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31 March, 2006

Muslim gangs in Sydney again

A promising young boxer due to marry this weekend has been gunned down alongside his best friend in the latest outbreak of violence in Sydney's west. Professional boxer Bassam Chami, and friend Ibrahim Assad, were both fatally shot last night on Blaxcell Street at Granville in south-western Sydney. Mr Chami had served time in jail for the stabbing manslaughter of a man in a Sydney pub on Anzac Day in 1998. Police said it was the 22nd shooting incident in Sydney this year, prompting New South Wales Opposition Leader Peter Debnam to label the city's south-west a "war zone". Concerned about the recent increase in gun crime in Sydney, NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney today called a high-level meeting of senior police. In response to the latest killings, police called in the State Crime Command, along with members of Strike Force Gain, established to investigate crime linked to the Middle-Eastern community....

The pair was believed to be standing with a group of men on Blaxcell Street at around 11.15pm (AEDT) when seven shots rang out. One of the two died at the scene, while the other died a few hours later in Westmead Hospital. Assistant Commissioner Graeme Morgan said one of the victims had been carrying a pistol but it had not been used. He said the backgrounds of the two victims would play a "prominent role" in the investigation. Mr Chami was sentenced to a minimum of five and a half years in 1999 for manslaughter, after stabbing a man to death at the Auburn Hotel on Anzac Day in 1998. He also had a lengthy criminal history which included charges for firearms offences and intimidating police.

Police have already spoken to a number of people who were at the crime scene including former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib, who was driving home along Blaxcell street with his son. Mr Habib is not a suspect. "He heard some shots fired. He saw one youth fall in front of him. He called the police," Mr Habib's lawyer Peter Erman said after speaking with his client. Witnesses described a dark coloured, BMW sedan leaving the crime scene - the same description given by witnesses who saw a car fleeing Guildford three hours later after shots were fired at a house.

Mr Debnam said residents of south-western Sydney were "living with the sound of gunfire" and called on the Government to deploy 500 extra police into the area. NSW Premier Morris Iemma said police would be given whatever resources were required to find those responsible for the double shooting.

More here

No homosexual marriage for Australia

The Federal Government will legislate against any attempts by the ACT to give gay couples the same rights as married couples, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today. Mr Ruddock said today the Government would investigate what it could do to block attempts by the ACT Labor Government to pass laws that would establish civil unions for homosexual couples. The ACT legislation would allow those in a civil union the same rights as marriage in everything but name.

Under the constitution, the Commonwealth has responsibility for marriage and in 2004, with bipartisan support, the Federal Government legislated to effectively ban gay marriage. Mr Ruddock said the Commonwealth was unhappy with the ACT's attempts to work around federal laws. "Let me make it very clear, that will not satisfy the Commonwealth and we would include the introduction of legislation to prevent that from occurring," he said.

More here

Call to shut bureaucratized childrens' hospitals in Queensland

The Beattie Government is again under fire over its management of the Queensland public hospital system after a damning report called for the closure of two major children's hospitals. A medical panel commissioned by Queensland Health to review pediatric cardiac services has recommended replacing Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital and the Royal Children's Hospital with a single new hospital. The panel also proposed pediatric services at the Prince Charles Hospital, on Brisbane's north side, be shut down.

Following a series of post-surgery and cardiac deaths, the report found the hospitals were plagued by chronic understaffing, dysfunctional governance and low morale. Its findings were revealed as Premier Peter Beattie ruled out means-testing patients or increasing co-payments for public hospitals, based on the findings of a separate report that explored other possible revenue streams for a system reeling after the "Dr Death" scandal.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said he would have to consult more widely before shutting any children's hospitals. Admitting he was surprised by the report's findings, Mr Robertson said a single stand-alone hospital could cost the Government about $500 million. The Government yesterday established a taskforce to assess the report's proposals. "This is a big recommendation with big implications for the three hospitals involved and for the public health system's staffing, capital and budget," Mr Robertson said. A proposal to build a single children's hospital in Brisbane was raised under the Goss Labor government in 1994 but rejected.

The latest report found it was "simply impossible" to adequately staff the three existing pediatric units. "It is abundantly clear that systems and arrangements, which had been satisfactory in the past, are no longer able to meet current expectations and standards," the report says. "The service is characterised by chronic understaffing, dysfunctional governance, lack of infrastructure, lack of clinical leadership and unsympathetic line managers regarding specific pediatric needs. "With few exceptions, morale is poor, ranging through frustration and anger to cynicism, hopelessness and despair." The report found no evidence of professional incompetence or negligence among the clinicians.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the report was an "a solid vote of no confidence in administration of health in Queensland". "If it wasn't bad enough before now, it's the kids that are suffering under this Government," he said.

Despite the hospital woes, the Government will forgo about $115 million in additional revenue for the health system after an analysis by the Allen Consulting Group found there would be inadequate financial gains from means-testing or increasing patient co-payments. But Mr Robertson refused to rule out the possibility of raising extra revenue by increasing co-payments from people receiving injury compensations payouts.

Mr Springborg said: "Victims who have taken themselves through the court process and have got compensation payments may be subjected to the Government recovering against them."


Australian climate policy interests Blair

Australia has held talks with Tony Blair on forging a post-Kyoto accord to cut carbon emissions, with the British Prime Minister calling for a "real dose of realism" in the debate over greenhouse gases. John Howard and senior government ministers yesterday discussed with Mr Blair a possible climate strategy involving the world's 20 biggest carbon emitters, including China, India, Australia, the US and Britain. Mr Howard signalled he was keen to explore options, suggesting the recently formed Asia- Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate as a bridge to get other nations "into the tent". Australia and the US are among a few countries that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, amid concerns the regime will unfairly penalise developed economies that rely strongly on fossil fuels as an energy source.

Mr Blair, who has championed a global push to cut greenhouse gases, described the Asia-Pacific framework, dubbed AP6, as a "very important positive sign". It comprises Australia, the US, China, India, Japan and South Korea. Climate change was one of a number of issues discussed as Mr Blair met cabinet ministers in Canberra yesterday. It is understood Mr Blair and government MPs discussed the need for progress on climate change, with the British leader later accepting that countries such as Australia were reluctant to embrace the Kyoto targets. "Countries are going to be very worried about external targets being imposed on their economic growth," Mr Blair told reporters.

Instead, Australia is hoping the AP6 framework will emerge as a serious group that can lead to the introduction of cleaner energy technologies to cut greenhouse emissions. A group of about 45 Australian representatives, mainly from industry, will travel to the US next month to discuss ways to spend hundreds of millions of dollars offered by governments. But there is a recognition that more will have to be done to combat the rising levels of carbon emissions.

Mr Blair's discussion yesterday revolved around a group of about 20 countries - including the six AP6 members - that could drive global reform. Mr Blair said there was need for a new framework "that allows us to move forward in a disciplined way". "But I think the fact that you've got these initiatives at the moment, all tending in the same direction, is actually a positive sign."


No showers at night for Brisbane?

Greenie opposition to dams is taking its toll

Water pressure is to be turned down at night across southeast Queensland in a desperate bid to stop the region from running out of the precious resource. The dramatic step, with the potential to affect fire-fighting abilities in some areas and increase pumping costs for developers, is one of several conservation initiatives from a drought management taskforce. Without serious rain, experts predict the city will run out of water in August 2008 - even with tough stage three water restrictions to come in in May. The wet season is almost at an end. And the Brisbane City Council has been told there is a less than 50 per cent chance of above-median rainfall before the harsher restrictions take effect.

Environment and sustainability committee chair Helen Abrahams said the decision to turn down pressure was taken because most mains burst at night. Brisbane loses 10 per cent of its water from an average of seven main breaks each day. In some areas, pressure is too high; in others, too low. Cr Abrahams said most breaks occurred at night time, "when we are all asleep and not using the water . . . the pressure builds up in the system. So by a simple way of putting valves at various locations, we can actually reduce that pressure at night time, reduce the incident of breaks, and therefore be able to increase the pressure in the morning when you get up and your domestic use increases again."

In August the council revealed that ageing water pipes in the inner city area were dangerously below firefighting standards. It was claimed that emergency crews were hampered in some densely populated older suburbs with a large number of timber houses, because they received less than one-third of the water volume and velocity needed to control blazes. Developers, who have spent thousands of dollars on pumps to increase water pressure in their buildings to offset the city's poor infrastructure, now face even greater expense. "We would prefer the city take action to actually repair the water mains," said Steve de Nys of the Property Council of Australia industrial committee. It was disappointing that infrastructure fees paid by developers were diverted to the general fund rather than being used on repairs and upgrades, he said....

More here

30 March, 2006

Innisfail is no New Orleans

The North Queensland town of Innisfail got a bigger blow than New Orleans did but there were no deaths and the place is mostly back to normal after only a week. The difference between how an underclass behaves and how country people behave might have something to do with it

"Blue-collar muscle is the bedrock of Innisfail's rapid recovery as local farmers, tradesmen and labourers provide the grunt to get the district back on track. Yesterday morning, just a week after Cyclone Larry left the main street a mass of twisted wreckage and fallen trees, Innisfail was beginning to resemble a normal country town. Cafes were open, banks were trading, the famous Oliveri's Continental Deli was serving its cheeses, stuffed olives and prosciuttos the same way it has for more than 80 years.

Mayor Neil Clarke has warned there is a long road ahead as thousands struggle to overcome a billion-dollar damage bill. But even he was amazed at the spirit and energy of a community that refused to blink when confronted with a category-five cyclone. He said many had waded straight outside into the wreckage with chainsaws. "Just hours after it hit, many were literally cutting their way out of their own properties and going to help a neighbour," he said.

Banana farmer Colin Rostedt surveyed the ruins of his plantation for only minutes on Monday morning before firing up his 22-kilowatt generator, grabbing a chainsaw and going to work. He and his wife and two children didn't wait for help to arrive. They're still cleaning up, but with an eye to the future. "We're looking at replanting," he said. "It's the way that people respond to tragedy that really makes the difference. "Around Innisfail, people know each other. They're related to each other, they went to school with each other, and they help each other," he said.

Cairns TAFE facilities manager Eddie McKeown, who arrived just hours after Larry hit, was amazed to see the Bruce Highway north of Innisfail crowded with men cutting back fallen trees to carve a path into town. "They just appeared out of nowhere with chainsaws," he said. "It was extraordinary."

Len and Anita Oliveri, owners of the deli in Edith St, are the embodiment of the town's can-do spirit. They kept their stock fresh in a cold room powered by their own generator. By Tuesday, they had established a soup kitchen using their own food, as well as stocks donated by scores of other businesses, and provided free meals for thousands. Yesterday Len had put his brief career as a welfare worker behind him and was back behind the counter, as a businessman. "We're getting back to normal as quickly as possible."


Internet censorship demanded by the Australian Left

Under the guise of protecting children from pornography, the Australian Labor Party wants to bar many sites to ADULTS. And you thought censorship on moral grounds was the preserve of the Christian Right! The truth is that the Left will seek kudos wherever it can find it -- regardless of any principle that they have claimed to support previously. Given the pressure from both the Left and Christian conservatives, the Australian Federal government is so far being fairly heroic in resisting the pressure for censorship but there are worrying signs:

"The federal Government is planning to bolster NetAlert, its online safety agency, and give the media regulator greater powers as pressure builds from Labor and its own backbench to curb online pornography. Communications and IT Minister Helen Coonan says, however, that calls from Labor and Coalition colleagues to force internet service providers to filter porn sites are misguided...

Opposition IT spokesman Stephen Conroy said Government research showed the blacklist ISP filtering system that Labor had proposed would have had minimal impact on network performance. "In 2004, the Government received independent advice that ISP filtering to remove blacklisted sites would take just 10 milliseconds and that this delay is generally not noticeable to the user," Senator Conroy said. "The Government should stop making excuses and do all in its power to prevent children from being exposed to prohibited internet content.".... Labor leader Kim Beazley last week put internet pornography back on the agenda saying Labor, if elected, would force ISP's to offer a "clean feed" internet service to Australian families....

The Government was pursuing technology to control the net, Senator Coonan said. ... The latest study found that ISP filters continued to create network performance problems, Senator Coonan said. The best-performing filters slowed network performance by 18 per cent, while the worst-performing filters degraded the network by 78 per cent. "They found that even the best-performing filter missed about a quarter of the content on a small prepared list of sites." ... "We are continuing to look into it," she said. PC-based filtering offered parents greater flexibility than the one-size-fits-all approach of ISP filtering, she said....


Popular artist passes away

Pro Hart was a child of the harsh outback, born and raised at a rundown sheep station, Larloona, in far western NSW.

A hard, enamelled deep blue, domed sky stretched as far as the eye could see. This quintessentially Australian image remained a dominant theme in Hart's prolific painting career.

Hart died yesterday morning, aged 77, after suffering painful and debilitating motor neurone disease. His family had decided to cease his medication last Friday. He died at home in Broken Hill.

So, what is one to make of an artist whose entry in Who's Who lists his hobbies as body-building, pistol shooting and organ music? A dictionary definition of a chameleon is a small lizard able to change colour to suit surroundings; a variable or inconstant person. A maverick is defined as an unbranded calf. Both descriptions are apposite to the life and work of Kevin Charles Hart. He was imbued with an ingrained identification with the dusty world of the far country.

Hart was, in the commercial definition, Australia's most successful artist. The quality of his talent is open to question. He was rubbished by most critics and rejected by many galleries, both commercial and public. Time magazine's Australian art critic Robert Hughes thought Hart's paintings "awful beyond belief".

Yet the respected critic Elwyn Lynn, reviewing Hart for The Australian, did not write him off. "To call Pro Hart a curious artistic phenomenon might seem to give his work too much importance; but despite the taunts of the avant-garde and, after a high-priced selling show, he smiles all the way to his gooey varnish pots. "At least his eclecticism is Australian. He wraps the local image up in billows of cotton wool and he satisfies a need for the blinkered vision which surrounds Australia."

As can be seen, Hart was articulate and could write well, no doubt a tribute to his mother's early training. Aged 18 in 1946, he began work in the mines. For 15 years he drove an electrically powered loco. It was a grim existence, enlivened by mateship. It was in the mines that he acquired the nickname Pro(fessor) for his wide general knowledge....

As he aged, Hart grew a little cranky. He hated unions and the Labor Party and the Hawke and Keating Labor governments, declaring them to be a mob of Marxists. Paradoxically, he liked Bob Hawke. Consistency was of no concern to Hart. He donated paintings to assist Pauline Hanson's legal defence fund. He became a devout Christian and joined a fundamentalist church. "I trust God for inspiration," he said...

More here

Cut in welfare payments to blacks

"Work-for-the-dole" payments for young Aboriginal Australians will be slashed by a quarter under an overhaul of indigenous unemployment programs. The federal government, which advocates mainstreaming indigenous welfare arrangements, argues Aboriginal young people need incentives to find jobs. From July 1, it plans to strip new applicants for the indigenous work-for-dole payment, the Community Development Employment Projects program, of their payments after 12 months. Participants will then be pushed onto lower, mainstream payments. A youth rate is also set to be introduced for the first time.

Any new beneficiaries aged under 20 and living in a remote area will face a cut of almost $60 a week when the indigenous dole is brought down to the general youth allowance rate paid to the non-indigenous jobless. The savings are to be pumped into training opportunities for people on CDEP payments. Employment Minister Kevin Andrews said the changes would bring indigenous people into Australia's economic fold. "Aboriginal people have been largely locked out of the economic life of Australia for a long period of time," Mr Andrews told reporters in Canberra. "If we can return CDEP to a pathway to employment, rather than a dead-end destination as it is in so many instances, then that can only benefit more indigenous people," he said.

But he said today's announcement was not a stepping stone to abolishing indigenous-specific welfare. "I don't foresee that CDEP will cease to exist because CDEP has a broad set of objectives; part of it is employment," he said. Part of the government's rationale for the changes was to treat indigenous people in the same way as non-indigenous Australians. "I think we ought to treat, as far as possible, all Australians the same and not have some special ... program for indigenous people that effectively means they're not treated the same as other Australians," Mr Andrews said....

More here

29 March, 2006

The retired Labor Party mayor of Brisbane wonders what has happened to the workers in his party:

One of the more interesting things in life since I left politics has been the challenge of dealing with governments of all levels from the outside rather than from the inside. Let me say it is very different and I think most would agree that years in the real world generating income from your wits should be mandatory for politicians.

The problem with the Labor Party today is that the talent pool has become restricted to unionists or political aides - not a broad enough background to take on governance of a nation. When Gough Whitlam won in 1972, over three-quarters of the caucus had working backgrounds, and this was the same when Bob Hawke won in 1983. Now Kim Beazley's front bench has only two people from outside the world of unions and political offices.

Let's get serious about encouraging others to put up their hands. Both sides of politics are starved of new ideas.


Aussies in the money

Australians are richer than ever, with new figures showing the country's private wealth has rocketed to more than $6000 billion. Treasury figures released today showed the market value of Australian net private sector wealth was $6200 billion in June last year - up almost 12 per cent in a year. This represents around $300,000 per Australian. The growth in private wealth was lower than the previous three years, but still above the average for the past two decades.

Home ownership made a smaller contribution in the past year - only 3.3 per cent to the growth in private wealth, but homes and units still make up the lion's share ($3600 billion) of private wealth. The other major influence on wealth was the rise in stockmarket prices over the past two years.

Growth in business assets, which includes shares and Australian investment abroad, contributed 9.6 per cent to wealth - more than double its long-term average contribution. Business assets, totalling $2600 billion, made up a third of all private sector wealth in the country.

Forty years ago, every Australian was worth $8600, with national private wealth hovering around $100 billion - more than a third of which was in houses. Twenty years ago, the figure had grown to $56,500 per person and $905 billion nationally - almost half of which was locked up in bricks and mortar.


Fury Over Christians Speaking out

How wrong of them to exercise their democratic rights!

This concerns the recent election in the State of Tasmania. To the media, a constant outpouring of Green/Left propaganda from Australia's public broadcasters is fine. But advertising by Christian groups is deeply offensive. The media report below refers to advertising by a Christian group as a "secretive smear campaign". Pick the real smear!

It shows how anti-Christian the policies of the Australian Green party are that an unworldly group like the Brethren thought they had to get involved in politics.

In the dying moments of Tasmania's election campaign, people wearing animal masks drove through the streets of Hobart towing a trailer with an anti-Greens slogan. In the weeks leading up to this bizarre display, a series of newspaper advertisements and letter-box pamphlets attacked the Greens, warning they were "socially destructive".

Two of the men authorising these ads were later exposed as members of the Exclusive Brethren, a secretive fundamentalist Christian sect whose leader, or Elect Vessel, is Sydney-based businessman Bruce Hales. The Brethren seek to remove themselves from the "evils" of the rest of the world and, until 2002, those leaving the church were completely ostracised, a process former members say has cruelly separated husbands from wives and parents from children. While not allowing members of the sect to vote, they are happy to spend vast amounts of money trying to influence the outcome of election campaigns.

They were undoubtedly misleading. One professionally produced pamphlet, authorised by Scottsdale furniture store owner and Brethren member Trevor Christian, claimed the Greens would "introduce the regulated use of cannabis". It claimed to quote from the Greens' policy, but omitted the words "for medical purposes". Other ads suggested the Greens would destroy families and society. Similar language was used in one Liberal Party pamphlet, prompting questions about Liberal involvement in the Brethren material.

Liberal state director Damien Mantach confirms meeting members of the church before the campaign but denies any involvement in drafting, placing or paying for the ads. Mantach says concerns the Liberal Party paid for at least one series of newspaper ads authorised by an Exclusive Brethren member, are untrue - as far as he is aware....

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, in Tasmania during the state campaign, confirms he has met members of the Brethren, who have campaigned for John Howard in Bennelong, the electorate where Hales lives. But Costello plays down the significant of the group, saying he has met many religious groups. In the US, the Brethren spent more than $500,000 on newspaper ads supporting President George W. Bush and anti-gay marriage crusader and Senate candidate Mel Martinez.

Exclusive Brethren says it has more than 40,000 followers in 19 countries, about 25 per cent of whom are said to live in Australia, with many in Tasmania's rural north, which takes in timber and farming communities and the north-west Bible belt. Its origins are in a group formed in Plymouth, on England's south coast, in the early 19th century as a backlash against what was regarded as a straying from the Bible by the established church....

Christian and fellow Scottsdale resident, pig farmer Roger Unwin, had previously refused requests to speak to The Australian, but finally relented. Surrounded by pigs and battling to keep swarms of flies from his face, Unwin emerges from the mud, deeply suspicious: "I knew you were in town. I could have shut the gate, but I didn't. I don't mean to be rude, but I just don't like the media."

Unwin and Christian deny they were involved in a secretive smear campaign, backed by the Liberal Party. "We placed these ads so people were aware of (the Greens') policies," Christian says. "There's no smear campaign or hidden agenda. We put our names to them, and we support any government that is good for Tasmania"....

The Greens claim Brethren members are most likely those behind the bizarre animal masks seen in Hobart, but the two men have not returned calls to answer this charge. Instead, they published an advertisement in The Launceston Examiner last week denying the sect paid for the ads: "Whilst we are members of a Christian fellowship known as Exclusive Brethren, our campaign was not initiated, controlled, funded or publicly endorsed by the congregation in any way. "Although our conscience precludes us from voting, it equally creates a responsibility to testify to persons in government and the community to uphold right Christian principles on which our nation is founded. We are willing to support any government, person or organisation that cares for right moral principles and the prosperity of Tasmania." ...

While the Greens' vote slump was ultimately the result of Tasmanians deciding not to risk the uncertainty of minority government, the Greens believe the smear and fear campaigns against them played a big role...

State Greens leader Peg Putt, seething at the loss of at least one seat, was booed and heckled when she used her speech in the tally room last Saturday night to complain about Tasmania's "grubbiest" ever campaign. She later vowed the Greens would adopt a more "hard-nosed" approach to future campaigns, and push for better disclosure laws. "The nation needed to know that there were shadowy forces at work here that won't identify themselves and will not discuss the amounts of money they put into this campaign," Putt says...

More here

More on Blair's excellent speech to the Australian parliament

Excellent points about free trade

The fight against terrorism would fail unless the developed world shared economic prosperity by embracing free trade, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday. Mr Blair backed Australian calls for an end to farm subsidies in the US and Europe and warned that Western arguments about the benefits of political openness were worthless if openness did not apply to international trade. Mr Blair said terrorists and their supporters criticised the West for selectively applying values of fairness.

In a wide-ranging speech to a joint-session of the Australian Parliament, Mr Blair also said it was sometimes difficult being a friend of the US but warned none of the world's problems could be solved without US engagement. As senators joined their colleagues on crowded House of Representatives benches, Mr Blair defended his nation's involvement in the Iraq war, conceding his position was at odds with that of the Australian Labor Party. But he stressed terrorism could not be beaten until critics of democracy understood that it was not a Western ideal but "universal values that should be the right of a global citizen". "Ranged against us are the people who hate us - but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness - who could support our values but believe we support them selectively," Mr Blair said. "That is why we cannot say we are an open society and close our markets to the trade justice the poorest of the world demand. "We cannot say we favour freedom but sit by whilst millions in Africa die and millions more are denied the very basics of life."

Mr Blair said the ongoing Doha round of international trade talks provided a good opportunity to demonstrate values of openness. He said Europe's system of agricultural protection was "a policy born of another age", which had to change. The US and Japan also must open their agricultural markets and India and Brazil needed to open non-agricultural markets. "We must agree (on) a development package for the poorest that includes 100 per cent market access and aid for trade," Mr Blair said.

On the Iraq war, Mr Blair said it would be wrong to "walk away" and that the West should support any nation of people living in fear, citing Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea. "This is a time for the courage to see it through," he said. "We must not hesitate in the face of a battle utterly decisive in whether the values we we believe in triumph or fail. Here are Iraqi and Afghan Muslims saying clearly: 'Democracy is as much our right as yours. This struggle is our struggle.

He warned against anti-US sentiment which he said was building in Europe. "None of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them," he said of the US. "The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is (if) they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage."

Mr Blair called for a greater international focus on climate change, saying nations needed to bring together their various efforts to produce a clear and disciplined framework for action. "There will be no forgiving of any of us if we do not pay attention to the degrading and polluting of our planet," Mr Blair said.


28 March, 2006

A good speech from Blair

Tony Blair is visiting Australia

British Prime Minister Tony Blair used a speech to Federal Parliament today to urge global unity in the fight against terrorism and warn against the "madness" of growing anti-Americanism worldwide. Mr Blair said war against terror was as much a battle about values as it was about arms, and that those values were the universal property of humanity. "(It is also) a struggle about values and about modernity, whether to be at ease with it or enraged at it," said Mr Blair, the fifth world leader to address Federal Parliament. "And to win this struggle we have to win the battle of values as much as arms."

MPs and senators crowded into the House of Representatives to hear Mr Blair say that the struggle facing the world today was not just about security. He delivered a candid assessment of his country's alliance with the US, but warned against leaving America out of the fight against terrorism. "I do not always agree with the United States. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have," Mr Blair said. "But the strain of frankly anti-American feeling in parts of European and world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in. "The danger with America is not that they are too much involved. The danger is that they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage," Mr Blair said. "The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them."

Britain, along with the US and Australia, has been one of the prime forces in the war against terrorism. Mr Blair said the key to winning the battle against extremist elements was to show it was not a fight of the West against Islam, but about the ownership of common values. "We have to show that these are not Western ... American or Anglo-Saxon values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen," he said. "This is the challenge I believe we face and ranged against us are of course the people who hate us, but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively." These were people that countries such as Britain had to persuade, Mr Blair said. "They have to know this struggle is about justice and tolerance as well as security and prosperity," he said. "And in truth today there is no prosperity without security and no security without justice."

Mr Blair said nations such as Britain and Australia had to construct a global alliance to secure their way of life in the face of a continuing terrorist threat. The roots of terrorism ran deep, he said, and exploited a sense of alienation in the Arab and Muslim world which had to be overcome. "We will not defeat this terrorism until we face up to the fact that its roots are deep, that it is not a passing spasm of anger, but a global ideology at war with us and our way of life," Mr Blair said. "Their case is that democracy is a western concept we are forcing on an unwilling culture of Islam. "The problem we have is that a part of opinion in our own countries agrees with them. "We are in danger of completely misunderstanding the importance of what is happening as we speak in Iraq and Afghanistan." Each of those nations was engaged in a "titanic struggle" to be free of oppression and servitude, and Iraqis and Afghans had seized democracy.

Mr Blair acknowledged that the Iraq war had "split this nation as it did mine", but said it was not the time to walk away from the fight against terrorism. "This is a time for the courage to see it through," he said.


Blair mocks British ad ban

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has had a light-hearted jab at his country's advertising watchdog over the recent banning of Australia's tourism campaign. Mr Blair drew hearty laughs and a round of applause when he told a lunch today at Parliament House about his non-stop schedule since touching down in Melbourne. "We got there in the evening. I literally have not stopped since I got off the plane with meetings and attending events at the (Commonwealth) Games and so on, and here I am in the Australian Parliament building at what I think is something like 4 o'clock in the morning back in the UK so I'm kind of thinking, 'So, where the bloody hell am I?"' Associated Press reports Mr Blair as saying. "I may of course be arrested for that back home," he quipped.

Britain's Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre backed down and allowed the ad to be shown on television after a campaign by Tourism Minister Fran Bailey - who accused the watchdog of a sense of humour deficit - and the ad's star Lara Bingle.

Prime Minister John Howard also alluded to the ad in his welcoming speech to Mr Blair, noting that an old friend had described the British prime minister, who lived in Adelaide from the age of two to five, as an Australian. "Tony Blair is no stranger to Australia, he's no stranger to Australians and his friendships with many are well known," Mr Howard said before Mr Blair's address to both houses of Parliament, Associated Press reports. "It's recorded that his great friend the Anglican priest Peter Thomson said that, and I quote, 'The thing you have to understand about Tony Blair is that he is an Australian.' Perhaps, in that spirit, I could say, Well where the hell have you been?"


So, who's a popular Lord Mayor?

Was it jealousy or admiration in the Victorian premier's voice today at the mention of Melbourne's popular Lord Mayor John So? Mr So has received rousing cheers from the crowd throughout the Commonwealth Games and they seemed to escalate at every mention of him during last night's closing ceremony. This was a fact sharply noted by Premier Steve Bracks this morning when he walked into a media conference and was casually asked by a reporter: "Is John So coming today?" "He's coming to the parade," the Premier quickly replied. Do you want me to mention his name and you can clap?"

Later, Labor's Mr Bracks was asked whether he feared the beleaguered Liberal Party would recruit the well-liked mayor. First, the Liberals will have to be able to say that John So is their 'bro', as Mr Bracks does. "I've said this in the past, I think I said it at another press conference that John So is my bro, and I put my arm around him," Mr Bracks said. "This is a popular catch cry around Melbourne, as I understand it." In fact, people are wearing T-shirts brandishing the slogan.

Besides, Mr Bracks said he thought of Mr So as "a true independent, in the true meaning of the word". "I think the fact that he's popular is a great thing for Melbourne, a great thing for Victoria," he said. "We're in competition really, nationally, for attention for head office companies, for a seamless interface between federal and state governments and also between state governments and (the City of Melbourne). "So I think we've got a great advantage really in attracting people and activity into Melbourne and having John So with his popularity doesn't hurt that at all."

Likewise, Mr Bracks is no stranger to popularity. In mid 2000, he was ranked the most popular premier in Australia, with a personal approval rating as high as 74 per cent. Lately, his approval rating has been about 50 per cent and judging by the 80,000 people at last night's closing ceremony, that's about half of John So's.


It may be worth recalling that a Chinese businessman -- Quong Tart -- was also very popular in the early days of Sydney

More canine/human symbiosis

I am putting this story up mainly because I like the picture of the doggie but it does illustrate the theory that dogs and humans are symbionts -- i.e. they have evolved together and benefit one-another. They certainly regard one-another as family. The most obvious case of the symbiosis is the large and super-sensitive canine nose which does detection jobs that the small human nose cannot. We see it at work in this story

"Meet Ruben, the dalmatian who can spot when his schoolgirl owner is at risk of a life-threatening metabolic attack. While most dogs are out chasing the postman, Ruben is busy monitoring Sarah Mackintosh's health. The five-year-old family pooch is being hailed for his ability to detect when Sarah is at risk of an attack.

Sarah, 9, suffers from a rare metabolic disorder called 3MCC which stops her from being able to break down proteins such as those in cheese and meat. At 14 months, the girl from Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland was revived at Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital after she had a metabolic stroke. The first in Australia to be diagnosed with 3MCC, and one of only a handful of sufferers worldwide, she is extremely susceptible to common viruses.

But mum Rachael Sharman, 48, said the normally dopey dalmatian can sense when Sarah is at risk of suffering an episode. "Before Sarah was diagnosed she had been eating protein and it had just built up in her system," Ms Sharman said. "We woke up on a Friday morning to her screaming and vomiting blood. "We rushed her to the Mater but she was pretty much dead and the doctors had to revive her.

"When Sarah was five years old we got Ruben and we noticed he could pick up when she was about to become unwell. "He tries to get close to her and will sneak in the house and doesn't want to let her out of his sight. "We've found him hiding under her bed before she gets sick and the last time he just stood there barking at her. "Then, a day or two later, she will be ill. He seems to understand when her metabolites are different and that it's not good. "His behaviour means we can pick it up early.""


27 March, 2006

Another little deception from our major public broadcaster

We read:

"The legal case to compensate residents of Baryulgil, in northern NSW, for the effects of asbestos-related disease, could be under way within two months. A James Hardie mine operated in the predominantly Aboriginal community near Grafton, between 1950 and 1979, leaving at least 22 residents suffering the affects of asbestos dust. David Barron, one of the Sydney barristers representing the community, says it is about time something was done for its residents. "The recognition that there was a problem in Baryulgil, it goes back 30 or 40 years," he said. "There's been at least two inquiries and a royal commission about this and nothing's been done. "The only time something's ... actually going to happen is if private players take on these people and that's what we've done."

HOWEVER: A former employee of the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs has written to me to remind us that the reporter of the story as it was broadcast was Matthew Peacock and that Peacock used to report on this very topic in the period 1975-85 but seems to have forgotten something from then.

In 1977-82 the Federal government offered everyone who wanted to move away from unsafe Baryulgil a house at a new asbestos-free site called Malabugilmah. A new, safe community was built from nothing. Unhappily - but it's a free country - quite a few families chose to stay at asbestos-infected Baryulgil. Peacock, then a young reporter, reported on this in 1976-78, but in 2006 conveniently 'forgets'.

So obviously, according to the ABC, the masses must always believe that all mining companies are always evil and governments never do anything to help the oppressed.

Fake blacks

America's nutty Professor Ward Churchill is not the only one to fake indigenous origins

In the late 1990s when Pauline Hanson gathered tens of thousands of followers to her One Nation party, the "Aboriginal industry" became a prime target of her vitriol.... In the days when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commission existed and squandered much its billion-dollar budget like a drunken sailor, Aboriginality to a scheming, dishonest person meant possible access to high-paying positions of authority in legal, housing, employment or native title organisations where accountability was often little more than a joke.

Aboriginal academic and co-chairwoman of Reconciliation Australia Jackie Huggins tells how people would contact ATSIC or Centrelink claiming they had discovered that a fictitious grandparent was Aboriginal. "The calls would get to me and these people would ask what special benefits they were therefore entitled to claim," Huggins says. "I would say: 'This is what you will get -- life expectancy of 20 years less than non-indigenous Australians, and if you are a woman, add three years; you will get sick and tired of going to funerals; probably get diabetes before age 40, and if not, kidney, heart or lung failure will kill you before you are 60'.

"Spiritually and culturally, there is a treasure trove of benefits. "I am sick of people wrongly claiming that economic or special welfare benefits flow to Aboriginal people. It is just not true. I would recommend an ATSIC publication titled Matter of Fact which spells out the truth for all to see." Her remarks are endorsed by Toowoomba-based Aboriginal academic and author Stephen Hagan who says the education support benefit Abstudy is identical to Austudy, and preference is no longer given to indigenous people seeking jobs or university placements. "It wasn't always so," he says. "When I went to school on Abstudy, us black kids got $2 a week pocket money which white kids on Austudy didn't get. But now everything is means-tested for all applicants." ....

Hagan says the only fraudulent claimants to Aboriginality today who gain real benefit are some who produce "indigenous art". "So many businesses just get some backpacker kids, put them in the back room with a book showing dot paintings, tell them to copy it, sign it as being genuine Aboriginal art, and sell it to unsuspecting tourists. They are the current ones ripping off the system big-time," he says.

Detailed information on Aboriginality was published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which found that for the period 1996 to 2001 the total Australian population increased 6 per cent, with people declaring themselves indigenous in the census (464,140) increasing by 16 per cent. Of that 16 per cent, 12 per cent was attributed to a natural increase (births over deaths) with 4 per cent due to people's increasing propensity to identify themselves as indigenous....

The most celebrated case of disputed Aboriginality occurred in the Queensland sugar coast town of Bundaberg in 2000 when claims were made by one branch of the Appo family that more than 100 members of their family were of Sri Lankan descent not Aboriginal, and were wrongly receiving concessional loans and benefits said to total millions of dollars over three decades. There were allegations of wrongly claimed business and legal assistance, and even other claims that some family members were selected in state and national indigenous sporting teams despite not having Aboriginal heritage.

The issue came to a head on July 21, 2000 when Allan Keith Appo, then 66, was charged in the Bundaberg magistrates court with possessing undersized and female mudcrabs. In his defence Appo claimed that the Fisheries Act did not apply to him because he was Aboriginal and therefore he could fish without restriction. However, Department of Primary Industries legal officers researched Appo's genealogy and presented generations of birth, death and marriage certificates showing his heritage was purely Sri Lankan. Magistrate John Brennan found Appo was not Aboriginal and fined him $2300....

Earlier, in January 1995, another Appo family member from Bundaberg was also caught by fisheries inspectors with undersized and female crabs. He was charged and used the defence of Aboriginality, but was found guilty because birth certificates showed he did not have Aboriginal heritage. He was fined $2700. Despite that conviction he continued to vote at ATSIC elections, claim Abstudy grants for his children and sell Aboriginal art. He revealed his two brothers and a sister, his wife and his five children "all went through school on Abstudy".

At that time Aboriginal corporation administrator, Garry Hamilton, of the Brisbane legal firm Minter Ellison, stated that the incidence of non-eligible people claiming Aboriginality for financial benefits was "rampant". He told how he had been appointed as administrator at Dalaipi Aboriginal corporation at Caboolture, north of Brisbane in the mid-1990s. "The former administrator of this organisation just let anybody in," he said. "There was an incredible number of white Australians with no Aboriginal connections at all getting benefits. It was so bad I just had to close the place down."

More here

The past is another country

In her study of the first years at Sydney Cove, Clendinnen is not projecting herself back into the past; she knows that these people, settlers and Aborigines, are very different from herself. You need to work hard to understand them. One of the several novelties of Dancing with Strangers is Clendinnen's characterisation of the Aborigines as warriors and her cool appraisal of how violence worked in their society.

When governor Arthur Phillip orders the first punitive expedition against the Aborigines she does not hasten to condemn him; she thinks he has correctly divined the sort of retribution Aborigines will understand. The expedition didn't find any Aborigines -- which Clendinnen, not altogether convincingly, claims is what Phillip intended, reckoning that the threat of retribution would be enough.

Grenville is appalled by the plans for this punitive expedition. Aboriginal heads were to be cut off and brought back in bags. Her modern sensibility reels at this hacking at bone and muscle. Her historical inquiries into violence have obviously not been extensive. Europeans were still hanging, drawing and quartering their own when Sydney was founded.

Grenville is rather coy about Aboriginal violence. We see the results as visited on the settlers but not Aborigines performing it. The settlers on the Hawkesbury follow what Aborigines are doing elsewhere through the pages of the Sydney Gazette and we are encouraged to think that Aboriginal violence is to some extent a media beat-up. However, the climactic European massacre of the Aborigines is rendered in close-up grisly detail.

The liberal imagination, appalled at European violence on the frontier, tends to cast the Aborigines as victims merely and not fine practitioners of violence themselves. Violence was more central to their society since its practice was not allotted to a professional caste of soldiers; all adult males were warriors. Aboriginal warfare was endemic, usually with a small number of deaths, but occasionally Aborigines massacred each other.

Grenville cannot imagine how she would have behaved on the Hawkesbury frontier because unlike the Hawkesbury settlers she does not believe in savagery, European superiority and conquest. The pioneer settlers are not ourselves. Nor are the Aborigines whom the pioneers encountered the Aborigines of today.

Settler Australians no longer hang and flog offenders or invade other countries. Aboriginal Australians no longer abandon their old, kill their superfluous young and levy war against their neighbours. We are all a long way from 1788.

More here

Downside to new work laws

The laws virtually abolish unfair dismissal claims (unthinkable in France and Germany) but have weaknesses

One of the country's most politically conservative organisations has likened the federal government's new industrial relations laws to the former Soviet system of command and control. The myriad of complex new laws would also create a system where so-called IR professionals would stand to make a lot of money sorting through it, the HR Nicholls Society said. The new laws come into effect tomorrow after being passed by parliament in December.

But society president Ray Evans does not like the centralised power being handed to the government under the changes, nor its encroachment on states' rights. "It's rather like going back to the old Soviet system of command and control, where every economic decision has to go back to some central authority and get ticked off," he said on ABC TV. "There is a lot of that sort of attitude in this legislation and I think it is very unfortunate."

Last year's winner of the society's main award, the Charles Copeman Medal, was Kemalex Plastics owner Richard Colebatch, who was involved in a dispute with unionists over contracting of labour. "The legislation is a wonderful opportunity for the industrial relations professionals in both private practice and in the unions and in the employer associations to make an awful lot of money," he told the ABC. "It is very complicated for anybody to decipher how it's going to work. "The professionals will spend a lot of money, the employers' money, working their way through the mire trying to create the new rules people are going to work towards."

Another HR Nicholls founder, former head of Treasury John Stone, expressed concern about states' rights under the government's proposed use of the constitution's corporations power. "If the government wins this case in the High Court, they'll be able to do almost anything with it, anything involving a corporation," he said.


26 March, 2006

Implications of cyclone Larry?

When tropical Cyclone Larry lashed the Queensland coast at the weekend it raised questions of whether it was a sign of a changing climate. Could it be the harbinger of a new drought-busting La Nia weather cycle? Could it be a product of human-induced climate change? Or is it just too soon to tell?

Larry slammed into Australia's northeast coast on Sunday morning, local time. Initial reports said it was the most powerful cyclone to hit the continent in decades, moving at unusual speed and packing winds of up to 290 kilometres an hour. Dr Geoff Love, director of meteorology at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says Larry was on a par with Cyclone Tracey, which devastated Darwin in 1974. The BOM categorises cyclones from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most severe. Love says Larry was probably "high category 4, probably not quite 5" and neither unusual nor unexpected. "Larry was no different from any other tropical cyclone," he says.

But Love says more cyclones hit tropical Queensland in La Nina conditions, a possible sign that Australia is headed for a change after emerging from El Nino three years ago. "With an El Nino, cyclones tend to form out closer to the dateline and probably occur before they reach Australian longitude, in La Nia they form closer to the Australian coast," he says. Records going back to the 1880's show a clear La Nina-El Nino cycle, Love says.

The La Nina and El Nino effects are two extremes of an atmospheric and oceanic oscillation in the Pacific Ocean. They have a direct and significant impact on climate in some parts of the world, including Australia. El Nino occurs when the surface of the ocean warms and leads to drier conditions in Australia, which mean more droughts and fires. Cooling surface waters cause La Nina , which causes wetter conditions and more flooding. The two phases switch every few years. But they don't always neatly alternate, making it difficult to make predictions.

Love says there have been about 20 El Ninos and 20 La Nina s in the past 120 years. This amounts to about 20 six year cycles made up of roughly four neutral years and two years of El Nino or La Nina, or one year of each. Australia is currently in what Love calls a "neutral, weak, wishy-washy" period, although there are signs we're trending towards La Nina. "I think we have been sort of just on the borderline," he says. "The Americans have a lower threshold, they're calling it a weak La Nina. We're saying it's just short of being a La Nina."

The latest global tropical cyclone season, which is just coming to an end, has been described as one of the worst in recent times, making it tempting to view Cyclone Larry as a product of human-related climate change. Grant Beard, a climatologist with the BOM's National Climate Centre, says the recent increase in intense tropical cyclones may be linked to warming. "Looking at the globe ... it seems that the number of intense tropical cyclones has increased over the last 30 years," he says. "That's linked probably to the rising ocean temperatures and this is one sign of the enhanced greenhouse effect."

Dr Kevin Walsh is associate professor of meteorology at the University of Melbourne and previously worked on the effect of climate change on tropical cyclones at CSIRO. He says climate change is likely to have some impact on cyclones, although this is yet to be proved. "All the projections say sea temperatures are warming and there are well known theoretical relationships between the warmth of the ocean and tropical cyclones," he says. "But it's controversial whether those effects have yet been detected."

Love says only time will tell whether Larry is the product of climate change. "The jury's out," he says. "Any one event by itself doesn't prove or disprove anything."


An amusing story from the history of Australia's far-Left:

Comrade Roberts is particularly strong in exposing how the male comrades of the Trotskyite Communist League were unreconstructed chauvinists. As far as they were concerned, the women in Australia, unlike European activists such as Rosa Luxemburg, "existed only as a kind of ladies' auxiliary to the revolution". Shortly before he was assassinated in Mexico, Trotsky had responded to comrade Origlass's inquiry as to the best contribution female party members could make to the class struggle. "The female members," he wrote, "should be rooted on the workshop floor."

As Gee puts it, "Trotsky was master of five languages, but was clearly unfamiliar with Australian double entendre." When this response was brought before the central committee, even chairman Origlass, "to whom every word of the master was holy writ, permitted his granite features to soften for a moment".

More here

Ghost ship

Customs officers have not been able to find many clues about how an unmanned ship came to be drifting in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Customs spokesman, Matt Wardell, says they boarded the abandoned tanker this morning, south-west of Weipa. Mr Wardell says they have been able to identify the 80-metre long boat as the Jian Seng, but have not discovered its nationality or port of registry. He says a broken tow-rope is hanging from its bow. "Our boarding party, following a search of the vessel, has speculated that the vessel was inoperable and under tow when the tow-rope broke and it was subsequently abandoned and has drifted into its current position in Australian waters," he said.

He says they will continue to monitor the boat until they decide what to do with it. "I should say there's no suggestion there's been anybody on board recently or that the vessel's been used in any people smuggling activity," he said. "There's also no indication that the crew left the vessel in any haste or in any distress. "One of the things we have found on board is a large quantity of rice and we believe that the vessel may have been used to resupply fishing boats with food and fuel in waters outside Australia's exclusive economic zone."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is sending a tug boat to retrieve the ship. AMSA's Tracey Jiggins says they have arranged a salvor to bring the boat to Weipa. "Due to the remote location of the vessel and the need to relocate salvage crews from the east coast, it's anticipated that just one tug will arrive on scene early on Monday the 27th of March," she said. "But in the interim period before the salvors can reach the vessel, AMSA's working closely with other agencies, including Maritime Safety Queensland to minimise any risk of damage to the environment."


Australia still at the forefront of hypersonic aircraft research

A supersonic jet engine known as a scramjet, which could dramatically reduce the time of air travel around the world, has been tested in South Australia's far north. Seconds after the jet set off, there was a supersonic boom across the Woomera test range. It travelled more than 300 kilometres into the air before crashing ten minutes later, 400 kilometres down the range. The University of Queensland is heading an international team testing the scramjet technology, which travels up to 8,000 kilometres an hour - almost eight times the speed of sound.

Team leader Allan Paul says the flight went well but it will take several months to analyse the data they have collected. He says the team is happy with the result so far. "I haven't seen them on such a high for a long time," he said. "It's been a hard couple of weeks, in fact it's been hard since Christmas, and the team has really responded well." He says the launch went according to plan but there were a few tense moments. "You're looking at it as it goes up, and you're worried if it's going to make it," he said. "It's probably a very unnerving feeling actually." Dr Paul says they should have some preliminary results by tomorrow.


25 March, 2006

Free beer for toads

The giant Bufo Marinus toad (introduced from Brazil) is a great pest in Northern Australia -- killing a lot of wildlife by its poison

Territorians are being offered free beer in return for live cane toads. The RSPCA, Coopers Brewery and the Cavenagh Hotel have teamed up in the name of animal welfare and the result is that toads can be turned into beer. In a move designed to turn seasoned Top End beer drinkers into lean, mean, toad-catching machines, the three Darwin organisations have got together to set up a toad-for-beer exchange. Anyone over the age of 18 who captures a toad and delivers it alive to the Darwin RSPCA qualifies for a glass of icy cold Coopers beer at the Cavenagh Hotel. ``Everyone who takes a cane toad to the RSPCA to be disposed of humanely gets a voucher for a free pot of Coopers ale at the Cav,'' Coopers Brewery's NT sales executive Sean Gould said. He said there would be a beer for each toad -- up to a limit of six a day.

``It's an idea we had from the locally-produced movie Bufo Marinators that screened at the Cav last week,'' Mr Gould said. The film, which featured a posse of toad hunters and a simulated orgy of bufo killing, caused quite a fuss. ``We want to encourage the humane treatment of animals,'' acting chief executive of RSPCA Darwin Lindsay Wilkinson said yesterday. ``If you get a free Coopers out of it then it's a bonus.'' Cavenagh Hotel general manager Brett Simmonds said: ``It's all about the toads, not about the beer.'' But the toads must be alive. ``No coupons for squashed toads,'' Mr Wilkinson said. He was keen to make it clear he wasn't starting a roadkill collection. ``Healthy, live, no squashed cane toads,'' he said.

And Mr Simmonds agreed, saying the deal was ``fresh toads for fresh beer''. While the toad catchers are enjoying their cold ale, the RSPCA will be busy euthanasing the toads with sodium pentobarbitone, an overdose of barbituates administered with a few drops on the skin that kills toads immediately. ``It's the most humane way to kill an animal,'' Mr Wilkinson said. ``They just go to sleep.''

But beer fiends shouldn't get too worked up. Mr Simmonds said there would be a six-pot maximum per person per day. ``The idea is to get people catching toads and taking them for humane disposal, not to get people too drunk,'' Mr Simmonds said. ``If you take six toads in to the RSPCA, you get six vouchers. If you take 100 toads, you get six vouchers.'' But he's worried people will get the wrong idea and deliver a bucket load of toads to his pub hoping to trade them for a few cold ones. Mr Simmonds said no one would get a beer for taking a toad to the pub. He said the toads must be taken to the RSPCA at 80 Boulter Rd Berrimah between 1pm and 5pm on weekdays. Vouchers for the promotion will be valid until April 30.


More indulgence towards Muslims?

Judging both by the names and the behaviour of the scum below and the exceedingly lenient verdict of the judge, the offenders were Muslims

An invalid pensioner dropping his teenage son at the movies was mistaken for a drug dealer, chased home and bashed with a baseball bat by two brothers who also destroyed his car. But Shammi and Shamal Chand escaped with fully suspended sentences when they faced Southport District Court yesterday, angering victim Brett Paterson who said they should have gone to jail. ``It was a violent attack and they should have done time for what they did to me,'' said Mr Paterson, who still bears the physical and emotional scars of the attack. ``I don't think justice has been done.''

Mr Paterson was dropping his 15-year-old son at the Harbour Town shopping centre about 10.30pm on October 1, 2004, when his ordeal began. he court was told Shammi Chand, tired from working long hours in a Redbank Plains furniture business he was establishing, had contacted an associate to get some amphetamines. The Chand brothers drove to the Gold Coast to buy the drugs but the associate disappeared with Shammi's money at Harbour Town.

Mistaking Mr Paterson for the drug dealer, the Chands then followed him home to nearby Labrador, ramming his car with their four-wheel drive utility along the way. Mr Paterson grabbed a baseball bat to defend himself but that was broken and turned on him. As Shamal Chand held Mr Paterson down in his driveway, Shammi Chand bashed him ``four or five times'' with the broken bat, the court was told. Shammi Chand had then twice reversed the 4WD into Mr Paterson's car, causing it to be written off.

The Chand brothers pleaded guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm while armed and in company. Shammi Chand also pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. Handing down the sentence, Judge Ian Dearden said the Chand brothers had inflicted ``misery'' on Mr Paterson who suffered ongoing physical problems, had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to work.

But Judge Dearden said he also took into account the Chands' own misery following the death of their father at 56, the difficulties Shammi Chand faced supporting his extended family and Shamal Chand's battle with drugs and mental illness. The judge sentenced Shammi Chand to 18 months' jail on the assault charge, wholly suspended, and Shamal Chand was sentenced to nine months' jail, wholly suspended.


The arty-farties love this:

I think it is just ugly but what do I know?

The coveted Archibald Prize has been awarded to first-time entrant Marcus Wills for his montage of 29 portraits. The work, titled The Paul Juraszek monolith (after Marcus Gheeraerts), is inspired by an etching contained in the 1567 edition of the children's classic Aesop's fables. Artist Paul Juraszek is the subject of the portrait work. The choice of winner is set to ignite yet another controversy for Australia's most famous art prize. "The painting is very different, very original," Art Gallery of NSW director Edmund Capon said. "That he put 29 portraits into one painting is something of an achievement and I think it is a rather good departure from previous choices. So in every sense it is a most unexpected choice." The 34-year-old artist chose to base his entry on an acquaintance, Melbourne sculptor Mr Juraszek, whose works of mythical animals are also featured in the oil painting. "I didn't expect it at all. I was surprised to even be accepted because the picture is a bit different," Mr Wills said following his win, which earns him $35,000. Since its inception in 1921, the Archibald Prize has been awarded to some of Australia's most significant artists, including George Lambert, William Dobell and Brett Whiteley. This year there were 787 entries for the prize.


Another example of appalling medical advice -- from one of Andrew Bolt's readers:

See also my post of 12th.

Whilst pregnant with my first child I underwent an ultrasound at 13 weeks just for peace of mind. The sonographer initially seemed quite pleasant. But as he was taking the measurement of the fluid at the back of my baby's neck, he became a little agitated that the baby wasn't staying in the correct position for an accurate result. After a few minutes of jerking my stomach with the ultrasound tool, and with my baby still not in the optimum position, he told us that our baby had a one in 14 chance of having Down's syndrome. With very little compassion, he asked us what we wanted to do. I said that we would have to go home and talk about it. He responded dryly with, "You're supposed to talk about these things before you have the ultrasound." He then told us that we would have to "make up your minds, pronto" because the pregnancy was approaching the end of the "safe" period to have an abortion.

These words sent me spinning and I burst into tears. On the drive home something in my bones told me that the sonographer was wrong and that my baby was fine. Mothers' intuition, no doubt. Still, I was scared. I rang my obstetrician and said, "Get me another ultrasound immediately." Our beautiful Max is now 3 1/2 half and perfect in every way. (Well, the matchbox-cars-in-the-toilet incident is an exception).


24 March, 2006

Australia rescues Papuans from Muslim violence

Australia's decision to grant temporary visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers is an "unfriendly" act and Indonesia must protest, a senior Indonesian MP said today. Jakarta had been calling for the boatload of asylum seekers to be sent back to Indonesia but Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone today announced 42 of the 43 Papuans who landed at Cape York in January have received temporary protection visas (TPV). They would be relocated from Christmas Island to Melbourne, Senator Vanstone said.

The group said they feared they would be killed if they were sent home - a charge Indonesian officials deny. A spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Dino Pati Djalal, said Jakarta was still drafting a response to the announcement.

But Djoko Susilo, a nationalist MP and member of Indonesia's powerful foreign affairs commission in Parliament, said the decision was "too much". "Giving asylum to them means Australia confirms what's been claimed by the group," he said. "This is an unfriendly gesture by the Australian Government."

Earlier today, Senator Vanstone said she could not comment on whether the move would create tensions with Indonesia, and said the cases were considered on their individual merits.

More here

Americans not amused either

The religious contingent don't understand "bloody" but think it sounds nasty ("Bloody" is usually said to be an old Catholic expression: Short for "By our Lady")

A key conservative American lobby group is set to unleash a campaign of protest against Australian tourism's "where the bloody hell are you?" TV advertisement. The controversial commercial made its US debut tonight in front of 20 million American TV viewers and one influential group was not amused. The American Family Association (AFA), which has more than two million members and leads campaigns against abortion and gay rights, was upset with the bikini-clad model Lara Bingle's use of "bloody" and "hell" in the ad's tagline.

AFA members are expected to bombard Tourism Australia with thousands of emails and phone calls in coming weeks to vent their feelings. Members are also expected to boycott Australia as a holiday destination. "I just feel pretty sure the typical American family who is watching TV with their children and they're exposed to this ad are going to be upset," AFA director of special projects, Randy Sharp, said. "I don't want my children to hear that phrase. "It's a shocking phrase because we're not familiar with it. "I guess they use it all the time in Australia, but it's a foreign language here so I think it'll have a negative impact rather than positive."

British TV authorities dropped a ban on the use of the word "bloody" after pressure from Australia, but now Canadian authorities are unhappy with the way the ad portrays the drinking of unbranded beer.

Tourism Australia launched the ad in the US with a 30-second spot during the hit TV series Lost, which draws around 20 million American viewers each week. The ad also aired on some of America's most-watched cable TV channels, including Rupert Murdoch's FOX News, the popular A&E channel, TNT, TBS, Fine Living and the home improvement network, HGTV.

The ad has not upset America's broadcast regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but all it takes is for one viewer complaint for the FCC to launch an investigation. FCC spokesperson Rebecca Fisher said she was unaware of any complaints. Tourism Australia acting managing director Andrew McEvoy said US TV networks had no problem clearing the ad.

The Mississippi-based AFA's campaigns have had enormous lobbying success in the US. Last year the group called on its members to file formal complaints against US TV network CBS for a "teenage orgy scene" depicted in Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia's hit TV series, Without A Trace. The FCC last week fined more than 100 CBS affiliate stations $US3.6 million ($5 million) for airing the orgy scene. The AFA website congratulates its members on the campaign with a "You did it!" headline and a link to send the FCC a thank-you message.

The AFA is also calling on its members to lobby Pizza Hut to ban a "sexually suggestive" ad featuring pop star Jessica Simpson, in which she feeds food into a teenager's mouth, causing the boy to faint. Mr Sharp said he enjoyed the Tourism Australia ad until the end when Bingle asks "where the bloody hell are you?" "When you think 'bloody' in America you think the red liquid that flows from human bodies which is usually a sign of some kind of violence," Mr Sharp said.

Tourism Australia contact details will be made available to AFA members. "They will hear from a lot of our members who are going to be insulted," Mr Sharp said. "Australians are spending all of these millions of dollars inviting us, and if we go over there are we going to be exposing our kids to foul language and images of bloody? "We don't want our kids to hear the term 'bloody'. "We certainly don't want our kids to hear profanity."


Kids must learn spelling, grammar and punctuation

An editorial in "The Australian":

That Australia's educationalists are in thrall to some pretty daffy ideas is nothing new. This newspaper has for years defended proven teaching methods such as phonics while exposing the depredations of programs like "critical literacy" and other attempts to politicise and discard the bedrock of our culture in favour of "texts" that are "more relevant". Indeed, last year Queensland's Education Minister vowed to reform English education in his state after being shown examples of students' work by The Australian - including a child's feminist critique of the fairytale Rapunzel.

Horrifying as that is, in Western Australia it's about to get worse - to the point where calculation errors won't matter in maths class, and where spelling, grammar and punctuation will be tossed out the window in English and media classes. It's called "outcomes-based education" and, once implemented in Western Australia, Year 12 English students may pass their final exams without ever reading a book; analysing TV ads and film posters will do. Students will even be allowed to draw their answers, if they are able to figure out the mind-numbingly complex exam instructions.

Like "critical literacy" before it, with its emphasis on finding hidden racism and sexism in great works of literature, outcomes-based education is little more than a jargony post-modern scam foisted on an unsuspecting public by folk-Marxist educationalists. It is the pedagogical equivalent of the Australian Institute of Sport abandoning their world's-best practices for training elite athletes to tell runners that their times don't matter and swimmers that "wetness" is just a Western cultural construction. And Australian educators and politicians are taking young people down a path just as radical under the guise of OBE.

Disturbingly, Western Australia is not the only jurisdiction tearing down proven educational methods in favour of feel-good fads. Outcomes-based education is entrenched across the country: Tasmania recently launched its own radical curriculum, Essential Learnings, which was so controversial that teachers were barred by the local union from criticising it publicly and the state Education Minister was forced to promise a rethink. In South Australia, kids are taught that "Western science . . . is only one form among the sciences of the world", as if the laws of gravity are different in Japan. And Victoria is infamous for letting English students read a grand total of one book a year. More broadly, ideas such as "edutainment" (where an episode of Neighbours is just as valid a "text" as a novel by Dickens) are gaining increasing currency.

The war on excellence being waged in our classrooms is not just a matter of concern for parents and pointy-heads. When Australian students score well behind their foreign counterparts in maths and science exams, or employers find graduates are unable to write a proper sentence, it becomes a matter of vital concern to all Australians. OBE backers say that students will be better equipped for the real world under their regime; in fact, they will learn little more than how to use Google and calculators and to tear down a culture whose roots they have never been taught. This is hardly a recipe for literate and competent citizens who can go on to nourish and transmit all that is great about Australia to their descendants.

Certainly, parents and teachers have the greatest role to play in challenging these fads; in Western Australia, the recently formed PLATO (People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes; is doing an admirable job of raising the alarm. Especially when politicians have lost their senses (to say nothing of their nerve) someone has to stand athwart brewing disasters such as WA's new curriculum and yell, "Stop!". The feral postmodernism and hyper-relativism that is "outcomes-based education" has no place in Australia's classrooms.


Federal government to smarten up teaching

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop will consider a major scholarship program to attract some of the best and brightest Year 12 students into maths and science teaching. Ms Bishop was commenting on the revelation that students with Year 12 scores as low as OP19 - the bottom 20 per cent of students - were gaining entry to teaching courses in Queensland.

A Department of Education, Science and Training spokesman said the Federal Government had funded 18,500 more university places in all disciplines nationally this year than in 2004, and another 39,000 places would be allocated by 2009. The growth of Queensland's population meant many of those would be allocated for teaching in this state.

Ms Bishop said that while standards had to be maintained, it was also important to ensure enough teachers were trained to meet demand. "We have to maintain that balance," she said. "I think we should be doing more in terms of encouraging teaching as a career of choice."

Teaching, like nursing, is a national priority area, so students incur the lowest HECS fees. But Ms Bishop said a more targeted approach, such as maths/science scholarships, also would be considered. She said teachers needed good nurturing, social and communication skills, and academic ability alone did not guarantee a good teacher.

While research is limited on how well low-score entrants perform in teaching courses, preliminary data gathered by the University of Southern Queensland suggests students with entry scores below OP15 are struggling. USQ associate dean of education Peter Cronk said: "The data is all over the place, but the preliminary stuff suggests that once you go below OP15 they start to find things more difficult." He said the university was well aware of the need to avoid first-year attrition in courses and had put support programs in place to bolster students' literacy, numeracy and assignment-writing skills. "Someone who has done science at school, for instance, may not be used to writing the kinds of assignments that are expected at university," he said.

While USQ has some of the lowest entry scores at its Wide Bay and Toowoomba campuses with OP19, its new Springfield campus has a teaching cut-off of 15, two places higher than that of the nearby University of Queensland Ipswich campus.

Under the OP system, no student "fails" outright, but scores in the range of 16 to 19 would suggest students scored in the low to middle ranges (low achievement and satisfactory achievement) in their Year 12 subjects.

Griffith University vice-chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor, whose institution's scores have remained in the middle ranges, believed Griffith was attracting better-calibre students because it had invested heavily in its education courses and they had a good name among schools.

Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake, who has promised to maintain entry scores at the state's biggest university for training teachers at their present levels, said it worried him that no students from leading private schools with high percentages of OP1s and 2s had opted for teaching. "We need to recognise that teaching is a traditional and noble profession, and that it is vital to our economic and community interests in the Smart State era that its value is recognised," he said.


23 March, 2006

Nutty Canadians

They've got more hangups than a drycleaner

First it was "bloody", then it was "hell" and now it's "beer" that's tripping up an Australian tourism advertising campaign. The recently launched and now controversial advertisement which concludes with the tagline "Where the bloody hell are you?" has now run foul of the Canadian regulator. But it's not the tagline that's the trouble this time as much as the opener: "I've bought you a beer". Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said she had been told by Canadian authorities they could not accept that line. "We now have the Canadian authorities not wanting us to use the opening segment of `I've bought you a beer'," Ms Bailey said in Melbourne. "The Canadian regulator says that this implies consumption of unbranded alcohol.

"I have to say that I find this quite astonishing." Ms Bailey clarified that it was not beer consumption itself that was causing the problem for the Canadians but the fact the beer was unbranded. "That's some sort of quirky Canadian regulation," she said. Ms Bailey said the regulator was not troubled by the ad's closing tagline, which they found "warm and friendly and inviting". Even so, the Canadian regulator would not allow the ad to be shown during a children's Easter program because of the final line.

However, the ad had never been scheduled to be shown then anyway, Ms Bailey said. Ms Bailey said it was likely the opening sequence would be replaced with different but equally warm and friendly footage - not involving references to unbranded beer - to get around the problem.

Earlier today, Canadian Broadcasting Corp spokeswoman Ruth Soles said on ABC radio her network had imposed its own restrictions on the advertisement. Ms Soles said the word "hell" might offend viewers who tune in to a particular family viewing timeslot.

Last week, Britain's advertising regulator objected to the word "bloody". But they relented after Ms Bailey flew to the UK and lobbed on their doorstep to argue the case. Ms Bailey said she had been told in London the controversy had itself generated "millions of pounds" worth of free publicity. "As far as this particular Canadian regulator is concerned, I'd love him to come out here and I'll buy him a beer and say thank-you," she said. Ms Bailey declined to say what sort of beer she would offer the Canadians.


Rain disrupts cyclone aid

(Click here for the words and music of the Innisfail song!)

Heavy rainfall has disrupted the flow of relief supplies today to cyclone-devastated north Queensland. Torrential rains lashed coastal areas between Cairns and Ingham overnight, with falls of up to 300mm recorded in the 12 hours to 9am (AEST). Rain has caused significant rises in the Tully and Murray rivers and moderate to major flooding in smaller coastal streams. The Bruce Highway between Innisfail and Townsville is closed while the Bruce Highway has been shut north of Cardwell at Euramo. The roads, which also have been significantly damaged by flood waters, are not expected to reopen until at least midday on Saturday.

Bottled water, a field kitchen, portable toilets, generators and meals have been delivered to Innisfail as part a massive relief effort underway there in the wake of Cyclone Larry.

Up to 55mm of rain was recorded in one hour in the town, which bore the maximum category five cyclone early Monday. Counter Disaster and Rescue Services executive director Frank Pagano today said emergency crews were still trying to deliver other essential items such as tarpaulins, ropes and generators to the area but the rain had hampered efforts. "Changing road and weather conditions (are) impacting the planning process," he said...

An Innisfail police spokesman said the region had suffered extensive localised flooding but rains had recently eased. "The water levels are dropping but the major rivers are still rising," he said. "It's a matter now of just trying to get gear in. There has been a few things that have been held up but a majority of the stuff has come through. "They're talking about (using) choppers now if anything else needs to be quickly shipped in."

More here

Dumb teachers in Australia too

Some of Queensland's future teachers are being drawn from among the bottom third of school leavers seeking tertiary places. Universities are training teaching students who scored as low as OP19 in their final year of school on the 25-point OP scale. Teaching cut-offs for many courses have dropped two OP places in only 12 months.

Several universities have begun support programs for first-year students to bolster their literacy, numeracy, comprehension and assignment-writing skills. They are also beginning to investigate how students with lower entry scores in previous years have performed. But although the minimum scores are low, many students enter teaching courses with OPs as high as one to five.

Education Minister Rod Welford said most Queensland teachers were trained at Brisbane universities where scores were generally ahead of those at regional universities. "Obviously it would be preferable if those entering the teaching profession had the highest scores, but not everyone with top results necessarily becomes a good teacher," he said. Mr Welford said teaching standards in Queensland were being improved through new accountability requirements, which meant that teachers had to update their skills to be re-registered every five years by the College of Teachers.

Richard Smith, Central Queensland University's executive dean of arts, humanities and education, said he had "absolutely no concerns" about the entry score. "There is no correlation between the OP score students enter with and their performance at university," Professor Smith said. "Ours are outcomes-based degrees and we ensure our students are workplace ready."

Under Queensland's OP scoring system for Year 12 students, OP1 - obtained by just 2.37 per cent of students - is the highest grade and OP25 is the lowest. More than 70 per cent of students score OP16 or better. A survey by The Courier-Mail has found that an OP19 was the cut-off for the Bachelor of Education degree for early childhood, primary and middle schooling teachers at the University of Southern Queensland's Wide Bay campus. It was also the cut-off score for early childhood teaching at USQ Toowoomba.

Universities accepting candidates with OP17s include the University of Queensland for middle school teaching (a dual degree with Behavioural Studies), Central Queensland University for early childhood, primary and Japanese teaching, and the University of the Sunshine Coast for science and arts teaching. James Cook University accepts trainee primary, secondary and early childhood teachers with OP16s.

Universities with higher cut-offs include Griffith University (OPs 10 and 11 and OP7 for the combined Science/Education degree), the Australian Catholic University (OP11) and QUT (OPs 11 to 13), which has the largest number of trainee teachers in the state. Many teachers also enter the profession with a post-graduate degree.

QUT vice-chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake pledged that QUT would not allow entry scores to drop any lower. But he said if a student passed a four-year teaching degree, this overtook their Year 12 result. Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan said he was worried the focus was on filling universities with trainee teachers, rather than turning out good teachers.


Degrading mathematics education

"Outcomes Based Education" is a system to avoid grading of students. You either attain the "outcome" or you do not. All kids are equal, is the basic (boringly Leftist) idea

Maths students will no longer be penalised for arriving at the correct answer using incorrect calculations under Western Australia's controversial outcomes-based education system. In a fundamental change to the way mathematics is assessed, the new OBE maths curriculum will reward students regardless of the process they use.

Co-founder of lobby group PLATO, Greg Williams, said the move would produce high-school graduates who would not need to have a fundamental understanding of mathematical concepts. Mr Williams said that under the present system, students were awarded marks for the calculations they made, as well as the final answer. But under the OBE system, a student who gave the correct answer but made the wrong calculations to arrive at it would be given exactly the same mark. This would not equip students for a career and life in the real world, Mr Williams said. "If you're an engineer and your calculations are sloppy, the bridge that you are building falls down," Mr Williams said.

PLATO's (People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes) concerns follow revelations that the Curriculum Council of Western Australia has turned away from the importance of spelling and grammar. The 2007 sample exams for English, media and aviation provide teachers with their first glimpse of what will be assessed under the new education system. All three samples state students should not be penalised for "poor spelling, punctuation, grammar or handwriting". Students are also permitted to draw answers or write them in dot form.

"If you're not going to learn how to write English with correct grammar, spelling and continuous prose, where the hell are you going to learn it?" Mr Williams said.

Mathematical Association of Western Australia president Noemi Reynolds said she did not believe the new system would result in a major change to student assessment. "But we have quite a mixture of opinions on OBE," she said. Ms Reynolds said many maths teachers had expressed concern after witnessing the confusion surrounding the implementation of a new English syllabus. "We understand and have sympathy for our fellow English teachers but maths teachers will not stand for a lack of support in the implementation (of the changes)," she said.

State Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said she would not speculate on how maths calculations would be marked until she had seen a sample exam. "I'm going to wait until I see a copy of an example paper until I comment," Ms Ravlich said. She said claims by PLATO that students would not be prepared for life after school was scaremongering. "Students will need to be able to demonstrate good grammar, spelling and punctuation. If they don't, it will result in students achieving lower marks in the examination," she said. "This is a pretty tough (English) examination. I think it really is quite rigorous."

But federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said that while she was not attacking the concept of outcomes-based education, she did not approve of how the system was being implemented in WA. "The current debate centres around how it is working in practice and whether the (Curriculum Council) promotes sufficient guidelines to teachers," Ms Bishop said. "What I am hearing from teachers is that they need clarity on the knowledge and skills that students are to develop (under OBE)." She said spelling, grammar and punctuation had to be one of the highest priorities in the teaching and assessment of English.


22 March, 2006


More pictures here

As I was born and bred in Innisfail, this story had more than the usual interest for me. I in fact remember well living through a similar cyclone in Innisfail when I was about 11.

By way of background it may be worth noting that all North Queensland houses have long been built to be cyclone resistant. Roofs are screwed down and the roof frame is bolted to the house. And the house is bolted to the stumps on which it is set and the stumps in turn are both deep-set in the ground and braced to withstand lateral force. So while many houses were damaged, most stayed intact enough to protect their occupants. The lack of deaths was certainly no accident.

I reproduce below comments from three different writers on the matter

Nobody killed in big Queensland blow

The devastation Hurricane Katrina caused in the United States probably helped save lives in Queensland's cyclone ravaged north, an expert said today. No-one was killed or suffered serious injuries despite the ferocious nature of category five Cyclone Larry, the most powerful cyclone to hit Australia in decades. However, Larry, which made landfall yesterday, destroyed homes, uprooted trees, downed powerlines, and ruined banana and cane crops in and around the town of Innisfail, which bore the brunt of its fury.

Professor Tom Hardy, a cyclone expert with the Australian Maritime College, said it was amazing that no-one was killed. He said the experience of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama last August and killed more than 1000 people, probably helped save north Queenslanders' lives. "I think that the big hurricanes in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico this last year made people realise 'Oh my gosh, that can happen here'," Prof Hardy said today. "Whereas if this happened a year ago, I think there would have been a few people (asked to evacuate) who would've said 'No, I'm just going to stay here, I've lived here for 20 years and nothing's happened'.

"New Orleans got whacked but I think Innisfail maybe learned a little bit about that." Prof Hardy said a combination of better building standards and warning systems also probably contributed to a lack of casualties. He said most north Queenslanders would have been unaware of what to expect from Cyclone Larry after decades of relatively minor cyclones. "I think we did a damn good job of being prepared for it because no-one died, and the damage will be something that we can recover from," he said.


Technologically Advanced, Modern Economy, Survives Category 5 Cyclone without a Single Fatality

An interesting comparison below lifted from Jennifer Marohasy

A category 5 cyclone, more severe than Cyclone Tracy or Hurricane Katrina, lashes Far North Queensland and there is not a single fatality. It perhaps says something about Australia, modern economies and democracies and their potential capacity to adapt and to survive? Congratulations Far North Queensland! When we were less technologically advanced, that is on 10th March 1918 and a severe cyclone hit Innisfail, over 80 people died. Following is the note in the Bureau of Meterology records for that event:

"This cyclone is widely regarded as the worst cyclone to hit a populated area of Queensland. It crossed the coast and passed directly over Innisfail. Pen on Post Office barograph was prevented from registering below 948 hPa by flange on bottom of drum. 926 hPa read at the Mourilyan Sugar mill at 7 pm 10 Mar. The eye wall reached Innisfail at 9 pm. In Innisfail, then a town of 3,500 residents, only around 12 houses remained intact the rest being blown flat or unroofed. A report from the Harbours and Marine Engineer indicated that at Maria Creek the sea rose to a height of about 3m above high water (If this refers to HAT the water was 4.65m above the tide for that day). Around 4.40pm 10 Mar at Bingil Bay a tidal wave was seen surging in from the east into Bingil Bay taking the bridge over the creek 400 m inland. Mission Beach was covered by 3.6 m water for hundreds of metres inland, the debris reached a height of 7m in the trees. All buildings and structures were destroyed by the storm surge in the Bingil Bay Mission beach area. The surge was 2.6m at Flying Fish Point. Babinda also had many buildings destroyed and some reports suggest that not one building was left standing. There was widespread damage at Cairns and on the Atherton Tablelands. Recent reports suggest that 37 people died in Innisfail while 40 to 60 (mostly aborigines) lost their lives in nearby areas."

The lessons of cyclone Larry

Comment by Benny Peiser below noting that the North Queensland experience is great evidence of how technologically advanced societies can cope very well with even very dangerous natural changes and events:

Throughout human history, natural disasters such as cyclones and hurricanes have had devastating impacts on human life and societies. Until fairly recently, tens of thousands of people around the world were killed each year as a result of tropical mega-storms. Although it is technically impossible, for the time being, to completely neutralise the damage tropical storms bring with them, it is possible, as a result of effective disaster warning and preparedness to significantly reduce the potential risks to human life, infrastructure and the economy.

Disaster warning systems have become essential social mechanisms in the forecast, detection and mitigation of natural disasters. People exposed to natural hazards are increasingly relying on the effectiveness of warning systems. They are most effective for natural catastrophes that develop gradually and relatively slowly, such as floods or tropical cyclones. In 1991, for example, 600,000 people in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh were evacuated in advance of a tropical cyclone, thus minimising the number of fatalities to just over a thousand. 13 years earlier, in comparison, over 10,000 people were killed in a similar cyclone that transpired without any warning. The significant decline in storm-related deaths since 1950 has been attributed to improvements in tornado-warning systems.

The experience with Cyclone Larry only underlines this encouraging development. As Jennifer Marohasy points out above, Cyclone Larry, the strongest cyclone to have hit Australia in almost 100 years, has produced not a single fatality. Cyclone Larry demonstrates that technologically advanced, open societies which develop disaster early warning strategies and effective planning that provides resilience to such disasters can reduce the risks to human life to almost zero. The key lesson of Cyclone Larry is simple: Human adaptation, effective disaster planning, social resilience and proper insurance cover are beginning to transform tropical mega-storms from devastating human catastrophes into managable nuicances.

Federal vouchers to fund private education for slow learners

The parents of children who struggle to make the grade in maths and English could soon be able to send them to private schools under a taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. Education Minister Julie Bishop has flagged her support for an expansion of voucher programs, to also include disabled children. And as part of the push to improve literacy and numeracy, universities would be encouraged to establish centres of excellence for teacher training.

Releasing preliminary findings of a national pilot program offering $700 tutorial vouchers to students who fail to meet Year 3 reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop said parents had resoundingly endorsed the scheme, with 88 per cent "satisfied or very satisfied". However, tuition assessments showed that just 60 per cent of students actually improved their reading skills. Almost 70 per cent of tutors believed their students had improved.

Accusing the states of failing to invest enough in improving students' performance in reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop also backed debate on a voucher scheme in other areas. "I am quite supportive of the notion of vouchers across the board," she told The Australian. "The notion of vouchers to give parents choice is a notion that appeals to me. There are a whole range of areas where tutorial vouchers could be utilised. There is one with children with special needs. I think vouchers have a place there."

Prime Minister John Howard has previously ruled out a voucher scheme for all students that would allow parents to spend a taxpayer-funded grant at public or private schools. However, the Government has embraced the idea of $700 vouchers for students struggling with literacy.

Critics of the current funding model for schools have also argued that a voucher scheme already exists in practice, because students at both public and private schools all secure a basic grant from taxpayers.

Ms Bishop said she was also preparing to unveil major reforms to improve teacher training following complaints some universities were forced to run remedial literacy lessons for undergraduates. "What I think we can do is promote centres for excellence within universities," she said. "If there were a centre for excellence for teacher training other universities could draw upon that."

More here

Lovely Lara

Bloody hell - what are the Poms going to say when they cop an eyeful of this? Lara "bloody" Bingle, the Cronulla chick who is the face of that notorious Tourism Australia ad, will cap off an extraordinary month of events when she appears topless in lads mag Zoo Weekly today.

Since her overnight rise to fame as the "bloody hell" babe in February, Bingle has been caught in a text scandal involving Cronulla Sharks player Greg Bird, pranged her car in a minor accident and flown to London on a successful mission to overturn the British advertising regulators' ban on the Tourism Australia campaign. Today, Bingle is back to doing what she does best - sparking some more bloody controversy. In addition to gracing the front cover of the mag, 18-year-old Bingle will appear topless in one shot of a five-page spread, but with her assets strategically covered.


21 March, 2006

New pro-jobs legal environment to take effect next week

....Its centrepiece is a new Fair Pay Commission to set minimum wages and conditions, and the removal of unfair dismissal laws for workers in firms with fewer than 100 employees.

But the unfair dismissal changes have been widened to remove protection for high-income earners. In a move unions claim is aimed at construction workers, miners and others in top trades, employees earning more than $95,000 will be exempt from unfair dismissal laws. Trainees will also lose their cover, while anyone can be sacked for "genuine operational reasons", including economic or technological. The regulations list terms and conditions workers and bosses cannot include in workplace agreements, such as:

* GIVING unions right of entry to a workplace.

* DEDUCTING union fees from a worker's pay.

* ALLOWING leave for union training.

* RESTRICTING the use of independent contractors.

The first WorkChoices laws were released last year and the remaining sections will be approved in Federal Parliament next week. Releasing the accompanying regulations yesterday, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the changes would be good for the economy. "It's fair legislation: legislation designed to ensure that Australia's productivity continues to grow," Mr Andrews said. Unions said much of the detail was aimed at curbing their ability to operate in workplaces.

More here

Feisty Independent does well in South Australian elections

Anti-pokies crusader Nick Xenophon has become the strongest force in South Australian politics outside the major parties after his shock re-election to the Upper House. Mr Xenophon, who was elected to parliament in 1997 on the back of several parties' preferences, went into Saturday's election hoping for a "minor miracle", after both Labor and Liberal abandoned him in preference deals. But so overwhelming was his first preference support -- with more than 20 per cent of the vote -- that not only did Mr Xenophon retain his own seat, he also won a second berth for his running mate, drug rehabilitation pioneer Ann Bressington.

Mr Xenophon's victory saw him dubbed "the third political force" in the state by shell-shocked federal Liberal MP Christopher Pyne. Clem Macintyre, senior politics lecturer at the University of Adelaide, said the No Pokies MP was now "the second most recognised politician in the state after the Premier". Mr Xenophon has boosted his profile with a series of media stunts, but has gained credibility, advocating on behalf of victims of crime and people suffering from asbestos poisoning. Liberal deputy leader Iain Evans said Saturday's election was a boon for "the two people with relatively high media profiles -- Mike Rann and Nick Xenophon". Mr Evans said the Liberal Party would have to re-evaluate its own relationship with the media.

Mr Xenophon's decisive win also pours cold water on Mr Rann's stated ambition to abolish the upper house. A good strong upper house is an insurance policy against the excesses of an arrogant government," Mr Xenophon said yesterday.

An exhausted but elated Mr Xenophon took to Adelaide's Rundle Mall yesterday to thank supporters in his own inimitable style -- wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with the words: "Thank You". "I'd like to thank Labor and Liberal for preferencing against me," he said, arguing that the decision created a groundswell of support in the community. Mr Xenophon put up $70,000 of his own money to finance his campaign, taking out a bank loan to retain the momentum in the final fortnight, and had a further $80,000 of public donations. "It really was a grassroots campaign," he said.


The Nutty party fades

The South Australian result could mean the demise of the Australian Democrats after voters in the state that has produced four of the party's leaders and where it has often polled strongest gave the party only 2.8 per cent of the vote in Saturday's election. The swing away from the Democrats, once seen as the third force in national politics, means the party is expected to lose both its contested seats in the upper house, leaving the Democrats with only one MP in the South Australian parliament.

Former leader senator Natasha Stott-Despoja, who handed out how-to-vote cards on Saturday, said yesterday it was the party's worst result. "Our heartland has suffered a blow," Senator Stott-Despoja said. Leader Lyn Allison refused to comment.

South Australia cradled the Democrats as it emerged under founder Don Chipp, and leaders Janine Haines, Cheryl Kernot and Meg Lees to become a force in Australian politics under the motto "Keep the bastards honest". The party's popularity peaked in 1997 when two Democrats were elected to South Australia's upper house with 16.5 per cent of the vote. One member had been elected the previous term, taking the party's presence to three elected members. These seats were retained until Saturday.

At its national peak, nine Australian Democrats held seats in the Senate prior to the 2001 federal election. Today, there are four Democrat senators in Canberra, while in NSW the party has an upper house MP.

With veteran Democrats MP Ian Gilfillan retiring from South Australia's upper house, his party colleague and sitting MP, Kate Reynolds, was the party's most prominent candidate. But even with the last two of the 11 seats in the Legislative Council still to be filled, it is unlikely Ms Reynolds will return to her seat. Labor claimed four seats, the Liberals three and Nick Xenophon's No Pokies ticket won two. The last two seats were expected to be won by Family First and the Greens.

Yet Ms Reynolds was refusing to concede. "We definitely haven't ruled ourselves out, this isn't over until the State Electoral Commission declares the polls, and that's not going to be for at least a week," Ms Reynolds said. "We believe we're still in there with a chance." Ms Reynolds said despite political commentators writing the party off, the poor results would not spell the end of the Democrats. "The South Australian Democrats have worked inside and outside of this parliament for 27 years," she said. "We are not giving up if I do not win my seat back. Our work has always been in the community as well as the parliament and that's what we'll keep on doing." A double loss would leave leader Sandra Kanck as the party's only South Australian parliamentarian. She said the upper house vote showed a significant swing towards conservatism that had surprised her. "Four of the 11 elected were conservative, and maybe when you throw a couple of the Liberals and a couple of the conservative Labor Party members in, it's all conservative," Ms Kanck said. "There's only going to be one progressive candidate elected. That is the thing that astounds me the most."

But the party still polled better than it had at last year's federal election, despite the swing. "So there's been an improvement in some ways," she said optimistically


Far-Left agenda hurts Greens in Tasmanian elections

The Greens were once very influential in Tasmania

The Greens thought themselves king-makers but instead suffered a king-hit likely to cost them at least one seat and official party status. The Greens, who had hoped to force their policy platform on a minority government, were yesterday rethinking policy and strategy instead. Kim Booth looked likely to lose in Bass, depriving the Greens of the four members needed for the extra parliamentary resources that go with official party status. Labor believes the Greens may yet lose a second of its four MPs, Tim Morris in rural Lyons, but this appears unlikely.

Greens leader Peg Putt blamed the drop in their vote -- from 22per cent in a poll four weeks ago to 16per cent on Saturday -- on the "grubbiest, most vicious" smear campaign in Tasmanian political history. "Despite coming into the poll looking like we could gain more seats, we just couldn't come back over the top of the negative fear and smear campaign that was run against us from so many quarters," she said. "Perhaps we need to take another look at the fact that negative campaigning has become the norm in Australian politics and that other parties are using that to drive where the electorate goes." She said the party would also take a look at its policy of refusing to guarantee support for budgets in a hung parliament and whether it had failed to focus sufficiently on core environmental issues. She accused both major parties, logging companies, big business and the evangelical Exclusive Brethren group of running smear advertisements against them.

Labor warned a minority government would deter investment and destroy the economy, with Premier Paul Lennon claiming house prices would fall if he failed to achieve majority government. A $100,000 advertising campaign funded by a mostly anonymous group of businessmen also pleaded for majority government. The Greens were also targeted by advertising paid for by forestry companies, while ads placed by the Liberals and Exclusive Brethren church members claimed Greens' policies would threaten the state's social fabric.


20 March, 2006


Just one weekend's news from the three most populous States below:

NSW hospitals close surgery for long periods

Waiting lists are set to rise as some of the state's largest public hospitals prepare to shut down elective surgery for up to three weeks over Easter. Doctors have labelled the closures as a cost-saving exercise with many hospital budgets already stretched to breaking point, months before the end of the financial year. Except for emergency cases, hospitals including Westmead, Wagga Wagga, Mona Vale, Manly and St Vincent's, are shutting down or reducing elective surgery services for about a fortnight next month. Staff at Ryde Hospital, in north-west Sydney, have been told no elective surgery will be carried out for three weeks.

Australian Medical Association NSW president Dr John Gullotta said next month's close-down period was longer than previous years. "We really have to ensure that these shutdowns don't get longer and longer every year," he said. "It is a blatant cost-saving exercising. It's an attempt to constrain the budgets. "It's also forcing further cancellations of elective surgery and increasing the list."

But a spokeswoman for NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos said the number of patients waiting longer than 12 months for elective surgery had been halved, decreasing from more than 7000 in February 2005 to about 3400. Latest figures show more than 56,000 patients are waiting for surgery in NSW.

The Easter shutdown comes after many hospitals closed their operating theatres for up to six weeks during Christmas. Dr David Jollow, a visiting gynaecologist at Manly and Mona Vale hospitals, said those hospitals normally only closed for one week at Easter. "It's all to do with saving money," he said. "I don't how much money they save by doing these things. "I think realistically if they were really keen to get rid of the elective surgery waiting list, they would be open 52 weeks."

Dr Gullotta said close-downs were becoming so common, some hospitals did not provide elective surgery for up to three months of the year. Health Opposition spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said it was not a case of hospital staff wanting time off at Easter. "We really do have part-time hospitals and it's not because doctors want to take leave," she said. "It's because the Government can't afford to run them."


Victoria's health system in big trouble too

A severely-ill pensioner says she was taken off a drip at a Melbourne hospital emergency ward and told to leave -- because no public beds were available. Another woman in agony after a procedure at the hospital claims she was denied painkillers and told that she should have brought her own. The Health Services Commissioner is being called on to investigate the allegations against Casey Hospital.

The claims come as waiting lists soar and specialists say vital tests to check for bowel cancer in at-risk Victorians are being secretly cancelled. In the first case, a woman, 61, who was too frightened to be named, said she had suspected pneumonia and had been referred to the hospital by her doctor. The woman, who had needed treatment for pneumonia three times previously, had a temperature of 38, was vomiting and struggling for breath, her distraught husband said. On arrival at Casey's emergency department, the Pakenham woman was put on an intravenous drip and blood tests were taken for analysis at Monash Medical Centre.

But her husband alleged that when she had said she did not have private health insurance, the emergency duty doctor had told her there were no beds available and she had to leave. Her husband said he learned later that the blood tests had not been forwarded to Monash for analysis.

In the other case, a woman, 43, who went into Casey for an epidural steroid injection to ease back pain, said she had been denied painkillers despite being in the worst agony of her life. "I couldn't move -- I've never felt pain like that in my life," she said. "When I asked for painkillers the staff said I should have brought my medication -- even though I was not told that before I came in."

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the cases were "appalling" and should be investigated by the Health Services Commissioner. "The treatment of these patients appears to have been cruel to the extreme," she Shardey said. Casey Hospital said it could not comment specifically on the cases because no complaints had been received.


The coverups never end in the Queensland health system

Ambulance officers have been gagged from mentioning delays or bed shortages at hospital emergency departments. A top-secret email has gone out to staff warning them not to use the words "ramping" or "access block" when sending radio messages to Queensland Ambulance Service communications centres. Ramping, or access block, is when hospitals refuse entry to paramedics and patients because no beds are available. Ambos have been told to use the terms only on a telephone. If they can't get through on the secure land-line after two attempts, they are advised to use their radio, with the provision: "Do not refer to ramping or access block." Sources said the order had come from "high places" in the State Government due to concerns that media and the Opposition were being tipped off about the problem.

The Government has been under fire after reports that Royal Brisbane and Women's, Mater and Caboolture hospitals were diverting emergency patients. Queensland Health figures in February revealed nine of Queensland's 23 major hospitals were at capacity, and many others were struggling to cope with their workload.

A frontline ambo, who declined to be identified, told The Sunday Mail that paramedics and communications officers had been advising each other by radio when ramping occurred, and they were pleased to see the issue brought to public attention. "Some crews are being ramped for several hours at a time and, while the paramedics can readily give treatment to a ramped patient, a ramped ambulance crew is, of course, unable to respond to any emergencies," he said. "Multiply that by five or six crews and you can see the size of the problem if an emergency goes off."

The ambo said an email was sent out this week "explicitly telling them to never use the radio when discussing ramping". "There is only one reason for this, and that is to stop the media picking up on the frequency and severity of the problem," he said. It was not the first time ambos had been gagged. The Sunday Mail reported exclusively last May that staff were threatened with $3000 fines if they spoke out publicly about their controversial new roster system. QAS bosses closed down paramedics' online forum last September due to contentious issues being raised there by concerned officers.

The ambo speculated pressure had been put on QAS by Queensland Health or a Government minister: "Perhaps the QAS thinks that by gagging staff, the problem of ramping doesn't exist." Opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said the email was "unbelievable". "It is political interference of the very worst kind," he said. "This Government would rather cover up the problem than try to fix it."


This guy should have been a crook

He would have had no problem then -- even if he had been struck off overseas

A highly respected foreign doctor working in Brisbane may be kicked out of the country because the Federal Government does not want to pay for medical treatment for his Australian-born son. The Indian doctor, a member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association, has a temporary resident visa, valid until 2008. He recently applied for permanent residency for him and his family. But the Immigration Department has stalled after a report from the Commonwealth Medical Officer said the doctor's infant son would require ongoing orthopedic and pediatric care for a minor disability.

The Queensland Government has expressed its outrage to Canberra as it struggles to employ 300 new doctors over 18 months to solve its health crisis. Deputy Premier Anna Bligh has written to Federal Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone asking her to intervene and approve the application. She said the doctor was highly regarded by Queensland Health. "I find it remarkable that, at a time when Australia is facing critical doctor shortages, (the Immigration Department in Canberra) would disregard an application for permanent residency by a highly qualified, well-regarded medical professional on the grounds that his son suffers a disability, despite the fact the child was born in Australia and the family has taken full responsibility for his current and future medical needs," Ms Bligh said.

The doctor, who had been in Australia since 2003, had worked at Ipswich and Logan hospitals, at Wacol and Borallon prisons, at Aboriginal health centres and as a GP in Brisbane. Ms Bligh said the family was prepared to meet all future medical costs and take full responsibility for the care and support of their two-year-old son. The doctor, who asked not to be identified, declined to comment on his case for fear of upsetting immigration officials.

The State Government had received letters of support from patients of the GP. He also received backing from Health For All, an organisation sponsoring overseas-trained doctors, after he had helped train foreign doctors and set up their patient database. "We desperately need doctors," said director Madonna Abella. "It would be good if the Department of Immigration could change its policy to make it more attractive for overseas-trained doctors to come here."

AMA Queensland president Steve Hambleton also urged Senator Vanstone to intervene. "We have to be a bit more tolerant, open and welcoming," he said. An Immigration Department spokesman said a final decision had not been made. But he confirmed medical advice said the doctor's son "does not meet the health requirement". The department had invited the doctor to supply further medical opinion to support his application.


Female chauvinist sows

Male MPs in the NSW Parliament are seething over a decision to stop them from attending the International Women's Day celebrations on the lawns of Government House. On the eve of the second annual awards ceremony, MPs received an email from the Office for Women stating that male MPs were not invited because of "the size of the venue", but male ministers - all Labor - were welcome. Deputy Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell spoke for many MPs when he described the ban as "a nonsense". Mr O'Farrell said if the Office of Women had wanted male MPs at the March 8 function it could have arranged it "simply and easily". "But it did not want us there," the MP for Ku-ring-gai told Parliament.

He said the excuse that the venue wasn't large enough was "a whopper, a fib and an untruth", saying that a few years ago he had been to a reception for the Queen on the lawns of Government House attended by 400 guests. "It is clear to most of us that unless one was a male minister, blokes were unwelcome."

Mr O'Farrell, who nominated a local constituent, Judy Macourt, for the NSW Woman of the Year Award, said: "I think it is downright rude to nominees to deny them the chance of being accompanied by their nominators if they desire to." He said the arrangements were insulting and "inappropriate for a taxpayer-funded agency to apply".


Muslims resent school discipline

Students from a southwest Sydney high school yesterday refused to attend classes because they claim their principal is too strict. More than 60 students staged the sit-in outside Condell Park High School in protest at what they have called the "heavy-handed" approach to discipline shown by principal Susie Mobayed. The students claim they were being "picked on" by Ms Mobayed and deputies, Belinda Kelly and Ralph Moore. They also said school rules were too strict, after pumpkin and sunflower seeds and mobile phones were banned and a uniform code was enforced.... Protest organiser Alex El-Kobaili said tensions had been simmering at the school for three years and the treatment of his daughter Nadia on Thursday was "the last straw". "My daughter was embarrassed by the principal in front of her friends because she had a smile on her face," Mr El-Kobaili said. "The principal yelled at my daughter, telling her she was rude and an idiot. When I came to talk to her about it, she abused me."

Other parents began arriving at the school yesterday to support Ms Mobayed, with a local florist delivering her a bouquet of flowers. "She is a very good, strong principal," one mother, who only wanted to be known as SS, said. "If students are getting in trouble for wearing pink singlets or make-up they have to learn they are coming to school, not going to a party," the mother, who has two sons at the school, said.

The director-general of education Andrew Cappie-Wood yesterday gave the embattled principal and her leadership team his unqualified support. "They appear to have done everything in accordance with our expectations," he said. "There is an issue at the school involving a small group of parents [regarding] discipline. "The matters raised by the parents have been brought to the department's attention and I've asked the regional director to provide me with a report." Mr Cappie-Wood said enrolments had increased by 10 to 12 per cent to 596 during the three years Ms Moubayed had been principal.

Three years ago, as former deputy principal of Punchbowl Boys High, Ms Mobayed gave evidence that violence and intimidation of teachers at that school was so endemic she had to install surveillance cameras at her home and ask police for protection. Ms Mobayed, giving evidence in a court case in support of former principal Cliff Preece, said her home was pelted with objects and her car's windows smashed.

Premier Morris Iemma said last night the Government was "1000 per cent behind the principal". "School rules are there to be respected, not defied," he said. "Parents of children involved in the demonstration should pull their children into line."

More here

19 March, 2006

The wilful destruction of Australian education continues

English school students in Western Australia could pass their final-year exam without reading a book or being able to spell, punctuate or use correct grammar. The new Year 12 English exam instead asks students to compare posters for the films Spider-Man 2 and Gandhi, and to analyse a piece of their own writing rather than accepted greats such as Shakespeare or George Orwell.

The sample exam for the new general English course just released for the West Australian Certificate of Education says students can draw answers and are not required to use grammatically correct sentences. "Student responses can also be given in dot-point format, diagrams or other suitable alternatives to continuous prose," the marking key says. "Student responses should not be penalised for poor spelling, punctuation, grammar or handwriting, unless these are elements ... specifically being assessed."

Western Australia began implementing a new curriculum for Years 11 and 12 this year with four revised courses, including English, being offered to Year 11 for the first time. The first Year 12 exams in the new English course will be sat next year and the state's Curriculum Council said the sample paper, designed by a panel of teachers, industry and university members, was representative of future exams.

But an English head teacher at a Perth Catholic school, who did not wish to be identified, said students could get away with studying snatches of text such as posters and CD covers, and were not required to study full-length serious texts. "If you are a lazy teacher, or even a teacher who just wanted to get your students the best marks, you don't have to read a book," the teacher said. "There's too much focus on popular culture."

The exam has also been criticised for making the assumption that all forms of writing are equal, and so teenagers are asked to analyse their own writing. In the writing section, where spelling and grammar are assessed, students are asked to write about 400 words to convince a particular audience of a point of view and are then asked to analyse their own piece of writing, including its vocabulary, content and structure.

Adjunct professor in the school of education at the University of NSW Trevor Cairney said literature should not be sacrificed in an English course to broaden the types of text that students study. Professor Cairney praised the exam for the diverse writing tasks and said items such as movie posters had a place in an English course. But they should not be included at the expense of literary texts. "A child having to comment on a picture is not as important as commenting on a piece of literature that's been significant for centuries, or at least decades in the case of contemporary books," he said. "People are suggesting all textual forms are equal and it's as relevant to look at a piece of advertising as a well-known piece of literature."

Lecturer in English curriculum at the University of Western Australia's education faculty Elaine Sharplin defended the changes and said the professionalism of teachers meant they would teach novels as part of the course. But Ms Sharplin said the new course was intended to broaden the appeal of the written word to more students by studying a greater variety of texts. "There's been a change in perception that English literature is esoteric and only suited to the most talented students," she said. "We want to encourage students to engage with texts and therefore this caters for a broader range of needs by dealing with a broader range of texts."



Ban on 'bloody' TV ad lifted: "British advertising regulators have backed down and lifted their ban on the word "bloody" in Tourism Australia's controversial "Where the bloody hell are you?" campaign. Britain's Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) last week imposed a ban on commercial television there using the word "bloody" in the $180 million campaign. It resulted in a hurried flight to London by federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey, who, amid a blaze of priceless publicity, complained the English had lost their sense of humour. Ms Bailey announcement of the lifting of the ban today follows meetings with the BACC, the UK Minister for Tourism and Creative Industries and the Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority. "I am pleased that common sense prevailed and the regulators realised the campaign was intended to be cheeky, friendly and very Australian," Ms Bailey said in a statement today....".

'Drunk' schoolies rape cases dropped: "Police are powerless to prosecute anyone over the 10 rapes reported during last year's schoolies week because most of the teenage victims were so drunk they would not be reliable witnesses. In one case, a teenage girl reported being raped by an older partygoer only for police to discover photographs of the girl on top of her alleged predator having sex. [The bitch should be prosecuted for making very serious false accusations] Police in the school-leavers' hotspots of Queensland's Gold Coast and Dunsborough in the south of Western Australia said many cases could not be prosecuted because the teenage victims could not recall details of the crime. Detective Senior Constable Andrew Grono said the end-of-year celebration once considered a rite of passage for school leavers had descended into a week of promiscuous sex and alcohol-fuelled debauchery. "They get full of alcohol and they end up having sex, some not wanted and some not in a condition to consent," the Busselton-based officer said. He described many of the sexual assault cases he saw as "alcohol-fuelled misunderstandings".

Middle class welfare advocated by the Left: "Parents would secure family payments for all children under the age of three regardless of their income under a radical proposal to boost workforce participation and cut effective marginal tax rates. Even mothers who returned to work would continue to receive the payments in full and could use the money to help pay for childcare costs which are higher for younger children. Labor MP Craig Emerson will outline the plan in Vital Signs, Vibrant Society, a new book to be released next week. Just days after Kim Beazley unveiled the ALP's childcare policy, Dr Emerson has proposed an alternative plan to increase childcare assistance for families and overhaul the family tax system. He has proposed the cost of the scheme could be paid for by tightening the eligibility requirements for wealthy parents with older children. "What's magic about the age 3? It's about the time when women make their decision about whether to return to work or not," he said yesterday."

PM reignites uranium sales debate: "Prime Minister John Howard has reopened the door to the possibility of Australian uranium sales to India. As the Government hosted a three-day visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mr Howard kept open the prospect that Australia might be willing to sell nuclear fuel to the subcontinent. For the past fortnight, the Government has been sending mixed messages on how it will deal with India's desire for Australian uranium. At the start of a visit to the subcontinent last week, Mr Howard's rhetoric suggested Australia might be willing to consider the idea after a historic nuclear pact between India and the US. The US will allow India access to American technology and fuel despite its refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty."

Another duck thing ... : "Why, as the Marx Brothers asked, a duck? Millions who watched the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony were baffled by the motif of a boy bearing a duck. Not just any old duck, but the creation of faux philosopher and cartoonist Michael Leunig, who recited duck doggerel as a replica of his creation was paraded around the MCG. It was a misjudged moment of mimsey, as the rest of the world blanked out over the iconography of Melbourne's diminishing Left-liberal subculture. Leunig, who says his duck was inspired by Cold War nastiness towards Russians, does not much like sport and his art exudes a distaste for competition. Yet, it is the sheer thrill of sporting competition that is making Melbourne's Games so successful".

Judicial misbehaviour: "A delicate investigation is under way after a Brisbane magistrate hearing a sexual harassment case was found to have copied more than 2000 words in her judgment from the work of an interstate colleague. Federal Magistrate Jennifer Rimmer, whose annual package is worth about $200,000, stands accused of plagiarising key parts of a judgment of Melbourne Federal Magistrate John Walters. Analysis of the two judgments had shocked leading Queensland lawyers and judges and triggered the interest of federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, who had been formally briefed on the details, legal sources told The Courier-Mail yesterday. The case heard by Ms Rimmer, who declined to return calls yesterday, involved sexual harassment claims by barmaid Kylie Firth against hotel owner Martin Brindley. The two judgments are verbatim in a number of lengthy passages, except where the names of the people involved have been changed.... A senior legal source said the magistrate explained she had been unwell and fallen behind in her caseload, prompting her to take "shortcuts".... Queensland Law Society president Rob Davis said yesterday: "If there has been plagiarism of a material kind which indicates a judgment may not have been arrived at appropriately, that would be a matter of considerable concern to the profession. Judicial officers are required to carefully weigh the facts of every case in arriving at their decision."

Loony Greens think a phone call will stop Islamic violence: "Greens Senator Kerry Nettle has urged Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to press Indonesia for an end to violence in West Papua. Senator Nettle said its time for Mr Howard and Mr Downer to do something. "The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister often boast of the close relationship we have with Indonesia," she said in a statement. "Now is the time to ring President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and call on him to stop the use of lethal force in West Papua." His call follows a series of incidents in West Papua this week when protests turned violent."

Former public broadcasting head blames the victims of Muslim aggression: "The Australian media's coverage of Muslims and Arabs is tainted with a racism that portrays them as "tricky, sleazy, sexual and untrustworthy", according to one of the country's most experienced journalists. Muslims are portrayed as uniformly violent, oppressors of women, and members of a global conspiracy opposed to Australian values, said Peter Manning, former head of ABC News, now Adjunct Professor of Journalism at Sydney's University of Technology. He said that the words "Arab" or "Muslim" were associated with terrorism in 89 per cent of articles that appeared in Sydney's two major newspapers in the year after September 11, 2001. He did not confine his criticism to the media, however, adding that it was time politicians stopped "stoking up the embers of racist hatred"."

18 March, 2006

More on the corrupt, wasteful and and secretive inner workings of Queensland's long-established socialized medicine bureaucracy

A Queensland Health employee yesterday gave secret "in-camera" evidence to a federal health inquiry alleging the State Government has been illegally taking money from Medicare. The former head of the controversial health inquiry into surgeon Jayant Patel, Tony Morris, QC, yesterday told a federal House of Representatives Health and Ageing Committee hearing the concerned QH employee made the claims to him earlier this week. Mr Morris told the hearing the anonymous QH staffer was so concerned she wanted to expose how the department was "cost shifting" Medicare funds by bulk-billing patients without referrals and deliberately overcharging for health services. "(This is) the most scandalous stuff and, fortunately, I was able to tell that particular whistleblower about the existence of this committee," Mr Morris said.

Committee chairman Alex Somylay, a federal liberal backbencher, later confirmed the QH employee would be afforded protection by being allowed to give her evidence during a closed hearing. "We know that cost shifting is rampant, just the same as blame shifting is rampant between the Commonwealth and the state (governments)," Mr Somylay said. He also launched an attack on Queensland Premier Peter Beattie for the State Government's unwillingness to take part in the hearing or even allow QH staff to give evidence.

Mr Morris said it was sad that after last year's three health inquiries that QH staff were still too scared to blow the whistle on on-going systemic departmental problems for fear of retribution.

The hearing was also told that in Queensland only 20c out of every dollar was actually spent providing care to patients and that there were more bureaucrats working for QH than there were beds in public hospitals.

Mr Morris said the culture within QH would not change unless clinicians started running hospitals and not "bean counters" who had yet to pass a "St John's Ambulance" first-aid course. "The only patients at (QH's head office in) Charlotte St (in Brisbane's CBD) are the odd public servant who scalds himself on the tea trolley," Mr Morris said. He was also critical of the "band-aid" approach taken by the State Government to fix the doctor shortage crisis at Caboolture, saying it was simply a reaction to help save political face. "(It) is a quick fix solution that will help the people in Caboolture (in the short term)," he said. "It's a very expensive band-aid (solution), but a band-aid solution none the less," he said.

It was not all bad news for Mr Beattie, however, with Mr Morris praising him for his success in securing an additional 80 placements at universities for medical students. However, he said that based on the current need for locally trained doctors in Queensland, exposed during his inquiry, the current need to fill public hospitals with home-grown clinicians would not occur before 2038.


More secrecy about a tragic public medicine failure

But plenty of "spin" now the matter has come to light

A secret investigation is under way to determine whether infants are dying unnecessarily because of inferior pediatric cardiac services in Queensland. The inquiry by an independent team of interstate and overseas medicos follows complaints that services have for years been poorly funded and fragmented. Up to eight babies died from one procedure which has now been stopped.

The team is due to complete its report by Monday. It threatens to be another political bomb for the Beattie Government which was warned at least five years ago of dangerous pitfalls in the system.

Much of the probe centred on Chermside's Prince Charles Hospital pediatric intensive care unit following the deaths of several children there, and other Brisbane hospitals. The investigators examined concerns raised by three leading specialists: Dr Tony Slater, Dr Rob Justo and Dr Cameron Ward. The director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Prince Charles, Dr Nikolaus Haas, resigned after the inquiry began. Dr Michael Cleary, director of medical services at Prince Charles, said: "Because of the confidential nature of the inquiry, I can't comment on Dr Haas." Later, he phoned back and said: "Dr Haas has resigned from Prince Charles as the director of pediatric intensive care. "He has been discussing a possible change for about a year. His resignation is in no way linked to the inquiry." The German-born Dr Haas did not return calls.

The investigating team of Professor Tim Cartmill and Professor Craig Mellis from Sydney and Professor Frank Shann from Melbourne has been joined by New Zealand's leading pediatric cardiologist, Dr Tom Gentles. They enlisted University of Queensland mathematician, Professor Annette Dobson, who was asked to examine mortality statistics "benchmarked against data from other national and international centres".

Between 300 and 400 children are born each year in Queensland with congenital heart disease requiring surgery. All but minor operations are conducted at Prince Charles Hospital. "A vast majority of these children do well and survive with good life expectancy," said Dr Tony Slater, whose work spans the Royal Children's, Prince Charles and the Mater Children's hospitals. "This is very sensitive, delicate stuff. "There are a number of people from different disciplines who thought we would benefit from outside advice. The individuals at Prince Charles have done a very good job. The question now is: Is this the right system for the future?"

More here

Scotland and Victoria join hands in sisterhood

Amid some very strange multiculturalism. It seems that to the Leftists running Victoria, Victoria (and Australia generally) does not have a culture of its own. Fairly offensive to the many Australians (including Victorians) who are proud of their own national identity, values, culture and customs

"A Vietnamese choir and African dancers were on hand as Victoria signed a sister-state agreement with Scotland yesterday. Confused?

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, says Victoria's multicultural reputation is the reason that the state is such an attractive option with which to forge a formal alliance. Mr McConnell said Scotland, which won self-government in 1999, was trying to turn around its brain drain and incorporate Victorian initiatives to entice migrants. "For many centuries Scotland has largely been an emigrant nation where all the talents and the dynamism and the ideas of Scots have been spread and used elsewhere," he said. "One of the challenges for our new Parliament has been to reverse that process." [Given the vast bureaucracy that now dominates Scotland, he is pissing into the wind. In highly successful Ireland, one third of the workforce works for the government. In Scotland it is two thirds]

Premier Steve Bracks paid tribute to the number of Scots who had played a historic role in the formation of Victoria, including David Syme, who founded The Age. More than 32,000 Victorians who were born in Scotland, and a further 162,000 identify themselves as having Scottish heritage. Mr Bracks said that despite the two places being 17,000 kilometres apart, Scotland and Victoria shared some similarities. "We are both places of about 5 million people," he said. "Victoria and Scotland have a bright future together, working on sporting, cultural, industry and trade-type opportunities, and this sister-state relationship will do just that.""

More here


Rice thanks Australia for 'steadfast' friendship: "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has thanked Australia for its support in the war on terror. Dr Rice spent the morning meeting Prime Minister John Howard and the National Security Council. She said the relationship between the US and Australia is bound by the deepest values and friendship. "As we continue to fight the war on terrorism, as we continue to try and supplant that ideology of hatred that has produced terrorism with the hope of democracy and liberty for people around the world," Dr Rice said. "It is wonderful to have a steadfast friend like Australia." Dr Rice is heading to Melbourne this afternoon, to personally thank Australian solders who served in Iraq and Afganistan."

Disgusting druggie gets long overdue jail: "An elderly man who asked that his grandson be jailed has had his wish granted. Bill Miller, 82, was bashed and robbed in his own home earlier this month by grandson Brett Russel, who was seeking money to pay for drugs. Mr Miller told a court last week that he wanted his grandson to spend time in prison "to clean up his act" and provide a circuit-breaker for his drug addiction. Sitting at the back of Sunshine Magistrates' Court yesterday, Mr Miller watched as magistrate John Doherty sentenced Russel to a minimum of 12 months' jail on charges including theft, recklessly causing injury, using heroin, making threats to kill and criminal damage. Russel, 27, pleaded guilty to the charges. The court had heard that the Melton South man, who lived with Mr Miller, stole about $500 from his frail grandfather. The court was told that Russel later returned to the house and bashed Mr Miller after he refused to hand over another $100. Sen-Constable Jeff Yeo said an enraged Russel then smashed Mr Miller's TV and damaged a door before shooting up heroin in his grandfather's lounge room. The court heard that, when police arrived, Russel was asleep on the couch, with his syringe and drugs still on the table".

Victoria. More multicultural propaganda trying to hide real differences: "The State Government will today launch a $260,000 campaign to promote multiculturalism and fight racism. It will comprise TV, radio and newspaper advertisements featuring volunteers from ethnic and religious groups. Premier Steve Bracks said yesterday the Just Like You campaign would remind all Victorians of the things they shared. "In the current international climate it is easy to forget that regardless of cultural or religious differences, we all care for our families, value friendship and work together," he said. It is believed the Government is keen to highlight the success of cultural diversity in Victoria. The campaign follows the race riots in Sydney and Treasurer Peter Costello's comments about "mushy multiculturalism".

Strange homework: "Doing the dishes, aromatherapy and shopping with mum are all considered homework under a new policy adopted by some Victorian schools. Known as the Homework Grid, the policy has been tried in at least a dozen primary schools across the state. The grid defines homework as not just studying, but incorporates meditation, sport and housework. St Joseph's School in Chelsea is one school that has assigned it to grade 5 and 6 students. Principal Christine Ash said the school decided to use the grid after surveying parents on their expectations of homework. The school's grid recommended 10 minutes a night of reading and 20 minutes a night of other activities such as sport, housework and shopping. A weekly grid is given out on a Monday and parents are required to sign off on it. Ms Ash said there had been a positive response from parents, students and teachers".

Labor has learnt hard lessons: Beazley: "Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says Labor has learnt some hard lessons from a fortnight of disastrous factional brawling. Polls show Labor has lost its lead over the government and Mr Beazley's personal approval rating has plummeted following fighting over preselections in several safe Victorian seats. But Mr Beazley, who has held a series of private meetings with frontbenchers following the crisis, says there's a silver lining from the experience. "I think the party will have learnt a good lesson out of the last couple of weeks and that is if you do talk about yourself, even when you're putting out good policy, your chances of cutting through are non-existent," Mr Beazley told Macquarie radio... But Mr Beazley said that the factions had to learn to work together. "Nobody ought to manoeuvre at the expense of the party's progress internally," he said. The reality of politics is that there are often different groups within political parties ... and they fight each other over the issues of the day and the political spoils."

17 March, 2006

Dithering about the Monarchy

Seeing the Australian people recently voted 2 to 1 to keep the Monarchy, this "debate" seems to be nothing more than a media beat-up of some properly cautious remarks by the PM

Prince Charles may never become king of Australia, Prime Minister John Howard has conceded. Mr Howard, a staunch monarchist, said he did not believe there would be any move to a republic while Queen Elizabeth II was the monarch. But the prime minister refused to predict what would happen after her reign ended.

With the Queen in Melbourne to open the Commonwealth Games, Mr Howard has given a series of interviews to British television stations about the prospect of an Australian republic. The Queen turns 80 next month and there is speculation that this may be her last visit to Australia. Mr Howard said the current system worked well and he would tenaciously oppose any change. "I do not believe this country would become a republic while the Queen is on the throne, beyond that I don't know," Mr Howard told the BBC. "I'm not saying it would or it wouldn't. What I am saying, however, is that it's going to be very hard to find a system which delivers such a stable structure as the present one."

Asked whether he thought Prince Charles would become king of Australia, Mr Howard said that was a matter for the Australian people. "If the Australian people want to change the system they will," he told ITV. "But if they don't, they won't ... I am not going to hazard a guess either way."

Republicans said his comments showed an openness to the prospect of a future Australian head of state. "Mr Howard's recognition that it is very unlikely that the country will become a republic while the present Queen is on the throne indicates quite clearly that this may not be the case when Prince Charles takes over from Queen Elizabeth as Australia's head of state," Australian Republican Movement (ARM) chairman Ted O'Brien said in a statement. "While we don't think the prime minister has become a republican overnight, his change of language clearly indicates that even he is now starting to question the future relevance of a British monarch as Australia's head of state."

But Health Minister Tony Abbott, a fellow monarchist, cautioned against reading too much into Mr Howard's comments. "There's never any guarantee about anything but the prime minister is a staunch supporter of our existing constitutional arrangements," Mr Abbott told ABC radio. "There were quite a few republicans who turned up at the Queen's dinner in Canberra last night, so there is still some magic in the monarchy. "And I've got to say when I came to parliament house last night, there was quite a large crowd both outside the building and inside the building, a large and enthusiastic crowd, and I'm sure they weren't there for the politicians."

The dinner was attended by a host of politicians, dignitaries, sports stars and business leaders. Former prime ministers Malcolm Fraser, Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke attended but Paul Keating, reviled by the English tabloids for touching the Queen's back in 1992, turned down the invitation. In a state address this week, the Queen seemed to commenting on the issue when she said she was "taking this opportunity to reaffirm my confidence in the future of this great country". [????]


Australia's anti-phonics child abusers

Diane Philipson is a former primary school teacher who spends her days at home in Newcastle coaching children who are struggling to read. This week she had phone calls from two desperate mothers who say their sons, one aged 12 and one aged eight, feel life isn't worth living. "The eight-year-old told his mother he'd rather be dead than have to struggle so much with reading," Philipson said yesterday. Philipson is one of a number of backyard operators across Australia to whom anxious parents have turned to teach their children to read when school has failed. They invariably use a method that involves direct, explicit, systematic phonics. This is the inexplicably politicised way of teaching children that letters in our alphabet are associated with sounds.

There is a pharmacist in a country town in NSW, for instance, dismayed by the number of parents coming to her to fill scripts for attention deficit disorder medication, when all that was wrong with their children was they couldn't read. With a little research, she discovered a phonics-based course which she is agitating for the local school to use to further train reading teachers.

In Newcastle, desperate parents found out about Philipson, 63, by word of mouth, or through informal referrals from a learning disorders clinic at the hospital, which, according to one mother, "doesn't want to be seen to be helping Diane's business but they know what she does works".

Philipson has devised her own system of teaching, a systematic phonics program in which children hear a sound, say it, then read it and sound it out. "I've never had a child I couldn't teach to read," she says. Some of the children she coaches have specific learning disorders. Others, mostly boys, just haven't been taught how to read in a way that suits the way their brain works. She has had 10-year-olds unable to read a word.

No one blames the teachers, most of whom do a tremendous job, and the best of whom are saints. But as the committee of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (of which I was a member) pointed out last year, as many as 30 per cent of children are leaving school functionally illiterate. The report of the inquiry, released in December, finds that most teacher training institutions aren't giving graduate teachers the repertoire of skills they need to teach all children to read. Less than 10 per cent of course time in university teacher education departments is spent training teachers how to teach reading.

The former education minister, Brendan Nelson, set up the inquiry in response to an open letter from 26 of Australia's literacy researchers, cognitive scientists, psychologists and speech therapists warning of the crisis facing large numbers of children who were failing to learn to read. The scientific verdict was in, they said, and it was overwhelming: phonics was a necessary foundation of reading. But from the start the inquiry was bedevilled by the belief within education circles, and even among some on the committee, that there was no literacy problem, that phonics was already being taught and that our students were superior to those of every country except Finland.

Nelson's concern was dismissed as pandering to right-wing extremists who were committed to imposing "boring phonics" on children as a form of ideological control. One leading educationist even drew a link between the teaching of phonics and the Iraq war. Try as it did to base its findings on the best evidence-based research, the inquiry never managed to escape the whole-word-versus-phonics wars which have been raging for almost 40 years. The attack on its report was led by the popular children's author Mem Fox, a whole-word devotee who seems to think if parents read enough of her books aloud their children will automatically learn to read.

Some might, but at least 25 per cent of children won't, according to Kevin Wheldall, director of Macquarie University's Special Education Centre, and one of Australia's leading literacy experts. Anyone who thinks we do not have a literacy problem should visit Aboriginal students on Cape York. Or perhaps doubters could spend an hour in Wheldall's classroom at the Exodus Foundation in Ashfield, where underprivileged children in years 5 and 6 are given remedial reading instruction. There you will meet children who have spent five years going to school and haven't a clue what those black marks on the page mean.

And as many of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy committee discovered, the effect on little boys and girls of not being able to read is devastating. The Reverend Bill Crews set up the Exodus program because, he said, he was "sick of burying kids". Normal, bright children who weren't being taught to read soon grew into sullen pre-teens who felt worthless and preferred to get into trouble than go to school where their "stupidity" was on display.

Nelson, who often visited the Exodus classroom as a backbencher, said when he launched the inquiry's report: "I ask myself, as a layperson, how is it we can live in a country where a boy at the age of 12, with neither a physical nor intellectual disability, can seriously [say], 'I didn't realise it's the black stuff that you read. I didn't realise you start on the left hand side and work to the right.' "

Literacy was a pet project for Nelson and he warned he would withhold funding from states which resisted the recommendations of the inquiry's report, which included systematic phonics teaching, improving teacher education, and testing children regularly. But Nelson has moved on, as politicians do, and his replacement, Julie Bishop, has yet to prove herself. We will know, soon enough, when the federal budget is released in May, how much Nelson's fine words really meant.



Savvy mother wrestles backyard croc: "A crocodile was captured in a Sydney swimming pool yesterday after it bailed up a woman hanging out her washing. Instead of locking herself in her Belrose home, in northern Sydney, the middle-aged office worker took on the 55cm reptile, eventually capturing it by binding its snout with a bandage and putting it in the bath until experts arrived to take it away. While the woman did not want to be named, her son Michael Higgins said she received a small bite during the tussle but did not need hospital treatment. The find comes less than three weeks after a 60cm saltwater crocodile was found at Cromer, on the Northern Beaches. Mr Higgins, 26, said his mother was putting the washing on the line when she heard a violent thrashing sound coming from the swimming pool. "She must have spooked it because it jumped out of the water and on to the grass," he said. Explaining why his mother decided to deal with the crocodile herself, he said: "We lived in Papua New Guinea for a few years and there are a lot of reptiles and stuff over there. "Mum's a bit shy when it comes to the media but the crocs don't bother her. "It gave her a little bite near her thumb but it won't need stitches. "She just put it in the bath and called the Australian Reptile Park who came and collected it." The 55cm-long Johnsons freshwater crocodile was collected by Australian Reptile Park staff and taken back to the park at Somersby on the Central Coast, which is also serving as home to the Cromer croc.

TV bosses to lose cosy monopoly: "Communications Minister Helen Coonan has sent a clear signal to Australia's free-to-air broadcasters that they can expect no further protection from government after the switch-off of analogue TV in 2012. The free-to-air networks have been the beneficiaries of licence exclusivity for 50 years, and stiff regulatory constraints on competition from new media since 2001 when a moratorium on new licences, a strict anti-siphoning regime and a ban on multi-channelling came into force. Under the Coonan plan unveiled this week, there will be some minor relaxation of the rules - but only until the analogue switch-off date. Then, it will be a case of all bets off. In an interview with Media, Senator Coonan said the analogue switch-off - scheduled to start in metropolitan areas in 2010 and be completed in the regions by 2012 - was a "natural end point" for current regulatory restrictions. "It was not an option for us to immediately deregulate the whole market," she said. "How can you with all the inter-related settings, ranging from multi-channelling to anti-siphoning?"

Pizza chain thinks outside box to get into schools: "A national fast food chain has found a way to get pizzas back into Queensland schools, despite a state government program to stop students eating junk food. The Queensland Government singles out pizzas as one of the main causes of child obesity in its Smart Choices program, aimed at curbing the sale of junk food in school tuckshops and encouraging healthy eating. But the Brisbane-based Eagle Boys pizza company has had three of its varieties - Hawaiian, chicken supreme and veggie delight - checked for nutritional value by the testing company Food and Agricultural Laboratories of Australia. Eagle Boys marketing director Greg Bowell said the testing company found the three varieties met the nutritional guidelines set by Smart Choices. "This will allow our franchises to negotiate with schools to sell these three varieties of our pizzas at their tuckshops," Mr Bowell said yesterday".

All the smart Kiwi men have left for Australia: "A "man drought" in New Zealand is forcing its women into the arms of dumber, poorer partners. A shortfall of men aged 20 to 49 in the Shaky Isles has sparked a wave of "marrying down" by desperate women, researchers say. They found New Zealand women in that age group outnumber males by 33,000 to 53,000, making a good Kiwi man even harder to find. Government demographer Paul Callister said this meant more professional women were marrying men with less schooling and cash. This was largely because of a lack of eligible men of equal educational or economic status, he said. The worst imbalance was in the 30 to 34 age group with nine per cent more females. Auckland hairdresser Amy Winter, 27, said the dearth of decent blokes meant it was man-dregs or nothing. "There's far too many beautiful girls compared with how many boys there are," she said. "On Friday nights I usually hang with my girlfriends and go into town, but there don't seem to be many boys around. "The blokes that are around aren't up to standard - they're not the full package, they might have one thing out of 10.""

Sick Victorian justice: "Police officers and victims' rights groups are outraged that a youth charged with attempted murder after a violent stabbing incident was released on bail. The youth, 15, was arrested after a 50-year-old woman woke to find a youth armed with a knife standing over her bed about 1am on Monday. The attacker bashed the woman and stabbed her several times. In defending herself, the woman, who lives alone in an outer Melbourne suburb, received multiple stab wounds and fractures to her face. After her attacker fled, she managed to ring for help. Paramedics and police arrived soon after and rushed her to hospital. Detectives arrested a 15-year-old youth several hours after the assault. They interviewed him before charging him with aggravated burglary and attempted murder. The youth, who cannot be identified because of his age, appeared before an out-of-sessions court hearing on Monday. Sources said the investigating officers were shocked when the bail justice granted him bail. But he was in custody last night after appearing before a Children's Court yesterday. Armed offenders squad detectives yesterday opposed continuing the youth's bail and applied for his DNA. The magistrate gave police permission to take DNA and remanded him in custody. [Probably a "minority" kid. We must go easy on minorities, of course]

16 March, 2006

An Australian Cartoon

Yep. It's a Muslim being portrayed with a bomb. Enough to make any Muslim go crazy? One would think so. But it is from Brisbane's "Courier Mail" newspaper in my home State of Queensland. The cartoon refers to a recent story to the effect that "deprogramming" of fanatical Muslims is being considered in Australia. Apparently the cartoonist thinks that Jehovah's Witnesses could be used as deprogrammers.

No reaction to the cartoon so far. It seems to me to be pretty brave (and definitely "incorrect") of the paper to print it.

A Bloody triumph?

British TV is on the verge of a bloody backdown after a full-blooded campaign by Australian tourism chiefs over those ads. The backdown could see Australia's controversial $180 million "bloody" tourism ads on air in Britain by the weekend. Making waves also in London yesterday was Aussie surf chick Lara Bingle who said the use of ``bloody'' had simply been a friendly gesture. Britain's Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) last week banned commercial TV's use of the word "bloody" from Tourism Australia's $180 million "Where the bloody hell are you?" campaign. The ban prompted an urgent flight to London by federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey, who, amid a blaze of priceless publicity, complained the Poms had lost their sense of humour. Ms Bailey emerged from overnight talks in London with the BACC, the UK tourism minister and broadcasting standards officials to declare she had won a review of the ban. "It's a bloody good result," Ms Bailey said. "My faith in British justice and the British sense of humour has been restored." Ms Bailey said the review meant the full Tourism Australia ads could be on British TV by the weekend.

Laura Bingle shivered her way through a windy, cold London day to support Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey. "The ad is just a fun and friendly thing and shouldn't be a problem," she said. "It's what Australia is about." The very bronzed Aussie, who was virtually plucked from the surf last week to fly to England to smile for Australia, had no idea that the tag line "So where the bloody hell are you?" would be so controversial. Sticking closely to her official script, she said the innocent phrase uttered in the ad as she emerges dripping wet in a bikini from the surf at Fingal Beach in NSW was just a friendly greeting. The campaign has already generated 225,000 hits on the Tourism Australia website, including 42,000 from Britain.


More crookedness in the Queensland health system

Doctors whose allegedly poor treatment caused the deaths of eight Queenslanders are escaping scrutiny despite the medical board's vow to prosecute disgraced surgeon Jayant Patel. The circumstances of the "unquestionably sub-optimal" care are known only because of an exhaustive investigation into almost 90 deaths originally linked to Dr Patel.

The board strategy to ignore the eight deaths but take on Dr Patel in the Health Practitioners Tribunal prompted his defence lawyer to accuse the board of a dangerous "double standard". "This can only be a political exercise to make the medical board look good in light of its neglect in the past," solicitor Damian Scattini said. "The doctors involved in the other eight deaths are still practising. "The board should be checking to ensure these other eight doctors are up to scratch, instead of focusing on someone who will never practise again."

Dr Patel, who is blamed for more than 13 deaths after exhaustive expert analysis, did not contribute to the deaths of the forgotten eight, according to the expert medical witness for Queensland Health and the royal commission-style inquiries, vascular surgeon Peter Woodruff. Responsibility for the demise of the eight has been sheeted home to other doctors in Brisbane and Bundaberg, who have not been reviewed or audited despite their culpability being raised more than six months ago, The Courier-Mail has learned. Of the eight deaths, four are classified by Dr Woodruff as the result of "medically caused mishap or injury or a lack of reasonable care". He said the treatment of the four, three of whom were women, was "unquestionably sub-optimal". The patients had not been expected to die within a month of a surgical procedure because they were in otherwise healthy condition.

Of the remaining four deaths, doctors other than Dr Patel were "significant contributors". As these four patients suffered terminal conditions such as cancer, they were more likely to die within a month of surgery than an otherwise healthy patient.

The findings of Dr Woodruff were accepted without challenge by the health inquiry's commissioner Geoff Davies, QC, and his predecessor Tony Morris, QC. The findings in relation to Dr Patel's contribution to 13 deaths are the basis for the regulatory body's action for "unsatisfactory professional conduct" in the Health Practitioners Tribunal. The findings underpin a police brief of evidence to Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare, who may seek charges of manslaughter, grievous bodily harm and fraud.

Medical board executive officer Jim O'Dempsey said the health inquiry had made no findings in relation to the doctors linked to the eight deceased patients, however inquiry sources said this did not indicate a clearance.

Dr Patel's shocking United States disciplinary history was overlooked by the Medical Board for the two years he was Director of Surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital.



Another account of the Cronulla disturbances. A reader who knows some of the people who were there writes: "The guys who were at Cronulla on that day told me it was more about people celebrating being Australian, than anything else. There was a bit of drunken violence but considering how many people were there it could have been a lot worse. One guy also told me that a group of "Middle Eastern Appearance" young males had been driving around the area all day with loud ethnic music on, and making terse racial comments to people on the street at different stages. So in effect they were baiting the crowd and were eventually turned on. The media portrayal of the event was particularly unfair mainly showing violence. I suppose it does sell news papers, not being reflective of the truth isn't that important to them."

Good news for all -- Attempt to blame an uninvolved party fails: "A former Coca-Cola contractor, stripped of a $3 million payout awarded after he was shot five times, will be left with nothing, his father says. Craig Pareezer sued the soft drinks giant in the NSW Supreme Court for negligence after he was shot in the head, chest, stomach, leg and hand. The shots blew off half of his tongue, pierced his lung and went through his right hand. The attack happened as he restocked a vending machine at Werrington TAFE, in Sydney's west, in February 1997. He argued Coca-Cola failed to exercise reasonable care by not providing a safe system for him to carry out his duties. He said Coca-Cola should have provided non-marked vehicles for all deliveries and collections, as well as practical training for drivers in armed robbery awareness, and an extra person in each delivery vehicle. In December 2004, the Supreme Court found Coca-Cola Amatil liable for the shooting and ordered it to pay Mr Pareezer $2.9 million. His wife and son, who witnessed the attack, also were awarded almost $100,000. But in a unanimous decision today, a panel of three judges in the NSW Court of Appeal overturned the damages payouts, finding the company was not liable. Justice Peter Young said that while the evidence showed Coca-Cola had done "virtually nothing" to secure the safety of its fillers, no precautions could have prevented the attack on Mr Pareezer."

Media shake-up spurs shares: "Media stocks surged yesterday as investors bet on historic changes to Australia's media laws opening a wave of mega-mergers among the old guard and fresh competition from new technology. Under the proposals released by Communications Minister Helen Coonan, the free-to-air TV networks will face new competition from emerging digital TV players but will also be free to acquire radio and newspaper groups for the first time. Senator Coonan said the cross-media and foreign ownership restrictions should be removed by 2007 or 2012 but the Government would require at least five "commercial media groups" to remain in metropolitan markets and four in regional markets. That is expected to focus most takeover activity in the regional sector as it already has fewer media owners than the metropolitan markets."

15 March, 2006

No present without a dark past

Despite Leftist bleating, Australians should reconcile themselves to the reality that our history could not have been very different, writes John Hirst

In 1897 John Farrell, editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, wrote a poem to mark Queen Victoria's jubilee and sent it to Rudyard Kipling, hoping for praise and endorsement. Kipling lighted on the passage in which Farrell regretted the bloody excesses of the empire's conquests and took Farrell to task for his easy moralism. He declared: "A man might just as well accuse his father of a taste in fornication [citing his own birth as an instance] as a white man mourn over his land's savagery in the past."

The critic only exists because of the deed he criticises. Let us call this the hard realist view of Australia's origins. It avers that it is morally impossible for settler Australians to regret or apologise for the conquest on which colonial Australia was built. It is the view that I share.

By contrast, the liberal fantasy view of our origins avers that the colonial conquest of Australia could have been done nicely. This view is quite widespread and influential and warrants close examination.

Liberal fantasy is prominent in the judgments given in the Mabo case in the High Court. The court found that since 1788 the common law had not been properly interpreted: it should have respected the Aborigines' rights in their land. The court did not rule that the invasion itself was illegitimate. On the contrary, it legitimised the invasion by declaring that the British Crown's proclamation of sovereignty over Australia could not be questioned in an Australian court. The error of the Crown and the courts was to assume that sovereignty meant that Aborigines could be summarily dispossessed of their lands. Then justices William Deane and Mary Gaudron, in a famous passage, said: "The acts and events by which that dispossession in legal theory was carried into practical effect constitute the darkest aspect of the history of this nation. The nation as a whole must remain diminished unless and until there is an acknowledgment of, and retreat from, those past injustices."

This envisages that the nation could have come into being without a dark past. The darkness is only an aspect of our history; there could have been a nation without it. But even if the law had been as the High Court now declares it should have been, the desire of the white invaders for Aboriginal lands would have been no less. The clash between Aboriginal hunting and gathering and European pastoral pursuits would have been as stark. What would have happened if the Aborigines, on being fully appraised of the invaders' intentions, had refused to negotiate any of their land away? They would have been forced to negotiate. Even if each tribe had been persuaded to yield half their land, Aborigines would still have regarded the invaders' sheep as fair game and white shepherds would have misunderstood what was involved in their acceptance of Aboriginal women: two potent sources of conflict in the world as it really happened. It is very hard to envisage a settlement history without violence....

The liberal imagination, appalled at European violence on the frontier, tends to cast the Aborigines as victims merely and not fine practitioners of violence themselves. Violence was more central to their society, since its practice was not allotted to a professional caste of soldiers; all adult males were warriors. Aboriginal warfare was endemic, usually with a small number of deaths, but occasionally Aborigines massacred each other.

This is an account based on reports by the perpetrators: "Spears and boomerangs flew with deadly aim. Within a matter of minutes Ltjabakuk and his men were lying lifeless in their blood at their brush shelters. Then the warriors turned their murderous attention to the women and older children, and either speared or clubbed them to death. Finally ... they broke the limbs of the infants, leaving them to die 'natural deaths'."

The writer is T.G.H. Strehlow, who grew up with the Aranda of the Centre. His life work was to record and translate their songs. Of their warrior songs, he wrote that the "unbridled expression of blood lust was relished by old and young".

The pioneer settlers are not ourselves. Nor are the Aborigines whom the pioneers encountered the Aborigines of today. Settler Australians no longer hang and flog offenders or colonise other countries. Aboriginal Australians no longer abandon their old, kill their superfluous young and levy war against their neighbours. We are all a long way from 1788.

There is no place for settler Australians to stand to decry the conquest of this country. It all belonged to the Aborigines. The only honest approach is to recognise the conquest as conquest and not to give any utilitarian defence of it, such as that the land under European control was able to provide food and fibre to the rest of the world, a view advanced by Geoffrey Blainey. In the European world of the late 18th century, acquiring new territory was perfectly legitimate; what dispute there was concerned the treatment of the people already there.

A heroic moralist of today may say that the European conquests were wrong and attempt the impossibility of imagining world history without conquest. Better, if you must speak of right and wrong, to say that according to their lights the settlers were right to invade and the Aborigines were right to resist them. It is our common fate to live with the consequences of that conjunction....

Much more here

Australian Expats -- a million of them!

By Caroline Overington

The trouble with expats - that is, with the one in 20 Australians who chooses to live and work somewhere else - is that they often can't help dumping all over Australia whenever they get the chance. It happened in the 1970s, when people such as Germaine Greer went to London, complaining loudly that there was no culture here. Now it's happening again, with people such as the obnoxious Ryan Heath. Heath's new book has an inelegant title: Just F* Off, It's Our Turn Now. It's aimed at all Australians and, to summarise the plot, Heath - who is all of 25 - says we're all dead from the neck up and it's no wonder that anybody with a brain chooses to leave.

I can't be bothered to read it. On the other hand, there are books such as Away Game by the much more thoughtful Australian writer and journalist Luke Collins. Full disclosure: I know Collins. For a while, we lived not far from each other in Manhattan and sometimes, when my husband was out of town, Collins would accompany me to work functions in New York. I can't say how he felt about being dragged around by a middle-aged married mother of two, but I was always rapt. I could see the girls eyeing me off, thinking: who's the old bag with the best looking guy in the room?

Collins was raised in Queensland and he oozes country charm. Ambition, too. He moved to New York to be a foreign correspondent. When his tour of duty ended, he decided to stay, get a green card and work towards a Pulitzer prize for journalism. Never mind that he had only $6 in his wallet and the rent was always due. He was forever sure that things were about to improve and so it seems. I must admit, my heart did a happy little dance when Collins sent an email from New York to say his new book was on the shelves. I went out immediately to buy one, hoping to start a queue.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there are about one million Australians living and working overseas.

One of the best things about Collins's book is the way the expats he interviews don't claim to be living away because they just can't stand the place. For example, for Wall Street junkies, there is an interview with the fabulously successful James Gorman, a Victorian country boy who was sent to Melbourne to get a high school education, then moved to New York to study at Columbia Business School. Gorman now works for Morgan Stanley, earning about $40 million in a good year. "The Australians who come here to work do well," he says. "They consistently punch above their weight."

On the west coast, there is David Hill, president of the giant DirecTV satellite entertainment group, who says he moved to Los Angeles because it was "just bigger. You have the whole world at your feet and if you come up with a good idea in this market, your idea can be that much bigger." He says most of his former colleagues in Australia would succeed in the US. "When I look at the some of the guys I worked with in Australia - cameramen, directors, producers - they'd eat it [meaning, do it easily]," he says. "They would also absolutely eat any competition in Britain or the States. I don't know whether there's something about our upbringing as Australians that make us competitive."

You get to find out what happened to the lipstick princess, Poppy King, after her business went belly-up in Australia. Also, I was heartbroken, all over again, to read about the former head of McDonald's worldwide, Charlie Bell, who died recently, aged just 44. Bell started his first job at McDonald's in Kingsford in Sydney at 15. Four years later, he was the country's youngest store manager. The Americans always wanted him, but Bell told the boss: "This is not a slam-dunk decision for me." He meant: "I have to leave Australia and that's no simple thing." He made the move and by 2003, Bell became president and chief operating officer of McDonald's worldwide. By 2004, he was chief executive. I met Charlie only a few times, once at an Australian ball in New York. He gave a funny speech. Afterwards, we retired to Campbell Apartments to smoke cigars. Most people were talking about their salary packages and opportunities in New York. Bell spent the whole night talking about his daughter and her horse. It will be a while before I forget the tenderness in his eyes.

Collins has stories about legendary Sydney newspaper editor Col Allan, too. After seven years as editor of Australia's feistiest tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, he was restless, eager for change. He asked his then boss, Lachlan Murdoch, for a job in New York and Rupert gave him one, editing the limping New York Post. Allan was lampooned on arrival in New York. He responded by transforming the paper. On September 11, 2001, Allan was stepping out of the shower - "You don't want to picture that," he laughs - when he heard that a plane had rammed into the World Trade Centre. As he ran out the front door, he said to his beautiful, frightened wife, Sharon: "You may not see me for a while." After 10 weeks of 20-hour days, Allan was no longer an Aussie outcast in New York. He bonded his newspaper to the battered city. Through the chaos, Sharon - also from Sydney, by way of the top end - lovingly saved all the editions of the Post that her husband edited. They are now bound in leather, for posterity.

Then there is Geoffrey Bible, who left Australia at 21 and became chief of Phillip Morris. Some don't like Bible because his business was selling cigarettes, but his tale is interesting. He remembers his first flight out of Sydney to Beirut: "I was in the one aircraft, a Super Constellation, for 45 hours." Bible adds: "I'll die an Australian. I'm a US citizen, too, but I'll die an Australian first of all. It's what you grow up with. You never forget."



A good email from a reader about the Leftist mythology surrounding Tasmania: "In one of the latest Lonely Planet books "The cities book : a journey through the best cities in the world" there are a few pages of pictures of Hobart and a fact page. Which of the following list under Weaknesses stands out to you?: 1). Relatively expensive if good accommodation; 2). Aesthetically challenged Federation Concert Hall; 3). Tasmanian wine (more expensive than mainland wine); 4). Aboriginal massacres by the colonists. Yes, apparently tourists visiting 21st century Hobart will have to tread carefully to avoid the piles of Aboriginal bodies littering the streets. The Left just can't help themselves in reflexively accusing Australia of massacre and genocide even in the middle of a travel book".

How ridiculous! "Relatives could be banned from carrying photographs of old Diggers [Australian soldiers] at this year's Anzac Day march -- because it would be like a funeral procession. About 100 veterans' associations voted to change Anzac Day protocol, saying that the photographs of dead Diggers were morbid. But angry relatives have hit back, saying a ban would threaten the very meaning of Anzac Day. "It is a shock, because people carry photos to honour those men, and we don't want Anzac Day to die out," said Peter Norton, whose father fought in World War II. "This decision should not stand without it being referred to the wider public, so we have the chance to ask them, 'Please, don't do this."' ... The vote came after a move to stop Diggers' descendants from even marching was defeated. "The carrying of photos is something that has only come about quite recently," Mr Burrows said. "If you look at European, African or Mediterranean funerals, it seems to be a common practice. "But it wasn't perceived by the meeting to be part of our Anzac Day. "It doesn't celebrate mateship. "It's a bit morbid and made a lot of people feel uncomfortable." ... A spokesman for the World War I descendants' group Friends of the 15th Brigade said people should be free to make their own decision on carrying photos. "It is a personal choice and I expect some people will carry on anyway," he said".

Inquiry widens on troop uniforms: "The Commonwealth Ombudsman will investigate the way the Defence Department buys clothing for soldiers following concerns over sub-standard equipment. The Auditor-General's office said it would widen an inquiry into small defence acquisitions to probe concerns the department continued to buy faulty jackets, boots and other gear. Last month a Senate estimates committee heard many soldiers had complained about faulty equipment and alleged conflicts of interest of department staff involved in the tenders for combat jackets. Soldiers complained their kit was so poor they had to buy their own equipment. Three department officials could face disciplinary action."

Breast-milk bank: "A Perth hospital is setting up the nation's first breast-milk bank. King Edward Memorial Hospital will officially open the expressed milk bank by early April. Karen Simmer, medical director of the hospital's neonatology clinical care unit, is behind the plan. She says the milk will help premature babies fight infections and gut problems. "Human milk adds a lot of bioactive compounds and a lot of hormones," Prof Simmer said."

Brisbane Garlic scare: "Garlic appears to be the culprit behind a city evacuation of 70 people this morning. Emergency services were in full flight in Brisbane city this morning investigating the cause of an unusual stench. What was thought to be a gas leak had left some workers unwell in busy Elizabeth Street. They evaculated level three of 229 Elizabeth St, Brisbane, at about 9.50am in an exercise conducted with full military precision. In all 70 people were asked to leave. But it was soon discovered the smell was in fact roast garlic from a kitchen in an adjoining building. Garlic is known for its mythical ability to drive spirits out of buildings, but this power was thought to be confined to vampires. Police reopened Elizabeth St at about 10.50am once the scene was deemed non-toxic -- at least to humans."

How loony can you get? "Grey nurse sharks could be imported to Queensland and NSW or artificially inseminated under a proposal to boost flagging populations. Researchers from Sydney's Macquarie University are considering moving sharks from Western Australia or Africa to the eastern seaboard in a bid to strengthen the sharks' gene pool. Research team member Adam Stow said studies had shown there was limited migration within Australian grey nurse shark populations and the critically endangered east coast variety had very low levels of genetic variation. "It's actually worse than we thought for the grey nurse shark because low levels of genetic variation mean that the population's not going to be very robust to any environmental changes such as global warming," he said today. "And the fact that the population's not getting replenished by migration adds further concern to the population decline."

14 March, 2006

A good satire

The satirist is pointing out that much of what is traditionally associated with Australia's greatest national day -- Anzac day, commemorating Australia's war dead -- could be seen as "hate speech" etc. by modern politically correct standards. He also "spins" events in a mockery of the way that many Leftists (Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky etc.) do. The satire is in the form of a letter to a police chief

I have it on good authority that white supremacists/Neo-nazis/Anglo-racists are planning a mass rally on the 25th of April this year. They plan to march down the streets of every town in Australia carrying symbols of racism. This may be identified as a blue flag with a Union Jack, a large seven pointed star and a cross made up of stars, which I may add, is highly offensive to the Muslim community in our great multicultural society.

These racists call themselves "ANZACS". Every year they celebrate the racist exploits of their founders, who, 91 years ago, invaded the peaceful Muslim nation of Turkey [During World War I]. Here they fired guns on innocent Turks and killed many. Some even shouted vile racial abuse like "Johnny Turk" and "Abdul". I find this behaviour most offensive. Fortunately, all these vile racist scum have now passed on.

However, there was a new generation of Neo Nazis (codenamed ANZACS) who continued their vile racist behaviour in New Guinea [During World War II]. There were some innocent Japanese tourists on the way to Canberra from Japan. However, these evil ANZACS, again without provocation, travelled all the way to New Guinea to vilify them. Again, they shot at them with Lee Enfield .303 rifles and shouted racist abuse like "nips", "japs", "slopes" and so forth. Some poor Japanese were taken to camps in Australia, and were shot when these poor refugees tried to escape. The "ANZACS" even enslaved the indigenous population, calling them "Fuzzy Wuzzies" and making them carry injured racists and their supplies.

Then another generation of these "ANZACS" went all the way to Vietnam to harass innocent Vietnamese villagers. Again, these poor Asians were shot at by racist Australians and were called "gooks" and " slopes". I went to Vietnam recently backpacking; I even have the Tiger Beer T-shirt to prove it to everyone. They were beautiful people and I cannot see why the evil neo-nazi ANZACS were harassing them.

Even more of these racists have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq to harass and vilify peaceful Muslim villagers, egged on by the evil John Howard.

The older racist ANZACS you will find residing at nursing homes all over the country. I suggest you bash their doors down and arrest them for riot and affray. Others can be found "bowling" or "fishing". They have numerous safe houses, called RSLs' [War veterans' clubs]. These should all be shut down as they are hothouses of racism.

However, I suggest a huge police presence at these planned racist rallies on the 25 th of April this year, where all these racists will be out in the open and easy to belt with nightsticks, rounded up and arrested. My partner, Darp Hau, has offered to photograph those drinking "beer" or having "BBQs". Their homes can later be firebombed, their families harassed, their pets baited and windows smashed.

I hope that I have been of assistance in safeguarding our wonderful multicultural society and preserving the diversity of Australia, which is repsonsible for the harmony and cohesion we enjoy today.

Airy-Fairy education

Universities and TAFE colleges are turning out graduates who are not "job-ready" and have skills better suited to academic pursuits, warn leading Australian business groups. The Business Council of Australia accuses universities of stifling the "culture of entrepreneurship", producing graduates without adequate problem-solving skills. The group, which represents the nation's 100 biggest companies, says this failure is choking creativity and limiting Australia's competitiveness in the global market. In a major report backed by companies across many industries, the BCA will urge academics to put greater emphasis on communication skills and to ensure that students are given a solid grounding in the basic skills required in the workplace.

The BCA report, due for release today, comes as federal Education Minister Julie Bishop considers proposals to introduce a "job-ready" rating into Year 12 certificates. "Employers are concerned about the lack of skills regarding creativity, initiative, oral business communication and problem-solving among graduates," the report says. "Research still shows a significant lack of entrepreneurial skills among Australians. "There is increasing recognition of the importance of delivering 'employability skills' associated with communication, teamwork and problem-solving for innovative business. "Courses and programs needed to be practice-based, relevant and appropriate for business innovation needs -- rather than suiting particular academic interests and pursuits."

The report also says that red tape, infrastructure gaps and Australia's tax system all work against innovation. Companies warned that the tax system requires reform to encourage business innovation and the personal taxation system was a "major constraint" in attracting talented workers from overseas. The BCA argues for a broader definition of innovation that includes business strategy and training. "Many companies also raised various concerns about the ability of the education and training system to deliver the skills that were essential for business innovation success," the report warns. "Many companies noted that the education and training systems were not providing graduates with the technical skills appropriate to industry innovation needs. For example, a number of companies noted that university engineering graduates were not skilled in simulation techniques that were being increasingly used throughout business."

The claims prompted an angry response last night from one of the nation's most respected university chiefs, Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, who urged business to "produce the evidence" that graduate quality was in decline. The chairman of the Group of 8 "sandstone universities", Professor Davis said the opinions of the BCA did not constitute evidence. "The fact is that 95per cent of graduates are snapped up within three months of leaving university," he said. "I don't know if there's much graduate-bashing around but I do know we track performance. "I do know our graduates get jobs and they are highly skilled. "One of the big issues for Australia is the big number of graduates who head overseas and have no trouble getting jobs in the UK, China and India."

In a separate report also due for release today by the BCA, Changing Paradigms, one of Australia's biggest car manufacturers, Holden, says engineering graduates are a particular concern. "Holden Innovation considers that universities have fallen behind in the ability to meet industry needs," the report says. Australia's biggest independent oil and gas exploration company, Woodside, also notes that the education system is "not turning out enough skilled people". Insurance Australia Group also raises concerns about the shortage of workers in the panel-beating and motor vehicle repair trades.


Foreign medics 'lack basic skills' in Tasmanian public hospitals

Medical staff at Tasmania's biggest hospital have expressed "grave concerns" about the competence of some overseas-trained doctors, warning the doctors are unable to perform basic medical procedures. Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws reveal some overseas-trained doctors (OTDs) have "significant difficulties with clinical procedures" at Royal Hobart Hospital. "Nursing and medical staff have expressed grave concerns about the level of clinical competence of some OTDs appointed at resident medical officer level," says a briefing note from RHH management to state Health Minister David Llewellyn.

It lists "areas of weakness" identified by medical staff as including unfamiliarity with basic medical procedures, such as insertion of IVs, prescription and documentation of IV fluids, common medications, drug charts and drug brand-names. Other shortcomings include lack of knowledge of arterial blood gases, blood cultures and catheterisation, filling out patients' progress notes, sterile techniques as well as basic health precautions.

Health is the biggest issue at Tasmania's election on Saturday. An EMRS poll in yesterday's Sunday Examiner showed Labor was likely to retain government, but that its hold on a parliamentary majority might swing on a handful of votes in two or three seats.

Tasmania relies more heavily than any other state on overseas-trained doctors in public hospitals. The Government yesterday said it had recently acted to improve support for such medics. RHH chief executive Peter Leslie said his hospital was now "setting the example for the rest of the nation in supporting OTDs", including an orientation program and clinical support and training



Muslim thug nabbed: "A Sydney court has denied bail to a 20-year-old man who police believe attacked a man with concrete blocks during the Cronulla revenge attacks. Wael Tahan, an Australian-born man of Middle Eastern descent, is one of up to six men who police say attacked 20-year-old Jake Schofield during the retaliatory attacks that followed the December 11 Cronulla riot. The group is alleged to have jumped out of a car at Cronulla on December 12 and ran at Mr Schofield, attacking him with concrete blocks and stomping on his head. His injuries included a fractured eye socket, broken nose, two stab wounds, a dislocated jaw and extensive head injuries.... Crown Prosecutor Sean Fliegner said police had obtained "strong" evidence from the scene, including a boot identified as Schofield's which had blood on it. He said the crown would be seeking forensic material later this week to make its case even stronger. Justice Adams said the assault had been "racially motivated" and an "unprovoked attack" which involved "such a serious infliction of violence and so lacking in rational control". Despite the "embarrassment" of Tahan's family, he said he could not grant the accused bail as there was a risk he might commit further offences and might abscond."

Proud to fly her colours: "Move over Tamsyn and Tatiana, there's a new glamour girl in track and field. High-jumper Claire Mallett, 21, will make her Australian team debut at the Commonwealth Games and has already been making some good moves in modelling, previously the domain of pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva and 400-metre runner Tamsyn Lewis. The Sydney graphic designer is more than happy to do her bit to help promote the sport... After following her three sisters into little athletics at five, Mallett has combined athletics with her love of the beach. After the Commonwealth Games, she will fly to Queensland for the Australian Surf Life Saving championships, where she will compete in the beach sprint and relays."

Queen opens Opera House extension: "Hundreds of onlookers gave the Queen a warm welcome at the first official engagement of her Australian tour. She was presented with armfuls of flowers from well-wishers as she went on a meet the people walk at the Sydney Opera House. Enthusiastic onlookers crowding the Opera House forecourt steps clapped, cheered and waved Australian flags as the Queen emerged from her car. Wearing a lime green dress, jacket and matching hat, the Queen was greeted by Prime Minister John Howard, Governor General Michael Jeffery and NSW Governor Marie Bashir. Canon fire sounded as she mounted a special podium beneath the Commonwealth flag while the Royal Australian Air Force marching band performed Advance Australia Fair followed by God Save The Queen. She then inspected a line of Australian naval and army officers and was presented to guests including Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, NSW Premier Morris Iemma, and head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston. After collecting posies of flowers from well-wishers, the Queen was led into the Opera House for the ceremony to open the new western colonnade addition to the iconic building. The western colonnade is the first addition to the Opera House's exterior since the Queen opened the building in 1973... The Queen said the Opera House had become "a symbol of the nation itself". "A building to which visitors happily return again and again with renewed joy and inspiration," she said."

13 March, 2006

John Howard's "incorrect" voters:

I am writing this sitting in a coffee shop in Narellan, a booming centre near Camden in south-western Sydney. It's in the federal seat of Macarthur, which, like most on the fringe, is held by the Liberals. I have just met some people who I think help explain why John Howard is still Prime Minister.

Harrington Park is one of the best of the new housing estates. About 2500 homes have been built in the past decade on what was once the farm of Sir Warwick Fairfax. Yakou Marcus is a businessman who came to Australia from Egypt and lived in Bosley Park, near Liverpool, for 20 years. He says Harrington Park is "a very quiet area, very good for peace. Better than Bosley Park because there aren't too many problems. In Bosley Park Chinese, Arabs, Assyrians, but here they're all special people." He likes his house so much he bought two more blocks in the suburb, one for his son and one as an investment.

Poppy and Bill Prezios and their children moved to Harrington Park from Eastlakes. Bill says their old suburb was "too busy . and it's not that friendly. Everyone keeps to themselves. There's no competition out here, everyone's equal. My brother-in-law bought at Sans Souci for $1.3 [million] but I wouldn't live there."

The couple stayed with their in-laws for two years while their house was being built. "It's not really family-oriented there," Poppy says. "The kids would go to the beach at Brighton-le-Sands to play and it was scary - a lot of violence, a lot of angry people." At Harrington Park they have many friends in their street and leave the doors open when they go visiting. For this, Poppy leaves home at 6.30am to drive to her job at Sydney University.

Frank is a retired Italian carpenter and waiter who moved from Green Valley to Harrington Park last year. "I like this area because it's more comfortable, more quiet," he says. "Around Green Valley, a lot of Arabs moved in, there was a mosque not far from me. I didn't have any trouble, but who knows in the future, because at Punchbowl you get a lot of problem people."

He says he likes Harrington Park because it has "real quality people. I'm very concerned about these things." His neighbours are Indian but "they're good, they're not the Indians with turbans on their heads . We're happy here."

These comments were provided spontaneously in response to my general questions about why these people had moved house. I know some of them will make readers wince and start to have dark thoughts about the innate racism of the Australian people. But I would disagree with such an interpretation. I believe they simply reflect the fears and experiences of ordinary, decent people, exposed to some of the pressures and uncertainties of large-scale immigration involving record numbers of people from non-European backgrounds. There is a concern about physical security, the most basic of human needs, entirely valid if you look at the relevant crime figures.

They also reflect a common way of understanding and dealing with the world through rule-of-thumb stereotypes about strangers. These people are not symbolic analysts, they do not search the internet for sophisticated theory about racism and its causes. They just want to do their jobs and make sure their children are safe when they're walking home from school. Their needs are, if you like, simple, and they want leaders who respect those needs.

They also want to feel the security of belonging to a community, which Harrington Park gives them. There's nothing elitist about this: we're talking about a normal desire to live with others who are also polite, clean and non-violent. There's a political dimension to this too: I don't know how they vote, but I suspect they want leaders who will allow them to assimilate and not keep treating them - or anyone else - as an ethnic category.

John Howard gets this. Labor doesn't.

A related thing Labor doesn't get is the implications of the prosperity of recent decades. Prosperity changes people and therefore changes politics. People look to politicians more to manage solutions than to talk up problems. Of course it's hard for Labor to be positive from Opposition. But a bigger problem is that the party was set up to represent one side in a class war that (like the union movement) hardly exists any more. Labor lacks a theory relevant to modern life, which means it lacks insight and purpose.


"Green" policies hurt Queensland

Instead of dammed rainwater, Queenslanders will now be getting unpalatable and possibly unhealthy water from underground. And water restrictions make it VERY hard for gardeners -- people whom you might (if you were foolish) think Greenies would be sympathetic to

The decision to scrap the Wolffdene Dam was "stupid" and Queenslanders are now paying the price with water restrictions, according to State Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg. In 1989, then-premier Mike Ahern decided to fast-track a $167 million-plus plan to build the Wolffdene Dam across the Albert River, south of Beenleigh, to serve the fast-growing population between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. But it would also have destroyed a stretch of the picturesque Albert Valley and inundated 1100 houses, forcing more than 3000 residents from their homes in the villages of Tamborine, Wolffdene, Luscombe and Cedar Creek.

Residents, backed by supporters from around the state, mounted one of the strongest and most effective protest campaigns in Queensland. The Labor Party backed the residents and newly-elected premier Wayne Goss scrapped the dam project in his first week in power.

Mr Springborg said the decision was short-sighted."It was one of the best sites in Queensland for a dam and it would have ensured there was ample water for south-east Queensland for generations to come." University of Queensland civil engineering Emeritus Professor Colin Apelt agrees. But he said the major mistake was made years earlier by the National Government in not restricting residential development in the area....

More here


The Queen of Australia welcomed: "Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have arrived in Canberra to begin a five-day visit to Australia. It is the Queen's 15th visit to Australia, after last visiting in 2002 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The royal couple arrived in Canberra about 9am (AEDT) where they were met by Prime Minister John Howard and his wife Janette, as well as Governor-General Michael Jeffery and his wife. A crowd of about 400, mainly family groups, were at Fairbairn airport to greet the royal couple, who spent some time chatting to the crowd and accepting bunches of flowers. There is intense speculation that it will be the Queen's last major overseas tour as she approaches her 80th birthday on April 21 and may hand over more duties to Prince Charles.""

Any guesses about who it was that arranged for the Queen to be known as the Queen of Australia while she was in Australia? It was Leftist hero Gough Whitlam

The girl in person: "Tourism ambassador Lara Bingle arrives in London today on a mission to persuade British regulators to reverse their decision to censor the advertising campaign in which she features. Ms Bingle, 18, and Tourism Minister Fran Bailey will try to rescue the $80 million campaign, despite the British broadcast regulator's continuing refusal toallow parts of it to air. Although the chances of the decision being reversed are slim, Ms Bingle's mother, Sharon, is confident British authorities will overturn the ban once they meet her daughter. "It seems a little bit silly," Mrs Bingle said. "I'm sure that once they see Lara, it will be fine." The campaign features the slogan, "So where the bloody hell are you?" Tourism Australia has refused to take the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre's advice to edit out the word "bloody"."

Sad news for food faddists: "More than 10 meals billed as 'healthy' by fast food chains are worse for you than a Big Mac. Research by the Sunday Herald Sun into the nutritional values of seven of Australia's fast food outlets has uncovered most fall short of health recommendations. Of 70 meals suggested as healthier or lighter options, only 17 made the grade according to Nutrition Australia guidelines. New franchise Sumo Salads fared best, with nine of its menu choices passing. But a further 11 fast-food meals were found to be unhealthier than a Big Mac when kilojoules, fat, sugar and salt levels were compared. They included sandwiches, baguettes, a pie and two salads. None of McDonald's Deli Choices or Salads Plus meals passed, generally due to high sugar and saturated fat levels. And none of Hungry Jack's new range of baguettes and salads passed, all being too high in salt".

Corrupt and lazy NSW police finally twitch: "Liverpool, in Sydney's south-west, has become the city's new drug "Mecca". Hundreds of addicts and dealers flood the suburb every day. Families are scared to walk the main street, fearing it is now "the new Cabramatta". Shopkeepers say the dealing and anti-social behaviour now rife in the suburb is ruining their livelihoods. Residents blame senior NSW police, saying they sat on their hands for years and let the problem develop. But, after years of inaction, police have launched an aggressive bid to reclaim the streets. Last week, The Sunday Telegraph watched as uniformed and plain-clothes officers repeatedly swept though Macquarie Mall, the main shopping precinct. Dozens of suspects or offenders, some of them teenagers, were stopped, searched, arrested, handcuffed or told to get out of the area. Despite the strong police presence, some of those ordered to leave later returned and resumed drug dealing.... Marthe Chehade, 22, whose family runs a cake shop and cafe in Macquarie Mall, said she was surprised by the amount of drug dealing when they opened around December. "They were absolutely fearless, sometimes dealing out in the open, swapping money, counting pills and stuff like that." She said she had been threatened by addicts and one had tried to rob the shop at gunpoint..."

Pensioners cash in on drugs: "Drug-savvy pensioners are making up to $5000 a week selling their Medicare morphine. Sales of morphine-based drug MS Contin - nicknamed "greys" - are at an all-time high on Brisbane's streets. Pensioners are faking symptoms of extreme pain and "doctor shopping" to get the tablets, which they sell on the street for huge profit. Police say the pensioners are exploiting a legal loophole and they are powerless to stop the black market. The drug is issued under the Pharmaceutic Benefits Scheme and a box of 20 costs just $4.70 with a prescription. Sold illegally, the drug fetches $50 a tablet. Queensland President of the Guild of Pharmacists Tim Logan says pensioners can get four or five boxes a week. "Most of these people are on welfare. "It is just an enormous cash flow for them," he said".

12 March, 2006

A shocking (but inspiring) story from Andrew Bolt

I am afraid this story moved me to tears. A wonderful woman versus callous doctors. I am so glad her good heart was triumphantly rewarded. She should sue the pants off the doctor principally concerned

Two brave women reminded me this week of what we lose in this terrible cult of the perfect child. Brave? Loving is the better word. For what great deeds we can do when we love. A Melbourne woman, let's call her Mary, this week wrote to me after reading in my book of the abortion of a girl just two months from birth. The girl had been diagnosed - it seems perhaps wrongly - with dwarfism.

Something about that case reminded Mary of her own pregnancy. For legal reasons I won't say just what, or give her real name or that of the doctor involved. Mary writes that in 1994 she fell pregnant, and was so sick that she had an ultrasound at 10 weeks to find out what was wrong. It was only then she learned she was carrying twins. But the second baby was very small. "This meant the baby was likely to have gross abnormalities because although it's normal for twins to differ in size late in pregnancy and after birth, in early pregnancy they should be exactly the same size to be normal.

"The doctor immediately recommended that I should `terminate that fetus'. "You mean kill the baby?' I replied, at which he got a bit upset with me and asked me not to use such language!" The doctor preferred the term "selective reduction".

As Mary learned: "One or more babies in the womb are injected in the head with saline, which kills them, and they are then left dead in the womb until the healthy baby or babies are delivered. "This is sometimes done because of abnormalities, but is also routinely done for mothers who simply don't want twins, triplets or quads. "How parents of healthy babies choose which will live and which will die, and how a mother lies on a table while a saline needle is inserted in her stomach to kill one of her babies is beyond me, but apparently this is normal.

"My main memory of all of this is the doctor's incredible nonchalance. "He was not only blase about what he proposed to do, he was even eager to do it - and he was quite forthright about his belief that any baby with even a suspicion of abnormality, or indeed any baby the parents simply did not want, should be dispatched forthwith. "He was keen to perform this procedure on me as soon as possible, without any further testing of any kind. "I even remember him reminding me that I was not being fair to my other larger twin if I did not allow him to kill the smaller one. This was because I was already at risk of premature birth."

Mary says she's sure the doctor thought he was being professional and he was right to tell her her options. "I'm university educated and am a pretty strong woman with a good marriage - so together, my husband and I found the strength (although it wasn't easy at the time in an emotional state) to resist the doctor's recommendations and stall for time... "How do single women, or women intimidated by the medical profession, or emotionally fragile women, or women with poor family support resist the eagerness that some in the medical profession have to solve what they simply see as a `problem'?"

Mary and her husband, after much agonising, agreed to an amniocentesis test to check that the smaller twin really was deformed. "I still remember lying on the table waiting to have this test, arguing with the doctor as he stood over me, huge needle in hand, as he tried to convince me to have the amnio test done on both babies rather than just one - `because you may as well now that you're here'. "This from a man who knew that the risk of miscarriage after an amniocentesis is about 1 per cent for a single pregnancy and up to 5 per cent for twins. He still wanted to double the risk - to ensure that we didn't bring any handicapped babies into the world. "We managed to resist this pressure and only had the amnio on the smaller baby, although I will regret until the day I die even agreeing to this, as I nearly miscarried the following day."

Mary concludes: "I have a result sheet issued by the doctor from my 10-week ultrasound on which are written the words, `fetus 2 not viable'. "I like to compare this document with the child it refers to - now an 11-year-old, funny, sensitive, gifted, football-playing, blues-guitar-addicted, satin-skinned and perfect little boy, our son." She has sent me a photo of him in Port Douglas kissing a cane toad held by his grinning brother.

"It turned out that the only explanation there was for the boys' different sizes early in pregnancy was that they must have been conceived a week or two apart . . . "I was not told that this could be a possible explanation until well after I was meant to have made a decision to inject my son Paul in the head with saline." How many other women have been told - wrongly - they were carrying a damaged baby and have given in to urgings to have their healthy child killed?

More here

Finally, a real-world approach to indigenous issues

An editorial from "The Australian"

One of the worst frauds perpetrated in Australia occurred over the last 30 years of the 20th century by the rights and reconciliation lobby who claimed they had a solution to the deprivation of indigenous Australians. All Canberra had to do was admit the crimes of the settlers, apologise for the stolen generation, accept all Aborigines' unique link to the land, and spend money - a great deal of money - on indigenous issues. And anyone who did not agree, especially about the money bit, was reviled as a right-wing racist. As a propagandist ploy to avoid admitting that focusing on the past would not solve present problems, it was hard to beat. But it created a generation-long disaster for Aborigines who could not climb aboard the gravy train of guilt - that is to say, almost all of them. While advocates of an apology denounced the Prime Minister, Aborigines continued to live shorter, poorer lives than most Australians. And substance abuse and domestic violence made family life a misery in too many communities.

It has taken Aboriginal voices, notably those of Noel Pearson, and recently Labor Party president Warren Mundine, to discredit the obsession with symbolic issues. Instead of passive welfare, Mr Pearson wants to encourage indigenous Australians into work and education, by reducing individual welfare benefits if necessary. And rather than maintain the pointless fiction that all indigenous social problems are due to the destruction of traditional tribal life, Mr Pearson says drunkenness and domestic violence are immediate issues that need urgent answers.

In the past few years, the Howard Government has begun to act on his ideas. It ended indigenous pork-barrelling and disbanded ATSIC. And it has started to encourage remote communities to take responsibility for their own circumstances, by linking public payments to measures of children's health. And there is more of the same on the way. As exclusively reported by Patricia Karvelas in The Australian yesterday, the Government is working to implement some of Mr Pearson's practical proposals in Cape York communities. They include reducing public payments to people who decline to either work or study and linking family payments to children attending school.

Creating a customised welfare system for remote indigenous communities will understandably alarm people who assume it is a ploy to treat Aborigines as second-class citizens. But if it is only introduced in communities that agree to join, it will be hard to argue against the plan. Nor is there any alternative on offer from supporters of symbolic solutions. Carmel Egan's report in The Weekend Australian about the Community Development and Employment Program in Shepparton makes the point. Created in the 1970s to help Aborigines find work and training, in this case CDEP is failing to find them employment in an area that has to import workers.

We have reached the point where there are few if any credible defenders of the old orthodoxies and an increasing acceptance that ideas such as Mr Pearson's must be given a go. In a speech yesterday, Labor's indigenous affairs spokesman, Chris Evans, made the point that the level of indigenous disadvantage in Australia today was no better than when Labor came to power a generation ago. And while he focused more on the Howard Government's failings than those of the Hawke and Keating years, Senator Evans made it quite clear the symbolic solutions that became Labor orthodoxy in the 1970s were discredited. It was a sensible speech, signalling something approaching bipartisan support for the Pearson approach. For the first time, Aboriginal leaders are setting the agenda in working out practical ways to assist their communities. That politicians from both parties are listening is an excellent outcome.

You can trust your regulators to protect you

When they get around to it, maybe

NSW health authorities waited almost 18 months before investigating an overseas-trained doctor banned elsewhere in the state for misdiagnosing 208 patients. The doctor, who is still registered to work in NSW as a general practitioner unsupervised and as a pathologist under strict supervision, is believed to have moved to Queensland where he can work without restriction as a GP.

The Illawarra Area Health Service banned Farid Zaer in April 2004 and began to review 6300 patient records after it suspected the doctor had failed to correctly analyse tests for many diseases, including cancer. Three months later it notified the Hunter New England Area Health Service, where the doctor had worked between 1999 and 2001, that it was investigating him. The Hunter service did not begin to review the records of 7300 patients diagnosed by Dr Zaer until last month. In March last year the Illawarra service found Dr Zaer had underdiagnosed 92 patients, overdiagnosed 106 and failed to correctly diagnose a further 10.

The Medical Board of Queensland was notified on September 29 last year that conditions had been imposed on Dr Zaer's practice as a pathologist in NSW. "Even though he is not registered to practise as a pathologist in Queensland, the board still wrote to Dr Zaer and advised him that it was considering imposing similar conditions on his general registration," the board's executive officer Jim O'Dempsey told The Weekend Australian. The board will consider the matter at a meeting this month.

The case comes only a month after Queensland police recommended the Indian-trained surgeon Jayant Patel face at least 28criminal charges relating to 13patient deaths and more than 30 cases of patient harm at Bundaberg Base Hospital. Dr Patel was director of surgery at the Bundaberg hospital for two years before he returned to the US last April.

Dr Zaer, who trained at the University of Bombay in India, can work as a junior pathologist in NSW under supervision by an area health service director of pathology or by a staff specialist. He can work in NSW as a GP without supervision. Debra Graves, chief executive of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia, said the case was worrying. "I have no idea why the area health services weren't talking to each other."

Rosemary Aldrich, acting director of clinical governance for the Hunter New England Service, defended the delay of the investigation until last month. "While concerns might have been raised in the Illawarra, if there were no concerns raised ... in the New England area, we had no way of knowing whether there was a risk or not," she said. "Until we had some more robust evidence that there might have been a risk, which we received once we were made aware of the Illawarra's definitive review, then we were able to make a judgment and respond."

Dr Zaer worked at the Wollongong Medical Centre, south of Sydney, as a GP until two weeks ago. "We never had any problems with his work as a GP," said centre manager Theo Aroney. "General practice is very different to the work involved as a pathologist. My understanding is that there was controversy regarding some of his diagnostic results while looking under a microscope, which is very different to what we do in general practice." Dr Zaer did not return phone calls from The Weekend Australian.


11 March, 2006

Shakespeare being edged out

In the article below, Prof. Henningham seems to be quoting some guy all the time

Although Brisbane will be the mecca of Shakespeare lovers for a week in July as host of the World Shakespeare Congress, our local theatre companies continue to give "short shrift" to the Bard. "That it should come to this!" For the fourth year running there is no Shakespeare in the Queensland Theatre Company's program. QTC has run four plays by the Bard since 1998 (Lear, The Tempest, Richard II and Richard III), out of almost 80 productions. It seems "forever and a day" since Shakespeare appeared in a season at La Boite Theatre which (despite its continental name) eschews anything other than good old (or bad new) home-grown Australian theatre. The last piece by the Bard was Romeo and Juliet in 1999 - 38 plays ago. Until the last quarter of last century, it seems not a year would go by without some major Shakespeare performances from our leading companies. But since the late '90s, only 4 per cent of Brisbane-based professional productions have been by Shakespeare.

Instead, "more in sorrow than in anger", theatre-goers endure a gallimaufry of experimentation, fashionable ideology, political correctness, sordid titillation and various shades of contemporary angst, with a succession of plays that have little chance of surviving the first decade of the 21st century, let alone lasting 400 years. Is this "much ado about nothing"? Falstaff? Who's he? That's what the average high school student or even university graduate would ask these days. A whole generation of Queenslanders has never seen a Falstaff (comic star of Henry IV and of Merry Wives of Windsor), one of the great character creations of all time. Sir John Falstaff is the tragic buffoon who enlivens young Prince Hal's (the future King Henry V's) misspent youth, his "salad days" when he was "green of judgment". Most Queenslanders have never even had the chance to see a Hamlet in recent years, that most brilliant, intriguing and fascinating dramatic creation, a tower of strength.

Shakespeare can at times be obscure, his words do not always speak their meaning at first glance, but, "give the devil his due", he has a rare gift of getting under the skin of human nature and evoking people's deepest longings and dreams in enduring terms. You don't have to go as far as Harold Bloom, who claims Shakespeare invented being human, to concede that Shakespeare (or whoever wrote Shakespeare) was a pretty special guy.

The failure to produce Shakespeare is even more damaging in conjunction with the watering down of Shakespearean studies in our schools. The virus of postmodernism has taken root in English syllabuses, resulting in an approach to literary studies that prefers the discernment of ideological biases to the fostering of aesthetic appreciation and admiration for great writing. It's "madness", but there's no "method in it".

Queensland's stalwart amateur companies are doing their best to rescue Shakespeare: their experience is that Shakespeare pulls crowds and draws performers like no other playwright. Audition calls are clogged when the Bard is the go, with wannabe young actors falling over themselves for the chance to be involved in a Shakespearean production. Brisbane Arts Theatre makes room for the Bard about two years out of three, as does the wandering Nash company. Pro-am Harvest Rain in New Farm also makes a regular commitment, delighting its audiences with action-packed musical versions.

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble gives gifted amateurs serious training and brings out lesser known plays with interesting variations (such as a re-gendered Comedy of Errors last year). The redoubtable Bryan Nason's Grin & Tonic and GNT2 take Shakespeare to schools across Queensland and perform in garden settings in the city. But the most charitable critic must concede that even the best amateur productions suffer from unevenness in casting, acting and direction - "the course of true love never did run smooth" - and they certainly lack "all that glisters" in lighting, sets and costumes which professional companies can spirit up.

John Bell has been prepared to be the saviour of professional Shakespeare performance in Australia. His Sydney-based travelling Bell Shakespeare Company, unsubsidised for most of its existence, has done more than any state company to keep the flame of Shakespeare's genius alive. Brisbane has been lucky enough to see a Bell version every couple of years, the most recent being last year's extraordinarily good Measure for Measure. And Bell will be back for a Romeo and Juliet this year, during the Brisbane Festival.

Shakespeare will not be ignored by Queensland professional performing arts companies this year. But it's Shakespeare without his words. Both Opera Queensland and the Queensland Ballet (who know how to please the crowds) are running versions of Romeo and Juliet (to the music of Gounod and Prokofiev). So perhaps "all's well that ends well" and our local theatre companies will finally realise that the game is up: the people want more Shakespeare. If not, well, "the miserable have no other medicine but only hope".

Back to the village well for Brisbane

Anything rather than build enough dams

Thousands of Brisbane residents will get a taste of the Outback when they are connected to bore water over coming months. Suburbs from Darra to Eight Mile Plains will receive a mixture of groundwater and dam water once 40 new bores are connected to local water mains. The taste and characteristics of the water will change, but the magnitude of the difference will not be determined until tests are done. Bores will be dug at two sites each in Darra and Runcorn, and properties in Sunnybank, Algester, Parkinson and Kuraby/Eight Mile Plains.....

The city wants to generate 20 megalitres of water a day as part of its $30 million aquifer project. The first bore in Darra struck water at 80m yesterday. Residents will be connected to bore water over the next few months once it has been treated. Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said the taste of groundwater would vary according to the physical characteristics of the aquifer. "It might be harder to get a lather up in the shower and it might taste different, but it's perfectly safe to drink," he said. "People will get used to the taste if the supply is consistent."

Six years of below-average rainfall have left the Wivenhoe, North Pine and Somerset dams at a third of capacity. [That reminds one of the 60 consecutive bad seasons Soviet Russia had]

More here


Stay away! "Germaine Greer wants to call Australia home again. One of Australia's most famous expatriates, Professor Greer has spent two-thirds of her life in Britain and has for years been a vocal critic of Australia. But she still regards it as "the best country in the world". The Melbourne-born academic keeps a foothold in her homeland with a rainforest property at Natural Arch in the Gold Coast hinterland and wants to see out her days there. I don't expect to die in Britain," the 67-year-old said yesterday. "The thought of dying in Britain makes me feel very sad. And I guess one of these days I will come back (to Australia) for good." Professor Greer, whose 1970 tome The Female Eunuch made her internationally famous and boosted the feminist movement, said she only remained in Britain for the money... Professor Greer said even though she had spent so much of her life in Britain, Australia had been the major influence on her. "I would say that I owe everything about me to Australia . . . everything," she said at an International Women's Day function on the Gold Coast."

Left admits to no clue about blacks: "Federal Labor has announced a major policy shift after admitting its policies have consistently failed indigenous Australians. Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Chris Evans today said the health, education and employment of indigenous Australians did not improve during 13 years of Labor rule. Nor had those key indicators improved under a decade of the Howard Government, he said. While inroads had been made in the areas of basic rights for indigenous Australians, Labor had decided a shift was necessary to pursue policies that would deliver results in those three key areas. "Despite all the debate, despite all the ideological argy bargy, we are not actually doing anything that seriously impacts positively in indigenous lives and I think we need to be held accountable for that," Senator Evans said.

A good start -- the hip-pocket: "Aboriginal parents who do not send their children to school will be punished under a radical welfare experiment to be trialled in remote communities. The proposal, put forward by indigenous leader Noel Pearson and designed to cut truancy rates and get Aborigines off the dole, will also test whether people should receive incentive payments for good behaviour. Under the scheme, which will create a unique welfare system for four communities on Cape York in far north Queensland, young people who fail to look for work or study will also face reduced dole payments. The Prime Minister's Department has begun drafting a proposal to implement the trial, applying different rules on welfare in an effort to break indigenous welfare dependence and end the cycle of poverty".

More rapes by Muslims: "Two Brisbane brothers already convicted this year of a brutal rape yesterday pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to a second vicious attack on a teenager. Afsheen Kashef Hussien, 26, and Azhar Zuhayr Hussien, 21, had pleaded not guilty in January to raping the 19-year-old, but yesterday changed their plea after learning their two accomplices would testify against them at trial. The Hussien brothers were each convicted on their own confessions of one count of deprivation of liberty and 10 counts of rape, arising from the attack on February 13, 2005. Afsheen was also convicted of one count of stealing. Earlier this week, brothers Zaak Imitiaz Ali, 22, and Zane Iftiaz Ali, 23, were sentenced to 8 years' jail after pleading guilty to the same offences, and were declared serious violent offenders. Their sentences were reduced during closed court proceedings - subsequently made public yesterday - by Judge Warren Howell, because the men identified the Hussien brothers to police and were expected to give evidence against them at a trial set down for May.... Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne yesterday submitted the Hussien brothers were the main protagonists in "calculated and predatory" attacks and should be sentenced to 17 years' jail. A serious violent offence declaration - requiring them to serve 80 per cent of their sentence - would be automatic for a term of more than 10 years' jail".

Papuans tortured by Muslim Indonesians: "A US State Department report alleging torture and intimidation by Indonesian security forces against Papuan separatists may add weight to the case of 43 Papuan boatpeople seeking asylum in Australia. The US report on human rights in Indonesia said abuses had decreased in the past year, but there were still serious problems in Papua province, where separatists have struggled against Jakarta's rule for decades. Widespread intimidation was occurring even though the military estimated there were only 620 guerillas belonging to the Free Papua Movement, or OPM, armed with only about 150 weapons among them, the report said. The use of torture to obtain confessions from suspects was most apparent in Papua and Aceh, where rebels have concluded a peace deal with the Indonesian Government. "Torture was sometimes used to obtain confessions, punish suspects and seek information that incriminated others in criminal activity," the report said. "Torture used included random beatings, bitings, whippings, slashings and burnings." The report said the Papua Legal Aid Foundation and national rights watchdog Komnas HAM had reported 35 cases of torture by security forces in Papua during the year."

Muslim community protects its thugs: Police have received "little or no information" from the Middle Eastern community in finding men who carried out reprisal attacks after the Cronulla riots. Their comment comes after half the 20 suspected rioters whose photos were splashed across the media yesterday were identified and at least three men were charged. Two fathers called detectives from Strike Force Enoggera, set up to investigate the Cronulla race riot and revenge attacks, to report their sons after seeing images on television and in newspapers. At least five of the 20 suspected Caucasian rioters came forward voluntarily, said the head of Enoggera, Detective Superintendent Ken McKay. The rest of the 10 were identified by members of the public and would be pursued, he said. Superintendent McKay said it was pleasing that detectives had received "numerous phone calls from people saying that is so-and-so" after seeing the photos, but that he had received "little or no information" about revenge attackers of Middle Eastern extraction seen in two grainy videos. The Police Minister, Carl Scully, yesterday accused "Middle Eastern Australians" of harbouring "grubs" who "should be in jail".

10 March, 2006

Muslim hate thriving in Australia

A radical Islamic group is infiltrating Australian mosques, distributing inflammatory pamphlets urging Muslims to rise up against Australian troops in Iraq and support the insurgency. Hizb ut-Tahrir is telling local Muslims that coalition forces in Iraq are responsible for the mosque bombing in Samarra last month that left the nation on the brink of civil war. The group - a hardline political faction banned in Britain, Germany and other countries -- is using Friday prayer meetings, traditionally compulsory for all Muslims, to distribute flyers inciting hatred against the West. According to one of the group's Arabic-English pamphlets, obtained by The Australian on Friday outside Lakemba Mosque in Sydney's southwest, the occupying forces in Iraq, which includes the 1320-strong Australian contingent, bombed the Shia mosque in Samarra. "It is the occupying forces, with America at their head, who are behind the incidences of killing civilians, bombing markets and mosques, abducting scholars and killing those who are sincere to the Deen (religion)," says the four-page flyer.

The pamphlet blames the coalition forces for creating divisions between Sunnis and Shi'ites and driving a wedge between the two Islamic sects, historically opposed to each other's ideology and religious interpretation. "What happened in Samarra was of the planning and execution of the occupying forces," the flyer says. "However what is worse and more detestable is the occupying forces achieve their objective by making the Muslims, Sunni and Shia, fight among each other."

The circulation of such propaganda is typical of the Australian arm of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), which has praised suicide bombers as martyrs. The radical group has been criticised by John Howard and investigated by ASIO. ASIO told Attorney-General Philip Ruddock last year there was not enough evidence to designate Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation. But the new anti-terror laws have lowered the threshold for proscription of organisations to include groups that advocate terrorist acts, rather than being involved in planning or carrying out terrorist acts. Hizb ut-Tahrir's website says the party does not "advocate or engage in violence". But the flyer has a different message, saying: "We urge you to make the calamity of Samarra as a motivator to repel the invaders and that you take them as enemies."

Mr Ruddock expressed alarm yesterday after being sent a copy of Hizb ut-Tahrir's flyer by The Australian. "The Attorney-General would be concerned about any material distributed in our Australian community that would be seen to be advocating or inciting terrorism or violence," a spokeswoman said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was set up by a Palestinian judge in 1953 to inspire the creation of a Khalifah (Caliphate) state ruled by a Muslim leader. The party's Sydney arm lists more that 200 members. Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Wassim Doureihi refused to comment yesterday. However, one member of the group agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. "The group tries to target the entire Muslim community (in Sydney) through different mosques," he said. "Usually after Friday prayer, members hand out our pamphlets outside mosques."

Ahmad Kamaledine, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, responsible for Lakemba Mosque, said he was opposed to Hizb ut-Tahrir circulating their flyers outside the mosque but had no authority to stop them. "We don't support any type of material being handed out in the mosque," he said. "However, we have no jurisdiction over what gets handed out outside the mosque, because it's in a public place."


Anti-Christian education in Australian schools

The publication of the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed was considered insulting by Muslims and, notwithstanding freedom of expression, the argument was put by many in the West that the cartoons were culturally offensive and should never have been published. Witness the way nuns and priests are vilified and mocked in Sydney's gay and lesbian Mardi Gras and the offensive nature of so-called artworks such as Piss Christ and it quickly becomes apparent that moral outrage is sometimes selective. As noted in George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, it is not a good time to be a Christian. Secular humanism is in the ascendant, evidenced by the European Union Constitution's refusal to mention Christianity in its preamble, and "European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular".

Further evidence of the way Christianity is either disparaged or ignored can be found in the way history is taught. Beginning with the national studies of society and the environment curriculum developed during the '90s, the focus is very much on diversity and cultural relativism. Learning is defined in terms of gender, multicultural, global, futures and indigenous perspectives, and you can search in vain for a substantial recognition and treatment of Australia's Anglo/Celtic tradition or this nation's Judeo/Christian heritage.

This year's Victorian history curriculum for prep to Year 10 continues in the same vein. Students are told that Australia has always been multicultural and that our history is one of multiple heritages, influences and connections. The focus is on various and diverse cultural groups without any recognition that the contributions of some should be more valued than others. In line with a postmodern view of the world, one where there are no absolutes and where knowledge is subjective, students are also told that historical understanding is multiple, conflicting and partial as "there are many perspectives on events and that explanations are often incomplete and contested".

School textbooks such as the Jacaranda's SOSE Alive 2 and Humanities Alive 2 offer further evidence of the way Australia's mainstream cultural and religious beliefs and institutions are belittled. As noted in Thomas E.Woods's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilisation, a strong argument can be put, especially during the Middle Ages, that the church was critically important in promoting learning, scientific discovery and advances in agriculture and animal husbandry. Not so, according to the writers of the Jacaranda textbooks. In the chapter Medieval Life, the power of the church, instead of being based on the strength or truth of its teachings, is said to be based on controlling people by making them "terrified of going to hell" or facing "torture and death".

The references to monks and priests also present the church in a negative light. Students are told about "corrupt church men" who lie in order "to attract pilgrims to get money for their monastery" and who are more interested in "drinking and gambling". In describing the Renaissance, with its emphasis on classical learning, the implication is that the church was interested only in controlling people in a heavy-handed, doctrinaire way. Ignored is the role of the monasteries in preserving Greek and Roman manuscripts and the church's involvement in establishing universities throughout Europe. As noted by Woods: "The fact is, the church cherished, preserved, studied and taught the works of the ancients, which would otherwise have been lost. Western civilisation's admiration for the written word and for the classics comes to us from the Catholic Church that preserved both through the barbarian invasions."

The most egregious example of the way education has succumbed to moral relativism is the textbooks' treatment of September 11. The textbook presents the Muslim terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Centre as the moral equaivalent of Christian Crusaders, as both gave their lives for a religious cause and both expected they would "go straight to heaven when they died". Students are also asked: "Those who destroyed the World Trade Centre are regarded as terrorists. Might it be fair to say that the Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?"

In addition to the selective nature of the outrage against the Danish cartoons and the fact Islam cannot be lampooned while Christianity is fair game is the irony that the very values most often stated in defence of accepting diversity and difference arise from the Judeo/Christian tradition. As such, there can be no place for moral or cultural relativism. Tolerance and respect for others, the rule of law, separation of powers and popular sovereignty are all essential aspects of Western civilisation and have strong links with the Christian faith.


A more intelligent approach to conservation

Replacing coercion with incentives for co-operation

Nearly 500,000ha of private land in Queensland has been declared a flora and fauna refuge by its owners. Environment Minister Desley Boyle told State Parliament yesterday another 21 landholders had signed up for the Government's nature refuge program. "Their properties - from the wet tropics in far north Queensland to Mount Tamborine in the south - cover 2379ha and bring the total number to 182, covering 412,700ha," she said.

Ms Boyle said the program, initiated in October 2003, gave individual landowners the power to protect native plants and animals by signing an agreement with the Environment Protection Agency that stays in place after on-selling. Incentives to sign up includes reimbursement of land transfer duty and tax for eligible landowners under an associated Green Reward scheme. Since the scheme started, $111,000 had been reimbursed to 19 eligible landholders covering 8105ha of land, Ms Boyle said.

The latest land added to the program includes habitats for the green ringtail possum, rufous owl, grey goshawk and glossy black cockatoos.



Australia doing well on employment: "The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2 per cent in February on the back of a surge in new jobs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported total employment grew 25,900 during the month. The number of unemployed people fell 3700 to 554,100. Unemployment in January had been 5.3 per cent. The median market forecast was for a rise of 10,000 in employment and a jobless rate of 5.3 per cent in February. There are now 10.058 million Australians in employment. The participation rate stayed steady at 64.4 per cent. The number of people looking for full-time work, however, fell 2800 to 394,000 while there was a small fall in those looking for part-time work to 160,000. The male unemployment rate stayed at 5.2 per cent while the female unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage points to 5.2 per cent.

Muslim preachers told to speak English: "Islamic leaders should push Muslim clergy to preach in English, Australia's Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has said. Mr Ruddock has told a London audience that Australia's chief mufti, the Sydney-based cleric Sheik Taj el din al-Hilaly, who always uses a translator, actually spoke good English in private. "He does speak English, but he doesn't feel confident . . . always speaking English to a broader audience," Mr Ruddock said, adding that a language barrier was a problem with the community as a whole. Mr Ruddock, in London for high-level anti-terrorism talks, was told by British Islamic leaders that moves to make English the language of the mosque had come from within the British Muslim community. Moderate Muslims are fed up with fiery clerics railing in tongues that many inside the mosque and in the wider community do not understand"

Terrorists to be "De-programmed"? "Civil libertarians have said a proposal by the Federal Police chief to "de-program" terrorists is tantamount to torture, but Muslim groups say it may have merit. Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty has said Indonesia is using a former Jemaah Islamiah leader, Malaysian-born Nasir bin Abbas, to help in the deprogramming of convicted terrorists. The cleric attempts to turn extremists to a more moderate faith and provides information on terrorist operations to Indonesian authorities. The process is also understood to have been used in Singapore, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Mr Keelty said the idea, which he likened to drug rehabilitation, has been raised at a policy level in Australia during talks about anti-terrorist control orders".

New toilet seats for fat Australians: "Sturdier toilets may be on their way in Australia to cope with the country's increasingly obese population. Standards Australia, a nongovernment group that establishes safety and design standards, is considering recommending strengthening loos for larger users, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. Obesity levels have been rising for years in Australia. Standards Australia spokeswoman Kate Evans said the current industry standard for toilet seats is just 100 pounds and that the group is looking to increase it to 330 pounds. Experts will examine the seats "from the perspective that people are getting bigger," Evans said. Steve Cummings, a committee member for Standards Australia and head of research and development at toilet maker Caroma Dorf, told Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph that toilet seats need to be strengthened for larger Australians. "If you are going to sit on it, you want it to hold you," he said".

Tim Blair has a point about Australia's gun bans: "Speaking of illegal guns, there's been remarkably little follow-up to a Sydney Morning Herald report published in the wake of the Cronulla riots. "About 200 men had assembled outside Lakemba Mosque," it read, "some armed with Glock pistols." Back in 1996, Howard wore a bulletproof vest to address a crowd of law-abiding Victorian gun-owners. "I was told at the time to wear it," he said on Today. "I'm sorry I took that advice ... I regret now having done so." Good; but he'd possibly regret not wearing one if he was addressing the Lakemba Mosque & Pistol Association, which apparently hasn't taken to Howard's gun-control idea. Now, about these Glock pistols witnessed by reporters; is it too much to ask for some arrests around here?"

9 March, 2006

Far-Left propaganda masquerading as education

That the Crusades were a defensive response designed to halt and roll back Muslim conquests of Christian lands is the most basic history but it seems that Australian kids are hearing the opposite

A textbook widely used in Victorian high schools describes the Crusaders who fought in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages as terrorists, akin to those responsible for the September 11 attacks. The Year 8 textbook Humanities Alive 2 says that the Crusaders, like Muslim terrorists, "believed they were giving their lives for a religious cause". "Like the Crusaders ... they were told they would go straight to heaven when they died," the book says. "Those who destroyed the World Trade Center are regarded as terrorists. Might it be fair to say that Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?"

The book, used in about 100 schools around Victoria, is a revised edition of a series of textbooks published by John Wiley and Sons since 2003, all of which have included the section on September 11. The selection of textbooks is at the discretion of individual schools in Victoria and neither the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, nor the state Education Department, have any input into the quality or content of textbooks. A spokesman for state Education Minister Lynne Kosky said schools decided for themselves what was appropriate to be taught and there were no recommended books for the curriculum.

The textbook also portrays the church as a corrupt institution driven by the desire for power and which tortured and killed anyone with opposing beliefs. "It's very out of date, this view of the church as being fiendishly power-hungry," said Dr Collett, a visiting scholar at Oxford University. "The church's activities were far more humane and pastoral than you would guess from reading this." Dr Collett said the textbook presented an oversimplified view of history and the language used suggested a particular point of view rather than asking open-ended questions. Despite popular perception, Dr Collett said those involved in the Inquisition actually spent most of their time working with divided families rather than torturing heretics. Rather than working with government to oppress people, Dr Collett said the church was the principal force against the authoritarian excesses of governments.

General manager of the schools division at John Wiley, Peter van Noorden, denied the textbook makes a connection between the Crusades and September 11. He said the section was intended to encourage discussion and prompt students to think more broadly about history. "It's very specifically put at the end of the section as a challenge for students to consider ... to analyse things from different perspectives," he said.


Tax cuts for "the rich" coming?

The federal Treasurer's tax review will support the case for cutting the top tax rate as a way of discouraging tax avoidance. Sources close to the review argue that while the top personal rate of 48.5 per cent is not high by world standards, the gap between it and the 30 per cent corporate rate is unusually wide. And this invites the rich to re-arrange their affairs to ensure income is not classed as personal. The review will also incorporate family tax benefits into the personal tax tables, resulting in more favourable comparisons with the rest of the world....

Contrary to reports attributed to Mr Warburton last week, the review team accepts compulsory superannuation is an employee benefit rather than a tax. Sources say it will add social security taxes to the personal tax scales of other countries and probably support Mr Costello's claim that the top personal rate and the $125,000 threshold at which it will apply from July 1 are broadly in line with world norms.

However, the review teams intends to highlight that the incentive for tax minimisation has widened since the top corporate rate was lowered from 36 per cent to 30 per cent. The gap between the top personal and corporate rate is 10 percentage points in Britain and six in the US. The relatively wide gap in Australia may support calls to scrap the top tax rate as many business people hire tax advisers to avoid it. Treasury predicts the top rate will apply to less than 3 per cent of taxpayers from July.

The review will invite scrutiny of the complex tax rules and compliance costs that have resulted from policy makers trying to stop high-earners from shuffling income between categories. The review also intends to highlight the myriad tax concessions, including those for capital gains tax, that could cost the Government an estimated $39 billion this year.

But Mr Costello is unlikely to follow those leads. "I can guarantee you this - we won't be lifting capital gains taxes, we won't be lifting superannuation taxes and these supposed concessional areas are areas where there should be concessions," he told Adelaide radio.

More here

Private sector to bail out collapsed Queensland public hospital

A private company has been contracted to help run one of Queensland's most troubled public hospital emergency departments in a $7 million fix that will cost taxpayers double the price of the government-run service. Two months after Caboolture Hospital, north of Brisbane, sparked a political crisis when it scaled back its 24-hour emergency department because of doctor shortages, the Beattie Government revealed yesterday it would turn to a private agency to restore the service.

After a closed tender process, Aspen Medical has secured a $7.08 million contract to provide 14 doctors and a nurse educator to keep the hospital's emergency department open for a year, starting on April 18.

Queensland Health could have provided the same service for $3.5million, but the doctor shortage and a crisis of confidence within the state's public health system has made it difficult for the Government to fill vacancies. Although the Government has given pay rises to emergency department doctors, some have quit full-time public sector work, or scaled back their hours, to be re-employed for more money through agencies like Aspen.

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An example to the world

One of the reasons why Australia may be the world's most conservative country

The Australian Government would be debt-free within four months, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday. Addressing a business luncheon in Mumbai, India, Mr Howard said his Government was close to achieving its decade-long dream of wiping out more than $90 billion in government debt it inherited when it took power in 1996. His announcement came after he rejected a plea by Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to clear the way for sales of Australian uranium to India. In his speech before the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, Mr Howard said: "At the end of this financial year the national government will have no net debt. "I don't mind you applauding that. Please go ahead." "When I look to the averages of OECD ... that is a remarkable performance."

His comments confirm Treasurer Peter Costello will announce the elimination of all Government debt in the 2006-07 Budget to be delivered in May. Mr Howard, accompanied by a high-level delegation of business representatives, said strong economic growth meant India was in a "pivotal position" in world economic affairs and had become a lucrative target for businessmen seeking overseas investment. "The centre of economic gravity is shifting to this part of the world," he said.

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8 March, 2006

Simon survives

A great victory for one of Australia's sanest Leftists

The former Labor leader Simon Crean has won an overwhelming victory in his preselection battle despite the refusal of Kim Beazley to back him. In a surprising blow to Mr Beazley's leadership, Mr Crean learned late last night he won 196 votes to 88 to retain the Labor candidacy for his Melbourne seat of Hotham.... Minutes after the preselection result was announced just before 11pm, Mr Crean's challenger, the union leader Martin Pakula, withdrew, choosing not to contest a vote by the ALP central panel. "It's just an overwhelming victory for the rank and file," Mr Crean said of the support shown by local members. "It smashes the factional leaders. They've completely misunderstood the strength of the support for me."

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Uranium for India coming

As Australia is a major supplier of uranium, a deal matters to both sides

If the historic India-US nuclear deal proceeds, as it almost certainly will, Australia will support it, participate in it and in due course almost certainly sell uranium to India. John Howard understands this already; Alexander Downer may not yet.

The Howard trip to India is going well. However, it nearly got off to a disastrous start with Howard and Downer pursuing contradictory policies on the Washington-New Delhi nuclear deal. The PM's office on Thursday was briefing journalists to the effect that Australia supported the then-emerging deal, which could have important consequences for us as a uranium supplier.

But on Friday, the Foreign Minister was, within the limits of diplomatic politeness, virtually denouncing the deal and declaring Australia would never sell uranium to India. For Downer and Howard's office to be so unco-ordinated on such a big issue would be dangerous at any time. For this to happen on the eve of Howard's first visit to India in more than five years is crazy.

The Indians don't expect us to make a big decision overnight. All that was needed was a formula of positive-sounding waffle to the effect that we love seeing India and the US co-operating, the deal looks very interesting, and we'll examine it in detail in due course. That this was not all tied up well in advance indicates amateur hour in Australian foreign policy.

Howard himself quickly found the right form of words. In New Delhi, he said: "We are interested in the agreement that's been struck between the United States and India. We do have a long-standing policy of only selling uranium to countries that are part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, but we will have a look at what the Americans have done and when we get a bit more information about that, we'll further assess it. "But I see the development between India and the US as a very positive development and we have a very positive attitude toward India but it's something we have to assess and we have a policy which we're not going to suddenly change just because the US has entered into an agreement. But I'd be very happy to talk about the issue."

Howard seemed to ease back ever so slightly from these remarks later on. But they constitute the basic formula. The India-US deal would potentially be of enormous benefit to Australia. If we tried to hinder it we would have not the slightest effect on the substance of the deal. But we would earn for ourselves the hostility of the Indian political and government system. This is just the kind of dumb, counterproductive, crazy play we have historically made too often in Asia, especially with India.

Downer is an effective Foreign Minister. But foreign ministers are like academics; they get very absorbed in detail and utterly committed to existing practices and patterns in which they have invested themselves. They can be quite bad at picking the big strategic turning points. The India-US deal is just such a turning point. Howard knows he will need to steer Australia around this corner. Flat out, straight ahead with no course correction can only produce a monumental crash.


Howard-haters are their own worst enemy

Leftists are great haters. American Leftists hate the centrist GWB and Australian Leftists hate the inoffensive John Howard. Article below by Gerard Henderson

The party's over, for the time being, at least. Last week's hubris-lite functions, celebrating John Howard's 10th anniversary as Prime Minister, suggest that he is not overly loved. Rather, he is very much respected and admired by his supporters, who stop somewhat short of adulation. And he is much hated by many of his opponents. In this sense the term Howard-haters is a reasonable word usage - if only because Howard really is despised by many members of the intelligentsia who have the ability and capacity to state their case publicly. So much so that some well-educated Australians blame him for virtually all the nation's (alleged) social ills. The it's-Howard's-fault refrain is heard repeatedly across the land.

In recent times the publisher Richard Walsh has blamed Howard for the fact that Test fast-bowler Glenn McGrath is a "sullen sledger". How's that? According to the journalist Andrew West, Howard is responsible for "the corruption of Australian history by the post-modernists".

Some may believe that young Australians have a natural interest in new technology. But no, according to the journalist James Norman. He says Howard has fostered the interest of young people in "consumer technologies" and, consequently, "utterly anaesthetised and practically disengaged" young Australians from the political process. A letter writer to The Age linked Howard to the sad plight of a pensioner who was found dead in his car in a suburban shopping centre - some time after his car was booked. According to this view, the parking officer's error was due to Howard-engendered "greed".

Quite a few of Howard's critics are so shocked by Howardism that they are willing to acknowledge that they do not know anyone who votes for him. Not a soul. In spite of the fact that, at the October 2004 election, 53 per cent of voters expressed a preference for Howard over Labor's Mark Latham.

Writing in Dialogue (published by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia) in early 2005, Professor R.W. Connell recalled an election night dinner party, held in inner-city Sydney, where not one of his fellow guests knew anyone who voted for Howard. He described those present as members of the intelligentsia. Interviewed by The Bulletin in April 2005, the Melbourne-based playwright Hannie Rayson described herself as part of "the left" and referred to her political opponents comprising "the right" and being on "the other side". She declared: "I don't have cause to meet such people in my life; they don't tend to hang around Fitzroy."

Connell is scheduled to speak at a conference organised by the leftist magazines Overland and Arena in Melbourne next weekend on Howard's Australia. His topic is "Australian values". Yet Connell is on the public record as saying that he does not know a man or a woman who supports the values of a majority of the population who vote for Howard. How come?

It may sound strange. But in intelligentsia land, you can get through an entire day without hearing anything but criticism of the Howard Government. Here's how such a day in the life of a Howard-hater might work - via live radio/television, Foxtel iQ, iPod, tape, video, DVD and newspapers.

Arise and read the editorial and letters and opinion pages of The Age, Australia's most politically imbalanced broadsheet, judged on its coverage of the national security and industrial relations debates. Admire the cartoons of Michael Leunig, who has drawn Howard as a masked, kneecapping IRA terrorist. Look forward to next Saturday's Herald in the hope that, again, Alan Ramsey will describe the PM as a "duplicitous toad" and refer to him as "Little Johnny". Check The Australian to see if cartoonist Bill Leak still maintains "we are all little Johnnies now; smaller, meaner and less attractive".

Go to work in a university humanities department and talk to your Howard-hating colleagues. It's morning tea time. Go online and check out the most recent criticism of Howardism in John Menadue's New Matilda journal of (almost identical) opinion. Agree with editor Jose Borghino's view that Howard is the "hamster version" of Robert Menzies.

Break for lunch. Drop into an inner-city bookshop to check out the latest Howard-hating thesis on the Morry Schwartz-owned Black Inc's publishing list, including such titles as The Barren Years: John Howard and Australian Political Culture. Admire past copies of Black Inc's Quarterly Essay, featuring the likes of Mungo MacCallum and Guy Rundle. Buy the most recent issue of Schwartz's quaintly named journal The Monthly, featuring yet another (very long) article by Robert Manne bagging Howard.

Spend the afternoon on research. Order a DVD of Richard Connolly's taxpayer-subsidised film Three Dollars. Re-read Rayson's taxpayer-subsidised play Two Brothers. Prepare a workshop on how to establish socialism in at least one country .

Drive home listening to the ABC Radio National's Perspective program, followed by Sandy McCutcheon's Australia Talks Back. Tune into ABC TV's 7.30 Report to see which cabinet minister Kerry O'Brien is interrupting. Check out how alienated George Negus is on SBS TV. Go to sleep listening to Phillip Adams' Late Night Live program. Dream of Gough Whitlam, Howard Dean, George Galloway. Wake up - read The Age.

The problem with much, but not all, opposition to Howard is it is obsessive and consequently has little impact in the marginal seats in suburban and regional Australia. Opponents of Howardism would have much more impact if they threw the switch to rationality with respect to the Prime Minister and ceased their consistent condemnation of Kim Beazley and Labor. Right now, the irrationality of so many Howard haters has the unintended consequence of enhancing Howardism.


"Go soft on blacks" verdict challenged

"An appeal has been lodged against the suspended sentence given to a drink-driver who crashed into a school playground. Attorney-General Rob Hulls yesterday confirmed the appeal against the sentence handed down in the County Court last month on Sudanese refugee Taban Gany. Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Coghlan, QC, is believed to have argued the sentence was manifestly inadequate. Judge Peter Gebhardt handed down a three-year, wholly suspended, sentence on Gany, 32, and cancelled his driving licence for three years. Gany had a blood alcohol reading of 0.175 at the time of the crash, was driving while disqualified and had two previous drink-driving convictions. One child lost a foot and three others were seriously injured in the crash, at Dandenong West Primary School on May 19 last year".

More here

7 March, 2006

John Howard working on ties with India

As he should. India is both a very important country for the future and one with which Australia shares much by virtue of the common British influence. And educated Indians even speak English, in a very Indian way, of course

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has begun a four-day visit to India aimed at boosting bilateral trade. The two countries' trade is currently valued at more than $5bn and Mr Howard heads a large delegation including bankers and bosses of energy companies. But Australia reiterated on Friday that it would not supply India with uranium until Delhi signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. US President George W Bush signed a key nuclear deal in Delhi on Thursday.

"We don't have any plan to change our current policy," Mr Howard said, prior to his departure. "We're certainly not going to suddenly change our policy just because the Indians and Americans have reached an agreement," he added. Australia has about 40% of the world's known uranium deposits, but only sells it to countries which have signed the treaty.

India is one of the world's fastest growing economies and Mr Howard is the third head of state to visit the country in as many weeks, following President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac.

More here

All kids are equal in Australian schools

Smart kids not wanted

As many as 250,000 gifted children across Australia are being forced to dumb down at school, trapped in classes up to four grades below their ability. The head of the gifted education centre at the University of New South Wales, Miraca Gross, said between 10 and 15 per cent of the school population was exceptionally talented. Half the gifted children aged 8 to 10 who were tested on Year 8 maths, English, science and reading scored better than the average 14-year-old and similar results were found for children in years 7 and 9 who were tested on Year 12 material, Professor Gross said. "If they achieve at their full level, other kids don't particularly want to be friends with them," she said. "The other choice is to dumb down and work at a level much lower than they can, ask silly questions in the classroom and make deliberate mistakes in their work or tests so other kids will think they're like them."

The centre tests about 2000 students every year who are identified as advanced learners by their teachers but Professor Gross said the vast majority of talented students left school unrecognised. Professor Gross said schools were still poor at identifying their gifted students and often reluctant to develop and accommodate their needs. "We are only scratching the surface on the tip of the iceberg," she said. "And eight-ninths of an iceberg is underwater, so we are failing to identify a lot of kids. "In every class of 30 there would be at least two or three who could work about three years beyond their age."

The university's Gifted Education Resource Research and Information Centre tests about 1500 students annually in years 4 to 6 (aged between 10 and 12) with work designed for Year 8 students (about 14 years) in maths, science, English and reading. About 500 students in years 7 to 9 sit Year 12 tests. Primary students Talia Jacobs, 11, and Jack Lo Russo, 10, performed so well in the tests they were invited to one of the university's residential programs that run for five days in January for students who score in the 97th percentile for their age. Jack started a new school this year that recognises his talent. He has a large group of friends who are also bright students, but said that at his previous school he was often bored because the work was too easy.

Talia has been more fortunate in having a teacher and a school who recognised and stretched her academic talent, but she still appreciated the chance to mix with other gifted students at the residential program. "I just liked that there were other people of the same ability as me, and that I could relate to them in the same sort of way," she said.

Professor Gross said many gifted students were ostracised or quietly ignored by their age peers and it was imperative that schools started actively identifying and catering for gifted students, in the same way as for those gifted in music or sports. "Gifted kids can feel they have to make a choice between friendship and achievement," she said.



I had three brief posts yesterday about shortcomings in the Australian public health system (Roadside births soar as wards close and Why did the taxpayer EVER fund facelifts, breast and penile enlargements, tattoo removals and liposuction? and Vital tests to check for bowel cancer in at-risk Victorians are being secretly cancelled).

Below are two longer articles. It all does help to explain why nearly half of Australians have health insurance that enables them to go to our many excellent private hospitals rather than the overstretched public facilities. The trouble is that lots of Australians still believe the lie that the politicians have been telling them for years -- that everybody will be given as much "free" medical care as they want or need

Up to 1300 Australians per year die waiting for public hospital help

Up to 1300 Australians die each year waiting to be treated in or admitted to public hospitals. A review of deaths at four public hospitals found patients forced to wait more than eight hours for treatment were 30 per cent more likely to die than those admitted when the hospital was not overcrowded. "Overcrowding is endemic in all large tertiary hospitals in Australia," said Peter Sprivulis, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Western Australia. "The situation has been deteriorating for about 15 years."

The two studies of more than 60,000 admissions at Canberra Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital, Fremantle Hospital and the Sir Charles Gairdiner in Perth found delays in treatment caused more than 130 deaths a year. "It's probably five to 10 times that amount nationally," Professor Sprivulis told The Australian. "It is well known that people who experience delays in getting treatment do worse. "For example, if a patient has a very serious infection they are more likely to die if they don't get the antibiotics on time."

Professor Sprivulis said medical errors were also more likely to occur when hospital resources were stretched. "Overcrowding is often associated with placing inpatients on an incorrect ward -- such as medical patients placed in emergency department corridors, which can cause potential adverse events."

The West Australian study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, analysed hospital admissions via emergency departments in the three years to June 2003. It found 120 deaths a year were linked with overcrowding in the West Australian hospitals. The Canberra Hospital study looked at how many patients died within 10 days of presenting to the emergency department in 2002, 2003 and 2004. It attributed 13 deaths a year to overcrowding in the emergency department.

Drew Richardson, chair of road trauma and emergency medicine at Canberra Hospital, said further studies were needed to determine the extent of the problem. "The magnitude of the association of overcrowding and mortality in the ACT is around 13 additional in-hospital deaths annually. "That's similar to the number of people killed on the roads in the ACT each year, and if replicated in other studies, this association would represent a significant health issue," Professor Richardson said.

Peter Cameron, head of Monash University's pre-hospital and emergency trauma group, said increasing the number of hospital beds would not ease pressure on public hospitals. "Increasing the number of hospital beds temporarily alleviates access block, but does not solve the problem -- the beds quickly fill and the problems recurs." Professor Cameron said hospitals needed to find a better way to balance the dual demands of managing critically ill patients while still providing elective surgery. "Moving patients quickly from acute hospitals to more appropriate facilities increases hospital bed availability. "Access to rehabilitation, residential aged care and community outreach programs is an essential component of an efficient and well managed health system," Professor Cameron said.

He also called for better disease prevention strategies. Research had shown increasing flu vaccination uptake in the over-65s to greater than 90 per cent would reduce the need for acute hospitalisation in that age group by up to 40 per cent.


Bureaucrats bleeding the NSW public health system

The Labor Government keeps the shackles on our doctors and nurses and our whole health system is crumbling.... Where does it start? It starts with the Government accepting federal health funding and banking it straight into consolidated revenue and then failing to forward the entirety of that money on to our state healthcare system. They get away with this because long ago the Wran Labor government started voting doctors off hospital boards and kicking them out of hospital administration, working through every hospital in Sydney, and then replacing them all with bureaucrats. Then doctors in the Health Department were also replaced by bureaucrats.

This is dangerous: A bureaucrat's first rule is to look after his own, a creed which begins to explain why today there are 1.8 hospital administrators for every patient. It's why the old nurses' quarters at Royal Prince Alfred, a building that used to be full with 1400 nurses all prepared to tend to our sick, is now wall-to-wall with administrators making economic decisions about our health care. Not a nurse to be seen.

Wran's illusion of care, which has been copied by following state governments, happened so long ago that we have been conditioned to accept it. Much of what truly happens inside hospitals is never discovered because the Government covers its tracks by gagging doctors and leaning over nurses, threatening them with their jobs. "The money is not going where it is needed," a doctor whispered in this ear. "We keep telling the Government this and they keep telling us to get stuffed."

He would speak only under condition of anonymity. Why? Because doctors are gagged by the Government. Any doctor that speaks out is in danger of losing their job. Now some - just some - of the truth can be told. He said patients were being discharged from hospital three and four days after receiving a coronary artery bypass graft. Why? Because the bureaucrats need the beds to meet their bottom line. Who cares if patients still dangerously ill are being told they are ready to go home and are discharged. He said no elective surgery was booked for the days leading up to public holidays like the Easter break. Why? Because penalty rates are too severe. The only theatres kept open are for emergency and casualty patients.

Then he said 30 per cent of beds across Sydney hospitals were closed. Why? Because every bed requires three different nursing shifts and two different doctors, working 12-hour shifts each day. Along with that comes cooks, cleaners, laundry and other ancillary staff. Close one bed down for a day and the bureaucrats save around $1000. lose 50 beds down and they get a call from head office and a recommendation for the next promotion. That is the reward of the loyal bureaucrat, whose god is numbers. They close down as many beds as possible to save money while at the same time discharging patients as soon as possible to increase the turnover . . . and therefore the cash.

And throughout we suffer the great insult - a Federal Government snipping from us a portion of our salaries for the Medicare levy, to support that health system. Money, remember, that goes straight into consolidated revenue and then fails to get redistributed, in its entirety, into state health care. This is the bureaucracy we deal with in government - and it is time for it to stop.

Doctors are tired of sending sick people home early or turning them away. Recently a leading surgeon quit a major public hospital frustrated at being unable to get his patients booked in for operations. "What's relevant is that the Government will not put the money into the system," the doctor whispered.

These are grounds that the next state election should be fought on. No doubt there will be some who will consider it unrealistic, others will say the problems are too deeply entrenched to ever be satisfactorily repaired. But if you can't hope for a better, more humane way you might as well throw it all away.

More here

6 March, 2006

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Does teaching preschoolers about Aboriginal culture or homosexuality make them more `tolerant'? This educator thinks not

There is a strong belief in our culture that 'knowledge is power'. There is a parallel suspicion that those who wish to deny certain knowledge to some people are doing so to protect a powerful group or interest. 'Transparency' is touted as a virtue and the 'right to know' is promoted.

There is no doubt that in some cases information is covered up in order to protect dubious activities. But is it always the case that it is a good idea to 'let it all hang out'?

Educators also have great faith in the power of information to change people in desirable ways. We, and the community at large, believe that knowing more about an issue or a group of people will inevitably lead to more informed attitudes and greater tolerance.

My observations of young children have caused me to doubt the worth of some attempts to increase children's tolerance by increasing their awareness. This occurs when programmes are designed without regard to children's developmental stage. In these circumstances another old saw applies: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

My first inkling that well-meaning education programmes might be doing more harm than good came when my family moved to a country town in Australia that had a large Aboriginal population. I was wandering around the shopping centre with my four-year-old and we encountered some Aboriginal people. My daughter asked why they had dark skin and I said 'because they are Aboriginals'. She proclaimed: 'Aboriginals are yucky.'

I was appalled and astounded, as she had had no contact with Aboriginal people until we moved to the town a month or so before. I asked her why they were 'yucky'. She replied that it was because they eat grubs.

It transpired that her previous preschool had conducted an Aboriginal education programme. Its well-meaning teachers had not considered how the information presented might sound to three- and four-year-old Anglo children, especially the effect that knowing that the Aboriginal diet included witchetty grubs might have on them.

Another example of the backfiring of attempts to educate about human difference is the introduction of very young children to the variety of human sexual practices. The ABC children's television programme Play School has featured gay people and there are any number of well-meaning books with titles like Angie Has Two Daddies.

Anyone who has dealings with infants and primary school-aged children, as a parent, teacher or otherwise, knows that for kids of this age 'kissing' and everything that goes with it is in the same category as eating grubs: it's yucky! This is the case for heterosexual activity and the 'yuck factor' now also extends to homosexual activity, something about which most children of earlier generations knew nothing.

Of course it is not the sexual practices that are taught - but make no mistake, there's enough subterranean knowledge circulating in the playground about what mummies and daddies do to make it plain what daddies and daddies or mummies and mummies might also be doing.

The new awareness has not led to increased tolerance of human variety - rather, my observations indicate that the result is a whole new set of things to be concerned about and an increased collection of nasty names to call people. These days infant school girls call each other 'leso'. I took a straw poll and others agree with me that 'in our day' infants and primary school (or even high school) children did not abuse each other in this fashion.

Thus, far from an increase in tolerance the inappropriate mixing of information about varying sexual practices with lack of cognitive readiness has led to intolerance.

Children decide soon after they start school that teachers are obviously a higher authority than parents, because, for example, notes go home telling parents to do things and parents oblige. This notion can combine with some, again, well-meaning education programmes to cause difficulties. I shall use my youngest child as an example once again.

In her final year of preschool my daughter started to respond to many requests with strident refusals and the insistence that 'I don't have to do what you tell me to/what I don't want to do'. Another moment of astonishment and concern followed for her mother. I tried to get to the bottom of this newfound rebelliousness and discovered that it was her take on the message being purveyed by the anti-child abuse education she had received.

Programmes designed to help children avoid abuse quite rightly do not go into detail about the harm they are designed to prevent, and can quite easily be interpreted as conferring the right to say 'no' to anything that the child does not want to do. My daughter is certainly not the only one who got the wrong message: another mother reported that the result for her son of 'If it doesn't feel right, you can say no' was his refusal to eat peas because 'it doesn't feel right'. He cited his teacher as the authority supporting his defiant stance.

My daughter is now eight but the residual effects of her misunderstanding the point of the anti-abuse education lingers. It is now part of her mindset that she does not have to do what she does not want to do. There is a troubling sense in which such programmes lead to an 'it's all about me' mentality rather than 'I'm part of a family/community' attitudes.

While we understandably want our children and those we teach to be able to look after themselves while being tolerant of others, current attempts to ensure this may be backfiring. It's time to consider whether children are hearing what we are trying to say to them. Or whether it is the case, to quote one of my informants, that 'we've gone from being ignorant even as adults about many matters, not too many generations ago, to being informed but still ignorant at the age of 5'.


The never-ending decline of Australian public education:

One of Victoria's newest government schools is a homework-free zone. Students at Point Cook's Carranballac Prep to Year 9 College are not assigned any homework. Instead, the school's 820 students are encouraged to spend more time with their families including playing board games, gardening and learning how to sew and bake cakes. College director Peter Kearney said he wanted students to bond with their families and improve their general knowledge and lifestyle skills, instead of locking themselves in their bedrooms to do hours of homework.

Mr Kearney said it was "absolute rubbish" to give students as young as Prep daily homework of up to 30 minutes a day as recommended by the Department of Education. He said schools were giving out homework only to "appease parents". "Parents think homework means success, but there's no link between academic performance and homework," he said. "Nine times out of 10 the homework doesn't help kids, it diminishes them." Mr Kearney said the school curriculum belonged in the classroom with students needing to learn from other sources outside school including reading and playing sport. "The world we live in is full of stimulation. We need to have more of a general knowledge and understanding," he said. "Some of the kids in our school thought carrots grew in supermarkets." But Mr Kearney said his school may give some "purposeful" homework to Year 9s next year to prepare them for VCE.

More here


An amusing comment from the Catholic archbishop of Brisbane: "Yes. My father was a bookmaker in Stanthorpe. Not on the right side of the law at that time . . . When I went to Nudgee College, he said: "Mum and I are sending you to college. You may become a doctor or a lawyer, but you must look after Mum and I when we get older." And I said, "Yes, Dad, that sounds reasonable", and then when I decided to become a priest he had a great sense of humour. He looked at me and said, "Well, you're one bloody loser that I backed". Then he made another strange statement, "I don't stand any chance of getting my money back unless you become a bishop." Neither he nor Mum lived to see me a bishop. And it proves that he didn't know much about what a bishop gets paid!

Roadside births soar as wards close: "The number of roadside births in Queensland has soared as maternity wards shut their doors across the state. Thirty-six of Queensland's 84 public maternity wards have closed over the past decade - coinciding with a 70 per cent increase in roadside births since 2001. Latest Queensland Health figures obtained by The Sunday Mail reveal 277 babies were born on the roadside in 2004, up from 162 three years earlier. Lobby group Maternity Coalition state president Bruce Teakle said women were having to travel up to 1000km to have a baby. "It's a huge concern - it's not good enough that on average five women a week give birth on the side of a road," he said. "Women are travelling further in labour, and that means more roadside births. "It's something that can be very distressing, and it's just not a good start to family life".

Why did the taxpayer EVER fund this stuff?: "Patients seeking facelifts, breast and penile enlargements, tattoo removals and liposuction have been banished from the waiting lists at NSW public hospitals. Instead, the 2000 patients awaiting nip'n'tuck cosmetic procedures will be forced to shop around private health facilities to have their operations. "Unless there is a legitimate medical reason, I don't see why NSW taxpayers should be funding these types of surgery," Health Minister John Hatzistergos said. "Most cosmetic surgery should ideally be undertaken within specialist private health facilities. "By reducing clinically unnecessary procedures, doctors will be ensuring more surgery time for people with real health needs," Mr Hatzistergos said. The new elective surgery policy will be announced today by Mr Hatzistergos in a dramatic move to streamline waiting lists and give priority to patients queueing for procedures such as hip and knee replacements, cataract removal and gallstone surgery".

Who cares about the patient in a public hospital? "Vital tests to check for bowel cancer in at-risk Victorians are being secretly cancelled and cut back, surgeons and specialists claim. Investigative colonoscopies were postponed indefinitely by some hospitals last month and scaled back by others, worried doctors said this week. The surveillance procedures are done on Victorians who have a family history of bowel cancer or are considered high risk for other reasons. Surgeons said the procedures were postponed indefinitely at Box Hill, Maroondah and Angliss hospitals in mid-February and scaled back at several others. A specialist said: "People are being left in purgatory -- their procedures are being postponed indefinitely." The surgeons' claims have been backed by the Cancer Council Victoria, with director Prof David Hill saying he had received similar reports. "We are hearing at the coal face that this is happening," Prof Hill said. It is believed cash-strapped hospitals have chosen to drop colonoscopies because it allows them to save money while also appearing to have maintained their care standards".

And the politicians lecture us about using trains instead of cars....: "The State Government promised to ease the squeeze but, as these pictures show, the Brisbane-Gold Coast train still earns its nickname the Bombay Express. Men in suits sit on the dirty floor, while women bring camp chairs and grab every available centimetre of space on crowded morning runs. Some wags suggest it won't be long before passengers clamber up on to the roof - as they do on packed trains in India - in order to get to work in Brisbane... Ms Veale challenged politicians to take the early-morning commute. "They have got no idea. They get chauffeur-driven to work - I'd like to see them stand up on the train for an hour, or worse, sit on the floor."

Fashion fever for Brisbane festival: "Brisbane is set to join the style elite with the launch of a prestigious five-day fashion event. The Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival starts on August 29. "Brisbane is ready for this," event director Lindsay Bennett said. "The festival will promote Brisbane as a city of fashion and style, increase awareness for our local industry and ultimately generate retail sales." The fashion feast will be just in time to launch the summer collections of Queensland and interstate designers..."

Fit runner defies critics in new shoot: "Games star Tamsyn Lewis has revealed cruel taunts about her weight stopped her performing at her best at the Athens Olympics. The runner said the criticism - sparked by her modelling in men's magazines - brought back painful memories of the eating disorders that plagued her teen years. Despite the controversy, Lewis has stripped again for a sexy swimsuit shoot for men's magazine Ralph, which goes on sale tomorrow. "Hopefully this time they (her critics) do not call me fat," Lewis said. "I am sure they will keep their mouths shut this time and if they don't, I don't care. "I only listen to the people who in my mind count." Lewis is aiming for gold in the 400m at the Commonwealth Games. She said the backlash she endured from athletics administrators and identities, after her 2004 pictorial in Ralph magazine, contributed to her poor performance in the 800m at Athens.

5 March, 2006

Paddy Mac knocks 'rubbish' university humanities research projects

The humanities have become so corrupted by nonsense and propaganda they should be thrown out of the contest for public research funding. Paddy McGuinness, the journalist asked by former federal education minister Brendan Nelson to vet "wacky" grants at the Australian Research Council, said the humanities could be excluded from the council's funding scheme with "little loss to society". "The intellectual rigour of the sciences is increasingly absent from the humanities and social sciences," McGuinness writes in this month's issue of Quadrant magazine, which he edits. McGuinness said yesterday he could not talk in detail about the 27 research projects he believed were unworthy to share in November's $370million round of ARC funding.

Dr Nelson vetoed seven projects but did not identify them. "There was a lot of polemical, Windschuttle-the-bastard type stuff, then some very silly feminist and queer studies projects etcetera," McGuinness said, in a reference to revisionist historian Keith Windschuttle, who has challenged the work of a number of prominent academics. "Those from so-called political economists were rubbish," McGuinness said. "There was even somebody wanting to do a thing about Cuba, and what a wonderful place it is."

Some academics criticised the appointment of McGuinness as part of a right-wing political assault on the independence of the ARC. The contrary view is that the council process lacks accountability and is open to cronyism.

McGuinness said he and another outside appointment to the ARC quality and scrutiny committee, former High Court judge Daryl Dawson, had been treated with contempt by the "academic establishment" that ran the committee. "I'm used to academics attacking me but Dawson was very insulted ... he has refused to have anything more to do with it," McGuinness said yesterday. "I don't think I'll be asked (to serve on the committee) again."

Sir Daryl could not be contacted for comment, but a member of the committee, who declined to be named, challenged McGuinness's account. "He must have been at a different meeting ... that wasn't the tenor of the meeting at all." ARC chief executive Peter Hoj said McGuinness was entitled to his views. But Professor Hoj opposed a division between so-called hard and soft disciplines. "It would be counterproductive ... we shouldn't look at technology apart from its social and economic implications," he said. "You just have to think about nanotechnology."

McGuinness said he did not oppose research driven by pure intellectual curiosity but closer scrutiny of research quality was inevitable as universities succumbed to lower standards and managerialism. He said the ARC did a good job in doling out research money for the hard sciences. "There are more objective criteria - it's not just a postmodernist saying postmodernism is wonderful." The ARC system wasted the time of scientists by involving them in the review of humanities proposals, he said. "They don't know what they're doing - they just accept the so-called experts' recommendations. "When the experts are the same kind of people as those they're recommending, it's just mutual back-scratching."


White supremacy in Sydney's backyard

Once a month, the local branch of the Australia First party meets in the backyard of a small house in Tempe, inner-western Sydney, to drink beer, cook sausages and plot the triumph of the white race. Last Saturday, however, was a "special meeting", hosted at home by the party's state co-ordinator, Jim Saleam. Up for debate was how to turn the rollercoaster of publicity received after the Cronulla race riots into a legitimate political campaign.

While Australia First is commonly described as a neo-Nazi party, publicly the party claims it is not a racist organisation. It says it is looking to legitimise itself, eyeing the next local council elections in Cronulla's Sutherland Shire as a starting point.

Privately, the backyard drinkers can't help themselves. Speaking to The Weekend Australian, which attended the meeting using an assumed name, Jeremy Costello recalled a recent drive to Bondi, where he saw a rabbi walking down the road. "We leaned out of the window and shouted 'Sieg heil! Sieg heil!'," he said. "Shit, these rabbis take things seriously."

Mr Costello says the group is serious about its political agenda, and is more than just a group of like-minded souls. "We're not a social club. We get together every week to try to do something," he said. Ultimately, Australia First hopes to emulate the political success of the British National Party and become the acceptable face of Australian racism. But baby steps first. A week from today, the party will begin campaigning on the streets of Cronulla for the 2008 council elections. Neil Baird - a former One Nation party treasurer and failed federal election candidate who now sees Australia First as his best shot - will try for local office. Cronulla, they believe, is their big chance.

The party is proud of its role in what happened on December 11, when they called on "patriotic people" to join "this first great mobilisation of Australians against the terror of multiculturalist ideology and practice in this country's history". It worked. After the riots, Mr Costello said, people started talking about Australia First. "Before Cronulla we were nothing. That put us on the agenda. That was our breakthrough," he said. The Cronulla effect was also felt outside the party. That same Saturday, the city of Newcastle hosted the first Australian "Blood and Honour" white power gig in years, where a local band, Blood Red Eagle, played on a stage decorated with swastikas.

Australia First's president Diane Teesdale, from Shepparton, Victoria, denies the party is racist. "Australia should remain predominantly white. That is party policy, but I don't think that makes us racist," she said.

Last Tuesday, Dr Saleam was invited to address a meeting of the Conservative Speakers Club in Strathfield, western Sydney. After his speech, the first question from his audience was: "Jim, how long before we get a decent government, one that will bring back white immigration, national service and get these young punks into line?"

As well as campaigning in Cronulla, the party also hopes to set up branches in Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast and Wollongong, south of Sydney, as well as sub-branches in Sydney's western suburbs and Campbelltown. Existing branches operate in Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle and Brisbane. Since the December 11 Cronulla riots, other more extreme groups have been torn about whether to get behind Australia First or stick to their own agendas. Australia's racist community has been discussing whether to unite behind the party.

One of these is the White Crusaders of the RaHoWa, or Racial Holy War, run from an Oaklands Park post office box in South Australia by the organisation's "Kommandant", "Reverend" Colin Campbell III. The White Crusaders are a religious movement based on the teachings of the self-titled "Pontifex Maximus" Ben Klassen, currently serving 40 years in a US jail for soliciting the murder of a judge. The group believes "the white race is nature's finest". Its "Sixteen Commandments" state: "Remember that the inferior mud races are our deadly enemies, and the most dangerous of all is the Jewish race. It is our immediate objective to relentlessly expand the White Race, and keep shrinking our enemies." The church has its own wedding and "child pledging" ceremonies, while its website contains fairy tales to teach children "white racial pride". Like many other extremist groups, however, internal divisions both internationally and in Australia mean the Crusader's numbers are limited. While Mr Campbell claims to be the organisation's second-in-command, he has authority over little more than a few scattered groups around the world. This same factionalism exists, too, within the more established parties.

Since February, Dr Saleam has been asked not to attend meetings of the NSW branch of One Nation. Jim Cassidy, One Nation state president, said this was because of Dr Saleam's past connections to "white supremacist" organisations. "We're not interested in going down that road and never have been," he said.

The authorities, too, are cracking down on extreme right-wing groups. The South Australian police are investigating whether the White Crusaders website breaches any laws. After Cronulla, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation launched an investigation into a number of racist groups thought to have had a role in the violence. Dr Saleam, jailed in 1991 for organising a shotgun attack on the home of the African National Congress's Australian representative, Eddie Funde, now has to contend with stickers put up on his street calling him a pedophile.

Jeremy Costello has seen his phone number among graffiti near his home, along with a message saying he is available for gay sex. When contacted by The Weekend Australian for this article, both Dr Saleam and Mr Costello refused to comment. Despite this, Australia's extremists still believe they have a political future in this country. One, anonymous, posting on the "white nationalist" Stormfront Downunder internet forum, called for an end to the factionalism that has defeated the movement in the past. "We must imitate those already in government in terms of appearance, manner, and promotion," it said. "(Our message) must be marketed, it must be refined, it must have the support of intellectuals, white- and blue-collar, the faithful and the faithless. The last two months have done more for Australian nationalism than the last 10 years combined."


Queensland hospital bed crisis continues despite political hot air

As Premier Peter Beattie announced on Thursday that Queensland's health system had "turned the corner", 49 Queenslanders were on hospital gurneys in emergency departments statewide, waiting for proper beds. This was in spite of Queensland Health data showing that during the last six months of 2005 the five Brisbane public hospitals admitted fewer patients than in the same period in 2004. Admissions to the Mater General, for example, were down almost 20 per cent. The data shows all five hospitals have been operating at peak capacity for most of the past week. Statewide, this has contributed to dozens of patients every day being forced to wait in hospital emergency departments while staff struggle to find beds for them. Yesterday 64 people were waiting for beds; on Wednesday (the day before Mr Beattie's declaration) 72 were in limbo across the state.

So urgent has the demand for beds become that management at Queensland's largest hospital, the Royal Brisbane and Women's, has told staff to move discharged patients into a transit lounge to free beds, and that beds are not to stay vacant longer than 30 minutes. The situation is not confined to Brisbane, with most regional hospitals also forced to accommodate people in emergency departments while staff look for beds.

The number of public hospital beds in Queensland dropped from 10,115 in 1994-95 to 9340 in 2004-05. In this time Queensland's population grew by 25 per cent. The bed shortage is likely to hit the politically sensitive issue of elective-surgery waiting lists harder. Two new studies to appear tomorrow in The Medical Journal of Australia have found hospital and emergency department overcrowding to be associated with increased mortality; and show the hospital bed closures have resulted in hospital occupancies over 95 per cent.

Mr Beattie yesterday continued to defend his proclamation that the state's health system had "turned the corner". He said securing new pay deals for doctors and nurses was "absolutely fundamental" to turning the corner to improve health. "If you haven't got doctors and nurses it doesn't matter how many beds you've got you'll never reduce waiting times," he said. "The core issue here was to get a pay package that satisfied our doctors and satisfied our nurses. They were the two big challenges - and to make sure, we trained more doctors for the future." Mr Beattie said hospital bed numbers and waiting lists were among the "longterm, systemic" issues that would take time to resolve because of Queensland's population growth. "That's why we had a five-year plan," he said.

Queensland Opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said all of Queensland's major hospitals "are suffering serious bed shortages that is causing a critical situation of access-block in emergency departments". "Clearly Queensland Health has not turned the corner, and Mr Beattie should be ashamed of himself for trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Queenslanders," Dr Flegg said. Australian Medical Association Queensland president Steve Hambleton said yesterday that "the health system is nowhere near fixed yet". He said the $1 billion pay rise over the next three years, given to nurses this week, was "recognition of their value to the system, but the money was not a solution alone". "Fixing Queensland's health system will depend on the co-operation of all those in the health profession," Dr Hambleton said.



New air 'force' to help net illegal fishermen: "Illegal fishermen are plundering Australian waters of everything from reef fish and sharks to dolphins and turtles. More than 120,000kg of fish have been seized from illegal boats in the past three years, including large hauls of red emperor and sea cucumbers. The illegal-catch figures emerged as the Australian Customs Service announced a $1 billion contract to provide more effective aerial surveillance of Australia's coastline... More than 35 sightings of illegal fishing boats are reported in Australian waters every day. Last year, there were 13,018 sightings of foreign fishing vessels, up 35 per cent on 2004.... Customs Minister Chris Ellison yesterday said the new air surveillance fleet would include six Dash 8-202 aircraft and Dash 8-315 longer endurance aircraft, all fitted with improved electro-optics, infrared sensors and radar. "The improved sensors carried by these aircraft will also enable crews to detect significantly smaller targets and allow detection of targets at a greater range," he said. The new contract, which takes effect from 2008, will run for 12 years. "This fleet forms a vital part of the Government's capacity to detect and deter such illegal activities as drug and people smuggling, illegal fishing and environmental offences around Australia, particularly across our northern coastline," Mr Ellison said. The influx in illegal fishing sightings has been accompanied by an increase in seizures of illegal fishing vessels, but the Government concedes its ability to deter the intruders is being hampered by legal restraints. Australia is signatory to a fisheries convention which prohibits illegal fishermen being jailed.

Drug monopolies under threat: "A cloud is hanging over the minds of Australia's drug company bosses - a long white one. Radical proposals to drive down the cost of Australia's $6 billion a year Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by incorporating elements of the New Zealand system have got the industry up in arms. Drug makers claim the consequences of such a move could make things worse, not better, for patients - by making market conditions uneconomic and ensuring some more expensive medicines used by small patient groups never reach these shores.... The PBS pays subsidies for expensive medicines, meaning patients fork out less than $30 for drugs sometimes costing up to $5000 for a single supply.... In New Zealand, companies are asked to tender to supply a drug to the government-funded scheme; the company that offers the lowest price gets the deal, in exchange for exclusivity - which often means just one drug available for each condition or disease. A carbon-copy of the New Zealand Pharmac scheme is considered a political impossibility in Australia, as it would amputate too many of the 2600-plus medicines funded under the PBS, which is also highly popular and has been going for over 50 years. But some form of tendering is being seriously looked at; Laming describes it as "the common denominator" of reform proposals. Under one plan, whenever a brand name drug's patent expires - the point at which generic manufacturers are able to start offering copycat versions - a tendering process would begin to find the generic maker willing to provide it at the lowest price. While the more expensive brand name versions would still be available, the PBS would share the savings with patients, who would be encouraged to ask their doctor and pharmacist for the generic by a dramatically lower co-payment (which could be cut by as much as half, saving around $15 a pop for general patients)... GMIA's president, John Montgomery, says such as scheme would prove a red carpet to third-world generics manufacturers, who would have "nothing to lose by offering to supply a drug to the Government at an impossibly low price"...

Surfwear big business in Oz: "Doug Spong hobbles into his new $15 million global headquarters in his standard business attire - boardshorts, T-shirt and thongs - his thinning hair tied back in a ponytail.... Spong is a fun-loving guy but he's deadly serious about turning his fledgling business, Cult Industries, into one of the world's top five surfing companies, up there with the multimillion-dollar global corporations Quiksilver, Rip Curl and the ASX-listed, Gold Coast-based Billabong International. The size of this lucrative pool was evident this week when Billabong founder Gordon Merchant, who started the company with his wife cutting boardshorts on the kitchen table in 1973, sold 5 per cent of his stake in the company for a cool $200 million. Unlike the reaction when former managing director Matthew Perrin offloaded 8 million shares for $66 million in 2002 without informing the board and just three days after an upbeat investor roadshow, the Merchant sale did not depress the market. Analysts say there remains significant growth in the global surfwear market. "The great thing about Billabong is its wonderful brand name and very strong management team," ABN Amro Morgans chief Tim Crommelin said of the resilience of the stock this week.... While the Billabongs and Quiksilvers and Rip Curls have taken more than 30 years to get where they are, Spong is proud of the fact that he has built an international brand in just four years, and is already exporting to 24 countries. His competitors are not afraid of the competition, shrugging off the threat as they continue to reap millions of dollars from an ever increasing global market".

Wards closed as virus strikes children: "Hospitals are normally where sick people go to be treated, not to become sicker. But Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital yesterday confirmed five children had caught a debilitating virus during their stay in the hospital which forced the closure of two wards. Transmitted from person to person by direct contact, eating or drinking infected foods and liquids or touching contaminated surfaces, the norovirus produces symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting and/or stomach cramps. Most symptoms last for up to three days but can be contagious for at least 48 hours. Next to the common cold, norovirus is the planet's most widespread illness but there's no vaccine available and no preventative medicine. Mater Hospital director Jenny King yesterday said the virus was hard to contain as it usually took 48 hours to exhibit symptoms and by then the disease was able to be transmitted further."

4 March, 2006

An ethnic joke!

You have to have a good memory of recent Australian history to get all of this:

It was the first day of school and a new student named Huong, the son of a Vietnamese businessman, entered year four in Australia.

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some Australian history. Who said, "Vinegar Hill!"?

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Huong, "Captain Henry Ross,Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, 1854." He said.

"Very good! Who said 'We shall form a Commonwealth and govern from Canberra'?"

Again, no response except from Huong: "General Sir John Monash,1915.", said Huong.

The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed. Huong, who is new to our country, knows more about its history than you do."

She heard a loud whisper: "Screw the Vietnamese."

"Who said that?" she demanded.

Huong put his hand up. "Bruce Ruxton, 1975."

At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke."

The teacher glares and asks "All right! Now, who said that?"

Again, Huong says, "Paul Keating, meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, 1991."

Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!"

Huong jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, "Gareth Evans, to Cheryl Kernot, 1999!"

Now with almost mob hysteria someone said, "You little shit. If you say anything else, I'll kill you."

Huong frantically yells at the top of his voice, "Peter Reith to Rear Admiral Chris Ritchie at the "children overboard" enquiry, 2001."

The teacher fainted.

And as the class gathered around the teacher on the floor, someone said, "Oh shit, we're in BIG trouble!"

and Huong said, "Ansett Australia, 2002."

Value of university study questioned

Double masters graduate Meagan Phillipson claims university was the worst investment she has made. After eight years of study and accumulating a $20,000 HECS [tuition fee] debt, Meagan says she can't find a job. Universities should be clearer in their statistics on graduate employment, she says.

We asked readers if they thought university was a waste of time and money. We were flooded with responses, many from irate graduates or tradespeople who are raking it in. Many of you slammed Meagan for choosing an arts degree, saying she should have had more realistic expectations of her job prospects. Others said they valued their time at uni but wouldn't have had a hope in the real world if they hadn't kept a foot in the job market. Ed wrote: "My university degree would have been useless had I not complemented it with years of work experience".

Some questioned the value of going to university to raise job prospects - instead of for the learning experience. "I feel as if all of Generation Y has been brainwashed by the idea that if you don't go to uni you're a loser; quite the opposite actually," Leila wrote. "It's the tradesmen who left in Year 10 who are making six figures thanks to a critical shortage of skilled people."

Reader Nelly said unis had to give students more information about the job prospects in their chosen field, "so that they can make an informed decision whether to complete the course or not". But other readers, such as Yuan, said it was up to the individual to find job opportunities. "University is definitely worth it ... You need to stop expecting to be spoon fed and relying too much on info from the advisers."

While Louise raised a tough catch-22: "As a recent graduate with 2 degrees and a diploma and just into my 2nd year in an entry-level position, I will say that I have learnt more from being in the workforce for 12 months than I did my years of education, but without my education I would never have gotten this position."

Finally, readers such as LTJ brought a harsh dose of reality to the debate, : "Swallow your pride, get a job that you are overqualified for, do the leg work for a year or two - if you're cute, your ascension will be ever faster

More here


Row over foreign worker threat: "A row has erupted in a central Queensland city over local frustrations with foreign workers who cannot speak English. The debate has been sparked by a 21-year-old shopkeeper who has publicly threatened to bar people who do not speak English at his Rockhampton outlet. Dean Ruff, who owns the Kalka Bait and Tackle shop, said today he no longer wanted migrants in his store if they did not attempt to communicate in English. The shop is near the Teys Brothers Meatworks, among the biggest abattoirs in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest employers in Rockhampton. He said he had lost patience with the mainly Vietnamese migrant workers whom he said put no effort into trying to speak English. "I treat everybody equally, I am not a racist, I do believe in equality," Mr Ruff told AAP today. "But there's people at the meatworks there that aren't communicating and not trying to communicate." But acting Rockhampton mayor Jim Webber said Mr Ruff's threats would not be tolerated. "There is no excuse whatsoever for that sort of intolerance," Mr Webber said. However, Mr Webber said the incident was symptomatic of a wider problem, as the skills shortage meant more migrant workers were needed in Australia. "Unfortunately right throughout Australia today, we do see a bit of an uprising because other people are forcing their culture on to us instead of accepting our culture," he said. "I think we need to look at it as a warning signal and look at ways of handling it."

African refugees already forming criminal gangs in Melbourne: "Race-based gangs who bash their victims to steal wallets and mobile phones are moving from the suburbs into the city's entertainment district.... One hot spot is Flemington-Ascot Vale, where groups of African youths have been blamed for a string of attacks on pedestrians, convenience stores and service stations. Twenty robberies have been reported in recent months. "The public are sick of it and are living in fear," one officer said. Police say African gangs are moving into the CBD, in particular Crown casino and Southbank Boulevard. The gangs, armed with anything from machetes, samurai swords and knives to baseball bats and batons, are also becoming more violent. "It's been luck more than good management that no one's been seriously injured," said Det-Sgt Paul Lunt, of the Region 3 robbery taskforce.... A southeastern suburbs police source said there had been a spate of street robberies and assaults by race-based gangs in Springvale and Dandenong. "They stay in their ethnic groups," the source said. "Some are becoming more brazen as they realise what they can get away with, and the fact the cops are not allowed to give them a smack over the ear." Another police source said African youth gangs in the western suburbs were becoming more violent. "A lot of African refugees are housed there," he said"

What a lot of crap! "The Federal Government is to pay $400,000 compensation to an 11-year-old Iranian boy who suffered psychological harm in two Australian detention centres, a spokeswoman for the boy's lawyers said. Shayan Badraie sued the immigration department on the grounds he was psychologically harmed while living in Woomera and Villawood detention centres between 2000 and 2002. After months of hearings in the Supreme Court in Sydney, the boy's legal team, Maurice Blackburn Cashman lawyers, accepted a settlement offer of $400,000 made yesterday by Government solicitors, the spokeswoman said. The settlement is due to be ratified in the same court today at 10am (AEDT). The spokeswoman said the family, who lives in Sydney, has also this week been granted permanent Australian residency visas".

"God Save the Queen" to be played at games: "Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will sing about eight bars of God Save The Queen in a musical tribute to Her Majesty at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. But ceremony organisers deny the move is a compromise following mounting calls, backed by Prime Minister John Howard, for the British national anthem to be played when Queen Elizabeth opens the Games on March 15. Games organisers have resisted the calls, saying they have the backing of Buckingham Palace to play only Advance Australia Fair. However, opening and closing ceremonies artistic director Andrew Walsh said the musical number, including the bars from God Save The Queen, had been decided months ago. "It's not something we've suddenly thrown in ... we just didn't reveal what she was doing," he said. "(The Queen) is the head of state of Australia, and as such we want to respect that and we want to honour her pending status as an octogenarian.... Yesterday, Mr Howard, backed by avowed republican Senator Vanstone, said playing God Save The Queen in the presence of the monarch was protocol and "just good manners".

3 March, 2006

A centre-Left comment on a significant Australian anniversary

The comment below from The Times of London is accurate and informative as far as it goes but it is very light on Howard's achievements -- his reform of the tax system to restore some incentive and his helping to break the paralysing grip of the far-Left maritime unions, for instance. Making unionists do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay would never have occurred to any Leftist

At dawn each day John Howard goes for a brisk walk. By the time he has finished breakfast he has read the daily newspapers and absorbed several radio news bulletins. This early morning drill would tax most people's stamina. But Mr Howard, 66, who celebrates a decade as Australia's Prime Minister today, is showing no signs of slowing down. "I still have enormous enthusiasm for the job," he said.

Having won four elections leading Australia's centre-right Liberal party, Mr Howard remains popular despite being the country's second-longest serving Prime Minister after Robert Menzies. His critics have derided him as a "suburban solicitor" bereft of the charm expected of national leaders. Upon becoming Prime Minister in 1996 his most memorable promise was to make Australians feel "comfortable."

While Britain had Thatcherism and the US had Reaganomics, there is no equivalent phrase to depict Mr Howard's rule. Hugh Mackay, the social commentator, said: "The key to Howard's appeal lies in his very lack of charisma." Mr Howard has described himself as "an average Australian bloke." He is as comfortable with barbeques, cricket, annual seaside holidays and brisk walks in bright tracksuits like no Prime Minister before him.

At the same time, he has redrawn the conventional political lines in Australia by pushing ideas based around social conservatism, economic liberalism and cultural nationalism. In a famous example, responding to a boatload of asylum seekers during in 2001, Mr Howard said: "We will decide who comes to this country."

Few [on the Left] doubt his comment was aimed at stoking fears of illegal immigrants taking local jobs. The most profound result of such politicking has been the shift of working class voters to Mr Howard. This voter is typified by Australia's folklore "battler", the Mr Average who defies the odds to make a living and raise his family.

Moreover, "Howard's "battlers" have been carved out of the vote base of the Australian Labor Party, the traditional party representing the working class. The Labor Party's troubles - it commands less than 40 per cent of the vote - has given Mr Howard's Government a spring in its step as it celebrates a decade in power.

Yesterday, however, Mr Howard reportedly warned Government members not to let the celebrations go to their heads. "Once the Australian people get a whiff that we have tickets on ourselves, we're dead," Mr Howard said.

.... the Howard Government can count on one thing to sustain its longevity: economic growth. Australia's economy is entering its 15th year of expansion, thanks lately to China's insatiable demand for Australian raw materials. During Mr Howard's watch, average male weekly earnings have risen from A$776 to $A1,148 and personal tax rates have fallen for middle income earners.

Dads to pay less, mums to pay more

More than half the nation's separated fathers will pay less child support under an $850 million overhaul that rewards them for spending a day a week with their kids. But around 40-45 per cent of separated dads - those with teenagers - could end up paying more under a new system that recognises the higher costs of older children. Custodial parents with children aged under 12 will be worse off under the child support changes announced yesterday. And many wealthy fathers earning over $104,702 a year will pay less in child support.

The Government says the changes will benefit children, but mothers like Kelly McConnell, who make up 90 per cent of primary carers, fear they will lose money and their children will suffer. "The changes make it easier for fathers to shirk their responsibility while punishing mothers trying to raise their children alone," the 19-year-old single mother from Penrith said.

The major overhaul of child support will affect the payment levels of almost every one of the 726,000 families using the system. Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said just 40 families would remain unaffected by the changes. The overhaul will begin from July this year but fathers groups are angry that the big changes to the formula will not take effect until July 2008, after the next election.

The new child support formula will determine the costs of raising children, then distribute these costs between the mother and father on the basis of their income and the amount of time they spend with the children. Fathers who spend a day a week with their children will have their child support payments cut by 24 per cent under the new formula.

More of the mother's income will be taken into account when dividing the costs of the children. Currently the mother's income only reduces child support payments once she earns over $41,881. From July 2008 any income she earns over $16,883 a year will be taken into account.

The new system will be more generous to some children in new relationships who will be treated the same way as children in the first family. But around 105,000 self-employed fathers who minimise their income to avoid child support will have to pay $20 per child per week, up from $5 currently. Unemployed separated fathers will have to pay an extra $1 a week in child support from July, up from $5. However, if these fathers spend a day a week with their children the Government will increase their welfare payments by $16.50 a week from July 2006.

Family and Community Services Minister Mal Brough refused to detail the winners and losers from the new system yesterday. However, Sole Parents Unions spokeswoman Kathleen Swinbourne estimated low-income mothers with a child under the age of 12 could lose around $30 a week under the changes. The mother in this case would get a small amount of extra Family Tax Benefit to compensate her. The same mother would gain around an extra $20 a week in child support if the child is aged 13-18 but she would lose this amount plus a further $10 a week if the father saw the child a day a week. Sole parents groups have already begun lobbying for the planned changes to be rolled back



An internet browsing fee??? "Schools have warned they will have to turn off the internet if a move by the nation's copyright collection society forces them to pay a fee every time a teacher instructs students to browse a website. Teachers said students in rural areas would bear the brunt of cuts if the Copyright Agency was successful in adding internet browsing charges to the $31 million in photocopying fees it rakes in from schools. The agency calculates the total due by randomly sampling schools each year for materials they copy, and extrapolating the results. The battle between the schools and the agency will go to the Federal Court over its attempts to make schools pay for asking students to use the web. Negotiations between the Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, representing the schools, and the agency have broken down over plans to change the scheme to include a question in the survey on whether teachers direct students to use the internet".

If an illegal immigrant won't say who he is, the government will release him!: "A mystery man who has insisted he is in Australia illegally has been released from detention after after 3 years because the Immigration Department failed to prove his illegal status.... The release in Sydney of the man, officially tagged "Mr X", coincided with the disclosure of a second case revealing that it took the department 4 years to identify a man kept in detention for that time. Both men, of Asian appearance, were detained in Sydney. The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, informed Parliament yesterday that Mr X was released two weeks ago, on legal advice, even though official assessment favoured the view that he was an unlawful non-citizen.... When Mr X was asked his identity, he had said "It's a secret" and that he was unlawfully in Australia. "Mr X's case worryingly suggests, as noted in the Palmer report on Ms Rau, that there are systemic failures in the way that [the department] investigates the circumstances of individuals who are unco-operative or confusing in disclosing their identity," Professor McMillan said. Even though Mr X had regular visitors, little effort was made to get information from them until last year, the Ombudsman said. Mr X did not fully co-operate with health practitioners, who were unable to diagnose whether he was mentally ill".

Lesbian (?) sports officials don't like mothers: "A champion netballer could be banned from the Commonwealth Games village because she wants to express milk for her baby son. Janine Ilitch is under pressure to give up breastfeeding before the Games begin, even though her baby will not be in the village with her. Ilitch wants to feed baby Heath by using a breast pump throughout the 10-day tournament. Team officials have voiced concerns to her. However, the mother of two said it was her right and was prepared to take her own expressed milk into the village.... But Australian coach Norma Plummer said facilities may not be appropriate.... "It's a delicate issue. She told us she wouldn't be breastfeeding and that's the problem," Plummer said. "I can't promise her anything because we haven't seen the layout or what's available. "We don't have our own bedrooms and facilities. It's not that easy. "There are also other people to consider. "There's not a lot of room and the players might need their rest and she is in there expressing (breast milk)." [How awful!]

2 March, 2006


Conservative wimp: "The Liberal MP charged with selling the Howard Government's message on multiculturalism has been embarrassed by his own branch members distributing the cartoon of Mohammed that sparked deadly protests worldwide. Andrew Robb, the federal member for the Victorian seat of Goldstein and recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, confirmed yesterday that he demanded action after his Brighton party branch distributed the offending images. The 200-strong Brighton branch published the offending cartoons in an email newsletter just days before violent protests over the images in Nigeria in which 16 people were killed. Mr Robb, who coincidentally spent yesterday in talks with Muslim leaders in Canberra, told The Australian that email distribution of the Mohammed cartoons was "offensive". In a letter to Victorian Liberal Party state director Julian Sheezel, Mr Robb, a former federal Liberal Party director, demanded "appropriate action" be taken over the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. "It's provocative and offensive. I feel strongly that the attachment runs counter to the advice of the Prime Minister that the right to freedom of speech is an essential right, but one which must be exercised responsibly and sensitively," he wrote.

Yuk! Single white feminist seeks Aussie mate: "Two things you need to know about Maureen Dowd: first, she's single-handedly responsible for raising feminism from the dead. Second, the defining drive in her life has been the search for the elusive Australian male. I know this because the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times - and now internationally bestselling author - said so yesterday. In Sydney to promote her book Are Men Necessary? (the question mark, she emphasises, "is really very important"), Dowd is still bemused and amused by the feminist frenzy that followed the publication last year of her witty and anarchic look at the gender tangle. Women didn't get the irony at all, she says with eyebrows arched, "but men - they saw the mischief, and the fun". The trouble is, she drawls, "feminists didn't know they were dead, and they resented me telling them this. Although my book does seem to have given them new life"... "If only they knew," she says. "When I was 20, I fell in love with an Australian hotel manager in Dublin called Rowan. After that, I wanted to emigrate to Australia but my parents made me go home instead. "Now I'm here at last. And if they can take a strong, sassy, saucy woman, Australian men should please apply"

Sex crims face 'indefinite sentences': "Women and children will be protected by new laws enabling authorities to keep serious sex offenders behind bars indefinitely, NSW Premier Morris Iemma says. Under legislation to be introduced during parliament's current sittings, applications can be made to the Supreme Court to extend prison sentences for the state's most dangerous sexual predators if they pose a community threat. Mr Iemma said the government was taking a tough stance against criminals who demonstrated no hope of rehabilitation. "It is about protecting the innocent and the vulnerable in our community, particularly women and children," Mr Iemma said. "There is a category of criminal that refuses to show remorse or participate in rehabilitation programs and threatens continuing sexually predatory behaviour on release." Mr Iemma refused to say how many prisoners would be subject to the new laws. He said under the legislation, now operating in both Victoria and Queensland, the Supreme Court would be able to order continued detention or the extended supervision of people outside of prison.

Incorrect to mention ethnic politics "Health Minister Tony Abbott has been forced to withdraw comments after asking whether there were any Australians left in the Labor Party. Opposition MPs booed and jeered in Question Time after Mr Abbott referred to Cambodian, Vietnamese, Spanish and Greek Labor Party members - then asked where the Australians were. A day after defending multiculturalism in a newspaper column, Mr Abbott questioned the ethnic branch-stacking in the Victorian ALP, where several sitting members in safe seats are facing preselection challenges. Labor's Bob Sercombe yesterday pulled out of the pre-selection race for his seat of Maribyrnong, conceding he could not win. Six other MPs also face challenges, including Simon Crean who is under pressure from union boss Martin Pakula in the Melbourne seat of Hotham. "Mr Pakula may be very appealing to Cambodian speaking people who are just two per cent of the electorate of Hotham but they're 30 per cent of the Labor pre-selectors of Hotham," Mr Abbott said. "I'm reading in The Australian last Friday, he's (Mr Crean) still got the Greek branches but he's lost the Spanish branches and he's lost the Vietnamese branches as well as the Cambodian branches. "And I couldn't help but think - are there any Australians left in the so-called Australian Labor Party today?"

Pole dancers shafted: "A tax crackdown on pole dancers has suprised some - because they say payments are mainly made by credit cards. More than 50 pole dancing clubs have been contacted by the Australian Tax Office as part of blitz on Australia's estimated $18 billion black economy. Some of the clubs received "unannounced visits" as part of the crackdown. The owner of Twin Peeks Lingerie Restaurant in Woolloomooloo, Sharon, said her clientele - mainly businessmen - used credit cards to pay for a $95 dinner and show. "With us it's mostly credit cards, not cash - cash is definitely not a large portion. "We were audited by the tax office last year and it was fine.... Another source, who has been in the adult entertainment industry for almost 20 years, said she and her colleagues all paid tax. "I've done a lot of different things in that time. I've done full body massage, full service sex work, lingerie waitressing, jelly wrestling, group striptease, pole dancing and bachelor birthday parties. I've paid tax on all of it," said the 34-year-old, who asked not to be named. "To the best of my knowledge all of the (adult industry) companies pay tax. I don't know about the working girls on the street (but) all of the companies pay tax." An ATO spokeswoman said the adult industry had been classified "high-risk" by the cash economy compliance team. during its 2004-05 program.

Back to basics in Queensland education?

Must be an election coming up!

Queensland state schools will put a new emphasis on reading, grammar and spelling from Prep to Year 9. Education Minister Rod Welford announced details of a new strategy to boost literacy levels in Queensland schools. Mr Welford said the plan, Literacy - the Key to Learning: Framework for Action 2006-2008, was a practical response to community concerns about literacy. The minister said that in his experience, literacy skills were "patchy".

Mr Welford said literacy skills would no longer be just the responsibility of English teachers. All teachers, regardless of subject, would receive ongoing professional development in teaching literacy skills because science, mathematics, technology and other teachers had to share the task of instilling good communication skills. "It is essential we give every student from Prep to Year 12 the best chance to master literacy so they can meet the challenges of 21st century life," Mr Welford said. "The plan recognises that quality teaching can make the single-biggest difference to students' literacy outcomes. "It will ensure every classroom teacher from Prep to Year 9 has intensive training in the teaching of literacy, including the teaching of reading, grammar and spelling."

Asked if this meant that students would no longer come home from school with written work corrected by teachers that ignored significant and repeated spelling and grammatical errors, the minister said: "It does."

Mr Welford said he also liked the idea of age-appropriate booklists being made available to families through schools so parents knew what to buy or borrow to help their children enjoy a wide range of quality books to boost their reading skills. Mr Welford said the plan recognised that many children attending state schools were from diverse backgrounds and may need tailored assistance. He said the plan was part of a wider strategy to improve student learning. "We've had the Queensland Studies Authority looking at the 'essentials' that all students should be learning in Years 1 to 10," he said. "This initiative will address concerns by parents and teachers about the crowded curriculum by focusing on the work that is most important to student learning."

A new student reporting system, currently being finalised, would be trialled in schools later this year and would be implemented in all schools in 2008. Mr Welford said this would set out standards in different subjects for different age groups - for example, Year 5 maths students should be able to divide and multiply numbers up to 12 - and let parents know precisely what their students were achieving.


A science advisor who knows what he is talking about

Australia's new chief scientist is an award-winning molecular plant science expert who preaches the benefits of genetically modified foods. After a nine-month search to fill the vacant post, CSIRO scientist Jim Peacock, 68, will take on the role of the nation's top adviser on science. Former chief scientist Robin Batterham resigned in May after a storm of controversy over his part-time role and claims of a conflict of interest with his private-sector employment as chief technologist at mining giant Rio Tinto.

Mr Peacock is almost certain to take on the job full-time after previously criticising Mr Batterham's part-time role. Described as one of the CSIRO's "living treasures", Mr Peacock led one of the organisation's most successful sections, the plant industry division, for 25 years. He has scotched arguments that GM crops could become eco-vandals by rejecting claims genes could "jump the fence" and infect neighbouring crops with GM-modified genes.

One of his passions is the secrets behind the genes that control when a plant flowers the key to developing GM crops. Last year, the agri-scientist warned that state government bans on the planting of GM canola crops were costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports. 'We can change our foods so that our most common staple foods will help guard against the onset of these diseases and will make a significant contribution to reducing the enormous expenditure of therapeutic medicine," he told the National Press Club at the time. "Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century. If the important starch component of these cereals had a low glycemic index, we would be a long way to reducing the incidence and severity of diabetes."

Mr Peacock was also a co-recipient of the inaugural Prime Minister's Science Prize in 2000 and is a member of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. In 2004, Mr Peacock slammed the Howard Government's attempts to back money-spinning science at the expense of basic, "public good" research. As president of the Australian Academy of Science, Mr Peacock has also argued the position should be full-time to ensure the chief scientist could advise the government without any suggestion of bias.


1 March, 2006

Australia's conservative youth

Before John Howard, the notion that young people leaned to the left was largely unchallenged. The youth vote was the dominant force that propelled Gough Whitlam into power in the 1972 "It's Time" election and stayed with Labor throughout the Hawke and Keating years. By 2004, however, when Howard won his fourth election, the ground had shifted dramatically. Less than a third of young people -- 32 per cent -- voted for Mark Latham, while 41 per cent went with Howard. Even allowing for the 17 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted for the Greens, the uncomfortable truth for the Opposition was that, for the first time since reliable age-specific polling began, less than half of young people were voting for candidates from the Left.

Howard's policies were hardly tailored to young people. He spoke for the middle class, caring more for business than for endangered marsupials. Young people would be expected to work for the dole, and Howard was stridently opposed to student unionism, indeed to all compulsory unionism, and to the republic. Under Howard's Government, HECS fees have doubled. Yet Howard has, over the past 10 years, been utterly transformed in the eyes of the young. To the horror of many baby boomers, Howard's new constituency, the "young fogies", adore him the way their parents loved to smoke dope.

Howard's position as Prime Minister of choice for people aged 18 to 24 became apparent during the 1998 election when Labor arguably misread the mood of the electorate on such issues as immigration. Many voters, particularly in Queensland, abandoned the ALP (and the Nationals) for Pauline Hanson's One Nation. In the aftermath, some in Labor concluded that the result was an aberration but, in a Newspoll taken in June 1999, a year after the election, young people confirmed their preference for conservative politics. The Australian's political editor Dennis Shanahan wrote that the "young fogies" had poured across to the Coalition "and deserted Labor so dramatically that there has been a complete reversal of support for the ALP". "The youngest voters are now the Coalition's second-strongest area of support, behind its traditional power base of the over-50s," Shanahan noted.

The results were confirmed in the 2001 election when a Morgan poll found that 18 to 24-year-olds voting in that election gave Labor their primary vote at a rate of only 1.2 per cent more than the general population. By comparison, in 1990, young people gave Labor their primary vote by 10.4 per cent more than the general population.

In October 2004 -- the election that would give the Coalition historic control of both chambers -- the "young fogies" of generations X and Y again deserted Labor. Clive Bean of the Queensland University of Technology, one of the principal investigators in the Australian Election Study of voting behaviour conducted after each poll, told The Australian in 2005 that it might have been the first time more young people voted Liberal than Labor. The trend was particularly noticeable among young men, 49 per cent of whom voted for Howard, compared with only 28 per cent who voted Labor. In the 25 to 30 age group, an overwhelming 62 per cent of men voted for Howard, compared with 27 per cent for Latham.....

According to Ian Manning of National Economics: "You do get the feeling that forgoing worldly ambition for the sake of having kids is gradually coming back into favour. In the past, people have said, 'Oh, I can't have a baby yet, I've got to pursue my career'. But maybe it's become socially acceptable to say, 'No, I'd rather have a family'." The Democrats' 2005 youth poll, based on a survey that is distributed to secondary schools, TAFE, universities, youth, and church and community groups across Australia, found that 64 per cent of students viewed family as the most important issue in their lives, ahead of health, education and money. Compared with earlier polls, there was a substantial drop in the number who had tried marijuana (from 43 to 33 per cent in 10 years) and much less support for the decriminalisation of drugs. Young people were also increasingly backing the Howard Government's policy of mandatory detention for asylum-seekers, with support rising from 41 per cent in 2002 to 58 per cent in 2005.

Former Education Minister Brendan Nelson, who dealt every day with young Australians, is not surprised. He points to some of the obvious factors: the economy has boomed under Howard; there are plenty of new jobs, especially for young people; interest rates have stayed low; school retention rates have increased; and there are more opportunities for travel. Young people, in particular, have never had it so good.....

Labor saw a chance to win back the young vote when Howard backed the US-led war in Iraq. In some of the largest demonstrations since the Vietnam War, young protesters led a cardboard puppet of Howard up the street making it lick the bottom of a cardboard George W. Bush. More than 25,000 students took part in the Books not Bombs protest. Yet, as the 2004 election showed, anti-war feeling did not translate into votes....

In part, that's because young people do not have time to paint slogans on to protest signs. They work an average of 20 hours a week, on top of full-time or part-time study, and they leave university with HECS debts worth $30,000 or more. Since the collapse of communism, young people are less likely to adopt the Marxist view that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. To them the fruit of capitalism is new cars, plasma TVs and trips overseas. They have grown up in an age of prosperity in which the welfare state appears redundant. A vibrant economy has emboldened young people to create small businesses of their own. These factors have meant that Howard -- straight-laced, conservative Howard -- has been responsible for something that smells suspiciously like teen spirit. He has encouraged the young to rebel.

More here

Another public hospital system in reverse-gear

I have previously posted on the meltdown in the State of Queensland but it seems that the State of Victoria has big problems too. In both States, the number of hospital beds provided has declined while demand has increased!

Dozens of beds have closed in the face of soaring patient numbers as Victoria's public hospital system struggles to meet demand. More than 180 beds have dropped out of the public hospital system in the eight years to 2003-04, while patient numbers have increased 30 per cent. At the same time the number of people languishing on hospital waiting lists has jumped more than 40 per cent. Despite the drop in bed numbers, stressed staff are dealing with hundreds of thousands more patients each year.

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Mark Yates said Victorian hospitals were running at nearly 95 per capacity and struggling to cope. "What we need to see is an increase in the number of beds in Victoria so that our hospitals can run more efficiently," Dr Yates said. He said the biggest loss of beds was across intensive care departments.

Ben Hart, spokesman for acting Health Minister Gavin Jennings, said a worldwide shortage of intensive care nurses was responsible for the lack of intensive care beds in Victoria. According to figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of public hospital beds dropped 184 from 1996-97 to 2003-04.

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the drastic shortage of beds was putting patients at risk. "Where are these beds? What's happened to them, why aren't they available to patients who need them? The Government needs to fess up," Ms Shardey said. "The Bracks Government promised an extra 900 hospital beds and not only have they not delivered on that promise, but bed numbers are still going down. "That causes enormous problems and huge blockages in the system: elective surgery is cancelled, the emergency department is under pressure, ambulances are put on bypass. "No excuses should be accepted by the public."

In the eight years to 2003-04 there was a 31.9 per cent increase in the number of patients admitted to hospital. In 2003-04, 1,187,529 patients were admitted to hospital in Victoria. While the number of people admitted for at least one night rose just 3.5 per cent to 510,713 patients in the latest figures, the number of patients admitted for day procedures rose more than 60 per cent to 652,364 in 2003-04. According to the State Government's Hospital Services Report, elective surgery waiting lists blew out 40 per cent.


Real learning essentials missing

Tasmania's curriculum promotes the worst of outcomes-based education. ("Outcomes-based" is code for no grading, among other things). Article below by the redoubtable Kevin Donnelly

Late last year, after business groups criticised Tasmania's radical approach to curriculum, Essential Learnings, the teachers union, students, authors Don Watson and Richard Flanagan, as well as Education Minister Paula Wriedt leapt to its defence. Wriedt accepted the new curriculum hadn't been effectively communicated but argued: "I have confidence in the Essential Learnings curriculum ... to produce the type of students we need and want in our community." This week it appears the minister's confidence has been shaken. Wriedt admits there are flaws in Essential Learnings: "We have never said this was set in concrete. I have always said never say never and am open to change on this."

Amazing how an election focuses the mind and how policy seen to be a liability can be so quickly changed. This is especially the case when the Liberal Opposition has as its policy a review of Essential Learnings in order to raise standards and to address teacher and parents' concerns.

Wriedt has reason to reconsider Essential Learnings. As Flanagan has since noted: "It is not possible to defend Essential Learnings, which is damaging our state education system, eroding public confidence, imposing humiliating difficulties on our fine teachers, and, worst of all, is destructive of our children's education." Even though teachers have been gagged and warned against publicly criticising the curriculum, as reported in the Hobart Mercury, such is the level of frustration and complaint, that many are prepared to voice their opposition.

Teachers' complaints are justified. Essential Learnings, given that it adopts the worst aspects of Australia's outcomes-based approach to education, is full of confusing jargon and edubabble. Worse still, it fails to provide a clear and succinct road map on what should be taught and imposes an overly bureaucratic, vague and new age assessment system. In part, the problem is that learning is considered developmental on the basis that, "the rate of individual development and learning can vary enormously and students may achieve a particular standard at different age levels". As a result many students float through school without learning the basics or being told that they have failed.

Further evidence of the flawed nature of Essential Learnings is evidenced by results of the federally funded report, Benchmarking Australian Primary School Curricula, released last year. The report evaluated all Australian state and territory mathematics, science and English primary school curriculum documents and ranked Tasmania's Essential Learnings as the weakest in terms of academic rigour, being detailed and unambiguous and measurable.

The academic responsible for the mathematics evaluation concluded that Essential Learnings failed to "assist schools at the more detailed level of planning programs for each year level and making sure that there was a clear progression of content throughout the school". In relation to science, the analysis concluded that Essential Learnings provided teachers with "little guidance as to the science concepts being developed or clarity or purpose that would help them understand what students are meant to achieve".

Traditionally, English is a discrete subject with a strong focus on literature. Not so in the Tasmanian curriculum. English as a subject disappears into the learning area Communicating Being Arts Literate and there is little attempt to teach phonics or classic literature in a rigorous and substantial way.

In her defence of Essential Learnings, Wriedt argues that the Tasmanian curriculum has much in common with approaches across the rest of Australia. To the extent that all systems have adopted various versions of outcomes-based education, the minister is correct. What she fails to realise or admit is that the tide has turned and the type of curriculum represented by Essential Learnings is increasingly seen as flawed and substandard. The ex-chief executive of Australia's Curriculum Corporation, Bruce Wilson, now admits that outcomes-based education typified by Essential Learnings represents an "unsatisfactory political and intellectual exercise".

Last year, the president of the NSW Board of Studies, Gordon Stanley, agreed that teachers needed a succinct road map on what should be taught. And a union official agreed that the existing outcomes-based education system was overly detailed, jargonistic and cumbersome. In Western Australia, there are so many concerns about extending outcomes-based education to years 11 and 12 that a parliamentary inquiry has been established. No wonder concerned classroom teachers have funded a website,, to air their grievances.

Foreigners get free surgery on Medicare

Sick foreigners are using the Medicare cards of Australian citizens to get free medical treatment in our hospitals. The Medicare fraud, which is costing taxpayers millions of dollars a year, is possible because our outdated Medicare cards carry no proof of identity. A Daily Telegraph investigation has found a Victorian man was convicted and fined for allowing his father, a foreigner, to use his Medicare card to claim benefits for laser eye treatments and medical consultations worth more than $3300. He told investigators he had committed the fraud because he could not afford to pay for his father's treatment when he came to visit Australia.

A Sydney woman discovered last year that someone received a free kidney operation using her Medicare card after it was stolen. She only discovered the fraud when she visited her specialist for a routine appointment and he asked her how she was feeling after the surgery.

In 2003-04 Medicare Australia investigated 137 reports of members of the public defrauding Medicare. A recent Auditor General's report found 500,000 Medicare cards were still registered to patients who had died. Some citizens have two Medicare cards - one which lists them as a male, the other as a female.

It is not just foreigners who are using stolen Medicare cards to defraud taxpayers. In Western Australia a man has been jailed for 12 months on 80 counts of fraud when he was found to have used another person's Medicare card to get taxpayers to pay for medical services and narcotics. A deregistered Queensland doctor used 21 stolen identities involving Medicare cards to get hold of 19,650 morphine tablets. The fraud cost the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme $50,000 and the tablets had a street value of $2 million. Police in Western Australia have uncovered an organised crime syndicate that was using multiple identities and Medicare cards to get taxpayers to pay for medical services. The fraud is estimated to have been worth more than $19,000. These are just some of the fraud cases that have been uncovered by Medicare Australia but the full scale of the problem could be much larger.

Medicare says less than 1 per cent of the $9 billion worth of claims a year it pays out are fraudulent but that still means fraud could be costing taxpayers up to $90 million a year. Human Services Minister Joe Hockey will soon take to Cabinet plans for a new Medicare smartcard that would carry a person's photograph and other identification and help combat Medicare fraud. The enhanced identity safeguards would make it difficult for an imposter or a non-taxpaying foreigner to use another person's Medicare card to claim rebates or get free public hospital treatment.