Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...  
R.G.Menzies above

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Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?


31 March, 2011


Former Labor MP and former Queensland police sergeant Peter Pyke today slammed police commissioner Bob Atkinson over his piss-ant policy on police pursuits which he says has demonstrably stripped the police of their ability to fight crime in Queensland.
Pyke says street cops are fuming and he calls on the cops’ union to get off their lazy bums and to tell the Bligh government it is time for Atkinson to go and sit on a beach somewhere and let police do their jobs which – incidentally commissioner - includes catching criminals.

The story so far: Pyke says that around midnight on Monday 28 March 2011, this week, a white Nissan 1999 utility was stolen from Torrington, West Toowoomba. Through the good work of alert uniformed police who were nearby police quickly located the stolen vehicle driving around in Wilsonton not far from where it was stolen. This first police unit to sight the stolen ute was a marked police mobile patrol which attempted to stop the Nissan utility using their lights and sirens, that’s their job. When the stolen car accelerated away and attempted to evade police, the officers were forced to pull over and stop their marked police vehicle whilst the stolen vehicle was allowed to drive off.

Yup, that’s right, in accordance with commissioner Atkinson’s instructions, despite it being late at night and other traffic virtually non-existent, police are not allowed to pursue stolen vehicles. Full stop.

Pyke says that what followed is enough to make any Queensland citizen wonder. He says that
all police in Toowoomba were then advised directly by the Toowoomba Communications Controller that they were to ‘observe’ the stolen vehicle only but were not – repeat – not allowed to chase it.

Pyke, who monitors police radio transmissions, says that for the next 45 minutes, every police mobile unit in Toowoomba, Helidon and Gatton districts were forced to sit on their hands and watch as the stolen vehicle drove past several police cars and off into the night. He says an unmarked detective’s unit was the second police vehicle to get behind the stolen car and activate it’s lights and sirens to try to stop it but was forced to pull over when the stolen ute kept driving. A marked Dog Squad unit also got behind the stolen car but was also directed not to attempt to stop but to ‘observe’ the Nissan utility only.

Pyke says there were more than enough police units in the immediate area to have quickly detained the utility at around midnight on a Monday night when only cops, baddies and taxis are to be found driving around and the risks of a member of the public being harmed by a responsible pursuit would have been minimal.

“For the sake of a short sharp chase, the stolen Nissan utility and its offending occupants could have been stopped on Monday night within minutes of it being stolen at a time when there was no traffic about and it would have been safest for police to attempt to do that. And isn’t that what we train, equip and pay police to do?” asks Pyke.

Pyke says as if this isn’t bad enough, days later the stolen Nissan ute is still being driven around Toowoomba’s streets with impunity and has been used to commit other crimes.

“The Nissan ute now has false plates CJR-61 screwed onto it and twice on Wednesday 30 March 2011 the stolen vehicle drove into the bottle-shop of the Southern Hotel in Kearneys Spring, Toowoomba where it’s occupants happily loaded up with slabs of Jim Beam bourbon and drove off without paying. Twice, once in the afternoon and the second time at about 10.00 PM,” Pyke says.

Pyke says all this proves that Queensland cops have lost control of the streets because of their inept, incompetent and politically-compromised commissioner.

“Now what happens?” asks Pyke. “It’s a stolen car, it has stolen false plates on it, it keeps driving into bottle-shops and stealing alcohol. What are police supposed to do next time they see it driving past? Wave?”

Pyke says the Bligh government is at fault for extending Atkinson’s contract way past his use-by-date. He is calling on Queenslanders to make their own judgements about whether he is right and police have been forced by Atkinson to hand over control of Queensland streets to the criminals. He says Queenslanders who support street cops doing their jobs should voice their anger at this situation.

But Pyke says there is a twist to this matter, “In our system, all sworn police officers hold the ‘office of constable’ under the rule of law,” says Pyke. “I say no-one can tell a sworn officer he or she may not arrest a person they suspect of committing a criminal offence. In fact, anyone who prevents a sworn police officer from doing so might be arrested for obstruction or as a party to the offence.” Pyke urges cops to look it up.

Pyke says cops should ignore Atkinson and do their jobs which is to catch criminals and put them behind bars.

“I call also on Premier Bligh to explain why her government extended police commissioner Bob Atkinson’s contract when he has reduced police to mere ‘observers’ of crime,” Pyke says.


The above is a Press Release from Peter Pyke, 0427 388 598, -- of today's date

Unbelievable: Social workers leave nine-year-old boy alone at Melbourne's Coburg Lake late at night

SOCIAL workers abandoned a nine-year-old boy in a Melbourne park at night because it was unsafe for them to stay with him. The boy was left wandering around Coburg Lake in the dark until a passer-by noticed him and called police, 3AW's Neil Mitchell reported this morning

The Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, said he had ordered an investigation.

Details leaked to the radio station piece together the night of February 25, when a group of children under the care of Department of Human Services were taken to Coburg Lake on an outing.

The nine-year-old apparently didn’t want to leave the lake when it was time to leave, Mitchell said, and DHS workers were instructed by their supervisor to leave him there. Police called the DHS unit involved but a worker told officers they were knocking off and police should take him home.

Police quizzed staff at the boy’s home as to why they had left the boy at the lake and not bothered to pick him up. The staff reportedly said it was too dangerous for a worker to stay at the lake at that time of night, Mitchell said.

Responding to the shocking case on Radio 3AW today, Mr Baillieu said he had ordered an investigation into the case as soon as he was alerted to it. “(It) is absolutely unacceptable. We will be conducting an investigation into this and dealing with the consequences,” he said this morning. “Anyone in control or guardian, parent or otherwise of a nine-year-old should not leave a nine-year-old in the dark.”

Mr Baillieu said workers who left children unattended at night shouldn’t be in positions of trust and authority.


Liberal Party immigration spokesman rejects "extremist" tag

THE opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, has rallied to the defence of "the mob" who oppose the carbon tax and boat arrivals and said "sound-minded" Australians were being demonised by Labor as extremists.

In a National Press Club address, he hit back at race-baiting claims and said the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, "needs to stop insulting Australians for disagreeing with her".

Reviving a theme from his election blog last August, Mr Morrison said "the mob" raised families and paid taxes. The Liberals would stay faithful to them because they were the same people as Menzies' forgotten people and Howard's battlers.

However the extremist tag has caused ructions within the Liberal Party, particularly after the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, appeared beside offensive posters at a rally opposing the carbon tax and Mr Morrison made comments on talkback radio about asylum seeker funerals.

Questions about "the moral burden" of decisions in the immigration debate should also be applied to the government's policies, Mr Morrison said yesterday.

"What we are seeing in the absolute mess and misery of our detention network - of those who are drowning at sea, or crashing against rocks at Christmas Island, or those who are wasting in camps as group after group come … I don't accept that as a morally acceptable outcome," he said.

Another boat, carrying 37 asylum seekers, was intercepted yesterday and will be taken to Christmas Island, the first since riots broke out this month.

Refugee advocates said yesterday a man held at the Curtin detention centre was in hospital after trying to hang himself.

A 20-year-old Afghan man took his life at the same centre on Monday, and another 20-year-old Afghan committed suicide at the Scherger centre in Queensland a fortnight ago.

A mental health adviser, Professor Louise Newman, has warned of "suicide clusters" in detention centres and has asked the Immigration Department to review its policy. The government has said the deaths would be investigated.

Linda Briskman, chairwoman of human rights at Curtin University in Perth, said mandatory detention had criminalised people seeking refuge.

Refugee groups expressed concern that overcrowding at North West camp on Christmas Island, which was partly responsible for riots, was now occurring at mainland detention centres. About 300 men from Christmas Island arrived at the Curtin centre at the weekend.

Ms Gillard said she was "determined" to have a mandatory detention system and it was "the right thing" for Australia.

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said asylum applications should be processed on the mainland because it was cheaper, easier and faster. "We have very vulnerable people locked up with very little access to information."


Another "safe" Queensland school

Will Queensland schools end up like this? The same lily-livered policies are at work

A 14-year-old boy was stabbed at Southport State High yesterday after he and a fellow Year 10 student were sent to the principal's office for fighting. Students claimed the boys were involved in a violent lunchtime brawl in a classroom and later heard screams as one allegedly stabbed the other in the stomach in the administration building.

The victim suffered damage to an internal organ but is expected to make a full recovery after surgery at Gold Coast Hospital.

Police arrested his alleged attacker near the school and seized a knife which it is believed he took to school. He was last night charged with unlawful wounding. The Courier-Mail understands police are working on the theory the incident was not gang related but may have been linked to alleged bullying.

A male student said he saw one boy "smashed against a bubbler" and thrown into a wall in the lead-up to the stabbing.

Gold Coast police inspector Geoff Palmer said yesterday he was unaware of any gang problems at Southport High but detectives from the Child Protection Investigation Unit were investigating.

Insp Palmer said the stabbing followed an "altercation" between two 14-year-old students. "There were no other children in danger and the school was not placed in a lockdown," he said. Insp Palmer appealed for any student witnesses to come forward.

Latest Education Queensland figures show 303 Southport High students were suspended in 2009, up from 160 in 2006.

In September 2009, a Southport High student was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm after allegedly bashing a fellow student. The victim allegedly needed plastic surgery after the attack, which happened just days before a Southport State School pupil, aged six, was found with a knife in his bag.

Yesterday's stabbing was the latest in a series of knife incidents at Queensland schools in recent years.

The Queensland Teachers Union last year warned that teachers and principals had to be more vigilant about knives in schools.


Incompetent Egyptian surgeon kills NSW woman

A COMPETENT surgeon should have known the reason for Heidi Clarke-Lewis' massive blood loss and been able to do something about it, an inquest into her death was told yesterday.

Professor Andrew Korda told the inquest a sharp medical tool known as a trocar had struck the 29-year-old's spine during an operation to remove an ectopic pregnancy, causing the fit, healthy patient to bleed to death.

Giving expert evidence yesterday, Professor Korda said it would have been "like hitting a nail into a wooden table" and should have alerted surgeon Dr Samy Nassief to the possibility of damage to major vessels.

Professor Korda agreed with assisting counsel Peggy Dwyer that he would have expected a "competent general surgeon" to identify the source of the bleeding, clamp major arteries and call for assistance if needed. "Most general surgeons should have enough rudimentary knowledge to repair a vascular injury," Professor Korda said.

Ms Clarke-Lewis died during the surgery for the ectopic pregnancy at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital on April 30, 2009.

A post-mortem examination found she died from an intra-abdominal haemorrhage, after injuries to her right common iliac artery and vein. Professor Korda said the trocar caused the damage to the artery, after entering her body about 2-3cm off target, and resulted in Ms Clarke-Lewis losing more than four litres of blood.

Dr Nassief should have made a larger incision to look for the site of the bleeding about 10-15 minutes into the surgery, he said.

"The appropriate response would have been to extend the incision and try and find out where the bleeding was coming from," Professor Korda said.

A second doctor called in to assist Dr Nassief made that larger incision after arriving in theatre about 90 minutes later but was not able to find the direct source of the bleeding in the time.

Nurse Cherie Anderson has previously told the inquest that she believed the trocar's safety mechanism failed, meaning that a sharp blade had been exposed within the stomach of Ms Clarke-Lewis.

Professor Korda said: "If a trocar is inserted in a manner in which it hits the fifth lumbar vertebra, no safety mechanism will protect the patient."

But he was not critical of Dr Nassief's decision to operate on Ms Clarke-Lewis because he said ectopic pregnancies were unpredictable.



Three articles below

How big an effect on world temperature will Australia's proposed carbon tax have?

Lord Monckton has been kind enough to give me the straight answer that Flannery et al will not - and his answer explains exactly Flannery's embarrassed silence:

Q. What is the central estimate of the anthropogenic global warming, in Celsius degrees, that would be forestalled by 2020 if a) Australia alone and b) the whole world cut carbon emissions stepwise until by 2020 they were 5% below today's emissions?

Answer a). Australia accounts for (at most) 1.5% of global carbon emissions. A stepwise 5% cut by 2020 is an average 2.5% cut from now till then. CO2 concentration by 2020, taking the IPCC's A2 scenario, will be 412 parts per million by volume, compared with 390 ppmv now. So Man will have added 22 ppmv by 2020, without any cuts in emissions. The CO2 concentration increase forestalled by almost a decade of cap-and-tax in Australia would thus be 2.5% of 1.5% of 22 ppmv, or 0.00825 ppmv. So in 2020 CO2 concentration would be 411.99175 ppmv instead of 412 ppmv.

So the proportionate change in CO2 concentration if the Commission and Ms. Gillard got their way would be 411.99175/412, or 0.99997998. The IPCC says warming or cooling, in Celsius degrees, is 3.7-5.7 times the logarithm of the proportionate change: central estimate 4.7. Also, it expects only 57% of manmade warming to occur by 2100: the rest would happen slowly and harmlessly over perhaps 1000 years (that's the real meaning of Flannery's 1000-year point, and it doesn't do him any favours).

So the warming forestalled by cutting Australia's emissions would be 57% of 4.7 times the logarithm of 0.99997998: that is - wait for it, wait for it - a dizzying 0.00005 Celsius, or around one-twenty-thousandth of a Celsius degree. Your estimate of a thousandth of a degree was a 20-fold exaggeration - not that Flannery was ever going to tell you that, of course.

Answer b) . Mutatis mutandis, we do the same calculation for the whole world, thus:

2.5% of 22 ppmv = 0.55 ppmv. Warming forestalled by 2020 = 0.57 x 4.7 ln[(412-0.55)/412] < 0.004 Celsius, or less than four one-thousandths of a Celsius degree, or around one-two-hundred-and-eightieth of a Celsius degree. And that at a cost of trillions. Whom the gods would destroy .

If you'd like chapter and verse from the IPCC's documents and from the peer-reviewed for every step of this calculation, which takes full account of and distils down the various complexities and probabilities Flannery flannelled about, you'll find it in this paper.

A cautionary note: the warming forestalled will only be this big if the IPCC's central estimate of the rate at which adding CO2 to the atmosphere causes warming is correct. However, it's at least a twofold exaggeration and probably more like fourfold. So divide both the above answers by, say, 3 to get what will still probably be an overestimate of the warming forestalled.


Greenie thinking converts an otherwise decent man into a Fascist

EVERY Australian family should be limited to just two children to curb the population explosion, controversial millionaire Dick Smith says. He called for a China-like quota on the number of kids, warning the growing burden on our resources was like "a plague of locusts".

Likening high-rise apartments to chicken coops, the former Australian of the Year thanked property developers at an Urban Taskforce population debate in Sydney for "not lynching" him after he attacked their drive for profits and called for an end to the growth addiction.

"It's either going to be forced on us or we are going to plan to stabilise," Mr Smith said. "I would like to see Australia stabilise at 24 to 25 million. I don't see it by force I see it by saying to parents, it's best to have two kids. I see us having an immigration intake of 70,000 per year."

Unaffordable land prices left generations of children stuck in apartments, he said. "We descended from hunter gatherers - not from termites," Mr Smith said. "We are putting our kids into high-rise because we are running out of land, because people want and need to live close to the city. We pay $50 million a year for free range eggs for our bloody chooks to be free range - what about our kids? I was a free range kid. I had a backyard. We are starting to lose that now, and it's only driven by the huge population increases."

Population growth had to slow to allow housing to become affordable again, he said, warning bad handling could lead to a recession.

Mr Smith called for an end to "stealing resources" from future generations. "We have to decide - are we like locusts that breed to huge numbers and then die off? Or are we like the majority of other magnificent natural creatures in this country which have lived in balance for millions of years?" he said.

" We have to decide we're going to live in balance or breed up and die off. There are people who say we will get to 9.1 billion and one enormous catastrophe will wipe out most of the people and if that's going to happen enjoy the advantages now. That might not happen."

Mr Smith said the economic system was built on "perpetual exponential growth". "We are completely addicted to growth. It's like the religion of capitalism but it is a false God," he said

MacroPlan economist Brian Haratsis called Mr Smith alarmist and "using scare tactics" He said population debate in Australia had been stolen by "anti-growth people with a Green sentiment". "We can triple the population of Australia if we want to and we wouldn't use much land. You only have to jump in a plane to Sydney and fly to Perth and what do you see? Not much."

Mr Haratsis said a population of 40 million was inevitable and that "the only choice is if we want a really big Australia of 40 million to 80 million".


Dam good invention the answer to our dry land's problem

I HAVE a brilliant idea for water management in Australia. What this dry continent needs is a way of storing and reticulating water to vast numbers of people in cities. I have come up with an invention that I call a "dam".

Let's build these "dams" outside each major city so that water might be stored and drawn down upon when needed. It's so simple and so cheap I cannot believe that no one in government or the bureaucracy has thought of it before. It sure would save a lot of money.

There are by my count six desalination plants either recently completed or under construction in Australia.

These things can cost in excess of $5 billion plus financing and operating costs. A "dam" on the other hand can store and deliver vastly more water at a cost of say $2bn. There, I've just saved the taxpayer $3bn and that's on a single project.

Of course, my idea for a "dam" is not new; I have nicked it from history. The last dam built to supply Sydney was the Tallowa completed in 1976 when the metropolitan population was 3.1 million.

Some 35 years later Sydney's population has expanded by 1.5 million, or 48 per cent, and there's no plan to add another dam for at least another decade, if ever.

This is extremely odd. I do not recall a conversation let alone a furious public debate about the management of Sydney's, or any other major Australian city's, water future.

At what point over the last three decades was a decision made that no new dams should be built and that future water supplies should be based on more expensive options such as desalination plants and/or pipelines?

Other cities are in much the same position: Melbourne has added 1.2 million since the completion of the Thomson Dam in 1984 and Brisbane has added 1 million since the Wivenhoe was completed also in 1984.

I have never understood the anti-dam lobby's argument that "why build a dam when it will never fill?" So, if this was the case and we had two dams both at 20 per cent capacity then doesn't this deliver twice the water security of one dam at 20 per cent?

I do understand that the construction of a dam will have a detrimental environmental impact. But environmental impact statements articulate the negatives. They never properly account for the positives associated with a dam.

And, yes, there are positives. More water for an urban population allows householders to develop gardens which attract birdlife and contribute more generally to what environmentalists call "the urban forest". I'm all for urban forests -- let's deliver the water these forests need to flourish and in so doing deliver quality of life to millions.

Do environmental impact statements incorporate the health costs of old people struggling with "bucket back" caused by watering restrictions? What about the psychological impact on those who fret about not having enough water for their gardens? No, not relevant?

Another dam has not been built in Brisbane's Lockyer Valley since the Wivenhoe which in turn was partially a flood mitigation device following the 1974 floods. How much water would have been retained by a second dam had it been built in say the late 1990s or early 2000s? What degree of calamity might have been averted by the existence of such a dam?

Surely flood mitigation is a positive impact of a dam. And what is the response of those whose influential water reports of the 1990s and the 2000s argued that we cannot rely on regular rainfall in the future to fill dams? Do these experts now concede that they got it wrong? If you got it wrong then why should we rely on your advice that we should not build dams in the future?

I might add that my argument in support of dams is not entirely in the interests of the property industry. Which do you think the property industry would prefer if it was purely self-interested: a desalination plant costing $5bn or a dam at $2bn?

The Australian people are indebted to the anti-dam lobby for forcing behavioural change with regard to water usage over the past 30 years: we have evolved a long way from water profligacy. But there comes a point in a city's growth when practical and hard-headed decisions need to be taken.

We haven't built a dam to service Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for a generation. We've had a dam-building hiatus and we've moderated our water usage, now it's time to build cost-efficient dams.

Or at the very least let's have a conversation about the subject rather than allowing various levels of government to solely pursue less efficient and more expensive alternatives such as pipelines and desalination plants.

There may well be a place for these "insurances" against another decade-long drought in the future, but we also need to be considering dams as a way of delivering baseload water supplies for our biggest cities in the 21st century.


30 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says the ALP government in NSW would have gone long ago except for the biased Leftist media supporting them.

Liberal Party MP says debate being stifled over 'racism' fears

THE Liberal senator widely attacked for describing Islam as a totalitarian ideology has warned that Australians at odds with the "politically correct" orthodoxy are being forced to whisper their views for fear of being labelled racists.

South Australian senator Cory Bernardi has also demanded migrants observe Australian customs and core values, urging the nation to reject a path of "isolation and separatism" by tolerating breaches of the nation's "social covenant" by newcomers.

But the nation's first Muslim MP, Sydney's Ed Husic, has rejected the comments, saying no-one needs to whisper opinions that represent considered and thoughtful argument.

Last month Senator Bernardi said in a radio interview: "Islam itself is the problem, it's not Muslims. Muslims are individuals that practise their faith in their own way, but Islam is a totalitarian, political and religious ideology."

The comments provoked a storm of critics, with Julia Gillard accusing the Liberals of "race-baiting" and demanding Tony Abbott dump Senator Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary.

Yesterday Senator Bernardi launched an impassioned defence of his stance on his website in a blog titled "The Whisper Zone".

"Those who speak publicly, - normally these are people of a conservative or traditional viewpoint - are too often shouted down, mocked and derided simply for expressing a viewpoint that does not align with the prevailing PC orthodoxy," Senator Bernardi wrote.

"This has the effect of silencing people because they are afraid of being intimidated and ridiculed.

In effect, they are reduced to whispering their views to others." Mr Husic, who holds the seat of Chifley, said Australia was a democracy where people were free to express their views.

"But in doing so, we should also be mindful that what we say, where these views may not be based on fact, can cause hurt or marginalise," Mr Husic told The Australian Online.

"People in public life have to be especially conscious of this. "I'd respectfully suggest there's no need to whisper considered, thoughtful argument."

"If one's views aren't based on fact or are indifferent to others in a rush to make a headline, then perhaps keeping those views to oneself is the best course of action."

Senator Bernardi said he was not precious or thin-skinned, but noted that it seemed publicly acceptable for Labor MPs like Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans, as well as independent senator Nick Xenophon, to express concerns about particular groups, while he was shouted down for expressing his views.

"If the cost of raising legitimate community concerns, whether or not others actually agree with the question raised, leads to lies, smears, irrational accusations of racism and bigotry, then we really do have a problem with free speech in this country," he wrote.


Pompous Warmist professor bitten by a hoax

By Jo Nova

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky may not understand much about the climate, but he is a professor of psychology — so satire, humor, and hoaxes ought to be right up his alley, right? He’s realized he fell for the brilliant Alene Composta (a master satirist) replying to her and even sending her fake request for advice to fellow blogger John Cook (who fell for it too).

Alene ticked all the headline stereotypical victim-leftie boxes, her interests included “christine milne”, “organic gardening” and “batik hangings” and lets face it, “Composta” is a red flag, rather. So she wrote to Lewandowsky begging for advice in dealing with monster commenters from Bolt and Blair, and notably pointed to him surviving my scorn and ridicule:
I recently began blogging, especially about climate change, and after a month my site was noticed. Noticed by the wrong people, sadly. Readers of Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt have swamped my site with genuinely abusive comments, many relating to my disability, which I find very hurtful. So my question to you is this: How do you deal with monsters like this?

I have read and savoured every column you have published at Unleashed, and I have read the hateful comments that, even with an ABC moderator to vet them, still make it up on the site. The worst charge is that they simply do not take me seriously, which diminishes me in my humanity. I must confess that, after the latest round of abuse, I hugged my little cat and cried for an hour.
You have not only shrugged off that abuse, you have also survived the scorn and ridicule of your fellow West Australian Joanne Nova (I found that while googling your email address). It is a species of bravery I do not know if I can tap.

I’m a fragile woman and I thought my blog, Verdant Hopes, might be a force for good in the world. Instead it has made me a victim once again.

He replied, soaking it all up. In a bold twist reminiscent of Soviet psychologists, he called the skeptics “bullies” and the attacks “orchestrated”:
Bear in mind that a proportion of those comments is orchestrated and for all we know there are only a handful of people with multiple electronic "personas" each, who are paid to create disproportionate noise.

He believes that the attacks are “paid for” and denies that thousands of real people disagree with him. Which means he’s shielding himself from the awful truth, that he might be a deluded puppet of big-carbon-finance and an apologist for big-government, which aims to trick the public out of it’s money by distorting science. Who, with any conscience or pride, could live with that?

Let’s be straight, I don’t doubt for a moment that he is acting out of genuine belief. If someone with money was going to pick a front man for the carbon campaign, they’d pick someone with more PR nous and human savvy than Stephan Lewandowsky.

Having been embarrassed, instead of just quietly vanishing, he thinks it helps his activist cause to parade his gullibility on Ad Hominem Unleashed (the ABC Drum), to show how it’s really just more evidence that humans really are changing the weather. If you can figure out the logical chain in that, do tell us. Here’s his analysis (sic) where he struggles for the word “satire”:
This raises some interesting questions: Why would anyone go to the trouble of creating an artificial persona, only to engage in correspondence under the pretence of being a real person?

And why, once having obtained a reply, would they post it on “Alene's” blog, as happened with the above exchange? There are presently no definitive answers to these questions…

He has so much trouble with logic and reason (and human behavior!) that he thinks those mocking him for his gullibility are using that to “prove man made global warming is fake” when instead they are just enjoying the comeuppance of a pompous fool who lauded himself over them, called them names, and then was tricked by pandering false flattery.
There is also something unfunny about this issue, which has now been taken up by a tabloid blog. There is much hilarity among commenters there about how anyone could be gullible enough to believe that a seemingly troubled and challenged person was actually, well, a troubled and challenged person. By some leap of logic this “gullibility”, in turn, somehow disproves the science underlying global warming.

But wait, despite his confusion,” there is much that we can learn” (he says). He thinks there is a propaganda war against him when he’s the one on the team with billions of dollars, government ministries, a UN agency, major financial houses, and university “authority” (though he appears to be working to destroy whatever is left of that last one). Albeit unwittingly, it is he who is part of the propaganda team with the big bucks.
First, the use of sock puppets has demonstrably become a tool in Australia in what has often been described as a propaganda war on science and scientists. Second, there are surely ethical issues that arise when someone impersonates a distressed and disabled person for their own purposes, be it juvenile amusement or a failed attempt to cause embarrassment.

And here’s the logical clincher… the use of sock puppets supports the argument that climate sensitivity to CO2 is high: ( h/t Mattb) Here’s the grand irony, the man who stoops to ad hominem attacks (“they’re paid hacks”) and denies 850 peer reviewed papers (“skeptics don’t have evidence”) and 28 million weather balloons (“the science is unassailable”) thinks sceptics are the ones seeking refuge from reality.

Finally, it amplifies yet again what is obvious to most of us: the fact that the climate is changing and that human CO2 emissions are causing it is now unassailable by conventional scientific means, forcing some of those who cannot accept this discomforting fact to seek refuge in the ethical twilight of internet warfare.

Stephan thinks it’s a “fact” that CO2 is too blame, but the only fact he provides is, as usual, the opinions of a committee.

We know the US government uses sock-puppets, one fan of the Big Scare admitted to using spam bots to generate fake comments, and though I can’t prove anything, there have been plenty of anonymous commenters here who returned with different names to write hate-filled messages with unsubstantiated insults. There was also even one commenter who wrote 440 comments on this blog under his real name, in business hours, from a government office. - -
I presume Prof Lewandowsky did not mean to forget the original link to the Alene gotcha page he is referring to:

And since he knows the “deniers” are misinformed, “anti-science”, and confused, it seems odd that he also deleted the link in the quote from Alene’s original article (the one his whole article is about) that shows just how nasty those vile people can be. (It’s tricky to cut and paste directly isn’t it?)
The source of the scorn and ridicule that he bravely withstood:

- -

John Cook of un SkepticalScience quotes Gandhi, and feels like a victim too:
. deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world. In fact, the level of attack that the climate scientists receive are the greatest – death threats, dead rats left on their door, legal harassment from conservative lawyers and ad hominem attack after ad hominem attack.

Has anyone ever seen a verified threat from a real skeptic? (And was it anything more than an angry commenter mouthing off, which no publicly known skeptic encourages.)

Remember, it was the bully believers of the AGW faith (mostly with salaries too) who threatened skeptics, “we know where you live”, they’re the ones who have paid up attack sites to smear respected scientists, and made a movie blowing up our children. The real bullies cry victim, but are happy to let their own attack dogs run.

My brief comment was sent in at 12.26 WST to the ABC site… The moderators must be overwhelmed coping with all the comments, I’m sure they’ll put one up soon. ;-)

UPDATE: The ABC are running scared from real debate again. My polite comment with links to the original Composta article, and links to my analysis of Lewandowsky is another ABC_Reject. (My comment was essentially the words between – - and – - above.)


Gillard failing to explain her carbon tax

JULIA Gillard is failing to explain her plans for a carbon tax to Queenslanders. In another sign that the Government is struggling to win the debate on climate change, a new Courier-Mail/Galaxy poll found more than half of the state's voters say they do not understand the carbon tax.

But the poll suggests there is still scope for the Government to win over voter support, with the 54 per cent of respondents who did not understand the tax unable to say whether it would be good or bad.

Only 28 per cent of the 800 respondents to the poll conducted last Thursday and Friday nights said they understood "the details and the implications of the tax".

A mere 14 per cent said they thought the carbon tax was "a positive step to reducing carbon emissions" despite admitting they did not understand the plans.

The poor poll results for Labor came as the Government's climate change adviser Ross Garnaut delivered more bad news about electricity prices.

Professor Garnaut warned households would face price rises of $4-5 a week if the Government adopts his recommendation of a $25-a-tonne price on carbon.

But he said even larger price spikes were in store unless there was tougher regulation of the energy sector. "The increase for the average household resulting from the carbon price will be about $4-$5 a week," Prof Garnaut said.

In his final update to his 2008 climate change review, Prof Garnaut yesterday said the impact of the carbon tax on electricity prices would be small compared to general electricity price rises. Electricity generators were allowed to price gouge and over-invest in poles and wires because of weak national regulation, he said. Consumer electricity bills have soared by 32 per cent in real terms over the past three years.

Prof Garnaut called for an urgent investigation into price gouging by energy companies.

New capital costs and higher coal and gas prices are likely to drive even faster price rises in the coming years, Prof Garnaut said. "It's quite likely that electricity prices would continue to rise in the period ahead with or without a carbon price," he said.

Prof Garnaut called for a new energy security watchdog to regulate the sector.

Electricity generators should also be offered loan guarantees by the Government to stop them being pushed out of business by the carbon tax, he said.

The report proposed a series of measures to promote competition, including a ban on mergers of large companies including Origin, TRUenergy and AGL.


1000-year vision fuels climate fight

TONY Abbott has leapt on a declaration by Tim Flannery - Julia Gillard's hand-picked salesman for action on climate change - that emissions abatement is a 1000-year proposition to renew his attacks on Labor's proposed carbon tax.

And Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has distanced himself from Professor Flannery's concession last week that even if all carbon emissions stopped today, it would take 1000 years for the atmosphere's average temperatures to drop. While Professor Flannery, a paleontologist who is also the Prime Minister's chief climate change commissioner, has expanded on his comments to insist the need for action in climate is urgent, his admission in a radio interview on Friday has compromised Labor's sales pitch on its carbon tax.

In the radio interview, Professor Flannery said: "If the world as a whole cut all emissions tomorrow, the average temperature of the planet's not going to drop for several hundred years, perhaps over 1000 years."

In a letter to the editor of The Australian, submitted on Sunday, he expanded on the comments, saying his observation was not "an argument for complacency". But yesterday, as the role of the carbon tax in Labor's massive loss in the NSW election dominated federal political exchanges, Mr Abbott quoted Professor Flannery as he ridiculed the tax as "the ultimate millenium bug".

"It will not make a difference for 1000 years," the Opposition Leader told parliament. "So this is a government which is proposing to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of households right around Australia. And for what? To make not a scrap of difference to the environment any time in the next 1000 years."

Mr Combet said through a spokeswoman that the Gillard government believed in the science of climate change and was determined to act. Asked whether Mr Combet backed Professor Flannery's comment, the spokeswoman said: "Professor Flannery is an independent person who leads an independent commission."

In his letter to The Australian, Professor Flannery wrote that if all major emitters adopted a similar level of effort to reach a 5 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, and continued to "decarbonise" after that date, the global temperature rise would be capped at 2C later this century and that temperatures would begin to drop by the end of the century. "What we do in this decade will be crucial in determining whether we have a world we can live in at the end of the century."

Yesterday, Professor Flannery said he feared Mr Abbott had "quite wilfully misrepresented" his statements by failing to mention the letter. "I am extremely disappointed with the Leader of the Opposition," he told The Australian. "It is not responsible to delay action - that would cause future action to be more expensive. If nobody acts, we are in danger of seeing temperatures spiralling out of control . . . it is urgent we act this decade to lower emissions or we risk temperatures rising 4C this century."

He said both sides of politics had only eight years and nine months to deliver on the bipartisan commitment to lower Australia's carbon emissions to 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. This would require "calm deliberation of the best measures of achieving the best outcome for our country".


29 March, 2011

School information valuable, even if not perfect

Jennifer Buckingham

Few people could have failed to notice the launch of the new, improved version of the My School website earlier this month. Featuring funding information on each and every school in Australia, the website sparked a predictable wave of attacks and counter attacks from the usual suspects and who used the very same data to support very different perspectives.

The best examples of statistical subterfuge were the headlines of the two major NSW broadsheets on the day the website went public. The Australian had ‘No class divide in school spending: Public matches private,’ while The Sydney Morning Herald went with ‘Independent schools spend more on their students, My School shows.’ Same data, different slant.

Sectoral interest groups also got in on the action. The Association of Independent Schools in NSW used My School data to illustrate the wide variation in funding in both the public and non-government school sectors. The NSW Teachers Federation took them to task, saying that higher than average levels of funding in some public schools reflect the greater needs of their students. Again, both are correct. School income levels at the extreme high end of the distribution are not representative of the majority of schools in either sector.

My School, like Wikileaks, is founded on the principle that although information might be abused, that is not sufficient reason to withhold it from the public. Unfortunately, My School has not enjoyed the same support Wikileaks has received from public intellectuals. And, in a strange twist, the NSW Coalition also took up the fight with the aim of restricting how private citizens access information.

Shadow education spokesman Adrian Piccoli lamented in a recent letter to the NSW Teachers Federation that legislation against newspapers publishing league tables has not been enforced.

My School will never perfectly encapsulate the value of a school and will never please everyone. The socioeconomic index developed to classify ‘like schools’ has not mollified the anti-My School brigade; it has just become the focus of even more criticism. Provision of school finance data as part of a deal struck with My School opponents in the early days of its development has created yet another bone of contention. Arguably, that’s the point.

Information is power, and now a little bit more of it is in the hands of parents and the public.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 25 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

The abominable Qld. health bureaucracy again: Defies data directive over deaths in emergency departments

QUEENSLAND Health has defied a ruling from the state's Information Commissioner to release critical data about the state's hospitals. In an unprecedented move, Queensland Health has taken legal action to keep secret the information about deaths in public hospital emergency departments.

Earlier this month, Right to Information Commissioner Clare Smith ordered Queensland Health to hand over the information to The Courier-Mail following a long-running battle to better understand the state's overwhelmed emergency departments.

The Courier-Mail lodged an RTI application in July 2009, sparking a fierce reaction from the department, which appeared to end when Ms Smith said the performance of emergency departments was "an issue of serious interest to the Queensland public" and more scrutiny would help improve patient care.

"Disclosure of the information in issue will provide details of the type and scope of review of specific emergency department incidents," she said in her decision. "It will better inform the public about review practices when deaths occur in public hospitals and contribute to debate on the performance of QH emergency departments. "In this review I am satisfied that the significant public interest considerations favouring disclosure outweigh those favouring non-disclosure."

In its decision to deny access, Queensland Health argued information was exempt on the basis that it would compromise hospital procedures and it was contrary to the public interest.

Ms Smith rejected Queensland Health's submission that it would compromise the hospitals' reporting procedures because they were "mandatory" and The Courier-Mail was also "not seeking access to information that identifies medical staff (or the names of patients)."

Queensland Health has now gone to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in a bid to stop the release of the information and to reverse the decision. It is the first time a government department has taken that action.

Editor of The Courier-Mail Michael Crutcher said the newspaper would continue to fight for the information.

The RTI application was originally part of an investigation which uncovered that Queensland Health was publicly counting tens of thousands of patients as being treated in emergency departments when they had walked out without seeing a doctor.

"When then Attorney-General Cameron Dick spoke last year of the importance of the Right to Information process, he said that greater access to government information helped contribute to well-informed public debate," Mr Crutcher said. "We agree with him."

Premier Anna Bligh replaced Freedom of Information laws with RTI in 2009, heralding her "open and accountable" Government.


Former ALP voters in NSW 'spooked' by carbon tax

JULIA Gillard's carbon tax may have saved two high-profile NSW ministers from a Greens' assault in inner Sydney, but the move exacerbated the revolt against the 16-year-old Labor regime in its own heartland.

In western and southern Sydney, mining areas and long-established industrial towns, factory workers, two-car families and low-income households swung more heavily against Labor than the NSW average.

Echoing their federal leader Tony Abbott, incoming Coalition MPs in NSW argue that traditional Labor voters were spooked by the prospect of job losses, higher petrol prices and rising household power bills from a carbon tax.

"The people of Bathurst sent the federal Labor government a strong message on Saturday: they are opposed to a carbon tax," victorious Nationals Paul Toole told The Australian.

Mr Toole secured a 36.6 per cent swing, the state's highest, to win the seat, three hours' drive west of Sydney. The electorate is home to coalminers, factory hands, power workers and farmers, and takes in regional towns such as Bathurst and Lithgow.

"An electorate dependent on mining and manufacturing was worried about job losses and that a rise in petrol and electricity costs would severely affect their quality of life," he said. "There are many rural communities in Bathurst, too, fearing a threat of higher fuel prices under a carbon tax."

The swing in 14 manufacturing seats lost by the ALP on Saturday was 21.4 per cent, compared with the state-wide movement of 17 per cent, with some of the highest voter shifts recorded in outer-Sydney factory hubs such as Smithfield, Riverstone, Mulgoa and Camden.

After the 2007 NSW poll, Labor held 27 of the top 30 seats ranked by proportion of manufacturing workers; that number is now 13, with Labor seats such as Wollongong, south of Sydney, and Toongabbie, in the city's northwest, now on tiny margins.

Last week, BlueScope Steel chairman Graham Kraehe warned that a carbon price could be a "tipping point" for the steel industry, which could fail to survive in Australia in 20 years under the wrong carbon pricing plan. In the NSW steel-belt, the swing against Labor was 24.5 per cent in Wollongong and 17.3 per cent in nearby Keira.

During the campaign, Barry O'Farrell was aided by Mr Abbott and drive-time radio announcers in raising the prospect of higher petrol prices and inadequate compensation for families from the Prime Minister's carbon tax, which is scheduled to begin in July next year.

The anti-Labor swing was even higher in the 20 seats that have the highest proportion of households with two or more cars. Labor lost 10 seats in these car-dependent electorates, with an average swing of 22 per cent.

Commuter electorates far from Sydney's CBD, such as Riverstone (30 per cent) in the north and Menai (27.5 per cent) in the south, recorded particularly large swings against Labor.

But in inner-west electorates, Labor sources say the carbon tax played a significant role in shoring up support among progressive voters who had lost heart with the party's inaction on climate change.

In Marrickville, retained by Labor's Carmel Tebbutt, the swing against the outgoing health minister was only 5.3 per cent.

"Hard-core Labor voters were looking for a reason to stick with Labor and Carmel's personal appeal and Gillard's carbon tax certainly helped," says a Labor insider. "As did the Greens candidate's mistakes."

In Balmain, the voter shift away from Verity Firth appeared to be even less than in neighbouring Marrickville, but it may not be enough to stave off defeat for the former education minister in a seat with a 3.5 per cent margin that has become a three-horse race in a tricky count.

These inner-urban voters, who have the highest rates of public transport use in NSW and very low levels of car ownership, and tend to live in smaller homes, seemed less perturbed about the threat of higher petrol and power costs.

The federal Opposition Leader told a special sitting of parliament yesterday that Labor's "toxic carbon tax" would add $500 to household power bills.

"Nothing could be more calculated to have sabotaged the NSW Labor government's re-election campaign than this utterly maladroit intervention by . . . a Prime Minister who wants to inflict a toxic tax on the people of Australia - a tax which is not only toxic to families' standard of living and not only toxic to jobs in manufacturing industries but utterly toxic to the re-election campaign."

Ms Gillard yesterday rejected the idea that Labor's heavy defeat in NSW was due to a backlash against the looming carbon tax.

"Let's just be a little bit practical about this; we're talking about a state election after 16 years," she said. "I think NSW voters had made up their mind a long time ago and I don't think that they made up their mind on the basis of events in the last few weeks."


Australian Climate Commission shirks debate

by Bob Carter

Last Friday night, five of Australia’s six Climate Commissioners participated in the Commission’s first public consultation meeting in Geelong. They were Tim Flannery, Will Steffen, Lesley Hughes (all scientists), Roger Beale (environmental policy analyst) and Gerry Hueston (businessman); Commissioner Susannah Elliott (science communication) was not in attendance.

Australia already has an expensive federal Ministry of Climate Change, so why do we also need a new Climate Commission? Good question. The terms of reference of the Climate Commission are to:

* Explain the science of climate change and the impacts on Australia.

* Report on the progress of international action dealing with climate change.

Explain the purpose and operation of a carbon price and how it may interact with the Australian economy and communities.
Interestingly, only one of these terms of reference concerns science. Of course, if there is no science problem then by definition there is no economic or political problem. So the inclusion of two economic and political terms of reference indicates that the government’s view is that “the science is settled” – which won’t surprise anyone.

Similarly unsurprising, but nonetheless disappointing, is that all five of the Commissioners who attended the Geelong meeting manifested an alarmist view of global warming and its speculated human cause – industrial carbon dioxide emissions --- rather than presenting as even-handed dispensers of scientific and technical truth.

The scientific background to the Geelong meeting is this. Within the bounds of error, average global temperature hasn’t increased since 1995 (15 years) and temperature has actually been falling slightly since 2001 (10 years). Meanwhile, over the last ten years atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by 5%.

The conclusion is obvious. More carbon dioxide is not causing dangerous warming. Indeed, and despite it being an undoubted greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide emissions are not currently producing any measurable (as opposed to theoretical) warming at all.

There thus being no established scientific problem, about half of what the Climate Commissioners had to say in Geelong (about carbon dioxide taxes and related industry, employment and social issues) can be put aside – for it concerned non-solutions to a non-problem in aid of which has been proposed a non-justifiable new tax.

This leaves as the key issue the matter of what the Commissioners had to say about the scientific evidence for dangerous global warming. Perhaps they were going to share with us some new evidence or insights?

No such luck. What the audience got instead was a mish-mash of misinformation, much of it derived from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and discussion of which signally failed to distinguish between the undoubtedly real problems associated with natural climate change and the hypothetical problems that might or might not result from human-caused warming - should such ever manifest itself.

To begin with, the Commissioners consistent use of the word “carbon” when “carbon dioxide” was meant, and “climate change” when “dangerous global warming caused by human-carbon dioxide emissions” was meant, indicated the degree to which their views are aligned with the Greens’ carefully honed propaganda view of the world. Using this type of prejudicial language in any discussion on global warming is a litmus test for a lack of balance and perspective by the perpetrators.

Here is a small selection of some of the other incorrect technical statements, and their implications, that were made by the commissioners.

Assertion: Human-caused global warming is continuing, and we are in danger of seeing it augmented by positive feedback loops.

Reality: There is no direct evidence that the mild warming that occurred between 1979 and 1998 was mostly, or even measurably, a result of human carbon dioxide emissions, despite the pseudo-scientific assertion to that effect by the IPCC.

Second, there has been no global warming at all for the last 15 years despite, the operation throughout of the self-same feedback loops.

Assertion: Industrial carbon dioxide emissions are currently ~300 billion tonnes annually and they need to be limited to ~700 billion tonnes in future to stabilize the temperature at no more than 2 deg. C above the pre-industrial temperature.

Reality: There is no evidence that a 2 deg. C warming (which would take the planet back to about the temperature levels of the Climatic Optimum that occurred about 10,000 years ago) would be damaging for the environment, or for human activities in any substantial way that we couldn’t adapt to.

And, even should natural global warming resume in the future, as it very well may as part of a continuing bounce back from the hostile conditions of the Little Ice Age, there is no certainty that restricting carbon dioxide emissions will do anything to halt the rise. First, because of the diminishing warming effectiveness of every increment of carbon dioxide that is added to the atmosphere, and second because the assumed efficacy of limiting emissions to 700 billion tonnes is a projection of computer models that are known to be faulty.

Assertion: The Great Barrier Reef has experienced about 7-10 bleaching events since 1979. No bleaching events are known before this, and the events result when the ocean temperature SST rises about 1 deg. above the summer long term temperature. If we keep going, the reef will bleach every year by 2030.

Reality: Bleaching events on coral reefs are caused less by regional ocean warming per se than they are by the localised warming that occurs in areas and times of low wind conditions.

Bleaching events have been reported since 1979 because it is only after that date that a network of scientific observers was established on the reef. There is no evidence that any of these events was due to human activity, and to suggest that no similar natural events occurred before 1979 is silly.

In any case, the sea surface temperature of the Great Barrier Reef shows no change over the last 30 years, and the speculation that the reef will bleach every year by 2030 doubtless represents the projection of another of those legendary, and legendarily wrong, computer models.

In his introductory remarks to the Geelong meeting, Commission Chairman Tim Flannery stressed that his commission was independent from government direction, and was “determined not to deliver political spin”. Professor Flannery added that Australia “needs a clear, level-headed debate on the core issues” of the global warming matter.

Using those statements as criteria, how well did the Commission’s performance at Geelong stack up? Readers have probably instantly judged the answer to that question for themselves, but here’s my take.

First, and remembering that THE core issue is the scientific evidence regarding global warming, while Professor Flannery may want a clear debate, some of his commissioners deny that any debate exists, or has for 20 years; collectively, their attitudes also seem aimed at continuing to prevent one. Second, most of the examples of commissioners’ arguments discussed above may not represent “political spin” but they most certainly represent “scientific spin” of the most egregious type.

In essence, Australia’s new Climate Commissioners are simply peddling long discredited arguments about global warming that have been made for 15 years by the IPCC, all of which are carefully crafted to demonize human carbon dioxide emissions. Most of these arguments carry a political overtone, and most are espoused also by Australia’s current government, which makes it a little difficult to see how Professor Flannery is going to be able to exercise his Commission’s claimed independence.


28 March, 2011

Hospitals pay $6000 for Kiwi weekend warriors

A CHRONIC doctor shortage in NSW has led to the rise of fly-in, fly-out locums from New Zealand and interstate who are increasingly covering shifts that cannot be filled with locals.

Some weekend warriors, as they are called, will fly in from New Zealand on a Friday, work two days and fly home on Monday, pocketing $6000 or more for their efforts.

Recruitment agencies that specialise in locum placements say business is booming – with most of the demand coming from emergency departments in regional NSW. The NSW government spent $59 million on locums for regional areas in the 2009-10 financial year.

Local doctors have expressed concern about the spiralling cost, saying they are willing to do locum work but are effectively stopped by NSW Health policy. Sally McCarthy, president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said increased regulation now required doctors working in public hospitals to seek permission from NSW Health before undertaking locum work.

"Often that permission is not forthcoming or it's extremely slow and there is a lot of paperwork involved," Dr McCarthy said. "That means for doctors who may be available to work one or two shifts, it's not worth the effort for them to ask for that permission."

New regulations on locums were introduced three years ago to prevent doctors working dangerously long hours, to exercise greater control over pay rates and to ensure they were qualified to do the work they were given.

"Effectively all it has done is make it impossible to employ locums in certain hospitals," Dr McCarthy said. "Doctors will fly interstate and work for another state if they want to do extra work. Similarly, you'll have doctors flying into NSW from other states to do locum work here. It's crazy."

The greater regulation of the locum market was introduced after a 2005 study found it was costing NSW Health $35 million more to employ locums than hire permanent staff. While there have had been benefits, Dr McCarthy said the increased paperwork required had proved to be an impediment.

"One of the constant laments of doctors and nurses working with NSW Health is the incredible and increasing bureaucracy," she said. "It is completely obstructive to providing a service."

Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce said the increased regulation ensured locums were qualified for the work they performed and were not working dangerously long hours. However, he agreed it would be better to use locals.

"Obviously it costs a bit more to fly people in from other states or from New Zealand," Dr Pesce said. "In general you would think if you have a local workforce that's willing to provide a service, it would be better to use them. It really fails the commonsense test."

NSW Health defends its use of interstate and overseas locums, saying they are essential to keeping services running.

'2018;There is a worldwide shortage of medical staff that is affecting NSW as it is everywhere else in the world," a spokeswoman said. "Our priority is to provide the best possible care for patients in need and it is sometimes necessary to provide locum medical officers both from within and outside the state to maintain services, particularly in rural and remote areas and busy emergency departments."

Locums working at remote hospitals in NSW were generally paid more than twice as much as those in metropolitan hospitals. Rates for specialists were higher and hospitals were willing to cover flights and accommodation, said Kerrie Dudley, the director of a NSW recruitment agency, Antipodean Medical Recruitment.

"There are plenty of New Zealand doctors who are happy to do it," she said. "Especially consultants, they'll come over for a long weekend, no problem.

"They can leave New Zealand at 6 that morning and start a shift in Sydney or just outside in an area like the Blue Mountains, Gosford or Wyong – they can start at 10am. It's become quite a common thing."

Sam Hazledine, managing director of New Zealand agency MedRecruit, said caps on locum pay rates introduced in New Zealand last year had encouraged the flow to Australia.

"Since then, our doctors on average can earn twice as much in Australia," Dr Hazledine said. "If you take the exchange rate into account it's even more. We have seen a big net migration of locum doctors to Australia."

He said: "There is the weekend warrior phenomenon. You would have people heading over to Australia to work for the weekend, make $5000 or $10,000, and then fly back."

But now the trend was for New Zealanders to seek longer-term locum positions.

"It works out well for the doctor because they are in a place they love earning great money; it works out well for the hospital because they are securing the doctor for a long time."

New Zealander Jason Pascoe took a locum position in Port Macquarie last year and has since taken another as an emergency doctor in Bega.

"The money is better here," Dr Pascoe said. "I had plenty of friends from New Zealand who had come over here and had positive things to say, so I came over and so far it's been really good."


Anglicans lose the plot

Next thing they'll be ditching that fusty old-fashioned Bible

THE inscription on June Cameron's family prayer book commemorates her aunt's confirmation at St Clement's Anglican Church in Marrickville in 1910.

Mrs Cameron was married in the Gothic Revival-style church. So was her daughter. But most of her children and grandchildren have since left the area. And now, at 81 years old, she has finally been moved along as well.

"It's sort of devastating, all of a sudden. To have them do this," she said. "It isn't just the church's history - it's blooming well mine. And that's what I object to."

Mrs Cameron was part of the congregation at St Clement's moved out of the historic building last month, when its Sunday prayer book service was replaced with an "informal" service held in a shopfront next door.

For many among the congregation it was yet another sign that church leaders viewed them as incompatible with the future envisioned for St Clement's, which would aim to increase attendance by restyling the parish to suit a modern congregation.

Other groups, including a flourishing Chinese congregation and a "church plant", or introduced congregation that joined the parish in 2009, hold their services in the church.

"We were excluded because we didn't fit in. And our idea of a service didn't fit in," Mrs Cameron said.

The organist of 35 years was told in January her services were no longer required; the parish recently added a new jazz group.

Long-time parishioner Ken Turner said the group had shrunk from about 45 to 15, as many opted to leave rather than fight the changes - which increased following the election of last year's parish council, under its part-time rector, Reverend Campbell King.

At the annual vestry meeting yesterday, the traditional congregation did not have the numbers to get any members elected to the new parish council.

Last month the parish submitted a development application to Marrickville Council - with the approval of the diocese - to remove the pews to increase space "for standing, dancing and singing-style congregations". The application suggested the baptismal font could be moved to accommodate a cafe.

The Heritage Council of NSW this week advised council the application was "lacking in its assessment of the heritage significance of the site".

Mr Turner said he complained about the removal of the pews, and the Archdeacon of Liverpool, Ian Cox, asked him to let the matter rest.

Mr Cox said the parish was seeking new ways to connect with the community and its decisions were no different to those being made in other "rapidly changing suburbs". [Marrickville is an old suburb but it has had a lot of Southern Europeans for years. How come it is "rapidly changing"?]


Power generator tells academic climate adviser to get real

ELECTRICITY producers have called on the Gillard government's chief climate change adviser to drop "undergraduate rhetorical devices" and develop "real world" policy about power generation that doesn't damage the economy.

One of Australia's biggest electricity generators, InterGen, has challenged Ross Garnaut to change his position on not compensating power companies for asset value destruction under a carbon tax. Brent Gunther, managing director of InterGen, which produces 16 per cent of Queensland's electricity, has declared that Professor Garnaut's arguments have "missed the point" about financial damage to companies under a carbon price.

He joins several senior business figures in speaking out against the carbon tax proposed to start on July 1 next year.

Mr Gunther says, in an article published in The Australian today, that Professor Garnaut's position on compensating power companies under the Rudd government's carbon pollution reduction scheme would have resulted in "major damage to the national electricity market" and was a "prescription that will end up damaging the Australian economy".

Professor Garnaut "needs to deliver real-world solutions, not high-level principles that assume away problems", Mr Gunther writes.

Professor Garnaut will release another major discussion paper on electricity generation and the carbon tax tomorrow, but signalled last week he had not changed his position from 2008, when he argued there were no grounds for compensation for electricity generators.

He said that, although assistance to emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries was needed to avoid unfair competition between Australian emitters and those in countries without a carbon price, this should not be confused with providing support for loss of profits or asset value.

"Any fall in asset value stemming from the internalisation of the carbon externality (through pricing carbon) creates no greater case for compensation than other government reforms to reduce other externalities, such as the introduction of measures to discourage smoking, control the use of asbestos or phase out lead in petrol" Professor Garnaut said.

Mr Gunther says the comments suggest Professor Garnaut's discussion paper tomorrow will be a "prescription based on a simplistic and superficial understanding of the power sector - a prescription that will end up damaging the Australian economy".

The InterGen chief also says that asset value losses for electricity companies raise the prospect of state governments having to direct "a power station to keep operating if things ever got bad".

In 2009, as a result of Professor Garnaut's recommendations, the Rudd government indicated it would provide $7.3 billion over 10 years to the power sector for the impact of an emissions trading scheme.

This was after commissioning a report from investment bank Morgan Stanley that highlighted generators would be unable to pass on to consumers the impact of a carbon price on their asset losses.

"At a time when the economic debate in Australia is starting to refocus on how to enhance productivity, the importance of the national electricity market should never be underestimated," Mr Gunther says.

He says the energy sector wants to "develop a solution", as did Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.

Last week in parliament, Mr Ferguson, said: "A highly efficient energy-driven system has been the key to the Australian economy.

"The Australian energy market is actually held up as the most efficient in the OECD world.

"It is estimated that over $17bn of capital is required for powerhouse generation assets - that is, refinancing, capital expenditure and new build over the next five years."


Straddling black fella and white fella law

Sara Hudson

Bess Nungarrayi Price, an activist against violence and chairwoman of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, gave a moving talk at CIS this week about the problems faced by Central Australian Indigenous communities.

Price described a typical week in her life. How every day, a member of her family was either the victim of violence or the perpetrator of crime. How a young relative committed suicide because the boy she liked was from the wrong skin group and she was forbidden to see him. How another young woman was gang raped but no one in the community did anything about it. The perpetrators were from the right skin group, and the young woman could not report the crime to police for fear of retribution.

Women in traditional aboriginal culture are subordinate to men and Price herself has had her life threatened for speaking out about these injustices.

Too many people romanticise Aboriginal culture. The ‘Disneyland’ idea of culture is holding Aboriginal people back. It fosters the belief that Aboriginal people do not need to adapt, to learn English, and become educated. While there is much about traditional Aboriginal culture that is worth continuing and maintaining, Price feels that Aboriginal law needs to be adapted to fit with ‘white fella’ laws.

When Aboriginal people follow their own law, they break ‘white fella’ law; when they follow ‘white fella’ law, they break their own laws. Price explained how only Aboriginal people have the power to change their laws, but they need white people to help them by really talking about these issues with them.

Lawyers are using traditional culture as an excuse to get their clients off charges or to receive more lenient sentences. Recognition of traditional culture was introduced to counteract institutional racism in the criminal justice system. But it is rewarding the perpetrators of crime, not the victims.

Most of the crimes committed by Aboriginal people are intra-racial – and it is Aboriginal women who bear the brunt of men’s violence. Human rights groups protest against honour killings in other countries but turn a blind eye to the injustices taking place in their own backyard for fear of being labelled a racist.

Price’s plea was that we need to stop being afraid to speak up and to stop using culture as an excuse for crimes.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 25 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

27 March, 2011

Earth hour

Anne and I celebrated Earth hour yesterday in appropriate style. Everybody was supposed to turn all their lights out at 8:30 pm.

So at 8.30pm I turned on every light in the house and Anne served up our dinner on my verandah. We had Forfar Bridies from Syd's, with salad, and they were of course excellent. We washed them down with some Wynn's Coonawarra Shiraz

I live within earshot of "The Gabba", one of the holy grounds of cricket. They had a well-attended (judging by the roars of the crowd) football match there last night. It was of course held under huge floodlights. And they certainly were not turned off at 8.30pm. Thank goodness for sporting Australians.

"Historic" is a much-overused word

But sometimes it is literally true. The crooks of Sussex St. have finally got their comeuppance

Barry O'Farrell vowed to make "New South Wales number one again" after securing a thumping election victory last night. With voters delivering a brutal verdict on 16 years of tumultuous ALP rule in NSW, a measured Mr O'Farrell reached out to many Labor supporters who abandoned their party in spectacular fashion.

The incoming premier vowed to govern for everyone in the state. "There are many people who voted ... who have never done anything except vote Labor," he said. "We will deliver."

The scandal-plagued Labor Government suffered a devastating record-breaking loss, described by the party's campaign boss Luke Foley as "cataclysmic - I mean it's a bloodbath". Premier Kristina Keneally conceded defeat at 9pm, and immediately stood down as leader, after presiding over the shocking defeat.

After a whopping 17 per cent swing against it, Labor could be left with just 17 MPs in the 93 seat parliament as the Coalition swept through previously safe ALP areas in Sydney's western suburbs, and in the Illawarra and the Hunter regions.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition - won 63.9 per cent of the vote, compared to Labor's 36.1 per cent.

So resounding was the victory - picking up at least 29 seats - Mr O'Farrell, the 52-year-old former political staffer who has spent the past 15 years in parliament in opposition. said the Coalition "won seats we never dreamed of ever winning".

Mr O'Farrell also vowed to take the fight to federal Labor in Canberra over the carbon tax, which the Liberals claimed was a key flashpoint in many Labor electorates.


Another landslide coming up?

I am a great admirer of Major Newman. He has been a great mayor for Brisbane. He is a former Duntroon man and Duntroon men are are among Australia's finest

QUEENSLANDERS appear to be supporting Campbell Newman's bid to become premier, with a new poll indicating the opposition LNP could have a landslide victory in the next state election.

A Galaxy poll in The Sunday Mail says that with Mr Newman as leader, the LNP has extended its two-party preferred lead over Labor to a massive 16 per cent.

The 58-42 result follows recent internal polling by the LNP which put them ahead 52-48 with former leader John-Paul Langbroek at the helm.

If the boost was to be translated at the next election, due in March next year, it would result in the government losing 33 seats. An overwhelming majority of those polled also preferred Mr Newman over Anna Bligh as premier. Mr Newman recorded 51 per cent support in the preferred premier stakes compared with Ms Bligh's 38 per cent.

The leadership switch has knocked the wind out of Premier Bligh's comeback following the cyclone and the floods. Only late last month a poll showed she gained 23 percentage points as preferred premier to hold a 58-33 lead over Mr Langbroek.


A nation-shaping event?

Piers Akerman

NSW delivered a tectonic shift in Australian politics yesterday - a shift so dynamic it has the capacity to alter the cultural course of the nation for the next decade and longer.

Most noticeable will be the obvious power shift between the states and the Gillard federal government.

On Friday, there were two conservative state governments. Tomorrow, there will be three - and they have the palpable capacity to dominate the national debate.

Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are no match for Western Australia, Victoria and NSW in terms of economies, populations or sheer competence and governance.

The shift in political gravity provides the opportunity for a reversal of the Green-Left cultural drift that has been accelerated with the connivance of the Rudd-Gillard governments and their cohorts of morally self-righteous doctors' wives and culturally detached inner-urban activists.

During the last week of federal parliament, Gillard and her minions demonstrated their understanding of this new reality.

The Prime Minister led Labor into a series of responses to her fatally flawed carbon-dioxide tax from a wholly reactionary position.

Her huge election lie on the tax was just a part of it.

In so markedly moving from her "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead" position, she felt it would be timely to attempt to project a whole series of new political and moral positions, all of them totally contrary to her previous stances on the same issues.

The woman who for many years was a member of the Communist-inspired Socialist Forum now maintains she is actually a cultural conservative.

The atheist politician who presided over the formulation of a curriculum that would strip the discussion of the influence of Christianity on Western civilisation from the school system now says all schools should teach stories from the Bible.

Gillard has even argued for the sanctity of marriage, even though she hasn't entered into matrimony with the man she lives with in The Lodge - perhaps the polls haven't fallen far enough for that paradigm to shift.

She wants the public to believe she thinks the Greens are extremists, but is unwilling to distance herself from them because she needs their support to hang on to power - while at the same time, she excoriates Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for appearing at a rally at which a handful of odd bods held up dissonant posters, and shrilly shrieks that he must dissociate himself from such uninvited attendees at a mass rally.

Gillard is fighting from an uncomfortable corner. She cannot claim any mandate to introduce a carbon-dioxide tax because both parties pledged not to introduce such a tax at the last election, and both parties said they would not introduce an emissions-trading scheme until the country indicated it was ready.

The Coalition made it clear it would not adopt a new tax that would harm the economy.

Labor said it would wait until there was a "consensus" and hired climate alarmist Tim Flannery to head a propaganda team to run its fear-mongering campaign.

Gillard broke her promise and adopted the position of the Greens, who hold just one Lower House seat and favour a number of policies that most Australians would find nauseating.

Her reversal has nothing to do with the environment, as it's now accepted by every economic expert, including those from Treasury, that a carbon-dioxide tax in Australia will have no effect on the planet's temperature.

Gillard's position, and that of her government, is designed wholly to attack Tony Abbott and destroy his leadership of the Opposition. So far, it has had the opposite effect.

Apart from the two or three disaffected malcontents who would be happier in the left wing of the ALP, the party room is revelling in the Opposition's higher profile.

The doctors' wives being courted by Gillard are probably too preoccupied with self-serving good works to understand this or the true rancid nature of the Greens, but the inner-urban Green-Left activists know full well the repellent content of the revolting Green agenda.

In the outpouring of faux outrage that followed Wednesday's No Carbon Tax rally in Canberra, Greens leader Bob Brown sent a note to Gillard in which he confected an apology on behalf of unnamed Australians who may have been offended by a few posters.

As stunts went, it was low-grade, but it served to remind observers, including Tasmania's Senator Eric Abetz, that Brown had not only insulted US president George W. Bush when he visited Australia but that Brown and his party have embraced anti-American, anti-Israeli conspiracists who maintain the fiction that the terrorist attack the World Trade Center towers was a US-Zionist plot.

The Greens voted against a motion in the Senate on Wednesday that acknowledged Israel is a legitimate and democratic state and a good friend of Australia, and denounced the boycott of Israel by the Green-dominated Marrickville Council.

Brown and the NSW Greens have also attempted to deny their support for the boycott of Israeli products, even though ex-Communist and Greens senator-elect Lee Rhiannon was responsible for a motion supported at the NSW Greens' conference last December.

It proposed that Australia and its government "boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, sporting, cultural and academic events".

Such is the sheer insanity of Gillard's reliable partners in government.

This is the culture that has corrupted much of the nation's education system. This is the culture that must be reversed. Restoring NSW is the first step; restoring Australia must be the goal.


Unrepentant education bureaucrats in NSW

Casey Heyne's school, Chifley College, cleared in wake of viral video. The bureaucrats think it is enough to give a kid "support" after he has been attacked when what is needed is protection from attack. And they're not backing down one bit. Let's hope the new NSW government enforces more compassionate policies

THE Department of Education has cleared Chifley College of condoning a bullying culture, despite its principal allowing more than 60 incident reports involving Casey Heynes to stack up.

The Year 10 student shot to international fame last week when a video of him fighting back against a schoolyard bully at his western Sydney public school went viral. The 16-year-old is seen pressed against a wall taking punches and taunts from a small Year 7 boy, Ritchard Gale, before snapping and throwing him to the ground.

During an interview with A Current Affair, Casey claimed he wrote between 60 and 70 incident reports to the school about the bullying, yet never got a break from the harassment.

A department spokesman said Chifley College principal Tim Jones would not be disciplined because he had done nothing wrong, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

The spokesman admitted there were students who had been repeatedly abused by bullies but said the department was satisfied the Doonside school provided adequate support to the victims. "Students who are subject to repeated bullying receive regular specialist and individual support," he said. "The school supports students who report being bullied. The students are supported by a full-time counsellor, additional year advisers and peer mediators."

The department has also gagged the media from asking questions directly of Mr Jones or any teachers at Chifley College about the 60 reported complaints of bullying. But speaking on the condition of anonymity, a school source said Casey's incident reports had been ignored.

The department spokesman said every report filed to the principal had been addressed. He would not detail how these had been addressed or how many reports had been received, but said the school had several ways to resolve instances of bullying. These included disciplinary action, self-esteem programs, counsellor intervention and support and learning plans, as well as access to community support agencies. [Bullsh*t, in other words]

Despite none of these methods helping Casey, the spokesman was adamant the school had done nothing wrong and had no need to overhaul its response to bullying.

The video has sparked calls for stronger supervision. "The overwhelming bulk of bullying happens during recess and lunchtime, when students are not being supervised. We need more supervision, more staff in the playground," Parents and Citizens Federation spokeswoman Sharryn Brownlee said.

"The duty of care is all day, not just in your classroom."


Baby dies after expectant mother waits five hours for a room at Osborne Park Hospital

THE Health Department is investigating whether the tragic death of a baby at a Perth hospital could have been averted. It is alleged the expectant mum, known as Lilli, was forced to wait in an emergency department after her waters broke, only to be told five hours later when she finally got a room that her baby had died inside her.

President of the National African Women's Council of Australia, Casta Tungaraza, was supporting Lilli as she left hospital today. Dr Tungaraza said the heavily pregnant 21-year-old was attending an antenatal clinic at Osborne Park Hospital on Tuesday with her two-year-old son when her waters broke. She was surprised because her baby girl wasn’t due for three weeks.

She got to the emergency department at about 11am and doctors asked that she be put in a room and monitored, as is the practice with women who have gone into labour. However there were none available and she was told to wait in the emergency room while experiencing contractions. She remembers her baby was still kicking and seemingly fine.

Five hours later when a room became available, an ultrasound was taken and it was discovered that the baby had died.

Lilli had to be induced to give birth to her baby daughter despite the fact she had died. Lilli believes if she had been in a room earlier and the proper checks were being made her baby could have been saved.

She was being comforted today by members of Perth’s African community

A spokesperson for the North Metropolitan Area Health Service told PerthNow: “We express our condolences to the family for their loss. "Due to patient confidentiality we cannot comment on specific patient details at this time. However, we are now in the process of fully investigating this matter.”


26 March, 2011

Juliar Says That A Carbon Tax Will Make The Ski Season Longer

We read:
"Julia Gillard has told Labor MPs to warn voters that a failure to back a carbon tax will lead to more bushfires and droughts as well as coastal inundation and shorter skiing seasons.


After she broke her promise not to legislate for a carbon tax, it became customary for many Australian conservatives to call Julia Gillard "Juliar". I refrained from doing that on the grounds that a broken promise is not quite a lie. Now, however, she has done it: A barefaced lie that is not even plausible.

Even if we accept as gospel every word that the Warmists say, there is no way any conceivable Australian legislation would have any perceptible effect on the world climate -- simply because Australia's carbon emissions are such a small fraction of the world total.

Those who have done the math generally come up with one hundredth of one degree or thereabouts as the effect on world temperature of the proposed legislation. And that microscopic change would have NO effect on the ski season or anything else


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very dismissive of "Earth Hour"

Arrogant female bureaucrats cost the taxpayer another $67m

They thought that they could get away with destroying hundreds of businesses and creating huge financial losses on the basis of mere speculation: One of the grosser examples of bureaucratic irresponsibility and abuse of power. They are all the more hateful because they paid $120 million years ago to the "big" guy whom they hurt but thought that they could stiff all the the little guys by insisting on long drawn out and expensive court action. Luckily, a legal firm came to the rescue on a contingency basis. Their costs will be a pretty penny too.

I have commented on the scum previously. Note that I am no fan of "alternative" medicine. As you can see here I think that there is too much quackery even in conventional medicine. But my attachment to the importance of evidence is obviously not shared by the TGA and the bitches who seem to run it -- depite scrutiny of evidence being their brief

And the two devious feminazis at the heart of the TGA action -- Fiona Cumming and Rita Maclachlan -- are apparently still in their jobs! Their involvement in the destruction of records should in fact lead to criminal charges being laid against them

CUSTOMERS of Pan Pharmaceuticals who sued the Federal Government after the company was shut down have been awarded $67.5 million in compensation.

The settlement, approved by Federal Court Justice Flick today, was negotiated without admissions of wrongdoing by the Federal Government, said Andrew Thorpe, legal adviser to the class of 170 former customers of Pan whose businesses suffered losses as a result of the company's closure.

"However, it does end an eight-year saga that commenced on 28 April 2003, when the Government shut down Pan Pharmaceuticals without notice," he said outside court.

"On that day, hundreds of people lost their jobs, $350 million was wiped off the Sydney stock exchange and scores of business, customers and service providers of Pan were very badly affected."

In March 2003, the Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) suspended Pan's licence after excessive amounts of some ingredients were found in its Travacalm tablets.

In 2008, the 170 sponsors, customers and creditors of Pan, as well as distributors and retailers of its products, filed the class action.


The Leftist approach to school discipline triumphs again

The ostrich model

SHE should be too young to know what fear is, especially at that place where little girls should expect to feel safe. School. Yet this nine-year-old, who used to skip to school and drag her mum out of the door to get there on time, has needed her mum sitting next to her in class after a series of alleged horrific sexual assaults by a classmate and his gang of friends, reported The Daily Telegraph.

One attack occurred in the school toilets. Both the girl and her attacker were just seven at the time.

The regional Sydney school has not expelled or suspended the boy, he has received no professional help and his only punishment was to be kept out of the playground for a time.

The lack of action has angered other parents whose own children have allegedly been bullied, intimidated and punched by him.

The little girl's mother, 39, has found it almost impossible to get her into another school because she has special needs. After a two-year fight with the school and education authorities, she said she was now desperate. "I am trying so hard to be a good mum and fight for my daughter but I need help," she said yesterday.

Her daughter had struggled to tell her mum what had happened because she suffers from learning difficulties.

Her mother said that, within a couple of weeks of term starting in 2009, her daughter's enthusiasm for school had ended. "She would come home from school and cry. This was not normal so I asked her what was going on. She would just shake her head and say 'I got no friends'," her mother said. Her daughter would beg her: "Please mummy, I just want to go home, please mummy."

When the mother asked the headmistress what was going on, she was told they were "just crocodile tears".

Then one of the girl's young friends grabbed his own mother outside school one day and, clearly distressed, said: "I saw something." That evening, the little girl reluctantly told her mum what had happened. "[He] hurts my bottom but I'm not allowed to tell you because he will kill me," the girl said. "He hurts me right here mum and he shows the boys."

Her mother discovered that her daughter had been lured to secluded areas within the playground, including the toilets, where she was violently sexually assaulted more than once by the boy, who got his young mates to watch and laugh at her. She was also punched, teased and choked. "He had her so fearful and he manipulated her. He told her she was not allowed to have any friends and that she had to wait for him," the mother said. "[My daughter], in her simple, fragile mind, listened to him because she feared him."

The school notified the police and what was then the Department of Community Services. The police could do nothing as the boy was under the age of criminal responsibility, which is 10. DOCS removed the boy from his mother and he now lives with other relatives.

While he went to school every day, the little girl's mother paid for her to attend a private school last year.

One day her teacher gave the class a task after talking to them about what "no" meant. They were asked to write about when they should get a "no" feeling. The girl drew a harrowing picture, which shocked the teacher who spoke to her mother about it. That picture tells a thousand words. It shows the boy with his "evil eyes" dragging a crying girl to the toilet block as other boys watch.


Experts undermine government's climate policy

APART from settling on a carbon tax for five years as an interim measure before introducing a flexibly priced emissions trading scheme, the other big changes the Gillard government has sought to make to Kevin Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme have been to reframe climate change politics and rhetoric.

Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Greg Combet have recast their own position and logic after deciding the former prime minister's advocacy of action on climate change as the "greatest moral and economic challenge of our time" relied too heavily on the moral and not enough on the economic.

As a result, much of the positive debate from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Climate Change Minister has been framed in economic terms. The negative, emotional side of climate change politics is no longer just to run scare campaigns about rising water levels and killer storms but also to portray Tony Abbott as a climate change denier, an extremist and scaremonger.

Although Labor MPs are still being urged in their "talking points" to talk about the potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef, the Labor leaders are concentrating on economic arguments, compensation and the Opposition Leader's denial of a Liberal free-market tradition.

This approach is designed to appear reasonable in the face of "oddball" extremist opposition to a carbon tax to fight global warming and to reassure households and business that compensation will be financial and not just a warm feeling of self-satisfaction about saving the planet.

In the past week, Gillard, Swan and Combet have talked about generous tax cuts for middle and low-income earners, the Opposition's plan to rip away these tax cuts and a fundamental market-based reform to reduce carbon pollution.

Swan said on many occasions the Coalition did "not believe in the power of free markets any more" and Gillard accused Abbott of giving up the Liberal tradition of assisting good economic reform from opposition, while arguing Australia had to act on a carbon price or lose out to countries that were reforming their economies.

Yet three of the government's most senior advisers on the issue - economics professor Ross Garnaut, productivity commissioner Gary Banks and Climate Change Department chief Blair Comley - have expressed views that undermine the government's new argument on free markets, compensation share and international competitiveness.

Garnaut, whose suggestion of adopting the income tax cuts to compensate for carbon tax price rises as part of the Henry tax reforms was promoted by Gillard for days before Swan knocked it on the head yesterday, has suggested in his latest discussion paper that a greater part of the carbon tax revenue be used to develop renewable energy sources.

Garnaut's suggestion was pursued even more enthusiastically by the Greens, who suggested funding for renewables be increased four or fivefold. Given the cost of the Henry tax cuts for middle income earners and potential blowout in renewable energy funding from a finite revenue source, Swan killed off the tax cuts.

Although the government allowed Garnaut's tax-cut suggestion to run, it knew all along the cuts were unsustainable and actually pushed up the taxes of some middle-income earners.

As Swan said yesterday: "The two-tiered rate that was put forward in the Henry report . . . actually causes increases in taxation for some middle-income groups and some low-income earners. So I said that is not necessarily ideally the way to go." Thus, the bursting of the Garnaut thought bubble on Henry's tax cuts.

The Productivity Commission chief, who has been tasked to work out where Australia stands on a global scale as far as carbon reduction, trade competitiveness and economic efficiency are concerned, dealt an even harsher blow to government hopes of economic justification for a carbon tax.

As well, Banks undermined Gillard's claims about China's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by pointing out that countries took steps for economic efficiency that had the welcome by-product of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but that should not necessarily be counted towards a nation's efforts to cut carbon output. After an initial stumble on China's closing of coal-fired power stations, Gillard recovered to admit they were replacing them with more efficient coal-fired power stations but Banks's point undercuts the logic that Australia has to act to match China's actions.

More seriously for the government, Banks declared: "Crucially - and this point seems not to be widely understood - it will not be efficient from a global perspective (let alone a domestic one) for a carbon-intensive economy, such as ours, to abate as much as other countries that are less reliant on cheap, high-emission sources.

"It's common sense that achieving any given level of abatement is likely to be costlier in a country with a comparative advantage in fossil fuels," Banks said.

"An appropriate carbon price for Australia cannot be readily inferred from cross-country estimates of the abatement costs of existing schemes," he said. Banks has signalled his report is not going to be easy to complete nor will it contain the information and justifications many may hope.

And as Swan and Combet cited various sources backing their economic judgment on a carbon price as a free-market mechanism there was a sobering assessment from the head of the Climate Change Department sitting on the department's website.

In June last year, three weeks before Kevin Rudd was dumped - after dumping his own emissions trading scheme - the then deputy secretary of the department declared that "the key point I want to make is that carbon markets are regulatory interventions".

"At one level this is so obvious that it need not be said," the former senior Treasury official said, but he was struck by some comments about carbon markets that he wanted to correct. "The first is that carbon markets must be the right answer as it is a 'market' solution, often said in such a way as to imply that markets are naturally occurring beasts.

"Carbon markets may be the right answer, primarily due to the way in which they harness information and utilise decentralised processes, but they only continue to exist supported by institutions," Comley said.

The government may have given up on Rudd's moral imperative on a carbon price and embarked on an economic campaign, but the finite revenue from the carbon price and the huge and growing demands for a share, plus the increasingly wobbly arguments about overseas action and "free markets" suggests there's just as many hard yards ahead.


Ferguson calls Greens basket-weavers and labels leader 'soapbox' Bob

RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has attacked Labor's minority government partner the Greens as "basket-weavers" and taken a personal swipe at leader Bob Brown.

Mr Ferguson described the Greens leader as "soapbox Bob Brown" and hit out at his politics over the minerals resource rent tax and the government's proposed carbon pricing regime.

The minister said Senator Brown's push for a more punitive tax regime on the resources sector was a short-term solution, and accused him of setting aside economic realities in a pitch for votes on carbon pricing.

The Gillard government has granted mining companies major concessions in its revamped mining tax, the details of which were finalised yesterday. But with the Coalition opposing the deal, Labor must win crossbench support to get it through parliament.

Mr Ferguson said the Greens' push for a tougher policy position on the mining tax would cripple investment and force it offshore.

"Of course we're going to have people jumping up and down and soapbox Bob Brown, in terms of (saying) it's never enough in terms of taxation," he told ABC radio.

"Do you put in place a taxation system which means for a short term period you get a huge jump in taxation, but you stifle investment because capital is footloose and (there are) plenty of opportunities in places such as Africa? They're the choices companies make."

Mr Ferguson said if the government's mining tax was not supported in the parliament then "Bob Brown better start explaining to the Australian community, as should Tony Abbott, how you're going to actually get the revenue to cut company taxation, how you're going to get the revenue to assist small business".

He also attacked the Greens for engaging in populism over the government's proposed carbon tax, suggesting they were living in a fantasy land where people had no jobs and weaved baskets under trees.

"It's easier again to play to the gallery and say we should have $60, $70, $80 per tonne, pull something out of the air and suggest it without actually modelling the potential implications on the Australian community, and the standard of living that we expect," he said.

"We can all sit under the tree and weave baskets with no jobs, if that's what some people in the NGOs and the Greens want."

He played down the government's political concession to credit mining companies for increases in state royalty payments under the MRRT, saying state leaders knew there were upper limits on how much royalties could be raised.

"I think (WA Premier) Colin Barnett understands, there is an absolute limit to how much he can take in terms of royalties. Yes, you can beat the drum and play to the gallery. He's done well in terms of the recent grants commission process," he said.

Mr Ferguson said the MRRT was a crucial reform to address the impacts of the nation's two-speed economy, which were evident even in Western Australia, where the state's tourism sector was unable to get sufficient workers because of the high wages on offer from the mining industry.


Hospital was too busy to treat Glenn's earache and he died

WHEN Glenn Rubbo, 40, arrived at Lismore Base Hospital he thought he was suffering from a bad earache. Six hours later he was found lying motionless in the hospital carpark. Within 24 hours, he was brain dead.

Police are investigating the case after details emerged that the hospital's emergency department was over-run with patients on March 1.

Glenn's aunt Rosie said she had sat with her nephew for two hours on the night he died. He was numb down the left side of his body and dizzy when he arrived by ambulance about 8.30pm. "The emergency department was very busy," she said. "I remember he couldn't hear properly out of his ear so he was yelling and asking for a drink of water but he couldn't even get that."

Before Rosie left the hospital about 10.30pm, she asked hospital staff when her nephew was going to be treated and was told there were 11 people before him.

The hospital informed the family in the early morning that Glenn had suffered a stroke in the carpark.

Glenn's dad Ernie, who lives in Wollongong, arrived too late to speak with his son, who suffered from a muscle disorder. "The specialist said if Glenn had been seen in the first two hours he might be with us today," Ernie Rubbo said.

Late last year, Lismore Base Hospital emergency department staff told a public meeting they had been forced to "shuffle" patients around beds because of over-crowding. The department allegedly crammed 31,000 patients into its 14 beds last year. Both major parties have refused to fund an $80 million upgrade of the hospital in far northern NSW.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

25 March, 2011

A public service broadcaster propagates some strange economics

On the ABC "Green" site, unsurprisingly. The writer obviously has some grasp of economics but makes some elementary blunders. Take the first sentence in the excerpt below: If that were true, why are forests and stands of trees bought and sold?

And take the last paragraph reproduced below, the claim that burning down cities would benefit the GNP. It is an old fallacy. The writer has obviously never read Bastiat. In summary, the available economic energies (labour etc.) would not change. It would produce much the same in sum with or without a conflagration. Instead of building new houses (say), it would have to rebuild old ones. There would be no necessary impact on GNP at all -- but there would of course be a great loss of assets. See also here for a another refutation of this old fallacy

I suspect that the writer just liked the idea of burning down houses. Greenie forest management policies frequently accomplish just that -- via their opposition to bushfire prevention

A tree growing in a forest has no standing in economics. As far as conventional economics is concerned, it has no "economic" role. Of course, it provides a vital role in the earth's life support system, but this is of interest to scientists and not economists.

As soon as the tree is cut down, it acquires status in economics. Its significance grows as the tree is broken up into smaller components, such as paper or match sticks. The more it is destroyed, the more important it becomes to economic calculations.

Gross National Product (GNP)

Economic and political life revolves around the GNP or Gross National Product. GNP is the measure of financial transactions within a country's economy - the total flow of goods and services produced by the economy over a specified time (usually a year) - and it is derived from calculating the total income of a country's residents, whether the incomes come from production in that country or from production abroad. There is also a calculation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but this distinction is not very important for the main argument here: the inadequacy of conventional economics to take the environment into account.

The GNP is simply a measure of financial transactions; it makes no value judgment on whether the transactions were socially useful or what impact there may have been on the environment.

Crime and car accidents increase the GNP because of the increased work for police, ambulances and prisons. A reduction in crime reduces the GNP. Similarly, a good way to increase Australian GNP would be to burn down Sydney and Melbourne each year. GNP would grow because of the extra work for fire brigades, undertakers, architects, builders, and plumbers. There would be little to show for all this annual effort - but there would be a higher GNP.


Thousands of angry ordinary Australian​s turn up to an anti-tax rally -- and the usual Green/Left smears begin

Jo Nova

In Canberra YESTERDAY over 3,000 people went out of their way, coming in on 30 buses from more than 1000 km away, to let Julia Gillard know that Australians do not want her Carbon Tax. The news made every major broadcast for several minutes. Protesters were referred to as “climate skeptics” (mostly).

Other rallies around Australia got hundreds of people even though they were organized in a hurry, with no advertising, and with no pre-formed coalition of networked groups. There was a very good crowd at the Perth rally on a hot day during business hours, and one heckler (John Brookes). The mood was striking.

This is random shoe-string grassroots action at the last minute and look what it can achieve. It’s just beginning.

The photo gallery at the Australian makes it clear how decidedly normal most people were and what their main messages are. This is mainstream Australia rising up, yet already the Big-Green-PR machine is at work, doing all it can to deny the undeniable.

As I drove home in Perth after our rally, ABC news-radio didn’t mention that 3,000 people had gathered, nor that protests had happened all over the country, they may have said that earlier, but all I heard was how Tony Abbot was under a “cloud” for having spoken at a rally with “extremists” — The Telegraph headlined it too.

Labor MP Nick Champion, Labor Party backbencher, gets press time for his free shot at calling them “extremists“. It’s just another form of name-calling, and if the media had any standards they would not propagate the namecalling without demanding he substantiate it. (Do write and tell me if any journalist asked Champion to explain why it’s extreme to ask for major policies to be put to an election first, or why we ought to expect some achievable outcome when we pay billions — other than earning brownie-points for the UN). Does the word “extreme” mean anything?

Fans of the big scare campaign are masters at avoiding the substantive issues, and filling the available media time with trivialities and name calling. The protesters are obviously angry ordinary Australians. That there are a few odd people or marginal hanger-on-ers among thousands is predictable, and green rally’s have their own variety.

The “witch” and “bitch” signs were unfortunate. The unstatesmanlike anger expressed in those messages is a byproduct of the long suppression of these voices. That anger needs better direction. That will come.

But as much as Labor might wish that today’s rally was a minority group of extremists, this is the start of the pendulum swinging. I stopped to shop at a butchers on the way home inadvertently wearing a No Carbon Tax shirt, and the business-man’s eyes lit up “Were you at the protest?” He’s angry and he’s one of tens of thousands who couldn’t be there today.

Many people I spoke to after the rally were keen to help. We need to start networking, with lists. The message was that many people wanted to put posters up and spread the word.

On another front, many businesses are still afraid to speak out against the Carbon Tax (what business — apart from solar and wind — would benefit from it?) But Bluescope Steel’s Graham Kraehe is pulling no punches. Finally, at least some businesses are stepping forward. If they all said the obvious, the carbon tax would be dead tomorrow.


Leftist group attacks broadcaster over climate

How much of the CO2 in the atmosphere is the product of human activity is moot. Molecules don't have fingerprints on them. There have been much higher levels of CO2 in prehistoric times so the best guess is that human activities are unimportant.

ACTIVIST group GetUp is taking on Sydney shock jock Alan Jones, demanding the broadcaster withdraw comments disputing the science of human-induced climate change.

The organisation is launching proceedings with the broadcast watchdog, demanding Jones publicly and immediately revoke what it calls fabricated statements.

"It's wrong for ultra-conservative shock-jocks like Mr Jones to deliberately mislead their audience," GetUp's acting national director Sam Mclean said today. "We have standards in this country which demand the truth from our broadcasters."

Action is also planned against another Macquarie Radio broadcaster, Chris Smith, organiser of today's anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra.

Under the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) code of practice, broadcasters are required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that current affairs material, presented as factual, is reasonably supportable and to correct errors of fact at the earliest opportunity.

GetUp has set its sights on Jones over his comments that nature produces nearly all of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Jones has said that human beings produce .001 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the air.

GetUp argues that statement is factually inaccurate and prominent climate scientists have agreed that humans have contributed at least 28 per cent of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

"Alan Jones' complete disregard for providing a balanced view of climate change on his show is unacceptable," Mr Mclean said, adding that his organisation's research indicated the broadcaster had not interviewed any climate scientists who believe in the concept of human-induced climate change. "This is completely unhealthy for public discourse and a perfect example of why the ACMA code was created in the first place."


Australia tops index ranking for maintaining strong fiscal balance

Among other things, Australia doesn't print great gobs of new money, unlike Britain and the USA

A NEW study names Australia and New Zealand the leaders in "fiscal responsibility" among top industrial nations, while the United States plumbs the lower rankings at number 28.

The Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index, developed at Stanford University, said mounting indebtedness and budget deficits put the United States in a class with troubled economies like Ireland (number 29) and Italy (27).

But Australia and New Zealand, followed closely by Estonia, Sweden, and China, stand at the top for their capacity to maintain strong fiscal balances decades into the future.

"There is great potential for a fiscal crisis in many countries, including the United States, if they don't start addressing the structural deficit challenges that lie ahead," said David Walker, the former chief US government auditor who oversaw the creation of the index.

"The index also shows that countries that engage in dramatic and comprehensive reforms can dramatically improve their fiscal prospects," said Mr Walker. "New Zealand ranks number two after engaging in such reforms in the early 1990s when it faced a currency crisis."

The SFRI weighed 34 members of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development and the four rising "BRIC" economies - Brazil, Russia, India and China - on a mix of current fiscal strength, fiscal sustainability over the next 40 years, and transparency in fiscal governance.

Unsurprisingly, countries with high reserves, low debt and balanced budgets generally ranked high. Powerful economies with high sovereign debt levels like the US, Japan, Germany, and France were all in the bottom third. Britain, which has slashed spending to work its way out of fiscal crisis, was ninth.

Supported by Mr Walker, who was US comptroller general from 1998-2008, the study is likely to feed into pressures on the Barack Obama administration to cut spending in order to move toward a balanced budget.

Indeed, Mr Walker cited the conclusions of a recent high-level panel, the National Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Commission, to highlight the low US rank in the index. In January, the commission recommended a mix of budget cuts, tax increases, and deep reforms to programs like social security to address the government's troubling long-term deficit outlook.

If the commission's conclusions were calculated into the US outlook, it would rank eighth on the index, Walker said. "The US needs to engage in comprehensive and timely reforms to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability and to avoid a debt crisis that would be felt around the world," the study said.

"Countries such as Australia and New Zealand that have implemented strong fiscal rules have seen declining debt levels and reasonable government spending." "They reveal the power of good fiscal governance."


ALP goes to water as boats threaten sovereignty

THE Gillard government has made a spectacular mess of policy towards illegal immigrants and is now in danger of forfeiting a key element of Australian national sovereignty.

The key to the boatpeople phenomenon is to realise that it is not about refugees. It is instead a determined illegal immigration. Piece by piece, the illegal immigrant industry is bending back the Gillard government, breaking its will and breaking its policies.

It was the Rudd government that changed policy decisively in August 2008. It closed the offshore processing centre in Nauru and abolished temporary protection visas.

As a result, people-smuggling to Australia got back into business big time. In the 2 1/2 years since the government changed policy, nearly 11,000 boatpeople have arrived. Last year, asylum applications to Australia increased by 76 per cent. Among industrialised countries overall there was a decline. In 2009, while the global number of applications was static, they increased in Australia by 30 per cent. With the end of the monsoon season, there have been some six boats this month alone, carrying more than 330 people in total.

The government deals with this matter in a consistently dishonest fashion, giving up morsels of information only under pressure. Here are some facts. In the year to August 2010, some 45 per cent of illegal immigrant boatpeople had spent more than three months outside their country of origin. Of this 45 per cent, some 88 per cent had spent more than a year outside their country of origin.

In other words, they were not fleeing directly from persecution. Many Afghans who have come to Australia have never lived in Afghanistan, or at least not for a very long time. Life in Australia is infinitely preferable to Pakistan, but deciding to migrate to Australia is not the same as being a refugee.

The vast majority of the world's refugees will never achieve permanent resettlement in a foreign country. Nor does the refugee convention envisage that they should. Rather, they should be protected as near to home as possible until they can safely return.

Everything the government tells you about this matter is likely to be a wrinkle on the facts, a spin, an angle, and it is likely to contain much less than meets the eye.

For example, Julia Gillard went to the election promising to turn back the boats and set up a regional refugee processing centre in East Timor. There is little prospect of that centre ever coming into existence and no prospect of it ever having an effect on the illegal immigrant trade.

Recently, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen trumpeted an agreement with Afghanistan that would allow failed asylum applicants to be returned. The problem was the Afghan government thought it meant no such thing.

So, how many failed Afghan asylum-seekers have been returned against their will since 2007? Absolutely none. How many Afghans have gone back voluntarily? The answer is five.

More than 80 per cent of illegal immigrants arriving by boat come with no documents, yet nearly all need documents to get to the country they take the boat from. This naturally makes security checks extremely difficult. It also underlines what everyone in the field knows already, that the entire process of granting someone refugee status is almost completely subjective and easily scammed. There is a whole industry based on learning the right answers to questions Australian officials ask. In the first nine months of last year, more than 40 per cent of Afghans were rejected as refugees in their primary assessment but after all appeals were exhausted 96 per cent were accepted. Yet in the same period, some 9577 Afghans applied offshore to come to Australia as refugees and only 951 were accepted and given visas.

What is happening on Christmas Island exactly parallels what has happened in Europe in the past couple of decades. A determined illegal immigration presented itself as an asylum issue and gradually beat back the will of European governments to enforce control of their borders. This determined illegal immigration often used extravagant protest and even self-harm techniques to engage European compassion.

And it worked, just as it is working on Christmas Island. Bowen fatuously declaims that no one engaging in riots and breakouts will benefit from their actions.

Exactly the reverse is true. The government has effectively surrendered its policy and moved hundreds of people to mainland Australia. The Age newspaper obediently called for the end of mandatory detention.

Here are three other lies from the government. It says mandatory detention is not meant as a deterrent. Yet when, in April last year, it suspended asylum applications by Sri Lankans and Afghans, it was precisely to achieve a deterrent effect. Since the government now will not send any Afghans home, this is the only deterrent. The illegal immigrants know this and are whittling it away.

Second, Bowen, who recites cliches like a metronome, keeps talking about "an international solution for an international problem", by which he means the Bali process. But we have had co-operation, often expensively bought, on this issue from our neighbours for many years.

What changed is that Australia put the ultimate prize of permanent immigration to this country back on the table for people-smugglers to sell. It is an Australian problem and the only solution is in Australia's hands: no permanent resettlement in Australia for those who arrive illegally.

Finally, Bowen actually slanders the Howard government for its compassion. John Howard stopped the boats with his Nauru processing centre because illegal immigrants came to believe that going to Nauru would not get them to Australia. Once the trade in boats stopped, Howard then generously let the remaining people on Nauru come here. That is not remotely like Christmas Island where everyone knows if they get there they get to stay in Australia.

Once the government caves in on mandatory detention, as it surely will soon enough (if by no other means than speeding the process up), the numbers coming to Australia illegally will increase by the thousands.

With chain family migration this will be tens of thousands of people self-selecting to come here, not being selected by our program (which I have always argued should be bigger).

That is a catastrophic loss of Australian sovereignty and a comprehensive failure by the Gillard government.


24 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the "No Carbon Tax" rally and is amazed that Leftists call for civility -- in the light of their own appalling track record in that department

Freedom of speech risks being silenced by NSW Crime Commission

They are after people who have blown the whistle on their improper practices

Should journalists be free to write articles critical of government agencies and keep confidential their sources? The highly secretive NSW Crime Commission thinks not. It is fighting an investigation by the Police Integrity Commission into its operations.

Two journalists at The Sydney Morning Herald, Linton Besser and Dylan Welch, wrote articles critical of the Crime Commission and its dealing with criminals, which the paper published. The commission wants to seize the reporters' mobile phones and SIM cards, presumably to discover their sources and to deter further disclosure. If they fail to co-operate, the reporters face being in contempt of court and run the risk of going to prison.

Freedom of speech has no meaning if governments and their agencies are above public criticism and being accountable. To be credible, criticisms must be soundly based. This involves journalists investigating the matter, speaking to a range of people, collecting information, cross-checking the information, drawing reasonable inferences and forming an experienced view, often within a short space of time. No self-respecting journalist or media organisation wants to publish anything that is not soundly based.

In the real world, few can afford to be disclosed as whistleblowers. For most the toll on their lives, careers and family is too great. But off-the-record conversations with journalists, which are not in breach of the law, may lead to a line of inquiry that reveals or confirms the truth. Such sources need to be kept confidential, otherwise they will dry up.

The recently enacted Federal Evidence Amendment (Journalists Privilege) Act provides for disclosure of a source if a court is satisfied that having regard to the issues to be determined in the proceedings before it, the public interest in the disclosure of the identity of the source outweighs:

(a) any likely adverse effect on the source and anyone else; and

(b) the public interest in the communication of facts and opinion to the public by the media and the ability of the media to access the sources of facts.

The act is totally unsatisfactory. The disclosure exception is too broadly based and lacks any certainty. A source gets no comfort from knowing that disclosure depends upon a court ultimately deciding whether disclosure is in the public interest. The source is not even a party to the court proceedings - how can he or she be effectively represented (and who pays for that)?

The act should be amended immediately to provide that disclosure should only be ordered where national security is at stake.

At the end of the day journalists write an article which may be published in part or whole by the media. The article is in the public domain and everyone is able to examine every sentence, every word and every comma. Then, under our freedom of speech, everyone is free to state publicly whether the article is inaccurate, misleading or unfair.

It is no mean feat to criticise publicly government agencies, such as the NSW Crime Commission which probably, as a result, has a secret dossier on the journalists concerned. The commission is immensely powerful with extraordinary powers, including phone-tapping, collecting information and searching your home without you ever knowing. It wants to know everything about anyone it selects, including their family and friends.

While the commission wants to investigate and know everything about everyone else, it wants the public to know little or nothing about it. Justifying its secretive position and extraordinary powers as necessary to protect us from "them", it takes only a short time before there is an apprehension that we need protection from it.

In addressing accountability of such government agencies, the first question is whether its extraordinary powers are necessary, and to the extent any is, what conditions should be met before being exercised (unless this is addressed first, any form of accountability is frequently too limited and too late). Having first contained any problems in this way, it is necessary to address the culture of the agency and to get that right on an ongoing basis. Once those two things are done, you can address the most meaningful form of accountability for the agency concerned.

The media is and will remain a most effective means of accountability. Journalists play an essential role in the freedom of speech. If you silence them by silencing their sources, you silence freedom of speech, and thereby seriously jeopardise the rule of law in Australia.


'Real' surgery waiting lists may grow worse

Barry O'Farrell warned yesterday that the waiting lists for elective surgery in hospitals are likely to be much longer under a Coalition government because of the "dishonest" benchmarks the Labor government uses.

The Opposition Leader promised to reveal the true number of people on the waiting lists and provide an extra 13,000 operations over four years if the Coalition is elected on Saturday. He said a Coalition government would axe the directive that stops doctors listing people who will wait more than a year for treatment but, in the short-term, that was likely to mean the waiting lists are longer.

"We want to ensure that we have certainty about the numbers, certainty about how long they're waiting, so that we can ensure that every taxpayer dollar going into the health system is spent wisely," Mr O'Farrell said.

The opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said she had "no idea" of the real waiting list figures. "Labor doesn't even count everybody," she said.

Mrs Skinner said the Coalition could be provide figures that were worse than expected. "In the short-term, yes [the list] may go up if we uncover lies that have been perpetrated to the public by Labor because they pretended those people don't exist," Mrs Skinner said.

She said the waiting lists for elective surgery tended to be the longest at major tertiary hospitals. Westmead experienced the longest wait, although the situation was not confined to the city. "The current [official] list is around 66,000," she said.

Mrs Skinner said waiting lists were important planning tools to help hospitals meet demand.

"By publishing the real waiting lists and real waiting times, hospital managers and clinicians will be able to more effectively plan how often operating theatres need to be available, how many theatre staff are needed and how many intensive-care and ward beds are required," Mrs Skinner said.

Prominent surgeon Denis King said the method of calculating waiting lists needed to be more transparent. "I think, in a number of instances, we should be better assessing waiting times," Dr King said.

Mr O'Farrell and Mrs Skinner were at St George Private Hospital where they promised $72 million in funding to allow 13,000 extra operations to be performed.

Later, Mr O'Farrell addressed Italian senior citizens at a concert in Burwood. Using Italian words for police, schools and trains, Mr O'Farrell received a rousing reception after his attempts to converse in Italian with the compere, who congratulating him on an improvement on last year's attempt.


Stalinist hospital statistics in NSW

Completely unreliable

MASSIVE discrepancies in how public hospitals account for patients needing less urgent elective surgery have prompted a review of the rules for allocating people to politically sensitive waiting lists.

Half of all patients having less urgent surgery at Campbelltown Hospital receive their operation the same day they join the waiting list, according to official figures that critics say undermine the integrity of hospital performance statistics.

At Royal Prince Alfred and Concord hospitals, which until January fell under the same administration as Campbelltown, 28 per cent of the so-called category 3 patients - who may safely wait up to a year for their operation according to government guidelines - spent less than 24 hours on the waiting list, dramatically reducing the hospitals' average wait time.

But the proportion was negligible at comparable large hospitals, with 2 per cent or less of category 3 patients being admitted within a day at St George, Westmead, Nepean and John Hunter hospitals.

A deputy director-general of NSW Health, Tim Smyth, said the difference was attributable to operations performed in multiple stages - such as cataract treatment, in vitro fertilisation or the insertion and removal of bone pins - where the patient needs to recover from the first surgery before having the second.

Dr Smyth said there were inconsistencies between hospitals in whether such patients rejoined the waiting list. At Campbelltown, Royal Prince Alfred and Concord, Dr Smyth said, a software default meant many patients were not relisted until the day of their subsequent surgery. As well, Dr Smyth said, individual hospitals and surgeons varied in how soon they deemed a patient ready for their next procedure.

The effect of the variations is evident in average wait times for category 3 patients, which range from just 14 days at Royal Prince Alfred to 184 days at Nepean and 205 at John Hunter.

Dr Smyth said he was satisfied "it's not manipulation of the statistics in order to reduce median wait times, though it does have the effect of doing that". He said the department would now develop a new waiting list policy for staged operations.

Diane Watson, the chief executive of the Bureau of Health Information, which analysed the figures, said they represented "an evolving story, and we're still trying to understand it". Dr Watson said she had insisted on a detailed explanation from NSW Health, "given their history on waiting times", and in future would publish staged surgery figures separately, so they did not distort overall category 3 waiting times.

But Brian Owler, the chairman of the hospital practice committee of the Australian Medical Association's NSW branch, said staged surgery alone could not explain the discrepancies.

Associate Professor Owler said there was a risk funding decisions could be based on spurious performance data. "It doesn't give us a good idea of how resources should be allocated and it's unfair to other hospitals that do the right thing," he said. "We should not be rewarding people for gaming the system rather than doing the procedures efficiently."


Sperm donors worried over identity law change

MICHAEL LINDEN was a 26-year-old student in the spring of 1977 when he walked into a fertility clinic in Melbourne and donated his sperm. A friend had told him about the process, but he had not put any serious thought into it.

"I should have known better, really," the 59-year-old retiree said. "It was just a bit of a lark … They paid you $10, which was a little bit of money in those days." He thought little of it until 2001, when he was contacted by what he calls his "donor daughter".

Anxious men who donated sperm anonymously many years ago began contacting fertility clinics yesterday, sources said, after a Herald story on a legislative amendment by the state government allowing it to request identifying information about donors.

Furious doctors have called on whichever party wins the state election this week to rescind the amendment to ensure the privacy of the donors.

A spokeswoman for the Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said the amendment would remain, as it did not violate the privacy of anonymous sperm donors. "The privacy of donors and offspring is not compromised by the amendment because the director-general [of the Health Department] cannot release or disclose the information except with the consent of the person whom the information identifies," the spokeswoman said.

The Greens MP David Shoebridge said anonymous donors would feel threatened by the department forcibly obtaining their details. "The fact that this happened without any consultation … remains a real concern," Mr Shoebridge said.

The law should be rescinded, he said. "People need to have some certainty in their lives when they make important personal decisions like becoming a donor, and this certainty is lost if governments later decide to change the law retrospectively".

The Opposition spokeswoman on health, Jillian Skinner, did not provide the Herald with her position on the law.

After the contact with his donor daughter, Mr Linden discovered he had fathered five children. Three of them remain unknown to him - one to a couple in north-east Melbourne, another to a family in the inner suburbs, and a third to family from NSW. "My three lost daughters," he calls them.

But despite a positive relationship with one of his donor children, and the belief that donor data should be freely available, Mr Linden believes sperm donation should be illegal. "It's still a very fraught situation. You've had kids who have met their donor and the whole thing has gone sour," he said. "Even in the increasingly open climate that we've got now, it's still not an ideal way to bring children into the world."


Council foreign forays face axe

A NSW Coalition government plans to take action against councils on Sydney's "inner west bank" that dabble in foreign policy by pursuing boycotts against Israel.

Opposition local government spokesman Chris Hartcher told The Australian yesterday that, if the Coalition won government, he would use his discretionary powers to "call councils to account" over the issue.

His comments came as a storm of controversy developed around Greens candidate Fiona Byrne, who is favoured to oust NSW Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt from the inner-west Sydney seat of Marrickville on Saturday.

In January, Ms Byrne, as Mayor of Marrickville, supported a wide-ranging boycott of Israel. She has been unable to explain the discrepancy between recorded comments in February, in which she said she intended to push for a statewide boycott, and her statement last week on the Greens website denying she vowed to introduce the ban.

Ms Byrne said in February: "I would suggest that the NSW Greens would be looking to bring (a boycott) forward at state parliament if we were elected."

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown stood by Ms Byrne yesterday, as she faced mounting criticism from supporters of Ms Tebbutt and voters on the streets of Marrickville.

Senator Brown dismissed the controversy as "a bit of a spat between a journalist and a candidate for the state parliament who's doing extremely well".

Ms Byrne did not retract her accusations that The Australian's original report on the story was "misleading", "factually incorrect" and a "misrepresentation". "I did not say I would introduce the boycott and divestment strategy," she said yesterday. "The meaning of my statement at the press conference in February was unclear, and has been misinterpreted."

Asked in a farcical ABC radio interview yesterday why she had changed her position, Ms Byrne replied five times: "I have no plan or intention to introduce the global boycott and divestment strategy in state parliament."

Mr Hartcher said the role of local councils was to deliver services to ratepayers. "Australia's foreign policy is a matter for the federal government and not a matter upon which local councils should be spending ratepayers' money," he said.

"We will not tolerate it. Our estimates are that Marrickville council spent up to $40,000 in officers' time in developing this anti-Israel policy and we regard that as outside their statutory function. "If we are elected on Saturday, Marrickville council can expect close scrutiny."

Mr Hartcher's views reflected those of voters on the streets of Marrickville. "It's not the council's territory," said Avril Rimes, a Labor voter who is considering voting Green. "It can only be divisive here in the local community."

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Yair Miller said that if Green MPs pushed for a boycott across the state they would have to explain to taxpayers "why NSW would not be getting access to cost-effective . . . Israeli-made products currently used in NSW".


Student stabs teacher in class at Nightcliff Middle School in Darwin

This is where the Leftist hatred of discipline has got us

A RELIEF teacher was taken to hospital after a 14-year-old Darwin student allegedly stabbed him a number of times in front of his class. The 60-year-old Nightcliff Middle School teacher was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital about midday after a classroom altercation ended in the boy allegedly pulling a knife, the NT News said.

It is understood the relief teacher's name is Michael Bell, and that he was in his first week at the school. School management was tight-lipped - principal Sarah May refused to talk about it.

But the NT education union boss Matthew Cranitch is concerned and says it reflects an increase in behavioural problems across Northern Territory schools.

A number of Nightcliff Middle School sources said the student had heated words with Mr Bell during class, then went back to his desk and pulled the knife. Police said the boy punched Mr Bell in the face before stabbing him in the arm and once in the leg.

Sources said the boy had a history of "concerning" behaviour at Nightcliff Middle School.

One upset parent said the kid "lost the plot" in front of the class. "It all happened pretty much in front of their faces," she said. "The kid was attempting to stab the teacher in the stomach but got him in the arm instead." "It isn't the first incident that he's been involved in ... he's apparently smashed windows and thrown chairs around the room before."

It's understood Mr Bell received stitches for his wounds at hospital.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour. New posts on both today

23 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks Julia is gutless not to face the anti-carbon-tax protesters.

Abbott questions why PM is going to royal wedding

TONY ABBOTT has mocked Julia Gillard's decision to attend next month's royal wedding, saying she does not believe in God, the monarchy or marriage.

Mr Abbott, a staunch Catholic and monarchist who is married with children, questioned Ms Gillard's bona fides to attend the wedding during yesterday's joint party room meeting. He was seeking to explain a boost for the government and a slump for the Coalition in the latest Newspoll.

Labor's primary vote rose six percentage points in a fortnight, the Coalition's fell five points and Mr Abbott's personal ratings plunged.

Urging Coalition MPs and senators to never underestimate the power of incumbency, Mr Abbott attributed the government's boost to Ms Gillard "hobnobbing" over the past fortnight with the US President, Barack Obama, in Washington, and with Prince William in Australia.

Ms Gillard and her partner, Tim Mathieson, have accepted an invitation to attend next month's wedding in London between Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Mr Abbott predicted Ms Gillard would receive another poll bounce from this venture. "She may not believe in God, the monarchy or marriage but there will be a royal wedding bounce," he said.

Labor sources said they were growing tired of Mr Abbott targeting Ms Gillard's atheism and marital status [But it is OK for Leftists to call Abbott "the mad monk", of course], and argued that if she ribbed him for being religious, she would be widely attacked.

The Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, also used her party room address to mock Ms Gillard. Ms Bishop targeted the Prime Minister's increasing embrace of a conservative agenda, including her acknowledgment at the weekend that she opposed gay marriage.

Ms Bishop said Ms Gillard entered Parliament as a "self-declared socialist, feminist and atheist". Now, Ms Bishop joked, Ms Gillard was about to launch the "parliamentary friends of Christian atheists", declare she was inspired by Sir Robert Menzies, and become the leader of One Nation.

Mr Abbott likened the period between now and the next election to "trench warfare" but predicted a Coalition victory. He said it would be a narrow victory, like that in Victoria recently by the Liberal leader Ted Baillieu, rather than a "Barry O'Farrell experience", the expected Coalition landslide in NSW this weekend.


Leftist "homophobia"

THE ABC has apologised today after it broadcast an anti-gay jibe against a Liberal MP. A hailstorm of criticism erupted today after a Q&A panel session with federal member Christopher Pyne last night ran a viewer's tweet: "Does Pyne really light up when he's talking about men in uniform?"

Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Sarah Rogan said the ABC should know better. "It is a cheap shot," she said. "It is not one of the worst levels of discrimination but it is stereotyping and playing on gay men in particular."

Q&A publicist Rachel Baugh rejected accusations of homophobia and said the national broadcaster was sorry for the tweet. "Q&A has a complex moderation process that deals with over 19,000 tweets during the course of the live program," she said. "This tweet was one that unfortunately went to air and shouldn't have. "The program agreed it was inappropriate and has contacted Christopher Pyne's office to apologise."

Though he is married with children, Mr Pyne has been dogged for years by sideswipes over his sexuality. In 2009, Kevin Rudd referred to him as "the member for skirt that is, the member for Sturt".

When Mr Pyne was appointed manager of Opposition business, Julia Gillard expressed surprise that the then Coalition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, hadn't given the job to Tony Abbott instead. Faced with a choice between a doberman and a poodle, she said, Mr Turnbull had opted for the poodle.


So: "Violence never solved anything"?

It's solved some very bad human relationships here

A 12-YEAR-OLD bully who hit international headlines after being slam-dunked by his victim has written a personal apology. Ritchard Gale yesterday left a note on the doorstep of Casey Heynes' home, which said: "Sorry for hitting you ... Hopefully all this trouble will stop after I say sorry to you and shake your hand," reported the Herald Sun.

In the letter Ritchard also said he should not have taken things into his own hands: "should of went to the office instead", "I just want to say sorry", he wrote.

Casey become an internet sensation after turning the tables on Ritchard in a clip that showed him being bullied before he snapped and retaliated, the result he said of years of cruel taunts about his weight.

The families of the two boys have reportedly made about $40,000 each for TV interviews following the incident. Casey said he has been bullied nearly every day at his school, Chifley College in Sydney's west, but could take no more when Year 7 student Ritchard tormented and attacked him last Monday.

"All I was doing was defending myself. I've never had so much support," he said during an interview with A Current Affair.

Casey reveals he'd been targeted by a new group of Year 7 boys who had started picking on him and teasing him about two weeks prior to the fight.

The Year 10 student said he found himself surrounded by the students when he went to get a school timetable before class.

As Ritchard backed him against the wall and started throwing punches, Casey said he felt scared and worried that others in the group would also start hitting him.

Eventually, he snapped, picking Ritchard up over his shoulder and throwing him to the ground.

The brawl was recorded on the mobile phone of another student who later posted the video online where he has earned "hero" status.



Three articles below

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott addresses rally of climate change sceptics

TONY Abbott will address a rally of climate sceptics in Canberra today as the Opposition tries to defend Labor accusations that it is a party of climate change deniers.

Strongly supported by right-wing shock jocks, the rally is expected to hear from a range of voices questioning the scientific evidence for climate change. Scores of buses, filled with opponents of the planned tax, are heading to Canberra for a rally outside Parliament House this morning.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard plans to introduce a tax on carbon emitters from July 2012 but Mr Abbott has said under the coalition the best tax cut Australians can get is no carbon tax.

The rally will be seen as a key step for Mr Abbott and members of the Coailtion, who have been forced to defend themselves against accusations that they are a party of climate change deniers.

An alliance of conservative bodies is planning rallies across the country today against the Gillard Government's carbon tax with one of the largest expected outside Parliament House in Canberra.

The Opposition Leader is expected to address the Canberra rally and yesterday renewed his attack on the Prime Minister's pre-election promise not to introduce the tax. He told parliament the PM suffers from truth deficit disorder and is clocking up frequent liar miles.

But trade unions are attempting to hijack the protest by delivering a petition in support of the measure to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet. A coalition of climate change advocates - including the ACTU, activist organisation GetUp, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Greenpeace and others [i.e. the Grem/Left] - also plans to take on the protesters. ACTU president Ged Kearney and other union figures have already arrived to personally deliver a petition to Mr Combet prior to the 10.30am rally

The rally comes as manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne yesterday asked Ms Gillard during Question Time to withdraw the term "climate change denier". Mr Pyne argued the term was used by Labor as a weapon to paint the Opposition as climate change extremists, The Australian reported.

Just days ago, Mr Abbott declared climate change was real after being attacked for telling a community forum that the science wasn't settled. Mr Abbott said "whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven". He infamously declared in 2009 the science was "crap" but has since stated he accepts humans are contributing to global warming.

Meanwhile, steel boss Graham Kraehe warned that business has lost trust in the Gillard Government and that any proposed compensation scheme for emissions trading was like "putting a bandaid on a bullet wound." Mr Kraehe, who is Bluescope Steel Chairman, said the carbon tax was ill considered and wouldn't give businesses enough time for consultation. He called for a sector-by-sector approach to carbon pricing or carbon tariffs.

However, the warning is unlikely to be acknowledged by the Government with Julia Gillard boosted by a strong recovery in the latest Newspoll which put her ahead of Mr Abbott as preferred Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is aggressively pushing the case for a carbon tax both in the media and parliament, despite being hampered by a lack of detail on the controversial tax.


Huge cost to make power "greener:

ENERGY producers would need to spend at least $30.5 billion on power stations that use gas and other clean technologies over the next decade to comply with even a modest emissions reduction target.

New modelling reveals that the scale of the spending could rival the rapid electrification across the nation that took place after World War II.

The modelling, to be released at a business forum in Canberra today, also finds that a modest target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 would slash the earnings of coal-fired power stations by $11bn and force the shutdown of 10 per cent of the nation's electricity generating capacity.

Details of the modelling came as Julia Gillard branded Tony Abbott a climate change "denier" who was trying to appeal to sceptics as she sought to capitalise on an improvement in the government's Newspoll standing.

The attack in a fiery question time yesterday came as the Opposition Leader questioned the Prime Minister's truthfulness over her decision to break her pre-election pledge not to impose a carbon tax.

And at the National Press Club, BlueScope Steel chairman Graham Kraehe warned that the proposed compensation for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries, which would be forced to compete with imports from countries that did not have a carbon tax, would be like putting "a Band-Aid on a bullet wound".

Mr Kraehe, who is also a member of the Reserve Bank board, said business had lost trust in the Gillard government and the consultation process for the current carbon tax negotiations had been "appalling".

The warning came as The Australian learned that senior industry figures believe Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has ruled out taking a sectoral approach to the introduction of a carbon pricing scheme, which means it would be introduced on a widespread basis across the economy.

And, despite climate change adviser Ross Garnaut's support for using Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme as a starting point for transitional industry assistance, independent MP Tony Windsor is understood to have doubts. He is believed to have told industry figures he does not support a "rehash" of the CPRS assistance.

The debate rages as Mr Combet and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson prepare to begin negotiations on the shape of the compensation package with some of the nation's most powerful company executives tomorrow. They include: Paul O'Malley from BlueScope Steel; Don Voelte from Woodside; David Peever from Rio Tinto; Anne Pickard from Shell; and Hubie Van Dalsen from BHP Billiton.

A forum in Canberra today organised by the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network and the Business Council of Australia will be told that the reliability of Australia's energy system could be under threat over the period to 2020, as coal-fired power stations close before enough replacements are built and maintenance work is reduced or even stopped.

Even a carbon price of $20 a tonne of emissions was likely to lead to some coal power stations defaulting on their debts and handing the assets over to their financiers. AIGN chief executive Michael Hitchens said that if some investors in power stations made big losses they would not invest in new capacity and new investors would invest only if there were higher returns.

"This would lead to even higher electricity prices than are needed," Mr Hitchens said.

The findings will put pressure on the Prime Minister to stare down the Greens, who are opposed to compensating electricity generators for putting a price on carbon.

Ms Gillard plans to introduce a fixed price on each tonne of carbon emissions from July 1 next year, but the level of compensation for industry and households remains a key sticking point between Labor and the Greens.

Under Mr Rudd's CPRS, the power generators were set to receive compensation of $7.3bn over 10 years, but the energy industry complained this fell well short of being sufficient.

The modelling by consultancy ACIL Tasman estimates that about $10.5bn in spending would be needed for gas-fired generating plant under an emissions pricing regime.

A further $20bn would be needed to comply with the government's renewable energy target.

Further spending still would be needed for gas pipelines and electrical transmission systems.

Rod Sims, an expert adviser to the multi-party climate change committee will use today's forum to call for the carbon price to be substituted for generous subsidies for solar panels and other high-cost greenhouse reduction measures.

Mr Sims, also a director of Port Jackson Partners, will argue that while measures such as solar panels are appealing they are very expensive, are insufficient to meet emissions reductions targets and offer no compensation.

The ACIL Tasman paper argues that compensation would not necessarily overcome the potential for electricity market disruption. But it could be used to provide incentives to overcome risks to the reliability of energy supplies, such as tying compensation to requirements that provide sufficient warning that power plants will be shut down.

"While ultimately government must make the decision as to whether compensation is warranted to support the ongoing effective and efficient operation of electricity markets, in doing so they must be cognisant of the central role that electricity plays in the everyday lives of all Australians," the paper says.

It warns that any policy must also take account of "the potential disruption to those everyday lives if electricity supplies are subject to increased price volatility and in the worst case disrupted."

ACIL Tasman chief executive Paul Hyslop, who will present the paper, said the modelling was based on the CPRS because, to get a 5 per cent reduction by 2020, Labor's stated target, would require similar carbon pricing to that proposed in Mr Rudd's model.

The firm's projections also estimate that wholesale electricity prices would rise by about $30 a megawatt hour by 2020 to meet a 5 per cent cut in emissions.

This would translate into higher retail electricity prices for households, particularly for off-peak power.

Because big industrial energy users use a lot of off-peak power, they face a "significantly" higher cost base.


Make mill deal or lose, Bill Kelty tells Greens

FORESTRY peace broker Bill Kelty has warned that green groups must strike a deal on the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill - or miss out on the permanent protection of 565,000 hectares of native forests.

The former union leader, appointed to "facilitate" a negotiated peace between loggers and green groups, also yesterday warned that Gunns should submit to a new, independent mill assessment.

Stepping up pressure for a compromise, Mr Kelty said there had to be agreement on a plantation-fed mill to allow Gunns to exit native-forest logging and free up enough wood to allow an industry transition out of old forests. "That is almost the biggest game in town in terms of getting an industry settlement together with an environmental settlement," he said. "A proposal by Gunns to have a pulp mill at Bell Bay in the Tamar Valley is the only essential proposition that is on the table."

However, he revealed all sides to the historic talks - unions, industry and green groups - now backed the appointment of an independent person to assess whether the mill met environmental guidelines.

Gunns has been strongly resisting the move, arguing it has already secured full state and federal approvals, but managing director Greg L'Estrange yesterday began a round of further talks with Mr Kelty.

Mr Kelty said it was "easy to conclude that there will be no agreement" due to ongoing differences on the $2.3 billion pulp mill. However, his interim report, to be passed to state and federal governments by week's end, would recommend that the talks to find a solution to 30 years of conflict continue.

The two substantive issues to be decided were a logging moratorium with agreed security of wood supply - and the pulp mill.

The moratorium was agreed earlier this month, temporarily protecting 565,000ha of high conservation value forests from logging, while allowing up to 12,000ha to be harvested. Only the mill remained unresolved, he said. However, peak group, Environment Tasmania, yesterday said that while green groups had an "open mind" about a new independent assessment, they remained opposed to the mill.

ET director Phill Pullinger said conservationists also wanted to see state and federal governments respond to Mr Kelty's report by acting to fully implement the agreed moratorium.

ET and other green groups involved it the talks - The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation- have welcomed improvements to the mill to reduce chlorine emissions and guarantee a 100% plantation feed-stock.

However, they have been holding out against endorsing the project because of ongoing hostility to it in the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston, and what Mr Kelty agreed was "considerable cynicism" about its state fast-track approval.

However, it is still possible the groups could agree to a form of words on the mill that would satisfy Gunns' needs to reassure joint venture partners and financiers that it has environmental support.

Mr Kelty expressed "uncertainty" about Gunns' "economic position" and confirmed he had held talks with potential joint venture partners for the project.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

22 March, 2011

Immigration support plummets in Victoria, survey finds

There is a lot of crime from African refugees in Melbourne

SUPPORT for immigration has plummeted in Victoria, a survey shows. With the nation marking Harmony Day today, the Monash University study has revealed that 52 per cent of Victorians believe the migrant intake is too high.

This compared with only 30 per cent in 2007, according to the Mapping Social Cohesion 2010 survey.

Rampant population growth was a major federal election issue last year, and state Opposition leader Daniel Andrews admitted last week that the Brumby Government's mishandling of it was a key reason for Labor's state election loss.

More than half of all Victorians rated the Federal Government's record in providing roads, rail and housing needed for future growth as poor or very poor, the survey found. Just under a quarter thought it had a good or very good record while a similar percentage believed it was neither good nor poor.

The national survey, conducted in June last year, revealed that 47.3 per cent of Australians agreed immigration was too high, compared with 36.3 per cent three years earlier. But it also found that 64 per cent of Victorians agreed with the statement that “accepting migrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger". This was down from 70 per cent in 2007.

Report author Prof Andrew Markus, from Monash's Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, said there was surprising support for immigration given the extent of public debate over the issue last year. “On past record, the level of negative sentiment may well have reached the range 55-60 per cent," he said.

The survey also found that a small majority of Australians, 53 per cent, thought it was important that Christianity stay as the main religion. About 40 per cent believed it was unimportant while 7 per cent said it was neither important or unimportant.

The survey was sponsored by the Scanlon Foundation, a charitable organisation created by Melbourne businessman Peter Scanlon to promote “a larger cohesive Australian society".


Victoria's welfare binge

More than one in four Victorians now rely on welfare, prompting renewed calls for an overhaul of the system of handouts. A Herald Sun investigation has found at least 1.3 million men, women and children received federal payments in the past year. And about half of those were handed more than one benefit.

The payments are part of the nation's $84.2 billion annual welfare bill, administered by Centrelink at a further cost of $3 billion a year.

For the first time the Herald Sun can reveal the full extent of welfare after being given access to Centrelink data for every postcode in the state. More than 2.6 million "clients" are recorded in Victoria receiving some of 27 benefits administered by Centrelink.

Broadly they fall into three groups: 1.2 million who receive working-age income support, 830,000 who receive family benefits, and 540,000 aged pensioners. In addition, 1.4 million Victorians have health care and concession cards.

In two-thirds of communities, more than half the population received some form of federal help in the past year. In one in 14 communities, welfare payments outnumbered residents.

The findings have spurred fresh debate about Australia's welfare system. "The sheer number of payments being made, and the number of Victorians receiving them, is astonishing," Jessica Brown, a policy analyst from the Centre for Independent Studies, said. "We need to ask ourselves what more we can do to get people off welfare and into work."

Ms Brown said the system had become too complex and it needed to be simplified to ensure payments were going to those most in need of them.

Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Cath Smith said the geographic distribution of payments was stark. "This data presents decision-makers with an opportunity to focus economic development and investment in new services in the areas that are seriously disadvantaged - where people currently have less access to education, jobs and services than (those in) more affluent locations," she said.

"The fact that so many Victorians can rely on our social safety net is reassuring, yet (we) see the human faces behind these numbers every day. And we know that life is tough when you are poor or chronically ill."

Eight in 10 families nationally receive Family Tax Benefit payments, despite their being designed to focus on lower income groups. These payments alone will cost taxpayers nearly $18 billion this year. Nearly $2 billion more will go to pay for parental leave and the baby bonus.

Treasury secretary Ken Henry last year recommended a major welfare shake-up. Among the Henry Review's suggestions was a reduction in the number of welfare payments to fewer than a dozen, better means-testing of people's true wealth, and more encouragement of single parents to go back to work.

Since then, the Federal Government has extended the welfare system, introducing 18 weeks' paid parental leave on January 1, extending Family Tax Benefits to cover children aged 16-18 at school or in training with payments of up to $4000, and providing up to $6000 for unemployed people to move for work.

The Federal Government has also promised tougher penalties for job-seekers who miss Centrelink appointments.

And middle-class welfare is expected to come under the microscope in the coming federal Budget.


Some small businesses CAN compete with the big boys

Small local hardware stores have been dying like flies since hardware megastores started popping up -- but it is still possible for little guys to find a niche

WITH a major battle looming between Bunnings and Woolworths for the $36 billion home improvement market, it may seem like Helen Morton's independent hardware store has the odds stacked against it. But Morton's Hardware at Wynnum is enjoying a brisk trade with access to 45,000 lines of stock, customers on a first-name basis, and not a single bargain bin or sausage sizzle in sight.

"The stock is predominantly brand names and from middle to top-quality," she said. "There are no $5 or $10 bins. One reason is because there is no room and secondly I cannot tolerate customers whingeing and returning rubbish goods."

In fact, just about everything the 43-year-old Morton's Hardware business does goes against the grain of conventional mega-store wisdom. It is in an out-of-the-way residential position, is not computerised, does not have a website, has a small yard, highly stacked shelves, narrow aisles and does not advertise.

Yet, according to the Mortons, the business has grown by about 19 per cent every year for the past decade, and when you see them in action, it is not hard to see why.

On Friday morning the shop floor was chock-a-block with customers none of whom seemed to spend more than a few minutes there before leaving with exactly what they were after. Morton's business mix is 70 per cent trade and 30 per cent retail most of which comes from the Wynnum-Tingalpa-Manly area.

Manly plumber Peter Lamb has been going to the store since before it became Morton's when it specialised in plumbing. "I started coming here with my dad when I was 15. It's got whatever you need and really great service. I wouldn't go anywhere else," the 59-year-old said.

Rose Dallas, of Hemmant, accompanied her trucker husband to the store to pick up supplies. "Here it's very personal, very helpful. At a place like Bunnings you find lots of staff, but you never find what you're looking for," she said.

In the next aisle, Wynnum man Ken Fuller said despite the illusion of size, bigger stores had limited stock. "They always start off saying they have what tradesmen need, but they only have their own brands. At Morton's they know things and have a great variety of stuff."

Despite the threat of a hardware battle in the community, most customers believed independents like Morton's would survive on its "excellent reputation and great service".

The Mortons said it was not always like that, with the turning point coming about eight years ago, when they signed on as members of the Hardware & Building Traders (HBT) buying group, whose membership consists of 312 independently owned stores.

Through HBT, Morton's accesses more than 260 suppliers a supply chain it will need to remain competitive in the months to come. It is that sort of supply chain certainty that led Woolworths in a joint venture agreement with American home improvement giant Lowes with whom it plans to roll out its Masters hardware megastore concept. Lowes will own one-third of that enterprise.

Both companies bought out a major industry buyer Danks which services about 600 independent members of Home Timber & Hardware, Thrifty-Link Hardware and Plants Plus Garden Centres, and more than 1200 non-affiliated stores. Danks provides about 25,000 product lines from more than 600 suppliers.

Woolworths community relations manager Simon Berger told The Courier-Mail they were already halfway towards a 150-site target for the hardware stores, including Tingalpa, Morayfield, Nerang and Springfield.

"We have 11 stores under construction, four of which are in Queensland. We can't nominate a precise number of Queensland stores into the future; suffice to say we are looking to provide a great new home improvement offer in cities and towns right across Australia," he said.

Each store was expected to generate about 130 to 150 retail jobs, with many more created in construction and other flow-on benefits to the economy. "Our stores will have approximately 40,000 products, which include home improvement, not just hardware," he said. "For example, you'll be able to get the things you need to renovate your kitchen, along with appliances for the kitchen."

Woolworths would not be drawn on the ramping up of activity by the Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings hardware group, which last week announced a $385 million spend over three years to open a dozen stores and two trade centres in Queensland.

"What Bunnings does is a matter for them," Mr Berger said. "Our focus is on raising the bar in terms of range, service and value, which will deliver more choice for customers and competition in the home improvement market."

With Woolworths already in heavy competition with Coles a subsidiary of Bunnings' owner Wesfarmers it's no surprise that, almost two years after first announcing its hardware push, Woolworths still prefers not to reveal too much. "We are deliberately maintaining an element of surprise," Mr Berger said.

Bunnings last week preferred to stay away from Woolworths' references, with managing director John Gillam adamant that his Queensland push was not driven by the upcoming rival.

"We've been growing our business in Queensland for a long time now," he said. "What we announced is the next three years. There will be more. It's our intention to continue to grow our presence."

For "fiercely independent" smaller players such as Helen Morton in Wynnum, there is no doubt there's a big fight ahead. But, she's prepared to hold the line for the little guys. "They might be able to kick the guts out of some of our prices, but they'll never be able to match the service we can give."


Fed-up doctors lift the lid on Melbourne's emergency departments

A dying newborn had to be taken from her distressed grandparents' arms and resuscitated on a chair because nowhere else was available in an overcrowded emergency department. The horror case is just one of dozens of incidents in which patients' lives are being needlessly put at risk because of a lack of resources, emergency doctors claim.

Fed-up doctors have decided to lift the lid on the issues in Melbourne's emergency departments, saying shocking ambulance bypass figures released by the Victorian Government last week barely scratched the surface of the crisis.

Cases highlighted by the Victorian Emergency Physicians Association show a wider risk to public safety because of bed shortages. Last March, a heartbroken doctor had to ask a grandparent holding an infant to leave so they could treat her on a bedside chair - no other space was available and all resuscitation cubicles at the hospital in Melbourne's southeast had patients on life support.

"Although baby survived, the incredulous looks between the grandparent, the infant's family, myself and staff are unforgettable," the doctor said.

Melbourne's busiest emergency departments turned away ambulances for more than 4300 hours in just six months last year. But VEPA president Dr Con Georgakas said the situation was even worse, with hospital administrators blocking physician requests to go on bypass when it was in the interests of patient safety.

"If we were able to get those patients who need to stay in hospital overnight up to the hospital wards promptly, then new patients arriving by ambulance would go straight to a bed in the emergency department," he said.

"The real problem here is a lack of capacity in our hospital system. "VEPA is calling on the State Government to fulfil its promise of more beds before this situation deteriorates further. We need those beds available 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Health Minister David Davis said "the Government is determined to turn around Labor's 11 years of mismanagement".


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

21 March, 2011

Eat your heart out, Libya and Japan

The top story in Queensland's largest paper today is about the Royal visit. The story below. Being a Queen's man in Queensland (as I am) is perfectly mainstream -- despite the derision with which the Leftist "intelligentsia" view Monarchists and the Monarchy. The Monarchy plays an irreplaceable role in places where the Queen reigns. You can read something of that below

IT WAS one of the most heart-warming moments of the Prince's trip to Grantham yesterday. Derelle Linneth, who has Down syndrome, has idolised Prince William for years, so when he entered the tent full of Grantham locals, she saw her chance to say hello.

"She just went, 'Yes!' and she grabbed him," sister Marilyn Hilan said. "She looked at him and said, 'I love you, William' and he said, 'You get another cuddle then'."

Ms Hilan said his visit meant a lot to the flood-ravaged town. "I'm 61 and I run a farm on my own," she said. "I felt like, 'Should I keep going or just stop?' After today, I think I will keep going."

Last night, at a dinner at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Prince praised the efforts of rescuers and "stalwart Queenslanders" who helped neighbours and risked "life and limb" to save others.


Julia Gillard makes a stand as a social conservative

Given her unorthodox personal arrangements with her male hairdresser, cynicism about this has to be expected. But she is taking stances that have real political meaning and legislative implications. Regardless of the motive, cultural conservatives must applaud what appears to be her legislative agenda or non-agenda. Rather amusing that the very Leftist "Green" party have pushed her to the Right, however

Julia Gillard has revealed herself to be a cultural traditionalist, indicating she will oppose moves by the Greens for euthanasia and gay marriage laws and that she believes it is important for people to understand the Bible- despite the fact she is an atheist.

Appearing on Sky News's Australian Agenda yesterday, the Prime Minister again distanced herself from the Greens, arguing they did not have an economic philosophy about "reform or about growth" and had voted against Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme because they "didn't sufficiently care about jobs", The Australian reports.

Ms Gillard's comments came as her deputy, Wayne Swan, announced the government's long-awaited tax summit would be held in early October. Ms Gillard said tax cuts were "a live option" from the revenue from the carbon tax and gave her strongest signal yet that petrol would be offset to ease cost-of-living pressures.

Her comments came as Trade Minister Craig Emerson attacked Tony Abbott's vow to repeal the carbon tax as a plan to repeal tax cuts and lower pensions.

But the Opposition Leader said no serious government would advocate introducing a new tax ahead of the October tax summit, which should consider the plan. He labelled the tax-cut recommendation "a tax bribe". "Real tax reform does not rob Peter to pay Paul," Mr Abbott said. "Real tax reform is not taking money out of one pocket to put it in the other pocket."

Ms Gillard, taking aim at the Greens for the second time in a week, described as "a load of old cobblers" commentary suggesting she had only recently discovered a difference between Labor and the minor party.

Asked about her attitudes on social issues, Ms Gillard harked back to her upbringing in Adelaide and agreed that she was a "cultural traditionalist". "I had a pro-union, pro-Labor upbringing in a quite conservative family, in a sense of personal values. I mean we believed in lots of things that are old fashioned in the modern age," she said. "We believed in politeness and thrift and fortitude and doing duty and diligence. These are things that were part of my upbringing. They're part of who I am."

On euthanasia, Ms Gillard said while she could personally understand that people in the end stage of life might want that choice, she had never been satisfied that policy proposals from pro-euthanasia advocates had enough safeguards. On gay marriage, Ms Gillard said: "I do find myself on the conservative side in this question."

Declaring there were "some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future", Ms Gillard said her view was that the Marriage Act - and marriage being between a man and woman - "has a special status".

Ms Gillard said it was important for people to understand their Bible stories "not because I'm an advocate of religion - clearly I'm not - but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture".

"It's impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs them and brings them back together," she said.


What planet is Dr. Hyphen on?

Self-defense is bad for you??? And the fact that the kid concerned is feeling the opposite of what Dr Hyphen predicts is no problem, apparently. It is Dr. Hyphen and his ilk who are the real problem. It is their sickly policies that encourage bullying

JUDGING from his face, you could not possibly guess at the trauma of these past eight years. He has a child's eyes; a broad smile, filled out by the gaps between his teeth.

But this is the same boy, 16, who last week retaliated as a schoolyard bully punched at his face; who hurled the smaller boy into the ground, and in doing so became an internet phenomenon. He had been picked on since year two, he said, but he had finally cracked.

The teasing was fairly basic: other children calling him "fatty", telling him to lose weight, tripping him, slapping at the back of his head. At one point, he was pelted with waterbombs. At another he was duct-taped to a pole. "They put duct tape over my eyes first, dropped me down and then duct-taped me to a pole."

At his worst, about a year ago, he said he contemplated suicide. "I just started putting myself down, putting myself down to that level. And then all the crap just kept on piling on."

Michael Carr-Gregg, an adolescent psychologist and founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying, called the interview reprehensible. "All this is going to do is put more focus on this kid. I can't see this as a positive - he'll just be further victimised and his life made more difficult," Dr Carr-Gregg, who is also the Queensland government's adviser on bullying, said. "Should this kid deteriorate and possibly harm himself, doesn't that sit squarely on the shoulders of Channel Nine?" [What a twit!]

The boy, who this website has chosen not to name, said the support he received online had made him feel "pretty good". He did not regret lashing out, even after being suspended. "All I wanted was it just to stop. So … I just did it."

His father thought similarly. "I don't condone the violence - it was a horrific thing to see, two boys fighting in a schoolyard and it ending like that. It is nothing to be proud of, but I'm glad that he stood up for himself."


Why Australians should be afraid -- very afraid -- of Prime Minister Gillard's carbon fantasies

Terry McCrann

WE were given two highly instructive insights during the week into Julia Gillard's thinking on her carbon dioxide tax. It proved an extremely disturbing revelation.

The first came on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday. The second was her speech to the Don Dunstan Foundation in Adelaide. The combination was particularly valuable. For while she might have "mispoke" on Q&A, the spontaneity better captured what she felt on the emotional level, genuinely or otherwise.

While the prepared speech gave us the considered, for want of a better word, substance on which the greatest change in the entire economic structure of Australia, bar none other in our 223 years of European settlement, was based, we were left with two alternatives.

If she actually believes the nonsense she spouted, spontaneously first and then with consideration aforethought, we have a leader with all the save-the-world enthusiasm and profound ignorance of a junior high school student.

And what would that say about the battalions of advisers on which she presumably relied? Or indeed, as in the joke about Maggie Thatcher, the sheep otherwise known as her cabinet colleagues?

If she doesn't believe the nonsense, we have a leader who is setting out to impose real pain on every Australian and cause serious damage to the national economy, for utterly no positive purpose.

I would suggest it is an inchoate mix of the two. That she actually believes we have to cut our emissions of carbon dioxide to save the planet. She knows it can make absolutely no difference. And she has a sort of vague expectation that we will emerge into some, literally, sunlit prosperous carbon-free future. All this was captured in her comments on China.

On Q&A she asserted that it was simply not true that we were the only ones moving to attack carbon pollution (sic). China was closing down a dirty coal-fired power-generation facility at the rate of every one to two weeks, she asserted. And it was putting up a wind turbine at the rate of one every hour, she added.

The picture she set out to paint was of China replacing dirty coal with clean wind. The truth is, as we've noted through the week, that China is not simply replacing coal with coal but dramatically increasing coal-fired generation.

Yes, it is closing really dirty coal-fired stations: the ones that pump out those little bits of grit that used to blanket our cities and which Gillard & Co are deliberately seeking to inject into the community's consciousness with their references to carbon pollution.

Real pollution has long since been banished from our coal-fired power stations and our cities. Smog no longer kills thousands of Londoners every year. But it is still killing thousands in Chinese cities. And not just in China. A World Health Organisation report in 2005 noted that more than half the world's population relied on dung, wood, crop waste or coal to meet their most basic energy needs. Cooking and heating with such solid fuels on open fires or stoves without chimneys led to indoor air pollution, including small soot or dust particles that were able to penetrate deep into the lungs.

Every year, this sort of real carbon pollution was responsible for the death of 1.6 million people, WHO wrote in 2005. If anything it would be worse today.

That is the real carbon pollution. Not the carbon dioxide that is the target (the only target) of her tax; the real pollution that is precisely avoided by our centralised existing clean, yes clean, coal-fired power stations. The building of similar power stations in the developing world would be the quickest, cheapest and most effective way of reducing and eliminating those deaths.

So does Gillard actually believe her carbon pollution nonsense?

Depressingly, you would have to conclude that at some level she does. Like so many who say or at least think, even if they understand, that this is all and only about reducing emissions of carbon dioxide; that yes, it's good to get rid of the bits of grit as well.

Witness our down under prophet Ross Garnaut, taking time off from dispensing his weekly profundities ex cathedra, to echo on the ABC's Lateline this same confused but deliberately dishonest mish-mash about China closing "environmentally very unfriendly" power stations and replacing them with new coal ones that had "very low emissions".

The facts on China are simple and irrefutable. It has a coal-fired system equal to more than 13 times our entire electricity generation. Between now and 2020, it is going to add between 400GW and 500GW to its existing 670GW of coal-fired power generation.

That's its projections. And that's net. So if they close, say, 200GW of really dirty old stations, they will be building 600GW to 700GW of new ones, all pumping out carbon dioxide, if hopefully not also grit. Total power generation in Australia is about 50GW.

Yes, China might be aiming for 150GW of wind and 20GW of solar by 2020. But that's installed capacity. When the wind don't . . . and the sun don't . . . Real capacity of the two combined will be closer to 50GW by 2020, as against an extra 400GW at least of additional coal-fired generation.

Despite those clean coal-fired stations that exist only in the deeper and increasingly darker recesses of Garnaut's mind, by 2020 China will be emitting something like 25 times the entire emissions of Australia today. Rendering utterly ineffective the 5 per cent cut we will purport to achieve at such huge and permanent cost.

The Prime Minister launched into pure fantasy in her speech in Adelaide about all the jobs that would flow in her brave new (sunlit) world. We'll become the world's supplier of electric and hybrid cars. Welders and steel workers will build and maintain large-scale solar plants. On and on she went, climaxing with this re-assuring statement of certainty. "And there will be new jobs too."

In both forums she claimed we had an abundance of solar, wind and geothermal. Interestingly in Adelaide she added natural gas, which emits what I wonder?

If we have these "in abundance", why don't we embark now on an accelerated program of closing our coal-fired stations and just plugging in the community power cord to all that sun and wind? As I started: does she really believe the nonsense she spouts? Should we be afraid? Or really afraid?


Capitalism saves the day

CHEAP fresh fruit and vegetables might be just around the corner. In a quirky turn-around, southern growers hearing sustained media reports of floods and cyclones in Queensland have planted extra crops of leafy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. Queensland growers outside flooded areas also have planted big crops in an attempt to capitalise on shortages. These vegetables are expected to hit the market next month, dropping prices.

Growcom chairman and farmer John Bishop said yesterday damage was not as widespread as many people thought. And the floods had arrived at a fortunate, between-season time for small crops, meaning many operations were hampered but the crops were not necessarily lost.

Stones Corner Fruit Market proprietor Spiro Poulimas agreed with Mr Bishop, saying it was rare that bargains could not be found. But Mr Poulimas said sourcing bananas at a reasonable price had been an issue since Cyclone Yasi.

He had sold Coffs Harbour produce at $7.99/kg as opposed to supermarkets at $13.99/kg but prices have varied and at times he was able to obtain cheaper, ready-to-eat fruit. Before the floods, he had sourced mixed salad leaves at $8/kg but these had since jumped to $26/kg.

Good deals yesterday included sweet potatoes at 29 cents/kg, Granny Smith apples $1.99, Gala apples $1.99, zucchinis 99 cents, Packham pears 99 cents and tomatoes $1.99. However, hard-to-come-by cauliflowers were $7.99 each.

Mr Bishop said only 15 per cent of the prime Laidley farming region west of Brisbane was affected by the January floods. "People on the higher country were planting the day after the floods. About 85 per cent of Laidley is OK. Some people near the (Burnett) river at Bundaberg were affected but the rest were all right."

Planting particular lines to gain an advantage when crops failed elsewhere was a long-held farm practice. "We'll probably get an overlap of southern and local crops next month," Mr Bishop said. "The amount of lettuce and broccoli planted up here (Laidley) is unbelievable."

Even north Queensland banana growers were not as badly hit by Cyclone Yasi as they were by Cyclone Larry in 2006. "Growers had about 10 days warning of Yasi, so they took off all the crop they could before it hit," Mr Bishop said. "They also cut leaves from trees to reduce wind damage."


20 March, 2011

Greenies hit the weak first

One victim of the Greenie pressure on electricity prices below. Maureen Mullins, a 79-year-old pensioner, can't afford her power bills and fears she will no longer be able to pay for oxygen machine that keeps her alive. I wonder if she is glad about all the useless windmills she helps subsidize

An unresponsive bureaucracy kills a man

The guy made a mistake in not getting his vehicle ownerships transferred at the time of sale but the bureaucracy was also too tired to see that the fines went to the right person. One court verdict against them should have been enough

NATHAN ADAM GORDON was due to face court next month to be sentenced for driving while disqualified. He will never get the chance. The 32-year-old died from head injuries earlier this month - just days after being found with his pushbike in a ditch off a central coast cycleway.

He had been suspended from driving for 25 years, but his grieving family blame a bungle by the Roads and Traffic Authority over a list of unpaid speeding fines for his death. They say the RTA refused to recognise he was not responsible for the offences - two of which occurred in different parts of NSW on the same day.

"Nathan was driven to break the law by driving unlicensed by bureaucracy gone mad, a system set up by the RTA that refuses to recognise who has rightfully incurred fines," his lawyer, former magistrate Roland Day said.

Mr Gordon had been a law-abiding citizen, who ran a car hire business in Newcastle for three years, Mr Day said. His mother Sue said that as part of the business her son had to register all the vehicles in his small fleet in his name. Then fines began to roll in for red-light camera, speed camera and unpaid toll offences committed by people who had hired his cars.

"You would not believe the amount of people who hire cars who do not pay tolls or drop the cars off not knowing they have run a red light or been booked for speeding," Mrs Gordon said from her home at Gorokan on the central coast. "Every time Nathan would fill out a statutory declaration telling the RTA who … had hired the car," she said.

Then three years ago Mr Gordon sold the business but the new owners did not transfer the name of the vehicles' ownership. He began to incur fines for traffic offences for which he was not responsible.

Mrs Gordon said her son's letters and the statutory declarations sent to the RTA were ignored. As far as its records were concerned, he was the owner of the vehicles and had to be the driver committing the offences - even though on one day he was supposed to be driving one car in Albury and the other in Grafton.

Mr Day said his client's fines mounted up - to more than $10,000 - and Mr Gordon had his licence suspended for failure to pay them.

"Without a car and driver's licence he could not get a job. I estimated the cost of travelling to different courts around the state to fight the fines was more than $20,000, which he could not afford. He gave in and accepted it even though he was not to blame." But Mr Day said Mr Gordon had to drive without a licence to find work. He was charged four times for driving while disqualified. "He had been suspended for 25 years and I told him [that] he would receive a jail term," Mr Day said.

"I told him to get a pushbike and that he would have to ride it for the next 25 years." On February 25, Mr Gordon was riding along the San Remo cycleway to his parents' home at Gorokan. He was found lying beside the pushbike with serious head injuries. Police do not know why he fell from the bike. Mr Gordon, who was engaged to Tanaya Frew, died in the John Hunter Hospital on March 7.

His mother said the traffic infringement system oppressed and harassed innocent people. "Nathan would be alive today if they believed him. The system needs to be changed."

Mr Day said people would say Mr Gordon should not have driven when ordered not to, but "the whole point of this matter is that the system seeks to impose liability for offences on people who are not legally responsible for those offences".

In a statement, the RTA did not comment directly on Mr Gordon's case but said the safety of all road users is of the highest concern to the RTA. The RTA said it sympathised with the family for their loss.


Government healthcare at work again

QUEENSLAND Health has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after trying to claw back pay from staff who worked around the clock during the flood crisis.

The department yesterday apologised for the latest payroll bungle after The Sunday Mail discovered staff trapped at a hospital isolated during the floods were in uproar over attempts to recoup thousands of dollars in paid penalties.

The nurses and other staff at The Park Centre for Mental Health had worked back-to-back shifts through the Brisbane floods in the belief they would receive fatigue penalties because the facility west of Brisbane had been cut off.

But while at least five memos were issued by management as high as director-general Mick Reid praising their work and flagging special allowances, bureaucrats recently moved to take the money back.

The latest saga comes after health bureaucrats embarrassed the department in January, demanding staff affected by floods justify their absence by photographing damaged possessions.

It follows revelations yesterday the state's two biggest public hospitals were planning to cut services to ease a $300 million budget blowout.

Queensland Health yesterday said nine staff at The Park were paid about $3000 in allowances but then received a notation on a subsequent pay slip warning the payments would be recouped.

The department put the number of affected staff at 35 but sources say the figure is closer to 100. One staffer's leaked pay slip shows they were deducted more than $1000 in fatigue allowances.

Deputy director-general John Cairns said he was committed to ensuring all staff kept the payments. "Given the error relates to employees who have gone beyond the call of their duties, (we will) waive the overpayments in this instance," he said.


Duck hunt protester shot

A fitting result for an arrogant and coercive person with no respect for the rights of others

A PROTESTER was hit with more than seven shotgun pellets, hours after the opening of the controversial duck hunting season yesterday. Julia Symons, 43, from St Kilda in Melbourne, sustained pellet injuries to her face, teeth and hand in a accidental shooting at Lake Buloke, in Victoria's west while protesting on the first day of the duck-hunting season, which runs until June 13.

A teenage gunman was questioned by police yesterday. Witnesses claim they saw the 14-year-old boy taunting Ms Symons minutes before she was peppered with shotgun pellets.

Police described the shooting as an accident after taking the alleged teenage shooter and his uncle to Donald Police Station for questioning.

Ms Symons, 43, was last night recovering from her injuries at Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham after at least seven pellets lodged in her face and right hand.

Coalition Against Duck Shooting attempted to disrupt the 1500-plus hunters who had descended on Buloke lake for duck opening season.


Duck hunting is beneficial

DUCK hunting in Victoria is regulated, sustainable and of economic and cultural importance.

This year marks the first full 12-week duck hunting season in 10 years. Recent rain has seen wetlands across the state fill with water and waterfowl have been breeding to prolific numbers. There is no doubt that duck hunting under present regulations is sustainable and responsible.

The town of Donald, near Lake Buloke, was an area badly affected by the recent floods. Many of the businesses there have been thrown a lifeline by the number of hunters who will continue visiting the area throughout the season.

Hunters from the Northern Territory, South Australia and Sydney have also travelled to the area, demonstrating that the sport is beneficial to Victorian tourism.

The game-hunting tradition in Victoria is of great cultural importance. When visiting duck hunting camps, I often see three generations of the same family together.

They make sure their younger hunters learn to use firearms properly and they continue on that strong tradition.
All hunters must successfully pass a Waterfowl Identification Test by law before they hunt ducks in Victoria, meaning they are able to identify the correct birds to hunt. It is in hunters' interests to see bird populations sustained and bag limits are strictly regulated.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

19 March, 2011

Is Aboriginal culture worth saving?

Christopher Pearson gives a good survey below of the two main Australian approaches to Aboriginal welfare: The assimilationist and the multicultural. Both approaches have had a thorough workout and both are generally regarded as having failed in the past. So the debate seems to me a sterile one. A new and less judgmental approach is needed.

One fallacy that seems common is to regard Aborigines as living in poverty. That is not at all true. Aborigines get quite a lot of money from various welfare payments, particularly if they have children. But the state in which they live remains troubling to the donor community.

Like many conservatives, I see welfare payments as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. I think that Aborigines should simply be left alone to live as they please. But the money should stop so that they can find their own solutions to their own problems. Soup kitchens or the like should be set up to ensure that they do not starve but that is all. With the money cut off, the incentive to work towards their own betterment in their own way would be greater

As well as the poverty fallacy, another huge fallacy is that Aboriginal problems are cultural. The largest part of the Aboriginal difference is in fact inborn. They have brilliant mental skills in some respects (they observe without effort minutiae that escape white men and have amazing visual memory -- skills much needed in their original state as hunter gatherers) but very poor mental skills (generalized problem-solving ability or IQ) for dealing with the demands of white culture. So whatever Aborigines arrive at of their own volition will always be different from the ideals of white society. And we should accept that. It's futile to do otherwise.

REGULAR readers of this newspaper will be familiar with the work of Gary Johns. He was Paul Keating's special minister of state during the native title negotiations, a convener of the Bennelong Society and a columnist with considerable insight into indigenous issues.

I received an advance copy of his new book, Aboriginal Self-Determination: The Whiteman's Dream (ConnorCourt), from which The Australian will be running excerpts next week. The book covers a lot of ground and I can't do it justice in a single column.

Instead I want to concentrate on Johns's approach to Aboriginal culture, compared with that of Noel Pearson. It seems to me the cutting edge of the debate on indigenous policy, now that the defenders of Coombsian policy have all but abandoned the field.

In common with most members of the Bennelong Society, Johns is unsentimental about what he sees, at best, as a serviceable culture for the Stone Age.

"There is a gap between modern and pre-modern societies, once called civilised and uncivilised. Denying its existence and the considerable efforts required on the part of individuals to bridge it has been very harmful." He asks: "What are Aborigines fighting for, what is there to preserve? Each step to preserve culture is a step away from the innovation that commenced 200 years ago.

"What survives of Aboriginal Australia is nothing like 200 years ago, so what culture is it, and whose is it? The 'it' is a dream, a fantasy that something special remains, or has evolved, worthy of reclaiming. But what has actually evolved is ruin and despair. The 'it' belongs only to those who could not adapt to change."

Johns says of Pearson that his goal "seems to be to integrate Aborigines into the modern economy, but to use and preserve culture where possible. His principle means to achieve the goal is to stabilise communities and families by re-missionising his people.

"In this regard, the [Queensland Family Responsibilities Commission] is like a mobile mission, dispensing justice and passing judgment on behaviour and imposing penalties on incomes. By contrast, the Bennelong Society view is pessimistic about the efficacy of 'culture', which it regards as often antipathetic to the open society, or illegal, or simply an excuse for bad behaviour."

In a Quarterly Essay entitled Radical Hope, Pearson has outlined a very ambitious program to educate a rising generation able to deal comfortably with modernity and as fully apprised of its own languages and culture as possible.

He predicts it will involve an extended school day, with kids taught the mainstream curriculum and the demanding "high" forms of their tribal languages rather than "kindergarten" versions.

Perhaps the most engaging element in Pearson's project is his frequent invocation of the example of the Jews, with their genius for maintaining language and culture. He says: "Their ancient commitment to education and high learning is of course fundamental to their success."

As well, he thinks: "They offer some lessons about how a culturally distinct people might hold their own and succeed in a world that is often without pity. First, there are lessons in the way they deal with the past.

"They have never forgotten history and they never allow anybody else to forget history; they fight staunchly in defence of the truths of history, but they never make their history a burden for the future. They have worked out how to deal with the past without cultivating and nurturing victimhood among themselves . . . Secondly, there are lessons in the way they deal with racism.

"They staunchly defend themselves against racism, but avoid making racism their problem. Properly understood, racism should be the problem of the racialists, not the burden of those against whom it is directed."

Pearson has a more than merely rhetorical point when he cites the Jewish triumph of cultural transmission in the face of persecution and against the odds. However, part of the genius of the monotheistic Jews has been to remain adaptive to modernity, to reach often very sophisticated accommodations with their communities and to hang on to both their religion and its ethos.

Judaism has proved to be very versatile in some respects and remarkably unbending in others, but can the same be said for any Aboriginal culture?

I'm reluctantly inclined to the conclusion that the answer is negative. However, that doesn't mean the prescription in Radical Hope doesn't deserve serious funding and moral support. Plainly, Pearson has to work with the cultural materials to hand and it makes sense for him to accentuate the positive. If a significant proportion of Aboriginal youth on Cape York were to become accomplished speakers of local languages and well-schooled in the stories, songs and ceremonies of their ancestors, they'd be much better off than their counterparts anywhere else.

They'd also be in the position to make individual, informed decisions about the extent that they wanted to buy in to their culture and traditional religion; surely something Johns wouldn't begrudge them, provided they also had a solid grounding in the current curriculum as well.

In the 1960s, leading American sociologists tended to the pessimistic view that Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy couldn't hope to survive for long their adherents' encounters with modernity.

Nonetheless the evidence suggests that these days substantial numbers of the young are unscathed by the ravages of rampant secularism and seem to draw great strength from an attachment to traditional religion and observing its customs.

Ought white intellectuals, who as a class have for so long been besotted with their own fantasy versions of traditional Aboriginal religions and customs, deny young Aborigines access to local versions of the numinous experience?


Government threatens to revoke rioting refugees' visas

Unlikely that they'll have the balls to follow through with the threat, though

THE Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has warned that 200 asylum seekers involved in violent protests on Christmas Island may have their visas revoked or blocked on character grounds, even if it had already been found they were genuine refugees.

The tough line came as another 70 Australian Federal Police officers were dispatched to the remote island, bringing total police numbers to 188, after two administration buildings and seven tents were burnt down in angry clashes.

The main detention centre is now under the control of police, who were yesterday unable to conduct a headcount and were unsure how many detainees remained at large on Christmas Island. Hundreds of detainees not involved in the violence were expected to be housed in the island's recreation hall, and the Phosphate Hill family detention centre.

Mr Bowen said the situation was "challenging" and condemned the "violent and unacceptable behaviour by an organised group" on Thursday night.

Accelerants, bricks, pavers, concrete, poles and a wheelie bin full of rocks were used by about 200 detainees, wearing cloth over their faces to avoid tear-gas, who advanced on police, the AFP deputy commissioner of national security, Steve Lancaster, said. Another 300 detainees and staff had sought refuge in the gym, but the gym was then attacked by the protesters with rocks, Mr Lancaster said. Police used tear-gas and a "higher volume" of beanbag bullets to restore order, he said.

Mr Bowen said: "Character considerations will be taken into account for those on Christmas Island who have organised and perpetrated this sort of activity." He said the majority of the centre's 1850 detainees were not involved.

After a week of escalating clashes, Mr Bowen said an independent review into security breaches, staffing adequacy and the appropriateness of centre's management company, Serco, and the department's response, will be headed by a former secretary of the Defence Department, Allan Hawke, and a public servant, Helen Williams. The police use of beanbag bullets and tear-gas, will be subject to a separate AFP investigation and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said the protesters should have their visa applications suspended. "Those acting up should go to the back of the line," he said.

The Immigration Department is seeking to contact the family of a 20-year-old Afghan man found dead at the Scherger detention centre in Queensland. Protests had also broken out during the week at the Darwin and Curtin detention centres.

The chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, said a circuit-breaker was needed, and the unrest "had unfortunately been predicted" amid long processing delays for visas. He was concerned at Mr Bowen's threat that visas may be rejected on character grounds. "We don't know what crimes have been committed and who they have been committed by … many hundreds weren't involved," he said.

A letter was given to all detainees on Thursday that promised security checks would be sped up, and all ASIO checks would be completed by the end of April. The letter said reviewers would be sent to Christmas Island next week to assess rejected claims - only if calm was restored.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it did not condone the use of violence by asylum seekers, but "remains deeply concerned by the underlying impact of mandatory detention on the psycho-social health and welfare of the many people being held for prolonged periods in isolated parts of Australia".

A refugee advocate, Pamela Curr, said the protests had been sparked by a decision by Serco to lock down roller doors between different parts of the centre last Friday to prevent movement because of a lack of staff.


Budget cuts to strike at the heart of cash-strapped Qld. government hospitals

Queensland seems to be sinking to the NSW level. When are they going to fire some of their army of "administrators"

QUEENSLAND hospitals have foreshadowed cuts to operating lists, beds, staff and pathology tests as part of desperate moves to rein in massive budget blowouts.

The state's two biggest hospitals, which are collectively tens of millions of dollars over-budget, are preparing to slash patient services after being told by Queensland Health to find savings. Queensland Health is understood to be heading towards a $300 million budget deficit for this financial year unless savings are made.

The situation has angered doctors at the Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals who say further reductions in services threaten patient safety. Other public hospitals throughout the state are also over-budget and facing cost cuts, with more than three months of the financial year still to run.

In a leaked email, Metro South district CEO David Theile, who oversees Princess Alexandra, QEII, Redlands, Logan and Beaudesert hospitals, told staff "we have to heavily cut expenditure now".

"Metro South (not alone, of course) has a large structural debt which will be compounded by the obligated carry-over into next financial year," he wrote. "This is a watershed time to make paradigm changes, most of which need to be beyond our District but we have to face our own established position and take exemplary action."

Another email, obtained by The Courier-Mail, describes the dire situation at the PAH. Writing to specialist colleagues, the hospital's surgical director, Steve Lynch, said he had been instructed to "reduce activity" in his division by 10 per cent during the last quarter of the year.

"To do this without compromise to the safety and quality of inpatients and the continued treatment of emergency cases, a number of unpalatable initiatives will be implemented," the email said. "These will include a rotating roster of closure of some of your operating lists and beds in your wards with matched nursing staff reduction." "These strategies will impact negatively on elective surgery waiting times," the email said.

Professor Lynch blamed the Princess Alexandra budget position on insufficient funds to run services and the increasing demands from a growing and ageing population. "We have been given no allowance for growth despite a compounding increase in activity of about 5 per cent per annum," he said. "Now we have been told that we will carry any deficit into the next financial year: a financial death spiral."

PAH senior staff association president Ross Cartmill said doctors were incensed. "What annoys most of us is that we have worked Saturdays and Sundays to get waiting lists under control," he said. "Now, suddenly, waiting lists don't count any more."

Operating theatre closures and cuts to intensive care unit beds were discussed at a recent RBWH planning meeting along with cuts to intensive care unit beds.

"Queensland Health has asked us to reduce our expenditure and the only way that can be done is to ration services," said RBWH medical staff association chairwoman, Dana Wainwright. "Our managers ethically don't want to ration services any more than is currently being rationed. If services are any more reduced, safety and quality may be threatened," she said.

Queensland Health deputy director-general of finance, Neil Castles, said the department would work with district CEOs to ensure patient care was not affected.

Health Minister Geoff Wilson said his director-general, Mick Reid, had advised CEOs he expected to be consulted before any budget cuts were made. "The Director-General will require District CEOs to provide clear evidence all options have been rigorously examined before proceeding with any proposed strategy," he said. "Responsible financial and budget management is a core responsibility of a CEO of any organisation, whether in the private or public sector."

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle called on Mr Wilson to "open the financial books" of all Queensland public hospitals for scrutiny. "The whole of Queensland Health is in dire straits," he said. "I'm very concerned that patients will get a lower quality of service, worse outcomes and in the worst-case scenario, death."

AMA Queensland president-elect Gino Pecoraro said any cuts to health services would impact on patient care and put even more pressure on hospitals and staff.


Over-reaction in the drug "war"

Steps to ban 'drug' plants alarm hobby gardeners. Harass the guilty, not the innocent

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to ban many familiar backyard plants and trees, including angel's trumpet and a large number of wattles, has outraged gardeners and nursery owners.

The federal government says the plants should be prohibited because they could be used to make illegal drugs.

Among the species on the blacklist are many common cactuses containing tiny amounts of mescaline, leading some hobbyists to fear they could be charged under drug laws.

"In our cactus clubs probably 50 per cent of our members are 50 or 60 years of age," said April Hamilton, the secretary of the Cactus and Succulent Society of NSW. "We grow these plants because we love them, not because there is some mystical meaning in them. Some of our members are worried that they are going to end up going to jail over this."

The dramatically widened list of controlled plants, contained in a discussion paper issued by the Attorney-General's department, would put widespread species such as the leopard tree and the gossamer wattle in the same category as cannabis and magic mushrooms.

"This is a stupid, broad-brush, knee-jerk piece of legislation made by people who have absolutely no idea of botany and who have done no research into the incredible spectrum of plants that would be affected by it," said Robyn Francis, a permaculture expert and author.

Many of the critics argue the schedule is framed too widely, particularly where it seeks to ban any plant containing Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, a psychedelic drug used in rituals by some South American tribes.

DMT occurs in small quantities in a vast number of plants, particularly wattles, but it is far from clear which individual species are affected.

"There is not a lot of scientific evidence out there on what plants contain nasties such as DMT," said Anthony Kachenko, the national environmental and technical policy manager at Nursery and Garden Industry Australia. "If they are wanting us to pinpoint what plants to remove from sale or from gardens or cultivation, we wouldn't know where to start."

"This is a blanket ban that captures a whole swag of plants commonly grown in nurseries across Australia and also sold in retail outlets. They have gone about it the wrong way without any thought for the ramifications."

A spokeswoman for the Justice Minister, Brendan O'Connor, said claims that plants could be banned or growers prosecuted were "ridiculous". "However, the Commonwealth's drug laws target people who are involved in the illicit drug trade and that will continue to be the case," she said.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

18 March, 2011

Law proposed against uploading violent images on the internet

Depictions of Muslim violence included? This is a very slippery slope

The South Australian government wants to make it an offence to post violent or other degrading images on the internet.

Attorney-General John Rau said the state's proposed legislation, to be introduced this year, would be the first of its kind in Australia. It will make it an offence to knowingly take or publish humiliating, demeaning or degrading images of another person without their consent.

Mr Rau said it was designed to tackle thugs who filmed assaults and then posted them on the internet.

The move follows the appearance of a viral video on YouTube showing a student in an Australian school playground tormenting another boy and then being picked up and violently thrown on the ground by the victim.

"The government wants to attack this disgusting fad of thugs engineering and filming violent and humiliating acts and posting the images to websites," Mr Rau said today. "This behaviour is so disturbing and potentially damaging to the victims that I believe the creators of these images should be subject to severe penalties, including jail sentences.

"The government wants to make it very clear that if a person participates in any way in an act of this sort, then the consequences will be severe."

Mr Rau said the onus would be on the person charged to prove that they had a legitimate purpose for capturing the images, other than humiliating, degrading or demeaning the victim. The proposed laws would cover anyone involved in the process of deliberately filming and publishing the images. "For example, if you knowingly allow someone to use your computer or phone to upload the images, you could be covered by the laws," Mr Rau said. "If you knowingly participate in someone's humiliation while someone else films it, you could also find yourself charged with a serious offence."

But opposition justice spokesman Stephen Wade said the government's proposals lacked detail. "We have no indication of how this initiative will be policed or how we can avoid people being unfairly caught by the legislation," Mr Wade said.


Money-hungry Green/Left government wants a new tax even on a "green" fuel

Their addiction to spending trumps everything else -- but it gives the conservatives a free kick

The Coalition is set to oppose Labor's new excise on LPG, opening another front in its potent "cost of living" attack against the Gillard government and potentially blowing a $540 million hole in the budget.

The Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, hinted at the stand yesterday when he said he would soon announce a "very clear position" on the proposed excise - due to be phased in from December - and agreed with a radio interviewer that it would be "silly" from an environmental point of view for the government to impose a tax that made it more expensive to use cleaner LPG.

The independents - who won a partial reprieve from the new excise for biofuels such as ethanol in the deal struck to allow Labor to form government - are under pressure to also remove or delay the excise for the half million drivers who could be hit by the new tax on LPG.

LPG Australia held a "town hall meeting" in Tamworth, in the independent Tony Windsor's electorate, on Monday night and has held similar meetings in the electorates of independents Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie. It argues LPG is a greener alternative because its emissions are up to 13 per cent lower than those of a petrol-run car.

A communique from the meeting, signed by 14 local business owners, said the tax would hit regional industries and jobs and demanded the government and the independents abandon it.

The government is scheduled to introduce within weeks legislation phasing in the excise on alternative fuels from December - finally implementing plans first announced by the Howard government in 2004, before the former government deferred the excise until 2010.

Last year the budget included the new excise and said it would raise $540 million over its first four years, with the tax starting at 2.5¢ a litre and rising to 12.5¢ over five years. In January the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, delayed its start date from July to December to give the industry more time to prepare for the impost.


Don't vote Greens, say Catholic bishops

CATHOLIC bishops have warned the faithful against voting for the Greens in the state election, saying some of their policies were of "grave concern".

Yesterday the NSW Greens outlined a plan which would transfer government funding from wealthy private schools to public schools.

A two-page document entitled The Green Agenda is being circulated by Catholic agencies and through schools. It states the party's human rights and social policy areas are in direct conflict "with the beliefs and values of virtually all religious people, and the beliefs of many other people as well".

"Greens who are elected will bring a whole set of policies. You cannot pick and choose. They are not only concerned for the environment," it reads. It also warns about voting for candidates who might share similar views, pointing out that some MPs in the main parties had voted for "bad legislation" such as same-sex adoption.

The document was signed by 10 NSW bishops including the Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell. The Bishop of Bathurst, Michael McKenna, and the Bishop of Broken Bay, David Walker, did not sign the statement.

But the Greens said the document was at times "profoundly misleading". "The bishops have misrepresented both our polices and the facts in order to attack the Greens," the MP John Kaye said.

The letter outlines six areas of "grave concern", including the Greens' treatment of personal drug use as a health and social issue "and therefore acceptable", and its efforts to legalise gay marriage. "Changing the law on marriage would expose churches and schools to coercive pressures from the state to cease teaching their beliefs about marriage and family," it reads.

Echoing the sentiment of a letter posted on the Christian Schools Australia website this week, it also criticised the party's commitment to remove religious exemptions from the Anti-Discrimination Act, and warned funding cuts to non-government schools would force fees to rise, "possibly by as much as $1500 a year".

But Mr Kaye rejected that the Greens would slash school funding by anything like the 85 per cent the bishops' letter claimed. The NSW Greens' education policy, launched yesterday, calls for the transfer of $780 million a year from state and federal funding of non-government schools to public education. It argues the shift would not cause any Catholic or independent school to need to raise its fees or close its doors. Mr Kaye said non-government schools have enjoyed a decade of "ever-increasing public funding".

The Greens policy includes proposals to boost the number of public school teachers by 6000 (12 per cent) to reduce class sizes and provide more time for professional development.

An extra 2100 teachers would be hired in 581 public schools that serve the most disadvantaged communities. Funding for these extra teachers would come from stripping the 79 wealthiest private schools of government funding to raise $204 million a year.

The finance for the 6000 new teachers would be found by freezing state and federal funding of all other non-government schools at their 2003 level plus inflation. This would raise $576 million.


The Tasmanian worker is a threatened species -- threatened by Green extremism

Gary Johns

I WILL never forget the image of prime minister John Howard being carried on the shoulders of loggers at Launceston in the final week of the 2004 election, after Labor leader Mark Latham jumped in with the Greens to protect even more of Tasmania's forests. Howard opted to save a threatened species, Tasmanian loggers.

Less well remembered is that Bob Hawke, along with most of his caucus in 1989, was very keen on the Wesley Vale pulp mill in Tasmania. Having used its constitutional powers to block the proposed Gordon-below-Franklin power scheme in 1983, however, the die was cast. Labor changed its mind, shunned the Wesley Vale proposal and chased green preferences. Still, Tasmania awaits a hi-tech industry.

If, after all this time, a Labor government in Tasmania and a Labor government in Canberra cannot support a pulp mill that has the support of the local council, the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania and the approval of the federal environment minister, then Labor really has betrayed its origins. Failure to act positively in favour of the mill would prove that Labor does not want a world based on industry and ingenuity, just leisure and abstinence.

Tasmania has been at war with itself for 40 years. The Greens, formed from the United Tasmania Group, which arose out of the Lake Pedder Action Group, have come a long way. Bob Brown was there at the beginning. Australia should thank them - the Greens and Labor - for preserving places of high heritage value. But that work is done. The time has come to choose a productive future.

Christine Milne stood against the Wesley Vale kraft chlorine pulp mill. The Bell Bay Pulp Mill is not the son of Wesley Vale. Bell Bay will use elemental chlorine free bleaching processes that have virtually eliminated the release of dioxins and furans.

It satisfies the Tasmanian Planning Commission regulations, all relevant Australian environmental guidelines, the UN Environment Program and the World Bank.

May I remind senators Brown, and Milne that Tasmania does not pay its way? May I remind the senators that fully one-third of Tasmania has been locked away and preserved? There are 19 national parks and scores of reserves. When I walked the Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park overland track in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (about 20 per cent of Tasmania), we started southwest of Launceston and walked south in a straight line for six days. Only a small number of hikers are allowed in the park on any day. All hikers must walk in the one direction to avoid any passing and minimise wear and tear on the track. All food and water, including coffee, must be flown in by helicopter. All excreta must be flown out by helicopter. This area is more protected than just about any on earth.

Brown and Milne are happy to keep Tasmania in penury. In their world, no venture that generates income from the use of natural resources should ever be given succour. If they could, I am sure that they would shut down the existing industrial plant at Bell Bay: the woodchip mill, the thermal power station, the electricity substation, the bass link exchange, the metal manufacturer, the aluminium smelter, the manganese-alloy smelter, the municipal sewage treatment plant and the wood processor mill. The carbon tax should help their cause by knocking out the smelters at Bell Bay. About all that will be left is hiking in the wilderness. Tasmania will then become terra nullius and the Greens' dream would be realised.

The Greens and their fellow travellers speak a strange language. They talk of a "social licence to operate". The social licence lives in the mind of those who still have not found a definitive way to stop all industrial processes, so they keep banging away, hoping to get some politician to invoke one more rule. It ignores the already extraordinary number of rules and regulations with which any company, Gunns included, must comply.

We live in a world where brilliant people can manage to do wonderful things by using natural resources. We have also learned to preserve the best of those natural resources for other uses, such as hiking. But I cannot afford to buy my hiking boots or fly to Tasmania if the Greens continue to squeeze the lifeblood out of the economy. These people should not be running this country.

Labor should use every means at its disposal to clear the way for Gunns to build a pulp mill. We live in an era when it is a crime to make money or employ people to develop natural resources. Labor should save a threatened species: the Tasmanian worker.


17 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG draws the obvious inference from the way the NSW Labor Party government is running the shredders red-hot

The Sussex St corruption machine is covering its tracks

Thousands expected to celebrate Pat's Day

From Dublin to Dandenong people around the world will today don green and down a pint of Guinness to celebrate St Patrick's Day. While 5.5 million pints of Ireland’s most famous stout flow on any normal day, today more than 13 million are expected to be downed as the Irish, and Irish at heart, tip their hat to the annual celebration.

At Southbank’s P.J. O'Brien’s, considered Melbourne's most authentic Irish pub, manager Trisha Spaulding expects to pour more than 5000 of the traditional Irish drink. Ms Spaulding said the pub had ordered an extra 40 kegs of Guinness to cope with the demand.

Staff started arriving at the pub at 5am to get ready for the early 8am opening. More than 100 people are already booked in for breakfast and Ms Spaulding said the day would run into the early hours of tomorrow morning. "They just love it, it’s a good drinking day, and for us, it’s the biggest day of the year."

The Irish believe there are two types of people in the world: the Irish, and those that wish they were. And Ms Spaulding couldn’t agree more. "There are a lot of wannabe Irish that come out today," she said.

Pipers and Iish dancers will perform at the pub throughout the day while various bands and a DJ have also been booked.

Ms Spaulding said the staff, almost all of whom are Irish backpackers, added an authentic touch to the day.


UK immigration concession for New Zealand, Australian shearers

I was wondering how this would work out. Britain has millions of sheep and not all of them walk on two legs. Experienced and highly skilled antipodean shearers have become essential to getting the flock shorn in recent years. That the seasons occur at opposite times of the year in Britain and Australia makes it a logical arrangement

Sheep shearers from New Zealand and Australia should have no problems coming to the UK for the season due to an transitional scheme put in place by the UK Border Agency.

A UK immigration concession has been arranged for overseas skilled shearers to stop a UK skills shortage.

Each year hundreds of skilled shearers are recruited from the southern hemisphere for the shearing season in the UK, however efforts to tighten up Britain's immigration laws meant sheep shearing was removed from a list of approved occupations for a UK Visa.

Chief Executive of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, Jill Hewitt, said her organisation had been working with government to put the scheme in place which will allow shearers to come on a seasonal temporary basis.

“The NAAC has been actively involved in the process and is confident the UK will not suffer from a shortage of shearers this year,” she said. “We are working closely with shearing contractors in the UK, and shearing associations in New Zealand and Australia, to try and ensure the smooth passage of shearers to the UK.”

British High Commission communication manager, Chris Harrington, said shearers will be allowed to enter the United Kingdom on a concessionary basis, which means they do not have to get a visa but must prove to a British immigration officer that they are genuine shearers.



Four current articles below

Anyone Who Says Violence Never Solved Anything....

Is such an abject idiot it is probably not even worth engaging in conversation with her. Seriously. Violence never solved anything? What solved the problem of Nazi Germany? Butterfly cakes and Darjeeling tea? When you are faced with evil, it is simply cowardly not to stand against it, even if standing against it sometimes means using your fists.

If someone was attacking my family, for example, I wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to protect them. And if someone was attacking your family and you stood by and tried to negotiate while they were being beaten or worse, I would think you a miserable excuse for a human being.

So when I saw this video of an incident at Chifley College’s Dunheved Campus in western Sydney, gol darn if I wasn’t cheering at the end:

That is one bully who will hesitate to bully again.

When this was posted on Facebook and Youtube (and then removed), the vast majority of commenters supported and even celebrated the right of the boy who was attacked to defend himself. I think he showed admirable patience and restraint.

But guess what the authorities said? Police and bullying experts are concerned by the video’s publication on Facebook and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the older boy’s retaliation against his attacker. “We don’t believe that violence is ever the answer,” Mr Dalgleish says. “We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.”

What a jerk.

Both the boys were suspended by school authorities.

What jerks.

The boy who was attacked had a right to defend himself. No one else was. No teacher was in sight.

That other young people agreed so strongly gives me hope that despite the best efforts of counsellors and social workers, a large part of this generation is refusing to be moulded into a bunch of lily livered nancies.


Unrealistic school bullying policies

SCHOOLS are still using ineffective anti-bullying strategies and some aren't putting their policies into practice, experts warn, as the rate of bullying in Queensland playgrounds continues to climb.

Experts say schools need to be more effective not work harder. Research shows a campaign to encourage child "bystanders" to confront bullies is basically futile, the Courier-Mail reported.

The research, to be presented at a conference in Brisbane tomorrow by renowned bullying expert Professor Donna Cross, will reveal most children are too scared to confront peers who bully. But it also shows "bystanders" can make a crucial difference by supporting victims after the attack.

Prof Cross said it was "almost unrealistic" to ask children to confront bullies on behalf of victims. "Our data is showing that kids won't. They are afraid that they will be targeted (next)," she said.

"But they do say: 'You know what? I can go over to the person who has been victimised and invite them to join my group or get them to come with me.' "Extinguishing the audience will be a very powerful message to children that bully."

She said most schools trying hard to deal with bullying weren't concentrating on this approach and they needed more resources to help them deal with the issue. "They need time to assess their practices . . . and then address those issues, instead of saying: 'I need to do more.' Most schools have policies . . . but they sit on the shelf."

Queensland's state-appointed bullying expert, psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, said bystanders were the main emphasis of his workshops in state schools. "The problem at the moment is we have the Genovese syndrome or bystander effect people don't want to get involved in conflict," he said.


Blacks don't want to send their kids to school with the children of other blacks

I guess I can't blame them. But if blacks don't think much of black children, why should other people think differently?

RACIAL pressures have boiled over again in Dubbo with the Minister for Education, Verity Firth, restructuring the city's school system in a way critics argue will effectively create a separate campus for Aborigines.

The decision will partially reverse the last major reorganisation, in 1988, when the three high schools were amalgamated as Dubbo College, although retaining three campuses.

The South Dubbo campus, for years 7 to 9, will revert to a comprehensive school for years 7 to 12. Delroy campus, in West Dubbo, will continue to cater for years 7 to 9, and Dubbo College senior campus for years 10 to 12.

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The fact that the Delroy campus is in West Dubbo, which has a higher proportion of indigenous families, and will accordingly have a higher indigenous student population, has inflamed local sentiment.

West Dubbo is the site of the failed Gordon Estate, which had a high concentration of Aborigines but became racked with violence and antisocial behaviour.

There are far more non-indigenous families in West Dubbo, but with the creation of a comprehensive high school in South Dubbo, it is expected many non-indigenous families will send their children there.

Alca Simpson, a member of the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, said in a letter to the local paper, the Daily Liberal, that the government was implementing discriminatory policies of the past.

He said past policies had restricted "the self-determination of indigenous students in the public education system in Dubbo".

A meeting of a P&C Association at South Dubbo campus discussed the issue but Mr Simpson said teachers who supported the new system became instant association members and stacked the meeting.

"It is my opinion that this was never about student outcomes as far as the NSW Teachers Federation are concerned but only about teachers' wants and needs," Mr Simpson said.

He regarded it as "a planned move to attack the credibility of honest, hard-working parents and citizens because they chose to voice their opinion and their democratic right to write a letter".

"Why should teachers [union members] who have not shown any interest in attending meetings before last week now show such a big concern over their P&C committee?

"I would also make it public knowledge that the executive and members of the local AECG have … submitted a letter of complete no confidence in the minister's recommendations in regard to the restructuring of the existing Dubbo College Education model."

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said yesterday that claims that an apartheid system was being created in Dubbo were wrong.

There had been problems since the creation of the college system in Dubbo and Ms Firth had decided to give parents two options: a comprehensive high school or a college system. "There are concerns about the model proposed by the minister, in that it may lead to negative consequences. "The federation's policy is that we prefer to have stand-alone, years 7 to 12, comprehensive high schools," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Firth said the new structure would not result in racially segregated education in Dubbo.


Australian universities giving undeserved grades to overseas students

There have been some notorious instances of this

Gigi Foster knows her disturbing research findings on international students won't make her many friends. In a university sector grown dependent on international fee revenue, it might not do much to progress her academic career either.

But the audience she wants to reach is not academe but the policy-makers. It's at this level where change could be driven to address the poor language and cultural skills she says are undermining their performance. "It is risky for me, but it is my duty to look at this," says Foster, a Harvard graduate who moved to Australia in 2003.

But she believes her research provides evidence that universities are too often turning a blind eye to the poor written and verbal English skills of many international students. She says her statistical analysis reveals that international students are being allowed to underperform and this is being camouflaged to an extent by grade inflation.

At the same time, these poor English skills weigh on the results of domestic students in the same tutorials. "I want Australian policy-makers to see what is actually happening," Foster says.

But she believes concerns over fee revenue, sensitivities over the potential for appearing "xenophobic" and political correctness are preventing the sector from confronting the issues.

Wary of the reaction her analysis is likely to generate, she says she put all her "econometric firepower" into trying to disprove the findings, but the effects wouldn't go away.

She says she is astounded that no one in the sector had previously sought to analyse the detailed student data available in universities. With the help of funding from the Australian Research Council, Foster analysed detailed data on 12,846 students made available by the business faculties of the University of South Australia and the University of Technology, Sydney, including enrolment and applications data from 2008 and 2009. The data covered student demographics, course and tutorial selection and marks.

Her main statistical findings are that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds underperform domestic students based on mean marks by four points on a 100 grade scale. She interprets this to be a result of language and cultural barriers.

But she also found that the underperformance is less pronounced when there are proportionately more international students in the class. Effectively, international student marks are buoyed when there are large concentrations of such students, with the stunning finding that classes comprised entirely of international students would on average be 6.5 points higher than those courses comprised solely of domestic students.

She believes this may be evidence that international students are benefiting from markers "grading on the curve" to keep mark distributions similar across course offerings, but effectively they are lowering grading standards.

"The research provides evidence that international non-English-speaking background students effectively free ride on each other, ending up with higher marks than they would have otherwise obtained," she says.

She also found that for every 1 per cent increase in the number of international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials, the marks of domestic students in the tutorials fell by 0.0134 points.

The key policy implication, she says, is that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds should have extensive language and cultural training before starting higher education programs. "The sector is too cash-strapped, or thinks it is too cash-strapped, that it isn't willing to put the fees international students are paying towards that," Foster says.

But while her analysis, published as a preliminary working paper, may stack up statistically, other researchers say they are wary of the interpretations Foster is putting on the results.

University of Melbourne international education expert Simon Marginson and Melbourne Institute economist Ross Williams have not been convinced by some of her interpretations. They point out that international students benefit from being grouped together in that they co-operate more and feel less isolated. "All the research tells us that group co-operation between international students is the norm, especially among same culture internationals," Marginson says.

He says while the study is potentially important, it needs more explanation and wider analysis. Williams also is concerned that in interpreting her results, Foster may be exaggerating the importance of some of the statistical differences she found.

But for RMIT University higher education policy adviser Gavin Moodie, the research is important and Foster's interpretations are valid. "The size and the extent of the effect is much greater than I anticipated and it does seem to be a systemic problem," he says. "Now is the time for case study and individual interviews to be done to find out the particular problem and what to do about it."

Moodie points to the finding that the presence of domestic students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials had a positive influence on international students' marks, suggesting the issue may not simply be poor English skills but the result of cultural barriers.

Foster, who is also undergraduate co-ordinator at the University of NSW, believes her research will resonate with academics who are having to overlook the lack of English skills in assessing students. She says the most common request from students is for English language support, but there are not enough places available.

Business academic Tony English of Flinders University says he has long complained of what he claims is "soft" marking of international and domestic students with poor English skills, only to feel ostracised as a result. "If you raise these issues at a public forum, some people will behave towards you as if they have suddenly realised that you are carrying something like bird flu," English says.

He says academics are subject to implicit but unvoiced and unwritten pressure from management to overlook the lack of English skills of students. Furthermore, those failing large numbers of students risk having their teaching skills criticised, as well as being undermined by negative student feedback. As a result, too many academics are unwilling make a fuss because it could cost them a promotion and perhaps their job, especially if they are casuals.

As English writes in this week's HES, the combination of faculty grade distribution requirements and poor English skills means academics come under pressure if their failure rates are too high. "The whole system is designed to progress students who shouldn't be progressed," he says. "People are pretending this isn't happening and that degrees are what they always were. But I think it is fraudulent."

A former part-time adjunct lecturer in business at a large Sydney university who didn't wish to be named told the HES the lack of English skills of many of his international students appeared to make a mockery of the university's entry criteria based on test scores.

He says he never felt pressure to pass students but he found himself having to ignore their bad English and awarding marks on what he suspected students were trying to express. He says during his five years of teaching, he was shocked to find not once had a member of the faculty sat in on one of his courses to assess his teaching ability.

He notes that last year, out of a class of 110 students, more than 80 were international and, of these, 40 had such bad English that he felt it was compromising their performance. "It isn't international students who are a problem. It is those students who don't have enough English proficiency to be there in the first place who are the problem," he says.


16 March, 2011


ABC TV has a program called "Q&A" which is subtitled "adventures in democracy". The recent interview there with Julia Gillard has left conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG most unimpressed -- unimpressed with both Julia and the ABC.

Medicare: Australia’s very sick sacred cow

by Jeremy Sammut

When the Prime Minister was under the gun for her ‘gushing’ speech to the US Congress on Q&A on Monday night, she said that Australians and Americans were very different kinds of people. The former believed in the ‘fair go’, whereas the later were individualistic and distrusted government.

To illustrate her point, she reached into the standard playbook of the Left and pointed to the different attitudes that prevail in each country regarding health care. According to the PM, when Australians look at the debate that has raged in the US over ‘Obamacare’, they wonder what on earth Americans are going on about. Because here in this country, we know that ‘Medicare works’.

For many people this will ring true. Medicare is widely considered to be symbol of national equity. The sentiment is that in a wealthy country like Australia, no one should go without health care due to disadvantage, nor be bankrupted by medical bills. This is fair enough as far as it goes. But whether Medicare actually ‘works’ for those who most need assistance to access health services is another question altogether.

Yet, speaking from experience, if you dare to raise any doubts about the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Australian social democracy, you will provoke every ‘true believer’ in the land. Question the wisdom of Medicare in any way, shape, or form, and you are guaranteed to provoke the following loaded response, which is calculated to kill any debate about health reform stone dead. “If we change Medicare, Australia will end up like America with people dying out front of the hospital.”

Yet there is a factual reply that confounds the popular, Michael Moore-esque, conceit.

That reply is that Medicare now kills more Australians than the national road toll. An estimated 1500 avoidable deaths occur each year due delayed emergency treatment. The facts are that one third of emergency patients have to wait longer than eight hours before gaining admission to a bed, because public hospital bed numbers have been cut by one third since the start of Medicare.

This situation has been rightly dubbed the ‘hospital crisis’, and it includes the avoidable deaths that are caused by long waiting times for elective surgery. The truth is that thousands of Australian are dying each year because of long waits to get into overcrowded public hospitals.

What this illustrates are the systemic problems with Medicare.

When Medicare was introduced in 1984, Australians were told it would be all so simple and equitable: each Australian would pay a levy on their income according to their means, and receive treatment according to their needs. The reality is that an inverse care law applies under the scheme, which means patients with the greatest health needs receive the least responsive services.

This is the result of Medicare operating as what health economists describe as a ‘reverse insurance’ system. Medicare provides GP and other medical services on demand on a fee-for-service basis. All consultations and tests are either bulk billed or eligible for a rebate under the Medical Benefits Scheme. The MBS budget is uncapped and is funded entirely by the Federal Government.

This means Medicare is fundamentally flawed in principle. No sound health insurance system should cover minor medical costs from the first dollar spent because this inevitably leads to overuse and waste. Because consumers face either no charge or lower charges, unnecessary consultations and tests are encouraged. The MBS is a political ‘sacred cow’ for this very reason: Australians are in love with bulk billing because they can go to the doctor for ‘free’ whenever they like.

What isn’t understood is that the ever-increasing and open-ended cost of the MBS has led to funding and service imbalances in the hospital sector. To offset MBS spending, the Federal Government has always limited its financial exposure to the cost of public hospital care by giving the states only capped hospital grants.

The predictable response by financially over-stretched state governments has been to impose blunt expenditure controls in the public hospital system including massive cuts to bed numbers.

The result is that many Australians with serious health needs requiring hospital care do not receive timely treatment due to the tight ‘caps’ on hospital funding that federal and state governments both use to limit the cost of our ‘free’ health system.

The perverse outcome is that Medicare leaves people over-entitled at the least serious end of the health care spectrum, while the cost of the most serious, most expensive illnesses are inadequately covered.

If Australians are serious about the fabled ‘fair go’, then the view we should take is that Medicare fails to live up to the national ethos. Medicare means that even the well and worried receive unrestricted, subsidised doctor visits, while the sickest patients languish in the hospital queues that are the daily reality around the country.

Before banging on about the evils of the US health system, Australians would be better off admitting that the way Medicare ‘works’ is deeply inequitable.


Slippery carbon claims by Julia Gillard

China IS closing down some older coal-fired power plants -- but because they emit REAL pollution, not because of their CO2 emissions. And the replacement plants emit MORE CO2

A NEW row has erupted over the extent of the rest of the world's action to combat climate change after Julia Gillard cited China's closure of "dirty" coal-fired power stations to back her argument that Australia must act to price carbon.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt leapt on the comments, accusing the Prime Minister of failing to mention that China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, was experiencing huge growth in emissions, but the Climate Institute's John Connor backed Ms Gillard's remarks.

He said China's action strengthened the argument for Australia to cut its emissions by 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

Appearing on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, Ms Gillard argued the rest of the world was moving on combating climate change. "There's this image that somehow we're the only ones - simply not true," she said. "You know, China [is] closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one or two weeks. Putting up a wind turbine at the rate of one every hour. They set their own targets by 2020 of reducing carbon pollution by 40 to 45 per cent per unit of GDP," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard's comments followed closely the words of her climate change advisor Professor Ross Garnaut, who made the point about coal-fire power station closures in China in a recent climate change paper. However, Professor Garnaut went on to say the unsafe and economically inefficient plants were "replaced by larger, and economically and environmentally much more efficient plants".

A briefing to members of the Minerals Council of Australia cited research by economist and Reserve Bank Board member Warwick McKibbin that China's voluntary offer to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020 would see its CO2 emissions rise by 496 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels.

"While China has undertaken substantial efforts to increase renewable energy generation capacity, coal-fired power generation will continue to dominate," the note said.

The International Energy Agency projects that China's forecast new coal-fired power generation capacity (600GW) by 2035 would exceed the current entire generation capacity for the US, EU and Japan combined.

Executive Director of the Australian Coal Association Ralph Hillman said stations were being closed in China largely to address health concerns from their mercury emissions rather than their CO2 emissions.

But Mr Connor said China's actions were consistent with international efforts to limit global warming to 2C.

China's latest five-year plan dictates that carbon pollution per unit of GDP should be cut by 17 per cent. This was part of a long-term target to reduce pollution intensity by 40-45 per cent by 2020.

Mr Hunt said Ms Gillard had talked up China's actions on climate change without mentioning that China, "the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is experiencing huge growth in emissions and this is expected to continue for some time".

"If the Prime Minister wants to talk about China, she should release the figures on China's annual emissions growth for the last five years, and the projections on how much China's emissions are expected to increase by over the next five years," Mr Hunt said.


Australia's proposed national school curriculum is full of Leftist indoctrination

by Kevin Donnelly

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, ALP leader Kevin Rudd staked the middle ground in education by advocating a conservative agenda, embracing a back-to-basics curriculum and a return to traditional subjects.

During her time as Education Minister Julia Gillard also defined herself as an education conservative and described the ALP’s national curriculum as exemplifying a return to academic standards and rigour.

In one speech Gillard described herself as “a passionate believer in the benefits of a rigorous study of traditional disciplines”, and in a second speech she boasted, “What we’re on about is making sure that the absolute basics of knowledge, absolute basics of education are taught right across the country.”

On replacing her as Minister for Education, Peter Garrett maintained the ALP line that education is a major priority and described the national curriculum as “world-class” and “vital to our goal of giving every child a great education”.

Has the ALP government delivered on its promise to develop a national curriculum that embraces the “traditional disciplines” and “the absolute basics of knowledge”? Based on the English, mathematics, history and science documents (dated December 8, 2010) the answer is “No”.

Instead of heralding a return to traditional learning, the proposed national curriculum represents a continuation of the type of substandard, politically correct approach to education that has bedevilled Australian schools over the last 30 to 40 years.

The more traditional approach to the curriculum, while acknowledging the importance of the learner and the fact that disciplines evolve over time, places subjects like history, mathematics, the sciences, the arts, music and languages and literature centre stage.

Matthew Arnold’s view that education should introduce students to the “best which has been thought and said” is often referred to in this context, as is Michael Oakeshott’s metaphor of education involving a conversation that is larger than the individual and that has been going on for hundreds of years.

This liberal view of education, while drawing on a range of cultures and traditions, is closely associated with the rise of Western civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage. In the same way that the nation’s legal and political systems and language and literature owe a great debt to and can only be understood in the context of this Western heritage, so to with education.

Instead of respecting and acknowledging this liberal view of education, the national curriculum gives primacy to three politically correct “cross-curriculum priorities” (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability) and seven “general capabilities” (including intercultural understanding, competence in information and communication technology, and critical and creative thinking).

Every subject in the national curriculum must incorporate the aforementioned perspectives and capabilities. As a result, the disciplines of knowledge are undervalued and distorted to make them conform to the ALP’s and the Left-intelligentsia’s preoccupation with Asia, indigenous Australians, and teaching so-called work-related generic skills.

Instead of Asia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, why not define the curriculum in terms of Australia’s Western heritage and Judeo-Christian tradition?

In relation to the seven capabilities (most of which are subject-specific and impossible to teach as abstracted skills) the case can also be put that it is more important that students commit themselves to the qualities and dispositions associated with a liberal education, such as civility, morality, objectivity, compassion, kindness, humility, creativity and truth-telling.

The history curriculum provides a clear example of this unwillingness to acknowledge the grand narrative associated with the rise of Western civilisation and the importance of Christianity. In one section the document asks students to act with “moral integrity” and to “work for the common good” but the curriculum writers refuse to acknowledge that such ethical values are culturally specific and can only be understood in Australia in the context of the Western tradition.

In an early draft of the history curriculum, while “Christian” appeared once, there was no mention of Christianity. While the most recent document refers to Christianity a number of times (and once to the Catholic Church) the focus is very much on diversity, difference and cultural relativism. When Christianity is mentioned it is usually in the context of other religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam) and there is no attempt to detail the historical and cultural significance of Christianity.

When studying ancient Rome, for example, students are asked to consider the rise of the Roman empire and the spread of religious beliefs, but there is no mention of Christianity. In the study of Medieval Europe, Christianity is included, but the stated aims, that students should learn about “the dominance of the Catholic Church and the role of significant individuals such as Charlemagne”, “the Church’s power in terms of wealth and labour” and “the nature and power of the Church in this period”, indicate that students will be left with a less than favourable impression.

The decision by the curriculum writers to ignore the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) in favour of the politically correct alternatives, BCE (Before the Common Era), BP (Before Present) and CE (Common Era) further illustrates the extent to which Christianity is ignored and undervalued.

It should be noted that the most recent history document represents a slight improvement on earlier drafts. While the draft dated March 2010 made no mention of the Magna Carta, the Westminster system of government and concepts like the separation of powers, the most recent edition does when stating that Year 6 children should learn about “the Westminster system”, “constitutional monarchy” and “federalism”.

Unfortunately, though, instead of representing a balanced approach by recognising the debt Australia owes to its Anglo-Celtic heritage, it is clear that the curriculum writers are still committed to a view of history that uncritically promotes diversity and difference (code for multiculturalism) and that presents Australia as a nation of tribes.

The document’s treatment of migration provides a good example of this bias. Even though migration to Australia since the First Fleet has been primarily Anglo-Celtic and European in origin, teachers are told that students must be taught about “the long history of migration to Australia by people from Asia and appreciate the contributions made over time by Asian Australians to the development of Australia’s culture and society”.

Instead of praising the fact that Australia has welcomed so many immigrants from often hostile foreign shores and allowed them to live in peace and prosperity, the history document, when asking students to study migration, refers to “internment camps”, “assimilation policies” and “mandatory detention”.

Another example relates to slavery, where the history document is happy to refer to slavery during the Roman empire and to the European trans-Atlantic slave trade but, no mention is made of slavery under Islam. It is also no surprise that, when dealing with ideas and movements during the period 1750–1918, Year 9 students are only expected to study “progressive” ideas, with no mention of classical liberal philosophy or the type of conservative ideas associated with Edmund Burke.


Australia's vast and bungling welfare bureaucracy

CENTRELINK has been slammed by a commonwealth ombudsman for having 'systemic weaknesses' in review processes, including lack of transparency and insufficient education about available options to customers, often leading to delays and inaction.

A staggering 207,000 requests for review of Centrelink decisions were lodged during 2009/10, with almost half of reviewed decisions changed, often because new information became available according to the ombudsman report released today.

"Although some improvements have been made by Centrelink, we identified several deficiencies in administration which delay reviews and in some cases result in a failure to act on a request," ombudsman Allan Asher said.

Whilst approximately 47 in 100 reviews resulted in a changed decision, that did not necessarily mean that the original decision was wrong.

It did, however, reinforce the need for timely collection of information to enable a quality decision in the first instance as well clear explanation of decisions to enable effective access to review, the ombudsman said.

National Welfare Rights Network president Maree O'Halloran said the Mr Asher concluded that some problems are "intractable" and that Centrelink's internal review system fell short of being "legally sound, efficient and effective".

"After criticisms from five commonwealth ombudsman annual reports, three reports from the Australian National Audit Office, years of criticism by Welfare Rights and numerous internal reviews, Centrelink has finally agreed to overhaul their deeply flawed internal review system," she said.

The ombudsman has urged Centrelink to consider delaying action to recover alleged debts from recipients while they are appealing.

Other common problems identified in Mr Asher's report included repeated requests for reviews that were denied, with people having to ask five times for a review; delays in obtaining appeals quickly, with the worst case being a two-year wait for review; Centrelink recipients afflicted by "appeal fatigue", giving up because the process is too difficult to navigate.

The ombudsman said Centrelink failure to consistently implement appeal findings, and failure to adequately prioritise cases needing urgent review, failure to adequately explain the reasons for decisions; and important letters, faxes and emails from clients have been lost or misplaced.

The report reinforces the importance for Centrelink customers to be told of the different types of reviews available and options open to them in particular the implications of the type of review and whether further avenues of redress can be accessed for example, the choice to escalate a review or to suspend debt recovery.

It also draws attention to the vulnerability of customers and the severe consequences that an adverse decision might have.

"Centrelink customers have a right to independent review of decisions and the review process should be transparent, timely and result in the best outcome for the customer. "The options for review, including benefits and implications need to be clearly explained," Mr Asher said.

The report also highlights the phenomenon of 'appeal fatigue' where customers give up pursuing their right to a review after long delays have extinguished their resolve.

One case study of Mr 'J' highlighted that he made many calls over several months and was finally told that his request for review had not been upheld but he could appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. He told the ombudsman that he 'didn't know if he had the strength' to pursue the matter.

The report highlighted the need for Centrelink to identify and rectify causes of delay in the review model, including obstacles to recognising and acting upon requests for review. "The office recognises that Centrelink has put significant effort into developing effective review processes, however, it presently falls short of the ideal," Mr Asher said.


$53m Federal government welfare scheme helps only ONE person

(By its own criteria). Is this a record for bureaucratic waste?

ONLY one person has received the full $500 available under the Gillard government's $53 million matched savings scheme for welfare recipients launched last July.

Welfare advocates say the savings scheme has failed because it is unrealistic to expect people struggling to survive to put any of their limited money away.

To receive the payment, which matches savings dollar for dollar up to $500, those on income management must complete a money management course and show a pattern of saving for a minimum of 13 weeks. Centrelink quarantines the money, available only to those whose income is managed.

It is a successor to the scheme introduced in the 73 indigenous communities subject to the NT Emergency Intervention. The new scheme, funded for four years, has been expanded to those on welfare in the rest of the Northern Territory, and will be introduced to the rest of the country.

Between July 1 and December 31, 102 people entered the scheme, and of these 53 completed the money management course, 36 were still doing it and 12 had dropped out. To date only one person has successfully completed both requirements and received a full matched savings payment.

Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said this would increase with the number of applicants still in the program.

At a Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs workshop with financial counsellors this month, it is understood concerns were raised about the progress of the schemes.

Ms Macklin said the matched savings payment was an incentive for welfare recipients on compulsory income management to improve their money management skills, encourage positive savings and increase their capacity to set aside money for major expenses and purchases.

"The initiative is one of several financial counselling and money management services that are available to people on income management to help them manage their money," she said.

But National Welfare Rights Network president Maree O'Halloran said there was a serious policy misconception that people on low incomes could not budget effectively. "Nothing could be further from the truth," she said. "In fact, the opposite is true. People on low incomes are excellent money managers - they have to be.

"The Matched Savings Account appears to be yet another one of the government's income management-linked policies that, it seems, is untried, untested and unpopular.

"The revelation of a next-to-zero take up comes as no surprise to Welfare Rights. The scheme is both complex and misguided. It fails to recognise the reality of such low levels of payments and the proven levels of deprivation that social security recipients experience. "Even among the most thrifty and frugal there is limited capacity to save."

Ms O'Halloran said the government was disingenuous in promoting the scheme, as the limited capacity to save meant few people would be able to take advantage of the payment of $500.

"People with full-time jobs would have difficulty saving the suggested amount in the government propaganda about the scheme, but to expect a person to save $500 from funds that are income managed is laughable."


15 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused that Julia is now even less popular than Kevvy

Labor quietly dissolving work for dole scheme

Giving taxpayers' money to people who haven't earned it sounds just fine to a Leftist government

The flagship work-for-the-dole program has been quietly slashed by more than 60 per cent by the Gillard government, with only 9151 long-term unemployed now in the politically charged program.

Federal Labor has consistently rejected suggestions it would abolish the scheme, designed by the Howard government as the centrepiece of its bid to ensure welfare recipients contribute something in return for their benefits. But it is disappearing quietly, with the program losing more than 3000 participants in the final eight months of last year.

On April 7 last year, there were 12,695 people in work-for-the-dole schemes. On December 31, there were 9151 jobseekers either placed or expected to start a work-for-the-dole activity. This was down from 22,362 in April 2005, under the Howard government. Since July 1, 2009, there have been 32,168 jobseekers placed in one or more work-for-the-dole activities.

Employment Participation Minister Kate Ellis yesterday defended the dwindling of the program, arguing that the government was not fixated on keeping it as the main pathway to work, citing training and community volunteer work as alternatives.

"Our government has moved away from a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, so as to allow jobseekers to access a range of work experience options, including structured vocational training and community volunteer work as well as the work-for-the-dole program," she said.

"Our focus is on assisting jobseekers to access a range of education and training opportunities to give them the skills they need to find sustainable employment in the future."

Opposition employment participation spokeswoman Sussan Ley said the government was seeking to dismantle the program by slashing places month after month. "This is Labor's death by a thousand cuts," she said. "We warned a year ago the Rudd-Gillard government was watering down the Coalition's mutual obligation principle for those who are unemployed."

Ms Ley said the program was critically underfunded, with too few work options to build up skills where really needed. It also needed to be applied far earlier than after 12 months' unemployment under Labor, which doubled the threshold set by the Howard government.

Ms Ley said the current numbers in the scheme were "unrealistic, particularly with the number of long-term unemployed blowing out by around 90,000 people in the past two years". "When the Coalition introduced the program, most were required to undertake an activity after six months. Now people go in after 12 months," she said.

The types of activities people do on work for the dole vary widely, according to the Gillard government. Two examples included a community gardening project that provided training in nursery practices, and the remodelling and construction of memorial display areas for a children's and Chinese burial area.


Abbott unfazed by carbon scare

THE Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has again questioned the scientific evidence for climate change, saying he does not accept that carbon dioxide is a proven "environmental villain" or that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is the most important environmental challenge.

The Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, seized on the comments by Mr Abbott yesterday as "proof" the Liberal Party's climate policy is based on "the extreme view that climate change doesn't exist".

Speaking at a community forum in Perth, Mr Abbott said: "I don't think we can say that the science is settled here.

"There is no doubt that we should do our best to rest lightly on the planet and there is no doubt that we should do our best to emit as few waste products as possible, but, having said that, whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven.

"We should take precautions against risks and threats, potential ones as well as actual ones, but I don't think we should assume that the highest environmental challenge, let alone the great moral social and political challenge of our time, is to reduce our emissions," Mr Abbott said in response to a question.

Despite once famously saying the settled science of climate change was "absolute crap", Mr Abbott has more recently repeatedly stated that he accepts the science and has told his MPs their debate with the government should be about the Prime Minister's broken promise, the impact of the carbon price and the relative merit of the Coalition's "direct action" climate policy, and not about climate science.

Mr Combet said the comments showed "Mr Abbott is a climate change denier, which explains why his climate policy is nonsense".


The key is consistency; Labor is lacking

There's been an enormous amount of distraction about this week. Kevin Rudd itching to capture Tripoli. Julia Gillard delivering a beautiful speech to a room full of people who can't vote for her. Tony Abbott taking this opportunity to visit a steel mill in the PM's own electorate with his terrifying artist's impression of what her new carbon tax might look like.

Tony Windsor, complaining about the Prime Minister's decision to announce the prospect of a carbon tax without supplying any detail (provoking, in uncharitable minds, the question about why Mr Windsor himself chose to stand beamingly next to her while she did so).

Let's look at the basics here. Labor's problem is one of trust and consistency.

Political advocacy is about believing something, and setting out to bring a majority around to your point of view. In the best political advocates, principle and determination work together to the extent that even voters who fundamentally disagree with their position on a particular policy stance will grudgingly support them anyway.

Federal Labor is a long way from that right now, thanks to the messages it has sent out to the electorate on a number of issues.

Climate change, for example, where its message has been: "This is the most important moral challenge of our... oh, never mind. Wanna be in a focus group? Course there won't be a tax. Wait! I know! How about a tax?"

Or border protection: "Tough! Humane! Tough! Humane! I'm on a boat! No, you're on a boat! Look, there's East Timor! And there will be no new detention centres. Except for that one we're building right there."

Or health: "We're taking this thing over. Or maybe not. I'm wearing a mob-cap. Wait! We fixed it! Oh, bugger. Maybe we didn't. How about this?"

All the questions that are zinging around about the carbon pricing scheme right now are predictable, and fair enough.

Such questions will always attend a policy that is under development in the public eye. But the fundamental question that lies beneath all of them is far deeper, and more profound, and far more risky for Julia Gillard than what the price per tonne will be or what the carbon tax will mean for a birthday cake.

And that question is: Can this prime minister possibly build, in the hearts of her admirers and detractors alike, the unshakeable belief that she means what she says? What is the answer? I don't know. I think, given the circumstances, that it's a pretty long shot.

But I suspect that anyone who is idly contemplating leadership change probably hasn't quite twigged to what the core problem is. Can you imagine what would happen if federal Labor swapped leaders again? The analogy with rotten NSW Labor would be complete. You might as well just go ahead and get Craig Emerson to hop up on his desk and dance in his undies. The image of the Labor Government - a wobbly invertebrate, yanked hither and thither by hidden factional puppeteers - would be confirmed.

And the sweating independents, for whom daily life is made more difficult every time their coalition partner buggers something up - would presumably take the opportunity to decamp to Tony Abbott, or force an election. The whole idea is so suicidal and daft, in fact, that you probably can't rule it out entirely.

But make no mistake about what the issue is here.


Children and the internet

I don't fully agree with the article by Kylie Lang below but think that her approach is at least better than technophobia. I saw no need to time-limit the TV and computer usage of kids in my house during their childhood and they have all grown up as very creditable human beings with whom I still have good relationships. The kids had to do their homework and after that it was up to them. But seeing I spent many hours on the computer too, I could hardly have asked anything different of the kids. I did however also spend a lot of time playing rough-and-tumble games with them, which we all enjoyed -- JR

Plugged in but tuned out: sound like a child you know? The great connect to technology has become the great disconnect from family life and meaningful social interaction for kids who have developed an acute aversion to doing anything that doesn’t involve a keypad or remote control.

Perfectly reasonable requests to set the table, walk the dog, or engage in a conversation (without grunts) go unheard as our kids tune us out, building relationships instead with Angry Birds, Call of Duty Zombies and instant acquaintances misnamed as friends.

Before we go blaming technology for our children’s aloofness, consider this: iPhones, Wiis and computers are merely tools of communication. As such, they need to be managed and used respectfully.

As with the phone when I was a child, restrictions must be imposed. If I talked longer than 30 minutes (three minutes to a teenage girl), Dad would draw circles in the air to signal “wind it up”, I’d roll my eyes and huff but I would get off that phone. It was a similar story with TV. One hour a day, watching programs my parents deemed suitable, (Two and a Half Men would not have been one).

Technology is not the enemy here. It’s poor parenting, characterised by a reluctance to set and enforce limitations (in case our kids won’t like us) and a resignation to the idea that technology is omnipotent (it's everywhere so what can we do but let them have it?).

Instead of surrendering to weapons of mass communication, let’s determine how to use them for good. What values do we, as a family and collectively as a society, want to encourage and preserve? We must then commit to these things, not leave them to chance, because technology is racing ahead faster than we can digest and interpret it.

Research firm Gartner predicts that 64 million computer tablets will be sold this year; two years ago there were none. We already have 350,000 apps for our iPhone, yet 820 new apps are submitted each day.

With technology so pervasive and increasingly affordable (more than three-quarters of Australian homes have internet access), parents must sit down with their kids and agree on guidelines they can uphold. Appropriate screening covers school work and networking with students online to solve problems (such as maths, not who to take to the dance).

Beyond that, it is fine to play age-appropriate games within a set time - childhood experts recommend no more than one hour of screening (that includes TV) for under fives and two hours for fives and up. Within these periods, older kids can tweet, text or chat with friends, the key word here being friends. Friends are people you can touch and know through shared experiences that you can trust. They are not the secondhand acquaintances on social networking sites who multiply faster than measles.

Now, to inappropriate use. Screening has no place at the dinner table. Computers do not belong in bedrooms but in communal spaces where parents can monitor them. Where was the supervision of Brisbane schoolboy Philip Heggie, who ripped off eBay customers to the tune of almost $40,000 and stole a tidy $2 million from Suncorp?

Technology is a convenience parents have come to rely on (because, let’s face it, it’s the only babysitter kids really like), but giving a handheld device to a child in a restaurant to shut them up is teaching the child nothing about how to appreciate the dining out experience.

A friend of mine went to a baby shower in a restaurant last weekend, There were two little girls present, aged four or five. All other guests were women. One of the girls walked in wearing earphones and clutching a handheld device. “That’s a prepared mother," my friend initially thought, and then the second child arrived, without techno props.

As the three-hour function rolled on, the little girls, though seated side by side, did not engage with each other at all. Miss Earphones sat playing quietly on her handheld device and spoke to no one, including the other girl who eventually scored her mother's iPhone. "It was as if the two children were invisible to each other,” my friend said, “it was so sad”.

Technology, when used sensibly, has the power to positively connect people in a way we’ve never known. Look at how the much-maligned Gen Y rallied to the cause of flood recovery in January. When council websites choked, social networking took over, directing helpers to the areas of greatest need.

As a tool of communication, technology has no peer. But if we allow it to dominate our lives, it ceases to work for us. Parents must lead by example. No point telling your son too much screening is bad for him if you spend all night checking emails on your BlackBerry. Plugged in but tuned out describes adults too.

Former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner said: “Computers are magnificent tools for the realisahon of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love and understanding."

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 13 March

Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

14 March, 2011

Too much censorship

By Terry Sweetman

Sometimes I wonder how our kids survived until preschool, let alone to the age when they can treat me with fond disdain. They lived with an unfenced swimming pools, were surrounded by toxic household chemicals and were pretty much encouraged to read whatever they liked. The only restrictions in their TV viewing were the clock and their mothers view that indoors was an unnatural place for children while the sun was still up.

Their survival owed more to the occasional rap across the knuckles than the sort of safety devices that make houses and pill bottles no-go zones for the ageing and arthritic. Why do so many people think that life comes with inbuilt guarantees and that everyone else should share their parental burdens? Just how far can we push the care factor? We must have just about reached the limit with the proposal to make parental locks mandatory on digital TVs and set-top boxes. Let the kids watch moronic and oxymoronic reality shows but cover their little ears when it comes to street talk.

Seriously, do I have a problem with parents controlling what their kids watch? Not at all; I think it is their right and their responsibility. However, a little part of me worries that mandatory censorship devices should be imposed by the out-of-control Australian Communications and Media Authority. It, you might recall, is the body that has drawn up a secretive black list of what you can’t see or read on the internet and is immune from objection or appeal.

When it comes to TV, parents might control the set-top box, but they won't control the classifications it recognises. That’s the job of the Classification Board, which is undergoing a review in the light of what the Goverment calls changes in technology, media convergence and the global availability of media content.

It seems a short step from classifications being a guide to being a censorship gate. And the authority has called for submissions from the public on whether there should be any exemptions to the child-lock plan.

We’re not debating whether there should be compulsory locks. We’re reversing the onus of responsibility and asking who and what should be exempt. The authority has spoken.

If parents want childlocks on their idiot boxes, they should be available to them and they should pay for them. Yet why should they be compulsory for the rest of us even if we don’t want them and don't use them? I already have to put up with a nuisance child lock on the washing machine, so what next? Mandatory kiddie blockers on my detergent cupboard?

TV locks are probably not a big deal in themselves. The problem is that they represent a mindset that it builds a false sense of security, the idea that you can turn your back thinking your kids can’t get into the cleaning cupboard or the adult time slots.

The problem with Nanny State is that too many parents want to hand over their kids to her. And they want to blame her for what happens when their backs are turned. Teenagers running amok? Give the cops more power to kick them in the bum. Out of control? Blame it on the schools and teachers. Scoring zero in exams? Get a doctor to diagnose an alphabetical condition and pill them to the eyeballs. Kids watching nudity and listening to four-letter words on TV? Get the govemment to help regulate their viewing.

Never mind parental guidance in developing critical viewing habits. Just push a button. I have to wonder whether TV child locks are a comfort or a cop-out.

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 13 March

Another dangerous failure of government health insurance

$56 billion for an unwanted broadband network but no money for proper cancer screening?

Radiology laboratories are failing to identify cancer in patients because a 13-year freeze on Medicare rebates has reduced the role of specialists and left Australia with outdated equipment, radiologists claim.

The Gillard government is under pressure to spend $820 million raising Medicare rebates for radiology scans in the federal budget, with an Access Economics study showing the costs of providing a scan now exceed the Medicare rebate by an average of $53.

More than 20,000 patients have sent letters to Health Minister Nicola Roxon urging that rebates be increased as they struggle with average out-of-pocket expenses of $77 for X-rays, CT scans and MRIs.

Melbourne radiologist Alain Lavoipierre said financial restraints on radiology laboratories and their staff and equipment were now so severe that cancer diagnoses were being missed.

A kidney cancer patient referred to him had used a bulk-billing radiology clinic that three times failed to pick up his developing kidney cancer and the cancer eventually spread to his lymph nodes and chest. "For bulk-billing practices, the only way they can survive is to increase their throughput, do more to keep their heads above water, and the quality of the service is declining," he said.

Some radiology clinics no longer had radiologists at their satellite centres so they could not arrange further examinations immediately, he said.

The Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association said rebates for X-rays, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging and PET scans had not increased since 1998.

The Medicare rebate for a lumbar spine X-ray was $69 in 1998 and $65 today; the rebate for a CT of the brain was $171 in 1998 and $165 now; the rebate for an MRI of the head was $424 in 1998 and $342 today.

Access Economics says the freeze on rebates will reduce patients' access to services as some radiology clinics, especially those in regional areas, are forced to close, and patients will pay increasingly higher gap fees.

It also warns that underfunding will affect the quality of care by forcing practices to economise "excessively on the input of professional radiologists" and abandon investment in new equipment.

Out-of-pocket expenses are hitting the sickest cancer patients because specialists are more likely to ask them to use higher-quality labs that do not bulk bill. Medicare rebates for radiology that is bulk-billed was last increased by 10 per cent in 2009.

Pressure over radiology comes as Ms Roxon has told drug companies no new medicines would be listed on the drug subsidy scheme unless offsetting savings could be found. Pathology companies expect a $600m hit to their budgets.

Meanwhile, the government must find hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a dental health program it promised the Greens.

Australian Medical Association chief Andrew Pesce has warned that the government's planned budget cuts to medicine, pathology and radiology will jeopardise the government's health reform plans.

"The government risks losing all health reform credibility if it pursues speculated budget savings while at the same time pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into unproven projects such as Medicare Locals and GP super-clinics," he said.


His Eminence comes out fighting

CARDINAL GEORGE PELL has rebuffed the head of the Bureau of Meteorology, who had said Australia's highest-ranking Catholic was "misled" in his views on global warming.

Dr Greg Ayers told a Senate estimates hearing last month that the Archbishop of Sydney's argument against human-induced climate change was based heavily on a book by Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science, which had been discredited by scientists.

"The contents of the book are simply not scientific. I am concerned that the cardinal has been misled [by its contents]," the director of the bureau said.

But Cardinal Pell told the Herald the statements by Dr Ayers, an atmospheric scientist, were themselves unscientific. "Ayers, when he spoke to the House, was obviously a hot-air specialist. I've rarely heard such an unscientific contribution."

The cleric, who has questioned global warming in his Sunday newspaper column, even likened himself to the federal government's climate adviser Ross Garnaut when he expressed disappointment last week that the public debate on climate change was often divorced from scientific quality, rigour and authority.

"I regret when a discussion of these things is not based on scientific fact," Cardinal Pell said. "I spend a lot of time studying this stuff."

But Professor Garnaut had also said he was more certain the mainstream science supporting global warming was sound, and there was no "genuine" scientific dissent.

Cardinal Pell argued against human-induced global warming in a written submission to the hearing, claiming increases in carbon dioxide tended to follow rises in temperature, not cause them. He also stated, based on Professor Plimer's book, that temperatures were higher in Roman times and the Middle Ages.

Dr Ayers, a former CSIRO marine and atmospheric research chief who holds a doctorate in physical chemistry from Monash University, told the hearing Professor Plimer's book had not been peer reviewed and many of his assertions were not supported by scientific evidence.

He also cited one example in the cardinal's submission that referred to nitrogen in a list of greenhouse gases.

"That is not a greenhouse gas; it is 78 per cent of the atmosphere. You cannot have people out there telling the public that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas because it is not," he told the hearing.

Cardinal Pell told the Herald statements by Dr Ayers to the hearing were "all abuse and waffle about poor old Plimer", before defending the geologist as a man who "deals in many, many facts". But he was prepared to meet leading climate scientists to discuss the issue, he said.

Dr Ayers told the hearing the cardinal "may well become an ambassador for the quality of climate change science if he is exposed to the quality of the science that is done" in Australia.

Cardinal Pell made his comments to the Herald after a public lecture by the Vatican's highest judicial officer, Cardinal Raymond Burke, entitled "The Fall of the Christian West" in Sydney on Friday night.

Cardinal Pell had earlier told the 200-strong crowd about the value of the "years of study and professional devotion" undertaken by Sir Thomas More, who was executed for treason in 1535. "There's no substitute for knowing what you're talking about," he said.


Illegal immigrants to Australia break out from detention

The wisdom of the former conservative government in locating detention facilities on a remote island is demonstrated

Two plane loads of police and security staff have flown to Christmas Island to counter two breakouts by more than 200 immigration detainees who smashed through security doors and fences.

More than 150 broke out of the immigration detention centre on Friday night and while many of them have returned to the centre another group of fewer than 100 also got out and many are still at large.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department yesterday said a chartered aircraft flew in more security staff from the department and Serco, the private company running the centre, on Saturday night.

A second aircraft was scheduled to leave Perth later yesterday with Australian Federal Police reinforcements. The spokesman said that in line with policy, the department did not disclose the numbers of personnel being deployed to Christmas Island.

The spokesman confirmed security doors and fences had been damaged but said it was "not major damage" and the centre was calm.

Jamal Daoud, a spokesman for the Social Justice Network, said that he had been told by people who had been contacted by detainees that the asylum seekers had "destroyed all inner doors with electrical locks" in parts of the centre on Friday night and then smashed fences to get out.

The aim of the escapees was to be photographed by residents in order to make Australians aware of the "tragic situation of refugees in detention centres".

Mr Daoud, citing an email he had received from a Darwin detainee who had heard from people inside the Christmas Island centre, said the refugees were taking the action because they had all lost hope of obtaining a protection visa as the number of asylum seekers was increasing and the immigration processing was very slow.

There are now 2562 people held in Christmas Island, which was originally designed to house 500.

The department's spokesman, Sandi Logan, said yesterday that the detainees should be aware that the protest action would not influence decision-making concerning their bids for refugee status.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said the situation was "well in hand". The escapees had "nowhere to go other than to other parts of the island". "At all times they were watched by our staff up there and the AFP officers will obviously be working to get people back into the facility," Ms Gillard said.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said "this is the kind of thing that happens when you've got thousands of people in immigration detention and the only way to ensure that this … doesn't happen is to stop the boats".


Julia about to break another promise?

The Federal Government's $38 billion mining tax deal is being threatened by fears that the Greens will force a bigger haul from booming profits. Major miners are warning ministers that an increase in the tax will see the deal dumped

The Government is confident it can settle an agreement with the top earners in the coal, iron, oil and gas sectors which would bring in at least an extra $38 billion between 2012-13 and 2020-21.

Greens Leader Bob Brown has publicly said that his party wants a higher rate than the Government has negotiated. The original proposal from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would have raised $60 billion in the same period.

In late February Senator Brown said the Government had "backed off to the big three mining companies at the expense of the Australian taxpayer and householder and I don't accept that". However, Senator Brown also has said he would not scuttle an agreement and allow the Opposition to impose an even lower rate.

That is not comforting the miners who want assurances from the Government their deal will be honoured. They are worried by the increase in the influence of crossbench MPs and the Greens on the Government and Treasurer Wayne Swan. It is understood Mr Swan is now preparing for intricate negotiations after the release of exposure draft legislation.

The Greens will have the balance of power in the Senate when the mining profits tax legislation comes to a vote in the second half of the year.

The minerals money is vital for Government programs foreshadowed last Budget. An agreement with the mining industry would be a critical political achievement for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Government sources said they believed the miners were aware that they could not refuse an extra tax slice of profits, given the huge returns on their investments lately.

The Fortescue Metals Group invested an extra US$8.4 billion in production, which elevated profits to US$314.1 billion in the six months to December, compared to US$43.2 billion for the same period the previous year.

The preliminary 2010 result for Xstrata pointed to an operating profit of $7.7 billion - a 75 per cent increase on the 2009 outcome.

Rio Tinto had underlying earnings of $14 billion in 2010 - 122 per cent better than for 2009.

In the oil and gas sector, Santos had 15 per cent profit jump to $500 million after tax for 2010 and Woodside's profit was $1.5 billion for 2010, a rise of 35 per cent.


13 March, 2011

$56 billion for an unwanted broadband network but no money for infant vaccines?

A VACCINE that provides the best protection from potentially fatal infant pneumococcal disease has been deferred for children over one because of federal government cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Parents will be forced to pay up to $150 to ensure toddlers are immunised against the potentially deadly infant pneumococcal disease because of a Budget crackdown on medicines.

Federal Cabinet last month approved Prevenar 13 to be listed on the PBS from April 1, but decided not to approve the "catch-up" dose for children previously immunised.

The catch-up program is designed to ensure children aged 12 to 35 months, who have received three doses of Prevenar 7 in their first year of life, are also offered the new vaccine that offers protection against more strains.

Medical experts have accused the Federal Government of "health rationing by stealth" after moves to restrict the number of drugs it subsidises until the Budget is back in surplus.

All prescription drugs recommended for listing on the PBS will have to jump an additional hurdle -- approval by Cabinet -- as part of a spending crackdown. Previously, only drugs recommended for listing that cost the Government more than $10 million a year were taken to Cabinet.

Cabinet has broken with tradition by not accepting the advice of its PBS advisory committee to list seven new drugs and a vaccine last month. It instead "deferred" a decision on the drugs, which include a painkiller and the pneumococcal vaccine.

Australian Medical Association federal vice-president Steven Hambleton said it was a case of "health rationing by stealth" and Cabinet should not intervene.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon said: "Given the current difficult fiscal circumstances, I feel it is appropriate to subject all government decisions that have a fiscal impact to scrutiny."


Keneally orders destruction of documents

Typical Leftist secrecy. Leftism can't stand the light of day

New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally has directed public servants to destroy thousands of what are being described as potentially sensitive government documents. The Labor Government is expected to lose the March 26 election and has issued a directive to staffers about the careful handling of documents - whether they be stored, kept or destroyed.

Cabinet documents are excluded and are held for 30 years before being released.

Ms Keneally says she wants all documents to be handled properly. "I expect all public servants, be they in the bureaucracy or government advisers, to be following that direction," she said.

But the Opposition's Chris Hartcher says the normal convention is for all documents to be handed over to any incoming government. "It's not like a World War II movie where you destroy everything before the enemy take the fortress," he said. He says it is clear the Government is trying to cover its tracks rather than provide a smooth transition to new leadership.

Greens MP David Shoebridge says the Government has something to hide. "Where do you start? The reasons why they shut down the Parliament before Christmas, the reasons why we have those last-minute changes to planning in Barangaroo?" he said.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard's broken promises lose voter trust

JULIA Gillard's broken carbon tax promise has shattered voters' trust in the Prime Minister and she would be swept from office if an election were held this weekend.

Face-to-face interviews with 500 voters conducted by the Sunday Herald Sun in battleground electorates have revealed most voters say they can no longer trust Australia's first female PM.

Many fear her deal with the independents will produce bad government and bad policies, and worry Labor's carbon tax will reduce the standard of living.

But voters in the marginal electorates of Lindsay in NSW, La Trobe in Victoria, Moreton in Queensland, Boothby in South Australia and Hasluck in Western Australia failed to rate Tony Abbott highly, either, with most categorising his performance as "average", "too negative", "too aggressive" or "poor".

As the PM prepares to mark six months since she was sworn in after a cliffhanger election, the marginal-seats investigation finds support for Labor could have slumped as much as 7 per cent - a finding in line with this week's Newspoll showing Labor having a 30 per cent primary vote, the worst in the poll's history.

Up to 60 per cent of voters surveyed confirmed they did not trust Ms Gillard after the carbon tax promise.

The findings will deliver another blow to the Labor Party as it fights to sell the carbon tax, with voters complaining they can't trust a PM who pledged during the 2010 election campaign there would be "no carbon tax under the government I lead".

More than one in three voters rated Ms Gillard's performance as "lacklustre", "directionless" and "poor", with 37 per cent of voters giving her a mark of worse than "average".

Voters were split over the question of whether the Greens had too much influence, with 41.8 per cent convinced they did have too much say and 43 per cent not convinced they had too much influence.

On the impact of the deal with the independents, including Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, on good government, 37.8 per cent of voters said it had not delivered good policy outcomes, with only 23.6 per cent happy with the outcome. But 38.6 per cent said they didn't know.


Minchin ups stakes in carbon war

Senior Liberal Nick Minchin says the globe is more likely to be cooling than warming and has slammed the Government's key climate adviser, Ross Garnaut, as "on the Government's payroll".

Amid fierce debate about the Government's carbon tax plan, Professor Garnaut yesterday warned the scientific case for climate change had strengthened the position that the Earth is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.

Senator Minchin - who led the Liberal Party's move to dump leader Malcolm Turnbull over his support for action over climate change - says Professor Garnaut, an economist, "knows nothing about the climate".

Speaking on Sky News, Senator Minchin said: "He's not a climate scientist. I don't think he has any authority whatsoever to speak on the climate".

While saying he respected Professor Garnaut, he said: "He's on the Government payroll, he's paid to ensure that the Government's desire to tax the hell out of us over this issue is substantiated by proclamations that the world is about to end".

Quoting a blog from an atmospheric scientist from the University of Alabama - whom he did not name - Senator Minchin said: "It's clear that the models, and we're dealing with models, have grossly overestimated the sensitivity of temperature to increases in CO2.

"I think what's occurred is that there was a warming period from about '75 to the year 2000. It was part of a natural cycle of warming that comes in 25, 30-year cycles. The world has basically stabilised in terms of temperature since about 2000. "There are many, many scientists who actually think we could be entering a cooling phase, and I for one think that is more than likely.

"We have stabilised in terms of world temperatures. There is a very powerful natural cycle at work, and if anything we're more likely to see a tendency down in global temperatures, rather than up."

On Thursday, Professor Garnaut released the fifth update to his 2008 report on climate change, specifically tackling climate science. He also released specific data on temperature, sea level rises and extreme events from recent years. "On the measurable phenomena, it does seem that certainly there's been no evidence of overstatement," he said.

"And it does seem to be a number of points of understatement, and I call that an awful reality because it would be much better if [the] opposite were true. "It would be much better if the evidence was showing the earlier signs had overstated things."

As the debate about a carbon tax heats up, an environmental economist has said it is a mistake for Australia to set a price for carbon before other countries do.

The Government's carbon tax will start in July next year and then morph into an emissions trading scheme, but the details of the tax and the amount of compensation are yet to be determined.

Australian National University Crawford School of Economics professor Jeff Bennett says the Government's policy will disadvantage local exporters, while other countries are lagging on the issue.

"The Prime Minister said we've got to do something or else we're going to be left behind - it's important to realise that first of all, very few countries around the world are doing much about this [pricing carbon]," he said. "And secondly, even if everybody did something about, if all nations in the world did what Australia's doing, still the impact on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would be so small, [it would] not have any real or meaningful impact on the pattern of climate across the planet.

"What that means is that the Australian economy is going to have this quite substantial cost imposed on it, with very little to show by way of benefit."


12 March, 2011

How about some REAL tolerance?

Hint: Why is it a shrieking horror to criticize Muslims but perfectly OK to say the vilest things about Christians?

YOU consider yourself enlightened and tolerant. Deep in your heart you hold a compassion for others that comforts you. If others knew your heart, surely they would think highly of you, they'd admire your humanity, your sense of international responsibility and your acceptance of all races and religions.

But how to demonstrate this? How to allow others to see inside your heart? There is, of course, a standard but ill-advised method for parading these virtues and in parliament, recently, independent MP Andrew Wilkie adopted it. He attacked. "I stand today," he said in the House of Representatives, "to condemn the racism that eats at the Liberal Party."

Yes, you are a politician and you need to make your mark. You want constituents, media and contemporaries to admire and respect you. So to display your worthiness you attack someone you can brand as a racist. "Australia's history is littered with politicians peddling hate," peddled Wilkie as he detailed his now widely publicised claims of racism and religious intolerance against Liberal MPs Scott Morrison and Cory Bernardi.

Wilkie even found time to read to the chamber, and into Hansard, a 2004 letter given to him by an unquoted source, to an unnamed Asian woman, from someone who, apparently, was a supporter of Pauline Hanson. The letter was vile and racist. But why, all these years later, was it shared with the parliament? Was this the proof Wilkie needed that Australia is a racist nation full of "hate crimes" that are egged on by conservative politicians?

This was the shame of Wilkie's rant, the moral vanity that sees divisions highlighted, denunciations cheered, sensible debate stifled and individuals incensed. Few people will condemn words such as these from the independent MP for fear it invites a similar spray.

If Wilkie and progressive commentators wanted to turn their attention to those who denigrate other religions, from Catholicism and the Brethren to Judaism and Hinduism, we could take them more seriously. Examples aren't hard to find. ABC favourite Catherine Deveny wrote this about her return to church: "Entering the cathedral of misogyny, deception, manipulation, chauvinism, hypocrisy and bigotry, all wrapped up in 'if you don't swallow this hook, line and sinker you're going to hell', felt like coming home.

"Time for communion, when bread and wine is turned into the actual flesh and blood of Christ by the priest. Because he's special. They call it transubstantiation; I call it bullshit."

Or another ABC regular, David Marr, interviewed about Christian churches: "All of the demonisation of homosexuality from these churches is essentially aimed at keeping erect the authority of marriage and sexual guidance for heterosexuals. And it is wicked. Wicked."

These comments are highly provocative, but most of us likely would agree that in our pluralist society they are tolerable as part of robust debate. If so, then the issues of democratic freedoms and the rights of women and homosexuals within other religious cultures are also worthy of discussion.

Perhaps we should be able to have a similar level of debate and show a similar tolerance for irreverent discussion of Islam. And maybe it is not too much to ask that we avoid being impolite, abusive or offensive.

We last saw a major public overreaction to poorly expressed insecurities during the era of Hansonism. The strident condemnation of Pauline Hanson helped turn her from a none-too-bright deselected Liberal candidate into a national political phenomenon.

So with federal politicians talking about racism and Hanson announcing another tilt at politics through the NSW upper house on March 26, there could be no better time to remember what her previous incarnation taught us. It is that the perception of a double standard in the public debate fuels resentment rather than eases it.

And that when opportunists parade their own virtue by making shameless, intolerant attacks on others, no one wins.


The carbon tax mess

Gillard has painted herself into a corner

THE enthusiastic applause in the US couldn't drown out the angry clamour at home. While Julia Gillard was making her address to congress, Tony Abbott was making a visit to a steel factory in Gillard's Victorian electorate.

No policy nuances necessary. The Opposition Leader knows that for all the government talk of "doing the right thing" with its carbon tax, the public is hearing a very different and much more disturbing message.

The key message is one of electricity costs jumping even more sharply than they are already. And to achieve what, exactly? Few people, even within the ALP, sound quite so convinced of the logic or the timing any more.

This is not only because Gillard's personal credibility is badly frayed given she is going back on her election commitment that no government she led would adopt a carbon tax. The larger problem of policy credibility extends well beyond that. Increasing numbers of voters don't comprehend why Australia is proceeding in this direction when its main trading partners, competitors and much larger emitters are backing away. The vague hopes of an international agreement at Copenhagen, always overblown, have become a sharp-edged mirror recording the lack of any such advance for the foreseeable future.

And for those still wanting Australia to "do the right thing", it is obvious that a national contribution of 1.5 per cent of the world's emissions will hardly tip the balance in limiting climate change if the scales are so weighted the other way.

That's one reason the Gillard government has abandoned Kevin Rudd's emotional rhetoric about climate change being the great moral challenge of our time. Instead, the 2011 focus is that the urgent imposition of a carbon price is in Australia's national interest. That makes it even more vital to be able to persuade the public that pricing carbon is a worthwhile reform that will benefit the Australian economy. So far Labor is going backwards in making that argument.

Abbott's logic is precisely the opposite. He argues that imposing a carbon tax will harm Australian consumers, jobs and economic growth while driving carbon-emitting industries offshore. His "direct action" plan to reduce emissions by the same amount - 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 - may not persuade any economists or even most of big business that it will work as promised. But that audience was never his goal.

His goal is to win the public debate by attacking Labor's new tax as deceptive, damaging and unnecessary. The Newspoll last week showing Labor's dramatic fall in support told how effectively this tactic was working.

The Liberal approach is backed up by the fact it is closer to the position the Obama administration has been forced to adopt, given the backlash in the US to carbon pricing.

Commercial talkback radio, the bugbear of the government, was quick to point out the Prime Minister didn't mention action on climate change in her call to the US to be bold.

Yet the Gillard government seemed curiously unprepared for the public's reaction. The most optimistic view at senior levels was that the announcement had given a dispirited party some larger unifying purpose and a reform worth fighting for, along with the fervent hope that this approach would gain momentum through time.

"It's early days yet," one minister said reassuringly. Another was less sanguine. "One leader or the other will lose their job over this," he declared. He didn't say which one. And with opinions hardening so rapidly, recasting them will be even more difficult no matter how many more detailed reports there are from Ross Garnaut or the government's climate change commission.

Even those committed to the strategy of carbon pricing struggled to justify the tactical blunders that meant Gillard's initial press conference to trumpet this year's version was upstaged by the Greens. The Newspoll showing a slight rise in support for the Greens re-enforced the reality that Greens get the credit for Labor's shift while Labor gets the blame from those - a larger number - who don't like it.

The government also was blamed for not having enough detail to counter what it dismisses as the opposition's "scare campaign". But, of course, announcing the detail upfront was hardly going to win applause either. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, sounding uncharacteristically sensitive about the dilemma, said people couldn't have it both ways.

The government was condemned for insufficient consultation over its surprise announcement of the resources super profits tax last May, he said. In trying to avoid a repeat by only putting out an outline on carbon pricing initially, it is criticised for lack of detail. True, but still badly handled. And it just shows how hard it will be to climb back out of the hole. The new political reality in the Senate after July 1 means Labor must do deals with the Greens or the Coalition to get its legislation passed. The government was gaining very modest traction by accusing the Coalition of being wreckers, against everything.

The carbon tax gives Abbott the perfect excuse. Gillard has the much harder task of trying to cobble together a deal with the Greens that won't completely alienate business and all those households in marginal seats feeling so squeezed by cost of living pressures, like power bills. Good luck.

Nor will there be a quick end. Big business is split but the mean is definitely moving further away from Labor's position. Those who were always against a price on carbon as a threat are more antagonistic as they look at their position against that of their trade competitors. Business leaders who supported the concept of carbon pricing last time were badly burned by the Rudd government's backflip. Their doubts about the level of compensation available are greater given the need to get agreement from the Greens. Then there's the very large question of the government's competence to handle a complicated scheme. Even previously reliable allies such as Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group are sounding far more cautious, especially given the altered international climate.

Labor could withstand this better with strong public support for action on climate change. But the mood has changed dramatically. The notion of another tax further limits the Prime Minister's leeway to convince sceptical voters that Labor's agenda can deliver for them. It doesn't make it any easier that her key economic argument is one that can only be proven in the negative: what will happen to electricity generation and power supplies if there is no carbon price.

Gillard says business needs the tax because it needs certainty. The underlying problem is that at present no one is willing to invest in adequate large-scale electricity generation to meet coming demand. Given the years it takes for such investment, time is running out.

But reinvestment in the power industry has been inadequate in recent years, not helped by state governments happily helping themselves to dividends from state-owned power stations. It is clearly unpopular and commercially dubious to build a new coal-fired power station. Yet it is also risky to invest in the more expensive gas option for baseload power without knowing about a carbon price.

According to Keith Orchison, former chief of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, there is general agreement a carbon price of $20 to $40 a tonne would be needed to encourage substitution of coal for gas. But that additional impost would push up prices for users, by estimates ranging from 25 per cent to 40 per cent. That is when prices are already escalating because of the need to pay for much-neglected distribution infrastructure and to meet the cost of the government's renewable energy targets. Consumers seem to be already getting more "price signals" about the cost of power than they want.

The imposition of a carbon tax, morphing into an emissions trading scheme, provides greater certainty in theory.

In practice, the ground would remain slippery despite the easy talk about Australia's clean energy future. But Abbott's pledge to repeal any tax in government makes the idea of business, or households , relying on this to occur even more absurd. Politics has eaten policy and given everyone indigestion.


Being Black Is Bad For Your Health

According to
Being born black in Australia is as much of a health risk as being a regular smoker or drastically overweight.

Many of us start planning a Friday night pub session, with alcohol, cigarettes and junk food… your lifestyle choices take years off your own life. And here is a sobering thought – Indigenous Australians face a similarly shortened life span even from birth.

What nonsense. Being aboriginal does not automatically make you unhealthy or shorten your lifespan.

The story has an interactive thingy (which I couldn’t get to work) which purports to show how much fatty food and alcohol you would need to consume, and how many cigarettes you would need to smoke, to reduce your lifespan to that of the ‘average’ indigenous person.

They have unwittingly hit the nail on the head. It is not being born black, white or purple that makes you unhealthy. It is your lifestyle choices.

Incidentally, this is another argument against socialised medicine (in addition to inefficiency of service provision and the massive additional cost of the bureaucracy required to administer it). That is, as long as people know that someone else will pay if they get sick, there is less incentive to make positive choices about food, alcohol, smoking, exercise, etc.

Indigenous Australians are not less healthy because of the colour of their skin. Like everyone else, their health depends largely on the choices they make.

To suggest that this must be somone else’s fault, and therefore someone else’s responsibilty to fix, is effectively to claim that indigenous people are not able to make responsible choices about their own lives. That is racism.

It is also to condemn them to continuing, paralysing, victimhood.

At the moment, of course, many do not make responsible choices.

But the answer is not to pat them on the head and say ‘Oh dear, it’s all our fault, let us fix it for you.’

Nor is it to continue to spend vast amounts of money trying to repair damage already caused by those lifestyle choices:
COAG calculates $40,228 is spent on indigenous people per head of population compared with $18,351 for non-indigenous Australians.

That cost is for total services provided, not just health services. No one would mind this expenditure if it was making a difference. But it is not.

Nor is clear what can be done. The welfare management system that applies to vulnerable people in the Northern Territory ensures that up to 50% of welfare payments is quarantined – set aside for use on essentials like food and clothing.

It is possible to get off the scheme by demonstrating you can manage your own affairs responsibly. More than 75% of the people who have been able to do this are white.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says this shows the scheme is racist. Withdrawing or managing people’s benefits is ‘punishment’. What he says is needed is rewards, incentives, for people to send their children to school, to behave in ways that will help them stay healthy.

But for heaven’s sake. If people need to be promised rewards before they will send their children to school or stop using the grocery money on alcohol and gambling, then no government programme, and no amount of government spending, is going to affect health or educational outcomes.

Indigenous Australians taking responsibilty for their own choices will make a difference. Until that happens, nothing else will.


Funding is not the cause of indigenous educational failure

But better teaching would make a difference

MY School confirms that funding is not the cause of indigenous educational failure. Take two schools in very remote Australia, 20km apart: in 2009, the indigenous school received recurrent funding of almost $33,000 a student, while the mainstream school received about $21,000 for each student.

Despite the 50 per cent additional funding, the indigenous school's Year 5 National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy reading result (typical of all of its results) was a failure rate of 92 per cent. The nearby non-indigenous school had a failure rate of 12 per cent.

These rates are representative of the higher funding but dramatically lower literacy and numeracy performance of indigenous schools.

School size is also not the reason for educational failure. Many small non-indigenous schools perform well and some of the worst performing indigenous schools have large enrolments. For example a very remote indigenous school with more than 420 students (with recurrent funding of $25,600 a student) had reading failure rates of 96 per cent in Year 5 and 89 per cent in Year 7. In 2009, only one of their students completed senior secondary school; no student was awarded a senior secondary certificate.

More than 150 indigenous schools (with more than 80 per cent indigenous students) dominate the lowest literacy and numeracy results for Australia's 9500 schools.

They are mainly in the remote homelands and townships of NT, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Few of the students in these schools achieve the minimum NAPLAN literacy and numeracy national standards.

They leave school early, unable to read, write or count, and without the other skills necessary to get a job. Few of those who stay on through Year 12 learn enough to be able to get a job or to go on to further education.

In some 40 NT homeland learning centres, with a total enrolment of about 1000 students, classes do not even have qualified teachers five days a week. Few of their students could read the NAPLAN questions, let alone pass the tests.

Their parents receive Commonwealth Assistance for Isolated Children payments as compensation for the Territory not providing a school for these children. The continuation of these pretend schools is shameful for Australia.

Some states are responding to poor NAPLAN results. The Queensland Department of Education is a partner in Noel Pearson's Cape York Partnership academies in Aurukun, Coen and Hope Vale. These academies implement rigorous "direct education" in the classroom. This is combined with after-school cultural, sporting and other "club" activities. The Cape York Family Responsibilities Commission is supporting these schools.

While it is too early to see the results in NAPLAN tests, the academies have achieved a remarkable rise in attendance in response to improved classroom teaching.

The Northern Territory Department of Education has the worst literacy and numeracy results in Australia. Yet it continues to protect its own schools by refusing to approve qualified independent schools. The Territory receives large amounts of additional commonwealth funding, which it spends on fashionable feel-good programs that have no effect in the classroom. Until it focuses on improved classroom teaching, including phonics, the gap between its indigenous schools and mainstream Australian education will continue to widen.

Indigenous attendance continues to be a difficult issue while sub-standard schools and poor teaching methods remain in place. In remote communities, the lack of role models and the absence of jobs lead to the view that education does not matter.

The absence of jobs and decent houses leads to high mobility that is a principal cause of low school attendance.

The commonwealth is trying to improve attendance by penalising welfare recipients whose children do not attend school, but the Territory's attendance rhetoric, blaming parents for not sending their children to school, is not matched by results.

The most important contributor to low attendance is the absence of good teaching. Where effective schools operate, attendance is high. Schools such as Coen on Cape York are achieving full attendance; independent Djarragun College in Queensland and independent indigenous schools in the Territory have consistently high attendance.

The many indigenous parents in remote Australia concerned about their children's education have known for years that their children are not learning to read, write and count or acquiring the other skills they need to get a job.

Their fears have now been confirmed by the revamped My School website, although few remote indigenous parents can read it. These parents - although they are themselves the victims of the absence of schooling - know that like indigenous health and housing, throwing taxpayers' money at indigenous education is not a substitute for reform.

Whatever costs and benefits the My School website has created for mainstream schools, for indigenous education My School data are critical to fixing schools in indigenous communities.

The absence of literacy, numeracy, humanities, social and natural sciences and other life skills that mainstream schools teach, are a key contributor to the dysfunction of remote communities. A meaningful job and decent housing are the right of every Australian. They are not achievable without a mainstream education.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

11 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is derisive of the claim that there should be quotas to ensure that more women become company directors

A true horror story for any scholar

University libraries are throwing out old books wholesale. This is quite simply a danger to knowledge. Soon we are only going to be allowed to know what our "betters" allow us to know. Hang on to your books! I know that I have some old books which I am going to ask my son to keep after I am gone

THE University of NSW is throwing away thousands of books and scholarly journals as part of a policy that critics say is turning its library into a Starbucks.

Academics say complete journal collections, valuable books and newspapers dating to the 19th century are being thrown out to clear space for cafe-style lounges.

The Herald has obtained an internal document listing thousands of titles due to be pulled from shelves. The 138-page "weeding" list includes encyclopaedias, dictionaries, books in foreign languages and texts on psychology, politics and morality.

The policy, which until recently required librarians to remove 50,000 volumes each year, does not allow the last Australian copy of any book to be discarded. But it has opened an ideological row about the function of modern libraries as more research material becomes accessible online.

Already, thousands of books have been dumped in skips in the library basement and staff in various disciplines say they have not been given the opportunity to salvage them.

"This is a scandal. It's outrageous on a whole number of different levels," said Peter Slezak, an associate professor in the school of history and philosophy. "Anyone that has anything to do with books is distressed at this. They are extremely good books."

The cleanout has so upset some that library staff have rescued books destined for the bin. One former library assistant said he had taken more than 200 books. "If the book's not borrowed in the last couple of years, they throw it out," he said. "Most libraries see their function as an archive but these guys see it almost like a video store. After you've had the book five years, why keep it?"

Most shocking, he said, was the disposal of a collection of newspapers from the 1850s and 1860s. "They're getting rid of books to make space for students to sit around, have lunch and plug their laptops in. Bizarrely, they've turned the library into a kind of a Starbucks," Professor Slezak said.

A university spokeswoman said that since August library policy no longer set a target for the number of books to cull. Superseded textbooks were hard to give away, some titles were moved into storage and libraries worldwide faced the same dilemma, she said.

"The library has an ongoing program to remove print journals where online archival access is provided. Our academic community prefers to use the online versions and they use them very heavily," she said.

Dr John Golder, a visiting research fellow in theatre, feared the digitisation of libraries would prevent students stumbling across new information. "A serendipitous discovery is impossible when the book isn't there," he said.

A professor in the school of history and philosophy, David Miller, understood libraries could not preserve everything but thought consultation could be improved. "There's something profoundly wrong, and symbolically wrong, about a university destroying books," he said. "Universities are in the business of passing on knowledge and books - no matter how the use of books is shrinking - still remain a very important symbol of knowledge."


Some letters on the issue below

There were many distressing stories in the newspapers this morning, but none so immediately depressing as the story on what my university is doing to our books ("Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online", March 8).

It is 50 years almost to the day that Ray Bradbury published his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, an allegory about book-burning and the suppression of ideas. He meant it as a warning and I don't suppose he really expected it to become fact. He would be galled and appalled to learn that it has.

That this is happening in a "place of learning" makes it doubly significant.

The UNSW library is such a depressing place these days - there are entire floors where it is hard to find a book at all. The explanations offered by UNSW that people don't want these books and that nothing for which there is no electronic copy is junked are nonsense.

I recently went searching for a 19th-century Government Gazette (for which there was no electronic version) only to be told by a distressed librarian that they had been found in a skip in the basement, along with many other irreplaceable items. At their own expense, the librarians rescued these and sent them to a library where they would be appreciated - Dili in East Timor.

What is happening to the UNSW library is just one aspect of a dumbing down of the university in the name of competition - to change it from a collegiate place of learning to (in the Vice-Chancellor's words) an "education destination".

You don't get a very good education at a university without books.

Dr Geoff Lambert Prince of Wales clinical school, University of NSW, Sydney

UNSW's book "cull" is extremely short-sighted. Research does not follow a straight line; it thrives on the kind of serendipitous discoveries that databases make impossible. When I was at university (in this century), the books I stumbled across in the library amounted to a second education. At the very least those of us who love books would have appreciated a chance to salvage what we could.

Alan Miller Hornsby [My experience was similar -- JR]

There are two aspects to UNSW's policies that if more widely adopted will have an effect on libraries and their patrons. Libraries have always operated within a spirit of co-operation and this manifests itself in the inter-library loan. This means that when a patron wishes to borrow a book not held in a library but held by another library the patron's library can borrow that book from a library which holds it.

A spoiler within this practice has arrived in the form of e-books which have licensing restrictions. The New York Times reported in March that a large US publisher owned by Rupert Murdoch will sell e-books to libraries that can be borrowed a maximum of 26 times for each title purchased. The library holding that e-book can no longer lend it out after 26 times. Does this mean the library will have to keep purchasing copies of the same title?

Many libraries also are transferring subscriptions from the hard copy of scholarly journals to online versions. The licensing of these online subscriptions restricts distribution of copies of articles within those scholarly journals to third parties, i.e. other libraries via inter-library loan. Furthermore, if a library discontinues a subscription of an online scholarly journal it no longer has any holdings of that journal.

When you purchase a printed copy of a book or scholarly journal it is yours to keep forever. Librarians need to think long and hard about the implications of discarding the hard copy.

Wendy Cousins Balgownie


The 48-hour delay that flooded Brisbane

Lethargic bureaucrats failed to act promptly, in true bureaucratic style

ENTRIES in the "flood event log" for the devastating Brisbane River flood reveal that the senior engineers in charge knew by 7.10pm on Sunday, January 9, that high releases of water from Wivenhoe Dam would be needed "in view of heavy rain over the last three hours".

The entries also show that senior engineers proposed more than doubling the releases, from 1400 cubic metres a second (cumecs) to between 3000 and 3500 cumecs that Sunday night to give the dam more storage capacity to manage the flood and intensifying rainfall.

But it took until Tuesday, January 11, when the dam was almost full for SEQWater, which employs the engineers who operate Wivenhoe Dam, to start releasing more than 3000 cumecs.

By Tuesday evening, with the dam at risk, the releases were dramatically ratcheted up to 7500 cumecs - flooding thousands of Brisbane homes and leaving a damage bill of billions of dollars.

Revelations in the official log entries by key personnel of SEQWater during the disaster raise serious questions about whether engineers maintained a status quo of low releases after being told by the Brisbane City Council late on Sunday that higher releases would flood hundreds of low-lying homes.

Evidence in the flood event log points to the council's input influencing the release strategy on Sunday, January 9, when there was time to manage the flood. This will be seized on by insurers and flooded residents amid calls for the log to be closely scrutinised by a public inquiry.

Independent engineers and other experts examining the saga believe they can demonstrate to the royal commission-style inquiry that most of the flooding in Brisbane was caused by poor management early on and then massive sudden releases from the dam on Tuesday, January 11.

Senior independent engineer Michael O'Brien, who is compiling a submission for the inquiry headed by Supreme Court judge Cate Holmes, told The Australian last night: "It is clear from reading the flood event log that the flood operations centre knew as early as 7.15pm on Sunday, January 9, that much larger releases from Wivenhoe, of about 3000 cumecs, were required from as early as midnight and that this was important enough to notify the director of dam safety. But releases at this rate did not occur until 10am Tuesday, which by then was just too late. Even though the flood event log shows continuous discussions about the need for substantially increased release rates from this time, the discharge rates were increased too slowly."

The log entries reinforce the concerns of senior independent engineers and investigations by The Australian that much of the river flooding that destroyed thousands of homes occurred due to SEQWater's strategy to hold on to too much water in the dam.

Examination yesterday of the log entries and situation reports show that for most of January 10 the releases were kept between 1400 cumecs and 2000 cumecs - more than 30 per cent below the figure proposed by engineers the previous evening. By 6am the following morning, the dam was almost full, while the releases were still just 2750 cumecs. At 6pm that day, with SEQWater and Premier Anna Bligh gravely concerned that the dam was nearing its safe maximum capacity, the releases were increased to about 7500 cumecs and this resulted in most of the flooding.

Revelations in the log entries are not reflected in the main body of a newly released 1180-page report by SEQWater, which concludes the agency performed well in following the operating manual and the dam mitigated a worse flood. But the flood event log shows that at 7.15pm on January 9, an officer in the Flood Operations Centre "called SEQWater CEO Peter Borrows advising him that high rainfall is expected overnight and releases from Wivenhoe causing damaging flooding are likely to be necessary". A 7.15pm entry shows dam personnel called the director of dam safety to advise they were "now looking at much larger flows and will have to ramp up releases to around 3000 cubic metres per second by as early as midnight, which is likely to have flooding impacts on low-lying areas of Brisbane". Another entry five minutes later shows that "Engineer 2 called (Brisbane City Council) advising him of potential for high releases sooner than previously expected".

The entries show that after hearing from council that "3500 cumecs is the damaging flow level for Brisbane urban areas", the engineers in charge decided to keep releases from the dam at less than half the proposed rate, or just 1400 cumecs.

An entry in the earlier hours of January 10 documents an engineer's call to the dam operations manager "to discuss (council's) view on damaging flow. Engineer 3 confirmed that if flows were kept below 3500 the fuse plug would be triggered".

This 12.55am entry shows that at a relatively early stage, engineers knew a potentially disastrous outcome, a collapse of the auxiliary spillway or fuse-plug, could occur due to massive rainfall run-off unless releases immediately increased past 3500 cumecs.

Within 40 hours of this prediction, the rainfall and run-off had filled the dam to a level approaching the fuse-plug, resulting in the operators on the afternoon of January 11 ordering the release at 7500 cumecs.

SEQWater has a statutory requirement to operate Wivenhoe Dam independently and in accordance with an operating manual. The official report justifies SEQWater's decision to not release more water sooner by pointing to Bureau of Meteorology forecasts, which underestimated rainfall intensity.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology referred questions to the floods inquiry, ignoring assertions from SEQWater that the forecaster was responsible for inadequate rainfall warnings in the lead-up to the January floods.


Queensland teachers still chasing the class-size snark

CLASS sizes would be reduced to just 20 students in Prep to Year 3 under a proposal put forward by teachers to help lift literacy and numeracy standards.

The Queensland Teachers Union has warned the Bligh Government it needs to commit to smaller class sizes if it is serious about lifting student outcomes.

But the proposal conflicts with a controversial paper last year which warned reducing class sizes does little to improve the quality of education for children.

The QTU has made the latest proposal to claw back class sizes in their paper Securing Queensland's Future: A Resourcing Agenda for State Schools. The paper, which outlines a 10-year resourcing plan for state schools, suggests Prep to Year 3 class size maximums be "progressively" reduced to 20 students over five years as one of a series of "suggested initiatives". Education Queensland (EQ) currently sets a maximum class size target of 25 pupils for Prep to Year 3 , although up to 30 have been reported in Prep classrooms since 2009.

Last year, more than 10,000 Prep to Year 3 students were taught in overcrowded state school classrooms. "If the Government is really serious about improving literacy and numeracy outcomes, it should commit to a program of class size reduction, particularly in Years P-3", the QTU paper states. "Qualified teachers working with smaller classes in the early years of schooling are an effective way to achieve better student outcomes."

It says intensive student support programs and ongoing teacher professional development would also be needed for the class size reductions to work.

The paper comes less than six months after a Grattan Institute report warning reducing class sizes did little to improve the quality of education. Grattan Institute school education program director Dr Ben Jensen argued money was better spent on improving teacher effectiveness.

But QTU president Steve Ryan said state schools which had reduced class sizes using National Partnership funding had shown the initiative worked.

EQ director-general Julie Grantham said the QTU which has submitted its paper to the Government, had not raised the issue in any of their stakeholder meetings. She said class sizes were structured to meet targets agreed to by the QTU.


Government hospital on Thursday Island critically run-down and putting patients at risk

A PATIENT was forced to "ring a bell like Santa Claus" in a critically run-down far-north Queensland hospital, where emergency call systems had been broken for six months. Wayne Guivarra also told how all Thursday Island Hospital patients lay in "hot and sweaty" rooms because airconditioners had failed, while leaky roofs dripped water on to electrical equipment.

The hospital's dire state of disrepair was yesterday revealed as Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek tabled in State Parliament a report by director of nursing Terry Culleton, written in January.

It showed patient safety had been "severely compromised" since December, when leaking and bowed ceilings forced the closure of the region's only operating theatre and birthing facility with specialist capabilities for some emergency Caesareans.

The nurse call system was "totally beyond repair", with staff unable to call for help in emergencies and patients told to ring hand bells for assistance or use bedside telephones, some of which did not work.

The report also listed problems with buildings, including areas not properly electrically earthed, severely corroded structural steel and roofs, overcrowded work areas, rotting flooring and mildewed walls.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth said the hospital was so run-down some patients had to be flown 850km to Cairns for treatment ordinarily given on the island. She said the 36-bed hospital, located "literally metres" from the sea, deteriorated far more quickly than city facilities and desperately needed an individualised maintenance schedule. "Once the deterioration occurs, you've then got the tyranny of distance, of getting material and then the right people up there," she said.

Mr Guivarra, a councillor from neighbouring Badu Island, stayed at the hospital two weeks ago, but said problems had gone unchecked for years. "We're doing nothing to save our people. It's just making the job harder for the medical professionals," he said.

A new hospital should be built at the larger Horn Island, because sick Torres Strait Islanders were flown there before being ferried to Thursday Island, he said.

New Health Minister Geoff Wilson has sent two senior Queensland Health staffers to investigate the matter. Yesterday, he said the operating theatre reopened on February 21 after "urgent works".


10 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is delighted that Pauline Hanson has returned to Australian politics.

Australia a true friend, Gillard tells Congress

An excellent speech on the whole. The anti-American Left will be fuming

JULIA Gillard received a four-minute standing ovation after making a historic address to a joint meeting of the US Congress in Washington.

During the half-hour address she hardened Australia's military commitment in Afghanistan, telling the Congress Australia remembered America's help in World War II and would always stand by it as "a true friend Down Under".

Conceding that the transition to local control in Afghanistan will take "some years", Ms Gillard threw herself fully behind President Barack Obama's Afghanistan strategy, saying the two nations were inextricably linked by shared values and common aims.

Ms Gillard also challenged the US to use its capacity for reinvention to join Australia in pressing for new rounds of trade liberalisation and economic reform.

Describing herself as a "true mate", Ms Gillard urged the US to "be worthy to your own best traditions," calling on the nation to turn its creativity to addressing climate change.

And she called for US leadership in the Asia-Pacific to balance the rise of China and India and ensure all nations in the region could enjoy the benefits of prosperity and growth.

Ms Gillard's comments came in an address to a joint sitting of Congress to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS treaty - a military alliance which binds Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Among Australian prime ministers, only Bob Hawke and John Howard have been accorded the same honor, while Robert Menzies addressed the House of Representatives in 1955.

Ms Gillard used her speech to make clear that Americans should expect firm and ongoing support from Australia.

"In both our countries, real mates talk straight," she said. "We mean what we say. You have an ally in Australia. An ally for war and peace. An ally for hardship and prosperity. An ally for the 60 years past. And Australia is an ally for all the years to come."

Ms Gillard said Australia had not forgotten that the US helped defeat the Japanese in World War II. She said the US should expect that Australia would not swerve in its support for the Afghanistan war. "I have told Australia's parliament in Canberra ... what I told General (David) Petraeus in Kabul ... what I told President Obama in the Oval Office this week," she said. "Australia will stand firm with our ally the United States. Our friends understand this. Our enemies understand this too."

Referring to her recent visits to the war zone, she said she was convinced the Afghanistan coalition had the right strategy.

However, as she outlined her solidarity on the war, she threw out challenges to the gathered US politicians on the economy and climate change.

Calling for US support for the economic reform process through the G-20, she also appealed for the reignition of the stalled Doha Round of international trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.

On climate change, she called for continuing collaboration, insisting that the world must find a way to decouple economic growth from growth in carbon emissions.

Turning to security, Ms Gillard noted that political power was shifting towards China and India, and urged the Americans to call on the same courage that saw them provide leadership during the Cold War and to apply it to the emerging new world order.

She also praised former US President Ronald Reagan, describing him as a great figure of American optimism who had displayed the same values she believed would see the US continue to prosper and provide global leadership.

"I firmly believe you are the same people who amazed me when I was a small girl by landing on the Moon," she said. "On that great day, I believed Americans could do anything. I believe that still. You can do anything today."


Ambulances still 'ramping' for hours outside Princess Alexandra Hospital

AMBULANCES continue to "ramp" for hours outside the Princess Alexandra Hospital despite a major expansion of its emergency department opening late last year.

State Government figures show the number of ambulances turning up at the hospital has increased by almost 25 per cent since the November opening, to about 450 per week. Walk-in presentations have also significantly increased, from an average of 124 per day to 146 last week.

Dean Smith, who will undergo surgery tomorrow for a benign brain tumour, said he had spent six hours on Monday last week waiting with paramedics before getting into the emergency department. "It's ridiculous what goes on," said Mr Smith, 47.

John Webb, an organiser with United Voice, the union that represents paramedics, said he had seen a dozen ambulances, with patients aboard, waiting outside the hospital. "It happens on a regular basis. I've seen it. It's still happening," he said.

The hospital's $134 million expansion has more than doubled the number of acute treatment bays in the emergency department from 20 to 45.

In the 12 months to the end of last October, emergency was under so much pressure it was forced to redirect ambulances to other facilities for varying amounts of time on 213 days of the year a situation known as being "on bypass".

On Thursday last week, the Princess Alexandra, Logan, Mater Adults and QEII hospitals were all on bypass at the same time, increasing pressure on other Brisbane facilities.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the situation put lives at risk. "It means paramedics driving around and around trying to find an emergency department that is either open or they have to wait potentially hours to get into one," he said. "Treatment delayed is a risk factor in any recovery. Delay in treatment can cost a patient their life." Mr McArdle said that while paramedics were ramped outside hospital EDs, other patients needing an ambulance may have to wait too long.

Mr Webb said he was hopeful new Health Minister Geoff Wilson would address the ongoing problem. "A positive is that the new minister wants to meet with us," he said. "Hopefully, we've got a new era."

Queensland Health's Metro South District CEO David Theile said the Princess Alexandra Hospital treated more trauma patients than any other facility in the state's southeast. "We are working closely with emergency clinicians and other hospitals to improve ED treatment times and reduce ambulance waiting times," he said.


Pharmacies selling 'quack' health products, CHOICE investigation reveals

AUSTRALIAN pharmacists have been called out for including "quack" healthcare products on their shelves. A CHOICE review of items commonly sold through pharmacies has uncovered a range of products that have purported health benefits but "no credible evidence that they work".

These included ear candles, herbal weight loss remedies and plastic bracelets with a hologram sticker which claim to improve balance, muscle strength while alleviating jet lag and motion sickness.

"Antisnor" rings - a metal ring worn on the little finger - were also for sale despite the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) taking action against its manufacturer to halt its claims it could actually prevent snoring.

"There is an onus on pharmacies to sell products that work and for pharmacists to stand by the safety and effectiveness of products in their store," said CHOICE spokeswoman Ingrid Just. "Pharmacists hold a four year specialist degree in chemistry, and consumers rely on their expert advice."

CHOICE also raised concern about homeopathy remedies appearing in pharmacies, stating the question of whether they had any real effect on the body had been "long debated (and) systematic reviews of clinical trials say no".

Ms Just said many pharmacies had expanded their offerings and they now resembled "full blown retail enterprises" selling "all manner of things from from toilet paper and confectionary to cosmetics and sunscreens".

This was not an issue, she said, where items for sale did not have a therapeutic of health claim attached to them. "But when it comes to health products, they should stick to selling ones that are safe, effective and supported by scientific and clinical evidence," Ms Just said.

The CHOICE probe also asked pharmacists about the efficacy of certain products and some offered "insightful, medically sound advice when asked." Others were "indifferent or who gave advice on quack products with no scientific or medical basis".

Ms Just said the problem was consumers could find themselves out of pocket, and with no relief for the problem they are seeking help for. "When products don't work the consumer may not only have wasted their money, they may have also delayed the opportunity to seek more appropriate treatment," she said.

CHOICE said people should, when considering a new or novel health product, ask their pharmacists if there was any evidence supporting its use.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia agrees. "Pharmacists take their professional responsibilities very seriously," a guild spokesman told AAP. "The guild agrees with CHOICE's recommendation that the best course of action is to speak to the pharmacist about any new or novel product you're considering, and ask for further information."


What the Australian Federal government is not telling about its proposed carbon tax

The government is making numerous claims to justify imposing a tax on carbon in the face of Julia Gillard's solemn promise prior to the last election that,"There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead".

Each one of the government's claims in support of its carbon tax will require detailed scrutiny. In fact, what the government doesn't tell the public is already proving to be as revealing as what it does say.

One of the key reasons the Prime Minister uses in support of her decision to impose a carbon tax is that Australia will be left behind the rest of the world in pricing carbon, claiming, "there are more than 30 countries with emissions trading schemes and 10 American states with emissions trading schemes".

The latter reference is to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, involving a form of cap and trade scheme in 10 north-eastern and mid-Atlantic states in the US.

However, what the Prime Minister fails to reveal is that this initiative is in the throes of unravelling.

In the past few weeks, New Hampshire has taken steps to leave the scheme. One of the reasons it did so was because its state government had recently raided the money raised by this cap-and-trade fund, using it to help plug a black hole in the New Hampshire budget.

In retaliation, opposition politicians were able to gather the numbers to legislate for New Hampshire's exit from the scheme.

Similar raids on revenue from the cap-and-trade schemes to help fund general spending have occurred in at least two other states, including New York and New Jersey. Cross-party support is reportedly building to withdraw New Jersey from the scheme.

If that occurs, commentators suggest the viability of the whole scheme is doubtful. It would be at risk of total collapse.

Given the experience in the US, Treasurer Wayne Swan should be required to give a guarantee that he will not use Labor's proposed carbon tax to fund his budget black hole.

It is also worth noting that the much-heralded Chicago Climate Exchange, partly owned by Al Gore and Goldman Sachs, which was supposedly helping shape a $US10 trillion market in carbon credits, collapsed in November last year. Its last trades in credits costed carbon at 10 cents a tonne.

The Prime Minister also reminds us that the European Union has an emissions trading scheme and that Australia would do well to follow the example set by the EU.

What she fails to add is that the European police agency, Europol, announced on December 28, 2010, that it had discovered a €5 billion ($A6.7 billion) fraud within the EU's trading system. More than 100 people were arrested in connection with it.

There are other claims worth investigating. The Prime Minister is insistent that, as Australia is one of the largest emitters of carbon on a per capita basis, we must impose a tax carbon - even if larger contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions do not take significant steps to reduce emissions.

According to a Reuters report of November 14, 2010, which used data from the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre, the top per capita emitters of fossil fuel carbon dioxide (in tonnes) in 2007 were: Qatar 51.3, Kuwait 34.0, United Arab Emirates 30.9, Bahrain 29.5, Trinidad and Tobago 27.7, Luxembourg 24.2, Brunei 19.5, United States 19.0, Australia 17.7 and Saudi Arabia 16.9.

In the context of a global picture, the level of emissions per capita is less important than total emissions.

Again Reuters has reported, based on data from the German renewable energy institute IWR, that the top national emitters of carbon dioxide (in millions of tonnes) in 2009 were: China 7426.4; US 5951.0; Russia 1534.4; India 1529.1; Japan 1225.2; Germany 796.6; South Korea 664.2; Canada 605.9; Saudi Arabia 544.4; Iran 544.4.

On this list, Australia comes in 16th, with 374 million tonnes - or 1.28 per cent of global emissions.

Taking the EU as a whole, we can conclude that 67 per cent of all emissions come from the top five emitters, namely China, the US, EU, India and Russia.

The Copenhagen climate change conference and its aftermath demonstrated that there is unlikely to be any co-ordinated effort by the big five emitters any time soon.

Imposing a tax on carbon in Australia to address our 1.28 per cent share of global emissions has the potential to cause enormous damage to our economy and our standard of living, while making little to no difference to global emissions.

Little wonder that recent polls reveal considerable opposition to yet another tax from this Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister should not impose a carbon tax without putting it to a vote of the Australian people at the next election.

In the meantime, just watch her lips.



Computers and bureaucrats just don't mix. When are governments going to accept that software "upgrades" rarely work? "Legacy" software generally worked because it was a lot simpler. Expecting much more complex software to work is usually a step too far.

Bill Gates spends years getting new software to work. As soon as he releases a new version of Windows, he starts work on the next one. Even so, it took 8 years to get from Windows XP to Windows 7, with an abortive Windows Vista in between. Lesser effort than that is doomed.

Three current reports below

Over a year to get payroll software working properly

Queensland Health staff still missing pay a year later

One year after Queensland Health's disastrous payroll system went live, workers are still being underpaid and some are going empty-handed. But new Health Minister Geoff Wilson yesterday said the system was stabilising and "good progress" had clipped the number of affected people to 274 from a staff of 78,000.

The new SAP system, implemented last March, is now believed to be outperforming its predecessor although a true comparison cannot be made because the old system did not collect performance data.

Mr Wilson warned that the complex new system, which covers more than 15 awards and industrial agreements, would never be perfect. "In any big payroll system there will be, fortnight by fortnight, some corrections that need to be made," he said. "What we need to do is make sure that number is not a number that is a product of any flaw or deficiency in the system."

Inconsistencies could continue for another 18 months but Mr Wilson promised to meet fortnightly with unions to "hear directly" about any problems. The first meeting is scheduled for this afternoon.

A project to fix system defects will probably finish in the coming months but a second scheme to simplify rosters could take more than a year to implement.

It is designed to relieve the clerical burden on frontline managers and will include localised pay hubs staffed with people who understand the highly individualised work arrangements of each health district.

Some underpayments had been blamed on last-minute roster changes or rosters not being passed to payroll on time, including 31 workers who were unpaid during the most recent pay cycle because of form-processing issues.

Another 243 people were underpaid in January and had to take emergency hardship payments until the errors were rectified.

Mr Wilson labelled the debacle a "terrible ordeal" for workers and said "no stone would be left unturned" to improve the system.

Shadow health spokesman Mark McArdle called for the release of all Government briefing notes prepared about payroll issues to determine who was responsible for the system's failure.

"This has caused enormous pain and misery to many Queenslanders and culpability has never been established," he said.

Mr McArdle also questioned how the system's repair bill could top $210 million, more than three times the system's original cost.


Firearm registry in meltdown

FIREARM dealers are ready to fire a class action at the State Government over income lost because of the failure of a new online permit application system.

Many of the state's 150 dealers are facing ruin because of ongoing problems with a $6 million computer system introduced last November to "streamline" processing.

The Queensland Police Service implemented the Weapons Licensing Management System, saying it would save $7.5 million over five years in staff efficiencies.

However, the QPS has had to bring in 20 additional employees to help process thousands of outstanding permit-to-acquire applications from already-licensed shooters.

Weapons Licensing has revealed the current backlog is 4400 applications 400 more than when The Courier-Mail first reported the issue on February 7.

Dealers say their income has dropped by up to 80 per cent, as only a trickle of approvals are coming through, preventing them from being paid by customers.

"This has seen staff lay-offs and some dealers going to the wall. There is no doubt many won't be here in a few months if the situation continues," Firearm Dealers Association of Queensland president Robert Nioa said.

Mr Nioa, also the national president, said Queensland was the only state with this problem and in other states the process took one day to complete.

"Dealers can't sell their firearms and they have also lost out on being able to sell accessories. The estimated damage to the industry is well into the millions and climbing," he said.

Mr Nioa said there was "a big call" for a class action to recover lost profits and compensate businesses set to close.

He said this would be on the agenda at a special meeting in Brisbane on March 21 to be attended by dealers from throughout Queensland.

Some of the larger dealers now have 900 customers waiting for permits and up to $1 million tied up.

The QPS said the problems had been largely caused by the need to "temporarily suspend data processing for a period of time" during the system change.

"The QPS is unable to provide a definitive deadline, as the time taken to process applications for PTA is dependant on a number of factors, including the number of new PTA applications received each week, the complexity of the applications and the completeness of the supporting information," a spokeswoman said.

Shooters Union of Queensland president Graham Park said shooters were angry because they could not get approvals.

Mr Park said shooters had been told at a meeting with police that the situation might not be resolved for at least four months.

"Like the Queensland Health payroll bungle, the computer system introduced to handle firearm permits has turned into an omelette," he said.


NSW hospital software loathed by staff for its errors

HOSPITALS around the country are struggling to cope, with patients forced to wait for hours in corridors and a $115 million spent on a computer system that assigns treatments to the wrong patient.

In New South Wales, a review of the FirstNet computer system found it is crippled by design flaws and is compromising patient care.

FirstNet allows treatment details and test results to be assigned inadvertently to the wrong patient, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Difficulties retrieving patient records could delay treatment, and the system - on which $115 million has been spent - automatically cancelled pathology and radiology requests if the person was transferred from the emergency department without checking whether these were still needed, the review found.

The system is so compromised it should be scrapped, a specialist doctors' group said.

Sally McCarthy, president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said the review by Professor Jon Patrick confirmed that the system, loathed by doctors and nurses, is unsuitable for its purpose. The potential for records to be linked to the wrong patient raised a serious risk they would be given incorrect treatment, she said.

A NSW Health spokesman said in a statement the department agreed with Professor Patrick that "the ability to have two patient records open on a screen is a patient safety issue and this will be addressed through a software upgrade".


9 March, 2011

Immigration critic Pauline Hanson returning to Australian politics

Ms Hanson is making a comeback to politics, standing for a NSW upper house seat in the March 26 election.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally greeted the news by saying state Labor would direct no preferences to Ms Hanson, accusing her of harbouring racist views. "We absolutely condemn the sorts of racist and discriminatory policies which come from Ms Hanson and parties like One Nation," Ms Keneally said. The NSW Liberal Party has also said it would offer no preferences to Ms Hanson.

But Ms Hanson has told told Fairfax Radio Network: "I'm not racist. No one can ever comment or make a comment on any racist statement I have ever said," she said today. "I have ... as an Australian ... a right to question immigration and multiculturalism, which I don't believe is helping our country.

"I believe in people coming here, assimilating, becoming Australians and be proud of this country and abide by the laws of the land. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Ms Hanson said the major political parties feared her. "Why? Because they know I've always spoken out, I expose them for what they are," she said. "They want to hold on to their power and the positions. "It is in the people's interest of NSW to ensure that I am on the floor of NSW."

Ms Hanson is to stand for an upper house seat with a group of 16 independents but conceded it would be a "battle" to get elected.

Ms Hanson said she had been thinking about making a political comeback since last year, with voters urging her to stand. Parliamentary accountability and law and order reforms would be high on her agenda.

"Something I'd like to consider and put to the government is the separation of powers of the police force to the Parliament," she said. "I don't think the police force should be controlled by a minister of police. "They could look at separating them. So they [police] can get on and do their job."

She also said she was "completely against" Prime Minister Julia Gillard's planned carbon tax.

On the subject of Ms Keneally, Ms Hanson said, "I think she's a very nice lady but she doesn't know what she's talking about."

David Oldfield, a founder of the One Nation Party in 1996 with Ms Hanson, challenged anyone listening to his radio program on 2UE this morning to come up with any statement of hers in the past that was racist. He strongly criticised Ms Keneally's accusations that Ms Hanson's policies were racist and discriminatory, saying the Premier's comments were the opposite of freedom of speech.

His listeners agreed, welcoming her back into politics. "Congratulations to Pauline Hanson. I think our government needs a good shake-up. She's truthful ... I think give her a go, because this country is such a mess," one listener said. Another listener said Ms Hanson was just repeating what others were saying to "stop bringing these immigrants into Australia".

One caller raised Ms Hanson's refusal to sell her Queensland home to a Muslim buyer last year "because I don't believe that they are compatible with our way of life, our culture" as an example of racism, but Mr Oldfield dismissed his comments, saying: "What's racist about that?"

"If Pauline Hanson, doesn't like Muslims, she has a right not to like Muslims," he said, comparing it to whether Ms Hanson liked or did not like rainy days. "Technically speaking, Muslims are not a race," he added. Mr Oldfield said he, like the Oxford Dictionary, defined racism as one race viewing itself as superior than another race, citing the Nazis' belief in supremacy over the Jews.

Ms Hanson has spoken out strongly against multiculturalism and immigration in the past. In her maiden speech to Federal Parliament in 1996, she called for multiculturalism to be abolished and said Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians".

"I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate."

In 2006, she said she was concerned about immigrants from South Africa with diseases. "We're bringing in people from South Africa at the moment. There's a huge amount coming into Australia, who have diseases; they've got AIDS," she said. [There is indeed a high incidence of AIDS in South Africa and some other African nations]

"They are of no benefit to this country whatsoever; they'll never be able to work. And what my main concern is, is the diseases that they're bringing in and yet no one is saying or doing anything about it."


Greenie snake oil

Most Greenie claims are snake oil so the story below should not be too surprising

JAMIE PARKER, the man expected to become the Greens' first lower-house MP in NSW, was in charge of marketing at a natural therapies company that was repeatedly shamed by authorities for ''misleading advertising'' and ''exploiting consumers''. Mr Parker, who polls suggest will unseat Education Minister Verity Firth in Balmain, marketed products including FatBlaster, FatMagnet, Horny Goat Weed and Cholestaguard under the brand name Naturopathica.

An ad for FatBlaster, a weight loss treatment, included the line: ''Quick! Call Green Peace [sic] - there's a beached whale.''

Cat Media, the company behind Naturopathica, was the subject of 41 complaints upheld by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) between 2000 and 2006.

According to the pecuniary interests register at Leichhardt Council, where Mr Parker is mayor, he was marketing manager of Cat Media during that period.

A review of TGA decisions shows scathing comments, including this about the cholesterol treatment Cholestaguard: ''Advertisements which were unbalanced and exploited the lack of knowledge of consumers, and could bring about fear of distress among consumers''.

A FatBlaster ad was criticised for ''misleading consumers into thinking that the product had been used successfully by well-known celebrities (just like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Posh Spice)''. The company was also found to have used staff members to write supposedly independent reviews of products. Cat Media claimed falsely, according to the TGA, that its HangOver STOP could ''stop a hang over''.

Mr Parker denied that he was responsible for any of the breaches. ''It wasn't my role to be putting together advertising and copywriting, I was positioning the stuff in pharmacies,'' Mr Parker told The Sun-Herald. ''There were many directors. I had a small team of people doing things like graphic design. Yes, I've worked in the private sector, I'm not a union hack.''

Mr Parker left Cat Media in 2006.

A Labor Party source said: ''This is a tough contest for Labor, greatly helped by the fact that our opponent appears to be a snake oil salesman.''


Must not say that homosexual exhibitionism is disgusting

NETWORK Ten newsreader Ron Wilson made an on-air apology this morning after using the word "disgusting" during an interview about Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade. The comment arose during an unscripted interview with Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson.

Wilson insists that his comments came in his role as a journalist playing devil’s advocate and did not reflect his own views.

Despite stating that he's in favour of the law being changed to allow marriage between same sex couples, the journalist said during yesterday's interview:

“On the night there some of the spectacles you’re seeing I’m, assuming would even make you cringe. It becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle.”

After Urmson responded that the community was colourful, but not disgusting, Wilson said: “With respect, there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting in some cases.” He then added that some people “really do seem to cross the line”.

Ten issued a statement saying: “Ten Morning News featured eight minutes of overwhelmingly positive coverage of Mardi Gras. Ron Wilson congratulated organisers on the success of the 2011 event.

"One small section of the interview raised a question about behaviour by some participants. The phrasing might not have been ideal, and TEN apologises if any viewers took offence.

"However, it is not unreasonable for alternative views to be put to organisers and the interview talent agreed that while he didn’t hold the view, some sections of society may.”


Clumsy fakery of school test results

THE "gobsmacking" NAPLAN score of one disadvantaged Melbourne primary school, detailed on the My School website, has raised fresh questions about whether schools are manipulating the literacy and numeracy tests to gain an unfair advantage.

Education consultant and NAPLAN expert Philip Holmes-Smith said of the result achieved by Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadows that he had "never seen anything like it". "In statistics I never say it's impossible because there is probably a 0.0004 per cent chance it would happen," Mr Holmes-Smith said.

A growing number of principals and academics believe that schools face so much pressure to perform well in NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) that manipulation will result.

In the United States city of Atlanta, 109 educators faced scrutiny or sanctions after an investigation found test-related cheating at 58 public schools. Funding decisions there are made on test results. Similar problems have been found elsewhere in the US and in Britain.

The federal government, under its National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy, will begin allocating large reward payments to schools based on their improvements in NAPLAN.

In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were "withdrawn" and 7 per cent "absent". The national average attendance was 96 per cent.

Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were "gobsmacking". Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school's year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.

The students' improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.

Dallas principal Valerie Karaitiana has in the past attributed her school's success to its specialist programs, but would not respond to questions on Friday. Northern region director Wayne Craig has, in private forums, used Dallas as an example to other principals of what can be achieved, but he refused on Friday to defend its performance. A departmental investigation of the school has found nothing wrong.

Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the "lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home". "If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we'd get a colossal spike," he said. "I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have." Terry Condon, Roxburgh Rise Primary principal, called Dallas "one of the most miraculous schools in the state".

Schools Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about Victoria's low participation rate in the NAPLAN tests, but was not aware of problems with any individual school.

Mr Holmes-Smith, a consultant at School Research Evaluation and Measurement Services, pointed out that Dallas's score for writing was much lower than for spelling and grammar. "Writing is the most authentic assessment because the children actually have to write something," he said. The other tests are multiple choice.

Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was "a whitewash", asked: "What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn't it? Why didn't they celebrate their methods?"


Queensland's great water ripoff

And it's similar in other States

WHAT we've got here, as the jail warden famously said to Paul Newman in the film Cool Hand Luke, is failure to communicate. The message, it seems, is just not getting through. Perhaps we're just too stupid to understand it but Allconnex Water chief executive Kim Wood is doing his best to educate us.

He announced last week that Queenslanders had been getting their water too cheaply for too long. They should, he intimated, stop whining about ever-increasing water bills because before too long, they'd really have something to whinge about because they were going to get well and truly shafted by companies like his.

Actually, he eschewed the vernacular and said we should get ready to pay much more, which amounts to the same. "Most of us think the water falls from the sky and is free," he said.

I confess to being one of those who still believes, naive simpleton that I am, that, while not completely gratis, water should be one of our more affordable commodities, central as it is to the maintenance of life. This makes me one of those people who frustrate people such as Wood, who believes that it should be collected and sold for as high a price as can be screwed out of ratepayers.

If you find it difficult to pay spiralling water bills, sent to you from one of the companies that, thanks to the State Government, now control water in the state, then it really is too bad. You've had it too good for too long and if you don't like it, then go stand outside with a bucket next time it rains.

As an example of executive arrogance, Wood's stance is one of the better ones, his attitude up there with "let them eat cake" - the difference being that while there is no evidence Marie Antoinette ever urged the starving masses to have a nice slice of sponge, Wood's stance is a matter of record.

He is, of course, better placed than most to pay his water bill, pulling down a handy $464,000 a year in total or a tad under $1800 a day for a five-day week.

Despite Wood's exhortations to cop it sweet, I still have trouble understanding how the State Government's "reform" of water supply has seen bills rise by $300 a year. These are increases which, thanks to Wood, we know will continue and compound further in the short, let alone the medium, term with the best bet being a further rise of 22 per cent in the pipeline, so to speak, next year.

It will surprise no one to hear that having created massive water distribution bureaucracies, with Wood spending $4 million fitting out his offices and planning to lift his staff by a further 100 to 900, the State Government has announced the ensuing price gouging is not its fault.

Adopting her stern look, Premier Anna Bligh has said that it's all the fault of those dreadful regional councils. Are these the ones which were forced to amalgamate by the State Government and then forced to take control of the new water utilities?

Yes, they are the same ones and Bligh has said she'll give them all a jolly good spanking if she finds out that they, through the utilities they now own, have been charging too much for water.

The councils blame the Government for foisting the hugely expensive system upon them, while Wood defends his stance by saying that this year he expects to make a profit of about $70 million selling the stuff that, as he says, most of us mistakenly think falls from the sky and is free.

He has, therefore, justified his considerable salary. Were he able to extract $100 million in 2012 - and given the fact that he'll probably raise charges by about a fifth this seems likely - then he may well be in line for a salary increase based on the improved financial performance of the company he runs.

That rattle you can hear isn't rain on the roof but another State Government-sponsored gravy train leaving the station. On board are all the managers and consultants, some mates of mates, some professional desk-dwellers, who have done very nicely out of bureaucracies such as the Water Commission and can now mine the rich salary seams of the water utilities. Standing on the station platform are the ratepayers, watching as the water mandarins wave and smile from their first-class seats.

Peering through the window of the carriages, they can see a game in progress. It involves a ball emblazoned with the word BLAME and it is being tossed from the State Government to the councils and on to the water retailers who pass it the councils who then flick it back to the Government.

What is certain is that a lot of money is now being made from water and that no one appears to have responsibility for the havoc that is being visited upon household budgets.

The one group not benefiting from this bonanza, of course, are the people who are funding it: the ratepayers.

Wood's attitude may be unfortunate and he may wish that he had not said last week that it was "regrettable" that it had rained as this had a negative impact on Allconnex's revenue, but he didn't create the system.

That was all the handiwork of our elected leaders, the same ones who are now playing handball. It may well be that the electorate will tire of trying to work out who is at fault, blame both the councillors and the state parliamentarians, and seek vengeance on both at the ballot box.


8 March, 2011

How the Left hate the Brethren

What the report below omits to say is that the Federal government has part-funded church schools since the days of Bob Menzies. Church schools of all denominations ALWAYS get private as well as government funding. So many parents send their kids to private schools in Australia that they represent a significant voting bloc that no government can ignore -- as Mark Latham found out to his cost. So the report below is not news at all.

The furore is just another Leftist attack on a very conservative group. Although it is doubtful that anybody takes much notice of them, the leaders of the mainstream churches almost always come out in support of the Labor party at election time. The Brethren are a rare group that actually funds advertisements supporting the conservatives. And hell hath no fury like a Leftist scorned

A RELIGIOUS school run by the secretive Exclusive Brethren religion was granted more than $9 million in government funding despite getting $15 million from "other private sources", the MySchool 2.0 website reveals.

The government handout was based on it being rated one of the most disadvantaged schools in the nation, equivalent to an impoverished Aboriginal mission school. Yet despite its government classification as a "category 12" school, with private funding it is able to spend more than $20,000 a year on each student. The average for a state school is about $10,000 per student.

It runs MET (Meadowbank Education Trust) School, based at Oatlands near West Ryde, but is, in fact, 18 schools spread throughout the state as far as Albury and Condobolin.

"This is a complete, total abuse of the funding system," NSW Greens MP John Kaye said. "It's very hard to argue that these schools are impoverished when they're getting $15 million from private sources."

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the school's arrangements highlighted the flaws in the federal funding system. "Like all private schools, this school is funded regardless of its income or wealth," Mr Gavrielatos said. "As a result it has almost double the average income per student of a public school."

The school, which had no input over its rating, failed to return calls over the funding issue yesterday.


Poll backlash: Julia Gillard and Labor punished for carbon tax

Julia is as stupid and self-destructive as Kevvy

LABOR leaders today warned Government MPs they were in for a long, difficult fight on climate change policy, but that they could win. With Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Washington, senior ministers were mobilised to reassure MPs, and voters, that crushing opinion poll figures did not mean the battle over a carbon price was over.

"It is a debate we can win," said Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan. "We have got to get the facts out there, and we've got to communicate with people about the fact that its the big polluters that will be paying here, the revenue raised from the big polluters will go to households and industry."

But there will be increasing jitters among Labor backbenchers after Newspoll reported today that the Government's primary vote had fallen to a record low of 30 per cent, and the dissatisfaction rating with Ms Gillard was now just over 50 per cent for the first time.

Sports Minister Mark Arbib said the Government was attempting the biggest economic reform of the past 20 to 30 years. "It's always, when you take on tough reforms like this, you're always going to cop it in the polls," he said on MTR radio in Melbourne. "I think the one thing that our party is doing, is we are just focussed on getting the job done. This is the right thing to do. It's something we believe in."

The Government also attempted to turn the focus on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott by branding him a "wrecker" who was fighting the carbon price scheme for pure political reasons.

Greens leader Bob Brown today will join in by attacking Mr Abbott for using a speech overnight in Adelaide to call proposed compensation for low income earners a "slush" fund.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet today said the collapse in Labor's opinion poll figures showed Mr Abbott was good at fearmongering and rejected his claim that a carbon price would make it hard to drive a car or turn on the air-conditioning. "That is garbage, honestly," Mr Combet told ABC Radio. "This guy really is nothing but a mobile scare campaign."

Opposition frontbencher George Brandis returned to the issue of Ms Gillard's "broken promise". He said she was in office because she promised before the 2010 federal election not to introduce a carbon tax. "We think this is a very bad idea and most Australians agree with us," he told Sky News.


Australians crippled by tax burden

So Julia wants to add a new tax -- in the usual destructive Leftist way

THE number of Australians failing to lodge a tax return has blown out to about 4 million and small businesses have racked up a crippling $9.4 billion in Tax Office debts. In a grim picture revealing many families are doing it tough, about 700,000 taxpayers entered into special repayment plans with the Tax Office in 2009-10 - an increase of 32 per in four years.

And while big business posts record profits, the Tax Office expects 260,000 small business owners - many of them struggling corner-store operators - to default on these repayment deals. This represents an increase of 100,000 in just two years, reinforcing concerns of a "two-speed economy".

A Daily Telegraph investigation shows that small business, the so-called engine room of the economy, is saddled with a growing tax burden and many are struggling to meet their tax obligations on time.

The complexity of Australia's self-assessment tax system is also baffling. Many taxpayers are simply not lodging tax returns, triggering an unofficial "cash economy" that could run into tens of billions of dollars.

As many as one in four taxpayers could be failing to file a return, according to the Tax Office's own statistics. Documents show 4.3 million individual taxpayers have "not yet lodged" a tax return for 2008-09 - a staggering 26 per cent increase on 3.4 million in the previous year.

The Tax Office snapshot was taken in October 2010 and experts say that tens of billions of dollars could be "leaking" from government revenues because of the dramatic hike in non-lodgment.

About 13 million individual taxpayers lodge an annual return with the Tax Office. "Even if half of the taxpayers with outstanding returns each owed just a few thousand dollars ... the tax that could be leaking from government revenues could add up to tens of billions of dollars," said Yasser El-Ansary, tax counsel with the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

While the big banks and giant mining companies are enjoying record trading conditions, many of Australia's 2.3 million small and medium sized enterprises are facing much tougher times.

Reinforcing concerns of a "two speed economy", about 450,000 "micro" enterprises are expected to enter into special "payment arrangements" with the Tax Office in 2009-10.


Australian country towns that want better access to river water are racist?

Meredith does of course have a long record as a far-Leftist ratbag. She is the real bigot, of course, with her superior attitude towards country people

COUNTRY councils were slammed as "racist and awful" by a Sydney City councillor last night. The spray from councillor Meredith Burgmann came when the Local Government and Shires Association wanted support for its election policy platform that contains a list of demands, many regional-based, on the State Government after the March 26 election.

The demands included $20 million for weed management, slashing health boards in the state's west, and refusing to stop taking water from the Murray-Darling system.

Ms Burgmann refused to vote for the document because she disagreed with major policy points and also said that Sydney councillors did not know rural issues. "I am happy to support the themes, but ... I don't trust these local governments out in the west," she said. "They have been racist and awful for years and years."

Ms Burgmann went on to say that she disagreed with quarantining town water supplies from the application of sustainable water diversion limits. "I don't agree with that, I reckon country towns should be taught how to limit the water they are using rather take more out of the Murray-Darling river system, which is a vital river system," she said....

The document also calls for councils to lift rates, restrict alcohol sales and run their elections locally.

Councillor Marcelle Hoff said refusing to support the rural councils' election platform points was "insulting" to them. "It smacks of a superior attitude if we say that's no good, we'll only support your themes," she said.


Experts say dam mismanagement added to Queensland flood damage

The flood could have been entirely avoided with even the most basic foresight. Even the flood compartment was not kept available, let alone precautionary releases of water from lower down in the dam

EXPERTS hired by insurance companies have blamed Wivenhoe Dam for contributing to the devastating floods in Brisbane and Ipswich. A report written for the Insurance Australia Group, which owns NRMA and CGU, details how releases from Wivenhoe, combined with intense rainfall, flooded hundreds of homes and businesses.

The expert opinion, written by engineering giant WorleyParsons, potentially exposes the State Government to legal action for negligence.

However, the report fails to ascertain how much of the January 13 flood could be attributed to Wivenhoe because Government-owned dam operator SEQWater has refused to detail its water releases in the days prior. The secrecy surrounding the releases has left in limbo victims such as David Stark, who is attempting to write submissions to the flood inquiry.

Mr Stark, whose insurance claim has been rejected by NRMA based on the report, suspects the rapid inundation of his Fairfield home was partly caused by huge volumes of water released by dam operators, in concert with the massive rainfall in other catchments. "Obviously Wivenhoe contributed, but how much I am not able to be ascertain," he said.

The report by WorleyParsons, which is also a member of the insurance industry's "panel of independent experts" assessing the flood's cause, said its results were based on the information available. "The elevated levels that were observed in the lower Brisbane River were primarily a response to the intense rainfall that occurred in the upper catchment areas to the west, including heavy rainfall in the headwaters of the Lockyer and Bremer rivers, combined with releases from Wivenhoe Dam," it said.

The report said Ipswich properties near the lower reaches of the Bremer River would have been affected from "backwater flooding from the Brisbane River".

The report detailed how the Brisbane city gauge peaked at 4.5m at 2am on January 13, 30 hours after Wivenhoe operators reportedly released water at a rate of 9000 cubic metres per second to prevent the dam overtopping. Water discharged from Wivenhoe usually takes about 36 hours to reach this gauge.

Mr Stark said he planned to claim $200,000 in damages because it was obvious the operators should have lowered the dam levels in anticipation of the wet season.


7 March, 2011

How times have changed: Gillard open to more US forces

The Australian Left used to be implacably hostile to the presence of U.S. military facilities in Australia. So what we read below from a Prime Minister from the Left faction of a Leftist party is rather a surprise -- not that any historically aware person expects consistency from Leftists

JULIA Gillard says she is "all ears" about the possibility of the US placing more military forces on Australian soil if it believes this is necessary in the light of the growing might of China and India.

The Prime Minister has told The Australian she will use her meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington this week to discuss his nation's ongoing force posture review and how Australia could co-operate with any changes in the deployment of its military resources.

She made the comment in an interview with The Australian before leaving for her week-long visit, during which she will visit the White House and key US administration officials and will also address congress.

"We are looking to further co-operation on the contemporary defence challenges of our age," said Ms Gillard, who arrived in Washington yesterday for briefings from local Australian officials, including ambassador Kim Beazley. "We've got discussions to have about the contemporary engagement of America in our region, including its defence engagement as it goes through its defence posture review."

The discussions would also cover the US's diplomatic engagement, particularly with China and India.

The Prime Minister said she could not pre-empt what the US might want to do with the distribution of its military forces throughout the Asia-Pacific area. "But clearly we can be engaged and discussing what is possible in terms of collaboration with their defence force," she said.

Describing the relationship between Australia and the US as the equivalent of "great mates", Ms Gillard said she would also discuss with Mr Obama the conduct of the war in Afghanistan as well as security concerns and regional concerns such as security on the Korean peninsula. Ms Gillard's official program will begin late tonight, Australian time, when she visits the Lincoln Memorial and is due to announce a $3 million Australian contribution to the US's official Vietnam memorial.

The Australian-funded component will feature details of the 521 Australian Vietnam War casualties as well as displays and temporary exhibitions on Anzac Day, Long Tan Day and other significant Australian milestones.

She will then visit Mr Obama at the White House ahead of meetings with US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and various other officials. On Wednesday, Australian time, she will continue talks with officials, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She will then wind up the Washington leg of her trip with an address to congress.


Leftist hypocrite says people should respect their leaders

I am sure Hitler and Stalin felt the same. And this government is even less legitimate than Hitler's. Hitler's government was a coalition of nationalist parties. The present Australian governing coalition is an unholy alliance of Leftists, Greens and turncoat conservatives.

Furthermore it takes two to tango and respect has to be earned. If Leftists want respect from conservatives they should halt their abuse of conservatives. See here for some examples of the hate and abuse that the Left have recently hurled at conservatives.

The author of the excerpt below is Phillip Coorey, a reliably Leftist writer for a reliably leftist rag

When the boatload of asylum seekers smashed into rocks off Christmas Island just before Christmas, certain radio shock jocks went into a lather.

Julie Bishop was acting opposition leader and found herself being interviewed by Andrew Bolt and Steve Price on Melbourne's MTR.

Bolt, the conservative columnist who expends a great amount of energy lecturing members of the Canberra press gallery on how to do their jobs, has a particular distaste for Labor's asylum seeker policy. As is the norm for such "interviews", he tended to make statements and seek agreement.

"Look, Julie," he said, "this is a tragedy that is a direct consequence of the government policies that led to a resumption of the boat people trade. They were warned, the opposition warned them. I think today, now that the rescue operation is over, today is the time we start to hold people accountable. Would you agree?"

Bishop tried to play a straight bat. "After any tragedy it is natural and appropriate for people to ask how did it happen, could it have been prevented," she said. "There will be many questions, no doubt there will be an official investigation, there will be formal inquiries . . . a coroner's inquest, as there have been in the past. The Western Australian . . . "

Bolt interjected: "Julie, it seems to me you're reluctant, you've been intimidated out of talking about the contributing factors to this tragedy. Is it not true that these people were lured to their deaths?"

On it went until an increasingly agitated Bolt, according to Bishop, simply hung up on her.

Previously, Bolt and Price had hung up on independent Rob Oakeshott because he wouldn't give a straight answer on whom he was likely to support to form minority government. When Tony Windsor went public last week with concerns about the increasingly dangerous tone of public discourse, Bolt promoted his Wednesday morning radio show with the item: "Tony Windsor's attempt to play the victim to shut down a debate. We recall how this man who wants to 'take on' talkback hosts hung up on me the last time he tried."

The boys at MTR are far from the only culprits contributing to increasing disrespect for the nation's leaders. Gary Hardgrave, a shock jock who became a minister under the Howard government before losing his Brisbane seat and returning to radio, hung up on Greens leader Bob Brown 10 days ago.

Brown tweeted afterwards: "What a spineless uninformed jock Gary Hardgrave is, who when losing the argument cut off the i'view! Voters of Moreton knew a thing or two!"

In their defence, radio jocks are not journalists per se and therefore are not strictly bound to address politicians publicly by their titles or Mr, Ms or Mrs. But is there any cause to be rude, regardless of the temperature of the debate or personal views?

3AW's Neil Mitchell interviewed Julia Gillard just days after she announced the flood levy and the shock jocks were proclaiming the end of the world. The interview began with an accusation more than a question: "Prime Minister, with your government's history of mismanagement, like the insulation program, school rebuilding, who are you going to put in charge of the spending of this money you're going to take from us?"

Mitchell's line of inquiry was perfectly legitimate, but was the tone of the question?



Three current articles below

Keeping the illegals waiting

THE average time spent processing refugee claims has blown out to 165 days - nearly twice the government's 90-day target for appeals by asylum seekers. And the average time spent in detention for all unauthorised arrivals - including those whose claims have been rejected - stands at 213 days.

Information provided to The Australian Online by the Immigration Department confirms the numbers of boat arrivals are straining the detention network, causing blow-outs to processing times and longer stays for asylum seekers in detention.

In just over two years, 3438 visas have been granted to boat people with the majority coming from Afghanistan. Since 2008, only 190 asylum seekers had been removed from Australia including 15 who were removed involuntarily. At the end of last week there were still 6194 asylum seekers in detention 2526 on Christmas Island and 3668 in mainland facilities.

The department said the longest time in detention for a current detainee was almost three years. The person was doing a second stint in detention after being turned back once before. There are currently five boat people who have been in detention for two years or more.

The government announced last week it would open up a new $10 million detention facility 35 km southeast of Darwin because the current detention network was under pressure.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the new 1500-bed facility was necessary to prevent overcrowding in existing facilities.


A hidden agenda

Australia is a nation of migrants and has had an unceasing flow of them from the beginning. It has a higher proportion of its population foreign-born than any other nation except Israel. It was one of the few nations to take Jews fleeing from Hitler.

So it is mildly surprising to see an article in a major Sri Lankan newspaper headed "Secrets of Australian immigration history" -- an article that denounces Australian immigration policy in round terms.

It is particularly surprising when one considers that there are these days large numbers of Sri Lankan nationals risking life and limb in order to get to Australia as illegal immigrants. The illegals obviously think Australia is a pretty good place.

So what is going on? Simple: The Sri Lankan government and many Sinhalese are embarrassed by the flight of many of their Tamil citizens and want to put them off fleeing to Australia! As Tamils have a history of implacability and turning to terrorism to get what they want, I rather hope that the propaganda succeeds

Some excerpts below. They present a very warped view of Australia, albeit with some element of truth:

The Australian government’s white Australia policy which was eventually abandoned by the government in the 70s was very similar to Adolf Hitler’s ideology of racial purity. The only difference being the Australian Government did not round up Jews and send them to gas chambers, but strongly believed in a white superior race and wanted to maintain this status quo and had taken some extraordinary steps to enforce this.

Present times

Australian migration is open to all nationalities nowadays, provided there is a skill to offer to Australia or in some cases humanitarian grounds and there are laws to prevent discrimination based on the individual’s ethnic origins in Australia.

But majority of Australians still look at non white nationalities as a threat to the Australian way of life and often treat them as second-class citizens. In a recent times, the Sydney suburb of Cronulla witnessed race riots. Quite unfortunately most of perpetrators of Cronulla riots were white Anglo young Australians and they rioted against migrants of any ethnicity under theme of “we were born here you were flown here”.

At the time the Prime Minister of the day failed to condemn the riots and saw the situation as young people expressing their misguided view in a democratic country. New South Wales Police contained the riots with great difficulty which were caused by migrants using a beach in Cronulla usually inhabited by white Australian young males.

Mandatory detention

The current Australian policy is mandatory detention of any person seeking asylum in Australia. Thousands of displaced refugees are currently detainees. Some of them were stationed at an offshore detention centre called Christmas Island and a recent investigation by Australian Government Ombudsman had found these detainees to be held under very poor conditions.

In some instances, women and children were detained for long periods while immigration officials look into their asylum request. Quite unfortunately refugees from a number of countries including Sri Lankans are facing these difficult circumstances in Australia. Australia is the only country in the developed world which has a mandatory detention policy for refugees and asylum seekers. In conclusion modern Australia has allowed immigration to non white nationalities with great reluctance.

Unfortunately due to inability to fill the country with white Anglo Saxon British subjects, the Government was forced to allow the immigration to non white ethnicities. If this was not done Australia as a nation would have faced difficult economic circumstances and would likely have been classified as a Third World country. Australia had taken the decision to remain as an economically wealthy but moving away from white Australia policy with great reluctance and resistance.


Australians fleeing the overcrowded and traffic-strangled big cities

Overcrowding that is largely the result of high immigration levels

AUSTRALIA is undergoing a historic shift in population movements, with the once pervasive flow of people to the city giving way to a regional retreat that will require governments to fund more infrastructure and services outside state capitals.

Far greater than any sea change or tree change effect, the new trend, identified in a study commissioned by the Gillard government, will challenge the notion that Australians are overwhelmingly big-city dwellers.

A draft report of the $110,000 study, conducted by Graeme Hugo and Kevin Harris from the University of Adelaide, has been obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws. It was commissioned by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and will not only guide future settlement policies, but also the work of Population Minister Tony Burke as he tries to better control and direct population growth and movements.

While the congregation of people in capital cities continued to 1981, the researchers found that "since then there has been stability in the proportion of Australians living in the capitals".

"The recent evidence is clear that the perception of a 'drift' to capital cities from their hinterlands is no longer the case, and that the prevailing flow from capital cities to hinterlands has significant implications," they write.

Coastal areas and near-city regions, in particular, are recording significant growth, with families (who seek a better lifestyle and improved services) and baby boomers (who lose their work ties to the city upon retirement) leading the charge. Sydney's reputation as a gateway city for immigrants is also slipping, with more newcomers favouring Melbourne, and others encouraged to start off in the regions.

Adam and Farrah Lance certainly wondered "what the hell" they were doing as they worked gruelling hours in their respective top-tier financial firms in Sydney's CBD and fought congestion to and from their Bronte Beach home.

Four years ago, they moved to Merewether, just south of Newcastle, buying a house 200m from the beach -- two hours away from their family in Sydney, but with more space and a better lifestyle. "It's great for raising children here, there's space at the beach, lots of parks to play in and there's just not the same stress," Ms Lance said yesterday, with children Savannah, 2, and four-year-old Jasper. "Especially for Adam it's much better, he's so much more relaxed up here."

The couple have found jobs in Newcastle. Ms Lance is working two days a week in public relations while Mr Lance, who had been commuting to Sydney, has found full-time work only a 10-minute drive from their home. "There is not really peak-hour traffic here," Ms Lance said. "Also, your money goes further up here; the house prices are definitely cheaper."

The researchers' draft report casts capital cities in a dim light and states that Sydney, in particular, has an environment which is not conducive to attracting or retaining people.

Australia's pre-eminent metropolis is losing so many residents - offset only by international migrants - that the researchers believe it must have "social and economic" problems.



Four current articles below

Greens lead us along costly path

A DANGEROUS new dynamic has entered Australian economic management, Green voodoo economics. It threatens to not only make a weak Government even more ineffectual, but to do real lasting damage to our economy and its future.

The Greens appear to truly believe economics works in such a way that they can have their cake and eat it too. They want to tax the nasty carbon polluters without impacting on consumers. If only it was truly that simple.

Bob Brown tells us he "wants the polluters to pay". What he fails to realise is that we have seen the polluters and they are us.

Every time we drive a car, we are, in his words, polluting. Unless we have very expensive green power, every time we turn on the TV or dishwasher or any other electric appliance, we are polluting. Every time we turn the lights on in an office or use the lift or buy something that has been transported by a truck, we are polluting.

If we want to tax carbon then someone has to pay, and it will not be some anonymous nasty big business, it will be the consumer. It will be us.

As a scientist I believe that climate change is both real and caused by our carbon emissions. It is obvious that something has to be done to seriously limit emissions on a global scale. As an economist, I can see major damage being done to our economy if we go about this in a naive and ham-fisted way.

The clear policy influence that the Greens are now exerting, together with the extreme policy caution of the new Government, provides little hope of any sensible outcome. Rather a carbon tax in the absence of any permitting system to actually limit emissions will almost certainly result in higher prices with little if anything by way of emissions reductions to show for it.

All a carbon tax is likely to do is make the Greens feel good and do lasting damage to the economy.

Be in no doubt that this will be a job-destroying, wealth-destroying tax, but the real issue here is that massive changes in our economy are being decided on the basis of short-term political convenience and ridiculous idealistic and ideological notions of how economics works.

In reality, we now have the least economically competent government since the disastrous Whitlam years of 1972-75. Just like then, we have a Prime Minister who appears disinterested in economic realities and an incredibly powerful bloc from the Left who, while well-meaning, have no idea of the real consequences of the road they are hell-bent on taking us down.


Unions getting aggressive about job losses under a carbon tax

THE union movement is demanding Julia Gillard develop a comprehensive industry plan to sustain jobs and refocus production under her proposed carbon price.

ACTU president Ged Kearney told The Australian Online that a detailed plan, similar to the Button Plan of the 1980s, was the price of union support for Labor's climate change response.

The demand follows that of mining giant Rio Tinto, which wants more generous compensation and industry protection than Kevin Rudd's 2009 scheme.

Ms Kearney said tackling climate change would involve the biggest structural change to the economy in a generation.

“Just as the opening of the Australian economy in the 1980s was accompanied by far-reaching industry policy, whatever carbon pricing mechanism is eventually adopted must integrate an industry policy focus to drive the growth in clean economy jobs and services so that outcomes can be maximised,” she said.

“Industry policy during the transition to a low-pollution economy must include assistance to emissions intensive-trade exposed industries, incentives to source locally to generate jobs and demand, investment in clean energy jobs and industries, and skills development and retraining to tool the workforce for the low-carbon economy.”

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said some of the money raised by the carbon tax would go towards industry adjustment, but it was too early to say how that would occur.

If the government is to agree to the unions' demands, it will have to act swiftly. An interim carbon tax is due to be introduced by July next year.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Oliver said a far-reaching industry policy should be a key plank in the carbon pricing strategy. He said he was “disappointed and perplexed” that, on the eve of climate plan being announced, the government had axed its green cars plan.

He said Ms Gillard had likened her climate plan to the great reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments - including the floating of the dollar and the lowering of tariff walls - but those reforms were accompanied by the Button Plan. “We need a 21st century plan for an innovative future in green energy, efficient technology and clean production.”

The 1984 Button Plan, named after then federal industry minister John Button, involved the overhaul of the nation's car industry to make it more efficient, allowing tarriffs to be gradually lowered.


Big business getting restless about the carbon tax too

MINING giant Rio Tinto has put Julia Gillard on notice that business will demand her carbon pricing plan offer more generous compensation and industry protection than Kevin Rudd's 2009 scheme because of the international community's failure to reach a global deal on carbon prices.

In his first major entry into the climate change debate since the Prime Minister last month unveiled plans to price carbon from July 1 next year, Rio's Australian managing director, David Peever, says the changed global outlook means the government should acknowledge that Mr Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme "is not an appropriate starting point for discussions in 2011".

In an article published today in The Australian, Mr Peever calls for "real world" modelling of industry transition being forced by the carbon price.

He warns that a carbon price will "inevitably be disastrous" in a downturn for businesses unable to pass on the extra costs to their customers. And, in a thinly veiled shot at the Greens, he describes as "bizarre" the logic surrounding the debate about maintaining Australia's international competitiveness.

Mr Peever - a member of the federal government's business roundtable on climate change and one of three mining industry leaders who led the campaign against Labor's resource super-profits tax - says that for three decades economic reform has focused on increasing Australia's productivity and competitiveness.

"Remarkably, however, when it comes to the issue of carbon, trade-exposed Australian firms that insist on maintaining a level playing field with the international competitors are liable to be dismissed as self-interested rent-seekers," he writes.

Rio's export operations would have faced an additional $3 billion cost over 10 years from the final design of the CPRS, which offered almost $50bn in compensation to industry and mining in its first decade. "But according to the bizarre logic of some at the time, the scheme amounted to a windfall for corporate Australia and was slated as a prime example of reprehensible rent-seeking," Mr Peever writes.

According to figures provided by Rio to the Climate Change Department, the company's annual carbon tax bill would be about $154 million if the tax was set at $20 a tonne for every tonne of carbon pollution.

Mr Peever dismisses as "more rhetoric than fact" suggestions that Australia lags the rest of the world in emissions reduction action and warns "care also needs to be taken to avoid overstating Australia's influence in the global debate".

Australian industry, particularly the steelmaking sector, is becoming increasingly vocal about the potential impact of Ms Gillard's carbon pricing plan, which imposes a tax from July 1 next year before morphing into an emissions trading scheme in three to five years.

Yesterday, oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum called for the company's trade-exposed exports to be exempt from any price on carbon, given the absence of an international agreement on pricing greenhouse gas emissions. "Woodside's position on exemption for its trade-exposed exports recognises the important role liquefied natural gas plays in helping lower global greenhouse gas emissions," the company said.

Woodside, which could be forced to pay about $168m if the price of carbon was set at $20 a tonne, said the government's framework needed to acknowledge that LNG was regarded internationally as a cleaner transition fuel towards an alternative energy future.

Mr Peever says any impost on Australian exports in the new carbon pricing regime "must be based on rigorous, fact-based analysis of the carbon costs being borne by similar industries in Australia's competitor countries". And unlike the 2009 CPRS proposal, where emissions-intensive industries exposed to foreign competitors had come under pressure to justify any shielding from the proposed carbon price until their competitors faced a comparable impost, "this time the onus of proof should be reversed".

The government yesterday moved to counter Tony Abbott's campaign against its carbon plan, with Wayne Swan declaring the carbon tax would apply only to a small number of companies and that householders would be compensated for any price rises.

"It is not the case that the government is going to take the carbon price out of your pay packet . . . It is paid by a small number of large polluters and that revenue is then used to assist industry and households," the Treasurer said.

The government is understood to be looking at the tax system - through Centrelink or through the family tax benefits system - to provide assistance to households.But Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said there would be no environmental gain from the carbon package because industries would move offshore. He also dismissed former leader Malcolm Turnbull's support for an ETS.

Mr Robb conceded that "while there may be one or two others who support an ETS . . . Malcolm and the rest of the frontbench and party will support the position we've got because the position we've got, we feel, is in the interests of Australia".

The government seized on his defence of the opposition's direct-action policy as "market based" because it would accept the lowest bids to fund abatement measures. "Australia's economy moved away from picking winners and towards market mechanisms decades ago - it is time Andrew Robb and the Liberal Party got with the program," Mr Swan said.

Rio Tinto's entry into the debate underlines the political dilemma faced by Ms Gillard and Mr Combet as they prepare to begin negotiations with the Greens on the detail of her carbon package.


State governments getting at Gillard over solar subsidy

JULIA Gillard is under pressure from the states to roll back generous subsidies for rooftop solar schemes amid predictions that escalating costs from the federal renewable energy scheme will add as much as $90 to yearly household power bills.

The jump in electricity prices is also expected to drive water bills up by raising the costs of treating and transporting water and to run energy-guzzling desalination plants.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the subsidy for rooftop solar schemes, worth $6200 in most cities, to relieve the burden on household budgets from rising power prices.

The West Australian government says the subsidies "may require review" given the costs.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says he will consider the matter at a solar summit he has pledged if he wins office as widely forecast on March 26.

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings says her government is concerned about the costs to households relating to the design of the federal renewables scheme in Tasmania as well as the solar policies of other states.

The situation could further complicate attempts by Ms Gillard to compensate families for the costs of her plan to put a price on carbon pollution from the middle of next year.

The Queensland pricing regulator has proposed a $26 rise to the average quarterly power bill of $440 from July 1. Half of this is related to changes to the federal renewable energy target system, which requires energy retailers to buy high-cost power pumped back into the grid by households with rooftop solar schemes and from bigger wind farms.

Energy retailers are required to buy increasing numbers of renewable energy certificates under the government's RET scheme, which aims to have 20 per cent of the nation's power generated by renewable sources by 2020.

AGL Energy, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia say the proposed price rises do not go far enough and are demanding an even bigger price rise in the regulator's final decision, due in late May.

Origin cites concern that the costs associated with the changes to federal Labor's RET have not been fully recognised by the pricing regulator, while AGL says the situation could cause energy retailers to suffer a "significant loss".

The renewables scheme is one of federal Labor's key climate change policies but it has been adjusted several times. The scheme was split into two parts from January 1 - one for small-scale generators such as rooftop solar panels and the other for commercial systems such as wind farms. But the costs of the small-scale scheme grew as householders took the government up on incentives for installing solar panels.

The federal government announced in December that it would scale back the subsidies for households and the Keneally government in NSW has cut its solar feed-in tariff.

But Origin says this has been offset by falling costs to buy solar panels and a strong solar industry. On top of this, Origin says that the cost of large-scale renewable energy certificates has already risen about 25 per cent this year - from $29.50 in December to about $35.

In January the renewable energy regulator increased the number of certificates power retailers had to buy to deal with a glut caused by a flood of solar panel installations.

Tasmania's Aurora Energy had expected annual bills to increase by $60 from July 1 to cover the costs of the renewable energy scheme but now expected the increased cost to it would be another $30 per customer - bringing the total rise related to the RET for 2011-12 to $90, spokesman Richard Wilson said. That move would have to be passed by the independent Tasmanian Economic Regulator.

In NSW, prices were already set to rise on July 1, but EnergyAustralia has applied to the pricing regulator for a further $56-a-year increase related to the cost of the changes to the RET. The pricing regulator's final decision is due after the NSW election.

The situation has prompted the states to call for further cuts to the federal solar credits multiplier, which gives householders a subsidy of about $6200 now but will be scaled back to $5000 from July 1. The multiplier will be phased out by July 1, 2014.

A spokesman for Queensland's Energy and Water Utilities Minister Stephen Robertson said the state was calling on the commonwealth to reconsider the multiplier attached to the small-scale scheme. He said the government supported the RET but wanted it implemented in an equitable way.

Ms Bligh wrote to Ms Gillard after the regulator's draft decision in December; Mr Robertson has highlighted the letter in recent submissions to the regulator.

Western Australia's Energy Minister Peter Collier backed the push for a review. "The state government supports actions to encourage the installation of small-scale renewable energy systems but . . . the current subsidies may require review in light of recent changes to system costs," he said.

A spokeswoman for Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said commonwealth energy policy since Labor took office in 2007 had led to uncertainty "throughout the entire electricity industry, not just renewables". "This is creating real pressure on electricity prices and hurting Victorian families," she said.

Mr O'Farrell said the Coalition's energy policy in NSW would include a solar summit "which will consider these issues". "I'm concerned about anything which puts upward pressure on electricity prices because families across NSW are already struggling to make ends meet after Labor's 60 per cent increase in power bills over the last five years," he said.

In Tasmania, Ms Giddings said her government was "a strong supporter of policies that directly assist in the development of renewable energy, however we are concerned about the costs to Tasmanian consumers as a result of the design of the RET scheme and solar policies of other states".

The states are under increasing pressure over utilities inflation. They are spending $9 billion of taxpayer funds on desalination plants, with yearly water bills in Sydney to rise by $103 between 2008 to 2012 just to bankroll the Kurnell plant.

Water bills in Perth are rising by an average of $164 a year and those in Melbourne expected to at least double over the next five years. It emerged this week that even if no water is purchased from the owners of Victoria's desalination plant, Aquasure, householders will still have to pay $19.37bn in service payments over three decades.

Labor governments have also signed contracts guaranteeing desalination plants in Sydney and Adelaide will run at or near full capacity for their first two years of operation.

"Water utilities use quite a bit of energy to transport and treat water," said Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young. "With electricity prices predicted to increase, there's no doubt that the operating expenses of a water utility are also going to increase. That has to be passed on."


6 March, 2011

Ditch the Greens

YOU have to feel for Julia Gillard, the grand negotiator. Saddled with a minority Government, she has to appease the Greens and accommodate the silky Bob Brown, while throwing a few bones to Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie and buttering up the turncoat independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, mopping their brows when the heat gets too much. All the while she has to make sure she doesn't venture so far into Left-loony land that her own MPs revolt.

Can you imagine what a nightmare for the Prime Minister those daily cups of tea with the Greens and independents have become? She must just feel like picking up the Earl Grey and smashing it against a wall.

No wonder Bob Brown looks pleased with himself, striding around Canberra like the Deadly Mantis, dispensing his wisdom to all and sundry. He can't believe his luck, as Gillard cedes her power and authority. He smells total capitulation to his world view, with the shadowy shock troops of GetUp at his disposal.

It was his carbon tax that opened up the fault line Gillard is struggling to straddle now, as angry voters bombard Labor MPs' offices with emails complaining about the Green colonisation of Labor's soul.

They're the people who really count -- Labor's authentic base, the working families in suburban seats, the aspirational classes for whom soaring electricity and fuel costs aren't some theoretical exercise but a painful daily reality. Working people employed by BlueScope Steel are Labor's base, not inner-city greenies with protected salaries.

And nothing will alienate them quicker than Green demands that petrol be included in the carbon tax, no matter how Brown tries to sugarcoat it. As Graham Richardson told Gillard: include petrol and you're dead (memo to Tony Windsor: that's not a death threat).

So why doesn't Gillard just tell Bob Brown to go to hell? Stop the cups of tea. Call his bluff, for the sake of the nation. The Greens will never side with Tony Abbott, anyway. He is the anti-Christ to them.

The Greens are the party of punishers and straighteners, the wowsers of the 21st century, the fun police, the Malthusian pessimists, the pinched-faced moralists lecturing the rest of us on our sins. They are defined by what they are against: humans, mainly, and everything that makes life civilised, from cars and air-conditioning to industry and traditional families.

They have only one lousy vote out of 150 in the House of Representatives. Yet Brown already looks like the cat that swallowed the canary. He'll be insufferable come July 1 when the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Gillard was happy enough to break a promise to the Australian people that she'd never bring in a carbon tax. So why not break the pact with Brown she signed so memorably in that Ribbentrop-esque tableau last September? Why not take on the Greens, expose them, cost their policies, hold them up to the light?

She is making Brown look prime ministerial. And for what? There's no rule in politics that says you have to dance with the one who brought you. What is the worst Brown can do? Stamp his feet. He knows the Greens are vulnerable to the wrath of the people, just as the independents are.

In Ireland, which just about went broke under its coalition Green government, the Greens party has been wiped out, with all six Green MPs losing their seats in the general election.

In any case, why should Labor reward the Greens, when it was the Greens who put the wrecking ball through Kevin Rudd's government, refusing to endorse his ETS and setting in train the events that led to his downfall, and to Labor's close shave at the polls?

Look at how Ted Baillieu was rewarded in Victoria for his decision not to preference the Greens. Barry O'Farrell looks set to do the same in NSW in three weeks, billing the election as a referendum on a carbon tax. It is shaping up to be a bloodbath for Labor, with polls showing the Keneally Government has sunk to a 23 per cent primary vote.

Most people have figured out the tax will do nothing to stop global warming, since Australia accounts for only 1.4 per cent of global emissions. Internal Liberal polling in NSW marginal seats reportedly shows 75 per cent of voters don't see the tax as helping the environment; more than half regard it as a cost-of-living issue.

The backlash in NSW bodes ill for Windsor and Oakeshott too. Peter Besseling, Oakeshott's protege in Port Macquarie, is set for a wipeout. When Oakeshott announced he would campaign for three country independents, they must have been looking for a rock to slip under.

Tony Abbott quoted Macbeth in Parliament last week but King Lear is the most relevant of Shakespeare's tragedies today. Like Windsor and Oakeshott, who forgot they owed their position to their constituents, Lear offers his kingdom to whichever of his daughters shows him the most love. He chooses Goneril and Regan (Gillard and Swan), who flatter him most, a foolish decision for which he is driven mad with grief. It ends badly for everyone.


Gay marriage stance could ruin PM

THERE are two key questions around the issue of gay marriage. One is the pretty straight-forward question of whether you support it or not, and the polls suggest it is line ball.

The other question is whether you support the idea of politicians keeping their promises. I haven't seen the polling on that but I would presume that no research firm has bothered to do any, as you would expect about 100 per cent of people to answer 'yes, politicians should obviously keep their promises, what a silly question to ask'.

Having gone to the last election saying there would be no carbon tax under a government she leads, Julia Gillard will now be introducing one on July 1 next year.

It's a serious breach of voter confidence and one which has done her serious political damage. As many have argued, when John Howard changed his mind on the GST, which he promised to never ever introduce, he at least had the decency to return to the polls in 1998 to let the voters re-elect or turf him on a clearly-stated platform of tax reform.

Gillard's promise not to introduce a carbon tax was almost as unequivocal as Howard's on the goods and services tax, yet she failed to give the voters a chance to accept or reject her change of heart. It may yet be the issue which costs her power at the next election.

At a time when the Prime Minister is struggling to maintain her credibility over the carbon tax backflip, it is truly bizarre that there are some within the Labor Party who are now trying to bludgeon her into a similar backflip over the question of gay marriage.

Despite her lengthy membership of Labor's Left Faction, which has long regarded gay marriage as a cause worth fighting for, Gillard has taken a clear and frequently-stated stance against same-sex unions. She spent much of the election campaign saying it is her view and the party's view that marriage is between a man and woman.

At the instigation of the Greens, and with the active support of several members of the Labor Left, Labor Caucus has now signed off on legislation which would prevent the Commonwealth from interfering if gay marriage were legalised in the territories.

The political issues are twofold. Hot on the heels of her nasty little fib over the carbon tax, it puts Julia Gillard at risk of looking like a liar all over again as a result of her oft-stated insistence that only heterosexual couples be allowed to marry.

More ominously, it emphasises the growing public view that this Labor Government is bright green on the inside, that Julia Gillard has one hand on the steering wheel and is sharing it with everyone from Bob Brown, Adam Bandt and Christine Milne to country independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

You could also throw in the question of priorities -- is this really such an important issue for the Government to busy itself with? Surely working out how a carbon tax can operate without belting household budgets is a more pressing task?

Julia Gillard went to the trouble this week of outlining the major policy differences between Labor and the Greens. The fact that she went to these lengths was a clear sign that she is worried that voters think it is not her but the likes of Bob Brown calling the shots.

Julia Gillard has very few arguments at her disposal to explain her U-turn on carbon.

If Labor's Left wants to force the Prime Minister to break another of her promises, it should do so in the knowledge that it is writing the script for the Coalition's negative advertisements for the next election campaign, depicting a government which has not one but several leaders and cannot be taken on its word.

None of those observations by the way have anything to do with the concept of gay marriage. I suspect many voters don't really care about the issue. It would be another broken promise, which would make the Greens look even more like the Government of the day, on an issue which many voters rank well down on the list of importance.


Millions wasted on windmills and the like while Australia's roads go to pot

Public investment reached a peak of 6 per cent of gross domestic product in the 1960s as the population boomed and sparked a rush to clear a backlog of public works that had built up during the war years.

Since those halcyon days, government spending on social needs such as education, health and welfare has steadily snared a much bigger slice of the pie, leaving less to spend on so-called "hard infrastructure" such as roads and railways. It has left the country saddled with antiquated transport systems.

Infrastructure Australia calculates the nation has a $300 billion backlog - $13,287 for every man, woman and child - in infrastructure spending over the next decade. Some estimates are closer to $700 billion. Set up by Kevin Rudd to co-ordinate public and private investment, Infrastructure Australia has drawn up a "strategic blueprint" for the country's needs, which includes a long overdue upgrade to the Pacific Highway, road and rail building in Sydney and commuter transport in Melbourne. Industry lobby groups, too, have their own lengthy wish-list of projects.

But without money and political will, plans remain just that.

"It's a matter of money at the end of the day and there are many calls on the government purse," says Sir Rod Eddington, the chairman of Infrastructure Australia. "One of the reasons why we need to take a much more robust look at how the private sector can participate with infrastructure is [because] federal and state governments simply no longer have the cash to do all the things that are needed."

As motorists in the major cities sit in cars gridlocked on highways and commuters stew in packed trains, they cannot help but contemplate a sense of Australia falling behind. Doing nothing about traffic congestion in the capital cities is costing the economy $12.9 billion a year, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. With the population growing rapidly, this cost is set to rise to $20 billion a year by 2020.

Penny Bingham-Hall, a former strategy boss at the construction company Leighton, says Australia is lagging behind other nations in infrastructure construction because of its "chronic lack of investment and the short-termism of our political thinking".

"Australians like to think of their country as a modern developed nation and think of Asia as Third-World. But the world is changing," she says. "When I first started travelling to Asia 20 years ago that thinking may have been accurate but now Asia is boasting some of the best infrastructure in the world."

Japan has long had some of the best and most technologically advanced transport systems in the world. Across the East China Sea, an emerging superpower has been building infrastructure at an astonishing rate, laying thousands of kilometres of new rail lines. China is spending about 11 per cent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure.

In Beijing - whose population is about the same as Australia's - more than 150 kilometres of underground urban railway have been built over the last five years. "You just have to get on the metro system in Hong Kong or Singapore, or get a high-speed train in Japan or China, or attend a convention in Kuala Lumpur," Bingham-Hall says. "Sure, our cities are not as densely populated as Hong Kong or in Europe but we are a wealthy country."

Peter Stopher, a professor of transport planning at the University of Sydney, agrees Australia is a "long way behind where it ought to be", especially in intercity motorways.

Stopher, who lived in the US for 32 years before coming to Australia, says America's superior interstate highway system stems from 1956, when the US government established the Highway Trust Fund. It redirected federal taxes on fuel to the construction of an extensive highway system.

He is quick to point out that the Highway Trust Fund is not necessarily the best model because it focused on building a motorway system that was arguably responsible for the US finding itself too reliant on the car.

It creates a quandary for governments facing ever-growing demands for health, education and welfare. Eddington, a former boss of British Airways and chairman of Ansett, believes state governments need to take a hard look at selling existing infrastructure to release capital for investment in other infrastructure.

"Governments have got less room to move than they used to have. One of the ways they can give themselves more room given the call on the public purse is to sell existing infrastructure," he says. "The more difficult question is whether the community would support deficit spending into infrastructure. This is a difficult issue because states and the federal government have been zealous in their attempts to ensure they run a viable entity. They don't want large chunks of debt hanging around their neck."

Eddington stresses that there is "no silver bullet". "If you build unwisely, then you will build infrastructure that doesn't resolve the infrastructure bottlenecks. It is a political challenge as well as an economic challenge."


Erratic Gillard is no Thatcher

By Jeff Kennett, a former premier of Victoria

THE Prime Minister and her fragile Government fall short of what the electorate expects. The very future of the ALP hinges on Julia Gillard's wayward strategy.

JULIA Gillard is no Margaret Thatcher. She has always been ambitious. There is no greater example of that than last year, when although Kevin Rudd's "loyal deputy" she dumped him to pursue her own ambitions to lead the Labor Party and become Prime Minister.

The major reasons Gillard gave at the time were that the Labor Party had lost its way under Kevin Rudd, he had become a one-man show, and the majority of her colleagues had come to her, wanting her to lead the ALP.

That's history, but what's changed? My sources in the Labor Party at a federal level tell me nothing has changed. Instead of Rudd and his kitchen Cabinet of four - Rudd, Gillard, Swan and Tanner - the current leadership of the Government is equally void of internal consultations, and Cabinet and backbenchers read about government policy through media reports.

The frustration levels among federal Labor about its leadership have not been higher since 2007. Increasingly, policy is being made on the run, to placate the Greens or independents, and is being announced without any detailed consideration being given to the substance of the policy and how it will actually be implemented, let alone an appreciation of the costs involved.

Let's use the announcement of the Federal Government's carbon tax last week as a prime example of policy formulated on the run.

The policy was announced without any detail of substance, except:

WHATEVER funds were collected from the tax would be returned to lower-income households so the tax would not adversely affect such households. This is a stupid policy because it simply encourages such households to keep using the products generated from the use of carbon as there is no penalty not to do so. The more wasteful lower-income families might be, the more subsidies they will receive.

AUSTRALIAN households will pay a carbon tax but there will be no tax applied to the millions of tonnes of coal Australia exports to other countries, which will then use our cheap coal to pollute the atmosphere quicker than ever before. This is hypocritical policy.

NO DETAIL was given as to the application of the carbon tax. For example, would it be applied to petroleum products?

AUSTRALIA will be the first country in the world to introduce a carbon tax that will add huge costs to industry and some households, but will have less than 1 per cent impact on the world's carbon levels. In essence, we are putting at risk Australia's competitiveness with our trading partners.

THE POLICY position was announced by the Prime Minister and her Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, on February 24. With them, nodding and smiling, were senators Bob Brown and Christine Milne of the Greens, and independents Tony Windsor and Bob Oakeshott. The clear perception is that the Greens and independents now drive government policy.

THE POLICY announcement was a betrayal of the community on the basis of a personal commitment from Gillard in the last week of the election campaign only seven months ago. Dishonest politics betrays community trust in the Prime Minister and the Government she leads.

The least the Prime Minister should have done, as John Howard did when he changed his position on the need for the introduction of a GST, was to take the issue back to the community at the next federal election, and let the electorate vote on the policies then on offer.

There are clearly two distinct issues here: the arguments for and against the introduction of a carbon tax and the Prime Minister's betrayal of trust. I suspect the latter will be resolved more quickly than the former.

Over the past few days Gillard has been compared with Baroness Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979-1990. Be assured Gillard is no Thatcher.

The latter served 11 years as an MP before she became a minister in 1970 under prime minister Edward Heath. She became Opposition leader in 1975, and the first female prime minister in 1979. She was a highly experienced politician, with clear views and such a heightened level of consistency, that words she used about herself were often used by others to describe her: "This lady is not for turning."

Gillard has turned so often in the past 12 months, one has great trouble understanding what she or her Government stands for today, or whether a position communicated today will be acted on or reversed tomorrow. It is hardly the sort of environment in which individuals or businesses can be expected to plan and operate with confidence.

I am not opposed to an education program or even legislation that will have us - either as individuals or as industry - think and act more responsibly about the conduct of our affairs in order to reduce levels of manmade pollution.

Programs on road safety, smoking and even water use have all changed community and industry behaviour over time. The same should and could happen with polluting practices.

But such a policy should be clearly thought through, and all the various ramifications understood, before such a policy is publicly released, to ensure the public can have confidence in the new position. Certainly any fresh direction should not put Australia's fragile economy at risk.

I have a good personal relationship with Prime Minister Gillard, although maybe not after this honest assessment. But sometimes the truth, while no doubt hurting, can deliver better outcomes. I hope so in this case.

I had an excellent relationship with Paul Keating who, when prime minister, assisted my government to make the hard decisions necessary to rebuild Victoria's economy.

The underlying value of my relationship with Keating was based on the fact that once he gave his word, his commitment was absolutely ironclad. He never changed his mind and, as a result, we had that vital certainty on which to continue our policies to rebuild the state.

JULIA Gillard needs to take a lesson from Keating and for that matter Thatcher as well. My fear is that we have a Government in name but not in practice; we have a Prime Minister in name but not in practice. We might have a manager or a good number cruncher elevated to a leadership role who, sadly, is not a leader.

There is still time for this reality or perception to be changed. Short of a by-election that increases the Opposition's tally by one, and a change of government occurring, I believe this Government will serve its full term.

The independents, Oakeshott and Windsor in particular, will certainly do everything they can to support the Government as they will not want to face the wrath of their electorates, which they deserted when helping Labor form government. Neither will be re-elected, nor should they be, and their employment options beyond Parliament will be self-employment options.

Gillard and her Government need to take time out, review their behaviour over the past seven months and decide whether they are going to deliver more of the same, in which case God help us all and goodbye Labor; or whether the past seven months - in particular the past eight weeks - will be seen as a wake-up call, and make the necessary changes to provide thoughtful and consistent policy leadership.

Australia needs the latter, otherwise this period of prosperity, when we should be building on our strengths, will be lost for all time.


5 March, 2011

Being fat rots your brain?

A remarkable insult to the large numbers of overweight people. Fortunately it is just epidemiological speculation. Let me offer an alternative explanation: Lower class people are more likely to be fat and lower class people are generally less healthy. So all we are seeing is another effect of social class, not an effect of obesity as such

MORE than 1000 Australians every week are diagnosed with dementia and for many the cause is not merely genetic bad luck but a result of being overweight in middle age.

A new analysis of long-term studies of the relationship between dementia and bodyweight has found that people who have been overweight or obese have two to three times the risk of suffering dementia in old age a few years later.

The Australian National University's Centre for Mental Health Research reached that conclusion after assessing the results of reputable studies from around the world involving a total of more than 25,000 people. Kaarin Anstey, a professor at the centre, said the risk of dementia for those aged over 60 rises with bodyweight in earlier middle life, between the ages of 40 and 60.

"This evidence suggests that, while the hormones present in body fat were previously believed to protect cognitive function, it now appears that excess fat in middle age may be extremely harmful over the long term," Professor Anstey said.

The analysis also found that there was a higher risk of dementia in old age among those who had been extremely underweight in middle age, but Professor Anstey said it was likely different processes were involved in triggering that phenomenon.

"Practitioners and policy-makers should be concerned, not just with the short-term effects obesity has on quality of life, but also about the long-term effects that obesity can have on the ageing process."

Professor Anstey said given the results covered people who were much less likely to have been overweight in their youth than today, the results were a warning bell for the future.

The findings underline the need for policy makers to treat dementia not just as a condition of old age but as a chronic disease which can be countered with improved healthcare and education, Glenn Rees, the chief executive of Alzheimer's Australia, said.

Mr Rees said health policies needed to promote the message that a healthy lifestyle not only reduced the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer but also improved brain health.

There also remained difficulties in even ensuring the timely diagnosis of dementia, with sufferers in some cases taking up to three years to be diagnosed, raising the risk of falls and hospitalisation.


Melanesian influx into Australia based on a failed legal claim

There are millions of them to Australia's immediate North who have a proven inability to get on with one-another so live in a very chaotic and poor society. Letting any of them into Australia would produce a flood of them. The Australian government is so far sending them all back, however

Australian immigration officials are advising a group of Papua New Guineans to scrap their plan to try to travel to Australia illegally in a few weeks' time. More than 100 Papuans will make the perilous journey to draw attention to their call to be granted Australian citizenship.

The trip's organiser says among them will be two fuzzy wuzzy angels who helped Australian soldiers during World War II.

Late last year, a similar flotilla, carrying a similar number of people, tried to cross the Torres Strait in small boats. Most of the dinghies were picked up by immigration officials or turned back to Papua New Guinea. One craft carrying 10 people managed to land on Cape York before those on board were arrested.

The group's organiser, Johnathan Baure, says it is only a matter of weeks before the group makes another attempt. "We have already more dinghies and even canoes," he told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program. "There were two other guys who are going to go on this trip now and they are fuzzy wuzzy angels."

The group is trying to draw attention to their fight to gain Australian citizenship. They claim they were not given the choice of Australian citizenship when Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975. Two Australian High Court battles have been lost over the issue.

Mr Baure does not deny the dangerous of the trip across open sea. "Every member of our community, I ask them and I repeat to them clearly that there is risk involved. Each one of them make their stance, and some of them decide to take their children," he said. "Obviously that is their right to decide and I have no control over that area."

It cost Australia's Immigration Department at least $250,000 to process and return the group that came across last December.

Department spokesman Sandi Logan warned that making another attempt would be futile and dangerous, and the boats will be confiscated and people detained. Mr Logan says those who believe they are eligible to gain Australian citizenship should lodge formal applications. "In fact there are a few claims at the moment - around 40 or so claims from this group - as a result of their last endeavour. That is the correct channel," he said.

After the last trip, Papua New Guinean officials charged Mr Baure with fraud and immigration offences, allegations he refutes. He appeared in court on Thursday to face the charges.

Mr Baure said that during the hearing, the judge accused the prosecution of being unprepared and ordered it to provide relevant documentation to the court within a fortnight before the case can continue.



Three current articles below

Wind farms hurting rural communities

WIND turbines are closing in on four generations of the Quinn family who still live at Mt Bryan in South Australia's picturesque and productive Mt Lofty Ranges.

Rosemary Quinn, 74, says she spends her nights locked inside the 1900s stone house she has occupied for 55 years. She shuts the windows and sets the ceiling fan on high to cover the noise of the wind turbines 2km away.

Quinn's son Bill and his wife Jenny are about to gamble their 200ha property in a Federal Court challenge to the expansion plans of wind farm developer AGL.

Bill Quinn's daughter Deb, 32, who works for businesses that profit from the wind farm developments, is worried about the future of her daughter, Jacqueline, and what long-term exposure to nearby wind turbines may mean.

The Quinns are not alone.

They are part of an increasingly vocal army of people in rural settlements who believe they have become collateral damage in Australia's rush to embrace wind as an alternative energy to combat climate change.

Stories such as the Quinns', and much, much worse, are scattered through the more than 1000 submissions to a Senate inquiry into the effect of wind farm developments on rural communities.

The inquiry by the Senate community affairs committee has certainly received many submissions of support for wind-farm developments to meet the federal government's 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. Local community and sporting groups have praised the donations they have received.

But alongside the positive feedback are stories of gag orders, split communities, strongarm tactics and details of awful physical symptoms that people feel sure are the result of living in the auditory and sun-flicker shadow of wind turbine developments that are sweeping the rural landscape.

Family First senator Steve Fielding, who pushed for the Senate inquiry, says: "This is not a question about the viability of renewable technologies. It is to have a look at any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity."

He says the Senate committee has approached the inquiry with an open mind, but "certainly there are people whose health has deteriorated to the stage that they have had to move out at a complete loss to themselves".

Glenn Brew of Evansford in Victoria, near the controversial Waubra wind farm, has told the committee he was beginning to think he had a brain tumour until he discovered that other farmers in the area were experiencing headaches similar to his when they were close to the turbines.

Steven Hilary, 50, also of Waubra, has told the committee he is convinced the turbines pose a serious health risk.

"On April 22nd at 4am I suffered a heart attack and to date I have been continually suffering blood pressure issues, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, unbearable tinnitus and disrupted sleep patterns that led to numerous ambulance trips to hospital," he wrote.

The Senate inquiry clearly has opened a can of worms: affected rural residents believe city dwellers with a penchant for green power have been happy to ignore the situation. Despite what opponents may say, this is not a community backlash that can be dismissed as being rooted in climate change denial or greed.

When Rosemary Quinn first heard wind turbines were coming to her area she visited the already established wind farm developments at Yorke Peninsula and Cape Jervis to have a look. "I thought they were a terrific invention and we really needed to get all this green power," she says.

"People now just say I have got a set against them and if they passed us a lot of money it would be all right, but I had a sermon in church this morning that money doesn't matter. I don't want their money, I just want some peace and quiet in the last months of my life."

Sarah Laurie, a South Australian GP who has become a rallying point for people concerned about health effects from living near wind turbines, also cannot be written off as a stalking horse for big coal or the nuclear industry, as her detractors would suggest.

Laurie has worked among South Australia's Aboriginal communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, where her husband still works as a travelling dentist.

She is a progressive with rooftop solar panels on her Crystal Brook property, and has alienated some friends by asking inconvenient questions about the green revolution. "I still am supportive of wind turbines in the right place," Laurie says. "I believe it is a siting issue primarily and we need to get the information in order to site the turbines safely.

"We have a window of opportunity now to get this right. If we don't I am concerned there is an unfolding public disaster. "This is not a NIMBY [not in my back yard] issue," Laurie says. "I don't think they should be in anybody's back yard."

All Laurie is requesting is that rigorous tests, independent of the industry or concerned residents, be carried out. Laurie knows her research, which catalogues a series of health effects among those living near wind turbines, will always be considered tainted by the fact there is a proposal for a wind farm near her own property. But her findings mirror the results of other research that has also struggled for official recognition from the wind industry and government agencies.


Brown's green jobs to deindustrialise Australia

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

Politicians love ‘creating’ jobs, especially when these jobs serve a ‘greater good,’ such as fighting climate change. Greens leader Bob Brown recently praised Germany’s renewable energy policy.

Brown believes that investment in green technologies saved Germany’s economy from the global financial crisis. This in itself is a questionable assertion: the German GDP fell by 4.7% in 2009, and despite a 3.6% growth in 2010, output has not returned to pre-crisis levels.

Senator Brown also claims that ‘330,000 extra jobs have been created in Germany because of legislation moving to a clean, green energy future.’ If only.

The figure of 330,000 green energy jobs may well be true if you add up all employees working in industries such as wind energy, biomass and solar power. But were these ‘extra’ jobs ‘created’ as a result of green legislation? And at what cost?

First, it is necessary to count the costs of the alleged green jobs miracle. A study by the respected economic research institute RWI concluded that every single worker in these industries had been supported to the tune of €175,000 ($240,000). Given this enormous subsidy, it is remarkable how few jobs have been created.

In Germany, subsidies for renewable energies are paid for by energy users. Renewable energy suppliers can feed their production into the grid at guaranteed high prices; the additional cost of green electricity is passed on to private and business energy users.

As consumers have to pay more for power than they would have otherwise, they cannot spend the money elsewhere. Job losses then occur in other industries. In particular, high energy costs threaten energy-intensive industries such aluminium smelting, steel and cement.

The future of Germany’s largest aluminium smelter Rheinwerk, employing more than 600 people in the city of Neuss, hangs in the balance as high energy costs leave it uncompetitive. The weekly Die Zeit recently reported that Rheinwerk is only producing at 10% capacity despite a growing global demand for aluminium.

Aluminium is not an exception. According to the RWI study, net employment effects of green energies are minimal and may well be negative. Instead of creating ‘extra’ jobs, renewable energies are destroying jobs. These lost jobs are dispersed across the economy and not always easy to spot.

This week, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger warned that high energy taxes had triggered a ‘creeping process of deindustrialisation’ in Germany. As regulatory elements accounted for more than 40% of energy costs, companies were moving their activities abroad, he said. Far from creating green industries, German eco-subsidies have led to industrial decline.

Maybe that is what Senator Brown would like to see in Australia as well.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 4 March Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Carbon tax no climate cure-all: Lomborg

CARBON taxes can do little to change global warming, controversial Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg said in Australia this week, but it could fund a genuine solution. In Dr Lomborg's view, that solution lies in the ubiquitous availability of cheap green energy.

"The current solution is to make fossil fuels so expensive that nobody will want them," Dr Lomborg said, adding that this is "economically inefficient and politically impossible".

Instead, he thinks the world should be innovating "to make green energy so cheap that everyone will want it". "This is not about subsidies to green energy, it's about innovation."

Dr Lomborg, currently an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School, is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. He is often branded a climate change skeptic, but his skepticism is these days directed more at the economic solutions proposed to address climate change.

"Global warming is real, it's a man-made problem, it's something we need to fix," he said on Tuesday. "Any economist would say that CO2 is bad and it should be taxed in principle."

However, he added, "The best economic analysis suggests that damage cost of CO2 is about $7 a tonne. So by all means (impose a tax) but it will reduce CO2 emissions very little." "Focusing on the tax is putting the cart before the horse. What we really need to do is focus on the innovation, and a carbon tax is a way to fund that innovation."

Citing Richard Tol, a climate economist who believes the potential effects of climate change are overplayed, Dr Lomborg poured cold economic water on the long-term benefits of a direct assault on fossil fuels. His assessment of the Kyoto Protocol is that it would cost about $180 billion per year by 2100, and reduce global temperatures by 0.00°C.

Dr Tol's modelling of the objective to reduce global temperatures by 2°C by 2100 came up with a bill of $40,000 billion per year, with each dollar spent avoiding only two cents of climate damage.

"We fail to remember that we don't burn fossil fuels to annoy Al Gore," Dr Lomborg observed. "We burn fossil fuels because they power virtually everything we like."

His solution, which he says stems from the work of several leading economists, including a handful of Nobel winners, is to direct 0.2 per cent of global GDP toward research and development of breakthrough green energy technologies. The cost would be about $100 billion a year ($1.6 billion for Australia), with a claimed return of $11 for each dollar invested.

"I don't think we should focus on a particular issue—solar or wind. Some things won't come through. Those that do will power the rest of the 21st Century." "Fundamentally, it's a much cheaper way to do much more good."


4 March, 2011

"We're gonna build it but we're not gonna use it"

That seems to be the intended and quite addled message behind the announcement below -- As Australia's Labor Party government tries to deny the total constipation of their "refugee" policy. Labor won't do what it needs to do in order to stop the "boat people" arriving but it won't give many of them residence permits either. So it just keeps locking more and more of them up! And that means ever more prisons keep being needed

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says that just because the government is establishing a new 1500-bed immigration detention centre in Darwin it doesn't mean it will necessarily be filled to capacity.

Mr Bowen says the first 500 places at the $9.2 million Wickham Point facility should be ready by mid-year. But, he says, the government can't say how many new asylum seekers it expects to have to house over the next few years. "It's very hard to predict exact numbers ... we don't make forecasts," he told ABC Radio.

"(But) it's well known that the number of boat arrivals has been high of recent times. It's well know that our detention network has been under pressure. "What we do do is prepare for foreseeable contingencies."

The immigration minister said the new centre would ensure against overcrowding but the 1500-bed facility "might not all be necessary or it might all be necessary".

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says there's only one way to stop overcrowding and "that's to stop the boats and the boats will just keep coming unless the government changes policy".

He said opening a new Darwin detention centre was "yet another broken promise" by Labor. "They said there'd be no more onshore detention centres when plainly there are," he told the Nine Network.

Asylum seekers arriving by boat will still be processed offshore at Christmas Island before being transferred to the mainland.


Ethnic-based anger explodes at NSW High School

Lebanese Muslims tend to be very arrogant and aggressive -- as is shown by their readiness to defy and attack police in the story below. Ordinary Aussies on the other hand are some of the most easy-going people in the world. But they can be pushed too far and a lot of Lebanese Muslims are prone to such pushing -- which is where the Cronulla riots also came from

IT had been simmering for months, say students, and this is the moment school racism reached boiling point. A brawl that erupted between a student's relatives and police was the culmination of an R-rated slanging match on Facebook between "Leb" and "Aussie" students.

While education officials denied yesterday there was any ongoing violence at Hoxton Park High School in Hinchinbrook, south west Sydney, parents and students said tensions between students had escalated in the past few years.

A 14-year-old student said that she was "jumped" on Wednesday afternoon by "10 Australian girls" who punched, kicked, scratched and spat at her. "They were saying, 'f ... Arabs', 'you bitch', 'you slut' - everything. They said all Muslim mums with scarves can hang themselves with it," the student said. "I was very upset and very angry. [Other Muslim children] at school were very angry, too." The girl said she didn't know why she was singled out by her attackers.

Posts on social networking site Facebook claimed the attack on this girl was in response to a fight between her friends and the group who "jumped" her two weeks ago.

The girl said she called her relatives for help and by 3pm a large crowd of her family and friends had gathered at the front of the school. They allegedly clashed with police who used capsicum spray to subdue the crowd and arrested six men and women, aged between 26 and 50, who were later charged with offences including affray, intimidation, assaulting police, resisting arrest and offensive language.

Witness Zahra Elasmar, whose two children attend the school, said Wednesday's fight was a spillover from the racist slurs made on students' Facebook pages. Facebook images obtained by The Daily Telegraph show derogatory comments made about other students including "lebs are rats!" .

Mrs Elasmar said she wrote to the Department of Education and Training about racism at the school and, with other parents, met with DET representatives, school staff and police liaison last month.

She said she collected 50 signatures on a petition sent to officials, but that it had fallen on deaf ears. "The principal doesn't know how to deal with this," she said. "What we witnessed today is not right in a multicultural country. We don't want another Cronulla [riot] at Hoxton Park."

A Department of Education and Training spokesman said the School Education Director will meet with Mrs Elasmar "soon" and that students who engage in racist or other anti-social behaviour are "disciplined".

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said his son was attacked last year by "Leb students". "He can protect himself, but I was worried," he said. It was this brawl which caused the subsequent near-riot at the Green Valley Police Station.

While a police media release claimed only 40 supporters of the six people arrested over the school fight congregated outside the station, a police incident report obtained by The Daily Telegraph shows worried officers called in backup from units from across the South-Western Sydney command.

The report said police estimated "between 80 to 100" people - predominately young men - surrounded the police station. When a breakaway group tried to storm the station, police found themselves "faced with a real danger and the possibility of a volatile and violent confrontation resulting in the urgent call for assistance". Police with the assistance of surrounding local area commands, the dog squad and highway patrol officers took two hours to bring the large and angry group under control.


Militant unions fined for illegal action at Melbourne building sites

MILITANT unions and five of their officials have been fined $110,000 for disrupting concrete pours and engaging in other illegal action at Melbourne building sites.

The Federal Court yesterday imposed the penalties on unions opposed to a swipe card system introduced by builder Bovis Lend Lease at the Royal Children's Hospital and three Docklands sites in 2008.

Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Leigh Johns said the industrial action was unwarranted and caused delays to the completion of the new children's hospital. "The unlawful industrial action included work stoppages, a rally, and a human blockade created to prevent concrete pours from occurring at the ANZ project in the Docklands precinct," he said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and three of its officials were fined a total of $66,250. The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union and two of its officials were fined a total of $43,750. The penalties were agreed by the ABCC and the unions.


Tax betrayal haunts Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott

TONY Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are trying to play the victim now but the country independents are simply reaping the whirlwind of the betrayal of their deeply conservative electorates after the August election.

They sold out their constituents in return for flattery and back slapping in Canberra, and now they're feigning shock when they get blowback. Give us a break.

Even though he tried to hide, everyone saw Windsor and his grinning, bearded mate Oakeshott standing there last week, with Julia Gillard, Bob Brown, Christine Milne and Greg Combet, at the press conference announcing the carbon tax that the Prime Minister expressly promised during the election campaign she would never impose.

And he'll be hiding up the back of that sovereign sextet the next time they announce another of Brown's pet policies - euthanasia, same-sex marriage and any number of wasteful crackpot green schemes that are anathema to conservatives.

Now Windsor is complaining about "shock jocks" and Coalition MPs and nefarious "others" who he claims are "involved in an orchestrated campaign" to inciting US-style violence against him. It's just another smokescreen to hide from the consequences of his actions.

He claimed on Radio National yesterday to have received death threats over the carbon tax, which were being "investigated", though when pressed by interviewer Fran Kelly, he became vague.

Tamworth police have no record of any complaints and the Australian Federal Police last night confirmed they were investigating a complaint lodged by Windsor yesterday, that is, after his 7.30am interview claiming there was an investigation.

As proof of his suffering, Windsor released a phone message he had received: "You're a f ... . . g dog Windsor," said the male caller. "You're a f ... . . g liar, a dog, a rat, a big f ... . . g MP dog doing damn nothing. You wait. You're not going to get voted in again. I hope you die."

Unseemly language aside, if that's the worst threat Windsor can drum up then all he's proved is that he's a tricky wuss.

Take out the swear words and the unpleasant hope that he dies and what you have left is a statement that reflects the feelings of much of Windsor's electorate of New England, which gave Labor just 8 per cent of its vote at the last election and the Greens a paltry 4 per cent.

A big MP who has delivered his constituents and the rest of this hapless nation into the hands of a Labor-Green Coalition Government and a carbon tax that will diminish their quality of life.

The big threat in that phone call was he won't get voted in again. Amen to that, say the two-thirds of Australians who don't support a carbon tax, judging by Coalition polling in NSW last weekend.

In the circumstances, Windsor's constituents have been restrained. He's lucky they are country folk, who tend to keep their own counsel and are not whiny inner-city Greens voters who scream bloody murder if they feel wronged, which is every minute of every day.

DESCRIPTIONS of Windsor as "dingo" and "traitor" are not unknown on Inverell radio station 2NZ either. It ran a phone-in on the carbon tax, and in 30 minutes fielded 111 calls against and only three calls for. Tamworth's Northern Daily Leader ran a poll that found 75 per cent of people were against a carbon price.

John "Wacka" Williams, a Nationals senator and farm machine supplier from Inverell, says New England locals are "very very angry" with Windsor, and worried about increased costs of electricity and fuel and job losses under a carbon tax, which will do nothing for the environment.

"I think people are getting very annoyed with Tony Windsor," he told ABC radio yesterday. "There is a survey Tony is undertaking now in New England on same-sex marriage, on euthanasia, on a tax summit. Will he do that as far as a carbon tax goes?

Will he ask the people of his electorate because he claims to be the people's representative but he clearly did not listen to his electorate when it came to a decision about who he would put into government after theAugust 21 election. Will he do the same again and disregard the wishes of his electorate?"

Excellent questions.

Rather than blaming Tony Abbott, and "shock jocks" who he imagines are involved in "a degree of orchestration" of the anger in his electorate, Windsor should face the reality that his constituents all by themselves have been burning with resentment ever since he sided with Labor after the election, and that his carbon tax betrayal is the last straw.

It's the same for Oakeshott, who has been playing a bizarre no-speakies with Abbott, because he is upset that Joe Hockey went to his electorate and told people that a vote for the independents is a vote for Labor.

Well, duh. Oakeshott is living proof of that. What does he have to complain about other than Hockey speaking the plain, unvarnished truth, a concept with which the independents seem unfamiliar.

Oakeshott's conservative Lyne electorate in northern NSW voted just 13 per cent for Labor and 4 per cent for the Greens at the last election, so they are none too happy about his embrace of the Brown-Gillard pact, as shown by the latest polling. His personal approval rating has plunged from 63 per cent net positive support to negative 12 per cent, a 75-point turnaround. Ouch.

In the heart of his electorate, in Port Macquarie, the locals are "white hot" with anger against Oakeshott. Brett Pye, owner of Pye Providores in Port Macquarie, calls Oakeshott an "idiot" for "siding with such a cowboy outfit as this Labor Government". After last year's election he put up big signs on his front fence branding Oakeshott "Judas" and "You bloody sellout". He gets frequent compliments on the signs, he says, and not one complaint.

"The number of people that have said 'Good on you' is unbelievable," he says. "I deal with people who work for a living - they understand how hard it is to earn a dollar."

When even the ABC political program Insiders is labelling Oakeshott a "Big Sook", albeit with a question mark, you know his bid for the sympathy vote is falling flat. It's not the fault of Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott that his constituents have turned against him.

The other independent holding the country to ransom is Andrew Wilkie, the former Green who claims to stand for integrity in politics. Yet, instead of chiding Gillard for breaking her election-eve promise - "There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead" - he was busy in Parliament this week lambasting the "racist" Coalition because Cory Bernardi had said something unflattering about Islam.

As for Greens leader Bob Brown, now he's giving Wayne Swan public lectures on how to deal with the Opposition, and boasting about how the Government adopted his carbon tax platform. His cocky performance on Monday in the Senate shows hubris is coming early to the Greens. Mr 13 Per Cent is ruling the roost, a cuckoo in the Labor nest who has given Gillard a policy and philosophy framework she never had, and the nation a nightmare it never asked for.

This is the whirlwind that the independents have reaped.


Gasp! Private schools spend more on their students than government schools do!

Did anyone expect otherwise? What do they think the parents pay for? A most unsurprising revelation. After the Latham debacle, the Labor party would be mad to use this as an excuse to attack private school funding -- but they are pretty mad. Witness their carbon tax and fibre broadband policies

The Coalition has warned the updated My School website will undermine government funding to independent schools while failing to help parents make better educational choices for their children.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the government had not made a convincing case for publishing independent schools' financial data. "The Coalition doesn't believe that information being made available will add anything to the educational outcomes of either government or non-government students," he told The Australian Online. "There can only be one reason to publish non-government financial data and that is to undermine government funding of non-government schools."

Schools Minister Peter Garrett launched My School 2.0 this morning at Telopea Park bilingual school in the Canberra suburb of Barton. He said the site was "game-changing" and would give parents "unparalleled data" on school finances.

Mr Garrett warned against parents removing their children from schools simply because of the updated data, instead saying they should read the website carefully and consult their school principals. "Have discussions as you feel are necessary with the school in question," he said. "Think carefully about what you read and what you get from the site and then make your own decisions."

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos warned that the My School 2.0 website showed an alarming resources gap between government and private schools. "The gap is being fuelled by a central government funding system which is blind to the real needs of students," he said.

The union boss told The Australian Online the new financial information pointed to a need for a greater investment in the nation's government schools. But he said the information on the website remained limited, as it failed to include millions of dollars held in trust by private schools. "Literally millions of dollars in surpluses and millions held in trust foundations, assets and investment portfolios by private schools will not be shown on the My School website."

He said even on the financial information available, private schools were spending more than double what government schools were spending per student on capital expenditure and 25 per cent more in recurrent funding.

Queensland Education Minister Cameron Dick urged parents to use the revamped My School website with caution, saying he was concerned about the potential for unfair comparisons, given the complexity of the information. “The data could be used unfairly in relation to some schools; some schools have different needs, some communities have different needs ... that's appropriate that they would be funded to a different level,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“Funding is affected by location, school programs, age and size of facilities, staffing, overall enrolment and the number of indigenous, international, non-English speaking students and students with disabilities.”

The Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations said it too was concerned with the publication of school finances. “Every school is unique and therefore not comparable,” state president Margaret Leary said in a statement. “The figures presented on the My School website are not a true and fair indicator.”


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

3 March, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG ridicules the claims of "Independent" MP Tony Windsor

Julia Gillard hit by gay marriage rebellion

JULIA Gillard is facing a backbench rebellion over fears the government would support a Greens Bill that could enable gay marriage and legal euthanasia. Three senior MPs - Steve Hutchins, Don Farrell and John Hogg - confronted the Prime Minister yesterday to express concerns about the Greens' Bill.

Greens leader Bob Brown said his proposed law would make an Act of Parliament necessary for the Commonwealth to override legislation in the Northern Territory or the ACT. It would abolish ministerial vetoes.

The Herald Sun has been told the delegation, led by Mr Farrell, the so-called "Godfather" of the Labor Right, met Ms Gillard at 11.30am after the Greens claimed to have secured government support for the private member's Bill.

It is believed the PM said she had no knowledge of it and she would not back legal euthanasia. Treasurer Wayne Swan also told them he had no knowledge of the issue.

Angry Labor MPs yesterday said the issue had brought to a head amid growing concerns the Greens had too much influence on Government policy. "I just hope this is not a harbinger of what life will be like after July 1, when the Greens have control of the Senate," one concerned senior Labor MP said.

MPs also have privately criticised the PM's decision to introduce a carbon tax without consulting the full Labor caucus. Labor figures, particularly in outer city electorates, have been fielding "virulent" emails and phone calls from voters complaining of a "sellout" to the Greens. "People are really angry - they feel they've been deceived," a senior Labor MP said. "It's adding to a growing view out there that Labor is dominated by the Greens."

Labor MPs have also confessed to being "savaged" by irate voters over the carbon tax. Some said their offices had received abusive phone calls from people fearful over the impact of a carbon tax on family living costs. "One was pretty vicious," a Sydney MP said.


No happy ending for carbon tax fairytale

LIKE Goldilocks and the three bears, Australia's climate change response relies on believing that temperature changes (and their timing) are not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

It relies on believing the world can slow its production of carbon dioxide sufficiently to hold the temperature below a level at which catastrophic climate change can be avoided. The emissions forgone will come just at the right time, all going well.

There's not a lot of economics in it. Ross Garnaut, the government's climate change economic adviser, has thought about this a great deal. But his advice to government is to stick with an abatement strategy first and an adaptation strategy second.

In the update to his 2008 Climate Change Review, Garnaut argues: "There is still a chance of achieving strong mitigation objectives, and at worst we are headed towards materially less damage from climate change than would have been the case with no international mitigation effort at all."

The assumption of a reasonably direct relationship between the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the temperature level and damage arising from temperature change is a big call. To suggest that the world is heading towards materially less damage than would have been the case on the basis of present abatement is frankly heroic.

In 2008, Garnaut argued that "mitigation will come too late to avoid substantial damage from climate change". In his 2011 update he argues that "without in any way underplaying the importance of a large, well-designed and well-resourced adaptation effort, my own judgment is that there is no evidence at this time nor any danger of over-investment in mitigation at the expense of investment in adaptation".

There is, however, a strong connection between mitigation and adaptation. For droughts we build dams, for floods we build levees, for cyclones we rebuild stronger houses and replant crops. We have no option but to do these things. Indeed, when non-climate tragedies occur, such as earthquakes, we have no option but to rebuild. All of these things require energy. All of these things become more difficult if the price of energy rises.

Then there is the economics (and the politics).

Julia Gillard's bald-faced lying to the electorate that she would not introduce a carbon tax - as the central plank of an abatement policy - and then doing so is one thing. Her announcement that a carbon tax is an "essential economic reform" is quite another.

For the carbon tax to work, the price of carbon emissions will need to continue to rise, which means future governments will have to raise the tax. This is unlikely to occur. Certainty cannot be delivered under these circumstances.

I sympathise with economists that a price on carbon emissions would deliver the electricity industry and their customers secure power generation.

These things are not going to happen with a pricing mechanism that requires future governments to change the tax or the cap. Even with a carbon tax and a successful transition to a cap and trade system and future lowering of the cap, the likely medium-term changes to the Australian economy will be one or two power plants fired by gas and the de-commissioning of one or two coal-fired plants. Some reform, some abatement.

I sympathise entirely with economists that a price would work best, in lieu of subsidies for renewables. Linking solar and wind generation to the grid is proving a real headache. But a pricing mechanism will not solve the inadequacy of these technologies.

Australia's mitigation strategy has no hope of doing other than lining the pockets of gas and nonrenewable energy producers and risking any number of Australia's internationally competitive producers. The impact on global temperature will be nil.

There are no benefits in adopting low-emission energy production early, because we can easily pick up on what others do at a later time.

Australians buy television sets and computers, we do not invent them. We reap the rewards of adopting them. As we are unlikely to invent the low-emission, low-cost energy sources, we will not reap those benefits. Besides, inventors do not rely on the price of carbon for their reward. The patent alone will make them as rich as Croesus.

Tony Abbott's promise to overturn a carbon tax means a price mechanism is no longer an option. Of course, it never was an option because for the tax and-or the cap and trade to work effectively future governments would have to continue to raise the price of carbon emissions, which is a bit like asking them to raise the GST on a regular basis. It simply will not happen.

It is a brew that Goldilocks would find too hot to handle.


NSW as a police State

I've been thinking a great deal about the way NSW has taken on some of the flavour of a police state. The context is the run-up to the state election. I'm wondering what the Coalition will do about the police after it wins office on March 26. In NSW, we have the worst of both worlds, where the cops and the government are tough on hundreds of thousands of non-criminals going about their daily lives, while giving a free pass to real criminals.

This dysfunction is exemplified in Kings Cross, where the NSW government is complicit in the heroin trade while, as a result of this complicity, the police have all but given up arresting junkies in the Cross.

Darlinghurst Road has become entrenched as a place where drug and alcohol abuse flourishes. Meanwhile, just down the hill, on busy New South Head Road, the police stop thousands of motorists who are causing no problems. At this checkpoint, the presumption is guilt, the selection process is random, and the probable cause is non-existent.

Checkpoints, random stops, speed cameras and speed traps. This is the real face of the NSW Police. The force has been turned into petty bureaucrats charged with gouging revenue from taxpayers, while looking the other way as the heroin traffic flourishes in plain sight. Our legal system and state bureaucracy have turned the thin blue line into a bleached corps of tax agents, social workers, stress-leave jockeys and second-job jugglers, leaving a few hard units to do hard investigations into hard crime.

Look at Kings Cross. It used to be one of Australia's most sophisticated, cosmopolitan and pleasant precincts. Now it is a bogan paradise, a cathedral to bad taste, a product of the power of the alcohol, heroin and poker machine industries that have enjoyed unprecedented power or tolerance for 16 years under the Labor patronage machine and pork factory.

In the Cross, the core of the rot is sponsored by the NSW government itself. It is the blandly named Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, conveniently located on Darlinghurst Road opposite the entrance to Kings Cross railway station. Never have so many lies been fed to the public in support of this policy quagmire.

The argument justifying the centre is that has cleaned up the drug trade and saved "hundreds" of lives. This is propaganda worthy of North Korea. The reality is the opposite. The centre is directly responsible for hundreds of drug overdoses. It has created an environment where the most reckless and self-indulgent people in society - junkies - know they will be bailed out of their own risks.

The result is stratospheric rates of drug overdoses and interventions, which are then counted as lives saved. This is the basis on which more than $25 million in public funding has been requested and justified by the drug-legalisation lobby. Anyone interested in the non-North Korean view of this social experiment can find a blistering, highly detailed counter-view on the website of Drug Free Australia .

One of the leading figures behind Drug Free Australia, Gary Christiansen, told me: "The number of overdoses in the [Kings Cross] facility have been a staggering 35 to 42 times higher than the rate of overdose experienced by clients [drug-users] before they registered to use the room. Testimony by former clients in the NSW Hansard indicates that the overdose numbers are so high because clients experiment with higher doses of heroin and poly-drug cocktails, using the safety of the room as a guarantee."

As for the wider matter of dysfunctional policing, the opposition has announced that it finds the use of speed traps to be overbearing, deceptive and intrusive. Yesterday it announced it would review the entire process if elected to government. This is encouraging.

Another telling benchmark will come after March 26, when the new government decides what to do about the tax-funded heroin honeypot in the heart of Sydney.


Axemen advise O'Farrell

THE mastermind behind the sacking of more than 50,000 public servants during the Greiner and Fahey Liberal governments has been quietly advising Barry O'Farrell's team on how to streamline the public service when, as expected, the NSW Coalition takes power in a month.

Gary Sturgess now works for Serco, the multinational services company that runs Villawood detention centre and has recently replaced workers with robots in British hospitals. He has met shadow treasurer Mike Baird a number of times over the past 12 months.

Mr Sturgess engineered the dumping of 2000 teachers, 5000 school cleaners and more than 8000 rail workers within a year of Nick Greiner becoming premier in 1988.

The re-emergence of Mr Sturgess has heightened fears among the public service over what plans Mr O'Farrell might have for redundancies and the privatisation of government services. Mr O'Farrell is also being advised by Max "the axe" Moore-Wilton, John Howard's job-slashing department head.

Mr Sturgess confirmed he had met Mr Baird a number of times, the last time in November. "The message I've been giving them is there's an awful lot of interesting things happening in [Britain] . not just outsourcing, but some interesting private sector contracts where payment is dependent on outcome," Mr Sturgess said from London. "My job is to help explain how this stuff works so that government feels it can make voters and unions feel more comfortable about it."

Mr Sturgess was referring to the debt-mired British government, which recently revealed plans to open up virtually all public services to private companies. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will cut about 500,000 British public servants by 2015. Serco is at the forefront of outsourcing around the world, managing everything from satellites to prisons and traffic light systems. Greens MP John Kaye memorably described Serco as like a "living organism that has found a very rich payload of nutrients".

In August last year, Serco put robots into a Scottish hospital to move waste, linen and clinical supplies at the expense of human workers. "Should NSW have robots in its hospitals?" Mr Sturgess said. "It might be good but it can't put them into existing hospitals. Like the experience in [Britain], you have to have a government wanting the best possible way to contain disease and waste and prepared to allow the private sector to solve the problem."

He stressed he was not lobbying on behalf of Serco Australia, rather sharing his expertise from the Serco think tank. "Serco doesn't have a view about what services should be put to the private sector, it's not for us to decide should be put to the market. When government makes that decision it's for us to tell them how we think it can be done. I've known a lot of the [Liberal] guys for a very long time so it would be improper for me to be lobbying on behalf of Serco and I don't."

Mr Sturgess conceded Mr O'Farrell had been "coy" about revealing any plans that could involve job cuts. The Coalition is still scarred from its experience at the 2007 election when then leader Peter Debnam announced he would target 22,000 public servants before crashing in the polls.

Mr Baird confirmed he had met with Mr Sturgess. "I'm open to any ideas to save money."

The Public Service Association supports Mr O'Farrell's plan for a new public service commissioner to de-politicise appoints but is still fearful of deep cuts to workers. "We'd like Barry to put on the record before the election what he intends to do because right now the message is mixed," said its assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

Last week, Mr O'Farrell said: "We don't have a default position that says privatisation is in our DNA." But when speaking to The Australian Financial Review, he said: "The public sector doesn't have all the ideas. The public sector certainly won't have the money to fix the problems in this state."

Another company that will be interested in service contracts is Veolia Environmental Services, whose executives include Peter Shmigel, Mr O'Farrell's former chief of staff.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

2 March, 2011

MPs attack anti-Bible 'madness'

OPPOSITION MPs have strongly attacked the ban on Bibles and other holy books being handed out at citizenship ceremonies, with Tony Abbott describing it as outrageous.

Tasmanian Liberal senator Guy Barnett told the Coalition party room this was "political correctness gone mad. There should be freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

Previously, local councils and community groups gave people at citizenship ceremonies Bibles, which they could keep. But under rules that the government says came in during the Howard years, people can bring their own Bibles or other holy books but they can't be handed out.

Senator Barnett last night described the ban as "an extremist US approach to the separation of church and state" and called for its overturn. Under the old practice, people were not obliged to accept the books, he said.

Nationals MP Paul Neville, from Queensland, told the Coalition meeting that Bibles were still used in courts and tribunals and the Bible was the centrepiece of the oath. But people no longer put their hand on the Bible at citizenship ceremonies.

Former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull said if people wanted to offer Bibles and other holy books they should be able to do so. Mr Abbott said the government was interfering with the long-established practice to offer holy books.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the minister would look at the code's "appropriateness".


Degree target aims too high

Who sets these arbitrary and absurd targets anyway? And based on what reasoning, if any?

THE government's target for 40 per cent of young Australians to be graduates by 2025 is not realistic, according to a leading demographer, Bob Birrell.

One scenario would require the number of domestic students completing degrees to rise 82 per cent between 2009 and 2025, Dr Birrell and colleagues say in a new paper in the journal People and Place. "Neither Australia's higher education sector nor the government departments that administer it appear to understand that their target will require such an enormous increase," they say.

But a spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the government was confident its demand-driven system would deliver the university places needed to meet the target.

Dr Birrell said more realistic targets, funding and campus building should be aimed at poorly serviced regional and outer suburban areas.

The target for 25 to 34-year-olds was seen as ambitious when floated by the Bradley review in 2008 and adopted in modified form the following year by the government.

But as statistics revealed dramatic growth in young degree holders between 2006 and 2009, some commentators said the 2025 target looked easy. "The government's 40 per cent target could be reached naturally, well before 2025, allowing for enrolment pipelines, and without accounting for the contribution of degree qualified immigrants," the Group of Eight universities said in 2010.

The Birrell paper says the Go8 and others have misread the 2006-09 growth spurt. Domestic graduates and migrants with professional qualifications together account for just half this growth, according to modelling done by Dr Birrell and his colleagues. Their modelling takes into account the number of graduates who enter and leave the 25 to 34 age group as time passes.

Migrant professionals tend to be older and leave the age group more quickly than domestic graduates, meaning that on present trends their net contribution to the target would be nil before 2025.

The Birrell analysis suggests "that the recent rapid rise in the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with degrees is not a precursor to an easy pathway to achievement of the 40 per cent target, as asserted by the Go8". The paper concludes that overseas students who have graduated or arrived with undergraduate degrees are the most likely reason for the remaining half of the growth seen in 2006-09.

The survey that revealed the 2006-09 growth covers people who were residents in Australia for at least 12 months, meaning it would also pick up overseas students on temporary visas such as the graduate skills visa.

The authors say the growth represented by overseas students "is about to come to an end given that the government has largely removed the carrot of permanent residence as an inducement to study in Australia".

Between 2006 and 2009 the share of 25 to 34-year-olds with at least an undergraduate degree rose from 29.2 per cent to 34.6 per cent but another 410,000 graduates were needed to meet the 2025 target.

Even a 35 per cent increase in immigration would deliver only an extra 124,000 graduates over the period, the authors say. Relying on local students would require an 82 per cent increase from 98,732 domestic graduations in 2009 to 179,600 in 2025.

Senator Evans's spokesman said updated 2010 estimates suggested the demand-driven system would deliver an extra 195,000 domestic undergraduate places between 2010 and 2013.



Three current articles below

Dirty little lie on carbon tax

By economics professor Sinclair Davidson

THE government has announced its carbon tax will commence in July 2012. Consumers and taxpayers should be very concerned about this new tax.

The announcement is even vaguer than either of the mining taxes announced last year. All we know is that a new and complex tax will be introduced next year. So far, we can't even be sure how much revenue it will raise, except that it will be budget neutral; not even revenue neutral.

This should not inspire confidence. The government has shown itself capable of spending more than the revenue it already raises, and now it is promising to spend all the revenue from the new tax.

There is a dirty little lie at the centre of the government's plan to introduce a carbon price. That is the notion that carbon isn't already priced. The government must be hoping nobody has noticed the plethora of programs that have contributed to rising living costs while minimally reducing carbon emissions.

Some of these programs have enjoyed a high profile. For example the home insulation scheme, which resulted in numerous house fires and four deaths. Solar panel rebate schemes have proven as expensive as they are popular, while others, such as the Green Car Innovation Fund were probably just old-style protectionism.

The fact is the Australian government has introduced several expensive carbon prices. The best that can be said for the proposal to introduce a fixed carbon price is that it will be cheaper than many existing programs.

The test the government faces is in abandoning the more expensive programs. In the presence of a well-defined, well-designed carbon tax all those other schemes simply become corporate welfare. Keeping them in place is a double hit on consumers. That means mandated renewal energy targets, and windmills, and all those boondoggles so beloved by politicians will have to go.

The whole argument for a carbon tax is that it represents the most efficient way to achieve a given outcome. If that is true, then it should substitute for all existing programs.

But that is not what the government seems to have in mind. The carbon price mechanism announced last week makes no mention of substitution; in fact the mechanism does not preclude other measures. In other words, this price is not a substitute for other higher, yet less effective, prices, it is an additional price to those already in place.

How often will consumers have to pay for the same carbon? Not often enough it seems.

There is another problem with this scheme. It has the potential to generate vast streams of revenue to the government. Governments quickly become addicted to easy money. The whole idea of a carbon price is, over time, that revenue should decline. But the government has spending plans. It is going to be very difficult to increase spending when the funding source is expected to decline.

Making the tax budget neutral invites future deficits as revenues decline. Conversely it gives government the incentive to stymie carbon substitution in order to maintain revenues. In short the vagueness of the proposal introduces sovereign risk.

The vagueness of the proposal also means that its effects have not been modelled. The government cannot know what impact it'll have on the economy and as such cannot have designed any compensation packages.

In their Shitstorm: Inside Labor's Darkest Days, Lenore Taylor and David Uren recount how then climate change minister Penny Wong came to the conclusion that business was quite serious about the adverse impact the emission trading scheme would have had on the economy.

There is nothing in last week's announcement to suggest any of those problems have been addressed or resolved. If anything a less developed proposal has been announced to commence next year. The community is being asked to pay its money and await developments.

The challenge this government faces is that it has no track record in delivery of programs. Its 2007 promises are yet to be achieved from healthcare reform through to the rather simple task of delivering computers to schools. It has failed at every turn. The community is now being invited to trust that they can successfully introduce a tax on every aspect of the Australian economy from a standing start to implementation in less than 16 months.


Carbon tax is poll poison for NSW

VOTERS have rejected Julia Gillard's carbon tax, Coalition polling across NSW state seats found, with almost two thirds of people against it. In a sign of the battle ahead for Julia Gillard in selling the new tax to voters, only 18 per cent of NSW voters said they were in favour of a tax. About the same number said they had not yet made up their mind. But 62 per cent said they were firmly against it. The remainder claimed to have no knowledge of it.

The polling was conducted in NSW as part of the Coalition's campaign for the state election on March 26. It polled 1200 people at the weekend, just days after Julia Gillard announced she would seek to introduce a carbon price in July 2012 before a market-based emissions trading scheme by as early as 2015.

The decision by the State Opposition to poll on carbon tax revealed Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell's plans to use it as a key weapon against Labor in the election.

"A carbon tax will lead to higher power bills, but a carbon tax will also threaten jobs - whether your company is selling into the Australian market against imports, or whether it is trying to sell overseas against countries that don't have a carbon tax," Mr O'Farrell said yesterday. The sentiment was supported by some federal Labor MPs in marginal seats.

Several of Ms Gillard's caucus said the carbon tax would hurt them locally and they were concerned federal Labor's strategy of recapturing its left-wing base through climate change policy would cost them middle-class Australian votes. "If petrol is included, it will kill us," one NSW Federal MP said yesterday. "It really is a divided issue and anyone in a marginal seat in NSW will be in trouble."

Carbon tax dominated Federal Parliament yesterday, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott continuing his attack on Ms Gillard's broken election promise.

Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott's threats of winding back the tax would cripple the Australian economy. She tried to inflame divisions within the Coalition over climate change, following admissions by Liberal MP and former leader Malcolm Turnbull that he still supported the idea of a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme.

"If this fear campaign fails and we price carbon on July 1, 2012, as I intend to do, then [Abbott] will go to the next election with a plan to wreck the Australian economy with economic vandalism," Ms Gillard said.

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet say Australian households would be poorer by an average of $720 a year under the coalition's direct action plan. "The new figures demonstrate that direct action is so environmentally ineffective that it will deliver only 25 per cent of carbon pollution abatement required for the Coalition to meet the bipartisan target of minus five per cent (by 2020)," Mr Combet said in a statement today.

"This means that the Coalition would need to purchase 75 per cent of the required abatement from international permits at a cost of over $20 billion - which currently has no funding allocated." The cost of the Opposition's plan would eventually leave a $30 billion Budget shortfall by 2020, Mr Combet said.


Nationals polling shows Rob Oakeshott's support is shot

He is a traitor to his voters: A Green/Leftist who got elected by pretending to be a conservative

VOTER support for Rob Oakeshott has fallen through the floor according to confidential polling conducted for the NSW Nationals since the independent MP pledged his support for Julia Gillard's carbon tax.

Mr Oakeshott has lapsed into net negative approval, according to the poll, details of which have been revealed exclusively to The Australian.

Anger towards Mr Oakeshott and his fellow independent NSW MP Tony Windsor, who also backs the minority Labor government and the Prime Minister's carbon tax, is now threatening the viability of several state independent MPs at the March 26 election.

The telephone poll of 400 voters in the state seat of Port Macquarie, which lies inside Mr Oakeshott's federal seat of Lyne on the NSW mid-north coast, was conducted last week and found 40 per cent of voters viewed Mr Oakeshott favourably, while 52 per cent viewed him unfavourably. A further 7 per cent of voters were neutral, while 1 per cent had never heard of him. The 12 per cent net negative approval for Mr Oakeshott is in stark contrast to his earlier popularity with voters, which catapulted him from the seat of Port Macquarie into Lyne at a by-election in September 2008.

Polling by the Nationals three months before the by-election showed Mr Oakeshott was regarded favourably by 71 per cent of voters, and unfavourably by 8 per cent, yielding net positive support of 63 per cent.

The 75-point turnaround follows the decision of Mr Oakeshott to back a minority Labor government last year, and his role in Ms Gillard's carbon tax backflip last month.

Directly in the firing line as a result is Port Macquarie MP Peter Besseling, a protege of Mr Oakeshott who advised him during his negotiations over minority government six months ago.

Senior Nationals sources have claimed the blowback will also hurt the chances of independent MP Peter Draper in Tamworth, which lies within Mr Windsor's New England electorate.

Dozens of voters in Port Macquarie have told The Australian they will be less likely to vote for Mr Besseling as a result of Mr Oakeshott's support for Ms Gillard and her program.

Nationals candidate for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said Mr Oakeshott's growing unpopularity would "absolutely" hurt Mr Besseling's chances at the election. "I do lots of doorknocking out in the electorate and certainly the feeling is pretty strong out there," she said. "They're not happy with Rob and they make it quite clear, time and again. This isn't a Labor seat and so they're still quite miffed about why Rob would have taken that path rather than go down the conservative path."

A senior NSW Nationals source said Mr Oakeshott's relationship with Mr Besseling, who succeeded him in the state seat, was so strong that "there is going to be some blowback".

Another state independent, Dubbo MP Dawn Fardell, has been distancing herself from Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor as she struggles to fight off a concerted challenge from the Nationals on March 26. "I was very disappointed in Windsor and Oakeshott," Ms Fardell said. "If they want things for their community, you can do those things along the way and lobby. I've done no deals with the (state) Labor government."

Mr Draper's margin over the Nationals is 4.8 per cent, Mr Besseling's is 4.5 per cent, and Ms Fardell's is just 0.9 per cent.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour. New posts on both today

1 March, 2011

New authoritarian law from the NSW Left

What is wrong with an arrangement that both parties concerned are happy with? As usual, this is self-chosen "elites", mostly on the Left, treating adults like children and presuming to make very personal decisions for them. Fortunately, because of federalism, people can just move to another state or territory and get on with their lives without such interference

NICK BONE would give anything for his son. But from today, giving him a brother or sister could land him in jail.

Long-awaited laws that come into force today giving recognition to parents of children born through surrogacy also have imposed penalties designed to protect overseas women from exploitation by families seeking commercial surrogacy. Penalties include up to two years' imprisonment and fines of $275,000 for parents who have children through overseas commercial surrogacy arrangements.

The changes would force desperate would-be parents into "underground" arrangements, said speakers at a forum last night organised by the group Australian Families Through Gestational Surrogacy.

But Mr Bone's biggest worry right now is what his 10-month-old son, Otis, will think when he discovers he was born through an arrangement the state has since decided is wrong. "I never wanted to lie to him about anything, but how will he feel knowing that when he is growing up?" Mr Bone asked.

He did not believe Otis's birth mother was exploited, as he had developed a relationship with her, talking regularly during the pregnancy, and had seen the benefits his money had provided.

The Greens MP David Shoebridge said the ban was a "last-minute amendment", introduced and voted on within 48 hours despite the rest of the legislation being crafted from years of community consultation. It would leave distraught families in its wake.

The original bill banned commercial surrogacy in NSW, but Mr Shoebridge said the Greens had supported it because it was in line with community standards. However, he believed the issue was open for debate in the future.

Jenni Millbank, a law professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, said some people would still use overseas commercial surrogacy, either illegally or by moving to another state.

She believed the law was implemented without proper consultation, and was unlikely to achieve its goal. A transnational accreditation system for surrogacy providers would be a better way of protecting birth mothers, she said.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said it was important the ban on commercial surrogacy was not undermined or circumvented.

Commercial arrangements had "been roundly rejected by the National Health and Medical Research Council as well as lawmakers around Australia via the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General", the spokesman said.


Men banned from dance event at Town Hall

A WOMEN-only dance party has seen a suburban council accused of being segregationist. The Dance Sister Dance at Brunswick Town Hall in Victoria has won a VCAT exemption from equal opportunity laws. The Moreland City Council dance is designed for cultural groups whose women would not take part if it involved men.

But Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis said Moreland was supporting segregation. "We have segregation in swimming pools, now we have segregation for dancing. Will the next step be buses only for various nationalities," Mr Davis said. Similar exemptions have been granted for councils to offer female-only swimming sessions at public pools.

VCAT member Anna Dea said the dance party was justified because Moreland council research showed many women and girls preferred to be active in a female-only environment. [What say I prefer to be active in a "whites only" environment? Would that be OK?]

"In addition, many newly arrived communities find it culturally inappropriate for young women to participate in physical activity with males present," Ms Dea's decision said. "Young women tend to be less confident dancing at mixed events and it is hoped this event will build confidence, raise self-esteem and develop skills."

The City of Moreland, which stretches from Fitzroy North to Glenroy, has a large migrant population, with about 8 per cent of residents Muslim. It offers a women's only program at the Brunswick City Baths.

Mayor Oscar Yildiz said it was important for the council to offer activities in appropriate settings. "This event encourages women and girls from all cultural backgrounds to become familiar with dancing and raise their skill and confidence," Cr Yildiz said.

John Roskam, head of free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, said the dance party issue wasn't as clear cut as women-only swimming sessions. "If it's encouraging people to participate in the community then that would have to be a good thing, " Mr Roskam said. "But the thing is, we can't be making a habit of it. "We want the genders to be mixing in society."


Personal responsibility upheld

This may help cut back the fashion for blaming everyone except the person responsible for mishaps

A man left a quadriplegic when he dived into a riverbed has lost a $5 million lawsuit against local authorities. Timothy Felhaber was aged 17 in September 2002 when he and friends were using a rope swing attached to a tree to propel themselves into the Fitzroy River at a recreational area known as the Ski Gardens, near Rockhampton.

On his last swing he dived headfirst into the water, struck his head on the river bed and broke his neck. Mr Felhaber claimed Rockhampton City Council was responsible, at least in part, for his injury. He claimed authorities should have erected signs warning of the dangers of diving into the water.

At a trial in the Rockhampton Supreme Court earlier this month, he sought $5 million in damages.

He claimed the council was in breach of its duty of care to him by failing to remove the branch of the tree from which the rope was slung, removing the rope swing.

He also said the council failed to put up a sign warning people that the depth of the river may change and that diving was prohibited.

However the council argued Mr Felhaber had failed to prove any duty of care owed to him had been breached.

In a judgment published last week, Judge Duncan McMeekin found in favour of the council, ruling:

* the activity on which the plaintiff was engaged was a voluntary recreational activity

* the risks inherent in the activity were obvious and the exercise of care by members of the public could be expected to keep them safe

* the council were not armed with any special knowledge relating to the risks inherent in carrying out the activity

* the council in no way "required or invited or encouraged" entrants to the area to engage in the activity

"The plaintiff made a mistake in his dive," he said in the 22-page-long judgment. "I suspect that his swing took him not so far out as was usual and his chosen method of dismount brought him a little closer to the bank than he expected. It was not a deliberate action of courting a risk but a negligent failure to ensure he kept a safe distance away from the bank."

In 2004 the council erected a sign at the Ski Gardens warning of diving dangers and of crocodiles in the water.

Judge McMeekin said it was unreasonable for the council to remove every tree from which a rope could be attached.


Privacy decrees gone mad

No privacy for the little guy

YOU KNOW what really gets my back up? It's privacy laws. I know, they are meant to keep our affairs private. But why do they work only one way? When my telecom "provider" makes an unsolicited call to "help me get a cheaper plan" the first thing they want to know is my date of birth. Why? For privacy reasons, we must ensure we are talking to you, I am told.

Well, they rang me, I didn't ring them, so how do I know it is them, not some devious schemer trying to steal my identity? Reasoning on this level doesn't compute. I have tried suggesting they tell me my date of birth, and if correct, I would continue the discussion. No, I am told. We are unable to disclose that information - privacy laws, you know!

I went looking for a cheaper green slip for my rego. No problem, said the smiling customer service officer at a big bank. What is your full name? What is your date of birth? What is your address? What is the rego number of the car in question? Etc etc. I replied that I only wanted the price on a green slip for a 2005 popular make of car, that I was under 75 and over 25, lived outside the metropolitan area, and had no demerit points, surely that was all she needed to know to give me a price. "No - the computer has to have all that information to give a quote," I was assured. My full name? My exact address? My exact date of birth? The rego number of my particular car? What for? What about my privacy? Does the process of getting comparative quotes have to put me at the mercy of every junk mail distributor in the world?

Our local paper recently ran a notice, inserted by a city funeral director, announcing the funeral of a former resident who left our district 50 years ago, leaving behind many friends, most of whom are dead. In recognition of the fact that this lady was a good friend of my parents, now both dead, I rang the funeral director for her family's address in order to send a sympathy card on behalf of my family. "No, privacy laws forbid us releasing the family's address. We will forward any card you wish to send."

Well, did they think that this old lady did something dastardly to my family half a century ago, and that I have been waiting ever since for just such an opportunity to even the score with her bereaved family? What absolute rot. Why do we have to accept such mindless and senseless nonsense?


Some very welcome legal immigrants to Australia

It was drizzling and 8C in County Meath yesterday but Irish carpenter Conor Foley was far from home, drinking very cold beer in a West Australian heatwave.

The 25-year-old and his girlfriend, Aisling Mooney, a beauty therapist, have been granted 457 work visas to stay in Australia for four years. It is news that has made them the envy of friends back in Ireland where a new wave of emigration is under way. "We have loads of friends who want to leave Ireland for economic reasons," said Ms Mooney. "For us, it's the lifestyle as well. Perth is just so outdoorsy and we have changed our whole way of living."

The latest exodus from Ireland coincided with the recession in 2008 that saw unemployment reach 13 per cent. It is predicted that the number of people leaving Ireland over the next two years will reach 100,000, more than twice the number that left in 2009 and last year.

In Friday's Irish election, ruling party Fianna Fail appears to have been dumped over the economic malaise that led to the IMF-EU bailout of $116 billion last year. The centre-right Fine Gael is expected to look to the centre-left Labour Party to form a coalition government.

Ms Mooney and Mr Foley are taking a keen interest in the result, but say Perth is a more optimistic place with better opportunities. They will stay regardless of what happens at home. "We want to become permanent residents, that is our next goal, and buy a house," said Ms Mooney.

Mr Foley's visa was sponsored by the large construction company he works for. His skills in building maintenance are in high demand as Western Australia's next round of resource projects looms. Ms Mooney is entitled to a visa because she is the partner of a skilled worker, but she has found her skills are sought after and has been in full-time work since their visas were issued.

The state Chamber of Commerce and Industry predicts Western Australia will need almost 500,00 extra workers over the next decade. State Training and Workplace Development Minister Peter Collier has said that attracting overseas workers would be critical.


Another prison bungle

NEW prison uniforms under fire for "camouflaging" inmates are now being labelled a fire risk.

Prison officers have claimed the new uniforms introduced last June were being reviewed because they were highly flammable.

This comes after The Courier-Mail revealed last week that Queensland Corrective Services had "camouflaged" the majority of its more than 5600 inmates with the "new-look" green, khaki and denim uniforms, making prisoners hard to spot in rural areas if they escaped.

The new prison-issue T-shirt, singlet and shorts were being made from a cotton-polyester blend, which could easily ignite and would burn rapidly.

But QCS Commissioner Kelvin Anderson hosed down claims the uniforms were unsafe. Mr Anderson said there were no plans to change them.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative