the scheduled $80 million cut for 2009-10 to $280 million – in his second Budget. The measure, running through to 2012 at the earliest, will result in more than $600 million slashed from government department spending over that three-year period...

Mr Fraser said ministers received lunch at every Monday Cabinet meeting, but that would stop, saving about $30,000 a year. Other government-catered functions would be cut back. And parking spaces leased from private car-parking buildings would be scrapped. "Modern businesses are lean, dynamic organisations. Queensland taxpayers would expect nothing less from their public service," he said.

"I expect government agencies to embrace the electronic age and cut the fat out of corporate travel. We must take advantage of innovations like video conferencing rather than spending money on airfares."

"A 25 per cent cut in advertising by the Government is critical to making savings, as is the $50 million I will direct Government to save on consultants, supplies, services, computers, stationery, catering and similar areas."


Health, women's groups demand ban on Skinny Blonde beer

A NEW beer that promises to leave drinkers holding a naked woman before they finish the last drop has been labelled dangerous and sexist. Health and women's groups called for Skinny Blonde beer to be banned. And they want the Advertising Standards Bureau to investigate the provocative ad campaign.

Using modern ink technology, the low-carb beer label features a 1950s-style pin-up called Daisy, whose red bikini disappears as the beer level drops and the bottle warms up. An internet advertising campaign on the Skinny Blonde website allows users to pick their favourite "skinny blonde" and watch her undress. The site, launched last week, has already received more than 60,000 hits.

Women's Forum Australia spokeswoman Melinda Tankard Reist slammed the beer and its advertising as degrading and inappropriate. "This is another blatant example of the alcohol industry objectifying women to move product," she said. Ms Tankard Reist said the product was not only socially irresponsible, but had the potential to harm women. "There is a huge body of research that shows the highly sexual use of women to sell products can cause a range of psychological issues among women," she said. "This is demeaning, inappropriate and troubling."

The beer, made by an independent brewer, is available in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with offers to stock the beer coming from New Zealand the UK. Skinny Blonde spokesman Hamish Rosser said the beer was supposed to be a "bit of cheeky fun". "We were looking for some ideas that would gain attention," said Mr Rosser, a former member of The Vines rock band. "This generation of Aussies have grown up on the beach and topless girls in bikinis are commonplace. "The label and website is in no way meant to offend women or anyone else, rather embrace the Australian beach culture."

But VicHealth chief Todd Harper slammed the use of nudity to encourage drinking. "The website should be shut down and we should be using this as an opportunity to review the way the alcohol industry promotes products and enjoys the benefit of self-regulation in relation to alcohol advertising," Mr Harper said. "Alcohol is responsible for a significant degree of harm within our community whether it be in the form of violence, accident or long-term health problems." He called for an Advertising Standards Bureau crackdown


Inadequate government warning signage kills 11 people in train crash

Only warning to drivers of an approaching train were flashing lights that could not be seen against a background of sun glare

Truck driver Christiaan Scholl has been acquitted of all charges in relation to a train crash near the Victorian town of Kerang that killed 11 people. Scholl, 50, and his wife Di showed little reaction when the jury delivered its verdict but sobbed and hugged each other once the judge left the Supreme Court in Bendigo. Victims' families cried as the not guilty verdicts were returned. The jury had deliberated for a day-and-a-half before returning the verdict about 12.20pm today.

Scholl, of Wangaratta, pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of culpable driving and eight of negligently causing serious injury in relation to the crash on June 5, 2007.

The Crown case was that Scholl's driving was grossly negligent because he failed to keep a proper lookout and approach the crossing at a speed that would have allowed him to stop.

The court heard that in 2007 the crossing was fitted with lights and bells, which truck drivers said they could not hear from a distance. It has since been upgraded to include boom gates, rumble strips and advance warning signs.

Scholl, who had travelled the crossing about 250 times in the five years leading up to the crash, said he checked the crossing's warning lights on his approach but did not see them flash and considered it safe to proceed. His lawyer Terry Forrest, QC, said Scholl had not appreciated that there was an oncoming train due to "wicked deficiencies in that crossing for north-bound traffic". Two other drivers travelling behind Scholl on the day of the crash gave evidence that they did not see the crossing's warning lights flash until they were about 100 metres away.

A traffic engineer called by the defence, David Axip, described sun glare as "atrocious" after conducting a reconstruction of the crash in similar weather conditions.

Killed in the crash were Stephanie Meredith, 46, and her daughters Danielle, 8, and Chantal, 5; Geoffrey McMonnies, 50, and his daughter Rosanne, 17; Jean Webb, 79; Margaret Wishart, 78; Harold Long, 83; Nicholas Parker, 32; Jaeseok Lee, 26; and Matthew Stubbs, 13.


Saturday, June 13, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted at the defamation of Australia's military men by Mark Latham

Child protection agencies are picking on soft targets and ignoring real problems

By Sara Hudson

The case of the Northern Territory teenager known as Kunmanara is yet another example of the failure of government to protect children from abuse. Meanwhile, a Queensland man is facing child-abuse charges for downloading a video of a swinging baby and publishing it on a video sharing site. Both these cases highlight the absurdity of the child abuse laws in this country.

Despite everybody from police, Family and Community Services (FACS) and health services being aware that Kunmanara was in danger they did nothing to protect her. No one seemed to notice that she did not attend school for nearly a year. The fact that she tested positive to two sexually transmitted diseases at the age of 13 did not stop FACS staff assessing the teenager as “safe.”

While the man at the centre of the Queensland case may have acted stupidly in publishing the video of the swinging baby he surely does not deserve the maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for his actions. He is arguing that the video is not child-abuse material but is a “training film for a Russian circus family.”

Interestingly, I remember viewing a program on ABC about a young Russian weight lifter. The program showed shots of her as young baby being swung by her father as part of a ‘training’ regime he had devised to make her stronger. No one took ABC to task for republishing such footage. It is ludicrous that Police resources are being spent on prosecuting this case when many officials seem to be turning a blind eye to real cases of child abuse. It is difficult to be 100% accurate and mistakes in judgement will inevitably occur. But too often child protection agencies focus on soft targets like this Queenslander, while the really serious cases are neglected in the "too hard" basket. The challenge for people working in this field is to know when something is a distraction and when something needs a full and serious investigation.

The above is a press release dated June 12 from CIS

Australian public health bureaucrats botching swine flu response

It really is an epidemic in Victoria but the bureaucratic response there borders on the insane. It is a situation where prompt responses are crucial, but promptness is simply beyond bureaucrats

ANGRY GPs have slammed a "conspicuous lack of leadership" in Australia's response to the swine flu crisis, with some patients waiting eight days for test results or receiving anti-viral drugs too late to limit the infection. The doctors have blamed delays and inconsistent responses at state and federal levels for undermining efforts to contain the disease in Australia, placing the nation on the front line of the world's first flu pandemic in more than 40 years.

The World Health Organisation conceded defeat early yesterday in global efforts to confine the novel H1N1 strain, upgrading its six-level warning system to full-blown pandemic. Despite the worldwide upgrade, Australia yesterday did not lift its own pandemic alert status to the highest level, on the basis that the disease remained a mild one for most of the population.

The number of Australians infected with the new H1N1 strain is, however, believed to be far higher than last night's official national tally of 1391 because Victoria has abandoned its daily caseload updates. The state last Wednesday cut back its laboratory testing for the virus from about 500 to 1000 samples a day to 50 to 70 a day, after acknowledging it could no longer contain the disease.

Even then, patients were falling through the cracks in the testing system, Melbourne GP Kirstin Charlesworth told The Australian. She said a 17-year-old boy who came to her Toorak practice two weeks ago with classic flu symptoms, including a 39C fever, had to wait for eight days for test results to confirm his diagnosis, by which stage he was back at school. The patient was initially refused priority testing because he fell outside Victoria's risk criteria, and could not be fast-tracked even after classmates tested positive to swine flu. "They said they couldn't do it - it was on the slow train to nowhere and had been sent interstate," Dr Charlesworth said. "I asked if I could at least have Tamiflu for the patient, for his household, and for myself - and they said, 'No, because he doesn't have swine flu at this stage'."

Thomas Lyons, a GP from Eagleby, southeast of Brisbane, said logistics were "falling over" in the fight to contain the virus, and likened the bureaucrats responsible for organising the national swine flu response to the generals in charge at Gallipoli. "There is a conspicuous lack of leadership at the state level here in Queensland," he said. Dr Lyons said a woman who had been a passenger on the Pacific Dawn cruise liner, which hosted a major swine flu outbreak, had told him hospital staff had promised that masks and other equipment needed for her quarantine would be sent to her home. "It arrived eight days later - much too late to be of any epidemiological or biological use whatsoever," Dr Lyons said. Pathology companies were quoting him testing turnaround times of between two and five days, yet the anti-viral Tamiflu commonly used for treatment was largely ineffective more than 48 hours into the course of the disease. "Giving it more than 72 hours after the onset of symptoms is a waste of time," Dr Lyons said.

Sydney GP Mike Moore, chief executive of the Central Sydney GP Network, said authorities could have managed the situation better. "If we had been more careful, we could probably have delayed entry of the virus into the country, and (if) various jurisdictions had been more co-ordinated," he said.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday sought to head off doctors' concerns by announcing almost $4 million in new funding to provide extra support for GPs. [Irrelevant tokenism]


Climate cops?

FRONTLINE police will be forced to become "carbon cops" under the Government's blueprint to cut greenhouse emissions. The Herald Sun can reveal Australian Federal Police agents will have to prosecute a new range of climate offences. But they are yet to be offered extra resources, stretching the thin blue line to breaking point.

"The Government is effectively saying to us, 'Ignore other crime types'," Australian Federal Police Association chief Jim Torr said. The group had been trying for months, without success, to discuss the issue with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, he said.

Interpol has warned the carbon market will be irresistible to criminal gangs because of the vast amounts of cash to be made. Possible rorts include under-reporting of carbon emissions by firms and bogus carbon offset schemes. "If someone is rorting it by even 1 per cent a year, we're talking about many, many millions of dollars," Mr Torr said.

Ms Wong's office said AFP agents would be expected to enter premises and request paperwork to monitor firms' emissions reductions. They would act on the 30-strong Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority's orders. It said the authority could appoint staff members or police as inspectors. She said the Department of Climate Change had spoken to the AFPA and the parties would talk again. Carbon trading involves carbon emissions rights buying and selling. Businesses can offset emissions by investing in climate-friendly projects, or carbon credits. Ms Wong's office said provisions had been made to ensure compliance. "Inspectors may enter premises and exercise other monitoring powers," she said. "The inspectors may ask questions and seek the production of documents. There is provision for the issue of monitoring warrants by magistrates."

The AFP's 2855 sworn agents are involved in law enforcement in Australia and overseas, investigating terrorist threats, drug syndicates, people trafficking, fraud and threats against children.

Mr Torr said breaking carbon trading laws would be like breaking other laws. "These offences will constitute another federal crime type, along with narcotics importing, people smuggling and all the rest of it, that the AFP will be expected to police," he said. "I can see very complex, covert investigations . . . a lot of scientific expertise required."

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is facing Senate defeat unless it can secure the support of key cross-benchers or the Opposition. Opposition climate change spokesman Andrew Robb said the scheme was problematic.


NSW government hospital freezes elderly patients for two weeks

While management sit in their warm offices ignoring the problem

DOZENS of patients were left in freezing conditions, some so cold they could not eat, after one of Sydney's leading hospitals failed to fix a broken heating system as temperatures plunged during this week's cold snap. Prince of Wales Hospital, run by an area health service the Opposition says is almost bankrupt, admitted yesterday that heating on Level 7 was broken as temperatures fell to just 6C.

Orthopaedic patients struggled in the cold, with one 97-year-old woman suffering a broken hip unable to hold a spoon in her numb hands. Eva Lang's niece Marika Pogany took her a portable heater in a bid to keep her warm before she was finally moved to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday after two freezing weeks at Prince of Wales. There were another three patients in Ms Lang's room and her niece estimated another 30 patients were in the frozen wing of the hospital.

Mrs Pogany said nurses had told her the heating was supposed to be turned up on June 1 but was discovered to be broken.

"The patients are all elderly people after operations. They are freezing. At lunch time when I went there her hands were blue, (My aunt) could not even hold a spoon," Ms Pogany said. "They are fragile people. Hospitals should be warm. I don't know what they are spending the money on."

Opposition Health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service was almost bankrupt. "It is deplorable, I suspect it all comes down to not enough money to fix the problem," Ms Skinner said. "To the Government, sitting in their warm offices, the patients are out of sight and out of mind, the hospital and area health service are absolutely on the brink. "It is lucky some of these people's health hasn't been compromised to the point where they died. When people are old and frail their condition can deteriorate very quickly."

The hospital claimed maintenance staff were only alerted to the problem on Thursday and workers would try to have the heating fixed by today. "If the hospital didn't know the heating was broken, they have some answers to provide," Ms Skinner said.


Lying coverup attempt from trigger happy cops

They should be prosecuted for murder

WITNESSES to the fatal police shooting of a young man have contradicted claims the officer had no choice but to shoot him. Two women have independently sworn they did not see Elijah Holcombe armed with a knife and said he was at least 15m away from officers when he was shot in the chest. In statements obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the women claim Mr Holcombe, who suffered from mental illness, was "calm" when ordered to stop by police in Cinders Lane, Armidale, this month.

"The second person (a plain clothes police officer) was moving fast but never caught up with the first person (Elijah)," one witness said. "I estimate the distance between them to be four or five car widths."

The second witness said Mr Holcombe's "demeanor seemed casual" and he was "in no hurry just strolling along". She said he had complied with an undercover officer's orders to stop and was calm, contrary to police claims that he ignored warnings to drop his knife. "The young man turned around casually and I would say he had a look of bewilderment on his face - but he was fairly calm and casual," the woman said. "He just turned around and stood still. I can't remember anything about his hands - I was looking at his face. He didn't say anything."

On the day of the shooting Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the officer had no choice but to shoot Mr Holcombe because he had made threats with a knife and refused to put down the weapon.

One witness said there was no attempt by the undercover officer to negotiate with Mr Holcombe. "The gun discharged immediately after the third warning. I remember also that the third warning was immediately after the second warning," she said. "The young man came off the footpath into the gutter. He fell into the gutter. His head moved around a bit. His body moved slightly. I did not see the young man with a weapon."

The sworn statements were made independently by two women who had parked their cars near the scene of the shooting behind the Armidale shopping centre.

Mr Holcombe's widow Allison Garvey had told The Daily Telegraph she is "completely devastated". "The police were presented with many choices and in every instance they (made) the most careless choice they could make," she said.

A NSW Police spokesman last night refused to comment. "An independent Critical Incident Investigation team is preparing a report," the spokesman said.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Negligent NSW public hospital kills young woman

The death of a 29-year-old woman after the delivery of her third child could have been prevented if staff were better trained and more rigorous policies had been in place, a NSW coroner found today. Rebecca Murray died from hemorrhaging after an emergency caesarean at Bathurst Hospital in June 2007. She lost a litre of blood following the surgery, but the hospital had not previously checked her blood type and ensured it had adequate supplies, so blood had to be transported from Orange.

Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich also found that the nurse in charge of her recovery had been inadequately trained, and did not alert medical staff in time when Ms Murray's condition rapidly deteriorated. Bathurst Hospital has since introduced a new policy which requires staff to do a full blood count on all women having elective or emergency caesareans and ensure there are supplies on hand.

Mr Milovanovich recommended that all hospitals in NSW be required to follow suit. "If the unexpected and avoidable death of a young mother at Bathurst Hospital justifies a change in policy at Bathurst Hospital, why should that policy not extend to statewide?" Mr Milovanivich asked. "Do we have to wait for another mother to die in similar circumstances ... before there is some change?"

Ms Murray's father, Lewis Furner, said outside the Westmead coroner's court that responsibility for her death lay with the hospital administration, and not the nurse who had not been properly trained. But he was not optimistic that any changes would be made to the health system. "The last health minister, Reba Meagher, had the hide to say in parliament that NSW has got one of the best health systems in the world,'' Mr Furner said. "Now while we've got a government that thinks like that I don't hink there's going to be any changes. It's from the top down, that it's failing. It's just disgusting.''

But Ms Murray's mother, Adrienne Furness, was tearful on behalf of the three children. "It's a shame that they're not going to know her, just a shame,'' she said.


Once again it needed a publicity bomb to blast the NSW child protection agency off their backsides

NSW Department of Community Services officials and police swooped on a house in Sydney's west yesterday, removing a 12-year-old boy from the woman who took him in after he had been abused and malnourished. The action came as the minister responsible, Linda Burney, lashed The Australian yesterday for highlighting the plight of the boy and his siblings, and as the opposition described DOCS as an organisation on the verge of collapse.

The Australian yesterday revealed that eight malnourished children had been living with their increasingly desperate mother, a Sunni Muslim, in a violent and chaotic home that was overrun with mice, just 20km from the Sydney CBD. The children were taken into care last October, not by DOCS but by a neighbour who has five children of her own, when one of the boys was put into a full body cast after bones were broken by an elder brother. Eight months on, the children remain spread around in the care of the woman, her friends and her own mother.

The woman told The Australian yesterday she was terrified that DOCS would come for all the children now that she had made the case public. She had been pleading with DOCS to do something about the children for years but was told that it was policy to place Muslim children with Muslim foster carers, and it was impossible to find one that could take eight abused children, half of whom had severe developmental delays. "I wanted them to remove the boy and they say now, OK, they will do that, because he was abusing my children," she said. "But now I fear they will take them all."

DOCS initially refused to discuss the case with The Australian, saying it was "before the courts". But Ms Burney, the NSW Community Services Minister, spoke to Sydney radio station 2UE at length yesterday, saying she trusted the organisation she managed. "There has been extensive work with the mother of these children," Ms Burney said. "The mother recognised there was a severe problem. Community Services had been working for a long time with that family."

Asked why the children were never removed, Ms Burney said "I can't go into too much detail, this very issue is in front of the courts. "As I understand it, there was an arrangement made with a family friend or a neighbour. "I understand the outrage. I understand when you read that article, it is appalling. "I'm not for one minute trying to get away from that but the situation that you've read about is much more complex than what appears. "I don't know how well it serves the public to run out every graphic awful detail about the lives of children. Yes, there are mistakes, and yes, this is awful. But what about the 99 per cent where it's a success story?"

Ms Burney complained that she had recently tried to organise a news conference with a young woman who had escaped domestic violence with the department's help but only one journalist turned up. "It's easy to run out these (negative) stories," she said.

Foster Care Association president Denise Crisp has called for a royal commission into DOCS. Ms Burney said: "We do not need another inquiry. We had had a 12-month investigation and we are in the process of rolling out that reform. "One of the reasons we have to have that reform is that one government agency cannot cope with 300,000 calls about distressed children a year."

Opposition community services spokeswoman Pru Goward criticised Ms Burney yesterday, saying it was incredible that eight children had been farmed out across a neighbourhood, without any proper training or checks being done. She said the majority of children reported to DOCS were neglected, rather than abused. "Neglectful parents need to be shown how to look after their children better and helped to learn to do this," Ms Goward said. "If their child has problems - health or learning or behavioural - then these families quickly get into trouble, just like the family in the report today."


Leftist contempt for the military

One shudders to think what would have happened if Lathan had won his election bid and become Prime Minister. He hates just about everybody. He even describes himself as a "hater"

DEPUTY Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended the members of the Australian Defence Force after former Labor leader Mark Latham called them "meatheads". Ms Gillard says the men and women of the ADF do a first-class job.

Mr Latham accused the nation's soldiers of having "limited intelligence and primeval interests in life'', in a column in today's edition of The Australian Financial Review. He said former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was better off out of the portfolio, with even the most tedious of public duties "better than knocking around with the meatheads of the Australian Defence Force''.

When asked about the comments, Ms Gillard said in Sydney that Australian soldiers were respected around the world. "I, as Deputy Prime Minister, deal with many men and women in our defence forces and as Deputy Prime Minister I'd certainly want to say that the men and women of the Australian Defence Force do a first-class job, a fantastic job,'' she said. "Their skills and abilities are recognised around the world. "Our soldiers, our defence personnel, join with those in other nations for operations around the world, and around the world they are known as highly trained, highly professional, highly skilled personnel who get on with doing dangerous work in the interests of this country.''

In a wide-ranging assault Mr Latham wrote that when he worked for Gough Whitlam the iconic Labor leader had told him the one of the purposes of his office as an ex-prime minister was "to milk the system" and take full advantage of publicly funded entitlements. "Regrettably, milking the system has become a regular part of Labor's culture," Mr Latham wrote. Mr Latham contrasted the frugality of former Labor leaders John Curtin and Ben Chifley with the modern ALP breed. "Labor talks a lot about working families but most of its Mps are working hard for the high life," Mr Latham wrote. "Their favoured form of infrastructure is the gravy train."

He said Labor has "jettisoned its traditional values" and ALP figures viewed power as an "entree card to the social establishment rather than a forum for radically attacking elites and social inequality." "Labor's ministers have been duchessed in the establishment, crippling the credibility of their social democratic beliefs."

Mr Latham wrote Mr Fitzgibbon should be relieved to be out of the Rudd ministry because he privately had held the Prime Minister in contempt and could now regain pride and self-respect. "For most of his time in opposition Fitzgibbon despised Rudd, remorselessly ridiculing every detail of the man's existence, form his gawky ways and peculiar hairstyle to his wife's less-than-glamourous-looks."


Smart Jap copter pilot saves lives in crash

A team of four aviation investigators will travel to the Gold Coast this morning to examine the wreckage of a helicopter which crash landed in the car park at Dreamworld yesterday. The damaged Bell JetRanger aircraft has been moved to a secure holding yard ahead of an assessment by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) after it lost power with five people on board while coming in to land at the Coomera theme park about 3.55pm.

Experienced pilot Matsumi "Matt" Sato managed to steer it towards an empty part of the car park, where it fell on its side and sent debris scattering 40 metres.

An off-duty firefighter standing at a nearby bus stop reportedly kicked in the chopper's window to assist Mr Sato and four Taiwanese tourists, who had been taking a joy flight. All were taken to Gold Coast Hosptial with minor injuries. Two remain there in a stable condition this morning.

An ATSB spokesman said an investigative team from Brisbane had been assembled overnight and would spend the coming days examining the damaged aircraft. A report will be made public, probably in a number of weeks. "The investigation will take a while because there are a number of things we have to look at as well as the aircraft itself; maintenance records, meteorological charts and that sort of thing," he said.

His actions to steer the floundering chopper away from the theme park crowds, cars and several thrill rides, have been credited with averting potential disaster. Mr Sato's boss at James Technologies, Darren Caulfield, was returning from Townsville this morning and could not be contacted. Police acting Superintendent Neil Haslam praised the pilot for his quick thinking. ''Obviously investigations need to be undertaken, but the pilot has done a remarkable job,'' Supt Haslam said. ''It looks like he has lost power and has successfully gone to an empty area of the car park.''

''The safety of our guests and staff is our absolute priority and we are deeply shocked to hear of this incident,'' the company said in a statement. ''We are incredibly grateful for what we are led to believe was a quick and experienced response. ''The owning company and the appropriate authorities will conduct a full investigation into the matter, which Dreamworld will be closely monitoring.''


Best job winner a $150k whingeing Pom

For American readers: "Whingeing" is the sort of whining you get from a tired toddler. A "Pom" is Australian slang for an English person. It is a common Australian perception that the English do a lot of complaining about minor things and are hard to please generally. Australians deride that as "whingeing"

ENGLISHMAN Ben Southall, winner of the World's Best Job, hasn't even started "work" yet and he's already living up to the worst stereotypes of his countrymen. Southall, 34, will collect a $150,000 tax payer-funded salary for six months lounging around the tropical paradise, enjoying free meals and accommodation in a three-bedroom luxury villa on Hamilton Island.

However, the blond-haired project manager from Petersfield, Hampshire, is already complaining his July 1 start date means he will miss out on the English summer, The Sun reports. "I'll miss the long days we have. The island may boast a tropical climate but it gets dark at 8pm," he moaned.

The Brit even whinged about missing English food, saying he would pine for roast dinners. "It will be far too hot to cook anything like that," he said.

Southall's only duty is to produce a blog detailing his life of leisure and regular activities such as sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving. He beat off more than 34,000 other applicants from around the world to win the coveted post, dreamed up by Tourism Queensland as part of an award-winning promotional campaign.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Troubles escalate when police look the other way

I also have experienced police refusal to take any notice of an approach from me: in connection with my car being stolen. They just don't want to know about anything that might give them work to do -- JR

It's a rich irony that the Prime Minister and police commanders in Sydney and Melbourne are now admonishing Indian students who have decided to take responsibility for their own security instead of continuing to be passive victims of violent crime. Sound familiar?

Assistant Police Commissioner Dave Owens warned Indian students protesting at Harris Park not to be "vigilantes" and "leave the detection of offenders and their arrest to us".

In Victoria, a police spokeswoman said Indian students doing their own security patrols at crime-ridden western suburbs railway stations should "leave and let police do their jobs".

Well, if the police had done their jobs in the first place Indian students wouldn't feel like they have to escort each other home from railway stations late at night. Nor would 1000 Indian students have gathered on Sunday at Town Hall and this week in Harris Park to protest about the lax policing.

But now that Australia's not-so-secret suburban law and order problem has become an international scandal, it's remarkable how vigilant the police can be. The Victorian commissioner, Simon Overland, was this week boasting about a "major crackdown" on crime, with uniformed police, rail transit officers, the dog squad, mounted police and the air wing to patrol the stations where Indian students have been mugged with impunity for years. In Harris Park, Sydney's new Little India, police were out in force this week as young Indians gathered to protest about the latest harassment by what they described as a gang of "Middle Eastern men".

Regardless of whether the attacks on Indian students are racially motivated, or whether the violence is being committed by Middle Eastern, Caucasian or any other ethnic group, the fact is our governments and police forces have been turning a blind eye to it. It seems that allowing our cities to become no-go zones at night is easier than enforcing the law.

Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne have simply decided they have had enough. Saurabh, who has just completed a masters at the University of Western Sydney, has been aware of attacks on his fellow Indian students since at least 2004. In an email in response to my column last week, he described a bus trip from the city to western Sydney late one night when "a group of five teenage guys were troubling this lone nightshift Indian worker who was sitting in the front … He didn't resist and just ignored them … Right when they left the bus they spat on the Indian guy and ran away laughing."

He says that in Harris Park, "muggings are a common occurrence". "I see the police as very vigilant only during protests like the G20 and the recent one by the Indian students … Also, the traffic police are very vigilant in giving tickets. But the normal police are not in giving public protection."

It's not just Indian students complaining about police inaction. It's young Chinese as well. Yuening, for instance, a student from China studying at the University of NSW: "I can tell you that every international student studying in Australia is worrying about safety every day. I think more than one-third of us would have the unpleasant experience." Recently, he says, two friends were robbed on campus, on the main road. But he claims police "tolerate modest robbery".

Murtaza, an Indian student, was mugged 18 months ago on a Saturday night about 8.30 in the heart of Melbourne's CBD. "They broke my nose and ran away and as I called the police little did I know that my complaint will be just going to deaf ears and blind eyes," he said. He went to the police station the next day but was told the offenders had not been found. "I went to the police station two more times in the same week to get my complaint in, not because I expected the police to actually nab those guys, but just wanted a recognition by the law that such an incident had occurred. But every time I went there, I was greeted by a different officer who told me that they were too busy. "It's funny how the police seem to be so busy, considering that such incidents keep occurring in various parts of the city, with the lawbreakers getting away on most of the occasions."

Another Indian student, Ajay Kumar, who was at the Harris Park protest this week, says he is so afraid of being assaulted on his way home from work at night, he doesn't go home. "If I finish my work, I stay there," he told the ABC. "Why? Because I know if I come back, someone will smash me, someone will take my money. I know. Because I'm not safe here. Because Australian police is shit, fully shit."

In a strange twist of fate, Superintendent Robert Redfern, the Parramatta local area commander who was hard at work at the Harris Park protests at midnight on Tuesday, was also police commander at Cronulla during the 2005 race riots. We saw then the dangers of vigilantism.

Back then, Cronulla locals had been complaining for months that police were playing down assaults and menacing behaviour by what they described as "Middle Eastern" youths from south-western Sydney. There was a protest, which turned into an ugly riot with racist violence against anyone who looked Middle Eastern, followed by revenge attacks as young men from the south-west drove to Cronulla damaging property and assaulting people, with police nowhere to be seen.

In Harris Park, the script is familiar. Police play down crime problems, victims lose faith in the authorities to protect them, start to protest, take matters into their own hands, attack innocent passers-by. So far there have been no revenge attacks but it's unlikely police can guarantee they won't occur.


Bus driver dumps school children at shopping centre in high-risk area instead of taking them home

It's now a fortnight later so has he been fired or prosecuted? No: Just "counselled"!!! Maybe he is a Muslim. They can do no wrong

A BUSLOAD of school children, some as young as seven, were dumped at a shopping centre and told to make their own way home because the driver was running late, The Daily Telegraph reports. The distraught children were dropped about 1.5km from their stop after the driver took the wrong route and then abandoned them in Blacktown - a suburb with one of Sydney's highest crime rates. "I'm running late, you all have to get off," he told the children before dropping them at busy Westpoint Shopping Centre.

Sandra Barber's children Luke, 7, and Jessica, 11, who were on the bus, had no way of contacting their parents. Mrs Barber said her children and two other frantic primary students were helped by a group of high school girls from Nagle College who were also on the bus. The girls gave them money to use a pay phone to contact their parents.

The children asked some police officers where the nearest phone was and when the officers learned why they were alone they took them to Blacktown police station and rang their parents.

Busways has failed to explain the May 28 incident to the Barbers and is now in the firing line of the Ministry of Transport for failing to report the breach until The Daily Telegraph made inquiries yesterday. About 25 children regularly catch the bus but a Busways spokeswoman refused to reveal how many were dumped as "management might not want that released".

"It was horrifying," Mrs Barber said yesterday. "When I got to the police station my son got very upset when he saw me. It hit my daughter later. She got very upset. "The bus was late, then it went a different way and the kids started getting worried. "One of the Nagle girls went to speak to the driver and he totally ignored them."

Local MP Paul Gibson said Busways' failure to deliver the children safely to their stops was abysmal and its claim there was a "miscommunication" was a poor excuse. "It is absolutely abysmal that something like that can happen, particularly when this company is being subsidised by the taxpayer," Mr Gibson said. "Anything could have happened, in this day and age, when you leave little kids and drop them off at a shopping centre without parents or anyone looking after them."

Transport Minister David Campbell wrote to Busways outlining two breaches of their obligations. The Busways spokeswoman conceded that the bus was late arriving at the school and apologised to parents, saying the driver had been counselled. She said that managers "suspected that a miscommunication was the cause of the incident".


TV comedy boss demoted over cruel program

I am glad someone has got the bullet over this horrible affair. How could any decent person laugh at terminally ill children and tell them that they "are going to die anyway". The ABC is of course heavily Left-leaning and this episode was yet another example of the Leftist emotional insensitivity that I discussed recently. More background on the story here

The ABC has demoted its head of TV comedy, Amanda Duthie, over last week's controversial Chaser skit about sick children, saying her failure to stop the segment going to air was an error of judgment. Before yesterday Ms Duthie was one of the ABC's most powerful executives - today her once dazzling career prospects are in limbo, The Australian reports.

ABC managing director Mark Scott announced Ms Duthie had been removed as the head of ABC TV comedy following the airing last week of the sketch on The Chaser's War on Everything that satirised the granting of wishes to terminally ill children through the "Make-a-Realistic-Wish Foundation".

ABC management's decision followed a review of the processes that led to the screening of the segment, causing the program to be suspended from broadcast for two weeks.

"The segment should not have been broadcast," Mr Scott said. "We recognise that it caused unnecessary and unreasonable hurt and offence to our viewers and the broader community and we have apologised for this." Mr Scott said Ms Duthie should have referred the skit to the next level of management as was clearly set out in the ABC's editorial policies. "Where staff are concerned about the potential for satirical material to cause harm they should refer the matter to the next level of management. "In this instance, (Ms Duthie) reviewed the segment and did not refer it up. This was an error of judgment."

A spokesperson for the Chaser team last night responded to Ms Duthie's demotion saying: "We are sorry we put the sketch forward and we think it is a harsh call on Amanda who had, and has, our full support".


Australia has best start to a snow season in a decade

Global cooling strikes again

THE best start to a snow season in a decade should have all of Australia's major ski fields up and running by the weekend. Extensive snowfalls this week have created a good base at all the major NSW and Victorian ski resorts with more snow due over the next two days. Snowmaking machines will also be enhancing the natural cover. For the first time in history, Perisher is looking to open Mt Perisher for the second weekend of the season.

The heaviest fall in either state in the past 24 hours has been at the Victorian cross country venue at Lake Mountain, where only three months ago the state's deadly bushfires had ravaged the landscape. Some 40 centimetres has fallen at Lake Mountain and all cross country trails are open. Of the main downhill locations, the Victorian resorts of Mount Buller and Falls Creek had registered the highest falls, each receiving around 25cm in the 24 hours to 5pm (AEST) on Wednesday.

Falls Creek had an average cover of 44cm with one lift open, and Mt Buller had 56cm on the ground, where six lifts are due to roll on Friday. Two lifts operated on Wednesday at Mt Hotham where there was an average cover of around 40cm.

In NSW, one lift operated at Thredbo on Wednesday with 10cm of fresh snow bringing the overall cover to around 50cm, but the slopes remained officially closed to the public. Perisher had two lifts in action with one run open, but snow falls throughout the day have made prospects of a more extensive opening likely later this week. Snowmaking will add to the cover in all resorts with a new front expected to cross the Alps from Friday.


Queensland's $6b hospitals plan full of holes

Governments can neither build nor run hospitals well

A DAMNING report has cast grave doubts over the credibility of the state's $6 billion hospital building program and exposed poor planning for the state's future health needs.

Auditor-General Glen Poole has revealed that planning surrounding the $100 million Townsville Hospital expansion was so inadequate that Queensland Health itself was concerned the result would be "dysfunctional" on an operational basis. Mr Poole identified a system which had no clear links between the health service plans drawn up by Queensland Health and the funding decisions the Government subsequently made.

His report follows a wave of controversy over the Government's decision to establish a $1.1 billion Queensland Children's Hospital near the Mater Hospital at South Brisbane, a move critics insist was done without adequate planning.

The Government's hospital infrastructure program, which it boasts is the biggest in Australia, also includes the $1.5 billion Gold Coast University Hospital, due to open in 2012, and the $1.2 billion Sunshine Coast Hospital, expected to open its doors in 2014.

Health Minister Paul Lucas admitted the Government had made health commitments before the proper planning had been undertaken. "I think that in the past what has happened is that there has been public pressure for something to happen, then an announcement is made and then off we go," Mr Lucas said.

Mr Poole said a case in point was the Townsville Hospital project, which the department admitted was announced three years ago without any supporting health services or capital infrastructure plan. The project was supposed to deliver 100 extra beds and double the hospital's emergency department by next year but Mr Poole's report reveals that nothing has been budgeted for the expansion of other parts of the hospital such as pharmacy and record-keeping services to cope with the extra load.

A business case for the entire project – which Queensland Health neglected to draw up until February this year – warned that unless more funding was found, the project would establish "a service that will be dysfunctional".

Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid admitted the report meant Queensland Health may have put services in the wrong place or provided infrastructure without recurrent funding to operate them. He said while the report exposed serious issues, it also highlighted how the department had already recognised these and taken action. "I think it is a fair cop that the department is criticised for its poor service planning functions," he said.

Mr Poole's report is yet another blow to Queensland Health, whose operations have been under intense scrutiny since the 2005 Bundaberg Base Hospital scandal. "I expected that with a focus on service planning since 2005, the department would have more advanced service planning systems in place," the report said. "Funding and resourcing implications were not identified in most plans reviewed."


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Racial tensions in Sydney: Sydney police in denial

Indians are a generally polite and unaggressive people (remember Mahatma Gandhi's gospel of non-violence? The Mahatma is still revered throughout India) and that makes them targets for more predatory groups. In Melbourne the attacks on them mostly emanate from young African men but in Sydney it is young Lebanese Muslim men. In both cities the Indians know who their attackers principally are and have become hostile towards their oppressors. Only energetic police pursuit of all wrongdoers could quieten the situation but that looks like too much work to them

Progress in Victoria: Victoria's chief cop has now admitted that much of the violence is racial and is promising increased police action. We will believe that when the prosecutions of the attackers begin

Two people were arrested and more than 100 others were told to move on after an Indian community in Sydney's west held a protest against racial violence last night. Up to 150 Indian people from the community stormed the streets of Harris Park about 8 pm in protest against claims of years of racial slurs and attacks in the area. Police were forced to close of an entire block of Harris Park around Marion and Wigram Streets.

This comes after a young Indian men and some middle eastern men clashed in the same area on Monday night. They chanted "justice" as police told them to stay calm. At one point officers told a large group to walk away and when they refused threatened to arrest them for not complying. No-one was injured and talks are expected to be held with police about the violence in the area.

The Daily Telegraph spoke to the protesters last night, many of whom said they would form their own vigilante-like groups to patrol the streets at night. Harris Park local Kush Ghai, 22, said the local Indian community held the protest last night because they wanted more police protection after claims of years of racial abuse. "We want peace, justice and protection," Mr Ghai said. Sarabjot Singh, 25, said Indians living in Harris Park have been victimised for the last few years and accused police of doing nothing about it. "This (the attacks) is the story every day. But now we cant take it anymore," he said. By 10:30 pm, all the protesters had been moved on from the area by police.

Within hours of another great hosedown in this city - police declaring the disturbance in Harris Park on Monday was not race-driven - groups of Indians and Lebanese again began circling each other in the suburb's streets. Again police intervened to separate them and again it was hosed down as an incident of no great note.

Then this, from a Lebanese woman who walked into one of the few remaining Lebanese shops in Harris Park: "It has become unbearable." Her tolerance dead, she was speaking of the Indians who stand in the street when she wants to park her car and refuse to make way for her. "One of them attacked me one day," she said. "He left his car and came walking towards me and people were sitting there and they didn't even want to stop it."

She did not want to give her name. "I am not scared of giving my name but I have got no trust in them," she said. "Keep your distance. That's it."

The authorities' formal dismissal of Monday's incident as being of no great gravity has done exactly the reverse of what police and the NSW Government had hoped. It has inflamed tensions. Both populations now feel even more slighted by a society refusing to acknowledge their problem.

Across the road, Bhavin Jadav spoke for an Indian population feeling persecuted by young Lebanese men. He said Indian students are seen as a "soft target" by these men, who prey on their civility. "That's why they attack Indian students, they don't believe in violence," he said. He was robbed last year when a group of Lebanese men took mobile phones and wallets from his group of friends. Then, just the other day, a petrol bomb was launched at an Indian home on Albion St. The Lebanese are the problem, he said, with much the same authority in his voice as Joseph Gitani when he declared: "It's mini-Bombay, to be honest with you."

Mr Gitani is 49 and was born in Australia but is of Lebanese descent. Yesterday he went to the scene of Monday's disturbance. As each side vented its anger at the other, a 16-year-old Lebanese boy was at home, sleeping off the night before. With three friends, he was returning from dropping a girlfriend at home when they turned into a group of 300 protesting Indians. As bad timing goes, this about tops it. The Indians were drawing attention to another racial attack they believe went unrecognised earlier that evening. According to Mr Jadav, about 15 Lebanese men had attacked a young Indian man walking in Wigram St. "Just near those three cars," he said.

So the Indian population rallied, peaking when a car carrying young Lebanese men turned into their path. The Indians rocked their car until eventually a door was opened and the 16-year-old was hauled out. Two others were also dragged out, while the last broke free. All were punched and kicked and eventually ended in hospital with superficial injuries. They were shouting, "You Lebanese bastards," said Joseph Gitani, who, like everybody - on both sides - has had enough. It was his son being attacked.


Elitism disguised -- sort of

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tries to speak like the common man but not really convincingly. His Labor party predecessor was much better at the act. Bob Hawke really sounded like the unionists he long represented, despite his privileged background and Oxford education. When he retired, however, a more elite language and pronunciation re-emerged

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has added a third language to his well known mastery of Mandarin and bureaucratic English - common Australian. Sensitive to criticism that his new frontbench line-up had overlooked women in favour of factional heavies, Mr Rudd yesterday dismissed the claims with the Aussie maxim, "fair shake of the sauce bottle mate". More curiously, he said it three times during a short television interview with Sky News.

The deliberate use of bush slang had political watchers suggesting the poll-conscious PM may have been responding to focus group research calling for a more a common touch in his communication style. "Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate, if you were to compare what this government has done in terms of the promotion of women of talent and ability compared with our predecessors, it's chalk and cheese ... fair shake of the sauce bottle mate," he said.

At another stage of the same interview, his normally complex sentences - often derided as techno-babble - gave way to a style commonly used in post-match interviews. The new Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner, became "Faulks" - a familiarisation not even used inside the ALP. And the only woman given a bigger job in the reshuffle earned the dubious designation as "young Kate Ellis" making Mr Rudd sound more like the ageing captain of the Australian First-XI welcoming a teenager to the fold.

The reshuffle attracted criticism for its promotion of men and for the elevation of newcomers connected to factions over some competent, but less well-connected MPs. Promotions included, new minister Mark Arbib, a powerful figure from the NSW Right faction with less than a year as a senator and SA's Mark Butler, an influential Left powerbroker also in his first term in Parliament. Strong performers such as Maxine McKew, Amanda Rishworth and Melissa Parke were overlooked.

At the swearing in, Governor-General Quentin Bryce struck a blow for women in the workforce, asking one minister's wife not to take a crying baby outside during the formal ceremony declaring: "I don't believe in taking children out of the room".

Women's rights, particularly those of his wife, Therese Rein, were also on Mr Rudd's mind when he made thinly veiled criticisms of Women's Day magazine which took pictures of Ms Rein working out at a gym.


Mice rampant in government nursing home for years

A MOUSE plague at a Queensland nursing home where a war veteran was bitten was so severe that the rodents were routinely reported in the kitchen, climbing chairs and even in bed with residents, a damning report has found. An investigation of the Karingal nursing home on the Darling Downs found mice had been a problem at the facility since it opened in April 2006 but the rodents had been left to run rampant by management inaction and a poor pest control strategy.

The problem was so bad in the lead-up to the attack on the 89-year-old Digger on April 26 that staff were sent to check on him every two hours to keep mice out of his bed, The Courier-Mail reports. The war veteran passed away on Sunday.

Staff officially reported 500 rodent sightings in the six weeks before the attack, with mice seen "asleep in bed with resident", "drinking from cup" and "fried mice" were disposed of after chewing through the computer server.

The report by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency found mice had a significant impact on the daily lives of residents from the latter half of 2008. "Residents suffered discomfort and a loss of personal possessions," it said. "Of greater concern is that residents, staff and others were exposed to a major infection risk."

Although the plague was well established, the report found management did not take the problem seriously until residents were bitten. The investigation said environmental controls in the land around the facility were inadequate, door seals were not effective and the baiting strategy was poor. An environmental health inspection after the incident also concluded the home had not been cleaned effectively on a daily basis.

Communication within arms of Queensland Health was also criticised and it was urged to review its monitoring processes and address the "clear lack of management guidelines" for pests.

Federal Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot said work had begun to better mouse-proof the building, and baiting and pest management strategies had been strengthened. But the report said the home still had mice.

Queensland Health said all recommendations were either completed or well progressed and it was addressing the capture of mice in the laundry of the nearby hospital area of the Dalby Health Service.


Envy boomerangs on the envier

By Janet Albrechtsen. Janet might also have mentioned the case of Maryland, where the boomerang came back and hit the Maryland government in the space of just one year

It's no great surprise that the ACTU congress last week called on the Rudd government to back a wealth tax on high-income earners. The common orthodoxy, even among a large section of the economic commentariat, is that the wealthy should be the last to get tax cuts in good times and the first to be hit with tax rises in bad times.

Take Geoffrey Barker, writing in The Australian Financial Review after the May budget. He complained Wayne Swan’s budget was “plainly flawed in moral terms” because it did not slug the rich enough. “An ethical budget should ... seek impartiality to make benefits granted and sacrifices demanded commensurate with the needs and abilities of citizens.” There was no attempt to claw back revenue by progressively increasing the taxes paid by the wealthiest citizens, Barker complained.

When pundits start framing tax reform in moral terms, you know something’s awry. Their belief in taxing the wealthy has become an article of faith, not a matter for rational analysis. Just as with climate change, those who treat tax as the greatest moral issue of our time will necessarily regard arguments for any limits as immoral. Thus, if you regard progressive tax as a moral imperative, then you can never hit the rich hard enough with higher taxes because every hike makes the system more progressive and, therefore, more morally right. On the flipside, any tax cut or tax break for the rich must necessarily be derided as immoral.

And the sorts of flat tax rates apparently suggested by economist Henry Ergas in his review for the Liberal Party represent the ultimate in moral turpitude. Never mind that flat taxes have helped former communist countries such as Russia and the Baltic states stage a Lazarus-like economic recovery.

Laurie Oakes boarded the same moral indignation train when Malcolm Turnbull committed the political sin of appearing on BRW’s rich list a few weeks back. Oakes thought he had found the ultimate “gotcha” moment when he asked the Opposition Leader how he could possibly support maintaining the private health insurance rebate for high-income earners when he was so rich. In other words, the rich never deserve tax breaks of any kind.

To be sure, it must be politically tempting to run this line. After all, how many votes are you going to lose by soaking the rich? Hence, governments weighed down by deficits and debts are doing just that. Gordon Brown’s Labour government in Britain has raised its top tax rate, overturning Labour Party policy not to raise taxes. In the US, the Obama administration may do the same, following a swath of US states that have raised income taxes on the rich in recent years.

However, clothing these arguments in moral terms is designed to give some respectability to what is in truth little more than an infantile cri de coeur, a barely disguised envy yelp. Rational analysis requires consideration of two questions. First, who pays what proportion of tax? And, second, if you raise the taxes of the wealthy, at what point will they start to change their behaviour, depleting tax revenues?

As to who pays the most, a report commissioned by the Howard government in 2006 cited Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures that revealed Australia had the most progressive tax system after Ireland. In other words, the relative tax burden falls more heavily on those with the highest incomes. Many will say that, too, is as it should be. Indeed, the Barkers of this world will say the wealthy should bear higher taxes, as sacrifices must be commensurate with means. It’s a nice pollyanna kind of idea.

Alas, in the brutish real world, you cannot avoid the second issue. If you raise the taxes of the wealthy, you can expect tax revenues to fall as the wealthy change their behaviour. It is hardly novel to point out that raising the tax on a packet of cigarettes will change behaviour. That’s why governments tax cigarettes. People may smoke less or even give up. Same with taxes on alcohol. Why, then, doesn’t the same logic apply to raising income taxes? In other words, the disincentives from paying higher taxes may mean that those we rely on most to fill up the tax coffers may stop doing so.

Evidence of that abounds. In the 1960s, Britain’s 95 per cent top tax rate turned the Rolling Stones into tax exiles and contributed to the devastation of the British economy, reversed ultimately by Margaret Thatcher. The Beatles song Taxman and the title of the Stones album Exile on Main Street should stand as a potent reminder that progressive taxation has its devastating limits.

For more detail on that, take a look at a recent study for the American Legislative Exchange Council by Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore. They found that from 1998 to 2007, every day more than 1100 people hightailed it out of the nine highest income tax states in the US, such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, such as Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

They also found that during “these same years, the no-income tax states created 89 per cent more jobs and had 32 per cent faster personal income growth than their high tax counterparts”. Laffer and Moore, authors of Rich States, Poor States, found that because people, investment capital and businesses were mobile, there was no coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states - California and New York - also were those in the deepest fiscal hole. In other words, if you soak the rich, you end up sinking the rest.

There are logical reasons hitting the rich, while satisfying the envy gene, does nothing for the economy. The wealthy can, and do, migrate. Those who stay may be more determined to avoid tax (including by working less). And remember, too, that you won’t find rich people locating to a high-taxing country.

This is as true in Australia as anywhere else. As the Rudd government confronts the question of how to pay off decades of debt, inevitably there are calls for tax rises for the rich. That would be a grave mistake. Arguing against tax rises for the rich is not about defending the rich. They can look after themselves. This is about looking after the rest. The smarter approach is to aim for that level of progressivity that maximises the overall tax take, including from the rich. I don’t pretend to know precisely where that point is, but I do know that going beyond that point - although politically tempting - would revive the Beatles’ cry: “Yeah, I’m the taxman. And you’re working for no one but me.”


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Victoria police still hostile to Indians

No doubt in part because the Indians have highlighted how useless they are

Indian groups standing guard at railway stations in Melbourne's west - in a bid to protect students from racial attacks - have been asked to move by police. The groups have been gathering at St Albans and Thomastown railway stations after a spate of assaults on Indians in the area, the latest on Kamal Jit, 23, who was bashed unconscious while walking home from the St Albans railway station on the weekend.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said police had already boosted patrols on the Sydenham train line, the railway stations and at a St Albans shopping centre. She said Indians conducting their own security patrols should ``leave and let police do their jobs''. [And what would that be? Sit at the station doing paperwork, perhaps?] ``We have been talking to them about their concerns and because of that have increased patrols in the area,'' she said.

The group has complied to police requests to move but then returned the following night or gone to other locations, the spokeswoman said. She refused to confirm whether two men who stabbed a 20-year-old man in St Albans yesterday were Indians lashing out after being racially abused by the victim. No one has yet been charged over the incident. The victim allegedly said: "You are black. You don't belong here. Go away from our country". Police described the two men they want to speak to over the attack as aged between 23 and 29 years old and dark-skinned.

A car believed to belong to people attacking Indians was also torched in a factory near St Albans station yesterday. A Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokeswoman said firefighters were called to the blaze in Gratz Street at 11.10pm and have ruled it suspicious.

The attack on the 20-year-old is the first time Indian students appear to have retaliated against violent attacks against them as they walk home late at night from St Albans station. One man, who did not want his name published, said they took the action "in self-defence" after police failed to respond to their call for protection in the wake of attacks on fellow Indian students.

He disputed claims police were liaising with the Indian community group that gathers at the station each night to protect late travellers from attacks as they walk home. "The police don't care. In this suburb everyone is a migrant," he said. His claims were verified by another person who witnessed the attacks but did not want his name published.

The chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, Sam Afra, said it would be unacceptable for the Indian community to take the law into its own hands. "There is a danger this will become like a chain reaction with the victim becoming the perpetrator. We don't want to get to that," he said. Kapil Bajaj, spokesman for the Hindu Council of Australia, said the possible retaliation was worrying and the council would condemn such a response.

A Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman said the 20-year-old man stabbed in the early hours of Monday morning was treated at the scene before being transported in a serious but stable condition to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Police said they believe the man was approached by two men in Walmer Avenue around midnight and a knife was produced. Detectives from Keilor Downs are appealing for any witnesses to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

In other incidents on the same night, a group of Indians were abused by a group of males and one Indian was punched but when the police arrived, "they did not do anything", The Age was told.


The breastfeeding trend goes over the top

Australian mothers beg for black market breast milk, risking serious disease transmission

MOTHERS desperate to feed their babies breast milk are advertising for donated human milk in an unofficial milk black market that bypasses health authorities. The trend is part of an international return to wet-nursing, according to advocates who say the "breast is best" message is getting through. A Gold Coast milk bank has fielded more than 160 requests from New South Wales women wanting to find or donate milk. The natural baby food is proven to contain antibodies against illnesses and infection and has been linked with everything from higher intelligence to fewer allergies.

But mothers without their own supply are left to go it alone in NSW, risking passing on diseases including HIV and hepatitis through unscreened milk. Mothers Milk Bank founder Marea Ryan said mothers were forced underground because banks - including her own in Queensland and another in Western Australia - can only cater for a local supply. "The interstate mums have to have a donor as a private arrangement - another mother who is happy to give them milk," she said. "I think it is increasing as people become a lot more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding."

She added that mothers should see blood tests from donors before feeding their baby donated milk. One Sydney woman who arranged frozen breast milk over the internet said she copped abuse, despite insisting on a medical clearance. "I got lots of mothers telling me it was disgusting, asking how could I give another woman's milk to my baby," she said. "It was full on." The Sydney mother blamed her feeding troubles on a past breast reduction and mastitis, coupled with her daughter's whooping cough. "It was horrible. I'm a big believer in breast feeding," she said. "Knowing she was sick when she was born, you just want to give them the best."

Breastfeeding Australia national spokeswoman Carey Wood said World Health Organisation guidelines recommended "cross-feeding" ahead of formula. "We know the best thing for babies is their mothers' own milk," she said. Ms Wood said breast milk was produced by mothers specifically for the age of their baby. "Milk for an 18-month-old or two-year-old, that's not exactly what a newborn needs," she said.

The association does not condone private arrangements and asked a Senate Inquiry for a national network of breast milk banks in 2007. In the US, breast milk has sold online for as much as $1.90 for 20ml.


Greenie Gets Comeuppance?

Bob Brown hit with huge legal bill

GREENS leader Senator Bob Brown has accused the Tasmanian Government of trying to force him out of the Federal Senate. Dr Brown last week received a letter from Forestry Tasmania, a wholly-owned State Government business, demanding he pay nearly $240,000 in legal costs by June 29. The Greens Senator was ordered to pay the fees by the Federal Court, after he lost on appeal his long running court case against Forestry Tasmania to halt logging in the Wielangta State Forest on Tasmania's east coast. Dr Brown claimed the logging was endangering the survival of the threatened wedge tail eagle and Swifts parrot and was therefore contrary to national environmental laws.

The longtime environmental campaigner said yesterday he was not refusing to pay the court-ordered $239,368 to Forestry Tasmania. But he said he did not personally have the funds available to pay the legal demand, and could not raise them in the next three weeks.

The letter from Forestry Tasmania's lawyers threatens it will seek to declare Dr Brown bankrupt if he cannot pay the required sum. Any senator declared bankrupt or insolvent - or who is forced to enter into a payment schedule with creditors - is immediately disqualified from holding a seat in Federal Parliament.

Dr Brown said he had no doubt the Tasmanian Government and other "minions of the logging industry" were seeking to force him from parliament because of his long term quest to end all logging of Australia's native forests. "I’m not complaining (about the legal costs); these are typical pressure tactics being used by the logging industry,'' Senator Brown said in Hobart. "But I will not back off either from defending Tasmania's magnificent forests - not now, not ever.''

Senator Brown will now appeal to wealthy donors to help raise his legal debt, as well as look to raise funds through the auction of his own collection of environmental memorabilia.


Aussie cities on world's most-liveable list

I am pretty dubious about all this. I think Tokyo should have been first. It is infinitely safer than any Western city and has everything generally. Its only problem is very expensive accommodation as far as I know

AUSTRALIAN cities occupy five of the top 20 places in a British survey ranking the liveability of 140 of the world's major centres. Melbourne ranked third in the world, behind Vancouver in Canada and the Austrian city of Vienna in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2009 Liveability survey.

It assessed 140 cities based on stability, health care, education, infrastructure and culture and environment, giving each one a rating out of 100.

Perth was equal fifth with Calgary in Canada, with Sydney sharing ninth place with Zurich in Switzerland, Adelaide in 11th place and Brisbane 16th on the list. As well as Vancouver and Calgary, Canadian cities also featured strongly in the top 20, with Toronto (4th) and Montreal (17th). The New Zealand cities of Auckland and Wellington finished 12th and 23rd respectively.

US centres were well down the list. Pittsburgh ranked highest, in 29th place. The highest-ranked Asian city was Osaka in Japan (13th). The next highest was Hong Kong (equal 39th with Madrid, Spain) followed by Singapore (54th) and Seoul, South Korea (58th).


Monday, June 08, 2009

Not all teaching should be web-based

I think there still is something to the idea of a community of scholars so I have some sympathy with the ideas below

A LEADING Brisbane academic is refusing to post lecture material on the web, as part of his campaign for colleagues to halt the "dumbing down" of universities. Professor Tor Hundloe, an emeritus professor at the the University of Queensland, professor at Griffith and Bond universities and a lecturer for 34 years, is leading what he hopes will become a staff backlash against the rising trend of university students learning via the internet.

The Sunday Mail last week revealed many university students were skipping face-to-face lectures in favour of later downloading them online. In one case, a near-full lecture theatre at the start of the semester was more than half empty by the middle of the semester.

Griffith University and UQ are among the tertiary institutions pushing ahead with systems to allow staff more easily to post recordings of lectures on the web. Proi Hundloe last week rejected denials by some academics that lectures on the web had led to a decline in student attendance at lectures. He said he and other teaching staff had seen a drop-off.

He said university management was pushing staff to post more material online as a result of student demand, but some staff did not feel it was doing students any favours. "There are so many academics I know that are seeing this trend," Prof Hundloe said. "It is quite dramatic in some classes. It has correlated undoubtedly with people putting material online. I would like to see teaching staff react before it becomes too late. I would like to rescue the universities from what ultimately they will find ... (has been) a major mistake.

"As professional educators, our first and foremost task is to entice students to think for themselves. "All the brilliant breakthroughs in modern medicine and in communication technologies have developed via this process. You only get this type of education in class. "I am not anti-computers. I just don't think it is the way we should be teaching students". There is no policy at Queensland's universities requiring lectures to be recorded and posted online. But universities, such as Griffith, which has paid to install recording equipment in many of its lecture theatres, will strongly encourage staff to take advantage of the technology.

Griffith's flexible learning and access services acting director, Kevin Ashford-Rowe, said students were increasingly expecting to have access to content online. "I cannot foresee a situation where it won't be up to the individual teacher as to how they want to deliver lessons," he said. "When (students) are in the lecture itself, they don't have to worry about something they might miss. (But) it is fair to acknowledge that providing students with opportunities to gain additional access to that teaching content ... I am not entirely sure that can be seen as a bad thing." Prof Hundloe wants other educators to contact him if they want to help "rebuild the universities as a place of scholarship".

The above story by Kelmeny Fraser appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 7, 2009

University of Sydney offers degrees in Leftist disruption

As a graduate of USyd, I find this very disappointing, though not unexpected. But, as usual, the light of publicity has caused a retreat

Anti-military activists have been offered training on how to disrupt Australia's top-level wargames with the US military in an official course run by Sydney University. The University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies offered students a six-week "Peace and Activism Training Course" culminating in a trip to Queensland next month to disrupt Exercise Talisman Sabre.

The $500 course fee even included travel expenses for the six-day trip to Rockhampton to take part in the "Peace Convergence" for the first week of the three-week exercise. An online discussion group by organisers investigated by The Daily Telegraph reveals the group plans to blockade Rockhampton airport on Sunday, July 12 and other direct action. It also anticipates possible arrests. In previous years protesters have tried to blockade the Shoalwater Bay military training base and several have been arrested.

The course's instructors included Dr Hannah Middleton, who is also a protest organiser. [Hannah is also the leader of Australia's Communist Party so she is not opposed to the military as such, just democratic militaries. The Red army did a lot more than bake cookies and distribute knitting patterns]

However, after being contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Dr Middleton said late yesterday that the course had been cancelled. She also said students in the course would not have been asked to take part in actions that could get them arrested. "They are studying non-violent responses to conflict," she said.

The group is also preparing an "activist's handbook" for those taking part. However, it has not yet been distributed. The 2007 handbook has been pulled from the organisers' website. An existing manual circulated among members promotes the use of techniques such as tunnelling, occupying buildings and throwing pies.


More stupid bureaucracy

'Hero' bus driver sacked for coming to woman's aid

A Maddington bus driver described as a hero by his union has been sacked for coming to the defence of a female colleague. Ken McMahon, 39, intervened on Wednesday morning when a drunken passenger he had kicked off his bus started harassing an off-duty bus driver on the footpath. The 35-year-old woman, who was waiting to say hello to Mr McMahon, was a few feet away from the bus when the drunken passenger was told to leave. The incident occurred in Victoria Park and the woman was in uniform.

``He was attacking her and I went to protect her,'' Mr McMahon told The Sunday Times. ``He took one swing and I hit him one time and stopped him in his tracks. He was a large, intoxicated and aggressive -- an abusive male who was right in her face, fists clenched, chasing her down the footpath screaming all sorts of obscenities at her.''

Mr McMahon, who has been a bus driver for Swan Transit for 18 months and has martial-arts training, said company policy forbids him to leave his bus to aid anyone in trouble. ``So, I lost my job over the incident,'' he said. ``They called me in on Thursday afternoon and I was sacked. ``The lady is a close friend, so I clearly would not stand by and let the situation escalate to the point where she was physically battered.''

The Transport Workers Union described Mr McMahon as a hero. Witness statements, including from the woman, support Mr McMahon's version of events. ``Ken was the only one who came to protect me,'' the woman said in a written statement to Swan Transit. ``No one walking on the street did anything.''

However, Swan Transit director Neil Smith said the woman was threatened verbally, but not physically, so Mr McMahon's actions were an over-reaction. ``We dismiss very few people and we are extremely careful about the procedures we use to do so,'' Mr Smith said. Mr Smith said CCTV footage showed the woman under threat was walking away from the drunken male and speaking on her mobile phone.

He said Mr McMahon did not have to hit the drunken man. ``There would have been easier ways to restrain the person other than the way that went on,'' he said. ``The violence used was completely disproportionate, even if there was a genuine problem.''

The matter is expected to go to arbitration in the next six weeks. TWU spokesman Paul Aslan said he was disgusted by the decision to sack Mr McMahon for helping a colleague.

In April bus drivers threatened to walk off the job unless demands for greater protection were met. Mr Aslan said Mr McMahon's dismissal could be the final straw, provoking widespread union action, including stopwork meetings and industrial action. He said Mr McMahon should be commended, not fired, for his actions.


Can government be TOO open?

The article below says so but I can't find much sympathy for the argument concerned

PREMIER Anna Bligh promised a new right to information law would make her government the most open and accountable in Australia. But there are promises and there are promises ... as we saw last week with Bligh announcing the sell-off of state assets and the scrapping of the 8.3c-a-litre fuel subsidy. Many people have already lost their faith and trust in the nation's first woman premier voted into office in her own right. That was only 78 days ago.

Lost in the uproar in Parliament and in the public arena last week was new legislation on Freedom of Information. It was passed rather too quietly late Tuesday night and will come into force on July 1. There is a particularly nasty sting in the tail of the new Right to Information Act, section 54, which Bligh refused to take out. It allows the Government to publish details from a successful FOI application on the internet 24 hours after they have been released to a person or media organisation.

This will effectively kill off media or Opposition attempts to expose government bumbling or cover-ups - after paying sometimes hundreds or thousands of dollars and waiting months for the information. The Government will put the documents on a website with the obligatory spin and not have to wait to respond to a media report or a question in Parliament.

LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek hit the nail on the head when he told the House the information would be widely available 24 hours after access had been given despite the fact that it would have otherwise been unavailable to the public. "While the Premier will dress this clause up as proof of the Government's openness and accountability, it is in fact a sneaky way of deterring journalists from seeking official information," he said. "This is a cynical move by the Bligh Government that will effectively stop media organisations from making access applications."

Langbroek also quite rightly pointed out that it would give media organisations little time to analyse the information before being widely published. His amendment to make it 30 days, not 24 hours, was knocked back by the Government.

Bligh's response was that the 24-hour clause was recommended in the review of FOI laws. But that did not mean the Government had to accept the recommendation. If the Premier was sincere about being an open and accountable regime, she would not have persisted with this measure.

And the Government has employed other tactics to dull the impact of an FOI disclosure. Ministers are given detailed briefings on every media and Opposition FOI request. It takes a month at least for the process of retrieving the information to begin, giving the minister and his or her department plenty of time to deliver a "positive" message to the public before the "negative" appears in print or at Question Time. They make a speech in Parliament in advance of the release of information or issue a public statement talking up the subject. How open and accountable can you get?

There was another disturbing sign from the new Bligh Government recently when two ministers, by putting out early media releases, tried to water down what they perceived as potentially damaging reports which were about to appear in The Sunday Mail.

The other strategy the Government uses with FOI requests from the media or Opposition is to drag them out for an eternity or make the cost excessive. A prime example was an application I made to the Premier in December for information relating to the Government's decision to add recycled water to southeast Queensland dams, and the background on the 40 per cent trigger point.

Six months later, the request had been transferred to four different government departments - with additional application costs - and little or no relevant information retrieved. Treasury, SEQWater and the Office of the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning had the same, somewhat staggering response: "No documents have been found within the scope of your application." The Queensland Water Commission took another approach, claiming the information sought would cost The Sunday Mail $4657.40. The Premier's office found 25 folios, some of which were simply emails from spin doctors discussing earlier Sunday Mail requests for information on the subject. It was a case of bashing our head up against the proverbial brick dam wall.

Langbroek attempted another amendment to the Right to Information Bill last week, capping the cost of an access application at $1000. Not surprisingly, that was also rejected. He said the review recommendation for a fee regime based on folio numbers would actually increase the cost of making an application. "Capping the cost of charges will allow Queenslanders to have access to government information at a much lower price and prevent the Government from hiding behind excessive bills and charges to receive information," the LNP leader said.

Not going to happen. Not in the Bligh Government's lifetime. Say one thing, do another.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

More government means less healthcare

This week the headlines announced that Australia’s ‘free’ health system was in danger of being replaced with a ‘US-style’ user pay system because out of control growth in the cost of the NSW public hospital system will drain the State’s coffers. So NSW Health has come up with a new and radical plan (it is neither) to save Medicare.

When we think about the coming crisis of Medicare, we usually think of the impact of new medical technology that can do more things for more patients, especially elderly patients. But in relation to public hospitals, the crisis is now and more fundamental. Despite ever escalating government funding for the system, bills are not paid, patients are not properly fed, and there aren’t enough beds to treat emergency patients, let alone elective patients, in a timely manner.

We know who and what is to blame for the ‘hospital crisis.’ Like all government bureaucracies that are responsible for delivering public services, NSW Health and the area health services that run public hospitals are incapable, of controlling costs, increasing efficiency, or improving quality.

So the bureaucracy is now looking for a financial bail-out – using a dishonest scare about ‘US-style’ health and jokes about ‘slashing red tape’ to grease the political wheels.

NSW Health’s plan to save Medicare is for all Commonwealth and state hospital and health funding, including the money used to fund bulk-billed GP care, to be cashed out, ‘pooled,’ and distributed to regional health authorities (a.k.a. the area health services) that would be responsible for the planning and provision of all health services within a designated region.

Based on ‘reforms’ introduced in United Kingdom, this plan would transform the health system for the worst. Because it would involve the elimination of fee-for-service general practice, GP services would end up being ‘rationed,’ just like public hospital care. People who wait months now on elective surgery waiting lists would end up waiting for days and possibly weeks before they could even see a GP.

We do need to find a cure for the coming crisis of Medicare. But a plan that would give the bureaucracies that operate public hospitals without enough beds even greater control of our precious health dollars should be dismissed out of hand.

The above is a press release from CIS

Lax police approach leaves some Melbourne streets off limits

THE controversy over attacks on Indian students has highlighted Australia's acceptance that areas of its cities are unsafe for anyone at certain times. Andrew McIntosh, the Opposition police spokesman in Victoria - who raised his concerns about the attacks ahead of the recent furore - said yesterday: "Under no circumstances should a certain level of crime be considered acceptable in any part of the state."

He said that he was "appalled to hear a senior police officer saying that people who live near a hotel have to accept an amount of bad behaviour". "This, to me, means just surrendering the streets to the bad guys. We may as well put up signs saying these are no-go areas, that we enter at our peril. We should not tolerate any level of violence."

He says the violence against Indian students and the broader community requires a major campaign on the lines of the campaigns run successfully against bad behaviour on the roads, including drink driving and road deaths. "And we need to put more police on the beat. It's just a bloody disgrace," he says. He says he attended last Sunday's rally in Melbourne by Indian students to listen to their concerns. "To dismiss them as soft targets because they travel alone on public transport late at night is simply not acceptable," he says. "They need to be protected, like all of us, by our Government. It's all part of the same problem."

One of Australia's leading experts on race hate attacks, Sydney based Jeremy Jones, a former executive president of the Australian Council of Jewry, says that most of the attacks are probably by "idiotic thugs" rather than by people driven by an ideology of racial hatred. But, he adds: "It doesn't make people in the Indian community feel any better even if it's only a tiny minority of Australians who have racist views about them, if they hold those views and act on them - especially if the community feels it doesn't have proper protection or recourse." He says that the best protection comes from political leaders speaking out unambiguously and frequently against racism. "It has to be repeated, because you have to get through some thick skulls."

Gail Mason of the University of Technology, Sydney, says that such crimes often involve mixed motives: robbery, for instance, combined with race-hate-motivated assault, fuelled by drunkenness and boredom, "and a desire to establish a sense of one's own masculinity in front of friends".

A leader of the Indian community in Victoria, who does not wish to be named, says the victims of the attacks are overwhelmingly studying at small, private institutions rather than at established universities. He says some appeared to lack proficiency in English,and lack adequate preparation and guidance for their time in Melbourne....


An affront to justice in anyone's language

Only one year in jail for drowning his recently married young wife. Lazy prosecutors accept a deal to save themselves the trouble of getting a murder verdict

QUEENSLAND'S attorney-general is considering appealing the sentence given to an American man over the scuba-diving death of his wife on the Great Barrier Reef in 2003. David Gabriel Watson, 32, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years' jail on Friday after pleading guilty in the Queensland Supreme Court in Brisbane to the manslaughter of Christina (Tina) while on their honeymoon in north Queensland. He had been charged with murder, to which he pleaded not guilty, but crown persecutors accepted the plea to the lesser charge. Watson will serve 12 months behind bars before he is released on a suspended sentence.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick has asked for the sentencing remarks, and will consider lodging an appeal. Shadow Attorney-General Lawrence Springborg has told the ABC the Government should examine the Watson case. "Obviously, the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) had decided they would enter into a plea agreement, and a lot of people will be shaming their heads, particularly the family of the victim," he said.

US authorities have expressed their outrage over the leniency of the sentence. Alabama's Attorney-General Troy King told Fairfax newspapers on Saturday he will lead a mission to Queensland to lobby for an appeal. If that isn't successful, he will push "America's legal boundaries to the limit" and attempt to charge Watson with murder, for the second time, when he is deported back to the US upon his release.

Americans in Watson's home state of Alabama have reacted with fury and disgust at the jail sentence. "It makes me sick, he should get 40 years for sure! Loser!" a reader vented on Alabama's Birmingham News website on Friday. Another wrote: "One year. That is pathetic. I hope that when he does get out and returns home everyone gives him hell".

Tina's friends and relatives also used the Birmingham News website to show their anger. "I am one of Tina's cousins and we are completely and totally outraged by this sentence ... what a complete slap in the face to Tina's family," the cousin wrote.


Former union leader now in government lashes out at unions

FEDERAL cabinet minister and former ACTU president Martin Ferguson has slapped down union leaders, declaring they should be more focused on protecting the jobs of their members than agitating for a second wave of workplace laws.

Reflecting the Government's determination to stare down the unions at the coming ALP national conference, Mr Ferguson has fuelled tensions by accusing building unionists of indefensible behaviour. "I would have thought that in the middle of the global financial crisis our priority is keeping people employed, not changes to the industrial regulatory system," the Resources Minister told The Weekend Australian. "This Labor Government learned early on that for working families, having a job is far more preferable than being unemployed. "It's about time the union leadership gave Kevin (Rudd) and Julia (Gillard) credit for what has been done in very difficult economic circumstances."

Mr Ferguson said he unequivocally supported the address by Julia Gillard to the ACTU congress in Brisbane this week, in which she highlighted allegations of violence and intimidation against Victorian building workers and rejected the ACTU push to scrap the coercive powers of the building industry watchdog. The Workplace Relations Minister told unionists they would be better off "pounding the pavements" in support of the Fair Work Act than lobbying Canberra for further industrial legislative change.

Mr Ferguson told The Weekend Australian yesterday: "As a son of a bricklayer, I appreciate the building industry is a tough industry, but there are expectations as to how trade unions conduct themselves. "It was the Hawke and Keating governments that started to clean the industry up, and it was unfinished business from when we were last in government in 1996. "Having been given the privilege to govern again, it's also our responsibility to make sure we do the right thing by building industry workers and their families. "While there are excesses on both sides, in some disputes, such as the West Gate Bridge dispute, there were acts that no decent Labor Party person or supporter can defend."

Mr Ferguson's public intervention is significant. As a former ACTU leader and left-wing secretary of the then Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union, he commands respect among union officials. A prominent union official during the 1980s and 1990s, he was involved in stoushes between Labor governments and the Builders Labourers Federation.

Senior government figures have expressed concern at what Labor sees as the continuing militant conduct of building unionists, particularly in Victoria and Western Australia. Unions will push for a motion at the ALP conference to scrap the industry watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. They will seek to ensure the motion contains a clause saying the policy must be implemented at the next election and could not be changed by the Government.

In backing Ms Gillard yesterday, Mr Ferguson made pointed reference to the time he had spent representing the interests of some of the nation's lowest-paid workers. "I understand and fully support Julia Gillard's speech to the ACTU congress this week," he said. "The union movement's priority must be always to look after the low-paid in the community. As Minister for Workplace Relations, Julia has completely focused on putting in place the industrial relations system that assists the weakest in the community, the people I used to like representing, such as cleaners and childcare workers.

"With respect to the building industry, there is a limit to how much assistance any Labor government can give. The tensions in some sections of the building industry, in some ways, reflect tensions that were there the last time Labor was in government, from 1983 to 1996."


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Where immigrants are not only accepted but sought after!

Hey, Poms, fancy living in Adelaide? Australia tries to lure talented Brits

Adelaide has launched a raid on British talent with a campaign luring families to its Mediterranean climate and 'recession-free' economy. As well as a host of job opportunities, the city is offering 300 days of sunshine a year, affordable house prices, and a 'better quality of life'. The offer is all the more attractive as South Australia is on the brink of becoming the world's 'next boom state', according to a report.

The hand of welcome was extended yesterday by the Government of South Australia, which said the opportunities for those wishing to work or invest in Adelaide were 'second to none'.

However, the climate and attractions of the coastal city are bound to be an equal draw. As well as long beachfronts, it boasts average summer temperatures of 28c (82f), world-renowned wine and highly-rated schools. While its climate does mean it is prone to light rainfalls, they are not on the same scale as the depressing downpours suffered by Britain.

The report was commissioned by the South Australian Government to sum up the attractions of Adelaide in order to encourage businesses to invest in a growing economy 'rather than a declining one'. It follows data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which claims not only that Australia has avoided the recession, but that Adelaide is Australia's best-performing city.

British trend analyst Ray Hammond, who was commissioned to compile the report, said he believed the city would boom economically over the next decade. 'If I could, I would buy shares in Adelaide tomorrow,' he said.

Bill Muirhead, South Australia's London-based Agent-General, said: 'This is not just another cynical assault on the Britain that continues to lose business investment to this healthy and growing state economy. 'South Australia's economy outgrew Australia's, and Adelaide was the only state recording growth in the March quarter. 'It is also the nation's food and wine capital - we produce half of Australia's wine and are home to brands such as Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Jacob's Creek.'

According to the report, Adelaide's success is based on world-class education, affordable housing, rich natural commodities and a consistent ranking as one of the best cities in the world for business. The city, which is 450 miles north-west of Melbourne, came in the top ten of The Economist's World's Most Livable Cities index last year.

Australia already attracts many Britons, with 23,236 moving there in 2007-08, including 2,451 who went to Adelaide. Total migration from Britain in the 12 months to June this year was a record 406,000. A survey found that four in ten cited the high cost of living in the UK as the main reason for leaving.


States claim they will lose from Warmist scheme

STATE governments have released modelling showing they will be $2.2 billion a year worse off by 2012 under the federal Government's emissions trading scheme, with NSW and Queensland's coffers to be hardest hit. The modelling, by Access Economics, was delivered to last week's meeting of state leaders in Brisbane and publicly released yesterday as the House of Representatives passed legislation setting up the new emissions trading scheme.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said it would be a "matter for the states" if they wanted to pursue extra financial compensation from the commonwealth to make up for the impact of the scheme. She cited former prime minister Paul Keating's quote that it was unwise to come between a state premier and a bucket of money.

According to the modelling, which did not take into account the changes to the scheme announced by the Rudd Government early last month, higher costs and lower mining royalties will mean NSW loses 0.18 per cent of the gross state product it could otherwise anticipate, or $861 million a year, by 2013-14. Queensland would be $457million a year worse off, or 0.15 per cent of GSP. It shows that, proportionately, the Northern Territory will be the worst affected, losing 0.37 per cent of projected GSP, or $82million.

The release of the modelling came as uncertainty continued over whether failure by the Senate to pass the legislation before the lengthy winter break would constitute the first of two "rejections" necessary for it to become the trigger for a double-dissolution election. The Government insists the legislation has been exhaustively debated and scrutinised by Senate committees and two weeks should be ample time for Senate consideration.

"We have said for a number of months we want this legislation debated and voted on in June," Senator Wong said. "We think there has been plenty of debate, plenty of discussion. "The only calls for delay in this parliament are from (Opposition Leader) Mr (Malcolm) Turnbull, who wants to delay because he is unable to stand up to the sceptics in his own partyroom and to have a position on this legislation that is constructive."

But the clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, said constitutional uncertainty would result if the Government tried to insist that a "failure to pass" the laws in the next two weeks of sittings constituted a rejection. "I don't think that would be reasonable but in the end it would come down to whether the Government could persuade the Governor-General it was reasonable," he said.

The issue is important because if the first vote on the bill is not taken until the Senate resumes in August, the second and final vote could be delayed until after the UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December, as the Opposition has demanded.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Greg Combet, had a third meeting with the coal industry yesterday without making any significant progress in resolving a dispute about compensation offered under the scheme.

Senator Wong is holding talks with the Greens to see whether she can secure passage of the scheme without the Senate support of the Opposition.


Rudd thinks his policies saved Australia -- which will give dangerous encouragement to his wasteful ways

THIS week's good news is that the economy is not technically in recession. The bad news, which is far more serious, is the lasting harm the good news could cause. Central to that harm are the lessons being drawn from the gross domestic product numbers. As the Government grasps paternity of the unexpected outcome, strong claims are being made about the efficacy of the present economic policy, with little or no basis in supporting evidence. And in the euphoria of the moment, the mounting problems associated with that policy are being ignored.

All of this feeds an atmosphere in which caution is thrown to the wind, as the notion that governments should "err on the side of doing too much rather than doing too little" becomes a core tenet in the state religion.

The open letter 21 highly respected Australian economists published earlier this week in The Australian Financial Review strikingly illustrates the trend. Endorsing the "too much rather than too little" approach, that letter claims "there is no more effective way to stimulate the economy" than cash handouts.

In reality, the efficacy of that spending is far from established. Rather, much as economic theory would predict, the striking fact is just how smooth the path of consumption has been, despite a substantial spike in income associated with the Government's cash splash. This can be seen from the accompanying graphs, which show that the relationship between income and consumption for Australia is broadly similar to that John Taylor has found for the US (although the decline in consumption that occurred in the US has not occurred here, possibly reflecting the far steeper fall in US housing prices). Of course, there is a debate to be had about what would have happened in the absence of the handouts. But rather than being based on bare assertions, that debate needs to rest on evidence interpreted in the light of sound economic theory.

Moreover, and even more important, effective does not mean efficient. And it is here that the greatest worries must lie, for what we have witnessed in the past 12 months is the greatest deterioration in the quality of public expenditure since the Whitlam government. Thus, in its previous budget the Government committed itself to infrastructure decision-making "based on rigorous cost-benefit analysis" and respecting "a commitment to transparency at all stages of the decision-making process". Now, dizzy with success, it vaunts its decision not to undertake any cost-benefit analysis at all of big infrastructure programs, notably the national broadband network, and refuses to disclose the results, much less the details, of those analyses that have been carried out.

All this, we are told, is needed to save jobs and boost the economy's productive potential. But neither of these claims withstands scrutiny.

According to the 21 economists, Treasury estimates show that the spending will "keep up to 210,000 Australians in work who would otherwise be out of jobs". But this estimate appears to be based on nothing more than a crude rule of thumb that the Government has mechanistically applied to all forms of government spending, irrespective of whether that spending creates net benefits. It ignores the very real possibility that many of the jobs supposedly saved by government spending simply draw workers out of more productive activities, thereby reducing overall living standards.

As for boosting the economy's productive potential, there is no surer way to make an economy poorer than to invest in programs whose costs exceed their benefits. Yet Australians can well fear that such investments are now being locked in, and on a vast scale. As the bills come due, they will have to be paid; and the costs could be very high indeed.

None of this is to demonise budget deficits. But today's budget deficits and public debt are tomorrow's tax liabilities. Incurring debt to fund genuinely productive investment is one thing; a strategy of deliberately borrowing "too much rather than too little" in order to spend "too much rather than too little" is another. As surely as night follows day, such a strategy will result in future taxes being higher than they need to be, aggravating the distortions associated with taxation. As a result, the economy loses twice: first from the waste of resources in poorly judged spending programs, and then from the distortions induced by the taxes needed to fund them.

It may be that, faced with the Depression of the 1930s, governments did too little, too late. No less grave, however, was the fact that when they did act, their actions were often poorly thought through and merely made the problems worse. By the '70s, when the successive oil shocks hit, the reticence to intervene that pre-war governments had shown had long disappeared. As the economic situation deteriorated, governments therefore erred, exactly as the 21 economists recommend, on the side of doing too much rather than too little. Fifteen years of hardship, far-reaching loss of output and the misery of prolonged unemployment were the consequence. These are lessons that are painfully learned but readily forgotten.

Of course, every recession, like every episode of economic growth, differs from those that preceded it and from its successors. In that sense it is true that the present situation is unprecedented. However, those differences do not mean that anything goes. Rather, they make it all the more important to be careful and realistic in the recommendations one makes.

These circumstances also make it crucial for economists to speak truth to power. As the eminent Australian economist J.B. Brigden, writing in exceptionally difficult times, put it, "As an economist, it is my duty to talk about costs": for although the gains from government spending are often obvious, especially to the recipients, its costs are readily ignored, and shifted from the favoured constituencies of the present to the income earners and taxpayers of the future.

Australia's long-term prosperity is best served by restraint and efficiency in government spending, and by advancing reforms that limit and reduce the extent and burden of taxation. The previous government should have done more in this regard. However, this Government has made these objectives even more difficult to achieve, not least through a proliferation of wasteful spending programs in the present and the commitment of very large, but not properly disclosed, outlays to the future. Going further in this direction may well be politically popular. But it would be bad economics, and would serve neither the country nor the Government well.

Ultimately, policy is shaped neither by facts nor by ideas, but by ideas about facts. It is this that makes the claims being drawn from this week's GDP numbers so very dangerous. Of course, the Government will want to bask in the glory of the moment; but what it must understand is this: that once unrealistic expectations about what government can achieve have set in, it is only needless pain and disappointment that can follow.


How Australia avoided the meltdown

Mainly because of conservative banking practices

It's a bit daring, putting this question when we are barely halfway through the show — and at any moment the next twist could pitch us out of our seats. But after this week's unexpectedly good gross domestic product (GDP) figures, after the banks' strong profit reports, we could fairly ask: why hasn't the global financial crisis hit us like it hit the rest of the Western world?

Perhaps there are two issues. One is the economic story, and we have know a bit about that. Stunningly high coal and iron ore prices, a decent wheat harvest and the Federal Government's rapid-fire stimulus have all done their bit to shield Australia from the worst of the crisis. Yet only partially: output per head, the economy's real bottom line, fell 1.6 per cent in the year to March. Unemployment has already surged by 175,000. We are part of the global recession.

But in one important way, we are not part of the global financial crisis. Our financial system has not collapsed. The Government has had to offer guarantees for bank debt — prompted, among other things, by fears for Suncorp Metway — but unlike other governments, it has not had to provide capital to prop up the banks. The smaller banks are experiencing turbulence, some of it heavy. But the Big Four remain AA rated and highly profitable — a reminder to banks in other Western countries of how good life used to be.

Through the crisis, Australia has maintained a kind of normality. When the storm came, our house was found to be built on rock, not sand. It is not the same financial system we had before, and it is even more concentrated in the grip of a small quasi-cartel. But in March alone, the banks wrote $15.7 billion of housing loans, $5.3 billion of personal loans, $26 billion of commercial and lease finance, and lent roughly $7 billion to governments.

In other countries, the global financial crisis left the financial system broken: not here. Why not? There is a broad consensus on what went right. Insiders and onlookers agree that a range of factors lay behind this success story. Some of it was luck. Some of it was good management. Some of it was good regulation. And some was due to all of these interacting in an environment that sustained traditional banking and made it profitable.

Where does the story start? Perhaps the best place is in the 1980s, when banks were deregulated, given the keys to the car, revved it up to an exhilarating pace — and ran off the road. Westpac hit a tree, and almost died. The state banks of Victoria and South Australia went over the cliff, and that was the end of them. All the surviving cars were badly damaged, and needed years of repairs. But the long-term impact was to change the banking culture.

Australia's banks in the '90s and '00s were conservative lenders. They were wary of risky products, and stuck to traditional rules rather than following the fashions. Ian Harper, the former Melbourne University economist who sat on the Wallis review of the financial system, says the 1990 crash was a blessing in disguise. In the '80s, he says, Australia's newly liberated banks sacked old-style conservative bankers and let their "cowboys" rule the roost. In the '90s and '00s, power shifted back to the traditionalists, who had witnessed the mistakes of the 1980s, and did not forget them.

"Inside the banks there was a titanic struggle between the investment bankers and the credit risk managers," Harper says. "It was a culture war, but throughout the period, the chief executives were old-style bankers. The tyre-kicking, cautious bankers in the end swept aside those who were hungry for yield."

Westpac under former CEO David Morgan made a deliberate decision to steer clear of the risky products hawked by its US counterparts. At National Australia Bank, Don Argus took a similar position. And while NAB and ANZ bank did end up with some nasty losses, their exposures were small compared to those of European and US banks. As an insider puts it: "They have a pretty good corporate memory of what it's like to look into the abyss."

They were equally cautious in lending. In Australia, the risks were taken by unregulated new lenders, who offered buyers seen as poor credit risks the "non-conforming loans" that were our counterpart to the US subprime loans. The banks' riskiest products were low-doc loans to borrowers with fluctuating incomes. But in March the Reserve Bank reported that 10 per cent of non-conforming loans were in arrears, compared with 2 per cent of low-doc loans — and just 0.4 per cent of traditional full-doc loans. We have a long way to go yet, but compared with past recessions, and compared with other Western countries, that is an amazingly low default rate.

"The quality of lending here was much higher," says Ric Simes, director of Access Economics and former adviser to prime minister Paul Keating. "Australia was not at the cutting edge of product development, and that was fortunate for us."

But it was not just good management that was responsible for our banks survival when others failed. They were lucky. The Australian market gave them so many opportunities to make good money that they had no need to take risks chasing high yields overseas. Between the 1990-91 recession and this one, Australia's economy almost doubled. While business in the '90s was wary of taking on debt, home buyers were not. Inflation stayed low, so interest rates stayed low, so people could afford to borrow more. That borrowing drove up house prices, so people had to borrow still more, and so on.

"Before 1991, 35 to 40 per cent of their lending was for housing", says an insider. "After 1991, more than half of it was for housing, which is less risky than lending to corporates. While their margins came under pressure from the new lenders, they were able to compensate by growing their business." Another says: "The banks are making a 20 per cent return on earnings right here. There's just no reason for them to go anywhere else. I think that has a lot to do with it."

By contrast, says Harper, in Europe's slow-growing economies, the banks had plenty of money but not enough investment opportunities that promised a good return. "The European banks were desperate for yield because they had a glut of savings," he says. That search for yield led them to the US and securitised subprime mortgages — and risks that they badly underestimated.

The environment in which the Big Four operate does not encourage taking risks. They depend on overseas investors for funds, while the four pillars policy makes them safe against takeover. When the tax system encouraged savings to migrate from bank deposits into superannuation, the banks gradually came to rely on overseas borrowing to provide most of their funds. And while that carried risks, says an observer, it also made banks more careful about how they used the money. "The market put a discipline on them that was not operating on the German banks sitting on a big pile of household savings," he says.

Former Reserve Bank governor Ian Macfarlane agrees. "I have no doubt that if Australian banks had a surplus of domestic funds, they also would have acquired a lot of dubious assets, just as many of our counterparts did," he told the ASIC Summer School in March.

Provocatively, Macfarlane, who sits on the ANZ board, also suggested that the four pillars policy has worked to encourage sound lending. Because the policy insulated the banks from takeovers, they were under no pressure to maximise short-term earnings, but acted in their long-term interests. "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the difference was (that) there was no competition for corporate control in Australia, which saved us from the worst excesses that characterised banking systems overseas," he said.

The legal, political and cultural environment in Australia is also more supportive of banks than in the US. There are no non-recourse loans here; if you default, owing the bank more than your property is worth, they can come after you for the balance. Culturally, too, Australians tend not to do a midnight flit. Rather, our tradition is that when things get bad, we sacrifice all else to try to keep the home.

And politically, the events of the last year have shown graphically that the banks have clout. The Government's guarantee scheme was tailored to suit the Big Four, regardless of the problems it created for other areas of the finance sector. The Government has stood by as the banks have increased margins, despite angry voters calling on it to intervene. Partly because Labor feels vulnerable on economic issues, it clearly wants a cosy relationship with the big banks.

But another part of government has been careful not to get too cosy with the banks. And that is the other key reason why the banks have come through the boom and bust in such good shape. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has been an effective regulator, constantly probing and nipping at the banks' heels to keep them from getting into dangerous territory.

APRA was created from the Wallis inquiry in 1998 as the single prudential regulator for the financial system. In its early years it was undermanned, constantly running behind the play, and reluctant to intervene. Then came the HIH collapse, with more than $5 billion of investors' losses, and APRA changed. Senior Reserve Bank official John Laker was brought in to take charge, and the hands-off policy changed to hands-on. Harper says the HIH nightmare changed APRA in the same way as the 1990 crash changed the banks.

Insiders agree that APRA is "no soft touch regulator". It sees its role as to be assertive in asking questions, and demanding answers, and to take a conservative approach. For example, it does not allow the US practice of banks using cheap "drive-by" valuations, but insists that valuers carry out full inspections. It cannot stop banks issuing risky products, but if they do, it requires them to raise more capital. When a bank issues low-doc loans, for example, APRA makes them put in more capital to protect against the increased risk of default. It listens to the banks, it debates with them, but if it is not convinced, it acts. And it has won the banks' grudging respect. "People here are scared of APRA," I was told at one institution. "You don't want to have them looking over your shoulder."

It was the lack of such hands-on, interventionist regulation that allowed the US subprime crisis to develop, and institutions to become so highly geared.

A crucial difference between Australia and the US is that, as Harper puts it: "In this country, we are allowed to get on with regulation. We can distinguish between the role of the executive government and the public service. Regulators are allowed to get on with the job." [i.e. less political meddling with banking practices under a conservative government]


Friday, June 05, 2009

One lot of fussy women competing with another lot of fussy women?

Single girls beware: if you think finding love in Melbourne is tough, get set for even stiffer competition. Victorian tourism bosses are luring man-hungry Sydney women here to poach some of our best single blokes. Ten eligible bachelors have volunteered to hook up with NSW women as part of the internet marketing push.

Tourism Victoria hopes that arranging romantic dates for eight prominent Sydney women and two competition winners will encourage a flood of others to head south. But some solo Melbourne women are livid at the turf invasion, especially during a perceived "man drought".

Businesswoman Sarah Case [above] said the NSW women should "back off". "I think it's totally unfair. They should stay in their own state," said the drinktrunk.com founder. "We have enough trouble finding good men down here without someone else stealing them all."

The Tourism Victoria campaign is doing the rounds on YouTube and Twitter, and has a dedicated website and blog. Ms Case said she was alarmed some of her taxes might have gone to financing it.

Campaign spokeswoman Belinda Aucott said it was understandable Melbourne women would bristle at competition. "In the end, these men are single, they haven't been snapped up," she said.

Film production company owner Matt Hopper said a mate had dobbed him in as one of the 10 eligible singles. "I find Melbourne women can be hard to meet: introspective and introverted. Sydney women are much more assertive," he said. Creative director Jase McDonald admitted there were plenty of sassy Melbourne women to choose from, though he hadn't found Ms Right yet. "Maybe I'm just being a bit too fussy," he said.

Campaign match-maker Emma-Kate Dobbin said she had already received a flood of entries from Sydney women


Steve Fielding wavers on climate change

Family First senator Steve Fielding, whose vote could be critical to the Rudd Government's emissions trading system, yesterday heard warnings of dire economic consequences if carbon trading schemes were introduced.

Wisconsin Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner told a climate change conference in Washington attended by Senator Fielding that electricity bills would double or triple under US cap-and-trade legislation. And he denounced the climate change movement as simply transferring wealth to developing countries.

Mr Sensenbrenner said that without China and India signing any climate change legislation, it would be foolish for the US or any other country to take the lead, arguing that capping emissions in the US would allow other countries to take an advantage.

"What we are seeing is the Third World using the collective guilt of the First World to have a massive transfer of wealth to help them fund their development," he told more than 300 delegates at the climate conference held by a US free-market thinktank called Heartland.org.

Mr Sensenbrenner was in China last week with Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and said he was discouraged. "What we heard from our Chinese interlocutors consistently is that they would never sign a treaty that mandates an emissions cut. They said they would do it their own way," he said. He said China would go its own way regardless of what was negotiated at the Copenhagen environmental summit in December. "If China and India stay out of it, we should stay out of it," Mr Sensenbrenner said.

Delegates heard from a number of scientists questioning whether man-made activity could influence the global climate, with keynote addresses citing solar flare activity rather than greenhouse gas emissions as a reason for global warming.

While climate change advocates challenge these claims, Senator Fielding said the arguments presented yesterday were giving him pause to reflect on the entire debate over climate change.

"I'm not sure we should be signing anything before Copenhagen," he said after listening to Mr Sensenbrenner. "If it's true climate change is driven more by solar changes, then I have to consider if (climate change legislation) is worth doing."


Unions putting ALP into reverse

THE Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, chose the first day of the Australian Council of Trade Unions congress in Brisbane to announce her plan to sell commercial government assets to address the state's difficult financial position. The irony of the choice will not be lost on Labor historians. Bligh's timing was no doubt accidental, however it exposed the fundamental institutional dilemma Labor faces. The unions may play a useful role for Labor in opposition but they are a destabilising liability in government.

The ACTU had assembled its 500 delegates to bask in the glory of its new-found relevance following the defeat of the government of John Howard. Having achieved the elimination of Work Choices and a substantial re-regulation of the Labor market in the Fair Work Australia Act, the ACTU had expected the congress to cement its self-appointed role as defenders of Australian workers and its delusion that it has a monopoly on Labor's industrial relations policy.

True, the Rudd Government's pandering to the ACTU policy priorities in developing the Fair Work Act has fed the ACTU's industrial megalomania. The speeches to congress by ACTU president Jeff Lawrence and ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow showed clearly how out of touch the union movement has become with the challenges facing the Australian economy. Both speeches were full of the overblown self-congratulation that was expected at the first congress after the defeat of the Howard government. Burrow claimed, for example, that "Your Rights at Work was the most successful union and community campaign in Australia's history".

Lawrence, not satisfied with the victory against the Howard government, reminded delegates that the fight had to continue on a global scale. According to Lawrence "workers' rights have been watered down, deregulated and attacked in countries all over the world". With such grand ambitions you could be forgiven for forgetting the Australian trade unions are in almost terminal decline.

Unions scarcely exist in the private sector and rely on the expansion of public sector employment in key growth areas such as health and education to maintain any new membership. These areas, because of the public sector's long-standing cultural unionisation, grow almost naturally independent of the direct activities of unions.

The biggest decline in private sector union density occurred before the election of the Howard government due to structural change in the economy associated with the rise of service industries.

This is why Bligh's announcement is being greeted with howls of anger from the union movement. Once these government businesses are transferred to the private sector the union movement will have to work to maintain its members.

Bligh's announcement might seem radical to the ACTU, but in many ways it is Queensland playing catch-up with other states. Burrow's claim that there has never been a successful privatisation of railways anywhere in the world is based on ignorance. Queensland Rail's freight and coal businesses have been a long-standing anachronism. NSW sold its freight and coal businesses many years ago and they have operated successfully in the private sector. Queensland Rail is risking Queensland taxpayers' funds moving coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW. This just doesn't make sense, particularly at a time when the Queensland Government is struggling to fund its ambitious infrastructure program.

Burrow's imprudent intervention in Bligh's sensible strategy to renew Queensland's economic infrastructure shows how opportunistic and irresponsible the ACTU has become. The ACTU under Bill Kelty's leadership during the Hawke-Keating years tried to engage with Labor governments to manage structural change in a manner that enhanced long-term employment security for Australian workers.

One of the principal reasons Australia has fared so well during recent periods of economic uncertainty, such as the Asian financial crisis and the present global financial difficulties, is because of the Hawke-Keating reforms, largely supported by the then leadership of the ACTU, which opened the Australian economy.

This week's positive trade and national accounts figures show how important that liberalisation was.

The fact that Trade Minister, Simon Crean, a past president of the ACTU, had to commission a study to convince primarily ACTU delegates that trade liberalisation has improved the living standards of Australian workers highlights the decline in economic understanding in the union movement.

The ACTU resolution on the global financial crisis is full of language that reflects a throwback to the class warfare of yesteryear. Unfortunately, much of that language resembles the simplistic framework cobbled together by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his The Monthly piece. The resolution claims that the "economic model of letting markets rip" is responsible for "mass privatisation, irresponsible tax cuts, deregulation of financial markets and, most relevant to us, the unwinding of our industrial relations system".

Colourful language aside, the problem with this resolution, of course, is that all this happened under a Labor government that was in partnership with the ACTU.

Yes, even the much disparaged industrial deregulation. On this issue, the ACTU has finally acknowledged what critics have been saying: that is, the present Fair Work Australia arrangements represent a re-regulation of the labour market that go further than just unwinding Work Choices.

Lawrence in his address publicly let the cat out of the bag, claiming that the new industrial laws "go a fair way to improve on the 1993/94 Brereton reforms". He identified two areas in which he claimed the Brereton reforms were deficient: "They gave workers no enforceable right to collectively bargain" and "the only way workers could set wages and conditions over and above the award was through enterprise bargaining."

In reversing aspects of the Hawke-Keating reforms, the Rudd Government has left itself open to the further demands we are now seeing from the ACTU to reverse other key aspects of labour market reform. The ACTU has indicated that it would challenge Rudd and Labor's national conference to introduce further industrial regulation including facilitating industry-wide bargaining. This would completely destroy enterprise bargaining.

Labor governments cannot govern in the public interest when emboldened unions use their gerrymander within Labor's internal administrative structures to overturn good public policy to maintain the special interest privileges of the trade union movement. If Bligh fails in her attempt to reform Queensland's finances, she can, to a large degree, thank Rudd for his shortsighted empowerment of the union movement.


Paralysed stroke victim 'cured' with botox

An Australian stroke victim who has been paralysed for more than two decades can walk again after being injected with botox. Russel McPhee, from Gippsland, Victoria was a fit, healthy meat worker who played football, cricket and basketball when, at the age of 26, he collapsed suddenly at work. When he woke in hospital he was told he had suffered a devastating stroke and that he would never walk again. "I felt my life had ended," he told The Times. "I lost my job, my wife left me, I ended up with nothing."

Today, Mr McPhee, 49, can walk almost unaided for up to 20 metres and can cover 100 metres with a walking frame. "I thought I would die in my wheelchair,” he said. “My life has started all over again. "I have seen people cry when they realise I’m standing beside my chair. Tough men, blokes I went to school with and played sport with, weep when they see me.”

His dramatic improvement came after treatment with botox, or botulinum toxin injections at the St John of God rehabilitation centre in Nepean, Victoria. Just one month after his first injection, he was able to stand up and walk a few yards, with a helper on either side. Now he can walk the length of a room with only a guiding hand on his arm.

Botox is an accepted treatment for the type of paralysis commonly associated with strokes - it was used to treat muscle spasm years before it was adopted by the cosmetics crowd. But patients usually show the best effects if they are treated soon after a stroke. Such a dramatic improvement after so long is almost unheard of.

Mr McPhee’s doctor, rehabilition specialist Dr Nathan Johns said botox on its own would not have worked without Mr McPhee's own extraordinary strength of will. "When he came to us the spasticity in his muscles had not been treated for 20 years so it was very strong,” said Dr Johns. "Usually giving a patient botulinum toxin relieves the stiffness by relaxing the muscle, but it also weakens the muscle which means the patient would not regain much mobility. "But Russell had unusually good muscle power despite the fact that he’d been in a wheelchair for so long.”

Crucially, Mr McPhee had repeatedly, over the years, attempted to get out of his wheelchair and stand on his own. He was not successful, managing at most a few seconds on his feet before he collapsed. “Often I would lie on the floor for hours, just hoping that someone might drop by so they could pick me up again," he said. Those repeated, heart-breaking attempts to stand built up a core muscle strength on which his doctors and physiotherapists were able to work.

Dr Johns said; "We injected the botulinum toxin directly into his muscles 18 months ago. After 10 days the muscles started to relax and in 12 weeks, as the botulinum toxin took effect and he started intensive physiotherapy, we saw a marked improvement."

Russell's journey to mobility came when he was re-united with a childhood sweetheart, Kerry Crossley, who determined to help him walk again. Ms Crossley was referred to Dr Johns who was, said Mr McPhee: "The first person to give me hope. "Dr Johns took one look at me and said; ‘Botox will fix you up'. Twenty years ago I had been told I might not even live but here he was saying he could help me walk. It was a very emotional moment. Suddenly I had a chance. "The first time I was able to walk was amazing. My son was only a few months old when I had the stroke and I have always wanted to show him that I could walk like other dads."

Dr Johns said: "He is the best example we have of such significant gains after treatment with botulinum toxin. Other patients have shown improvement, but they were already ambulant.”

Professor John Olver, one of Australia's top stroke experts, said Mr McPhee's recovery after so long in a wheelchair was "highly unusual but quite feasible." Professor Olver, the Medical Director of Epworth Rehabilitation in Victoria said: "We use botulinum toxin routinely for patients with spacticity which has been caused by stroke, brain damage or heart disease. “But we use it very early on, usually within weeks of a stroke, to prevent the spasticity from becoming a problem. "After stroke muscles tend to become very stiff or spastic which can prevent movement. "Sometimes the spasticity is so severe we inject those muscles with botulinum toxin, which relaxes the muscles enough to allow a physiotherapist to strengthen and stretch them. "It is unfortunate that this patient had to wait for 20 years and extremely unusual that his treatment was so successful after being immobile for so long. But he's very fortunate that his muscles are strong enough to allow him to be able to walk."

Mr McPhee is now planning to get rid of his walking frame altogether. "I want to go dancing with Kerry and play basketball with my son," he said.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

New News Ltd. Blog

As we know, most newspapers have blogs attached to them -- with the blogs sometimes being a lot better than the newspaper concerned. Of the Murdoch press blogs, I think Andrew Bolt's blog stands out. But the Murdoch press have recently been putting up a lot of references (with link) to a new blog called "The Punch" that is not obviously connected to any newspaper, though they do appear to own and run it. It is vaguely Leftist but seems principally to be an attempt to be funny. Surely Rupert is not trying to emulate was was REALLY one of the funniest magazines ever: "Punch", of London, now sadly deceased, long run by Alan Coren. Rather wonderfully, Alan Coren's son, Giles Coren, is also brilliant at British humour. You can often read him in "The Times" of London.

I imagine that "The Punch" will have some success but to me it lacks focus. If it is being run by paid journalists, it will die of financial failure. I can't see that it offers any more than many other blogs already do.

Australia Economy Grows despite worldwide slump

The story below is from the Wall St Journal, where it got more coverage than it did in the local papers, where it was barely mentioned

Australia's economy grew in the first quarter of 2009, defying a global slowdown to become one of the few developed nations to have side-stepped a technical recession. Australia's economic slowdown so far appears mild compared with other industrialized nations, but any jubilation is set to be brief as the first-quarter growth hinged almost entirely on a positive shift in the country's trade accounts. [Local reports said retail spending was also healthy]

The trade position offset a big slump in business investment and profits, but an expected deterioration in the trade picture is set to weigh heavily on the economy through 2009. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the strong data, but warned the economy "is not out of the woods" yet and economic contraction in coming quarters can't be ruled out. "This is the worst global recession in three quarters of a century," Mr. Rudd said. "We will face higher unemployment in the Australian economy and we're not guaranteed we won't see negative growth in the future."

The average measure of gross domestic product rose 0.4% in the first quarter of 2009 from the fourth quarter of 2008 and rose 0.4% from a year earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday. Economists had expected GDP to rise 0.1% on a quarterly basis and to be down 0.1% from a year earlier. The Australian economy contracted 0.6% in the fourth quarter from the third quarter, which was revised from the originally reported 0.5% contraction.

Few watchers of the commodity-rich economy dispute that a sharp rise in unemployment is likely in 2009 and 2010 as major economies find their feet only slowly. ANZ Bank senior economist Riki Polygenis said the result means Australia may avoid entirely a technical recession -- defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction in GDP -- but there won't be any sudden resurgence in growth either. Australia's business sector is clearly suffering, and the trade boost that saved the day in the first quarter "won't be repeated," she said.

Amid evidence that China, Australia's largest trading partner, is starting to respond to stimulus, the economy is expected to continue performing better than most.

Australia still faces a hefty fall in its terms of trade in the second quarter as sharply lower prices for exported coal and iron ore wash into the national accounts, likely snuffing out any trade bonus and further damping profits and plans for investment.

A strong Australian dollar, which rallied to a fresh eight-month high of 82.46 U.S. cents after the GDP data Wednesday, is also likely to squeeze exports, keeping a lid on growth in the year ahead.


The ABC really is sick

You have to be a totally insensitive Leftist to make fun of dying children. Still, I suppose that if abortion is OK, then dying children are of no concern either

Charity Make-A-Wish has savaged ABC's The Chaser for a sketch which made dying children the butt of a joke. The foundation says the Chaser’s "Make a Realistic Wish Foundation" skit could potentially traumatise families with children who have life-threatening illnesses. "One of the first things we were upset about was that a lot of our families and children would have been watching that,” Make-A-Wish communications general manager Janita Friend said.

Friend is also deeply concerned the skit portrays children wanting wishes as greedy and says it could stop parents applying to Make-A-Wish for wishes. "Some families will go, 'Oh my goodness, people will think I'm being greedy (applying for a wish)," she said.

In the sketch Chaser members Andrew Hansen and Chris Taylor asked actors playing bed-ridden children what they wish for. When one little girl asks to meet Hollywood actor Zac Efron she is given a stick instead, with Taylor saying, "Why go to any trouble when they're going to die anyway?" When another child asks to go to Disney Land she was given a pencil case.

Taylor said the "foundation's" purpose was about "helping thousands of kids to lower their extravagance and selfishness in the face of death". "They (Chaser) haven't understood the reason behind why a wish is granted," Friend said. "Our mission is to grant wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions – not all of them pass away. "We don’t ever like to say it’s a dying wish but that’s really the message the Chaser were putting across which is really incorrect and unfair."

"It is interesting that they used the Disneyland example (as being unrealistic) because we do send lots of children to Disneyland”, Friend says. “We also have a lot of children who wish for very simple things like a party. Little children wish for puppies and cubby houses.”

The ABC was reportedly inundated with callers outraged by the skit. Angry callers swamped the ABC switchboard, describing it as "the most disgraceful thing I've ever seen on TV", "sick" and "disgusting". One father was left to console his seven-year-old terminally ill son after watching the skit. Another viewer wrote on The Chaser website: "I hope The Chaser guys have kids who have a terminal illness, the assholes."

They caused similar outrage after their The Eulogy Song in 2007 mocked dead celebrities including Peter Brock and Steve Irwin.


Public outrage eventually forced the ABC into an apology but that seems to be the whole of their response. They should fire the unfeeling animals responsible

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG calls the "Chaser" show "Un-Australian"

Public hospital paperwork kills woman

So much paperwork, the nurse missed the important bit

A nurse caring for a woman who died from excessive bleeding after undergoing a caesarean section had been too busy to read an operation report that identified a tear in the woman's uterus, an inquest has heard.

Rebecca Murray, 29, died a day after giving birth to her third child at Bathurst Base Hospital on June 24, 2007.

She had lost about one litre of blood - enough blood to soak through two pads, sheets and bed linen - and was forced to wait almost 20 minutes after nurses observed the blood loss before being given any fluids or before nurses called a doctor.

At Westmead Coroner's court today, Jane Thompson, an anaesthetic nurse who was present during Mrs Murray's caesarean and was responsible for her in recovery, said she had not been aware that Mrs Murray's uterus had torn during the procedure or that she had a low platelet count, which could result in severe bleeding if such a tear had occurred.

She said she did not "have time" to read completely a set of post-operative notes that included details about the tear.

"If I had time to sit down and read the notes I wouldn't attend to the patient," she said.

"I suggest to you, nurse, that the word 'tear' would have leapt to your eye ... and would have concerned you, being responsible in recovery for the patient," counsel assisting the inquest, Gail Furness, said.

Ms Thompson said part of the problem was that she had not been told about it.

She would have read the operation report in full "if I had time".

"Are you suggesting that with one patient in recovery you didn't have time to read eight additional lines?" Ms Furness asked.

"I had my own paperwork to complete," Ms Thompson replied.


Corrupt Victoria police now hurting the whole of Australia

Education is a major Australian export and that is now at risk

Using typical state Labor spin, with which we in NSW are all too familiar, Victorian Premier John Brumby this week announced his farcical response to the muggings of Indian students in Melbourne's crime-riddled western suburbs: a "Walk for Harmony". Oh, and some "hate crime legislation" to be rushed through Parliament. But if the Victorian police just did their job, the problem would be solved, without resort to new legislation and bogus symbolism.

As always happens when you allow a local crime problem to fester, it mutates into something worse. In Victoria, a policing failure has become an international storm, damaging Australia's reputation, with effigies of Kevin Rudd burned outside the High Commission in New Delhi and the Prime Minister forced to step in and assign Australia's national security adviser to fix the problem.

For almost a decade, Victoria has been in the grip of the Potemkin Village-style policing that almost ruined NSW in the 1990s, under then commissioner Peter Ryan, when supervising police were rewarded for reducing crime statistics - not the actual crime, just the statistics. The window dressing suited senior police and their political masters but the reality on the streets was a crime free-for-all.

In Cabramatta, then the heroin capital of Australia, police such as the former detective Tim Priest were told to turn a blind eye to the crime they saw every day. With police not recording crimes, effectively they did not occur. Thus, at a time when it was a lawless hellhole whose residents were terrified to leave their homes, Cabramatta was deemed on the NSW police crime index to be safer than staid Roseville on the leafy North Shore, where possums commit the worst crime. Thanks to Priest and the academic Richard Basham, the whistle was blown on the farce.

No such luck for Victoria, which imported the Ryan protege Christine Nixon from NSW in 2001. As the Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer reported in March, police have chronically under-reported crime for years, giving the impression the state has the lowest crime rate in Australia, despite the fact it has fewer police per capita than any other state and spends less on them. Unlike in other states, with crimes such as assault, unless the victim is willing to give evidence against the alleged offender, it is not recorded in Victoria as having occurred.

Brouwer found some police were also manipulating data to make it appear "more crime has been successfully solved than is actually the case". Brumby's reaction was to say, "Victoria is the safest state in Australia."

Tell that to 25-year-old Shravan Kumar, who is in hospital with critical injuries after being stabbed at a party in Melbourne last week. Tell that to another Indian student, Baljinder Singh, who was robbed and stabbed at a Melbourne railway station. Tell that to 20 other Indian students who have been robbed and bashed in the past month, according to Indian student leaders who also say victims are reluctant to report assaults because police never treat them seriously.

Last year the discontent of Victoria's frontline police was evident in a mass protest, amid accusations that statistics were being manipulated to hide growing crime rates. A survey by a Melbourne newspaper at the time found almost 70 per cent of officers did not support Nixon, and believed there were not enough police on the streets or on public transport. Nixon did not renew her contract and her deputy, Simon Overland, who has been as preoccupied as Nixon with corruption fighting, took over in March.

For at least two years Victorian police have been aware of the violent robberies occurring on trains late at night and in the western suburbs. It reached Indian diplomatic circles a year ago. Anyone on public transport late at night or in crime-ridden areas of Melbourne, especially if they are dressed well and carrying laptops, mobile phones and iPods, was a target in this lawless environment, regardless of skin colour. So we should thank the Indian students in Melbourne for doing what the rest of the city should have done long ago - demand their police provide basic public safety.

Security footage posted on YouTube of last month's attack on 21-year-old Sourabh Sharma on a train on his way home from a shift at KFC is a chilling slice of reality. Six youths wearing hoodies or baseball caps surround him, rob him of his backpack and mobile phone, then punch and kick him repeatedly in the head as he sits in his seat, not resisting. It should be pointed out the youths appear to be of various ethnicities, including Asian. But what is extraordinary is their sadism, their enjoyment and their obvious lack of fear of being caught. They left him for dead, unconscious, with broken teeth and cheekbone. At one point the security camera recording the assault zooms in. Was someone in authority watching and doing nothing?

At the time, police described bashings at Melbourne's western suburbs train stations as an "epidemic" - as if crime was a phenomenon out of their control. When did it become a good idea to turn police into process workers, who sit at desks ticking forms rather than walking the beat, showing a constant presence late at night on dark streets in seedy neighbourhoods, protecting the good guys from the bad guys?

Of course there are racists in Australia, as there are everywhere in the world, not least India, where not so long ago the cricketer Andrew Symonds was abused as a "monkey". But that is different from saying Australia is a racist country, which by any objective measure it is not. But if crying racism is the only way for Indian students to make their point, then all power to them.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is trying to sell some merchandise connected with Susan Boyle, the Scottish singing sensation

$330m for maintenance of sub-standard subs

This is typical of Australian defence equipment procurement -- vastly incompetent and vastly expensive. Only one out of 6 subs actually working. Instead of buying proven equipment "off the shelf", they buy dreams -- dreams which don't work

IN WHAT must rate as the world's most expensive vehicle-maintenance contract, taxpayers will stump up $330 million this year just to keep the navy's trouble-plagued Collins Class submarines fit for war. The amount represents the most expensive single maintenance contract ever undertaken by Defence. It is just behind the $476m it will spend on fuel and lubricants for Australia's thousands of military vehicles, aircraft and ships.

Taxpayers will also outlay $354 million for one year's supply of bombs, missiles and bullets. The contract is with the Adelaide-based builder of the subs, ASC. The cost includes $200 million for repairs and maintenance (defects, design changes, rescue systems), $70 million to maintain the combat system and another $60 million for spares, batteries and external sensors.

Just one of the six Collins Class vessels, HMAS Farncomb, is fit to go to war today and the second deployable boat, HMAS Waller, is tied up in WA with battery problems. A third, HMAS Collins, is alongside permanently in WA for training. Three others, Sheehan, Rankin and Dechaineux, are undergoing deep maintenance out of the water at ASC.

Taxpayers have shelled out $10 billion for work on the boats since the first ones were built in the mid-'90s. Sources say ASC has pushed for even more cash to keep them going.


The notorious DOCS yet again

They seem to be beyond reform: This time a DOCS bungle led to teen being cared for by a sex offender

A TEENAGER was sexually abused after the Department of Community Services placed him with an offender without bothering to wait for a police check. Mark Robinson has spoken out to reveal the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Patrick James Anderson, 45, who was his carer for a month before the check came back and revealed his dark past. Anderson was convicted in Port Macquarie Local Court in March of aggravated indecency with a victim under his authority and committing an act of indecency with a person 16 or over, charges relating to Mr Robinson.

DOCS was told of the problem in June 2007 but police were only alerted the following year.

In May 2007, DOCS contracted a private company, Life Without Barriers, to care for him in a house at Port Macquarie. Now 18, Mr Robinson yesterday said DOCS had been totally negligent, with Anderson's abuse robbing him of trust in men and capping off a horror upbringing. He was taken into DOCS' care when he was four following the death of his mother. His father is incapacitated in a nursing home.

Following the sexual abuse in care, which included being pinched on the bottom and his carer exposing his genitals to him, Mr Robinson said he became homeless and has lost all dreams for his future. "I don't like other men any more, that is for sure. Then I was homeless and living on the street for a year. When I moved into (the house with Anderson) I didn't have a drug and alcohol problem and now I do," Mr Robinson said yesterday. After leaving Anderson's house, he lived in his car and mowed lawns before a Port Macquarie woman offered him a room.

Life Without Barriers admitted yesterday they had a staff shortage and put Anderson to work before his police check returned a red flag four weeks into his employment. Police only found out about the sexual abuse in 2008. A Life Without Barriers spokeswoman declined to reveal the contents of Anderson's police check, citing privacy laws.

DOCS was yesterday attempting to distance itself from Mr Robinson's case but Life Without Barriers confirmed it had been contracted by the department to provide the boy's care. A DOCS spokeswoman explained the stunning lapse by blaming Life Without Barriers, saying it was up to private companies to seek police checks on their workers. DOCS later conceded it should have done more to help. "At the time the report was made, DOCS focused on supporting the young person," the spokeswoman said. "This should have included assisting him to make a report to the police. Regrettably this did not happen until some time later."


"Green" bureaucrats victimizing blacks

A $15 MILLION Howard government project to enable Aboriginal people on Cape York to build their own homes has been stalled for more than two years because the Queensland Government is insisting that trees in the vast unpopulated region cannot be cleared. The delay has become so serious that Hopevale's Mayor, Greg McLean, will be without a home in six months because he has to give back the one he is renting to his sister, who is returning to the community from Cairns where she has had to live to receive thrice-weekly dialysis treatment for kidney failure. But with a dialysis machine now being installed at nearby Cooktown hospital, she can return to her home and get her treatment there.

Mr McLean and his wife, Joan, expected the freehold home development project in Hopevale would have proceeded and they would have purchased their own home, but not a blade of grass has been cut on the 200ha block. Howard government indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough gained approval for the development in March 2007 and $15million was provided to cover the infrastructure costs - surveying, roads, sewage, water and electricity, with Indigenous Business Australia as the lead agency handling the proposal and managing the funding.

The Queensland Government ordered an environmental study of the block owned in freehold title by the Hopevale Council, which bought it several decades ago from a cattle grazier whose family had owned it for more than a century. The state Government has told Hopevale that because the block is forest country, it cannot be cleared unless the council provides a similar area of cleared country for revegetation. However, so little of the 110,000ha of land owned under native title by Hopevale people has ever been cleared that there is no such block available - so a bureaucratic green tape deadlock has been reached and no work done.

Hopevale has a severe housing shortage with 1700 residents crammed into 224 homes. No new homes have been built for three years, and because of land tenure disputes with the Government, all the homes must be rented and nobody can buy one and own it.

Mr McLean yesterday said that home ownership by indigenous people should be more than just a dream. "I have this week had to complete a tenancy agreement to try to get a rental home here, but there are none available," Mr McLean said. "My wife and I had the reasonable expectation that this housing estate known as Miller's Block would be developed with the money that Mal Brough got for Hopevale, but that has not happened."

Mr Brough, who is no longer in parliament, yesterday said it was appalling that the project had been allowed to stall through government ineptitude and bureaucratic bungling. "Enabling Aboriginal and Islander people to own their own homes and provide for their families is something that is pivotal to getting rid of welfare dependency and giving them pride and dignity," he said.

"This was a farm for more than 100 years - it is not pristine rainforest. It is unbelievable that government bungling has stalled this project and the money that the Howard government provided is sitting in a bank account somewhere. We have the temerity to demand that indigenous people get their act together, but the fact is, as is shown in this case, it is the Government that cannot get its act together.

"You just cannot keep doing this to people - building them up and then putting artificial barriers in front of them. What does the Government really want from these people? Do they want them to live in sub-standard conditions or are we actually going to do something about it, as distinct from just continuing to talk and wring our hands?"


Free public medicine struggling; Australia headed towards user-pays system

And the proposed solution? A bigger bureaucracy! It would be funny if it weren't so serious

THE Australian system of free universal healthcare is set to disappear in as little as five years, prompting a radical plan for a new federal-state partnership to take control of hospitals and patient care. It comes amid a push by the Australian Medical Association for hospital specialists to treat patients only four days a week, potentially placing further pressure on a system already hamstrung by work restrictions among emergency physicians.

In a startling warning, NSW Health director-general Debora Piccone has told The Daily Telegraph that Australia is hurtling towards a US-style user-pays system due to an ageing population and out of control costs. "We are really on the edge of losing the universal healthcare system that this country has," she said. "I would have (previously) said we'd had 10 years to run. It's now looking like we've got five years to run because the cost escalations are so significant and we haven't prepared ourselves."

Under the US system there is no free health care. Even an employer-subsidised insurance premium costs more than $3000 a year and if you are uninsured you are likely to have to pay several thousand dollars deposit just to be admitted to a hospital.

Professor Piccone and Health Minister John Della Bosca are now working on a plan to pool all state and federal health funding and have it redistributed by a joint partnership between the two governments. The $13.2 billion state hospital budget - set to grow into almost $50 billion by 2025 - would be integrated with Commonwealth funding towards Medicare, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and aged care and jointly administered so as to slash red tape and eliminate overlap.

Mr Della Bosca said the overhaul - the biggest since universal health care was introduced under Gough Whitlam - would deliver "a single mandate" of patient care. "We need a new governance model which takes the massive pool of funds available," he said. "We need to find a forum to co-ordinate that more effectively and you can only see that as some kind of joint commonwealth-state operation. "I know the next step is right there and we've got to take it."


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The African refugees John Howard foisted onto us are now biting Kevin Rudd

It might make him cautious about letting any more in -- even though nobody is publicly admitting that it is mostly Africans who are attacking the Indians. But it is the fact that Africans are responsible that has got the Indians so wound up. Indians very commonly see Africans as little better than monkeys. They blame the Australian government for letting the Africans in and then letting them run riot

HINDU extremists burned effigies of Kevin Rudd and shouted angry slogans outside the Australian High Commission in New Delhi yesterday.

The fury was over a series of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne, The Australian reports. Amid growing concern in Canberra that the issue was damaging relations between the two countries, the Prime Minister sought to reassure India that Australia was not a racist nation.

However, a new flashpoint emerged, with accusations by Indian students in Melbourne that Victorian police used excessive force to break up a rally calling for action over racial violence.

In New Delhi, about 100 members of the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing yesterday staged protests outside Australia's high commission before meeting briefly with Canberra's top envoy to India, John McCarthy.

Members of the BJP's hardline Hindu political ally, the Shiv Sena, also burned an effigy of Mr Rudd and reportedly staged protests outside a visa office in Mumbai.

Across the country Indian cable television networks continued to whip up frenzy over the attacks, showing footage of Victorian police dragging away Indian protesters who blockaded Melbourne streets until early yesterday.


Incompetent teacher training under fire

When will they admit that the problem is that teaching has become an option for desperates only as classroom discipline has become virtually non-existent?

UNIVERSITIES are under attack from fellow educators for failing to produce teachers ready for the classroom. One stakeholder is calling for universities to raise teaching course cut-off marks to increase the desirability of the profession. Others warn the courses aren't rigorous enough and are calling for "teacher schools" or internships.

The calls are being made in response to the Masters Report recommendations. Professor Geoff Masters was commissioned by Premier Anna Bligh to help raise the standards of literacy and numeracy among students. Professor Masters reported doubts over teachers' numeracy and literacy standards and recommended they sit a test.

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission wants an OP of around 12 to be targeted as a minimum entry requirement for university teaching courses instead of a test, arguing responsibility for teachers being numerate and literate "should be placed firmly with tertiary institutions". "Analysis of QTAC enrolments 2007-2008 admissions indicates that education courses as a whole, let alone primary education courses, are not attracting high performing academic students," their submission says. "Only 15 per cent of students entering education courses had an OP1-7; three times as many (46 per cent) had OPs of 13-19. "The desirability of teaching as a profession needs to be increased for students with higher academic achievement." The QCEC would also like to see some prerequisite level of mathematics ability for entry into primary education tertiary courses.

Independent Schools Queensland said while they didn't reject the notion of a teacher test, they would prefer action that ensured universities had rigorous assessment practices which properly prepared graduates for the classroom, including internships.

The Queensland Association of State School Principals has also attacked the rigor of university training, arguing extra training schools or internships are needed to ensure pre-service teachers are ready for the classroom.

Both the QCEC and ISQ have not supported a recommendation for standard science tests to be introduced in Years 4, 6, 8 and 10 to help identify struggling students. All groups have supported recommendations calling for extra funding. [Funnily enough]


Another charming Lebanese Muslim rapist: Rapes elderly Korean woman in broad daylight

A TEENAGER who raped an 82-year-old woman in a Sydney park in broad daylight has had his minimum jail term increased by one year. Robert El-Chammas, 18, from Ermington, was jailed for at least three years in Sydney's District Court in February after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting the woman in a West Ryde park on May 11 last year.

Allowing an appeal by the Crown, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal today ruled that the sentence imposed was "manifestly inadequate'' and the sentencing judge had made a number of errors. The minimum term was increased to four years and the maximum of five years was increased to six years and six months.

Justice Terence Buddin noted a statement made to police by the victim's niece, who said no other members of the family knew about the attack. For cultural reasons, her aunt did not want to talk about the rape because she did not want to "bring shame'' on her family here and overseas.

The judge said El-Chammas was a fit, strong young man who was able to easily overpower the victim, who was a small, frail woman in her 80s. "One can only imagine the terror and sense of isolation that she must have felt, particularly as she was a visitor to this country and unable to speak the language,'' he said.

SOURCE. More details here

Islamic school plans turned down by NSW Land and Environment Court

Not mentioned below is that there were big protests from locals over this proposal

THE proposed islamic school near Camden has been rejected by the NSW Land and Environment Court. The Quranic Society launched an appeal over the application after Camden Council turned down the plans in May last year. Commissioner Graham Brown upheld Camden Council’s decision to turn down the Quranic Society’s application this morning.

Commissioner Brown said he rejected plans for the school on Burragorang Rd because the development would not be in keeping with Camden’s rural character and heritage. The commissioner agreed with Camden Council’s decision last year and rejected the school plans pursuant to objectives C and F of the site’s 1(a) zoning. He also said some public interest arguments, presented to the court by Camden community members, were taken into consideration.

Camden Mayor Chris Patterson said he never doubted what the court’s decision would be. ``The commissioner said he based the decision on planning grounds like council did 12 months ago,’’ he said. ``I feel very happy that the council’s decision has been vindicated by the court. ``I never questioned the outcome because I always believed we’d done the right thing.’’

The council’s solicitor Chris Shaw welcomed the decision. ``Council’s original decision has been considered the correct decision based on the assessment of planning issues only,’’ he said. He said public interest issues had been given ``very little weight by the court, and that whether or not residents arguments against the school constituted racism was a matter for Camden’’.

Quranic Society expert planning adviser Jeremy Bingham said there was no case for further appeal as the finding was based on ``fact not law’’. ``The commissioner found against the school on one very specific and limited ground which was that the school was urban in character and therefore not in keeping with the existing rural character of the area which was the character of open grazing lands,’’ he said. ``One of the objectives of the zone was to allow development only if it is in keeping with the existing character. ``All of the other grounds raised by objectors were rejected. ``The society is very disappointed. It has put a lot of time and effort and a lot of money into this. It has been a long process.’’


Monday, June 01, 2009

Sandwiches now under attack

If you start with silly assumptions, you arrive at all sorts of silly conclusions. According to the stupid rules these "health" witch-doctors have dreamed up, roast dinners would be banned to. They will only be happy if we all live on lettuce. Repeated scientific studies have shown no benefit in a low fat diet and danger in a low salt diet.

FANCY a dose of salt and fat with your sandwich? Some sangers contain as much salt as six packets of potato chips and more saturated fat than a Big Mac. Expert analysis for the Herald Sun has uncovered the truth about some lunch favourites - and the news is not good for your heart or blood pressure. "Just because you buy a sandwich it doesn't necessarily mean it is better than junk food," accredited practising dietitian Milena Katz said. "You really need to be careful about the type of filling you choose rather than falling into a false sense of security."

Ms Katz said sandwiches packed with processed meats, drenched in sauces and combined with cheese could be a recipe for clogged arteries, stroke and heart attacks. The best choices limit fillings to one type of protein - such as meat, eggs or tinned fish - with salad or vegetables on multigrain bread.

A review of menus at Subway, Muffin Break, SumoSalad and bb's cafe found some products had startling amounts of salt and the bad saturated fat responsible for boosting cholesterol. One of the worst cases was a satay chicken wrap from Muffin Break with a whopping 1840mg of sodium - almost the entire recommended daily limit for an adult, and equivalent to the salt in six 45g bags of Smith's crinkle cut potato chips. It also had 11.5g of saturated fat, more than the 9.7g in a Big Mac.

Salami and pepperoni lovers tucking into a Subway spicy Italian six-inch sub are swallowing 1580mg of sodium, the amount in more than five packets of chips, and 11.2g of saturated fat. A bb's cafe chicken caesar panini had the salt content of almost six packets of chips, while SumoSalad's tuna cheese long roll contained less saturated fat than the burger, but the equivalent of the salt in four bags of chips.

The outlets said the items chosen were part of many options that included healthier choices. Selected companies make nutritional details available at stores and/or on websites. But people buying sandwiches from other shops are choosing blindly because sellers are not obliged to display nutritional fine print.

Steffi Burns, 16, was shocked when shown the sandwich report card. "Oh my gosh. I thought all kinds of sandwiches would be healthier than fast food, especially Maccas," the Diamond Creek teen said. Steffi said she usually took a salad to school. Her favourite sandwich is toasted ham, cheese and tomato.

Ms Katz said that while many people were aware of trimming fat, alarm bells should ring about salt, especially in the first 20 years of life. A homemade sandwich using finely sliced roast meat and salad or vegetables on multigrain bread was far healthier than bought sandwiches with processed meats full of preservatives, she said.

Some researchers say Australian adults are on average overdosing on at least twice the salt they need, risking high blood pressure and serious health problems. National watchdog Food Standards Australia New Zealand estimates one in three Australians exceed the recommended adult daily limit of no more than 2.3g (2300mg) of sodium, or about 1 1/2 teaspoons of common salt. Most of the sodium in food comes from salt (sodium chloride) added for flavour or as a preservative to extend shelf life. Low-salt foods contain 120mg of sodium per 100g.


Warmist laws to hit farmers

EMISSIONS trading could rip away as much as 22 per cent of farmers' income, government researchers say. That translates to up to $11,000 in income lost each year for an average-sized farm, with sheep and beef producers to be hardest hit. An Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report, issued today, paints an alarming picture of the cost of emissions trading for rural communities.

The Government is set to introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2011, with agriculture partially exempt until at least 2015.

In the worst case scenario - where agricultural processors don't put up their prices, instead passing all the higher costs on to farmers - beef farmers would lose 22 per cent of their income in 2015. Sheep farmers would also fare badly, losing 17 per cent of income. Broadacre industries and dairy farmers are next in line, losing between 11 and 15 per cent of their income.

Cows and sheep emit plenty of methane, a noxious greenhouse gas, which partly explains why the costs are high.

However, the economic impact is considerably less if processors don't pass through all the costs of the ETS on to farmers.

The research is based on operators continuing with their current farming practices, instead of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs under the ETS. The ABARE report said the ETS would cost farmers through higher prices for electricity, fuels and freight.

Direct emissions - such as methane burped by cows - will not be covered until 2015, and it's expected that some farmers will get most of those emissions permits for free.

ABARE executive director Phillip Glyde, who released the report, said the ETS was not all bad news for farmers. "In combination with a global response to climate change, (it) will reduce the expected negative effects of climate change on agricultural productivity in Australia,'' Mr Glyde said.


Bullies rule in nation's primary schools

BULLYING is spiralling out of control in the nation's schools with one-in-four children from Year 4 to Year 9 claiming they are regularly attacked. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that bullying peaks in the final years of primary school where 32 per cent of students are targeted by playground thugs.

New data documented in Australia's largest ever study of bullying in schools shows Year 8 students are also major victims with 29 per cent reporting attacks. The research, commissioned by the Federal Government, shows New South Wales has some of the highest levels of bullying in the country - well above the national average in Years 4, 5 and 6. Many of the 7000 children from 124 schools surveyed across Australia said they had lost faith in the ability of teachers to protect them.

The report, recommending an overhaul of the way in which schools handle the issue, found almost half of all children in Year 9 are both being bullied and bullying others. The Daily Telegraph also has learned that some parents, desperate to protect their children, are inflaming cyber exchanges by confronting bullies in online chat rooms. One 15-year-old girl in Sydney's west, mistaken for someone else online, was pursued by a gang of females who threatened to stab her at school.

And the breakdown of a teenage romance sparked a bullying episode that ended with another gang of girls smashing their victim's nose and eye socket.


Rights bill won't pay

THE battle lines over an Australian bill of rights are being drawn with a polarisation that will disturb the Rudd Government, which made the tactical decision to defer the republic campaign and give priority to the rights debate.

What do former Australian chief of army Peter Cosgrove, former governor-general Ninian Stephen and original chairwoman of the Northern Territory Emergency Task Force Sue Gordon have in common? They are the Australians who launched, wrote the foreword and the afterword to the new book Don't Leave Us with the Bill, the case against the bill of rights.

In his launch speech this week Cosgrove said he believed the issue was "possibly more important" than the republic. He warned that the Australian public was unimpressed with "me-tooism", being lectured that it must have a bill of rights when such laws "have made not a jot of difference to crushing inequities" in other societies.

"Enduring laws ought not to be a fashion statement," Cosgrove said on Monday when he declared: "Don't leave us with the bill."

Pledged opponents in this book are: Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey; former High Court judge Ian Callinan; former solicitor-general David Bennett; former NSW judge and past president of the Australian Bar Association Ken Handley; historians John Hirst and Geoffrey Blainey; former chief of operations in Iraq Jim Molan; West Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter; University of Sydney professor of law Helen Irving; former Keating minister Gary Johns; the leader of the Catholic Church in Australia, George Pell; deputy president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry John Levi; Australian Christian Lobby head Jim Wallace; former PM John Howard; and shadow attorney-general George Brandis, among others.

The message is that Australia's most prominent opponent of the bill of rights, former NSW Labor premier, Bob Carr, has strong support on both his flanks. The new book from the Menzies Research Centre, co-edited by its executive director Julian Lesser and lawyer Ryan Haddrick, penetrates the fog of polemic around this issue, created by a self-interested legal lobby and human rights industry.

The arguments against a bill of rights are powerful, intellectual and populist. The Rudd Government will commit an act of folly by ignoring them. There is a chance that Frank Brennan, chairman of the consultation panel on the rights issue, may offer the Government an exit strategy.

But if Attorney-General Robert McClelland is allowed to proceed Kevin Rudd will find himself engulfed in a culture war over power, rights and values, with unusual dividing lines.

Virtually every group is split internally, yet there will be strong opposition from the Liberal and National parties, the churches, which are frontline targets, indigenous leaders aware that "rights" arguments are the main barrier to reform in Aboriginal communities, law enforcement authorities, sections of the Labor Party hostile to this undemocratic manoeuvre, and citizens who see this is a power transfer from the people and parliaments to judges.

There are three themes in the Menzies Centre book: the bill of rights is not the best way for society to protect rights; it constitutes an unwise shift in Australia's governing institutions; and, most significantly, the campaign is not primarily about rights but is best understood as an ideological movement that recruits the human rights cause to win social and economic policy changes that would never attract majority support from the public.

Hirst is impolite enough to say there is a "widespread belief" in Australia "that the disadvantaged and minorities have been given far too much attention" and a bill of rights will give them even more. He says leaders such as Howard and Mark Latham were wary of this: witness Howard's "For all of us" 1996 slogan and Latham's warning against "subdividing society into a collection of single identities based on race, gender and sexuality".

This goes to a core point: a bill of rights may assist a few individuals but will diminish society.

Bennett argues the defect lies in thetension between the general rule and the exception: witness the Catholic Church's exemption from discrimination on religious grounds because it wants clergy and teachers to be Catholics. This is "justifiable discrimination", but such decisions should rest with politicians, not judges. How does one balance the right to life with the right to self-defence? How does one balance the right to avoid detention without conviction with the view of every Australian government that on rare occasions detention without conviction is essential for public security?

Defying the power grab by the legal profession, Callinan, de Jersey and Handley insist that non-elected judges should not be asked to resolve such social and economic issues.

Claims they do this now are false. The bill of rights envisages a new role for judges that, as Callinan says, departs from Australian practice.

"Under a human rights act, although it may take a while, the court eventually becomes the master," Handley says.

Howard says that in 2004 his government changed the Marriage Act to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But in Canada, as he explains, the courts purport to make such decisions, and this required override action by Canada's parliament.

The most stunning insight into this entire debate, however, is Brennan's recent and separate attack on Victoria's rights charter, supposedly the model for a national bill. Brennan's conclusion is that Victoria's law has failed its first test: the need to uphold freedom of conscience.

Brennan's concern was clause 8(1)(b) of the Abortion Law Reform Bill that, in defiance of Australian Medical Association ethics, overrode a physician's freedom of conscience and compelled a doctor who had a conscience objection on abortion to find and recommend to the patient a doctor willing to perform the operation. As Brennan said, the law requires "compulsory referral by a conscientious objector" or, in shorthand, leave your morals at the surgery door.

Brennan's conclusion is that Victoria's rights charter "failed spectacularly" to defend a core human right when it conflicted with the progressive-Left political agenda on abortion law and bioethics. He nails the issue: Victoria's law is not primarily about human rights. It is "a device for the delivery of a soft-Left sectarian agenda" and it will be discarded whenever "the rights articulated do not comply with that agenda".

In short, the rights debate is an ideological instrument for causes the Left knows the public may not embrace. Brennan sees it and said it. Presumably, this must influence his report to McClelland.

It goes to the real issue in the national debate: the advocates want certain rights to be advanced and other rights to be cut back.

It is time to ask what this means for society if extra rights are invested in the causes surrounding feminism, asylum seekers, gays, national security suspects, law breakers, secularism and Aboriginal guarantees as anti-intervention devices.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?