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, 2012

Public schools struggle to attract male teachers as non-government sector scores more men

Because there are fewer of them, they have more choice and many choose schools where they are free to teach, instead of having to spend half their time just trying to get the kids to sit down.  I was pleased to see the number of male teachers  in my son's private High School.  It was because of them that he became enthused about mathematics  -- and he now has a B.Sc. with a First in Mathematics

Australian High Schools are heavily sorted.  With 39% of the kids going to private schools,  all the problem kids are in the State sector.  So those who most need discipline and strong role models are least likely to get that.  If the State schools had reasonable disciplinary policies, the chaos would vanish and a career there for those who really want to teach would be more atttractive

AUSTRALIA'S public schools are in the grip of a man drought.  But it's raining men in the non-government sector, where the number of male teachers has grown 25 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the number of male teachers has dropped 2 per cent at the nation's public schools, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.

Schools have struggled to attract male teachers to the female-dominated profession.

Teachers can earn more money in the non-government sector but there can also be more demands outside school hours, such as Saturday sport.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities said the national trend was reflected at the state's schools but they also had a very low resignation rate.

Last year there were 15,274 male teachers at public schools, representing about 27 per cent of teaching staff.

In 2001, male teachers made up about 31 per cent. There were 9734 male teachers in the non-government sector - about 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. In 2001, male teachers represented 23 per cent.

A department spokesman said strategies were in place to recruit more male teachers but quality was more important than gender.

One man happy to be working in the public system is 29-year-old Mark Platt, who teaches Year 6 students at Kellyville Ridge Public School.

The school has almost 800 students from the boom suburbs in Sydney's northwest and nine male teachers - a rarity in the public primary system.

Mr Platt said the pay rate was probably the reason men were attracted to the non-government sector but he enjoyed the challenges of a public school.

"I'm happy where I am and couldn't see myself at another school," he said.

The school's assistant principal, Luke Hogan, said he chose to teach at a public school because he believed in its values.

He said male teachers could provide a positive role model to boys who may not have a man in the family home.

"Every child deserves to have access to an education, whether their families can afford it or not," he said.

James Galea, 24, is the only male teacher in his nine-person faculty at Mitchell High School in Blacktown, which he said reflected the perception that teaching was not an attractive career path for men.

The English and drama teacher said his wife taught in the non-government sector and earned more money than him but the main difference between the two sectors was facilities.


Bureaucratic takeover of Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital raises ire of doctors

DOCTORS at Queensland's biggest hospital have passed a no-confidence motion in their executive director over changes to senior medical roles they say hark back to pre-Patel days.

The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital doctors yesterday called on Queensland's yet-to-be-appointed new health minister to intervene in the dispute which they say is "potentially a disaster for patients".

At a recent emergency meeting, 120 doctors passed a "no-confidence" motion against executive director David Alcorn over his ongoing pursuit of changes to the job description of medical directors covering surgery, cancer care, women's and newborn services and critical care.

The contracts of senior doctors fulfilling the roles - Barry O'Loughlin, Roger Allison, Ian Jones and Marianne Vonau - expired last April and have not been renewed.

RBWH Medical Staff Association chairwoman Dana Wainwright said doctors were in "uproar" over changes to the job descriptions and were worried they would be rolled out to all Queensland hospitals.   "The job description is now focused on managerial skills, not patient engagement and patient outcomes," she said.

"We are very concerned that this change in focus of these vital jobs to bean-counting, rather than patient care, will take us back to the dark days of the pre-Patel era.  "The ideal model is good clinical leadership, supported by business and administration, not the other way around."

Dr Wainwright said this had been emphasised "over and over again" by Tony Morris, QC, who chaired the first aborted Bundaberg Hospital inquiry, and by the Forster inquiry into Queensland Health - both sparked by the Jayant Patel fiasco.  Patel was the Bundaberg Hospital surgeon jailed over the deaths of three patients.  Subsequent inquiries revealed a lack of oversight in the hiring process.

Dr Wainwright said she had met with Queensland Health's Metro North District CEO Keith McNeil, director-general Tony O'Connell and former health minister Geoff Wilson to discuss the doctors' concerns, but her pleas had "fallen on deaf ears".

She said the existing medical directors had unblemished records in delivering good patient care while reducing overheads and improving efficiencies.  "They are all practising doctors who have long-term service to patients at RBWH while delivering budget responsibility," she said.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said resolving the dispute would be an issue for the new minister.

Dr O'Connell said the positions were responsible for the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars of clinical services.  "These positions should be filled with highly trained and experienced clinicians who also have the proven ability to appropriately manage their resources and staff," he said.


New Qld. Premier bans mining expansion on the Darling Downs

The Darling Downs is Brisbane's food bowl but is only a small part of the State.  There is a role reversal here, however.  Leftists normally hate mining but the outgoing Labor government was more supportive of mining that Newman is.  But Newman has conservative country voters to answer to

QUEENSLAND'S new Liberal National Party government vetoed two massive coal projects after Premier Campbell Newman yesterday declared some of the nation's most fertile farmland off-limits to mining.

The decision delighted Glen Beutel, the "last man standing" in the ghost town of Acland, where Mr Newman has vowed to block New Hope Corporation's plan to double coal production to 10 million tonnes.

The ousted Bligh government had granted "significant project" status to fast-track the stage three expansion of the open-cut mine.

But the new Premier yesterday said it was "inappropriate" to expand the mine in the state's southern food bowl, 150km west of Brisbane. Mr Newman also said he would oppose the creation of Australia's first coal-to-liquids project on fertile farmland at Felton, on the Darling Downs. French company Ambre Energy claims the $3 billion project could supply one-fifth of Queensland's unleaded petrol and LPG needs.

The LNP's insistence on blocking both mines came after Queensland's Land Court ruled on Tuesday in favour of Australia's biggest open-cut coalmine at Wandoan, on fertile cattle and cropping country northeast of Brisbane. But Mr Newman said yesterday he supported Xstrata's mine at Wandoan because "this is not actually on the strategic cropping land of the Darling Downs".

"Wandoan is a different matter," he told ABC radio.  "This has been approved by the previous government, it's now been upheld by the court generally and frankly the project's going to go ahead."

A spokeswoman for Mr Newman yesterday said the LNP had been clear during the election campaign that it would not support open-cut coalmining in the Felton Valley.  "In fact, the LNP don't support open-cut coalmining on strategic cropping land anywhere in the state," she said.

"The LNP will not support the proposal for Acland stage three (because) it covers some areas of strategic cropping land, and would come too close to local communities."

Mr Newman's objections did not appear to deter the miners.  "This has been the LNP's stated position during the election campaign and we will continue to work with the new LNP government," a New Hope spokesman said.

He would not say whether the company would amend its mining proposal to try to reach a compromise with the government, whose policy addresses surging community concern over mining on farmland.

In homage to its National Party roots, the government will fast-track statutory regional plans to quarantine farmland from mining, especially coal-seam gas extraction, in the Darling Downs and the southern Scenic Rim.

Ambre Energy director Michael van Baarle said yesterday his company would not be dissuaded from pursuing the coal-to-liquid project: "We haven't had an opportunity to speak to the new government or the new bureaucracy. We've always supported protection of cropping land."

Mr Newman has also pulled the plug this week on financial support for the $1.2bn Solar Dawn solar thermal project near Chinchilla, 300km northwest of Brisbane. The showpiece of the Gillard government's $1.5bn Solar Flagships program, Solar Dawn had been promised $75 million in state funding and $464m in federal funding.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told The Australian on Tuesday the federal government would need to "consider its own position" if Queensland pulled out.

Mr Newman appeared to back down yesterday, revealing he was awaiting legal advice over the "contractual commitments" with Solar Dawn.

"We're not going to, in some silly way, cancel a contract that ends up costing taxpayers money in some sort of penalty," he said.  "I'm seeking advice on that and I haven't had a formal briefing, but my intent is clear. If we can exit this project and save, I think it is $75m, we will."

He said if the federal government wanted to proceed with Solar Dawn, his government would do everything except provide funding to make it happen.


The people will deal with Labor's drift to Green

They already have in Qld.

Dr Jeremy Sammut

In his new book, Coming Apart, Charles Murray worries about the consequences of the formation in the United States of a culturally distinctive upper class – enjoying all the benefits bestowed by high intellects, high incomes, and high status professions – that has limited knowledge and understanding of the lives and attitudes of middle America.

In Australia, this aspect of the culture wars is usually discussed in political terms of ‘inner city trendies,’ with a preference for pro-Greens policies versus ‘ordinary’ Australians, aka ‘the battlers,’ with families and mortgages in the outer suburbs.

Murray does not explore the electoral consequences of the growing divide between the so-called ‘best’ and the rest in great detail. I wonder whether this is because in democratic polities, the ‘problem’ of political elitism is often self-correcting.

It is true that members of the political class these days are predominantly drawn from among university-educated elites. But politicians who ignore the values and aspirations of average voters, and become obsessed with fashionable ‘progressive’ causes of the moment to the exclusion of core or mainstream preoccupations (jobs, livings standards, transport, etc.), are liable to have brief careers.

This appears to be one of the chief lessons of the catastrophic defeat suffered by the Labor government at last weekend’s Queensland state election. The fall in Labor’s parliamentary representation from 51 seats to just seven speaks of a formidable talent for alienating average voters.

The more astute on both sides of politics appear to recognise this. Commenting on Queensland Labor’s annihilation, federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson warned his party against embracing Greens-style anti-coal hysteria, which leaves most voters cold.

‘If you think you can smash up the coal seam gas industry and harvest votes from that,’ Emerson told Sky News, ‘you’re wrong.’

The same point concerning the ‘policy inflection that’s come from the Greens’ was made in a more entertaining fashion by Senator Barnaby Joyce on ABC’s Lateline:
We can’t build a dam anymore because it’s all impossible. It’s too difficult.

Everything every time we try to make a decision to take our nation forward, to build something constructive, there is someone who stands up and says that that affects the way they see the world and therefore we can’t do it.

And they get garlands of roses thrown at their feet in Canberra, but what happens in the regions such as Queensland is you get voted out of office and the Labor Party have seen that tonight.

So, if you want to get away from the nanny state, get away from Green policies that just drag you into oblivion. And as soon as the Labor Party works that and drops crazy ideas, just dippy, loopy ideas such as the carbon tax, well the better off they will be and maybe they’ll have a chance of rebuilding.

There is more to this than a gratuitous political sledge. The policy failures of the Beattie and Bligh governments included refusing to build new dams (which arguably contributed to the scale of the devastating Brisbane floods of 2011 by delaying the release of flood water from the Wivenhoe Dam) and the Wild Rivers legislation, which banned all economic development in areas such as Cape York in return for Greens-preferences.

So if you can get past the confusion of concepts and garbled presentation, Senator Joyce has expressed a pertinent piece of political wisdom. Ultimately – and I think compulsory voting plays a part in producing this outcome in Australia – the demos can be trusted to solve the problem of political elitism by casting the trendies and all their works into the wasteland of electoral defeat.


30 March, 2012

Catholic Church marshalls anti-gay marriage army

SIX Catholic bishops in Victoria will circulate 80,000 letters this weekend asking their parishioners to show the federal government their opposition to same sex marriage.

There are currently three gay marriage private member's bills before Federal Parliament, aimed at changing the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The bishops want all Catholics to contact their MPs and respond to an online survey being conducted by the Federal Parliament Standing Committee of Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

The Bishop of Sale, Christopher Prowse, said it would be a grave mistake with implications for the future of society should the legal definition of marriage be changed.

"We have asked Catholics to seriously reflect and pray about the ramifications for current and future generations of legislation which completely redefines marriage," Bishop Prowse said.

One bishop said the push was about protecting traditional marriage, and while today's discussion was on same-sex laws, "next it might be polygamy", reported the Herald Sun.

Marriage equality supporters have described the church's campaign as "alarmist" and rejected claims gay marriage would undermine family life or damage society.

"Families and societies are only strengthened when couples are allowed to commit to each other through marriage," national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said.

"So to hear Archbishop Hart discouraging any recognition of this commitment is extraordinary and heartless."

A private bill, amending the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples, has been introduced to federal parliament by Labor MP Stephen Jones.

Another bill is being jointly proposed by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie.

Both bills have been referred to parliamentary committees for detailed examination.
A third bill, proposed by the Greens, will be considered in the Senate.

Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, said people of her faith should look at a range of information sources to formulate their views.

"I've come to a position, with a fully-formed conscience, that I support gay marriage," she told ABC Television.

"I would encourage all Catholics to apply critical thinking to this issue."

Ms Keneally said the teachings of the church were not infallible although it was important people take heed of what their parish priest or bishop was saying.

"But it's equally important for them to consider how they in good conscience must act."


Paracetamol to blame for mother's liver failure IN HOSPITAL

This is inexcusable negligence. The public are often unaware of the dangers of paracetamol but that is no excuse in hospitals

A MOTHER died from liver failure after being accidentally poisoned with paracetamol in hospital.  A coroner said the death of Elsa Harrington, 45, was "rare" but highlighted the need to improve awareness about the widely used drug.

Ms Harrington had been well before a hysterectomy for fibroids in September 2002.

The Coroners Court heard over the next six weeks Ms Harrington had abdominal pain, vomiting and lost 10kg.  She was admitted to Frankston Hospital on October 31, 2002, for a small bowel obstruction and underwent surgery but her recovery was slow.

Doctors prescribed 1g of paracetamol four times a day, with hospital records showing she took only 1g three times a day for four days.

During that time Ms Harrington's health began to deteriorate, first with chest pain, vomiting and shortness of breath, then loss of alertness.  A series of tests failed to find the cause and by November 10, 2002, she was unconscious and transferred to intensive care.

An inquest heard a test then discovered her high paracetamol levels and efforts were made to treat her liver toxicity.

Ms Harrington was transferred to the Austin Hospital for an urgent liver transplant, but was too unstable to undergo the operation and died on November 13, 2002.

An autopsy found the paracetamol level in her body to be "exceedingly high".  Coroner Audrey Jamieson said medical staff could have done more to find the cause of Ms Harrington's declining health earlier.



Five current articles below

Federal  Resources Minister Martin Ferguson flays green `guerillas'

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has hit out at tactics used by -"guerilla" environmental groups, warning a decline in productivity could mean Australia misses out on new resources projects.

    His comments came as major investors Rio Tinto, Shell and ConocoPhillips warned that coal and coal seam gas projects could be marginalised and investment pushed overseas as Australia became an expensive place to do business.

    Mr Ferguson told The Australian Financial Review's National Energy Conference in Brisbane yesterday that green groups were wrong to think there was a fossil fuel conspiracy "which starts in my office" and attacked them for trying to stifle investment. "We must also recognise there are some who seek to manipulate those concerns, and use guerilla tactics through regulatory processes to frustrate economic development and job creation," he said.

    Mr Ferguson's defence of the industry came as he weathered a storm from big investors who told the conference that red tape and high costs were a handbrake on the industry.

    "Five years ago, Australia was the cheapest place for Rio Tinto to do business, now it is the most expensive," said Bill Champion, Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director.

    Mr Champion argued that a rise in costs and lower productivity had hit the global miner's coal business.

    Two of Australia's largest energy investors, Shell and ConocoPhillips, flagged similar worries for the country's $220 billion-strong liquefied natural gas industry.

    The president of Conoco's Australian operations, Todd Creeger, warned of the risks of local ventures losing out to rivals in lower cost locations overseas. Separately, Shell's Australian head, Ann Pickard, said there were challenges for Australia as a high-cost gas supply location.

    Mr Creeger said: "Australia needs to work on its cost structure. I don't think the supply-demand situation will have a material impact unless Australia blows out on costs. When you sort the projects around the globe, Australia tends to be on the high side."

    Tactics used by environmental groups have been an issue for industry figures. Earlier this month, a Greenpeace plan to raise $6 million to disrupt and delay new coalmines sparked widespread concern from resources executives.

    The draft proposal, titled "Stopping the coal export boom", aimed to make some projects unviable. It said 2012-13 would be critical years in stopping "tens of billions of dollars in investment being locked in".

    Mr Ferguson said yesterday that instead of focusing on balanced solutions and constructive outcomes, "many of these groups are fundamentally anti-growth and refuse to address the realities and complexities of our modern economy".


Victoria's carbon target scrapped

A PLAN to cut Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next decade is set to be dumped by the Baillieu government on the basis that it would merely lighten the load imposed on other states.

An independent review of the state's key climate change laws, to be released today, has found "no compelling case" to keep the target following the introduction of the Commonwealth's minimum target to cut emissions by 5 per cent, to be mainly achieved through Labor's carbon tax.

It said keeping the larger state target operating with a smaller national target would put a disproportionately large burden on Victoria, with no benefit to the environment because other states would do less.

It also concludes that keeping the state scheme in place would distort the national scheme as Victoria did more than its share.

The former Brumby government introduced legislation to cut emissions 20 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 after the failure of the Rudd government's carbon trading scheme to pass Parliament.

In opposition, the state Coalition said it supported the 20 per cent target. After taking power in 2010, senior ministers started describing it as "aspirational".

Premier Ted Baillieu has previously backed the concept of a carbon price as the cheapest way to cut emissions. Despite this, his government is opposed to the  carbon tax, claiming it will hit Victoria  harder than other states because of its reliance of brown coal.

State Environment Minister Ryan Smith said there was "bipartisan support" for the 5per cent national target. But the government's position on how it should be achieved in the absence of a carbon tax remains unclear, given its earlier support for so-called market-based mechanisms.

Mr Smith said Victoria would do its fair share  on cutting emissions. "We will look to support practical areas such as improving energy efficiency," he said.

The review referred to research concluding that even with a Commonwealth carbon tax, meeting the 20 per cent target would have required Victoria to spend an additional $2.2 billion buying permits internationally to offset state emissions.

The  government also points to the 2009 climate  green paper released by the Brumby government, which said: "The government does not see any benefit in legislating for a state-based emissions reduction target that is inconsistent with a national target." A later Brumby government climate white paper  does not contain a similar statement.

The government says it will retain other climate change initiatives,  including  a four-year climate change adaptation plan and supporting Victorians offsetting their emissions and participating in the national Carbon Farming Initiative.

Labor climate spokeswoman Lisa Neville said dumping the target would "hurt investment, jobs and the environment. It betrays the trust of Victorians who care about reducing the state's carbon footprint".

Environment Victoria chief  Kelly O'Shanassy said the  target had been about cutting pollution from the economy and attracting clean energy investment. "Either the Baillieu government doesn't understand the threat climate change presents, or they are ignoring it," she said.

"Either way it's an irresponsible decision environmentally and economically ... Premier Baillieu has caved in to the demands of a handful of polluters instead of acting to protect the environment and the public interest."

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper welcomed the decision, saying it was important for business to have consistency across the country. "You simply can't have a different requirement in one part of the country, different emissions targets in different states, for industry working across state lines," he said.

A spokesman for federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said: "While a carbon price is the most cost-effective way for Australia to cut our pollution there is still a role for cost-effective state and local initiatives that complement the carbon price."

"We encourage the Victorian government to support carbon pricing as the most economically-efficient way of tackling climate change."

Former federal government climate adviser Ross Garnaut said: "I see no need for separate state emissions targets if there is an appropriate national target and policies to make sure we meet the national target."

The Baillieu government's move  has been mirrored by the incoming government in Queensland, which is planning to save $661 million over three years by dumping a range of state-based climate change initiatives.


Gillard Government 'way out of step' on carbon tax says Reserve Bank board member

THE Gillard Government is "way out of step" with what most Australians and Australian businesses think about the carbon tax, according to the head of a leading employer association and Reserve Bank board member, Heather Ridout.

Ms Ridout, who is also the chief executive of Ai Group, the outgoing chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, urged the government to take another look at the $23 a tonne tax which takes effect from July 1.

She said she was "concerned" about the impact the Australian price - which is at least double some international carbon prices - would have on the economy.

"I don't know how much more pressure can be brought to bear on the government and on the Greens on this issue because they are way out of step with what most Australians and Australian business think," Ms Ridout told ABC Radio this morning.

"And the Queensland election result, I'm not sure how much carbon played in it, but there's this feeling that people aren't listening."

The EU emissions trading price recently collapsed to about $10, while one forecaster recently predicted the international carbon price could tank to $5 by 2020.

Ms Ridout's plea to the government came as the federal opposition's climate action spokesman Greg Hunt demanded that Prime Minister Julia Gillard insist that electricity and gas companies include details of the carbon tax in their bills to Australian households.

The coalition has written to Ms Gillard asking her to ensure electricity and gas retailers insert a line item in bills to households and businesses post 1 July, which specifies the cost of the tax.

"The Prime Minister has claimed that the electricity prices will go up 10 per cent and gas charges 9 per cent under the carbon tax," Mr Hunt said.

"The Australian people deserve to know if that promise is kept. That can only be achieved by power and gas bills detailing how much the carbon tax has added to their overall charge. Anything less, will be a cover-up."

Mr Hunt said if Ms Gillard failed to act and provide the necessary transparency, the coalition would introduce a private members bill when parliament resumes in May.

"If the Prime Minister is confident that prices will not be higher than the Treasury figures, then she should have nothing to hide and insist that the details are on the bills and easy to read," Mr Hunt said.


Carbon tax worst economic reform, says outgoing Future Fund chief

Outgoing Future Fund chairman David Murray has given a searing exit interview, blasting the carbon tax as the worst economic reform he has ever seen.

"If you want me to tell you my view, it is the worst piece of economic reform that I've ever seen in my lifetime," Mr Murray told ABC radio this morning.

Mr Murray, who is due to finish at the Future Fund next month, said that the "notion" of the carbon tax was not the issue, it was the "consequences".

He said it would raise costs within Australia and reduce Australia's competitiveness in energy exports. "[It] therefore renders us less competitive in the future," he said.

Mr Murray said Australia should look to reducing its energy consumption rather than introduce the carbon tax.

"The sweet spot in dealing with the climate problem is to reduce reliance on energy," he said.

Mr Murray added to his previous criticism of the mining tax by saying that it was "clumsily" introduced and "clumsily" designed.

Mr Murray was first appointed to the Future Fund in 2005 and reappointed for one year from April 2011.  Before that, he spent 39 years at the Commonwealth Bank.

In the interview, Mr Murray also said it would not have been a bad idea to appoint former treasurer and Future Fund board member Peter Costello as his successor.

He said Mr Costello - who was the board's choice for chairmanship - would have been in a "unique" position to lead the Future Fund, given that he founded it and is a former treasurer.

"You could expect Peter above all to stringently support the independence of the fund," Mr Murray said.
But Mr Murray also said that new chairman, businessman David Gonski, would be a good appointment.

"There's no question of that," he said, noting his stature within the business community.

Mr Gonksi was originally given the task of reporting to the government on who should replace Mr Murray for a five-year term.

Mr Gonski found that Mr Costello had the "strong endorsement" of the board, before he himself was appointed as chairman earlier this month - provoking strong criticism from the former treasurer.

Mr Costello, who has since been appointed by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to conduct an audit of the state's finances, said the selection process damaged the Fund's reputation and called it a "shemozzle".

The $73-billion Future Fund was established in 2006 by the Howard government to help pay for public sector superannuation.


Sea level hoax hits Northern NSW coastal properties

By Cliff Ollier, a geologist, geomorphologist, emeritus professor at the University of Western Australia

THE Weekend Australian reported on March 24 that Port Macquarie Hastings Council was recommending the enforcement of a "planned retreat" because of an alleged danger from sea-level rise in the (distant) future.

    The controversy has two main aspects: is the alarming rise in sea level projected by CSIRO reliable? And is moving people from near-shore sites the correct response?

    The CSIRO projection is extreme, but before explaining why, I would note that the world's main source of alarmism is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is not really a scientific body but one that adjusts data and subjects it to mathematical modelling before passing its "projections" on to politicians.

    The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, then further adjust data and produce models with even more extreme scenarios.

    In The Weekend Australian on November 7, 2009, the director of the National Tidal Centre of the BOM, Bill Mitchell, reported an Australian average sea-level rise of 1.7mm a year. This is a reasonable level accepted by most sea-level watchers outside the IPCC and CSIRO and gives a sea-level rise of about 15cm by 2100. He said the "upper end was 3mm a year", which gives a 27cm rise by 2100.

    At 8.30am on November 18, 2009, ABC Radio National had a program on sea-level changes. National Sea Change Taskforce executive director Alan Stokes said: "The IPCC estimate of rise to 2100 was up to 80cm." No new data was provided to explain the leap and, in fact, the worst estimate by IPCC in its last report was 59cm.

    Note that the IPCC estimates have been falling with each report. In its second assessment report the high-end projection of sea-level rise to 2100 was 92cm, in the third assessment report 88cm, and the fourth 59cm. It is good for the reader to look at sea-level measurements. You can see the sea-level data for the US and a few other countries here. Most stations show a rise of sea level of about 2mm a year, but note the considerable variations even within a single state, though these are no cause for alarm.

    The CSIRO uses figures far in excess of even the IPCC, which until now were the greatest alarmists. In its 2012 report, State of the Climate, the CSIRO says that since 1993 sea levels have risen up to 10mm a year in the north and west. That means that somewhere has had a 19cm-rise in sea level since 1993. Where is this place? The European satellite says that sea levels have been constant for the past eight years.

    How does the CSIRO arrive at its figures? Not from new data but by modelling. Models depend on what is put into them. For example a 2009 report, The Effect of Climate Change on Extreme Sea Levels in Port Phillip Bay, by the CSIRO for the Victorian government's Future Coasts Program, based its model on temperature projections to 2100 of up to 6.4C. That compares with the most extreme, fuel-intensive scenario of the IPCC and implies unbelievable CO2 concentration levels in 2100 of about 1550 parts per million.


29 March, 2012

Qld.: Woolworths part-timer takes  "safe" Labor seat for the LNP

He does have a degree so he is no dummy but it does show how toxic the Labor brand has become.  Tony Abbott is going to be leading another large band of happy warriors in Parliament next year if not sooner.  Surely the Federal Greens and independents will now want to unshackle themselves from the corpse that the ALP has become

Campbell Newman's emphasis on politicians being servants of the people is very refreshing  in the context of Green/Left arrogance and is in keeping with my prior impression of his attitude.  I think he will  be in power for a long time, mercifully for Queensland

HIS last job was part-time at Woolworths, he lives with his parents and now he's a Member of Parliament.

Neil Symes claimed by a whisker the long-time Labor stronghold of Lytton, on Brisbane's bayside, at the weekend's Queensland election.  It was a win even the LNP did not predict.

In a sign of how much voters turned on the Bligh Government last Saturday, the 23-year-old will now swap his meagre Woolies deli pay packet for a six-figure salary and the surrounds of State Parliament in his first full-time job.

Premier Campbell Newman yesterday warned his large team they were not elected "for personal or financial reward" and were expected to act as servants of Queenslanders.

Mr Symes lives at southside Wishart - beyond the bounds of his new electorate - but said he was planning his first move out of home and into Lytton soon.

That would be a big step for Mr Symes, who said his parents helped out by easing his weekly food and rent costs "depending on circumstances".

But the newly-minted MP insisted he could still relate to the battlers he now represents because he learnt a lot door-knocking during the campaign.

"I know that petrol prices go up, I know that the cost of food goes up and electricity and water . . . so that's where I can relate to the people because I've seen it firsthand," he said.

"I was actually working in the supermarket sector through the seafood and delicatessen departments, so that's what I bring to Parliament is a good work ethic."

He replaced one-time ALP deputy premier and former attorney-general Paul Lucas, who retired after 15 years.

Before that, the seat had been held since its creation in 1972 by former federal Labor president and Queensland deputy premier Tom Burns.

Mr Symes narrowly beat Mr Lucas's expected successor and local identity Daniel Cheverton, who conceded via Facebook on Monday.

More than half (46) of the LNP's 77 MPs are parliamentary first-timers.

Mr Symes completed a criminology and human services degree in 2009 but put the skills into action for only about nine months while working at an Acacia Ridge community centre.

Since then, he has worked an average 30 hours a week at the Garden City Woolworths, quitting in January to contest the March election.

Mr Symes said he wore the badge of youngest LNP MP with "real honour".


How delusional can you get?  Carbon tax will turn tide in our favour, says Gillard

It's clear that she is from Labor's reality-deprived Left faction.  Doesn't she realize that everybody who can will put their prices up and blame it on her tax?

JULIA Gillard intends to tough out her dramatic collapse in support in opinion polling, convinced the looming introduction of the carbon tax will allow her to regain control of national political debate by exposing Tony Abbott as a scaremonger.

But Labor insiders are continuing to warn that the Prime Minister's broken promise over the introduction of the $23-a-tonne tax has so badly undermined her public standing among voters that she must address the integrity issue and change her political style. As Ms Gillard and her advisers put their faith in seeking to shift the political debate towards the economy yesterday, the Coalition chimed in on cue with an internet video ridiculing her claim on Monday that voters could trust her to manage the economy by highlighting her pre-2010 election promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

The mocking came as federal Labor reeled from the latest Newspoll, which shows its primary vote plunged three percentage points to 28 per cent in the past fortnight -- wiping out recent gains and pushing the party to its record low of 26 per cent recorded last September. The poll, published in yesterday's edition of The Australian, was taken nationwide last weekend, as voters in Queensland hammered the Labor government of Anna Bligh out of office, stripping it of 43 seats in its worst result on record.

Yesterday, despite calls within sections of Labor for Ms Gillard to change her style, government sources said the Prime Minister understood the serious implications of the Queensland election result, but believed that after the carbon tax was introduced on July 1, voters would see the dishonesty of the Opposition Leader's campaign to convince peopel they would be harmed by the new levy.

This would allow Ms Gillard to regain the ascendancy and begin to focus attention on Mr Abbott, particularly over the economy.

Ms Gillard, visiting South Korea for a nuclear safety conference, said she accepted that Labor needed to listen more to voters across the country. "But my job is to both listen and lead and that's what I will be doing as Prime Minister," she said. "I will be continuing to deliver the important policies that will make a difference for the future of Queensland and the future of the country."

She would not comment on the Newspoll, but said she believed the "lived experience" of the carbon tax after July 1 would expose the "silly claims" of the opposition and the "occasional shock-horror headlines" about the carbon tax, and focus public attention on government compensation for people to help them cope with the effects of the change. Despite her comments, a senior Labor source in Queensland said that if federal Labor did not heed the message about broken promises, it risked a repeat of the Queensland rout.

"The voters could not have been more clear," said the source, asking for anonymity. "They are tired of spin and they don't like broken promises."

Mr Abbott, continuing his annual Pollie Pedal fundraising event, said the Prime Minister was "in denial". "I think the Queensland election is a verdict on governments which don't tell the truth and I think that's a real problem for the Prime Minister," he said.


Kate Ellis under fire over nanny slur

Stupid woman

CHILDCARE Minister Kate Ellis has been accused of inciting class rivalry after saying the childcare rebate should not be extended to nannies because they were chauffeurs and chefs hired to do the ironing.

Ms Ellis accused Tony Abbott of intending to cut assistance for low-income families by extending the non-means-tested rebate - which allows families to claim 50 per cent of approved childcare costs, with a cap of $7500 - to the unregulated nanny sector.

"I think that when we have a look at nannies we see that they're often chauffeurs, they're often chefs . . . some of them do ironing, some of them do the washing and the household chores," Ms Ellis said yesterday. "Tony Abbott has made clear that any nanny subsidies will come from 'the existing funding envelope'. That means cutting the assistance given to families through the childcare benefit or childcare rebate. The nanny industry is unregulated and there are no quality assurance requirements in place. This new policy is undeveloped and uncosted and will hit hard-working, low-income families who rely on childcare the hardest."

Opposition childcare spokeswoman Sussan Ley accused Ms Ellis of inciting class war and said she was wrong to say the Coalition wanted to deprive women of existing resources. "I'm sure Labor would be delighted to make this some sort of class war; well, it's not, and again proves why Kate Ellis shouldn't be in the job," she said. "The Coalition's call for a Productivity Commission report is simply reading that mood and looking at what real families are saying and doing to care for their kids. What is the minister scared of? Whether it is using a nanny, grandparents or occasional care, parents are voting with their feet to find realistic and affordable options."

Former University of Canberra chancellor and director of McCarthy Mentoring, Wendy McCarthy, said childcare centres did not always meet the needs of working women, citing the 24-hour childcare centre established at Star City when she was a director of the Sydney casino. "We put in 24-hour childcare but we found . . . most people don't want to take their kids to work and pick them up at 4 o'clock in the morning," she said. "I think we should demolish the argument about nannies being just for rich women . . . (It's) such an old argument, it's just horrible. The system assumes that we still live a life of Monday to Friday, nine to five, and I just think you've got to get over it."

Feminist academic Eva Cox said subsidising nannies could lead to calls for cheap labour from overseas.

The director of Melbourne's Leading Nanny Agency and mother of three Annie Sargood slammed Ms Ellis for what she said was inverted snobbery.  "The childcare benefit is actually paying for chefs in childcare centres and cleaners who come in after hours, so why can't a nanny come in and do the same thing in a home environment?" she said.

Mr Abbott yesterday said the Coalition, if elected, would ask the Productivity Commission to consider how childcare could deliver for families in regional and remote areas, and for shift workers.


Talking out of their vaginas

Eve Ensler wrote a play called the Vagina Monologues and, following this, helped begin the V-Day Movement to end violence against women and girls. She came to Australia last month to deliver the annual Australian Human Rights Centre lecture in Sydney.

The ABC interviewed Ensler on its news analysis program, Lateline (Ensler, We don't own our bodies: Ensler, 2012). The ABC describes this program as ".a provocative, challenging and intelligent window on today's world." They continue to say, "Lateline engages the foremost experts or commentators. to bring you penetrating insights from a range of perspectives (ABC, 2012)."

The foremost expert or commentator who interviewed Ensler was Emma Alberici, who has some twenty years experience in journalism.

This, dear reader, is what passes for "an intelligent window" in Australia today.

Alberici begins the interview with a general question about her play. Ensler opens up with how "everyone" was scandalised with the word "vagina" in the 1990s. She claims that "you could say `Scud Missile' on the front pages." but, apparently "if you said vagina the whole world went crazy. "

The next part is worth quoting verbatim:

"And I think part of the reason of doing the play was that so many women I had interviewed had not only, not said the word vagina, they never saw their vaginas, they didn't know what they looked like, they didn't know how their vaginas functioned, they didn't know what gave them pleasure. They didn't even know their vaginas were their own."

In the 1970s I attended college in Scotland. In my class, a Computer Science course, the gender mix was 50/50. Every single woman on that course knew the word vagina, and a whole lot of other words for the vagina. Twenty years later, when Ensler wrote her play, and the word vagina has mysteriously vanished from the western woman's vocabulary?

I'm glad that Ensler points out that they had never seen their vaginas. I immediately became aware that I have never seen my own anus.

The real question, of course, is: so f*cking what?

To what level should a woman understand how her vagina functions? For example, should she be able to discuss in detail what part Bartholin's glands play?

And why? Does Ensler know how her thyroid glands work? Does she understand how wax gets in the outer ear? As long as she knows which end to stick over the toilet, where to put the tampon, etc. does it really matter?

Ensler's final statement, that women ".didn't even know their vaginas were their own," is feminism at its finest. Alberici doesn't ask "Who did they think their vaginas belonged to?" Or, "Were they just renting them?" Or "If I kicked them in the vagina, who did they think would feel it?"

Ensler tries to paint herself as the radical who is not afraid to break taboos. And to do this she will use any word she chooses, no matter how upset the establishment gets. The fact is that when the play was written and first performed in the nineties, the word "vagina" was seen as a proper and polite term to describe female genitalia. You could have "The Vagina Monologues" on a bill board and in neon lights. It may have been titillating, perhaps, even risqu‚, but certainly short of scandalous in Western society in the nineties.

Ensler informs us that in China the play was banned because the Chinese only had vulgar and derogatory words for vagina.

Speaking of scandalous and vulgar words, the Vagina Monologues uses the word "cunt" 30 times. Now that word, all by itself, ensures an "Adults Only" rating in Australia. You can say it in a play with that rating, but you won't be having "The Cunt Monologues" in neon on Main Street.

But Alberici doesn't ask if it was the translation of "vagina" or "cunt" that caused the Chinese such problems.

In fact, the Shanghai Drama Centre was told by the Chinese authorities who banned the play that ".it does not fit with China's national situation (USA Today, 2004)." Did Alberici ask Ensler if she was surprised that a Western play written by a "Human Rights Activist" was banned in China in 2004? No, she just lets Ensler give us the sacred babble.

There are two serious aspects about her play that Alberici should have raised with Ensler, particularly given the "Human Rights Activist" tag.

The first is a section of the play which deals with the seduction of a girl by woman, which involves the woman giving the child alcohol as part of the seduction. In one version of the script I found the girl is sixteen (Ensler, Vagina Monolgues Script - The Dialogue, 1996). However, there have been reports of other versions of the script where the child was aged as young as thirteen (Swope, 2006).

In January this year a 29 year old female teacher was found guilty of the crime of having sex with a sixteen year old female student in Melbourne, Australia (Lowe, 2012). Also, note that the legal age for drinking alcohol in Australia is eighteen.  In other words, Ensler's play is describing an act that is illegal in Australia, as well as immoral anywhere.

Ensler's monologue describes the seduction from the point of view of the child. It concludes:

"You know, I realized later, she was my surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation. She transformed my sorry-ass coochie snorcher [vagina] and raised it up into a kind of heaven."

In other words, this manipulation into a sexual act was good for the child.

This blas‚ attitude is also seen in another monologue in the play, where Ensler's heroine dominates women during sex. The dialogue explains:

"Sometimes I used force, but not violent, oppressing force, no.  More like dominating, `I'm gonna take you someplace, why don't you lay back, enjoy the ride' kind of force."

So clearly, according to Ensler, domination and child sex abuse are alright when done in a feminist context. When men rape its rape, when women rape it's "salvation," so "lie back and enjoy the ride".

Alberici does not ask one thing about this. How's that for "a range of perspectives"? That's the "let's ignore it completely" perspective.


28 March, 2012

Truth falls victim to the sparkling stone

"Finkelstein" is German/Yiddish for sparkling stone or gemstone. Judge Finkelstein seems to think he's one. Britain has a similar inquiry into the press that is still ongoing -- under Lord Justice Leveson. One hopes its recommendations will be less Fascistic

TELL the truth. Speak truth to power. These phrases are so familiar that we rarely stop to understand them. But in a coming age of censorship heralded by political phenomena such as hate speech legislation and the Finkelstein inquiry, humanity's relationship with truth is at breaking point.

Universities are partly to blame for events such as the Finkelstein inquiry. There is a veritable canon stretching from Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals to Paul Berman's The Flight of the Intellectuals, which documents the fate of academics from the Left and Right who dared to tell unpalatable truths. Many were exiled or resigned their university posts on pain of ostracism.

Australian academics' latent refusal to have their intellectual activity monitored by the new sector regulator, the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency, breathed life into the idea of intellectual freedom. But it doesn't appear to have vivified the liberty of the press.

The Finkelstein recommendations may do to the media in the 21st century what was done to higher education in the 20th.

Finkelstein, with his panel of lawyers and academics, proposes meta-regulation of the press under the lunatic pretext that gagging freedom of speech will expand democracy. They commend a progressive silencing of the press as beneficial to the public interest because "often readers are not in a position to make an appropriately informed judgment about the news". I beg your pardon?

Almost 100 pages later, we are told why we readers are apparently so witless: "Because of information asymmetry, readers are seldom in a position to judge the quality of news stories."

Information asymmetry sounds very much like the obfuscating language introduced into the higher education humanities by postmodernists in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was inevitably accompanied by the claim that there was no such thing as objective truth, the acceptance of which was supposedly prerequisite to social justice. Fret not, fellow witless reader; I never understood it either.

In fact, the culture of contemporary censorship makes little sense until you read the finest analysis of political phenomena such as the Finkelstein inquiry by philosopher John Ralston Saul: "The idea of governments invoking the public interest, as a justification for taking unjust or illegal action, has been with us since the French satirist Mathurin Regnier coined the phrase in 1609. Now raison d'etat is being turned into a blanket principle: the technocrat knows best."

On the 20th anniversary of Voltaire's Bastards, Ralston Saul has never looked more prescient. The technocrats became cultivated in their craft at leading universities that, by the 1970s, had come to resemble management schools.

What technocrats don't understand is the nature of truth; how to search for it, how to prove or disprove it and what to do with it. Their lack of knowledge about truth proves a significant impediment to the formation of public policy based on principle, rather than partisan political ideology.

The Finkelstein review's great undoing is that is has not established truth. It is deeply methodologically flawed, with statements of fact that lack supporting evidence, a line of causative argument without established cause and effect, and recommendations, however persuasively put, that consequently lack credibility.

A major claim of the report is that the Australian media is failing the public interest. There are five examples of malicious media action provided late in the report and reference to the News of the World phone hacking scandal as the origin of the inquiry. But the core evidence provided for the apparent failure of the media and subsequent recommendation for meta-regulation of the free press is a series of opinion surveys.

As Plato, Socrates and Galileo would tell us, opinion, however popular, is not truth. Nor is perception proof. The statement "I don't trust the media", which appears in the surveys, tells us nothing about the state of the media. It tells us simply that someone doesn't trust it. Public mistrust may very well be the result of a newspaper fulfilling its duty to tell the truth. Imagine a 17th-century newspaper running a series of articles on Galileo's discovery that the world was round. The Finkelstein inquiry proposes that the news media should be regulated for perceived bias and balance. So what would Galileo's reporters do -- report that the world was round-ish?

The pursuit of truth, once the common ground of journalists and academics, was sustained as an intellectual tradition by classical liberal arts universities that taught formal logic as a method of deducing fact. Formal logic was devised by Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, championed by the Enlightenment freethinkers and revived by 20th- and 21st-century philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, Hannah Arendt and A.C. Grayling. The willingness to seek truth, the ability to deduce it and the courage to publish it are what make a citizen truly free. The philosophical and legal recognition of citizen freedoms, tempered by John Stuart Mill's principle of not causing harm to another, is what makes a state democratic. Regulating the free press in the manner recommended by the Finkelstein inquiry violates these principles.

Jacob Mchangama, a lecturer in international human rights at the University of Copenhagen, wrote that "respect for freedom of expression is the hallmark of free societies and the first right to be circumscribed by illiberal states". Eleanor Roosevelt, that great democrat who drafted the UN Declaration of Human Rights, might have agreed with him. Roosevelt warned humanity about the suppression of freedom under the guise of protecting citizens against hostile speech. She was concerned in particular with Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been used successfully to lobby for anti-vilification laws in Australia and other Western countries.

In combination with hate speech laws, the proposed media meta-regulation recommended by the Finkelstein inquiry transforms the future of 21st-century journalism. In the new media landscape, journalists will be allowed to create their sentences from a pre-approved vocabulary, draw their own inferences from a sanctioned pool of populism and publish their own conclusions within the parameters of state ideology. It's freedom y'all. Wake up and smell the doublespeak.


Bob Katter's Australian Party wins where ALP fails

BOB Katter's party stung Labor more than the LNP with its political debut last weekend.

An analysis of the Queensland election by The Courier-Mail shows that, on average across the state, Katter's Australian Party took 30.81 per cent of ALP votes.

The figures follow a call from Federal LNP Senator Ron Boswell to put the KAP's impact on the LNP into perspective.

Senator Boswell said while KAP may have hurt Labor, it probably only cost the LNP one seat.

"The KAP will now have two seats in the new Queensland Parliament," Senator Boswell said.

"Compare this to One Nation in 1998 - they gained 11 new seats, and all of those members are now history."

The figures show there were only 11 electorates where the KAP took less than 10 per cent of the ALP's 2009 votes.

The KAP took the lowest number of votes from ALP in Ashgrove, with 3.02 per cent.

But in the regional seats of Dalrymple, Gympie, Hinchinbrook and Nanango, KAP swallowed up the bulk of Labor's 2009 vote.

In Condamine, Beaudesert, Callide, Maryborough and Mount Isa, it also elbowed the ALP aside to create two-horse races.

The KAP's Brisbane office is still refusing to concede defeat in the far northern seats of Thuringowa, Mulgrave and Hinchinbrook, where counting continues.

Senator Boswell said KAP may have cost the LNP the seat of Mulgrave, which looks to be staying with Labor.

But he said despite KAP's serious impact on the Labor vote, the party would not survive in the federal arena.

Senator Boswell said KAP had lost its state leader Aidan McLindon in Beaudesert, but also its star candidate in the Kingaroy-based seat of Nanango, former Test cricketer Carl Rackemann.

Senator Boswell sad KAP performance had to be put into perspective.

"Whilst we need to give Katter some credit for the 11.6 per cent of the vote his party got on Saturday, the reality is most of it came from Labor," he said.

The retention of one seat and a win in Mount Isa was not the "outstanding electoral wave Bob Katter would have us all believe," he said.

"For all of Bob Katter's protestations on election night, the reality is his party won one seat and his influence in the Queensland Government will be zero."

"The KAP is not the third major political force in Australian politics."


Nice doggie

POLICE dog squad officer Wayne Algie says his trusty canine colleague Bosun is as good as 10 humans.

Bosun has become one of the Queensland Police Service's most valuable staff members, involved in the thick of the action on the thin blue frontline.

The seven-year-old German shepherd helped catch the alleged killers of Gold Coast detective Senior Constable Damien Leeding last May.

Six months earlier, Bosun tracked and attacked a burglar during a wild chase in which the offender tried to flee across the Nerang River.

Earlier this month, Bosun was injured by two vicious dogs during the arrest of an Upper Coomera man, who was later charged with offences including drug production and possession of a weapon.

And on Sunday night, in his first shift back on duty, Bosun helped catch the driver of a stolen car who fled into bushland.

Police allegedly found a loaded rifle and housebreaking implements in the car.

Sen-Constable Algie, who has had Bosun since he was a pup, said his furry workmate was among the best in the dog squad.

"He's a hard dog," he said. "He's got drive and a good work ethic. Dogs like him are worth 10 blokes with the amount of work they do."

Bosun lives with Sen-Constable Algie and his family.  "I'm his chauffeur and personal butler," he said.

Despite his continued heroics, Bosun is approaching retirement age and Sen-Constable Algie will get a new pup to train in May. But he won't be parted from his best mate as Bosun is set to retire to the Algie backyard.



Four recent reports below

Heh!  New conservative Qld. Premier gives Greenie bureaucrat the job of undoing his work of the past four years

PREMIER Campbell Newman says reports that Anna Bligh's husband and a senior public servant, Greg Withers, had been asked to clear out his desk were false.

Mr Newman on Tuesday said Mr Withers, head of Queensland's Office of Climate Change, would be asked to oversee the removal of carbon reduction schemes he had helped create, which the LNP has promised to axe.

But Mr Newman admitted he had not yet conveyed that to Mr Withers because he was too busy focusing on changes at the top level of the public service.

Mr Newman said Mr Withers, who recently renewed his contract in December and would be owed a payout close to $600,000 if sacked, would be offered another position once that job was done.

"I'm telling you that he will get a job if he wants one," Mr Newman said.


Come on baby light my fire, but watch the cat

Tim Blair has some amusing comments about Earth hour.  A few excerpts:

EARTH Hour is with us again this Saturday night, so you'll want to start planning.

For your normal Earth Hour types, this is a simple procedure. Just turn all your lights off at 8.30pm and sit there thinking you're Jesus. But for those of us in the Hour of Power movement, a proper celebration requires substantial commitment.

Just follow my essential power party guide and you'll be set.

First, it's symbolically vital that you turn on every single light for the appointed hour. Sounds easy enough, but there is always a sneaky bulb out on the back porch or in the garage. Be vigilant. Don't let even the smallest or least visible globe escape illumination.

If you know anybody in the local council or the film industry, lean on them for a one-night use of something huge. These people have got lights that you wouldn't believe. Point them at your pool and it'll evaporate like a state Labor party.

Food is important. Put some thought into what you serve. According to a recent study, the basic prawn cocktail has an absolutely massive carbon footprint. Biologist J. Boone Kauffman found that, with transport and refrigeration factored in, just 100g of prawns shipped from a typical Asian farm represents a total carbon output of 198kg.

So you'll be eating prawns, then. Plus pizza. The delivery kid won't have any problems finding your house for once, what with it being lit up like a supernova.

My favourite Earth Hour moment came in 2010, when a Canadian environment minister hosted a candlelit eco-dinner. The smugness was interrupted when their cat caught fire. Holding true to the Earth Hour message, they refused to air the place with an electric fan. Open windows were the only means of dispersing stench of singed cat.

When you're scoping out foreign Earth Hour reports, don't forget to click on the reader comments at the end of every hand-wringing article begging readers to kill the lights. These comments invariably provide delightful counterpoint to the overall Earth Hour message.


More amusing news

$175k to cheer up Department of Energy and Climate Change staff

Hey, but this is alright when you are spending someone else’s money isn’t it?

Staff at the Australian Department of Climate  Change are so depressed, I can’t think why, that the government is spending $175,000 to cheer them up.

Could it be that the poor staff would enjoy their jobs more if they weren’t doing something which was a complete waste of time, and their programs weren’t a vacuous drain? Remember if we all abandon Australia, AND if the IPCC aren’t wildly overestimating the effects of extra CO2, then, and only then, will Australia cool the world by as much as — rounded to the nearest whole number –  zero degrees. (Pace Matt Ridley)

Things are so bad, people were ashamed to admit to people that they worked at the Dept of Climate Change. Worse, this study was done back in 2010 – before a round of endless-drought-breaking floods in 2011 and then another round of endless-drought-breaking floods in 2012. This was before the worst of the plummeting Labor polling, before FakeGate…  just how low do these people feel now?
THEY are responsible for some of the government’s most important policies – but staff at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are too ashamed to admit where they work.

Staff morale is so low the government has spent almost $175,000 on consultants to lift staff’s flagging spirits.

 A negative public image of the department, changing environmental policies and lack of internal support had left them feeling miserable and disengaged, an internal report has found.

 The report was conducted by consultants Right Management in July 2010 when the department was under the responsibility of Finance and Deregulation Minister Penny Wong.

 The portfolio has since been taken over by Greg Combet.

The report, which also includes a survey of 788 people, found the department to have “low levels” of employee engagement. Staff held a poor view of the department, felt a lack of purpose, were uninformed about changes to policies and procedures, and worried about their future employment.

“Many reported having to think about whether they would tell people where they worked because of the department’s negative image,” the report said.

It’s the politician’s fault for offering waste-of-time-work in the first place. I don’t blame the staff (not so much) but in the end, they are always free to leave. Except of course, they are trapped aren’t they? We know that many of them can’t find better paid work elsewhere, because the gravy train pays well, much better than private industry.

Pouring good money after bad. This is another case study in why Big-Government is a bad thing.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Some Australian local governments are denying people planning permission to build near the sea

Because rising se levels might submerge them.  Two letters in a newspaper below offer some germane comments.  Tim Flannery is an Australian Warmist who is perfectly calm about living by the sea

WHEN Tim Flannery is evicted from his waterfront property, then we should be concerned about sea level rise ("Fighting on the beaches as council orders retreat from climate change threat", 24-25/3).

The NSW government and the Port Macquarie Hastings Council ignore land level rises and falls which make relative sea level a local issue and hence global sea level speculations of the IPCC can not be used. To devalue properties based on half the information is, at best, deceptive.

Professor Ian Plimer, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA

So 80-year-olds are not allowed to renovate their homes because Green councillors decided they are vulnerable to sea level rises. Their houses are 7m above sea level, so if it rises by 3.5mm per year it will take 2000 years to reach them.

If Jesus Christ had been warned that by now the Sea of Galilee would be lapping the front step of his workshop he may have decided he could put that problem on the backburner until a few others were sorted out. The 80-year-olds might have priorities higher than rising seas but Greens don't recognise such realities in their dizzy, postmodern world.

John Dawson, Chelsea, Vic


27 March, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard facing poll wipe-out

LATEST polling has confirmed the Gillard government is headed for electoral oblivion with its primary vote falling to 28 per cent - just one point shy of the depths Labor plumbed in Queensland.

The exclusive Newspoll in The Australian today, which shows Labor would be wiped off the map federally as it was in the Sunshine State, comes as the Prime Minister remained in complete denial about the political shockwave, reported The Daily Telegraph.

In South Korea at a nuclear summit with world leaders, Julia Gillard said Saturday's election result was "a deep, deep disappointment" but denied it had anything to do with unpopular federal policies such as the carbon tax.

Newspoll today has federal Labor's primary vote crashing from 31 per cent to 28. Labor's primary vote in Queensland was 26.9 per cent.

The Coalition is up four points to 47 while the Greens fell one point to 11 per cent.

The two-party preferred result should also send shivers down ALP powerbrokers' spines with Labor down four points to 43 and the Coalition up four points to 57 per cent.

Senior federal Labor MPs are warning Ms Gillard that without a strategy to "win back Queensland", the party faces being decimated.


A conservative tax-cutter in NSW

TAX cuts would be offered to business under plans being championed by Barry O'Farrell to ignite the sluggish NSW economy.

The Premier wants to reduce the payroll tax rate, which at 5.45 per cent, is the highest in Australia.

In an interview with The Sun-Herald marking his government's first year in office, Mr O'Farrell said he wanted to bring NSW into line with, or lower than, other states. Victoria's payroll tax rate is 4.9 per cent and Queensland's is 4.75 per cent. The Treasurer, Mike Baird, said tax relief for business was "totally on the table" but no decision had been made, with falling GST revenue flowing from the federal government.

Payroll tax rakes in $6.6 billion a year and Mr Baird said there was "no way" the rate could be dropped to the Victorian level in one go. The cost to the state coffers would be about $360 million. A reduction of 0.2 per cent would reduce revenue by about $130 million.

About 71,000 large and medium-size companies with wage bills above $678,000 pay the tax.

Mr O'Farrell said he wants "harmonised red tape" across Australia but supported the concept of "competitive federalism".

"For me, it's never been about getting a single rate of payroll tax across the states or down the eastern seaboard, I've always wanted to get differing rates of payroll tax so we can seek to gain a competitive advantage over the other states," he said.

"We understand that taxes upon business, taxes upon investment are a barrier to economic growth. We have a higher rate, the challenge for us over this term is trying to ensure we get our tax rates down to make us at least as competitive, if not more competitive than other states."

Mr O'Farrell said he would seek meetings with a Liberal/National Queensland government to lock in a cross-border economic reform agreement like the one signed with the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, in December. Three conservative governments along the eastern seaboard, combined with the vocal leadership of the Western Australian Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, represented a "fundamental shift" in the states' relationship with Canberra, Mr O'Farrell said.


Expert argues university degrees overrated

HAVING a university degree may be "grossly overrated", a leading education research body says.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research wants to debate the merits of university degrees because it will advance thinking around expanding the tertiary sector.

It is partnering with St James Ethics Centre to bring the live debate, Intelligence Squared Australia, to Adelaide in July to debate the idea that "having a university degree is grossly overrated".

Managing director Dr Tom Karmel said the purpose of the debate was to tease out the issue, because while there were many benefits to having a university degree there were other paths to consider as well.

"Are we looking at credentialism, where everyone will have a degree when they don't really need one," he said. "There are many jobs around you do not need a degree for and wouldn't want a degree for."

The Federal Government wants 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 to have a bachelor degree by 2020.

Skills Australia has estimated that in the five years to 2015 Australia will need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with a vocational education qualification at Certificate III level or higher.

"When the Government make these decisions you always have to check against reality and make sure people are getting a good return from their degree," Dr Karmel said.

"(But) as we expand the number of people with degrees, on the whole, the return is holding up."

National Tertiary Education Union assistant secretary Matthew McGowan said degrees were very important for Australians to compete intellectually on an international stage but that did not mean everyone needed one.


Clear evidence that the abandonment of double jeopardy can lead to gross abuses

We now see one reason why the double jeopady principle was entrenched British law for centuries. It's persecution the way the man below is being treated. When do the retrials stop? This could go on forever. At the very least only two trials should be permitted.

Five years ago, Philip Leung was found rocking from side to side at the foot of his stairs, cradling his blood-stained partner, Mario Guzzetti. A short time later, Mr Guzzetti was dead, having suffered head injuries.

Last week, Mr Leung, 51, broke down in the same stairwell after learning he would stand trial over his former lover's killing - for the third time.

At his original trial in 2009, Mr Leung was acquitted of murder after a judge directed the jury to find him not guilty.

The Crown, however, used NSW's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006, to have the verdict quashed.

Mr Leung then faced court on a manslaughter charge last April, but became the first person in Australian legal history to be acquitted twice by a judge's directed verdict. As he left court that day, he said he was "finally free" to move on.

He was wrong. Last Tuesday, the unprecedented case took another twist: the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal upheld a second appeal by the Crown and ordered that Mr Leung again be tried for manslaughter.

According to uncontested facts referred to in the judgment by the appeal court, Mr Leung and his partner had been together since 2001, but a month before his death, Mr Guzzetti, 72, had told a friend he wanted to end the relationship because Mr Leung was becoming aggressive and frightening him. On the morning of April 7, Easter Eve in 2007, a neighbour heard two voices arguing at the couple's shared home in Alexandria, followed by a loud bang that resembled "a shelf falling, and pots and lids falling to the ground". She also later heard Mr Leung crying, "like roaring or having a tantrum". Almost an hour after the initial bang, Mr Leung called an ambulance, stating: "I had a fight with my friend and my friend dead."

When the first witnesses arrived at the scene, they found Mr Leung sitting at the bottom of the staircase. Holding Mr Guzzetti, he said to an acquaintance: "I want my Mario … Mario, wake up."

He told another friend: "We had an argument … I was making carrot juice and he [Mario] kept at me." Mr Guzzetti had stopped breathing before paramedics arrived and in an interview at Redfern Police Station that same day, Mr Leung could not recall the vital moments before his death. "We have breakfast, Mario argue with me. He criticise me a lot … and then my head starts spinning."

Mr Leung was charged with murder. At his trial in May 2009, the Crown alleged the couple argued while Mr Leung was making a carrot juice, resulting in him striking his lover with a bloodstained juicer that was found on the floor beside Mr Guzzetti's body, and also by applying additional pressure to his neck. However, crucial medical and scientific evidence proved inconclusive, with both a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist concluding Mr Guzzetti's blunt force head injuries were consistent with both a physical attack using the juice extractor - and a fall.

Equally, it was advised that bruising around the neck could have been the result of either force, or amateurish attempts at resuscitation. Consequently, Justice Stephen Rothman delivered a directed not-guilty verdict, ruling the Crown had failed to properly establish how Mr Guzzetti had died. In April last year, Justice Michael Adams reached the same conclusion, directing a second jury to find Mr Leung not guilty.

But on two occasions now, the Crown has utilised double jeopardy laws that permit appeals in homicide cases settled by a judge's directed verdict. In its latest appeal, the Crown pointed to the fact that prior to the second trial, Dr Paul Botterill, who had conducted the original autopsy, inspected the premises and staircase area where the death occurred. After that visit, he concluded the likelihood of the injuries being caused by falling from the top of the stairs - which change direction and feature a quarter landing - was at most a "theoretical possibility".

Mr Leung's lawyers, meanwhile, argued that with two Supreme Court judges having twice dismissed the case, a third retrial would "undermine community confidence in the criminal justice system". It was also pointed out that Mr Leung had "clearly suffered" following four months of imprisonment, strict bail conditions, as well as five years of continuing stress and uncertainty that had arisen from the Crown appeals.

In his judgment on Tuesday, the NSW Chief Justice, Tom Bathurst, said based on all available evidence, and particularly the fact that both men were alone in the house, it was "by no means certain" that a jury verdict of guilty would be set aside as "unreasonable".

He overturned the acquittal, adding it was now a matter for the prosecution to determine whether to proceed for a third time against Mr Leung.

Mr Leung is on bail for manslaughter and a trial date is yet to be set. When that day arrive, he will become the first person in Australian legal history to be tried three times over the same killing.


26 March, 2012

Is this Gillard's biggest gaffe yet?

ANZAC day is close to the heart of most Australians. It is the day we remember our many fine young men who died in war. It is often described as Australia's most sacred day. Criticizing it will both discredit the critic and lead to emphasized support for the commemorations. Gillard should have rejected this mealy-mouthed bureaucratic garbage immediately. As it is, it is now associated with her government. She's brainless and so are her ministers

THE Federal Government has been warned that celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day could provoke division in multicultural Australia - and that there are "risks" in honouring our fallen soldiers.

The centenary is a "double-edged sword" and a "potential area of divisiveness" because of multiculturalism, a taxpayer-funded report from 2010 finds.

Bureaucrats spent almost $370,000 for focus-group testing and a research paper used by the Government to guide commemoration plans, which listed multiculturalism under "risks and issues" to avoid "unexpected negative complications".

Diggers groups slammed the report, saying Australians supported the April 2015 centenary celebrations, which are expected to stop the nation, and include travelling exhibitions and special remembrance services.

The report also says organisers should avoid references to current military action because it is "unpopular with young people".

The paper states: "Commemorating our military history in a multicultural society is something of a double-edged sword.

"While the 100th anniversaries are thought to provide some opportunity for creating a greater sense of unity, it is also recognised as a potential area of divisiveness."

More research into the impact of Anzac Day commemorations on recently arrived migrants was suggested.

But the report acknowledged that making the centenary events "overly political correct" would not be well received generally or by military personnel.

Commemorations should be "culturally sensitive and inclusive", the paper said.

It said events to mark the centenary and wars which had claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Australians should not be "unrelentingly gloomy". Any commemoration "needs to allow a positive end, make it uplifting after being reflective".

"Commemoration fatigue" was identified in focus groups if events spanned a planned four years - the same amount of time Australians spent fighting in hellish conditions at places including Gallipoli and the Western Front during World War I.

The paper has been panned by the RSL, which maintains Australia's enthusiasm for the day remains as strong as ever.

RSL national president Ken Doolan, a member of the Anzac Day National Commission and the Anzac Centenary advisory board, said Anzac Day held a "central place in Australia". "The Australian people have said overwhelmingly that they want the centenary celebrated," he said.

Victorian RSL president David McLachlan said the commemoration had the full support of Australia's Turkish communities and the Turkish Government. There were no multicultural issues with the planned event, Mr McLachlan said.

Ray Brown, of the Injured Service Persons Association, was horrified by the spending. "We've always seemed to get it right, we have never offended anybody. "We seem to be able to acknowledge war is not a nice thing and that people on both sides lose out - and we have never had to spend $300,000 combined, let alone in one year," he said.

The cost is on top of more than $103,000 on focus groups to discuss "branding concepts" for the centenary in 2015.

A spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon said the research paper was to "gain an understanding of the views, perceptions, knowledge and aspirations of the Australian people in relation to Anzac commemoration and the impending centenary".


Anna Bligh resigns from politics despite previously saying she would serve full term

Broken promises are the Labor way

VOTERS punished her for breaking a promise not to sell assets, now Anna Bligh has ditched another pre-election pledge and bowed out of politics altogether.

The overthrown premier was yesterday stoic as she announced her resignation from both the Labor leadership and her long-time seat of South Brisbane.

Ms Bligh had repeatedly insisted throughout the five-week campaign that she would serve out a full term if re-elected but yesterday said it was time to "close the book" on public life after leading Queensland Labor to such a "devastating loss".

"I apologise today to the people of South Brisbane for any inconvenience and difficulty that my decision will cause them," she said.

"The size of the loss, the loudness and clarity of the message sent by the people of Queensland is unmistakable and, in fairness to Queenslanders, I don't believe I should ignore it. I simply don't believe that Labor can develop an effective Opposition, or rebuild from this point and from this defeat, if it has me as part of its public face and in its ranks."

Ms Bligh said she took full responsibility for her decisions as premier, including the deeply unpopular privatisation of state assets announced weeks after winning the 2009 election.


The Queensland result shows Julia is finished

The Federal ALP could lose on the Qld. vote alone

LABOR hit the panic button yesterday as the size of the Queensland election catastrophe and its obvious implications for the Gillard government struck home.

Anna Bligh quit parliament after Labor was all but wiped out as voters linked Ms Bligh's broken promise on asset sales to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's on the carbon tax.

The rout echoed Labor's thumping in 1974 when the party was reduced to 11 MPs when Joh Bjelke-Petersen went to an election as the Whitlam government struggled.

With only enough MPs to fill a small van after Saturday night, it appears Labor will even fell short of the 10 seats needed for official party status.

New Premier Campbell Newman's LNP is expected to secure as many as 78 of the 89 seats in parliament.

Ms Gillard flew out to Korea for a nuclear security summit with US President Barack Obama without commenting on the result.

The rout of NSW Labor last year was dismissed as isolated to state issues and due to a scandal-plagued government but former Labor premiers and party figures lined up yesterday to warn Ms Gillard of the federal consequences of the Queensland humiliation.

One federal Labor MP said: "There's no doubt we are in a lot of trouble."

The MP said the Gillard government was fighting the same issues which destroyed the Bligh administration, including cost of living impacts from the carbon price and Ms Gillard's broken promise over the tax. The party feared there was no prospect of a "circuit breaker" to turn around federal Labor's fortunes. Another MP dismissed the result, saying the Queensland election was fought only on state issues.

If the Queensland result was replicated federally all eight Labor MPs from the state would be wiped out, including Kevin Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie said Labor could not be an effective opposition with seven MPs, which could fall to six if Ms Bligh's now marginal South Brisbane seat is lost in a by-election.

"The guts got kicked out of the Labor party rank and file yesterday," Mr Beattie told the ABC's Insiders program.

"Federally the party at a national executive level has got to have a very careful look at what we do here. We have to rebuild or the Labor Party can lose the next federal election in Queensland alone."

He said the "Labor Party is in crisis," and added: "Julia needs to buy a house here. We have to sell what the Labor party has done or we will face a similar wipeout."

Former ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson predicted Ms Gillard would face a loss similar to Ms Bligh's defeat next year. "I can't see how she wins. She must lose and she will lose badly," he said.

"All that yesterday did was re-emphasise how difficult it is for her. What Anna Bligh did is exactly what Julia Gillard is currently doing and that is this whole line of we will stay the course, things will turn around.

"Staying the course is utterly useless and unless and until federal Labor decide to do something radical, something different, something big, they're not going to be listened to and they will head to a Bligh-like defeat."


Germaine Greer, the anti-feminist

Aging leads to many transformations

Peter FitzSimons

As to Germaine Greer, TFF noted recently her extraordinary personal attacks at the Perth Writers Festival on Julie Bishop and Gina Rinehart - the latter for her "bloated form" - which amazed me, given that as the world's most iconic living feminist, I would have thought everything she stood for was against attacking other women for the way they look.

And yet, on Tuesday night's Q&A on ABC1 she was at it again, offering the Prime Minister gratuitous advice on what she should wear. (Can anyone ever remember Greer passing comment on gear worn by the likes of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating or Rudd? Me neither.)

But then, she followed up with the outrageous, and hurtful, "Face it, Julia, you've got a big arse!" Staggering. It's like hearing Barack Obama call a black man a "nigger", or Nelson Mandela say apartheid really was not so bad.

And the strangest thing? Not that it matters at all, but there is no truth in it (not that it matters if there was truth in it). I acknowledge this is a bit delicate - and for once I won't respond to emails on it, because such discussion would be tacky - but I happened to be on the podium, sitting right behind the PM on Wednesday morning as she made her tribute speech to Nancy Wake in the Great Hall of Parliament House, and couldn't help but notice that Greer is simply wrong. There. I've said it. So shoot me.


Catholic schools to educate more non-Catholics

THE Catholic Church will spend more than $1 billion over the next 20 years buying land and building classrooms across NSW to expand its network of schools.

The Sydney Catholic Education Office intends to offer more places to non-Catholic families who have become increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of public schools.

A budget of $50 million every year for the next 20 years has been allocated to opening new schools and expanding the grounds of established schools across the inner west, south-west and eastern suburbs.

Taxpayers will fund some of the new schools, with all Catholic schools eligible to apply for federal government building grants.

Dr Dan White, executive director for the Sydney archdiocese schools, said more than 2000 prospective students were turned away from schools in 2012 simply because there was no room for them.

Bigger grounds were needed at most schools to accommodate extra classrooms for growing student numbers, Dr White said.

Cardinal George Pell described the proposed expansion of the Catholic education system as a healthy outcome for the Church and said much of the demand came from non-Catholic families.

"It is a healthy outcome for us. The demand for places in Catholic schools is high. They are happy communities, in literacy and numeracy they are almost invariably above the national average," he said. "I think the biggest compliment is the number of non-Catholics who would like their children to attend a Catholic school.

"We hope the Catholic school system will reinforce the faith and good work of the students. It certainly does make them socially aware, keen to contribute to society and strengthen their faith also."

Principals across Sydney Catholic schools have been directed to look for vacant land or houses for sale close to their schools. "Catholic education in Sydney is going through an unprecedented period of growth," Dr White said. "Our enrolments have grown by over 1000 children every year for the past three years.

He said many parents were taking their children out of public schools because they believed Catholic schools provided a better quality education.

"We find parents are looking for a school that has a spiritual base to it and provides a real values-for-life framework for their children," he said.


25 March, 2012

The Katter party gains credibility

Now that they have won seats, they can no longer be dismissed as just a loony idea. And doing so in the midst of a historic landslide to another party is rather remarkable

I voted LNP but I am rather pleased that the Katter party is now a credible force. Katter is from Queensland's far North, where I was born and bred and his views are the sort of views that I grew up among -- and which I still largely hold. And his gains were all in the North. They usually voted Labour up there but did so out of perceived economic self-interest. Rather like the Old Southern Democrats of the USA, they voted Leftishly but were conservative at heart.

It is a tough-minded sort of conservatism up there, perhaps aptly called ultra conservatism. The brainless Left would call Katter's party "far Right" but that conjures up visions of racism and Katter is in fact known for his good relations with Aborigines. He is in fact arguably their strongest political advocate.

And under the Australian system of preferential voting, having two conservative parties maximizes rather than splits the conservative vote

BOB Katter's fledgling party was claiming four seats and pledging to be "ferocious" in opposition to the all-powerful LNP. Katter's Australian Party won Mount Isa and neighbouring Dalrymple while party boss Bob Katter also declared wins in the still undecided seats of Thuringowa in Townsville and Mulgrave in Cairns.

Mr Katter said, on last night's result, the party could secure up to 10 seats in a federal election and declared "the war has just begun". "In 15 to 25 seats, we secured (more than) 20 per cent of the vote," he said, "Yet some of our candidates have only been in the field for six weeks."

Mr Katter said his successful Australian Party candidates would be "ferocious" in opposition. He also blasted a court decision which, he said, cost thousands of votes when the party was robbed of the right to include "Bob Katter" on ballot papers. "That has cost us a great deal in this election," he said.

Mr Katter's son, Robbie, who took Mount Isa, has become the third generation of his family to enter politics while his KAP colleague Shane Knuth will hold the neighbouring seat of Dalrymple, centred around Charters Towers.

But the KAP's state president, Aidan McLindon, lost Beaudesert while one of its star candidates, former cricketer Carl Rackemann, lost the battle last night in Nanango, based around Kingaroy. Mr Katter said that both candidates would be back for a second tilt at the seats.

A party spokesman said last night that Mulgrave was likely to fall to the KAP while the Townsville-based seat of Thuringowa also looked positive.

The party exceeded polling expectations, taking more than 10 per cent of the vote and turning some seats into two-horse races between the LNP and the KAP.

Mr Katter said his son's victory reflected voter disenchantment. "He was never interested in politics until a few years ago," Mr Katter said. "It's a measure of how bad the two main parties are that a bloke who had no interest mobilised himself with enormous aggression."

Robbie Katter was cautious about claiming victory too early but conceded the vote was coming his way. "It was a David (and) Goliath fight - we were battling with probably one-tenth of the staff and budget the others were," he said. "They had been around more than 50 years and we had only been around for 10 months."

The wildcard electorate which did well for the KAP included Mulgrave in Cairns where Damian Byrnes - a doctor and medical officer in the reserve defence forces - put in an impressive performance.

Mr McLindon said that he was satisfied he had played a role in creating a new force on the political scene in Queensland. "This election is a big battle but there is still the war to be won," he said, referring to the federal arena. "At last, we can rest comfortable knowing we have created a good political organisation here."


Great political genes

The winner with his adoring wife

CAMPBELL NEWMAN'S come-from-outside victory had more than a hint of his father's assault on the political ramparts 37 years ago. In 1975 Newman snr, Kevin, stripped the Tasmanian federal seat of Bass from the Labor Party.

Bass had been held comfortably by Labor's Lance Barnard - deputy prime minister under Gough Whitlam - for 21 years. But Kevin Newman, standing for the Liberal Party, won the seat at a byelection with a 14 per cent swing. It was the beginning of the end for the Whitlam government.

Kevin Newman, who died in 1999, held Bass from 1975 to 1984 and was rewarded with a string of ministries throughout the governments of the prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Had he lived, it seems likely he would have relished the dynastic synergy in his son winning the key Queensland seat of Ashgrove, which had been in Labor hands for almost 23 years.

Campbell Newman, like his father, was a soldier before he decided to turn his hand to politics. He spent 13 years in the army, reaching the rank of major after training as an officer at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

The discipline of the military and the political environment in which he grew up - his mother, Jocelyn, was a long-time Tasmanian senator who held several ministries in the Howard government - are mentioned as the combination that turned Newman junior into a public figure.

His period as lord mayor of Brisbane, from 2004 to last year, earned him the title of "Can-Do Campbell", a nod to his efforts at building roads and tunnels and getting himself in photos with a shovel in hand. It is a sobriquet he turned into a political slogan for his party after deciding to run for premier, even though he did not have a seat in Parliament.

The surreal quality of a premier-in-waiting campaigning without a parliamentary seat was underlined yesterday when Mr Newman was unable even to cast his ballot for himself. He doesn't live in the Ashgrove, the electorate he had vowed to win from the Labor Party's Kate Jones.

He had to be content with giving his vote to the Liberal National Party's candidate for nearby Brisbane Central, Robert Cavalucci.

"How are you feeling, Campbell?" cried a voice from the crowd as he turned up to cast his ballot at the Newmarket State School polling booth, in inner northern Brisbane. "Apprehensive," said Mr Newman, keeping a straight face.

Perhaps he was. It had seemed such a high-stakes attempt. Indeed, when he announced his intention to run for premier, the former Labor premier Peter Beattie said: "It's either the smartest thing the LNP ever did or the dumbest." Last night, Mr Newman having weathered a smear campaign about his family's business affairs - one that collapsed when the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission found no case to answer, and Anna Bligh admitted she didn't have the material to back her allegations - it was looking to be the smartest.


New government already under way

Incoming Queensland premier Campbell Newman has dumped Anna Bligh's chief bureaucrat as he confirmed an interim cabinet of three people was likely to be sworn in tomorrow.

Mr Newman joined with overjoyed supporters at a lunchtime barbecue at The Gap, where he was greeted with chants of "Campbell, Campbell, Campbell" following last night's crushing victory over the Labor government headed by Ms Bligh.

The LNP leader, who participated in initial meetings at the Executive Building this morning, confirmed he had asked the director general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, John Bradley, to stand down to help deliver a clean start.

"I won't be requiring his services," Mr Newman said, adding it was not yet appropriate to announce who would fill the role under the new LNP government.

Mr Newman would not speculate about the future of Ms Bligh's husband, Greg Withers, who is a senior public servant in the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

He said he’d met with public servants in the Department of Premier and Cabinet this morning and stressed his top priorities: cutting the state’s unemployment rate to four per cent, restoring accountability to government, and cutting down on waste and inefficiency.

He said from the moment the government was sworn in, he’d order a 20 per cent cut in government travel expenses, a ban on all non-essential government advertising, and a freeze on consultancy work.

Mr Newman said he was planning to meet with Governor Penelope Wensley at 2pm today to advise that he was confident he could form a government. A swearing-in would hopefully take place tomorrow.

The initial swearing-in will see just three members of the new LNP government appointed to their roles - Mr Newman will be sworn in as premier, Jeff Seeney will become deputy premier and minister for state development with oversight of the co-ordinator general, and Tim Nicholls will be the treasurer and minister for trade.

Mr Newman said the various remaining ministerial portfolios would be split between the three of them, ahead of planned changes to government structures to allow the full ministry to be appointed.

"It will be as soon as we can possibly do it," he said when asked about the timing of the full swearing-in.

Mr Newman took the opportunity today to repeat his pledge to keep all of the LNP's election promises. "We will not let you down," Mr Newman said.

Mr Newman would not comment on former premier Anna Bligh’s resignation until he’d heard authoritatively about her decision.

When pressed further he said the LNP would vigorously contest South Brisbane, but would not say who the candidate would be.


Labor brand toxic across Australia, says Tony Abbott

With conservative State governments recently installed right up and down the East coast -- where most Australians live -- Abbott is clearly justified in his view

FEDERAL opposition leader Tony Abbott says the crushing win by the Liberal National Party in Queensland shows the Labor brand is toxic across Australia. Mr Abbott said Labor MPs around the country would be very worried because governments which aren't competent lose "big time"

"I think the Labor brand has become toxic and the only way for the Labor Party to recover is to have a good long hard look at itself, to rediscover what it believes in, what it stands for, who it represents and also to regain a bit of political integrity," Mr Abbott told Sky News.

The Liberal leader said that same political integrity was lacking in the Gillard government. "It is a disaster for the Labor Party because it does indicate that governments which are all about spin, which don't deliver for the Australian people, they lose elections. "And they don't just lose them narrowly. They lose them in a landslide."

He denied that his comments during the campaign that the Queensland election would be a referendum on the carbon tax went too far. "I think that the carbon tax was an issue. It certainly wasn't the only issue," he said.

"Certainly, there were two candidates for the leadership of Queensland, one of the them, Anna Bligh, strongly identified with the carbon tax, another Campbell Newman who was going to fight the carbon tax."

Mr Abbott said the success of Katter's Australian Party which has won at least two seats in the Queensland parliament, does not have federal implications. "A lot of disillusioned Labor people who couldn't quite bring themselves to vote for the Liberal National Party and didn't want to vote Green, more conservative Labor people if you like, parked their vote with the Katter Party," he said.

"But I think that was more a function of state factors than of anything we're likely to see at the next federal poll."


24 March, 2012

Julia's carbon tax is way higher than the price in Europe

See the chart below. For all of 2012 the price has been below 10 Euros (approx $15) and is heading down. Julia charges $23. What have we done to deserve that?

Minimum wage means job-seekers wasting time

Of the many dumb ideas of the left, the minimum wage is one of the dumbest. In The End of Certainty, Paul Kelly identified compulsory wage arbitration as one of the five principles of the "Australian Settlement" after federation. We caught this virus early and, after 100 years of sandbagging by vested interests, it has been welded into our subconscious concept of "Australian decency".

The most dangerous ideas often have some merit. In the absence of an umpire, there is a risk of exploitation of workers in unequal bargaining relationships.

Your average North Shore matron with one string of pearls and a cashmere knit will support the idea of a minimum wage because of ghastly memories of women in the sweat shops having their babies on the factory floor.

But the human costs of this idea massively outweigh the benefits. Because while it may benefit workers, the minimum wage is prejudicial to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community - the unemployed.

Industrial relations is not just a contest between management and workers, but between job-seekers and those already admitted to membership. There are 100,000 Australians unemployed for more than a year. For them, the minimum wage acts as a raised drawbridge, separating them from their most fundamental aspiration. Every small increase is a higher jump for them to clear.

In international terms, the Australian labour market is like the high rollers room at the casino. You have to be able to make a starting bid of $15.50 an hour before you are allowed to join the tables. If you are a new arrival to this country, a refugee, with no English, low levels of education and few marketable skills, a courteous but firm doorman will advise you "I'm sorry sir or madam, but you can't make the minimum bid. You will have to go back downstairs to the welfare room where someone will give you enough chips to survive but not enough to get in the game".

Getting started is always the hard part. Like a first kiss, the first pay packet is a big deal. It comes with the revelation that "somebody wants me". There is a formative power in the knowledge that a person unrelated to me places a high enough value on my skills and labour to cut a cheque. That is a critical moment in the formation of what the Harvard professor Robert Putnam calls "social capital". Imagine if you got from one end of your life to the other, and never had that experience.

For a case study of the damage done, see Gough Whitlam's well-intentioned decision to legislate for indigenous wage parity after the Wave Hill walkout. The Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson has cited it as one of the most destructive of any government, forcing thousands of employed Aborigines off the stations and onto sit-down money. The ego destruction that followed their forced withdrawal from the dignity of paid work saw many self-medicate with grog and dope and some to beat wives or girlfriends, as report after tragic report has shown.

Trade unions represent workers in jobs, paying union dues - job-seekers are only going to put downward pressure on wages and conditions. The ACTU looks after those inside the lifeboat, grabbing the minimum wage as a club to smash the knuckles of those trying to clamber out of the water and over the gunwales.

The premise of the minimum wage is that Australians cannot be trusted to figure out how much to pay each other. So we have this intensely bureaucratic process when some wise soul hands down from on high the annual determination. Beforehand, affected parties are consulted and make submissions. This week we saw another outbreak of hostilities over how much it should be increased, as we entered the final days of consultation between the competing groups before Fair Work Australia hands down its decision on June 30.

Who do you think is most likely to get crushed in this to and fro out of the following list - the Australian Industry Group, the federal government, the state governments, the Australian Council of Trade Unions or the Farsi-speaking refugee who just stepped off the boat?

When the chairman of Fair Work Australia gets home from work and the kids say "what did you do today?", the truthful response will be "I did everything in my power to make sure that 100,000 Australians will never get a job."


Aborigines wiped out Australia's large animals

HUMAN hunters were mainly responsible for wiping out Australia's megafauna, a study has concluded.

The reasons behind the demise of the giant animals that once roamed the continent – such as rhinoceros-sized diprotodons, towering kangaroos, marsupial lions and birds twice the size of emus – have long been hotly debated, with hunting, the human use of fire, and climate change blamed.

Chris Johnson, of the University of Tasmania, said his team had solved the extinction mystery by studying fungi that thrive in the dung of large herbivores.

The team examined two cores of sediment from Lynch's Crater, a swamp in north-east Queensland, dating back 130,000 years.

They counted the spores of these fungi and looked for pollen and charcoal in the sediments as indicators of vegetation change and fire.

Professor Johnson said the research showed megafauna numbers were stable until about 40,000 years ago, despite several periods of drying.

"This rules out climate change as a cause of extinction," he said.

The giant herbivore population crashed soon after humans arrived, with the number of spores in the sediment virtually disappearing. "So it seems that people did it."

The study, published in the journal Science, showed that after the demise of the megafauna, the vegetation changed and fire activity increased, with rainforest species disappearing and grassy eucalypt-dominated forests expanding.

But Judith Field, of the University of NSW, challenged the conclusions of the study. She said it was merely assumption that the ancient spores reflected the abundance of the giant animals.

"The only evidence we have from Queensland for megafauna indicates that they were gone before humans arrived."

There was also little archaeological evidence from any site in Australia to show humans co-existed with megafauna, and none to show they hunted them.

"The results of this paper are interesting. The interpretations drawn from it are unsubstantiated and can be explained by other mechanisms," Dr Field said.

But John Alroy, of Macquarie University, described the data as "superb and decisive".

The debate had dragged on for almost 50 years because people thought it "incredible" that stone-age hunters could have had such a big impact as to wipe out the megafauna.

Gavin Prideaux, of Flinders University, said the study was an important contribution and supported mounting evidence that climate change was not to blame.

"To test the inferences from this paper we might look at similar lake records from other regions of Australia and seek fossil deposits in the north-east that preserve bones of the giant animals themselves," Dr Prideaux said.


Historian uncovers Australia's censored books

A literary historian has uncovered thousands of banned books buried seven storeys underground in the National Archives of Australia building in Sydney.

It's a prude's nightmare but a book collector's dream: Nicole Moore found 793 boxes filled to the brim with books Australians were never allowed to read. The books were banned by authorities for various reasons between the 1920s and 1980s.

Associate Professor Moore has now written her own book - The Censor's Library - explaining why so many publications were deemed unfit for consumption, including novels that are now highly acclaimed.

The ghostly collection, including copies of the Karma Sutra and first-edition comics from the 1950s, reveals attitudes towards sexuality, politics, birth control, reading, pleasure and race.

Associate Professor Moore says she was astonished to find the confiscated stash in 2005. At the time, she was completing a fellowship at the national archives.

"Some of those archivists knew there was a big collection in the Sydney office that was catalogued under the category of 'miscellaneous', including hard-copy books," she told the ABC's 666 Drive program.

"The Chester Hill archives in western Sydney has seven floors underground - huge amounts of material - and when we started to look there there were 793 boxes of books in fairly good order, all full.

"It was really just astonishing to see them coming out on the trolleys, to think here they all are collected from the late 1920s through to 1988 in its entirety, and just been sitting there for more than 30 or 40 years of people having just forgotten what it was."

She says the books were confiscated for a range of reasons. "The main reason in Australia for censorship was 'offensive obscenity' as it was classified," she said. "More than 90 per cent of titles were banned for obscenity and the rest were banned for sedition or blasphemy, although the number of titles banned for blasphemy in Australia has actually been very few.

"We can break that down to all kinds of representations of intimacy and sexuality, that for many contemporary readers now seem like ordinary parts of our lives."

Associate Professor Moore says there were no guidelines for what was appropriate or inappropriate, and that the decisions were made by Customs officials. "The Customs officers were the frontline, looking in people's bags and looking in boxes being imported into book shops," she said.

"It was very difficult for them to make a clear set of rules and we didn't have a classification code like we do today, which actually tries to explicitly tell us what is offensive and what is not. "So before that Customs officials just had to look at material and think, 'oh that looks a bit off, that looks a bit naughty'.

"They had the power to ban things on the spot if they thought it had no claim to literary merit or artistic merit or scholarly merit."

Books vetoed by Customs officials were then referred to a panel of literary experts.

"Those books that were thought to have no claim were then sent on to a panel of literary experts who then get to decide what is the literary merit of a book like Lolita, like Lady Chatterley's Lover or like The City And The Pillar - Gore Vidal's breakthrough book about gay men from 1948 which was banned until 1966 in Australia," she said.

Associate Professor Moore says things finally began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "Change began with Don Chipp, the Customs minister in the Liberal government. He was the first Customs minister to really stand up and be anti-censorship in Parliament," she said. "From then he began demolishing some of the Customs control over censorship.

"But then what really undid it all was the election of the Whitlam government in 1972 and by the end of 1973 the literary ban was reduced to absolutely zero."


23 March, 2012

What do you have to do to get locked up in Victoria?

Leniency kills. Parole breaches should earn immediate incarceration

A SADISTIC killer who beat a young hairdresser to death on their first date was today sentenced to at least 19 years' jail. David Patrick Clifford, 30, was on parole and on bail when he killed Elsa Corp in a South Melbourne hotel room on February 1, 2010.

Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth told a packed public gallery in the Supreme Court that Clifford inflicted horrific injuries while subjecting Ms Corp to a “prolonged, vicious attack, going on for perhaps an hour or so”.

More than 50 members, friends and supporters of the Corp family were in court to hear Justice Hollingworth sentence Clifford to a maximum of 23 years with a non-parole period of 19 years.

Most cheered and clapped when the judge announced the maximum term, but Ms Corp’s parents, Andy and Gilly, said outside court later they thought the sentence was “not enough”.

Mr Corp, a former UK policeman, said he “felt sick in the guts to hear exactly what happened, and so disappointed that a human being could sink to that level”. “If you had a referendum now on hanging, I guarantee 90 per cent of the caring public, especially parents, would vote yes,” Mr Corp said. Mrs Corp said the sentence “was never going to be enough and he shouldn’t have been out of jail”.

Clifford had been arrested on three separate occasions while on parole before he murdered the 26-year-old hairdresser, who lived at home with her parents.

The case was one of several that prompted the State Government to call for an independent review of the parole system, which is due to be released tomorrow. The Herald Sun revealed last April that 11 Victorians had been murdered by parolees in less than 2 ½ years.

In at least three of the cases, Corrections Victoria and Victoria Police later admitted “procedural failures” may have contributed to the deaths by leaving offenders on the street despite breaches of parole. Clifford’s was one of the three cases where community corrections case workers knew parolees had been arrested over other matters but failed to notify the Parole Board.

Clifford was on parole after a drug trafficking sentence and on bail awaiting trial over a vicious assault at a bar when he killed Ms Corp. He had been released from jail only seven weeks earlier after serving a four-month sentence for a home invasion on an elderly couple – also while on parole.

Justice Hollingworth said the clear picture of Ms Corp from many victim impact statements provided to the court was that she was “a vibrant, friendly, enthusiastic young woman, who loved her life and was full of hopes and plans for the future”.

The judge said Ms Corp was 160cm tall and weighed 50kgs and would have had no hope of defending herself against the solidly built Clifford, who showed no emotion during sentencing.

Justice Hollingworth said there appeared to be no motive for Clifford’s terrible crime, which she accepted was not premeditated. She said Clifford, the eldest of four children raised in the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne, had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. He started drinking when he was 12 and adopted a pattern of binge drinking twice a week, to the point where he would black out.

He started using cannabis when he was 13, had a daily habit by 16 and when he left high school was using cannabis, ice, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD.

Justice Hollingworth said she sentenced Clifford on the basis that he was acting in a drug-induced psychosis when he murdered Ms Corp. “But I have still treated that as a serious aggravating factor, given that you knew full well that you were prone to paranoia and other psychotic symptoms – and to behave aggressively and violently – when drug-affected,” she told him.

Justice Hollingworth told Clifford she would have sentenced him to 27 years, with a non-parole period of 22 years, if he had not pleaded guilty.

She said he had some prospects of rehabilitation if he was able to overcome his drug abuse, but had not made the most of opportunities he was given by previous sentencing judges.

The court was told Ms Corp, who also had drugs in her system when she was killed, was attacked with a steam iron, a towel rail and glass from a mirror during the sustained attack. She suffered severe multiple injuries to her head and body and had over 60 cuts and lacerations.

Clifford set fire to the room before fleeing, then knocked down two pedestrians in separate incidents as he sped through the city while at times ignoring red lights and driving on the wrong side of the road. “In both instances, you drove directly at the pedestrians,” Justice Hollingworth said.

Clifford has been serving a sentence for breach of parole since Ms Corp’s murder. His murder sentence began nine days ago.


Time's up for thugs as state plans zero tolerance blitz

Will police catch them only to see them immediately let out again? Seems likely

VICTORIA could get a New York-style zero tolerance blitz to dramatically reduce violence and anti-social behaviour.

In a declaration of war against alcohol-fuelled thugs, graffiti and other vandalism, Police Minister Peter Ryan yesterday revealed he is examining new measures to make Melbourne and regional cities safer and more pleasant to visit.

He is going to New York to personally investigate how its crackdown cut street crime and made the subways safe to ride again - and is keen to bring the best elements of it back to Victoria.

New York's zero tolerance campaign included a heavy and highly visible police presence to tackle minor and major street crime, including muggings, drunken violence, prostitution, drug dealing and vandalism.

It also involved government and private organisations working together to fix problems as quickly as they arose, such as replacing broken windows, repairing cracked footpaths and removing graffiti.

Mr Ryan told the Herald Sun he wants to implement some of New York's radical reforms in Victoria.

"I think that some of the initiatives undertaken in New York are instructive for us,'' he said.

Mr Ryan also revealed other measures the Government is considering include:

USING protective service officers in Melbourne and regional Victoria to pave the way for some European-style railway stations so they become safe, vibrant shopping and entertainment hubs where you do far more than just catch a train.

CONTINUING the freeze on any new licensed venues opening beyond 1am.

SUPPORTING as many as possible of the extra 1700 police the Government is providing to be allocated to walking the beat in uniform and having a visible presence on Victoria's roads.

Mr Ryan's push for zero tolerance comes just weeks after the latest Victoria Police crime statistics revealed crimes against people soared by 9.6 per cent during the past year.

He said having more visible police in Melbourne and regional centres was a major part of his wider plan to win back the streets.

"I strongly believe that one of the great deterrents to anti-social and criminal behaviours is a police presence,'' Mr Ryan said.

"I strongly believe that if we are able to bring that presence to the streets we will have less criminal and anti-social activity.''

"But this is much more than just policing, this is about the community at large understanding that there is a responsibility shared by all of us in the way in which we conduct ourselves in our streets.

"Police have an important part to play in that, but, culturally, if people come to understand it is in their best interests to conduct themselves in accordance with all the laws then we will all be the better for it. "That is why the zero tolerance concept interests me.''

Mr Ryan has already discussed his New York mission with Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and is confident they are both "on board'' with his plans.

"I am not looking for one moment to interfere with police operational activity and I strongly believe that operational discretion is a very important part of what police do,'' Mr Ryan said.

"But as a culture in our community, the notion of zero tolerance, I think, has much which is of potential benefit for us and I am interested to see some of the initiatives that have been employed in New York.''

Mr Ryan said his trip to New York would include meetings with civic, business and police leaders.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard splashes cash to save Holden jobs

Australia making cars is an absurdity

JULIA Gillard has defended spending $215 million in taxpayer funds to prop up Holden, saying there was a real risk the iconic carmaker was about to close its Australian plants.

The Prime Minister did not rule out further bailouts for the ailing car-makers, predominantly based in southern states, saying there was an "ongoing program" for assistance.

"This funding is not a handout it is a strategic investment that will boost our economy, foster innovation, build new business opportunities and promote adoption of new fuel-saving and safety technologies," Ms Gillard said.

The federal funding is matched with smaller contributions from the South Australian and Victorian governments to ensure Holden stays in Australia for at least a decade.Holden had planned to close its Australian operations by 2016, which would see about 12,000 jobs lost.

The company's chairman, Mike Devereux, made no commitments about retaining jobs.

"If you can tell me what the Australian dollar is going to be seven, eight, nine years from now, what all of my competitors are going to do ... I might be able to tell you how many vehicles I would be able to produce and therefore how many employees I might have," he said.

The Opposition is divided on how to assist the car industry.

Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey suggested government funding should be cut but industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella said taxpayer funding was fine as long as it was clear where it was coming from.


Leftist politician slams politics of spending

FORMER finance minister Lindsay Tanner has attacked politicians, including his own former Labor colleagues, arguing that they are ignoring the national interest and handing out infrastructure funding "irrespective of merit" for political and not economic gain.

In comments critical of the Rudd and Gillard governments, as well as the Howard government, Mr Tanner declared the political milking of government spending had become worse over the past decade.

He told an Infrastructure Australia forum in Melbourne yesterday that government spending was inevitably compromised by having to dole out projects around the states on the basis of political expediency rather than providing infrastructure where it would generate the biggest economic returns.

"If you are financing national infrastructure, it's actually pretty hard to say: 'Well, the most nationally needed projects just happen to be in Queensland and Western Australia,' " he said.
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"You are increasingly within a construct that says you have to spread the gravy around irrespective of merit, otherwise you (will) suffer politically . . . That's been there forever but is intensifying."

The federal government has often ignored the recommendations of it advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, sometimes giving the green light to projects the body had warned against.

In 2010, an Australian National Audit Office report found Labor handed $2.2 billion in taxpayer funds to eight infrastructure projects that its own adviser had questioned as economically unviable or "not ready" to proceed.

The report said six rail, road and port infrastructure projects announced in the 2009-10 budget, as well as two rail projects funded in the 2010-11 budget, had not made Infrastructure Australia's shortlist of priority projects.

Mr Tanner's comments came a day after eight Labor ministers, including cabinet members Anthony Albanese and Jenny Macklin, were reported to have awarded more than $8.2 million in grants in their own electorates without properly reporting them.

Auditor-General Ian McPhee on Wednesday released details of 33 cases over 2 1/2 years in which ministers violated Labor's anti-pork barrelling rules.

Mr Tanner, who retired from his seat of Melbourne before it was won by the Greens' Adam Bandt at the 2010 election, said politicians had to develop the courage to allocate costs, not just benefits: "Unfortunately, the principle on which our contemporary politics operates is that free lunches are the only thing . . . what it ultimately consists of is an endless process of pretending you are solving problems . . . because you don't want to upset anybody.

"You want to make sure every child gets a prize."

Mr Tanner laid some of the blame for Australia's infrastructure deficit at the feet of a public spoilt by long-term prosperity. "Prolonged prosperity ironically has reduced public willingness to accept hard decisions by government," he said. "There is less willingness to pay the cost of infrastructure through charges or taxes. We tend to take the view that if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

He said politicians were increasingly loath to spend money without asking how it would benefit them at the ballot box. "The tendency of politicians to milk the political benefits of government spending has intensified substantially over the past decade or so. That had led more and more to sub-optimal approaches to investment in infrastructure so anything that might actually be in the long-term national interest but doesn't produce substantial and serious short-term political benefits is always going to struggle," he said.

"Increasingly, the pressure is on for any substantial spend by government to deliver a big political dividend. By definition, that tilts the playing field towards consumer-based projects. Freight rail will be tricky, ports will be tricky."

During the height of the 2010 election campaign, Julia Gillard promised to fund the $2.1bn Epping-to-Parramatta railway line in Sydney, a project not then recommended by Infrastructure Australia and which did not rank highly on the state's infrastructure priorities. Mr Tanner said an increasingly white-collar workforce trying to live in ever more sprawling cities was another hard-to-reconcile infrastructure issue.

"Major cities are bumping up against the limits of supply for large monocentric cities," he said. "As urban sprawl has spread, the nexus between residence and employment has diminished.

"The transformation between blue collar to white collar has meant more jobs in the centre, but people need to live further and further out, which has exacerbated the transport problem, but that's by no means the only infrastructure issue."

He said he favoured a pay-for-availability model, as used to deliver the Peninsula Link road south of Melbourne, rather than making the private sector bear all the risk.

Mr Tanner said infrastructure bonds could be a good way to fund infrastructure in a way that was less sensitive to marginal seats, taking away the pressure from politicians to pork barrel.

Developing public private partnerships was a hard sell.

"PPPs have an image problem with the public," he said. "Which is unfortunate because they are a useful tool."


22 March, 2012

More Greenie waste

FROM the centre of Byron Bay, a 2.5m-wide, uneven asphalt bike path stretches 750m to the west.

This is what $370,000 - half of it federal government money - and 56 workers gets you in this green-leaning coastal hamlet in northern NSW.

The Australian National Audit Office has fingered the project to illustrate its major concerns about the number of jobs created under a nationwide $40 million regional bike path scheme, conceived in the wake of the financial crisis.

The audit office blamed sloppy or non-existent government analysis for a wide gap between the number of jobs it was claimed would be created and the actual figures. In its application for funding, Byron Shire Council initially stated the bike path would create two short-term jobs and two work experience positions. Despite the small number of extra jobs forecast, the federal government contributed $185,000.

The final report prepared by the council on completion of the path claimed 56 short-term jobs had been created "on a part-time employment basis".

But, on further examination, that number was found to include 30 existing council employees, rather than reflecting a real increase in job creation.

The audit of the bike path stimulus program - which delivered only half of its projects on time - found the federal government failed to make a series of crucial checks, such as whether value for money would be delivered, before assigning tens of millions of dollars under the scheme.

Wayne Swan yesterday tried to play down suggestions of waste under the bike paths program, stating it was an "expenditure of $40m . . . in a $1.4 trillion economy".

"We had the most successful stimulus of just about any developed economy in the world," the Treasurer said. "This country avoided recession because of the measures that we put in place."

The bike path stimulus scheme was announced in April 2009 as part of the federal government's $650m Jobs Fund investment scheme, which accompanied other stimulus measures of the time, such as the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program.

The audit office is concerned the government failed to assess the functionality of the paths, the usage the paths were expected to generate and the "proposed dimensions accorded with accepted standards for such facilities".

The bike path component to the stimulus package - and a separate $60m scheme aimed at heritage projects across the country - was included by Labor to satisfy deals the federal government had made with the Greens regarding the stimulus programs.

Under the program a total of 167 bike path projects have been delivered, with those projects distributed across each state and territory.

Byron Shire Council's executive manager of community infrastructure, Phil Holloway, said yesterday that the council's reporting had been "flawed". He said that, in measuring the success of the project, "it would have been better to list the number of full-time-equivalent jobs over the construction period".

Opposition Senate leader Eric Abetz likened the waste under the bike path scheme to the waste that emerged under the BER, and the pink batts insulation debacle.


Routine Leftist corruption

SENIOR Labor Ministers including Jenny Macklin, Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek have been caught out signing off on millions of dollars worth of grants for their electorates without reporting them.

Eight Labor ministers approved grants of $8 million in 2009 and 2010 without reporting them to the Finance Minister as required by strict rules.

The revelation yesterday followed a drawn-out dispute over whether the details should remain secret.

It comes after Labor has been highly critical of former Howard government ministers who used grants to secure support in their electorates but avoided scrutiny.

The Rudd government introduced rules to improve transparency in the area but an audit this year revealed not enough had been done.

Auditor-general Ian McPhee revealed that in the 18 months between January 2009 and June 2010, there were 33 instances of MPs awarding grants in their own electorates without submitting documentation to the Finance Minister.

In the same period, there were 11 cases of ministers approving grants the departmental agency had recommended be rejected.

Bill Shorten, now the Financial Services Minister, signed off on a $16,900 grant for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of WA despite the application being received late and not being recommended for funding.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted Labor was more transparent than the Coalition had been under Howard.

"We have seen a considerable improvement from the free-for-all we saw under the Howard government," she said in Question Time.

The auditor-general found in January that in most cases, grants complied with the rules.

But Tony Burke, Peter Garrett, Kate Ellis, Robert McClelland and former parliamentary secretary Laurie Ferguson were named in the document as having approved grants in their own electorates without reporting them to the Finance Minister.

Mr Albanese, now the Infrastructure Minister, failed to report grants worth $3.1 million to councils in his electorate in 2009 but defended himself in Question Time, saying the program gave money to every council.

Ms Macklin did not report her approval of 10 grants, mostly for emergency relief, within her electorate. They totalled $343,349.

Mr McClelland, at the time the attorney-general, failed to report four approvals for natural disaster mitigation grants totalling $141,000.


Australian electricity price high, and rising

With Greenie levies in them and Greenie obstruction of new generation capacity, it's no surprise

AUSTRALIANS pay 130 per cent more for electricity than Canadians, according to new research - a power premium to rise to 250 per cent once the carbon tax and locked-in price increases take effect.

The research, which will be made public today, claims household charges are already 70 per cent higher than the American average, a figure that will grow to 160 per cent in two years. Japanese, British, French, Irish and New Zealanders all pay less than we do.

The research forms the basis of a report to the Energy Users Association of Australia - which represents 100 big power users including BHP, RailCorp, Coles, the Commonwealth Bank and Brisbane City Council - and argues the way power prices are set must be urgently reformed.

The EUAA will also use the research to claim it exposes as a myth that Australian electricity is relatively cheap.

Energy Minister Martin Ferguson recently said Australians pay less than the OECD average, relying on a document called Energy In Australia 2012, which his department's Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) published three weeks ago. The document uses electricity prices from 2009-10.

"That data is old," EUAA executive director Roman Domanski told The Daily Telegraph last night. In 2010-11 alone the national price rose by 16 per cent; the NSW jump was 23 per cent. The numbers used to compile the document Mr Ferguson relied on put the NSW average at 18.55c/kWh. But in the real world, households are paying regulated rates as high as 28c/kWh.

The average NSW household's annual cost for electricity would fall from $1700 to less than $700 if our prices were the same as in Canada.

Mr Domanski said: "Add in the carbon tax from July, further network price increases and renewable energy subsidies and inevitably our prices are pushed to the point where they are challenging Denmark and Germany as the most expensive in the world." The report to the EUAA, produced by Carbon Market Economics, found Australian power prices had risen about 40 per cent since 2007 and would rise by another 30 per cent over the next two years.

It found that, even using 2007 currency exchange rates, Australian households still paid more than those in Japan, US, Canada and the average of the EU. Carbon Market Economics' comparison of prices in 92 jurisdictions - including more than 35 countries, American states and all Australian states and territories - found NSW ranked fourth behind Denmark, Germany and South Australia. Victoria was fifth and Western Australia was sixth. The ACT was 21st.

In explaining why BREE used figures dating back to 2009, energy manager Allison Ball said Australian Energy Market Commission data wasn't available until late 2011 and global 2011 statistics from the International Energy Agency were still not available.

However, The Telegraph understands Carbon Market Economics used 2011 IEA figures published before Mr Ferguson claimed Australian prices were below the OECD average.

Melrose Park mother-of-two Leanne Imbro said her family's last bill had jumped to about $700. She said she has been reassessing her children's extra-curricular activities.


Victorian Government gives power to school principals

PRINCIPALS are being given greater power to run their own schools under measures to remove red tape.

Education Minister Martin Dixon has announced a series of measures he claims will cut bureaucratic interference and provide more support for schools that are struggling, in line with the recent Gonski review.

The State Government's reforms include handing responsibility for teacher professional development back to principals, as well as funding leadership arrangements.

Principals will also be in charge of the purse strings for services such as speech therapy, psychological services and behaviour therapy.

Mr Dixon said onerous reporting requirements would be abolished to free up principals' time, while new roles would be created to monitor underperforming schools and intervene where required.


21 March, 2012

Federal Territory passes laws to force removal of burqas

New laws that will allow police to force the removal of burqas, helmets, hats and other clothing concealing a person's identity have been passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The road transport legislation, approved yesterday, will give ACT authorities greater power to order the removal of head coverings in circumstances including random roadside drug tests, traffic offences, and applications for a driver's licence. But women who wear a head covering, such as a burqa, for religious or cultural reasons will be allowed to request that it only be removed in the presence of a female police officer or in a private place in accordance with their beliefs.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell said yesterday the laws were not meant to target certain cultural or religious groups in the ACT and had been developed in response to incidents where motorists had refused to remove items of clothing such as motorcycle helmets, balaclavas, large sunglasses and hoodies when police were trying to establish their identity.

"Where drivers or riders continue to refuse to remove the item, sometimes it has been necessary to resort to the arrest power and take the person into custody to establish his or her identity," Mr Corbell told the Assembly. "A new direction to remove the obscuring item is a more efficient and less heavy handed solution."

People wearing facial coverings as part of medical treatment will not be required to remove them under the legislation.

The Canberra Liberals and the ACT Greens voted in favour of the laws, with both parties saying the legislation was sensitive to drivers who concealed their faces for cultural, religious or medical reasons.

However, Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan called for an amendment to part of the legislation that protects police who do not comply when a driver makes a reasonable request for a female officer or a private location to remove a facial covering.

The amendment was voted down by the government and the Canberra Liberals.

Mr Corbell said the laws did not impose an "absolute obligation" to comply with a request because there were circumstances where "all or even part compliance with a request may not be safe or reasonably practical."

Yesterday's amendments to the ACT's traffic laws also tightened the definition of a repeat offender for serious traffic offences, such as culpable or negligent driving.

The change will ensure that a person who commits a second offence when a conviction for a first offence is still being finalised will be charged as a repeat offender and can have their licence automatically disqualified.

Mr Corbell said that the amendment would make ACT roads safer and encourage better driver behaviour.


Government schools as middle-class welfare

Gerard Henderson is really stirring the pot below. But what he is implicitly advocating would move even more kids into private schools, which would undoubtedly be a good thing

These days, it's all the fashion to condemn middle class welfare - except when such largesse is enjoyed by relatively well-off parents who educate their children in a government school.

Last week, a friend who lives on Sydney's lower north shore received a wanted-to-buy letter from a real estate agent. The agent had a client "who is currently looking to buy a 3-4 bedroom house in the North Sydney area". The potential purchasers have two requirements: first, "they are looking to spend $1.3 to $2 million". Second, they are "looking to move into the catchment area for North Sydney Demonstration School".

So the purchasers expect to spend up to $2 million on a house. Good luck to them. And they expect that taxpayers will fund the education of their children virtually free of charge at a well-regarded comprehensive government primary school. After that, the children would still be in the "catchment area" for one or more of the well-regarded government secondary schools on the lower north shore.

If well-off Australians choose to forgo private health insurance and rely on Medicare and the public hospital system, they are required to pay a higher Medicare levy. However, when well-off Australians avoid private education and rely on the government system for the education of their children, there is no financial disincentive of any kind. The taxpayer pays all.

The concept of free education is so ingrained in the Australian national psyche that it is rarely, if ever, challenged. So even the rich can have their children educated for free without economics journalists who bang on about middle class welfare saying a word.

The expert panel headed by David Gonski, whose final report on the Review of Funding for Schooling was recently handed to the Gillard government, did not tackle this issue. Why? Well, it was not in their terms of reference because this is not a discussable matter. That's why.

Gonski and his colleagues recommended that "in a new model for funding non-government schools, the assessment of a non-government school's need for public funding should be based on the anticipated capacity of the parents enrolling their children to contribute financially towards the school's resource requirements".

This is a fair point. However, if the parents' capacity to pay is a relevant criterion when assessing government funding of private schools, why is it irrelevant when assessing the taxpayer funding of government schools?

In other words, why should a person who lives in a $2 million house in North Sydney pay nothing to educate his or her children - while a person of modest means living in a rented flat be required to make a financial contribution to educating their children in the local Catholic primary school or some similar entity?

The question is never answered because it is rarely asked. I made this point some years ago when I received a rare invitation to address a literary festival. The atheist-inclined, sandal-wearing Byron Bay set became most upset when I suggested that in a truly egalitarian society the middle class should make a contribution to the education of their children, perhaps even grandchildren, attending government schools.

The issue of state aid to non-government schools was an issue throughout much of the 20th century. The demand came from Catholics who had established their own separate education system in the late 19th century. A convenient brief account of this controversy can be found in the book A History of State Aid by, among others, Ian R. Wilkinson and published by the Education Department in 2006, when Julie Bishop was the federal minister.

The Catholic campaign achieved two major breakthroughs in the 1960s, when the governing Liberal Party was anxious to ensure preferences from the Democratic Labor Party, which had substantial Catholic support in Victoria and Queensland.

In late 1963, Robert Menzies announced that the Commonwealth would provide all secondary schools with money for science laboratories. Then, in 1967, Henry Bolte's Liberal government in Victoria provided per capita funding for children attending non-government schools. In time, all non-government schools benefited from these initiatives.

Initially, opposition to state aid came from those opposed to Catholic schools. In more recent times, opponents of state aid have consisted of individuals opposed to non-government schools - sometimes because they oppose religious schools, whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Protestant - and sometimes because they believe government always knows best.

What the critics of the non-government sector overlook is the fact that less well-off parents who make a contribution to their children's education reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer. Whereas well-off parents who send their children to comprehensive or selective government schools get a free ride on the taxpayer. Not only on Sydney's lower north shore.


Asleep on hold a real wake-up call for Federal welfare agencies

Not enough money for staff but plenty of money for a unwanted fibre network, dangerous home insulation and unusable school buildings

MEDICARE and Centrelink take so long to answer their phones that clients are falling asleep on hold, a survey of staff has revealed. And those who work for the two government agencies face-to-face with the public say they fear for their own safety as violence escalates.

A workplace survey by the Commonwealth Public Service Union has found federal budget cuts on the Department of Human Services, combined with an increased workload from the floods, have limited the ability of staff to serve customers.

The survey of almost 1000 workers in 69 agencies across Centrelink, Medicare and Child Services, found stress and wait times had blown out, with staff not being replaced. And those remaining were unable to manage the load. One manager said the stress contributed to him having a heart attack.

Staff were increasingly requesting security guards at the service agencies, the survey found. "One (customer) threatened to come back and burn me," a staff member wrote.

"I fear we will break sooner rather than later, or the customers will - and we could have a dangerous event that threatens staff or customer safety - it is only a matter of time," wrote another.

Call centre staff reported two instances of answering calls "only to find the customer had been waiting so long they had fallen asleep". "They were snoring," the staff member wrote.

The snoring matters were referred to a Canberra boss, who said the call should be terminated after 30 seconds if the customer does not wake.

"This looks good on the stats because it is a short call, and it appears that we are processing more customers," the staff member reported.


Asylum seekers 'straining' Northern Territory hospital

DARWIN'S main hospital is under strain from asylum seekers needing treatment, some with chronic anxiety, doctors say.

President of the Australian Medical Association in the Northern Territory, Dr Paul Bauert, says the Royal Darwin Hospital has three to five asylum seekers a day turning up at the emergency department.

"They are all complicated cases, because virtually of them will have some mental health issue," Dr Bauert said.

He said some of the patients had serious psychiatric illnesses.

Others had chronic anxiety, manifested in symptoms such as abdominal pain or chest pain, which became worse after they were returned to detention centres following treatment.

"The longer they are detained, the more likely these mental health issues are going to become permanent and we end up producing permanently damaged Australian citizens," Dr Bauert said.

Because of the difficulty in treating the patients and the need for interpreters, each asylum seeker tended to take up at least double the resources used by a typical patient, he said.

People housed in Darwin's two main detention centres were coming to hospital on a weekly basis after harming themselves, he said.

Last year a senate inquiry into mandatory detention heard a nine-year-old asylum seeker in Darwin had attempted to take their own life.

Dr Bauert said the money and resources used to address the health of asylum seekers could be better spent trying to fix the health needs of people in the Northern Territory.

He called on Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek to visit the hospital to see for themselves what was happening. "Nothing seems to change, and I just think it is a bit of (a case of) out of sight, out of mind, on the part of Minister Bowen and Tanya Plibersek," he said.

A spokeswoman from the Royal Darwin Hospital was unable to comment immediately on the claims by Dr Bauert. Neither the Department of Immigration and Citizenship nor Minister Plibersek was immediately available for comment on the matter.


20 March, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG deplores recent disgusting remarks by Germaine Greer. Another comment with video here. The episode is a rather good example of the old truth that it takes a woman to tear another woman down.

Conservative Premier attacks Green holy of holies -- wants to dig up more coal

Brown coal is a cheap source of energy. So Greenies hate it. It is currently the biggest source of elecricity generation in Germany. So there is nothing impractical about it. It has been supplying cheap electricity to Victoria for generations (forgive the pun). See the full horror of it above. Dredges just scoop the stuff up

FEDERAL Greens MP Adam Bandt has labelled Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu an "environmental vandal" for looking to expand brown coal mining in the Latrobe Valley.

Mr Bandt said he was "stunned" to hear the state would potentially expand brown coal mining for both domestic use and export and vowed the Greens would try and block the move federally. "The Premier, Ted Baillieu, is an environmental vandal and must be stopped," the Melbourne MP told reporters in Canberra. "I will be seeking advice as to what can be done federally to stop this environmental madness."

The Baillieu Government is planning to unlock vast resources of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley in a controversial plan to fire overseas power stations and bring the resources boom to Victoria.

Energy Minister Michael O'Brien yesterday confirmed the Coalition was seeking expressions of interest for new allocations of coal that were hoped to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties, as well as billions of dollars of investment in mines, processing and infrastructure.

But Mr Bandt said scientists had made it clear that economies needed to "decarbonise" by mid-century and governments should be supporting clean energy manufacturing industries. "Meanwhile, Ted Baillieu has got his foot on the accelerator in the other direction," he said. "Increasing use of brown coal in Victoria will ultimately be to the state's economic detriment."

But Mr O'Brien said the Baillieu Government was determined to make the most of one of the world's biggest deposits of brown coal. "The Government believes that brown coal can and should play a key role in our energy future," Mr O'Brien said.

"Encouraging new investors and the right technologies could deliver a new generation of industry in the Latrobe Valley, boosting the local economy and creating new jobs."

Victoria is sitting on an estimated 430 billion tonnes of brown coal, of which 33 billion tonnes could be unlocked from the Latrobe Valley.

But there are doubts about whether the technology needed to dry brown coal - which has a high water content - is advanced enough.

About 65 million tonnes of brown coal is mined in the Latrobe Valley for domestic use each year, but none is exported.

The Government yesterday said it would not speculate on how much additional coal it would allow to be mined until the outcome of the allocation tender process was completed.

But the Coalition claims interests from China, India and Japan are already lining up to buy the coal for low-emission activities including conversion to diesel oil and drying it for export. The new arrangements are not expected to affect allocations already in place, including coal for the Hazelwood power station.

Victorian Greens MP Greg Barber said exporting Victorian coal would lead to onshore and offshore environmental damage as well as driving up the price for domestic power stations.

He also raised doubts about how interested overseas markets were in brown coal, which would be difficult to transport and provides less energy than black coal.

"Whether the pollution is in another country or Australia, it is doing great damage to the environment and it is quite likely to push up our own power prices in the process," he said. "If they are exporting it dry there will be huge emissions in Victoria - just associated with getting it ready for export."

Environment Victoria spokesman Mark Wakeham said the Government had "failed to grasp the problem of climate change". "It seems that the Government refuses to accept that coal causes climate change because if they accepted that they wouldn’t be taking this course of action," he said.

"They're clearly not interested in a clean energy future and it looks like they're doing the mining companies' dirty work for them by running a PR campaign for the coal industry."

Mr Wakeham said mining companies could be behind the push for exporting coal. "The 13 billion tones that are yet to be allocated in the Latrobe Valley would be equivalent of 100 years of Victoria’s current greenhouse pollution," he said.

- Brown coal is soft brown fossil fuel used in steam-electric power generation;

- It has a low energy content and is high in moisture, which makes it difficult to transport over long distances;

- Its low levels of ash, sulphur, heavy metals and nitrogen, mean it's lower in impurities than other fossil fuels; [GREEN!]

- It is highly volatile, making it easier to convert into gas and liquid petroleum;

- Victoria has one of the world's largest deposits of brown coal;

- Each year 65 million tonnes are mined from the Latrobe Valley for domestic use;

- More than 80 per cent of Victoria's 430 billion tonne brown coal deposit is located in the Gippsland Basin;

- None of Victoria's coal is currently exported, but groups in China, India and Japan have expressed interest.


Hobart hospital treating IC patient in general wards

Tasmania has been impoverished by the Greens -- with their massive destruction of jobs in resource utilizing industries

INTENSIVE care patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital are being nursed in general wards because of a lack of beds in the highly specialised unit, doctors say.

RHH medical staff association chairman Frank Nicklason said the unit was under stress because of reduced hospital beds, resulting in a near-capacity hospital.

Dr Nicklason said shrinking hospital bed numbers had created an "exit block" in the intensive care unit. "The ability to move people out of the ICU is seriously compromised because the occupancy elsewhere in the hospital is so high."

Dr Nicklason said some patients in non-ICU wards who required specialist care could not get into the unit because there were no beds.

Those patients needed specialist support until a bed became available, he said.

Dr Nicklason spoke out after two of his colleagues, senior ICU doctors, gave evidence to a closed-door parliamentary inquiry last week.

It follows fears from nurses last week of stressed staff being forced to work dangerous levels of overtime because of massive cutbacks to the hospital's budget.

Australian Nursing Federation state president Neroli Ellis said cuts to bed numbers meant the hospital had operated at more than 100 per cent capacity "quite frequently" during the past two months.

"This means there's been more patients than beds ... this is clearly unsafe," she said.

On Thursday, the Liberals revealed figures showing the hospital was operating at 96 per cent capacity before recent budget cuts.

Dr Nicklason said in some cases intensive-care staff were going on to wards to care for patients who were seriously ill with deteriorating respiratory function or experiencing complications after major surgery.

Those patients would ideally be nursed in the intensive care unit, not on other wards which were less well staffed, Dr Nicklason said.

He said the hospital's Medical Emergency Team was another casualty of the cutbacks. The team is called to patients who become suddenly, acutely ill and is made up of highly specialised medical staff.

RHH chief executive Jane Holden said the Department of Health and Human Services would not comment on matters held in-camera before the present parliamentary inquiry.


Nothing is fair about unfair dismissal laws

HANDS up, all those in favour of unfair dismissal. I can't see any hands. Are you sure? So here are some stories.

A worker in a factory located in a regional town refuses to wear safety glasses, which is a requirement of work health and safety laws. He is reminded several times, but he still refuses. He is given a warning. The employer dismisses the worker lest the firm be found guilty of violating the safety laws.

The tribunal finds that the worker has been unfairly dismissed, in part because it will be hard for him to find alternative work and he has a family to support. He is awarded monetary compensation.

Another worker - this time a teacher of English as a second language - decides to use the F-word as the basis of his lessons. His employer discovers this and dismisses the workers on the basis of gross misconduct.

The tribunal finds that the worker, who has since left the country (he was a temporary migrant), was unfairly dismissed. There was no specific instruction given to the teacher to refrain from using swear words as an aid to teaching, so the argument went. The worker receives monetary compensation (more than $20,000).

Yet another worker is found to have daubed the factory wall with swastikas, which some of the other workers understandably find offensive. But there is a culture of joshing within the workplace, according to the tribunal, and the worker is found to have been unfairly dismissed. He also is awarded monetary compensation.

So are we all still against unfair dismissal? Let's face of it: none of these actual cases passes the common sense test. Note that we are not talking about unlawful dismissal, the sacking of a worker for specified reasons that are deemed to be unlawful. We are dealing with the much more subjective adjective unfair. What may seem unfair to one party to an employment contract may seem fair - indeed, necessary - to the other.

There is no doubt that the Fair Work Act has opened the floodgates to more claims for unfair dismissal. This was always going to be the case as the exemption in the Work Choices legislation (all employers with fewer than 100 employees) was removed. The numbers are now running at about 17,000 a year, up from 6000 a year under Work Choices.

In research undertaken by academics Paul Oslington of the Australian Catholic University and Ben Freyens from the University of Canberra, they note that Fair Work Australia has failed to release important data in relation to conciliated outcomes, which are the vast majority of cases. (This is yet another blot against this organisation. Note also its clearly deficient website, which is designed mainly to confuse and obscure.)

For the 3 per cent of claims in 2010-11 settled by arbitration, 51 per cent were in favour of the plaintiff compared with 33 per cent under Work Choices. And "walk away" money is back in town, with the most common range of payment being from $2000 to $4000, with 10 per cent from $6000 to $8000.

Perhaps an even more worrying development for the business community than unfair dismissal claims is the take-up of actions under the general protection provisions of the act related to adverse action.

Adverse action is defined as any deleterious action affecting an employee or potential employee (including dismissal, but also other eventualities) that is taken by an employer for prohibited reasons. Inserted in the act at the last minute, these provisions provide much easier access for disgruntled employees to sue their employers.

One of the key sections is 346, which states "a person must not take adverse action against another person because the other person is or is not an officer or member of an industrial association (trade union)".

There is also prohibition against adverse action being taken against an employee because of the person's race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

In the case of claims of adverse action, there is more time to lodge a claim, there are no earnings restrictions and compensation is not capped.

This is in contrast to the unfair dismissal provisions, where claims must be lodged within 14 days; earnings must be below $118,000 a year unless the worker is covered by an enterprise agreement or award; and compensation is limited to six months' pay.

Moreover, for adverse action claims, the onus of proof is reversed, so employers need to demonstrate that any adverse action affecting an employee has not occurred for a prohibited reason. It is hardly surprising that there has been rapid rise in the number of claims under this part of the act: from 1200 in 2009-10 to 1900 in 2010-11. The number is tracking to reach 2200 this financial year. (These are Oslington and Freyens's figures.)

One of the most significant adverse action cases is still being played out through the courts. It is due to be heard by the High Court at the end of this month, with the Victorian government having appealed the decision of the full Federal Court.

The background to this case is that a teacher, Mr Barclay, at a regional TAFE college, who was also president of his union sub-branch, sent an email to other union members alleging an instance of serious misconduct against a named senior person, without naming the complainants. His employer queried why the teacher had not raised the issue before sending the email, alleging that Mr Barclay was in fact guilty of serious misconduct. He was stood down on full pay.

The Full Bench of the Federal Court found in favour of the teacher because the employer action was seen to have taken adverse action against the teacher in his capacity as a representative of the union.

As Joe Catanzariti of Clayton Utz notes: "Subjective good intentions (on the part of employers) are not good enough. You've got to be very cautious if you are contemplating action against an employee in response to something the employee has done, or has arguably done, in the capacity of the union member or union official."

This sort of statement is just music to the ears of the trade union movement.

The decision of the High Court will be significant. In the meantime, employers are faced with the burden of this part of the act and Catanzariti's advice is that employers' "decision-making processes need to make sure that there are clear guidelines and to give reasons to employees for their decisions based on the work process and conditions. And, of course, document everything."

I wonder what the Deregulation Minister has to say about that - more paperwork, just what business needs.

The combined operation of the unfair dismissal and adverse action provisions sends a chill through the business community, crimping its willingness to take on new workers, particularly ones who could pose a risk. Strong employment protection laws and strong employment growth are infrequent bedfellows. It is time to reconsider these provisions and to debate the case for exempting small business.


Diets and exercise are unnecessary, new book claims

Big Fat Lies, by Australian writer David Gillespie, offers a devastating critique of the commercial diets followed by millions of Australians, including Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

He also offers a successful weight loss solution that doesn’t cost a cent.

After assessing decades of medical research, Gillespie concludes that many people end up putting on weight when following popular diet plans.

Or they end up losing just a couple of kilos despite years of deprivation, expense and calorie-counting, he finds.

Some techniques, such as shake meal replacements, do help people lose weight, but are very hard to stick to, he says.

However, Gillespie - a former lawyer turned home-grown food expert - does suggest a way forward for those who need to lose weight.

Gillespie also argues that exercise alone won’t help people lose weight, as working out makes us hungrier and burns through relatively few calories
He says people can lose weight and improve their health by cutting two things from their diet: sugar (particularly fructose) and polyunsaturated seed oils such as canola, sunflower, soy and rice bran.

“By doing nothing apart from avoiding two ingredients, you’ll lose weight, skip past a list of chronic diseases … and save yourself a bucket of money while you are at it,” he says. “It will cost you nothing."

In the book, just released by Penguin, Gillespie also argues that exercise alone won’t help people lose weight, as working out makes us hungrier and burns through relatively few calories.

Gillespie also launches a tirade against the multi-billion dollar vitamin industry, suggesting that expensive vitamin supplements are not necessary for people with a balanced, healthy diet – and may even be dangerous.

Yesterday a spokeswoman from the Dieticians Association of Australia said there was no “one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss”.

“DAA suggests seeking expert advice and support from an accredited practising dietitian,” she said.

Emma Stirling, a nutrition advisor from Weight Watchers, disputed Gillespie’s findings.

She said more than 100,000 Weight Watchers members “have lost weight with us, reached their goal and maintained a healthy weight”.

And a spokeswoman for the Celebrity Slim meal replacement plan said the program had “helped tens of thousands of people lose weight in a healthy, effective and sustainable way”.

“We wholeheartedly believe in meal replacement programs as an efficacious and sustainable way to lose weight,” she said.

Australians spent almost $800 million on diet programs, diet foods and weight-loss surgery in 2010-11.


19 March, 2012

Private schooling is clearly better

Randwick Boys High and Randwick Girls High are next door to each other yet separated by a wide divide in academic performance. The boys school ranks 458 on the MySchool website while the girls school ranks 231. So close yet so far apart. Just how distracted are the boys for them to lag so behind the girls in performance?

According to data on the MySchool website, the schools have very similar socio-economic catchment areas, as expected, while Randwick Boys received $1220 more per student than Randwick Girls last year. So why was there such a gap in overall results as measured by the federal government's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scores?

I hadn't realised the difference between the aptitude and attention spans of girls was so much greater than boys of comparable social background. Unless there is more to the story. There is. Randwick Boys High is not unusual. It is emblematic of a broad divergence in performances when like-for-like comparisons are made via the MySchool data base and its socio-economic index known as ICSEA.

The disparity is stark when public and private high schools with comparable scores on the ICSEA socio-economic index are compared.

Just down the street from Randwick Boys is the Catholic boys school Marcellin College. Again, the schools are close in every way except academic ranking. They are close on the ICSEA index. Randwick Boys also received $614 more per student than Marcellin College last year.

Yet in the overall NAPLAN scores, Marcellin ranks 122, far ahead of Randwick Boys at 458. Marcellin's ranking is also more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls, which wipes out the female superiority factor. Another nearby Catholic boys schools, Waverley College, also ranks much higher than both Randwick Boys and Randwick Girls, at 165.

It's not just about money. Although Waverley rated higher than Marcellin in the ICSEA index, and received almost 30 per cent more income per student, Marcellin delivered more bang for the buck, outranking its Catholic rival by 43 places.

Overall, the MySchool is telling us that private schools are producing a better education than public comprehensive schools even when they have similar resources and similar socio-economic catchment areas. The disparity in performance does not change when the comparison is shifted to girls schools.

Again, the distance between Randwick Girls High and a nearby Catholic girls school, Brigidine College, is not great except in academic rankings. The two schools are a couple of streets apart. They are very close on the ICSEA socio-economic index, with a slight advantage to Brigidine. Financially, they are almost identical. Brigidine received $11,337 per student last year and Randwick Girls received slightly more, $11,444 (both below the state average of $12,539).

Brigidine used its similar modest resources to excel, ranking 120 on MySchool, more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls. Another nearby Catholic girls school, St Clare's, Waverley, again with a socio-economic index similar to Randwick Girls, also ranks much higher at 152.

An even more striking gap exists between Randwick Girls and St Catherine's, an Anglican girls school in Waverley. They are only 2.7 kilometres apart and there is not a great socio-economic distance, with St Catherine's ranking 10 per cent higher (wealthier?) on the ICSEA index.

The similarities end there. St Catherine's ranks 52, an elite performance among the state's 783 secondary schools. It also received $21,020 per student, almost $10,000 more than Randwick Girls. That explains a lot.

The difference in incomes came from the pockets of parents, who paid a stiff premium in the expectation of their daughters receiving a markedly superior education than they would at a comprehensive public school. Parents of Brigidine and St Clare's girls also received superior performances for their investment, which usually involves financial strain. These are not rich schools.

Obviously, it is only fair to acknowledge that comprehensive schools are being strip-mined of their best and most motivated students (and parents) by selective public schools and private schools, which now have 40 per cent of the student population.

It is also important to note a wide discrepancy in the percentage of students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds in the seven schools mentioned here: Randwick Boys 75 per cent, Randwick Girls 55, Brigidine 28, Marcellin 23, St Clare's 21, St Catherine's 13 and Waverley College 7.

The high percentage of non-English-speaking-background students at Randwick Boys would appear to account for the drag in the school's relative performance. But this in itself is not a marker of disadvantage. Many of the best schools in the state have very high percentages of such students.

The top academic school in NSW, James Ruse Agricultural High, has 96 per cent of its students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The MySchool data offers an overall conclusion: when private schools and public schools are handed a similar cohort of students and income, most private schools produce clearly better results.

For those with reservations about the MySchool rankings, I share those reservations. However, this is transparency at work.

This is a Julia Gillard-driven initiative that is designed to drive improvements in performances. Soon, the NSW government will introduce a momentous change, giving independence to public school principals.

Headmasters will have to spend a lot more time on management and budgets than they do now. But they will be largely liberated from the NSW Education Department. They will have the flexibility enjoyed by private school principals, and resources can be shifted from the bloated central bureaucracy to front-line schooling.


Alternative medicine crackdown

What's required for scientific medicine should be required "a fortiori" for quack medicine too

Homeopaths are facing a fight to defend their practice in Australia after the National Health and Medical Research Council flagged it might declare their work baseless and unethical.

A draft public statement seen by The Age concluded it was "unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy (as a medicine or procedure) has been shown not to be efficacious".

The confidential statement, which was not meant to be distributed, is based on a 2010 evaluation of homeopathy by the British House of Commons science and technology committee, which declared it was no more efficacious than a placebo.

Homeopathy is based on the principles of "like-cures-like" and "ultra-dilutions". The first says substances that can cause symptoms can be used in diluted form to treat the same symptom in an illness, and the second says the more dilute a substance is, the more potent it is.

While homeopathy continues to enjoy the support of Britain's royal family and is funded through the UK's National Health Service, the House of Commons report found its principles were "theoretically weak" and "scientifically implausible".

The draft statement by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council said that although homeopathy was not harmful in its own right, it might pose a risk to patients if safe and efficacious conventional treatments were delayed in favour of homeopathic treatments.

It said homeopathy, which uses a large range of animal, plant and mineral products, should not be confused with herbal remedies.

A council spokesman would not comment on the draft, but said it was reviewing the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines, including homeopathy, and would release its findings in due course.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton backed the council's draft statement. He said he hoped it would force health insurers to reconsider their funding of homeopathy, as well as other "questionable" therapies such as iridology and reflexology.

"I think it will put them in a very difficult situation … If the NHMRC looks at the evidence and says this doesn't work, we can't support it, you'd have to ask the insurers if they will continue to fund something that a very reputable body disagrees with," he said.

The Australian Association of Professional Homeopaths Inc says 47 health insurers, including Medibank Private and NIB, cover homeopathic consultations and medicines.

Australian Homeopathic Association president Greg Cope said there was strong evidence to support the practice, including clinical trials that were now being submitted to the NHMRC for consideration.

He said there were about 700 registered homeopaths in Australia under a self-governed registration model, and they worked to a code of conduct. Consultations typically cost $50 to $100, with medicines usually costing a further $10.

Mr Cope said he had been lobbying Canberra to set up a formal registration scheme, similar to those for doctors and nurses. He said health insurers were wise to fund homeopathy, which was used by thousands of Australians. "It's a very popular therapy and I imagine it would reduce their expenses because it attracts people using low-cost healthcare," he said.

Writing in the Journal of Law and Medicine this week, Melbourne barrister Ian Freckleton, SC, said several recent deaths involving homeopaths highlighted the dangers involved when they steered people away from conventional medicine.

Dr Freckleton cited the case of Perth woman Penelope Dingle, who died from bowel cancer in 2005 after spending about $30,000 on unsuccessful homeopathic treatments, including extracts from the venus flytrap plant.

He also cited the death in 2009 of Gloria Thomas, age nine months, after her parents favoured homeopathy over conventional medicine for severe eczema.

Dr Freckleton said although many aspects of Western medicine had not been able to stand up to full scientific analysis of their underpinnings over time, there was an "urgent need" for the health sector, consumer protection authorities and policymakers to protect the community from dangerous homeopathic practices.

He said homeopaths had used crushed-up pieces of the Berlin Wall to treat depression.

And in the latest edition of the journal Spectrum of Homeopathy, the authors detailed the use of wolf's milk for eczema and bulimia, cheetah's blood for multiple sclerosis and tiger's blood for depression. "It's quite remarkable," he said.


Public hospital delays kill a little girl

The distraught mother of a preschooler who died in a Sydney hospital has broken down after a coroner found there were no failings in her daughter's medical care. "I lost my daughter, I lost my home, I lost my marriage, I lost everything," Angela Costa said through her tears outside the Coroner's Court in Glebe today.

Her former husband, Stephen Costa, warned parents to take their sick youngsters to a children's hospital rather than to other emergency departments. "Save yourself six or seven hours of politics," he said. "For no reason ... our daughter may still be here today had we taken that decision."

Four-year-old Chanel Costa died at Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick on July 18, 2008. She was taken to Nepean Hospital after running a temperature of 39.5 degrees and suffering seizures.

Her condition deteriorated and she was transferred to the Randwick hospital after no intensive care beds were available at Westmead Children's Hospital.

Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes found Chanel died of cerebral oedema, or swelling of the brain, which was the result of natural causes. Experts gave evidence that Chanel probably suffered from a rare condition, Reye's disease. "In all the circumstances, I am of the view the management of Chanel's condition could not be criticised or said to have caused her rapid cerebral oedema," the coroner concluded.

Her family raised a number of concerns at the inquest, including the six hours NETS (Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service) took to transfer Chanel to the Randwick hospital.

The coroner said she was satisfied that public health and safety was ensured through changes made or about to be made by NETS.



Three current articles below

Australia not very Green

That fact is spun below as a bad thing but considering how well-off Australia is when compared with the financial crises in "Greener" countries, it can be seen as something associated with GOOD policy

AUSTRALIA'S economy is less equipped to deal with a low carbon emissions world than it was nearly two decades ago, an international study has found.

The study, backed by think tank the Climate Institute and multinational GE, found that since 1995, Australia's dependence on polluting activities had grown relative to almost every other major economy.

The study ranked Australia 16th out of 19 countries in being ready to deal with a low-carbon world — ahead of just India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

The rankings are based on 19 measures, including emissions growth, energy generation, export industries, transport and investment in clean technology.

A retrospective analysis found Australia ranked 12th in 1995 on a "low-carbon competitiveness index", but had since been overtaken by Turkey, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. The list was headed by France, Japan, Britain, South Korea and Germany.

Climate Institute deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said relative to other countries Australia's economy had become more dependent on pollution, not less.

"Among other things our energy sector is dominated by coal, our use of oil is inefficient, we have high rates of deforestation and our export industries are based on low-value-added resources and not high-value-add technologies," he said.

The study, using an index created by British consultants Vivid Economics, does not factor in Australia's carbon price scheme and associated clean energy funding as the laws do not take effect until July 1.

It is based on an assumption that, while the global economy is volatile, there is an underlying "mega-trend" towards low emissions goods.

The authors cite evidence that more than 100 countries have policies to support clean energy, leading to a record $US260 billion spending in the area last year, and that major emitters have agreed to work on a climate pact to be signed by 2015 and take effect by 2020.


$5 carbon price to halt innovation as clean energy plan at risk

INTERNATIONAL carbon prices are predicted to be as low as $5 by 2020, undermining the ability of Australia's carbon package to force technological changes to cut emissions, one of the world's leading emissions pricing forecasters has told big business.

The research emerged as the energy sector warned that crackdowns on drilling for coal-seam gas also pose a threat to a key plank of the clean-energy package forcing power stations to switch from coal to gas because a regulatory blitz could force up gas prices and reduce the competitive advantage the carbon price was designed to give it over coal.

The $5 carbon price forecast has been produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which last week briefed the nation's largest emitters at an Australian Industry Greenhouse Network meeting.

The imminent introduction of Australia's $23 a tonne price from July 1 has sparked concerns from major business groups in the wake of the collapse in the EU emissions trading price to about $10 and a corresponding slump in the value of the UN's Clean Development Mechanism Certified Emissions Reduction units.

Some peak industry bodies are this week expected to discuss a renewed push for a rear-guard effort calling on the government to either drop the $23 carbon price to $10 or delay the scheme altogether, as anxiety about the impending introduction of the scheme mounts.

Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson told Sky News's Australian Agenda yesterday the government would "press ahead" with the current scheme.

He said compensation measures in the package included "large offerings" of free permits

of up to 95 per cent, "which means for those most emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries, the average carbon price is $1.30 per tonne not $23 but $1.30 per tonne".

"Now what we need to do is put in place a sensible carbon pricing mechanism that will actually achieve behaviour change, and calls to put it in at $5 or $10 would not achieve their stated objectives of reducing our emissions," Dr Emerson said.

The government's argument will today be backed by research from the Climate Institute and international energy giant GE, which defends the $23 starting price.

The report warns that Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in its efforts to cut emissions and that many other countries, including Britain ($24-$30), Sweden ($130), Switzerland ($30-$60), Norway ($53) and Ireland ($24-$37) have higher prices than Australia's $23 starting price.

Bloomberg's prediction of a E4 to E5 price for CERs by 2020 is based on an expected oversupply of emissions offsets programs over the course of the decade as big emitters such as the US stay out of the international carbon market.

CERs have broadly followed the trajectory of the EU emissions trading price but have traded at a discount. Bloomberg predicts that the EU price will decouple from the CER price over the course of the decade as tighter European caps and an economic recovery drive the EU price to more than $40.

CERs are likely to remain depressed because Europe will buy less of them because of limits on purchasing offshore units in the EU scheme, and the US is not expected to enter international trading markets, based on the Bloomberg "base case".

Under the Australian scheme, when the price moves to a floating trading system, Australian firms will be able to access 50 per cent of their carbon emissions liabilities offshore. A floor price of $15 will be introduced from 2015 and remain until 2018.

If the European price rose above $40 but the UN schemes were closer to $5, Australian firms would be likely to purchase their offshore credits from the UN scheme to gain access to the lowest cost abatement.

"The main message we have at the moment for our clients is that the international market does not have a huge amount of price support," Bloomberg New Energy Finance Australian manager Seb Henbest told The Australian.

"You have an interesting situation the carbon price right now is low in the rest of the world but initially high in Australia.

"That is likely to reverse when the European price is expected to get a lot higher. The Australian price will be kept low, partly because of price controls in the market but also because of the natural economic forcing of the CER price as firms buy cheap credits and use them for compliance.

"From an economic perspective, carbon could be pretty cheap in Australia for a period of time to come and we ask ourselves if that is a politically sustainable solution. If you've got a price in 2020 of $5, that is not necessarily reflecting the sort of carbon prices that would be needed in Australia to incentivise broad behavioural change in the energy sector, for example," Mr Henbest said.

Amid the Bloomberg predictions, the Energy Supply Association of Australia whose members include Origin Energy and the Australian arm of International Power-GDF Suez has warned that a regulatory crackdown on CSG could hurt energy security nationwide and efforts to slash greenhouse emissions as the government plans for its carbon price to lead to at least a 200 per cent increase in gas-fired electricity by 2050.

Coal-seam gas is cheaper to produce than gas from some conventional sources such as the new offshore gas fields in Victoria's Gippsland Basin, while in Western Australia there are fears of domestic gas supply shortages as early as 2015 because most supplies are exported as lucrative liquefied natural gas to Asia, the group said.

In a submission to the government's draft energy white paper, the ESAA urged governments to refrain from further regulatory interventions that would spook investors, saying there was an extra $240bn of investment required in the sector by 2030.

Investors were already plagued by uncertainty because of the continued failure of the major parties to reach an agreed position on greenhouse policy, while the failure of most state governments to scrap retail price controls on energy was a further barrier.

On top of this, the $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation could crowd out the private sector and small government-mandated climate-change schemes, including the convoluted Renewable Energy Target, were causing price hikes, the group said.

As LNG exports to Asia (including from CSG projects) could put pressure on prices and make it harder for domestic buyers such as power stations to lock in long-term contracts for gas, the ESAA argues in the submission that this makes it important to allow access to the "widest range" of sources.

"The massive rebuild and re-investment required to modernise infrastructure and transform to a lower emissions footing presents Australia's energy sector with an investment challenge bigger than ever before," the submission states.

"Investment of this magnitude will not happen by itself. It requires industry to have the confidence to commit to very large investments. Australia must consequently be an attractive destination if we are to raise the volumes of capital required at the lowest cost."


Western Australia clears the way for fracking

W.A. covers about a third of Australia so this is a big deal

A RECENT decision by the West Australian Environment Minister to allow small-scale hydraulic fracturing in the Perth Basin without the need for environmental assessments could be a sign of things to come for unconventional gas resources, which some have tipped as the next energy frontier for the boom state.

Rising domestic gas prices and the rapid growth of unconventional gas markets overseas have prompted increased scrutiny of WA's onshore Perth Basin. WA Department of Mines and Petroleum figures reveal use of the prominent exploration technique for unconventional gas reserves, hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", has quadrupled in a year.

Unconventional gases differ from conventional forms like liquefied natural gas, because while LNG can be found in relatively easily accessible sandstone rock formations, unconventional gasses are hidden in hard rock like shale, or unporous sandstone, like tight gas, or in coal seams. Environmental concerns have followed the spread of fracking from the coal seams of Queensland, to NSW and now to WA's shale and tight gas reserves.

The Perth Basin's tight gas fields could hold 9 trillion to 12 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, and are located near existing pipelines, according to WA Department of Mines and Petroleum records.

One trillion cubic feet of gas can provide enough energy to power a city of 1 million people for 20 years.

The WA Mines Minister, Norman Moore, said it was too early to know what an unconventional gas industry could mean for exports, although in the US net exports of total petroleum products last year exceeded imports for the first time in 60 years based on shale's contributions.

Alcoa, in partnership, has committed $100 million to exploration and development of the basin's onshore Warro gas field, of which it has a 65 per cent interest. The project's operator, Transerv Energy, through its wholly owned subsidiary Latent Petroleum, holds the remaining 35 per cent. The joint venture hopes to hit first tight gas production from Warro in late 2013.

AWE has received the green light to fracture three wells at the Woodada gas field for tight and shale gas and is expected to start exploring within the year.

Earlier this month the WA Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, backed an Environmental Protection Authority decision not to perform environmental assessments for a group of similar proposals, including AWE's, to fracture the basin for unconventional gas.

"The public advice issued by the EPA states that 'an impermeable barrier of shale separates the hydraulic fracture stimulation zone from the freshwater aquifers in the area providing confidence that there is unlikely to be an impact on freshwater aquifers," he said.

He added that "in contrast to fracking operating in other states, these proposals are significantly deeper and further from aquifers".

The Curtin University head of petroleum engineering, Brian Evans, said there was about 1.5 kilometres of sandstone under West Australians' feet, followed by about one kilometre of shale.

"If we fracked that it wouldn't make any difference to the shallow ground water where problems have existed such as in the eastern states," he said. The WA Basins have the potential to be a far larger energy source than the North-West Shelf, according to Mr Evans.


18 March, 2012

The State must not be a watchdog over the media

JOHN HENNINGHAM says "no thanks" to the Soviet model. As a former head of journalism education at the University of Qld., Prof. Henningham is a rare academic critic of the Finkelstein proposals. He is also however a former working journalist

THE priorities and values of Australia's journalism educators have been called into question by Cameron Stewart's analysis in this newspaper last week of the "great divide" between academics and the media.

While news organisations rejected with hostility the key recommendation of Ray Finkelstein's inquiry into the media, journalism and media educators have emerged as prominent champions of the report.

In particular, a great many academics support or are sympathetic to the proposed solution to the media's flaws: government establishment of a news media council to adjudicate on complaints and order the publication of corrections.

Back in the 1990s my research identified another great divide: between journalists and the public. A survey of more than 1000 Australian journalists showed they were more small-l liberal than the public on social and economic issues, andlikelier to support non-conservative political parties.

Some argue that publishers leaning to the Right and their journalists to the Left yields some kind of balance, perhaps proved by accusations of bias from opposing political camps.

Moreover, publications or broadcasters occupy different positions in the ideological spectrum, with journalists drawn to those where they feel more at home.

It was ever thus. Foundation of the ABC's news service in the 1940s attracted many journalists unhappy with the unalloyed right-wing views of the tough old newspaper barons who had employed them.

In the 1960s and early 70s Rupert Murdoch's tabloids and in particular The Australian were the place to be for young left-liberal journalists, many taking refuge from the rigid conservative values that permeated the Fairfax, Herald & Weekly Times and Packer newspapers.

Arts and social science academics are traditionally left of centre, and contemporary journalism and media educators are firmly in this part of the spectrum, although this was less the case a generation ago.

But why journalism teachers should be at odds with their core profession on the key issue of media regulation remains unclear. It's not really a matter of being Left or Right, as objection to government regulation of the press is shared by journalists of different political views.

Political scientist Rod Tiffen won plaudits from journalism academics in arguing that Finkelstein's proposed news media council would work in exactly the same way as the present Press Council: complaints would be considered by a committee of public and industry representatives who would decide whether to uphold or reject them, with the adjudication then published.

But at this point the difference is so shocking in its implications that no self-respecting journalist could possibly entertain it.

It is the government telling a newspaper what to publish.

This principle was invented by Hitler and Goebbels in 1933, with the establishment of the Reich Press Chamber. It was the beginning of a whole new relationship between authoritarian governments and the press -- not simply censoring information or jailing editors -- but actively using the press as an instrument of propaganda: print this, or else. (The Soviet Union had been in this game since 1917, but as the communist government owned the newspapers anyway, it was not quite the same.)

The shock of the Finkelstein proposal is a government body in a democracy telling a privately owned newspaper to print something (no matter how worthy the intent). Thinking about it sent shivers up my spine.

Opposition to this is in journalists' DNA. But many journalism and media educators are on a different planet.

The rot set in when universities cynically developed a potpourri of media-related disciplines to attract students without any regard to the employability of graduates in media industries.

The University of Queensland's well-respected journalism department, staffed entirely by former news media professionals including daily and national newspaper editors, was forced into a communication school. It lost its hard-won reputation and most of its journalism staff overnight.

Similar downscaling of journalism went on across the country, with the most recent example the University of Canberra, whose bachelor of journalism is to be replaced by a communication degree with fewer hands-on units (although the University of Technology, Sydney says it's bucking the trend, with establishment of a graduate school of journalism and recognition of investigative journalism as research).

Tertiary institutions made a serious misjudgment by mixing media studies with journalism. Any worthwhile journalism degree will be directed towards producing graduates whose passion for a career in journalism has been inflamed, and who have the knowledge and curiosity to be successful; people whom newsrooms can employ without the need for extensive training.

Their formation as journalists flows from being part of departments where pride in journalism is instilled.

Traditional professional faculties socialise their students, so that medical students end up thinking like doctors, engineering students as engineers and so on. By contrast, students commonly graduate from journalism studies with a jaundiced and negative view of the news media and a feeling that if they get work in the field they will be a beacon of purity in a corrupt and evil world of ethical breaches, perpetual harassment of victims, mendacity, bias and distortion.

There is little evidence of journalism's achievements being celebrated within universities, or much research aimed at helping the profession (as is the norm in traditional professional faculties). While it's no doubt part of the brief for journalism academics to critically appraise the media, the extent of media-bashing in journalism schools is alarming. Are there any other professional schools where academics are so hostile to the profession they're serving?

It is a reciprocal relationship: media organisations are contemptuous of much journalism education, major groups even setting up their own training programs and employing non-journalism graduates. But industry is partly to blame for what has happened in universities by not demanding more oversight of courses badged journalism through membership of faculty boards where they could have a say in staff selection and curriculum. Accreditation of courses by industry is another option.

Meanwhile, rather than giving the Finkelstein report a loving embrace, journalism academics could contribute to press freedom and quality journalism by critically analysing the report and its recommendations.


'Without Irish, we'd be like NZ', says Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

I think there is some truth in this but Kiwis might point to their lack of a convict influence in a mocking way

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has paid tribute to Irish larrikinism and its influence on Australia - joking that, without it, Australia would be just like New Zealand.

Speaking at a St Patrick's Day lunch in Sydney, Ms Gillard compared Ireland to an absent but favourite uncle, saying "without the Irish we would be a very different place".

"At the start of European settlement Englishness and Irishness were the original warp and weft of the people, the weave and the cross-weave of our national personality," Ms Gillard told the annual Landsdowne Club luncheon.

"We love the larrikin. Could you have a larrikin without Irish immigration? The answer is no.

"We know what Australia would be like without the Irish - just like New Zealand."

The Welsh-born Ms Gillard then quipped: "I'm going to pay for that in my next bilateral discussions with (New Zealand Prime Minister) John Key, I can feel it."


Concern about listeria means pregnant women miss out on nutrition

SOME pregnant women are being overly cautious about avoiding what are traditionally considered "no-no'' foods, such as soft cheeses, pates and sashimi, a researcher says.

Professor Clare Collins, of the University of Newcastle, studied the eating habits of 7000 Australian women to see if they were missing out on important nutrients as a result of avoiding "risky'' foods that potentially carried listeria.

Oysters, smoked fish, delicatessen meats, salad bar salads and pre-cut fruit are also considered high risk for carrying the listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

The bacteria can lead to listeriosis, a rare form of food poisoning that can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and neonatal infection.

Because of hormonal changes during pregnancy, mums-to-be are at particular risk of infection, Prof Collins says.

Reporting her findings in the journal Public Health Nutrition, Prof Collins said her study found that women who ate the most listeria foods reported more frequent miscarriages, but had high levels of the nutrients needed to have a healthy baby.

Conversely, those who ate moderate or low amounts of listeria foods had less miscarriages but also lower levels of nutrients like calcium, folate and Omega 3 acids.

"In those with moderate and low exposure there was no excess risk of miscarriage but the problem was their nutrient intakes were then worse,'' Prof Collins said.

"We're saying pregnant women need to be given more advice on how to eat healthy.

"If all they hear is risky foods, and they drop out all the potential listeria foods, their micro-nutrient intake is going to be really bad.

"They will potentially then be at risk for things like neural tube defects. Or they'll put their own health at risk.''

She said existing listeria guidelines for pregnant women were entirely legitimate but needed to be rewritten to provide more information about what could be eaten, as well as what should be avoided.

"It would be nice to see the guidelines coupled with evidence of what pregnant women can eat to meet their nutrient requirements,'' she said.

There were 65 cases of listeriosis in Australia in 2008, 12 during pregnancy and one that was fatal.


Councils could increase rates by up to $100 to combat the carbon tax

SA homeowners could face a rate rise of $100 or have services slashed as councils combat carbon tax.

Ratepayers have received the first indication of the impact of the carbon tax with the Sunday Mail obtaining internal Marion Council documents that foreshadowed a 3.25 per cent rate increase from July to cover an estimated $2 million budget blowout due to the tax.

Utility, fuel and costs of concrete and bitumen would all rise under the tax, according to the document titled Internal Working Paper - Carbon Pricing.

The council's modelling means the carbon tax impact on ratepayers is five times greater than the 0.6 per cent rise calculated by the Federal Government.

The Residents and Ratepayers Association president Kevin Kaeding said the disparity between local government and Federal Treasury estimates was a "major worry".

"If there are hidden costs not revealed by the Federal Government, which local governments will have to pass on, it will be a major blow to ratepayers, who are already struggling as it is," Mr Kaeding said.

"A rate rise of 3 per cent-plus in dollar terms could cost ratepayers anything from an extra $40 to $100 a year, depending on the value of the property and the council it is in."

On Friday, a Marion Council spokesman said the one-off 3.25 per cent rate increase was "one of many hypothetical options considered as part of modelling on the impact of the carbon tax".

"Council will not be passing on the cost of carbon pricing to ratepayers, . ." he said.

Last month the Sunday Mail revealed AGL wants to slug electricity customers an extra $150 a year from July to cover the cost of the carbon tax.


17 March, 2012

Bullied to death in a NSW school

Indiscipline bears fruit. Guess why 39% of High School students are in private schools?

THE family of teenager Alex Wildman, who took his own life after being beaten and bullied at school, is to receive a six-figure payout from the New South Wales Education department.

The 14-year-old died by suicide on July 25, 2008 at his family's home at Goonellabah, near Lismore, after being bullied by other pupils at Kadina High School.

Alex, described as a "highly intelligent and sensitive young man", endured attacks and threats at Ingleburn High School in Sydney in 2007 and the bullying started again when he moved to Kadina.

A coroner found bullying had contributed to his suicide and made various recommendations, including that the department ensure students at large high schools have access to full-time school counsellors.

The family began a civil case against the department, claiming it breached its duty of care owed to Alex.

But on Friday - the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - a District Court judge was told the case had been settled in favour of the family.

The figure, believed to be close to $1 million, will be held in trust until the youngest of Alex's three siblings turns 18.

A departmental statement later said the death of Alex was a tragedy.

"The NSW Department of Education and Communities offers its condolences to Alex's family and friends," it said. "The recommendations from the coronial inquiry into Alex Wildman's death are being implemented by the department.

"The terms of settlement in this matter make further comment inappropriate."


Flood inquiry's final report paves way for estimated $2 billion in legal payouts to flood victims

Arrogant bureaucrats killed people

QUEENSLANDERS are set to pay for a multibillion-dollar compensation claim as thousands of flood victims look likely to receive large, fuss-free legal payouts for losses in the January 2011 floods.

With Australia's largest class action now looming, the potential payout bill for the state is conservatively estimated at beyond $2 billion.

The expected lawsuit follows the flood inquiry's final report which has proven an explosive and potentially expensive revelation for the State Government just one week before the state poll.

While public officials have been left largely unscathed, three engineers - Terry Malone, John Tibaldi and Robert Ayre - now face a grilling from the crime watchdog on whether they created a fraudulent report and perjured themselves before the inquiry.

The crucial finding by Commissioner Cate Holmes that the engineers breached the dam manual on January 8-9 fuels a move by lawyers Maurice Blackburn to sue Seqwater.

Premier Anna Bligh, in a possible attempt to head off the class action, revealed yesterday Seqwater would now act as a "model litigant" if individuals approached for compensation claims.

"What that means is that you are required to fairly assess the claims, and that you are required to mediate the claims wherever possible rather than drag people through the courts," she said.

Ms Bligh said Seqwater had commercial insurance to protect against disasters which would help cover the claims. All Queenslanders will foot the bill through increased insurance premiums.

It is believed many flood-affected residents will opt to pursue the class action rather than settle out of court in the hope of much larger payouts, costing taxpayers even more.

Rod Hodgson, principal of law firm Maurice Blackburn, said a class action was "more likely than not".

It was now "crystal clear the report laid blame at the feet of Seqwater" for mismanagement of Wivenhoe Dam, he said.

The firm expected the number of victims to sign up to the "no win, no fee" action, currently involving about 1500 people, would now "grow dramatically".

The scale and prospects of the action hinge on the value of independent flood modelling data, to be commissioned by the law firm and not expected to be available for some months.

This investigation, to be bankrolled by litigation funder IMF and triggering a global search for independent expert hydrologists, would be "complex, time-consuming and expensive", Mr Hodgson said.

Litigants will have to disprove the inquiry's finding the dam engineers achieved close to the best possible outcome in the handling of the dam.

The three dam engineers who controlled Wivenhoe during the floods are believed to be shocked by their referral to the CMC.

The inquiry heard allegations earlier this year the engineers did not follow the dam manual on water releases.


Frivolous Greenie claims halt big mining venture

RIO Tinto's $4 billion plan to almost double shipping of bauxite through the inner Great Barrier Reef in two years has been thrown into disarray, threatening 3000 jobs in Gladstone.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said new evidence had come to light about the proposed shipping by the mining giant from its bauxite operation near Weipa to Gladstone, in a ruling likely to delay the project for a year.

Rio Tinto Alcan president Pat Fiore yesterday warned the 11th-hour decision to expand the environmental review was a threat to the entire resource sector.

Rio has demanded an urgent meeting with Mr Burke ahead of a joint state and federal strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and the findings of a UNESCO delegation.

"Rio Tinto is deeply concerned that the Federal Government has taken such a profound decision based on unsustained claims in a two-page submission by the Wilderness Society," Mr Fiore said.

He said they had been shipping bauxite on that inner reef route for 40 years without damage.

The South of Embley project will produce up to 50 million tonnes of bauxite a year by 2015 in a $1.4 billion expansion of existing site reserves between Weipa and Aurukun on western Cape York.

The plan is for it to feed the $2.5 billion Yarwun refinery at Gladstone due to be commissioned by the end of this year.

Rio last year loaded 176 ships with bauxite in Weipa headed for Gladstone with that number forecast to rise to 270 ships in the next two years alone.

Green groups claim the total shipping numbers transiting through the reef are likely to increase five-fold under the state's mining boom.


16 March, 2012

Sydney university perceived as being in the world's top 100

Since I have a large document issued to me by USyd, I am rather pleased by this. Rankings are all very arbitrary but perception is arguably the most important criterion -- JR

The University of Sydney is among four Australian universities ranked in the top 100 by reputation, in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2012.

Sydney was ranked 50, up from last year's position in the 51-60 slot, but behind the University of Melbourne and Australian National University, which were placed 43 and 44 respectively. The University of Queensland also moved up, to be listed in the 71-80 block.

Each of the four improved their positions from last year, the first time Times Higher Education published the peer-voted list.

The elite, "super group" of universities in the top 10 is dominated by American and British institutions with one Japanese university breaking into the top tier. Harvard tops the list and the University of Cambridge is third, with the University of Tokyo coming in to eighth position.

Melbourne and ANU are ranked more highly on the performance rankings at 39 and 40 respectively, while Sydney and UQ have a better reputation than performance, listed 60 and 76 on the list of top performers.

California Institute of Technology is the top performer on the traditional rankings, which has Oxford ahead of its long-time rival Cambridge.

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings, said Australia's position on the reputation list was good news for the country, showing that its global reputation was improving, while some of the most distinguished universities were falling in stature.

"This reputation-only index is very good news for Australia – all four of its representatives in the world top 100 have risen up the table, with three of the four now making the global top 50. This is clear evidence that Australia's universities are rising in stature internationally, while competitors in the US and UK are seeing their global brands suffer."

More than 17,000 academics from 137 countries were surveyed about "the best" institutions in their own field of expertise. The list is intended to complement the Times's traditional performance ranking, which it publishes in October.

"This is a subsidiary of the world rankings, it's based only on reputation alone," Mr Baty said. "It's a very quirky exercise - and it's purely based on academics' perception so it's a subjective opinion only."

Mr Baty said Simon Marginson, an academic at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education, had been a helpful adviser on improving the way universities are represented.

"Funnily enough, the origins of this is Simon Marginson from the University of Melbourne - he often has been a great critic of rankings but he's been a very helpful adviser to us on how we make our rankings more rigorous and more transparent.

"With the main rankings which we publish in October we use 13 performance indicators: research impact, we look at income, we look at research productivity, we look across a real range of indicators, and he always used to argue that we separate the subjective part of the main rankings."


Navy crew stands by as yachtie's $600,000 boat sinks

This is not the standard of behaviour that Australians expect of their armed forces

MEMBERS of the Australian navy stood by while a yachtie pleaded for help to save a $600,000 boat that took on water and began to sink at Mourilyan Harbour yesterday.

Kurrimine Beach man Marcus Kitchen told The Cairns Post a navy crew member said: "We would love to help mate, but we have to wait until we get permission from Canberra."

Mr Kitchen had pulled his dinghy up to a navy vessel and begged crew to tow his catamaran off the rocks as it struck trouble and began to take on water.

Compounding Mr Kitchen’s frustration was the fact Innisfail coastguard could not be raised to come to the rescue – a lack of volunteers and funding means it is only manned on weekends.

Monday night’s 50-knot winds dragged the 18m Rainbow’s End more than 300m on to a rock wall near the Mourilyan Harbour boat ramp. It sat there until a salvage crew arrived at 2pm yesterday.

A navy ship was docked just 100m away but crew made no move to help. Instead, they watched as Mr Kitchen’s friends salvaged what they could and attempted to pump water from the stricken boat.

Mr Kitchen, owner of the Kurrimine Beach Holiday Park, said his yacht had been anchored in the same spot for three months as repairs from cyclone Yasi damage were completed. "I just had her fixed up and hadn’t even had a chance to take her out again," he said.

Mr Kitchen said red tape had prevented the navy from helping him. "We got here at 7.30am and there were six warships doing nothing as my ‘cat’ hit the rocks," he said. "They all went out the harbour mouth apart from one that sat there, just 100m away.

"They told me they would love to help but they need permission. My ‘cat’ will be wrecked all because of some bureaucratic red tape."

A Department of Defence spokeswoman said the navy could not respond to questions about the incident until 10am today.

Meanwhile, Innisfail Coastguard spokesman Rob Bryant said radios were only monitored on weekends and public holidays because of a drop in volunteer numbers.


Dam engineers referred to watchdog as flood report handed down

THREE dam engineers will be referred to the Crimes and Misconduct Commission regarding their handling of the Wivenhoe Dam following the release of the flood inquiry's final report. The engineers have also been found to have breached the dam manual.

The year-long inquiry's final report was handed down at 11 am at State Parliament.

Justice Holmes has found the engineers did breach the dam manual which she also found was "ambiguous unclear and difficult to use."

The finding adds weight to a class action being considered by Maurice Blackburn lawyers.

The inquiry heard allegations earlier this year the dam engineers did not follow the dam manual on water releases which may have compounded the flooding that hit Ipswich and Brisbane in January last year. The engineers were also accused in the inquiry of colluding to cover up their mistakes by creating a fraudulent official report. The CMC will examine the allegations.

The three engineers are Terry Malone, John Tibaidi and Rob Ayre who all denied the allegations while under cross examination.


26 police officers assaulted in Queensland schools in past five years

The dreadful result of Leftist ideas about discipline. Police never went near a school once. Teachers handled any behaviour problems -- with the cane if necessary

SCHOOLS are becoming so violent that even police are afraid to respond to some incidents because of fears they are not receiving enough support in dangerous situations.

Young criminal activity is on the rise with documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws showing 26 police officers were assaulted at schools in the past five years.

Under the Queensland Government's School Based Policing Program, 29 officers are assigned to 36 schools across the state. This is despite plans for 35 officers to be appointed to 47 schools.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said it was difficult to recruit officers for the program, saying there needed to be more incentives and support.

"Violence has been out of control (and) criminals are getting younger and younger," he said. "It's about putting these police into multiple schools on a rotational basis and they need to be better supported by the district office."

Other obstacles identified included relatively low salary and a perception by others that school-based officers "do nothing all day" and their careers were "going nowhere".

The review said despite initially being proactive, the practice has since become reactive. "This role changed with increased social awareness of bullying, cyber bullying and mass media," the review stated. "Gradually this impact has seen an increase in reported violence and more serious offences . . . (such as) students taking . . . weapons to schools."

The review said "officer safety" was also a problem on the north coast, which includes Kepnock, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and Urangan state high schools.

Almost half of the 26 assaults on police at secondary schools involved school-based officers.

School-based policing was introduced in 1996 by then Police Minister Russell Cooper, and the LNP announced this week it would commit to 15 more officers and send troubled youth to boot camp.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said a new report prepared by Griffith University Professor Paul Mazerolle showed Queensland schools remained safe places for students and staff. "It is our responsibility to ensure all students have the right to learn in safe environments," he said. "That's why as part of the two-pronged strategy, I also commissioned research from Griffith University on weapons in schools."


15 March, 2012


Five current articles below

Typical Greenie arrogance

The "Green" mayor of Sydney wants to get most cars out of the city and says people should cycle instead. But she herself gets around in a chauffeur-driven car -- for trips that could easily be made by bike. She apparently wants to get most cars out of Sydney so her car is not held up by traffic jams

BICYCLE-mad Lord Mayor Clover Moore has been using a council car and driver to take her to parliament - in what appears to be a bending of council rules.

Ms Moore came close to tears yesterday as she said she would be forced to resign from parliament after 24 years because Premier Barry O'Farrell wants to ban councillors from being MPs.

But a classic conflict in Ms Moore's two jobs can be revealed, with Ms Moore's driver regularly taking her - or her bags - to and from parliament on sitting days in a black council Prius.

Yesterday the driver picked her up from a coffee shop, took her to a press conference at the Botanic Gardens and then drove her to parliament.

A spokesman for Ms Moore said she was not breaching council rules and her "daily program while parliament was sitting routinely included appointments related to her duties at the City of Sydney.


Electric cars would stress power grid

ELECTRIC cars plugged into suburban homes would create a risk of causing blackouts by increasing peak demand, the State Government predicts.

The State Government and advocates of the vehicles want owners encouraged to charge the batteries at off-peak times to cause less stress on the system.

Minister for Energy Tom Koutsantonis said the issue needed to be managed like any burden on the electricity grid, such as the uptake of airconditioners.

"Electric cars are a fantastic way to reduce carbon emissions but we need to make sure we manage the way people recharge them," he said.

"We don't want the entire state to plug their cars in at times of peak demand, we want to manage this so that they are plugged in when demand is low."

The Federal Government is currently investigating how an influx of vehicles - predicted to be 20 per cent of all car sales by 2020 and 44 per cent by 2030 - will impact on the electricity grid.

In a written submission to an Australian Energy Market Commission inquiry, the state Department of Manufacturing has warned: "Increased load caused by the charging of electric vehicles could potentially exacerbate peak demand issues currently experienced in South Australia during summer months".

Electric car enthusiast, Adelaide Lord Mayor Steven Yarwood has studied the issue as part of the Adelaide City Council's use of a fully electric Mitsubishi i-Miev car. Mr Yarwood said the cars were similar to the introduction of the internet when people were uncertain how it would operate.

"There are two ways of looking at it and that is in the short term there will be a challenge for the grid and how Governments deal with that but in the long term there is an enormous capacity for the cars to be charged at night time (after people drive home) without any impact on the grid at all," he said.


Tony Abbott backs Clive Palmer on High Court carbon tax challenge

TONY Abbott has backed Clive Palmer's bid to challenge the carbon tax in the High Court.

Queensland's richest man and LNP donor has threatened to mount a legal challenge to the proposed tax before. He now says he has legal advice suggesting the tax is unconstitutional and he could win a challenge against it.

Mr Abbott today backed the challenge and said state governments should also test the tax in court. "I certainly think that there are some constitutional issues," Mr Abbott said. "Normally the Commonwealth can't tax the states, for instance and this is going to be a tax that's paid by state governments."

Mr Palmer said he had legal advice that showed the carbon tax was unconstitutional, but did not provide any more detail. "The grounds are set out in legal advice and they'll be coming out in the High Court," he told ABC TV.

But Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the government had advice that the measures were legally sound. "The legislation relies on a number of powers under the constitution," he said.

Mr Combet said Mr Palmer would be wasting his money on the case. "I think this is another foray by Mr Palmer who's got more money than sense really," Mr Combet said. "He seems to be exercising all of the wealth that he's acquired out of the resources boom and elsewhere just to pay lawyers."


Carbon tax may cost 1500 jobs in South Australia

TREASURY Department modelling shows the carbon tax will cost the state up to 1500 jobs next year, the State Opposition says.

Liberal leader Isobel Redmond says the estimate is based on modelling the Opposition obtained through freedom of information.

"The impact of this insidious tax on the SA job market will have the effect of negating 75 per cent of the jobs created by the proposed Olympic Dam expansion in the next year," Ms Redmond said.

The Opposition asked a series of questions about the carbon tax in Parliament yesterday.

At one stage Employment Minister Tom Kenyon said he was not aware of any modelling on the impact of the carbon tax on employment.

Soon after, Ms Redmond used details from the Treasury Department modelling to ask Premier Jay Weatherill why he had supported the carbon tax when the Government's own figures showed the tax would cost 1500 jobs once implemented.

Mr Weatherill said the reason Labor supported putting a price on carbon was "because we want a future for our children". "The short-term costs associated with the implementation of a price on carbon will be nothing like the burden of adjustment that will fall upon this state," he said.

Mr Weatherill said what was most damaging for business was the lack of certainty about the future of a price on carbon. "So when a Commonwealth Government accepts its responsibilities and ... does something - which is to put a price on carbon - that is a massive political challenge."

Outside Parliament, Opposition treasury spokesman Iain Evans said it was obvious that the Employment Minister and the Treasurer, Jack Snelling, were not talking to each other.

"Mr Kenyon said he was not aware of any modelling on the carbon tax yet the Opposition has obtained documents from Treasury which show modelling has been done," he said. The carbon tax takes effect on July 1.


Australia should stay open to nuclear says likely new Labor Party leader

FOREIGN Minister Bob Carr says Australia should stay open to nuclear technology, despite Japan's recent nuclear disaster.

Senator Carr, a proponent of nuclear technology, said the push towards nuclear energy was hampered by last year's tsunami and earthquake disaster in Japan, which caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

"I think Japan has set it back because of the impact it's had on insurance and cost," he told ABC Television today.

However, he said Australia should still consider moving towards nuclear energy.

"The fact is, some of the renewables are taking off more slowly than I, as a believer in climate change, would have liked."


14 March, 2012

Perth brickie sparks row over Irish ban

The advertiser was saving both himself and others time and trouble as experience had obviously moved him not to hire Irish people. The ban on such advertising won't remove discrimination. It will just make it less visible. Even if he cannot advertise what he wants he can still hire on that basis as long as he keeps that basis to himself. This is a ban on speech, not a ban on discrimination

AN online job ad stating "no Irish" should apply has forced the Australian embassy in Ireland to defend the country's commitment to diversity and racial tolerance.

The ad posted on website Gumtree stated: “Bricklayer needed ASAP. $250 a day, no part-time workers and NO IRISH”, reports the Irish Independent.

The ad sparked immediate reader outrage after the Independent reported the ad was “in language reminiscent of the discrimination against the Irish in British cities in the 1950s”.

It has since been removed, but not before the man responsible - known only as “Simon” - defended his position stating he was sick of Irish people applying for jobs they were not qualified to do.

“I have no trouble with Irish people,” he told the Independent. “But I’ve had to fire a number of people. I’ve had lots of Irish people say they have experience bricklaying but come over and have no clue how to lay bricks. “I’m very busy and don’t have time to be watching over them.”

A spokesman for the Australian embassy told the Independent online: “The Government has an unwavering commitment to a multicultural Australia and greatly welcomes the contribution made by people of all backgrounds, regardless of origin, gender, or colour, to Australia's culture, society, and prosperity.”

He said Australia had no tolerance for racism and discrimination reflected in a broad range of anti-discrimination legislation.

Orla Tunney of the Irish Embassy in Canberra said they are very concerned at any instance of discrimination against Irish people in Australia. "We understand that the advertisement in question was illegal and has now been removed from the website where it appeared," said Ms Tunney.

"Thankfully, incidents of this type are very rare and in general we are aware of a very high level of respect in Australia for Irish workers. We very often receive positive feedback about the level of education and training of Irish workers and their ability to adapt well to Australian workplaces."

Race Discrimination Commissioner Helen Szoke confirmed with that this was a clear cut case of discrimination. “What’s important is that people understand that it is unlawful to advertise in this way and that there are grounds for people to bring a complaint of discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission,” Dr Szoke said.

“But it’s also unhealthy. With a job like bricklaying it’s pretty easy to ascertain what the requirements of the job are without being abusive on the basis of race.”

Dr Szoke said employment was the single largest area of racial complaints in Australia. “Section 16 of the Race Discrimination Act states that an advertisement could be understood as being unlawful if it treats people unfavourably on the basis of race,” she said. “This is a pretty clear cut case. It’s a clear exclusion of Irish people both in the advertising and in the employment practice – so there would seem there are grounds for lodging a complaint.”

The economic downturn in Ireland has led to a surge of Irish emigrating to Australia in search of work.


New Distance Education curriculum makes kids cry, mothers claim

REMOTE families are looking to move closer to town or leave Distance Education as a new curriculum plays "absolute havoc" with their lives.

Parents say children have been left in tears and are losing their self-confidence because of Distance Education curriculum material that contains factual errors, technical language even parents cannot understand and incomprehensible jumps in its content.

Education Queensland is being accused of playing "absolute havoc" with remote families' lives over its Distance Education version of Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C) - computer-based documents written to support the roll-out of the Australian Curriculum.

Cairns School of Distance Education Queensland Teachers' Union representative Mark Hollands said he was embarrassed by factual errors in the documents, the material assumed children had learnt concepts they hadn't, and it was too technical for parents.

Brisbane School of Distance Education agreed dozens of mistakes were made in their original package but said these were few overall and more explanations would be sent to parents soon.

Executive principal Neil McDonald said the package had a "95 per cent-plus rate of functionality on our first run".

Isolated Children's Parents' Association Queensland president Andrew Pegler said he acknowledged the hard work of curriculum writers to fix C2C problems but more resources were needed.

Far north Queensland mother-of-four Fiona Mitchell said children were in tears over the material, which they couldn't understand.

QTU president Kevin Bates said there were often problems in the beginning of any new curriculum roll-out.


Queensland flood inquiry warned of fake evidence

When bureaucratic laziness killed people, what else would one expect?

THE flood inquiry referred public officials to the Crime and Misconduct Commission last year after it was warned evidence would be covered up and fabricated, the Senate has been told.

Former chief engineer in charge of flood mitigation works in Queensland, Greg McMahon, told a Senate inquiry last month the commission had been warned of "the possibility that such actions by the water agency may occur, by reciting past and current actions by the ancestor organisations of the current water agencies".

The inquiry was alerted about "a deliberate lack of competence, used to serve another purpose such as confusing the inquiry about what happened" during the floods, the Senate heard.

But the CMC dismissed the warnings without seeking details from Mr McMahon, his submission alleges.

"The inquiry may be covering up that it and the CMC were given warnings and examples and current instances from an engineering specialist, and these bodies had ignored these warnings and disclosures," Mr McMahon wrote.

A spokesman for the inquiry said: "A submission provided by Mr McMahon made a number of allegations about Queensland Government public officials. The allegations were not about officers of the Commission of Inquiry. The commission did not inquire into the matter. The commission complied with its legislative obligations to refer the matter to the CMC."

The Senate was also told large parts of a published submission Mr McMahon made to the flood inquiry warning of a "systemic" culture of fear among civil servants, a lack of engineering expertise among managers and a section headed "perception of bias" were later removed.

The flood inquiry said it had published material included in Mr McMahon's submissions "in error ... when it in fact contained material that should have been redacted in line with the commission's usual practice".

"When this was identified in late August 2011, the material was redacted from the submissions and the submitter was advised," the spokesman said.

The Senate document also claims one of the inquiry's own experts asked for a copy of another unpublished submission by Mr McMahon, but was refused it.

Mr McMahon's submission warns of the prevalence of "purple engineering" - named after the colour of overalls worn by the Titanic's crew.


Companies must employ drunks?

That's Australian law, apparently

RAILCORP discriminated against a job applicant who had two convictions for drink-driving offences when it denied him a position as a market analyst, the Australian Human Rights Commission has found.

The man, known as Mr CG, had convictions for a middle-range drink-driving offence in 2001 and a low-range offence in 2008. When he applied for a position as a market analyst with RailCorp in 2009 he was told he was not offered the position because of his criminal record, despite having met all the selection criteria and being the selection panel's preferred candidate.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of a person's criminal record.

In a report tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday, Catherine Branson, the president of the commission, recommended RailCorp pay Mr CG $7500 in compensation for hurt, humiliation and distress. But RailCorp has refused to pay.

RailCorp accepts Mr CG was not offered employment because of his criminal record. But it disputes this constituted discrimination. It said his criminal record made him unable to perform the inherent requirements of the job.

RailCorp describes the inherent requirements as compliance with its drug and alcohol policy, upholding its safety-first values and performing the duties faithfully, diligently, carefully, honestly and with the exercise of skill and good judgment.

However, Ms Branson found Mr CG was not excluded from the job due to the inherent requirements of the job. He had worked for RailCorp for eight years in various roles, including an 18-month stint as a market analyst. There had been no suggestion he had behaved in a way inconsistent with the inherent requirement of the market analyst's position.

She found his offences had no connection with his employment and had not occurred in work hours. Driving was not part of his employment and he was not required to provide rail transport services in which safety was a critical concern.

"While the absence of a criminal record might be an inherent requirement of some positions with a limited class of employers, I am not satisfied that this position of market analyst is such a position," she wrote in the report.

While RailCorp did not accept the commission's findings on compensation, it has said it will review its recruitment procedures with a view to ensuring people were not inappropriately excluded from employment. The decision is reviewable under the Administrative Decisions Act.


Carbon emissions hit a new record

But at the same time temperature stops rising and has now been static for 15 years. So what's the worry? No answer to that below!

GREENHOUSE gases have risen to their highest level since modern humans evolved, and Australian temperatures are now about a degree warmer than they were a century ago, a major review by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology has found.

The national climate report, to be released today, said Australia's current climate "cannot be explained by natural variability alone" and that emissions resulting from human activity were playing an increasingly direct role in shaping temperatures.

Australian researchers were able to identify the "fingerprint" of the carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere, by testing the isotopes in CO2 particles, and confirm that the increase came from fossil fuels burnt in power stations and cars.

"We saw a dip in carbon dioxide emissions during the global financial crisis, but that period is now over," said the chief executive of the CSIRO, Megan Clark. "Levels are now rising steadily again, in line with the trend."

The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 390 parts per million in 2011, the highest level in 800,000 years.

The average day and night-time temperatures in Australia are now about a degree higher than they were a century ago, the State of the Climate 2012 report said.

"Multiple lines of evidence [such as?] show that global warming continues and that human activities are mainly responsible," it said.

The report gathered observations from thousands of experiments, mapping increases in air and water temperature and plotting rising sea levels.

Data gathered from gauges around the coast showed sea levels continuing to rise off Sydney and much of the NSW coast at a rate of about 5 millimetres per year, while some areas of the tropics, including Darwin, are seeing rises of up to 1 centimetre per year. Most of the rise is attributed to thermal expansion, or warmer water temperatures meaning that H20 molecules take up more space.

"The observed global-average mean sea-level rise since 1990 is near the high end of projections from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report," the researchers found.

On average, global sea levels are about 21 centimetres higher today than they were in 1880, when reliable records began to be kept. The report also noted increases in heavy rainfall events across most of eastern Australia, but also more bushfires. The trend for Sydney is towards more monsoonal rains. "The Mediterranean weather we have become used to seems to be fading," Dr Clark said.

A CSIRO atmospheric scientist, Paul Fraser, said the world was now on track to pass the 400 parts per million level for CO2 emissions in under five years.

Researchers at an air monitoring station at Cape Grim in Tasmania have been testing the composition of carbon dioxide molecules. The measurements include a form of "carbon dating", where the amount of carbon-14 particles indicates the age of a particle.

"The only process you can come up with that fits the profile of the CO2 we measure is the combustion of fossil fuels," Dr Fraser said.

Observations at Cape Grim have been tracking the changing composition of the air for decades. Since 2000, fossil fuel emissions in CO2 samples have been increasing by about 3 per cent a year, but a decline of about 1.2 per cent a year took place as energy demand slackened during the financial crisis.

Growth in human-induced CO2 emissions has now rebounded back to about 5.9 per cent a year, the report said.


13 March, 2012

Climate: Warning of $30bn hit from high carbon price

AUSTRALIA faces a $30 billion hit to growth by 2018 if domestic carbon prices remain higher than the European price, according to new economic modelling that will add to business pressure to bring the $23 starting price closer to Europe's $10.

The modelling, by the Centre for International Economics consultancy, warns that keeping the $23 fixed price regime and the floor price of $15 a tonne - key elements of the current package - will have almost twice the impact on economic growth by 2018 as allowing the Australian price to track international prices.

A higher price in Australia than in comparable international markets could also cost the mining industry a cumulative $4bn and durable manufacturers $1.5bn over six years, the CIE modelling predicts. In a blow to the Coalition's direct action policy alternative, leading CSIRO researcher Michael Battaglia has warned that the abatement figures in Tony Abbott's alternative policy are "ambitious". The centrepiece of the policy - sequestering 85 million tonnes of carbon in soil by 2020 - might only achieve abatement of between 5 million and 20 million tonnes, he said yesterday.

The CIE research, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia, comes amid projections that slow growth in Europe will mean international carbon prices will not rise significantly above the $10 around which they are currently sitting.

When Australia's carbon package was announced, Treasury assumed an international carbon price of between $29 and $61. But the European credit crisis caused prices to slump. The research will amplify calls by key business backers of carbon pricing, including the Australian Industry Group's Heather Ridout and the Business Council of Australia's Jennifer Westacott for the policy to be rewritten.

Last week, Ms Ridout said the difference between the Australian and European prices was effectively "a tax on industry", while Ms Westacott described the disparity as a concern for the competitiveness of Australia's industries.

Kevin Rudd, during his failed leadership challenge to Julia Gillard, reignited the debate last month when he said if he again became prime minister he would examine the implementation of the carbon tax within six months and that the scheme should move to a floating price as quickly as possible.

The CIE modelling said that, if global carbon prices remained low, there was a risk the Australian fixed price or the Australian minimum price (in the subsequent three years) would be above the accessible international price and this would have "important implications for the cost effectiveness of the Australian scheme". "An important consequence of this is that the cost of abatement in Australia could be higher than necessary as the administrative arrangements do not allow the use of relatively low cost international abatement," the report says. "In 2018, for example, the Australian GDP loss is around two times higher with a fixed and minimum price in place compared with what it would have been without the minimum price (-0.9 per cent compared with -0.5 per cent)".

Treasury modelling last year as part of the government's Clean Energy Future Package put the reduction in GDP compared with business as usual at -0.3 per cent in 2020.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hooke said the CIE modelling "further confirms Australia will have the world's biggest carbon tax and that the proposed system is a long way from least cost abatement". "The current carbon tax is being introduced at the wrong time and is the wrong design for our economy," Mr Hooke said. "It is simply a revenue churn that imposes massive costs without reducing global . . . emissions."

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the initial fixed-price period would provide certainty before the transition to an emissions trading scheme, under which carbon prices would be determined by the market. "The government is including a price floor and ceiling for the first three years of emissions trading to avoid sharp price spikes or plunges," the spokesman said. "This will reduce risks for businesses as they gain experience in having a market set the carbon price."

The government was providing a multi-billion-dollar Jobs and Competitiveness Program to provide aid to firms that emitted a lot of pollution and faced strong competition from imports or on export markets, the spokesman said.

"It shields those industries from the full carbon price; in fact, the most emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries will only face an initial effective carbon price of $1.30 a tonne once you take this assistance into account," he said.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the $30bn hit was "an extraordinary indictment of the government's approach".


Australian taxpayers will fork out at least $60 million in free legal advice for asylum seekers this year

TAXPAYERS will fork out at least $60 million in free legal advice for asylum seekers this year as new figures reveal 80 per cent of detainees are winning their appeal for refugee status.

A Daily Telegraph investigation can reveal $32 million has been paid to 22 refugee legal firms since July - and the surge in boat arrivals is likely to swell their slice of the immigration budget.

And Labor's immigration review scheme is on track to cost up to $30 million as record numbers of asylum seekers use courts to challenge refugee visa rejections.

Meanwhile, the lawyer who led the fight to have the Gillard Government's Malaysia Solution overturned in the High Court, David Manne, appears to be one of the landmark decision's biggest beneficiaries. His Melbourne-based Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre has received $4.13 million since the refugee swap deal with Malaysia was sunk last August, courtesy of funding through the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme.

With 1221 asylum seekers arriving in the first two months of this year, a small army of immigration lawyers are receiving similarly generous taxpayer funds, with 22 organisations receiving a large cash injection to give free advice to asylum seekers.

Just $220,000 was spent on the Independent Merits Review scheme in 2009-10 but this increased to $12 million in 2010-11 and $6 million was spent in the three months to September 30, 2011.

The opposition dubbed it the "Hotel California" scheme with the firm message to asylum seekers that "once you're here, you'll never have to leave".

New figures show the proportion of asylum seekers winning their appeals to become refugees has jumped from 46.8 per cent in 2009-10 to 79.3 per cent.

The department anticipated the scheme cost $22.8 million in 2010-11, with most of this ($19.4 million) allocated to help asylum seekers.

In eight months this financial year, the government has forked out $32.6 million in IAAAS funding, according to figures from the Commonwealth's tender website.

Other big winners include Adelaide-based Australian Migration Options, which secured $5.5 million in IAAAS funding, and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, with $3.6 million.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison last night vowed to scrap the merit review scheme if the Coalition wins office.

He said Labor's "only policy now is a 'let them in and let them out' that has made Australia an even bigger magnet for boat arrivals than at any other time".

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: "If the Coalition really cared about reducing asylum seeker costs, they would stop saying no to offshore processing so the government can put in place a genuine deterrent."

He said Australia had a "robust process for determining whether people seeking asylum are in need of our protection".


Australia's very own false prophet

Called out by someone who knows what he is talking about

HE could be NSW's very own rainmaker. Every NSW town visited by Professor Tim Flannery or his Climate Commission colleagues for community forums where residents were told they were in a "drying trend" has been deluged by rain up to three times the annual average.

After being warned to expect drying conditions but more rain in winter than summer, Tamworth was drenched last month with 121mm of summer rain in 24 hours - the highest fall on record.

Wollongong was warned it could experience such significant drying conditions that bushfires would be worse, and when rain came it would be in intense bursts.

The city was drenched in the past nine weeks with 661mm of rain, more than twice the 258mm average for the first three months of the year.

Port Macquarie was told to expect prolonged droughts - yet has experienced flash flooding with 100mm in just one night last month. Rainfall for the year is now more than 100mm above average.

An academic who specialises in climate science has accused Prof Flannery of getting predictions "spectacularly wrong." Writing for education publication The Conversation, Associate Professor Stewart Franks from the University of Newcastle's School of Engineering said he believed Prof Flannery was no better than an "amateur enthusiast" at climate science.

"The most obvious factor could well be Flannery's lack of background in a climate science. He is an academic, however his background is mammalogy - he studied the evolution of mammals," wrote Prof Franks who researches climate variability, particularly flood and drought risk, and the predictability of natural climate variability across NSW. "He is perhaps best described as an amateur enthusiast, in which case I could actually have a little sympathy for him getting it so wrong."

The Climate Commission claims the media is getting confused between "climate and weather". Professor Lesley Hughes said there were plans to hit back at criticisms this week with a new report on rainfall "to further clarify this issue for the community".

Prof Hughes, who gives region-specific information at the forums hosted by Prof Flannery, said the climate was drying, although climate change could also cause intense bursts of rain.

"The climate in southeastern Australia has been changing over the past few decades, overall becoming hotter and drier," she said. "Climate models indicate that this drying trend may continue in the long term, increasing the risk of droughts and fires. "However, we still expect variability from year to year in temperature and rainfall."

Prof Flannery did not respond through his spokeswoman to criticisms in The Conversation article.

Prof Franks said the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology had mistaken the drought this decade as climate change-related, when the dry spell and now rain was a long-term La Nina and El Nino weather pattern. He said the weather events occurred in 20 to 40-year clusters.


Bureaucracy of the NSW Department of Education will be stripped back under the state's biggest education revolution

NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli at Griffith North Public School. Picture: Nathan Edwards Source: The Sunday Telegraph

THE unwieldy bureaucracy of the Department of Education will be stripped back under the state's biggest education revolution in 50 years.

The move will potentially save millions of taxpayer dollars, which could be pumped back into schools but Premier Barry O'Farrell and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli have promised there will be no cuts to teaching staff or overall front-line school funding.

The sweeping changes announced yesterday will arm principals with unprecedented powers to hire and fire staff, control 70 per cent of school budgets and see teachers paid on performance - not years of service.

Mr Piccoli said the reforms were designed to de-centralise control and cut red tape by shifting decision-making from head office to school level.

"We're putting our principals and teachers back in the driving seat - allowing them to exercise their professional judgment and making them accountable for their decisions," he said.

The reforms will also fundamentally shatter the age-old allocation formula where school funding was based on student numbers.

This has long been criticised because a small change in students - of which a principal's salary is also pegged - can have a big effect on an individual school's budget and number of teachers.

Instead schools will control a budget that separates staffing and non-staffing funding and reflects not only its student population but a school's "complexity".

The Secondary Principals Council has welcomed the move to slash more than 200 policies governing administration, reporting and centrally run programs in favour of greater autonomy.

A spokeswoman said schools had a good track record for managing their accounts, whereas within the department "you do wonder where the money goes?"

It comes as the Opposition, Teachers Federation and the Greens warned the reforms were a "smokescreen" for the government to slash school funding and leave principals to shoulder the blame.

Opposition education spokeswoman Carmel Tebbutt said the decision to "break the nexus" of funding based on pupil numbers offered nothing to hold the government to account. Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the real motive was to slash up to $700 million from the education budget and leave principals holding the can when schools deteriorated.


12 March, 2012

Wage bonus for top teachers planned under NSW education shake-up

THE greatest revolution to hit NSW education in 50 years will mean teachers are paid for their performance.

In a massive power shift from bureaucrats to principals and teachers, not only will high-achieving teachers be paid more, principals will be able to hand-pick staff and control school budgets from Kindergarten to Year 12.

The sweeping set of O'Farrell government reforms will be announced today, Sunday. Implementation will begin in April and be complete by 2015.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said principals would receive salary incentives to work in remote and disadvantaged parts of the state and would take charge of 70 per cent of school budgets, up from the present 10 per cent.

The moves are likely to spark revolt from education unions because the government is dumping the old formula of setting teachers' pay by years of experience.

Instead, pay will be linked to professional standards - so a brilliant 23-year-old teacher could earn more than a 40-year-old colleague. The reforms cover Kindergarten to Year 12.

Director-General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

From next month, principals will have unprecedented control of school budgets, and staff will be paid more to teach in remote and disadvantaged areas, under the reforms, which Education Minister Adrian Piccoli will have fully implemented by 2015.

The reforms are separate to the federal government's proposed changes to the funding models following a report by businessman David Gonski.

The reforms cover all schools and all students from Kindergarten to Year 12 and will mean the Education Department will allocate school funding on a wide range of factors - including the school's location and students' special needs - rather than the present formula where funding is determined simply according to the school's number of students.

Principals will control 70 per cent of their funding budget rather that the 10 per cent they are responsible for now.

They also will be able to source school supplies locally rather than from head office.

School funding will be simplified from 600 separate streams to just two - one for staff and one for equipment. Principals will have the flexibility to take funding from the equipment budget and use it to hire additional teachers if they are required, but they will not be permitted to use funds meant for staffing to purchase other items.

The reforms will start to kick in following the Easter Holidays, for Term Two of the school year, and be gradually phased in for all schools over the next three to five years.

A pilot study of 47 schools is already underway and that will be expanded to 229 schools next year.

Director General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

Work on the reforms began in April 2011 following Mr Piccoli's appointment as education minister.

They follow consultations with 1800 principals, as well as the close examination of successful models in countries such as Finland.

Ms Bruniges said the reforms were designed to put teachers and principals front and centre in the education of the state's children.

"The reforms give principals the licence to innovate and their passion for teaching will drive that," she said.

"The situation where the principal of a school must take all direct responsibility, but have no control, is not a good place to be when you are in charge of the teaching and learning of other people's children."

Mr Piccoli said he had formed firm ideas on the best way to drive the state's education needs forward after meeting with more than 200 principals.

"I'm convinced on the feedback from principals and the advice from the Director General that this is in the best interests of students in public schools in NSW," he said.

The state's 2242 principals will have to adhere to new leadership capabilities and standards for principals, and teacher salaries will be based on meeting professional standards that are already in place.

Ms Bruniges said the government expected some resistance from the Teachers Federation, but said the position was non-negotiable from the government's point of view.

"The alignment to salary is a really big item, it's a big change," she said. "Just because you've spent time in the job doesn't mean you deserve a pay rise. You have to achieve certain standards."


The GFC refugees heading for Australia

Representatives of Australia's Portuguese, Spanish, Greek and Italian communities told The Sun-Herald that in recent months they have fielded a rush of inquiries about job openings and migration to Australia.

"There is an increasing interest from our nationals in Portugal writing to us, inquiring about jobs," Antonio Gaivao, first secretary of the Portuguese embassy in Canberra, said.

Many of the Portuguese citizens who emailed the embassy were young and well educated, he said. Some were doctors and lawyers.

Spanish, Greek and Italian chamber of commerce officials echoed the sentiment, saying rising numbers of lawyers, doctors, architects and other skilled professionals had contacted them about jobs.

"I would say 95 per cent of the CVs we get are from qualified professionals. They have qualifications be it in engineering, architecture, law, whatever it may be," said Lillian Ajuria, an immigration lawyer and spokeswoman for the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Australia.

The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne last year received "three to four thousand emails" from Greek citizens looking to move to Australia, the group's president, Bill Papastergiadis, said.

Many held university degrees and were highly skilled but had been battered by Greece's austerity program, Nick Mylonas, president of the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

Last month, however, the federal government rejected a call by the Greek community to provide a special working visa for Greeks caught in their country's worsening financial crisis.

Ms Ajuria said Spanish citizens have it even tougher than Italians, as Spain is not part of the working holiday program with Australia. Italian nationals under the age of 31 can at least get a working holiday visa and work in Australia for six months without being sponsored, she said.

Australia's working visa program is open to Irish citizens but not Portuguese; Italians but not Spanish; Cypriots but not Greeks.

Ms Ajuria said working visas would open doors for young Europeans but would also help employers who would be able to "put [the visitors] on the job, test them for three or six months and then decide whether they are worthy of being sponsored".

Of the many Europeans turning to Australia since the financial crash, it has mostly been the Irish who have scored visas. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship counted a 68 per cent increase in Irish visa grants for last financial year over the previous one. However, there has been no significant rise in visa grants to Ireland's neighbouring "debt crisis" countries.

Given the high youth unemployment rates in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, embassy officials believe the situation may soon change.

If these new batches of Europeans were granted visas, they would be unrecognisable from the migrants who arrived in Australia half a century ago, said Tim Harcourt, a trade and migration expert and fellow at the University of NSW's school of economics.

The Greeks and Italians who emigrated after World War II were mainly blue-collar workers who drove taxis, ran shops and worked on building sites, Mr Harcourt said. Yet, he said, a disproportionate number of these migrants became entrepreneurs and exporters. He believes that if the latest inquiries turn into visas, then Australia will benefit handsomely.

"According to Sensis data, 50 per cent of Australian exporters were born overseas," Mr Harcourt said. "The inquiries … are like a canary in a coalmine. If successful, these economic refugees could well be among the ranks of future Australian exporters."


Some kids just need to be flogged

It worked for many years but is no longer allowed

THE victims aren't the only people affected by bullying. Katrina worries for her son, but also for his victims.

"Seth has been involved in a number of different situations, which are disturbing," she said. "Only a few weeks ago, a situation at school escalated where my son strangled a disabled girl, leaving hand marks on her neck and slapped a Year 1 child."

Katrina said she doesn't know what to do about her son's behaviour, which is ruining the lives of her family. "I have tried everything, counsellors, psychiatrist, pediatrician, and no one has the answer," she said.

"Seth is 10 years old and has been to four schools. He is now in a special school, best equipped to deal with his behavioural problems and we are having the same issues."

Seth said his actions come from frustration. "Kids pick on me, they poke me and hit me and that's when I respond," he said. "The other week, a boy was hitting me in the back of my head and kicking my chair. I hit him back and I got in trouble. I don't mean to do it, I just get so frustrated and do things."

Katrina said she feels her efforts to help her son have been a failure. "I feel like many of the professionals I have sought guidance from have simply liked my money," she said. "One doctor said straight to my face, 'Your son's problems are too difficult to be solved'."

Katrina has tried to get Seth involved in sports at the advice of a counsellor but his behaviour has seen him excluded from these facilities as well.

"I have four other children, who all miss out because of one child," Katrina said. "I am lucky to have a husband I can lean on. I feel sorry for anyone who is out there trying to do what I am on their own."


An amusing retrospective about Warmism in Australia

Imagine my chagrin when I read today about the impending doom of the Australian Wine Industry due to Man-Made Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Chaos. Here's what they said in the Prague Post this week:

"Predictions are that if temperatures rise another 2 C, growing vines will become untenable in many of the world's more renowned wine regions by 2050. One such case is Australia, whose vineyard area could disappear entirely... in such an event, water, not wine would become the overriding priority."

A quick web search yields other dire predictions for the Land Down Under. Australian Professor and Government Official Ross Garnaut , told a crowd in Western Australia in 2011: "The drying of the South-West has been predicted by climate change scientists, and climate changes in the region are directly attributable to carbon levels in the atmosphere."

Other predictions preceded Doctor Garnaut's. In 2005, during a decade of severe drought, Australian Climate Change Commissioner, Tim Flannery predicted Sydney’s dams could be dry in as little as two years because global warming was drying up the rains, leaving the city “facing extreme difficulties with water.”

In 2007, Flannery predicted cities such as Brisbane would never again have dam-filling rains, as global warming had caused “a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas” and made the soil too hot, “so even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems."

In 2008, Australian Head of the National Climate Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, David Jones told residents it could be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent: “There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back."

In 2009, said this: "It’s not drought, it’s climate change, say scientists. A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed what many scientists long suspected: that the 13-year drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change…

Scientists working on the $7 million South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative. To see what role greenhouse gases played in the recent intensification, the scientists used sophisticated American computer climate models. ‘’It’s reasonable to say that a lot of the current drought of the last 12 to 13 years is due to ongoing global warming," said the bureau’s Bertrand Timbal."

But, hold on. There's a problem. Australia isn't dry right now. Here's the headline in the UK Telegraph newspaper this week: "Hundreds more evacuated in Australian floods"

Floods? You mean the kind caused by excess water? Yes, it’s true. Australia is wet. This is from Reuters News Service, from February 3, 2012:

"Heavy rains shut four coal mines in eastern Australia on Friday as military helicopters evacuated stranded residents from inundated towns, and authorities warned of further flash flooding." There's more headlines:

"More than 11,000 people in Queensland State have been isolated by the flooding and thousands had been evacuated, emergency services authorities said. The town of Moree, the centre of the region's cotton growing, has been cut in half by record floodwaters, while authorities are using helicopters to relocate 300 people already at an evacuation centre in the outback town of Roma to another centre on higher ground. Whitehaven Coal said it had shut four mines due to heavy rainfall, but the mines were not flooded and no equipment had been damaged. Other miners and liquefied natural gas producers reported their operations had so far not been affected."

And its not just rain. It's record rain. Headlines from March 2 of 2012 read "Southeast Australia remains under water:" "(There were) heavy falls ... across parts of the state last night and because of the duration of the event some records may be broken as far back as 1886," SES Emergency Commissioner Murray Kear said on Friday."

More flooding news here: Flash floods across Australia's Queensland and New South Wales states killed around 35 people, swamped 30,000 houses, and wiped out roads, bridges and rail lines.

A further examination of reality shows that Australia actually has experienced a record amount of rainfall in the last two years. "Back-to-back La Niña events have created the wettest two-year period on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Its latest Special Climate Statement revealed a two-year rainfall total for 2010–11 of 1409 mm, surpassing the old record of 1407 mm set during 1973–74."

Here is the map of drought conditions in Australia. If we examine the records from the country's own Bureau of Meteorology, we see very good news. There is virtually no drought in Australia and hasn't been for the last 36 months. Only a small part of Southwest Australia has experienced drought in the last 3 years. Australian rainfall anomalies show above normal rainfall for the last 36-months across a large portion of the continent.

Now, keep in mind, Australia is now stranger to drought. Droughts on this continent are often measured in years, not months. Figure E shows rainfall anomalies since 1900 and many dry decades. This is the driest inhabited continent in the world; 70% of it is either arid or semi arid land. The arid zone is defined as areas which receive an average rainfall of 250mm or less. The semi arid zone is defined as areas which receive an average rainfall between 250-350mm. During the decade of the 2000's Australia experienced one of the worst droughts in its history. But, rainfall measurements since 1900 show no permanent drought across the continent.

It seems much of Australia's rainfall fortunes are linked to naturally occurring factors. The Bureau of Meteorology themselves admit the connection between droughts & ElNino events : "Many, but by no means all, droughts over eastern and northern Australia accompany the El Niño-Southern Oscillation phenomenon...On some occasions (such as 1914 and 1994) El Niño-related droughts may extend across virtually the entire country."

Research done in 2004* also points to natural climate variations as the cause for Australian droughts. Dr. Danielle Verdon and associates instead projected that drought and flood in Australia was cyclical and tied to natural cycles in the Pacific both short term and across decades. The authors investigated “the influence of the El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) on rainfall and streamflow regimes of eastern Australia. An analysis of historical rainfall and streamflow data for Queensland (QLD), New South Wales (NSW), and Victoria (VIC) reveals strong relationships between these indices and seasonal rainfall and streamflow totals. (h/t Joe D'Aleo)

Associate Professor Stewart Franks, of the University of Newcastle, thinks scientists should know better than to make incorrect statements about drought here. "The mistake that the numerous expert commentators made, was that they confused climate variability for climate change. The future impact of climate change is very uncertain, but when one “wants to believe”, then it is all too easy to get sucked in and to get it spectacularly wrong. In principle, these people should really know better."


11 March, 2012

Finkelstein: Murdoch’s new best friend?

Jessica Brown

The Finkelstein Report into media regulation, released last Friday, has been greeted by free-speech defenders and journalists with uniform condemnation. So it seems rather redundant for the CIS to add to the chorus.

But one aspect of the Finkelstein recommendations caught my eye, and indeed, my mirth. Chapter 12 of the report, which speculates on the future of the media industry, makes for interesting reading.

News proprietors are struggling to adapt their business models to the new online world. Traditional newspapers are going the way of the dodo.

While this doesn’t warrant government intervention now, Finkelstein says, it might in the future. He wants the Productivity Commission to investigate whether there is a case for subsidizing news. Under Finkelstein’s model, media outlets could claim a subsidy for their payroll costs if they hire reporters to produce ‘investigative and public service journalism.’

So let’s get this straight. Barriers to entry for media are lower than ever. Anyone with an internet connection can start a blog. We have access to more news than at any time in the past.

Of course the rational thing to do is compensate the poor-dear media barons who haven’t figured out how to adapt.

Based on this kind of logic, we should compensate makers of six-cylinder gas guzzling sedans who conveniently ignored their customers changing preferences too. Oh, wait...

It’s ironic that in a week dominated by a government versus rent-seeker showdown (Wayne and Twiggy, I’m looking at you) we should be pondering the need to create a whole new line of subsidies for another crop of woebegone billionaires.

Gina Rinehart, Swan’s target numero uno, must be thanking her lucky stars she got in on Fairfax just in time for the largesse to start flowing.

Expect media stocks to skyrocket. If investors get so much as a whiff of potential government subsidy, they will surely be banging down every door in Canberra.

To be fair, Finkelstein acknowledges that the majority of news proprietors rejected the need for a subsidy in their submissions. But if he is determined to give one to them anyway, can you imagine any will be public spirited enough to say no?

Most incredible will be the sight of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, self-styled tabloid slayer and defender of truth, handing a cheque over to his billionaire nemesis Rupert Murdoch.

Finkelstein is right to say that traditional media must find a way to survive in this new environment. This must happen through innovation, not bail-outs.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 9 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Finkelstein report: Media's great divide

ONLY hours after the Finkelstein media inquiry report was released last week, lecturers from four of Australia's top journalism schools delivered their instant judgment on the academic website The Conversation.

Each of the four -- Brian McNair from the Queensland University of Technology, Johan Lidberg from Monash University, Alexandra Wake from RMIT University and Andrea Carson from the University of Melbourne -- enthusiastically embraced Ray Finkelstein's central recommendation for a new government-funded regulatory body to sit in judgment of news reporting.

They variously described the proposed News Media Council, a body that would have the legally enforceable power to adjudicate on journalistic fairness and make the media answerable to the courts, as a "brave", "effective" and "good" new idea that "really needs to be done".

Inside the country's newspaper offices there was a polar opposite reaction.

Publishers Fairfax Media, News Limited (publisher of The Weekend Australian), APN News and Media and West Australian Newspapers came out in fierce opposition to the proposed NMC, warning it would pose a threat to press freedom and free speech.

The contrasting view on Finkelstein's findings between the teachers of tomorrow's journalists and today's working journalists could not have been more pronounced.

It highlights a widening rift in Australia between those who practise journalism and those who teach it.

It is a rift being fuelled by politics, ideology and a growing disdain among some journalism academics for the mass media.

The issue is not merely, so to speak, academic. It appears that media academics played a central role in driving the findings of the Finkelstein report. What's more, if many of today's journalism teachers are supporting moves to legally regulate the Australian media to deal with the way it covers the news, then these views will be imbued in their students, the journalists of tomorrow. It invites a generational clash within the media industry about the limits that should be placed on press freedom in Australia.

John Henningham, a former newspaper and broadcast journalist who founded Brisbane's Jschool of journalism, says a growing number of Australia's media academics appear to be turning against the industry they once sought to nurture.

He says this partially reflects a political drift within journalism schools from "Centre Right to Centre Left" during the past decade, leading to more strident criticism of "big media" and in particular the country's largest media player, News Limited. This criticism has intensified in the wake of Britain's phone hacking and bribery scandals.

"I am certain that if this proposal (for a statutory regulation of the media) had been made a generation ago, the journalistic educators at universities would have manned the barricades to defend the freedom of the press," Henningham tells Inquirer. "They would have been deeply suspicious of any hint of government intervention in the press. But a generation ago, there were far more journalists teaching journalism and these people were steeped in the values of that industry. Now the field of journalism studies has become much more academic and teachers are more distant from the concerns of working journalists."

Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian, believes the problem is both cultural and political. "The media studies academic class is far removed from the concerns of viewers and readers and is engaged in a sociological project to change the world in its image. That is, to infect people with progressive left ideology," he says.

"Journalists are interested in reporting what is actually happening. It is hilarious so many media academics who fought John Howard on the grounds he was 'stifling dissent' are now at the forefront of shutting down free speech. They only support free speech they agree with.

"Like many on the Left they love scrutiny of conservative governments but completely reject scrutiny of the Greens and the Green-Labor coalition."

The Finkelstein inquiry has given media academics a rare opportunity to air their grievances in public.

In submissions and testimony, many of the 49 academics invited by Finkelstein to give their views were deeply critical of the state of the media industry.

It was, some said, too concentrated in ownership, biased, vindictive, sloppy and at times unethical in its coverage of people and events. Although all conceded there was no evidence in Australia of the law-breaking, cowboy antics seen in British journalism, the clear tone of the evidence provided to the inquiry by journalism academics was that the Australian media needed to be kept on a tighter leash.

Many sought to redefine the traditional notion of press freedom, saying it should be watered down because large media players in Australia could not be trusted to exercise it responsibly.

"The attacks on News Limited seem to be driven by a deep anxiety about corporations which borders on paranoia," says Nick Cater, editor of The Weekend Australian. "It seems to me these stories gain currency in academia, however, because they support the prevailing narrative: that corporations are malevolent institutions that present a biggerthreat to liberty than governments."

Wendy Bacon [The Bacons are an old Communist family], who heads the journalism school at the University of Technology, Sydney, told the inquiry: "Concentration of media power is itself a threat to free speech, particularly when that power is closely aligned to other economic and political interests. Free speech is not a unified idea around which all should mobilise in defence of the status quo and existing media companies."

There seems little doubt that the overwhelmingly negative views media academics have about the media industry played a central role in Finkelstein's call for its formal regulation.

The inquiry's final report was written with the direct assistance of journalism academics, led by Matthew Ricketson from the University of Canberra as well as Rodney Tiffen from the University of Sydney and Dennis Muller from Melbourne University.

Michael Gawenda, a former editor-in-chief of The Age and until recently head of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University, says the report reads like a media thesis, full of elitist theory but out of touch with mainstream Australia. "It is the voice of someone who does not watch Today Tonight and who does not read the Herald Sun."

Says Mitchell: "Interestingly, the Finkelstein report did not really get its critical anecdotes on alleged problems in political reporting right, as (Media Watch host) Jonathan Holmes pointed out on The Drum during the week. Most senior working journalists know (academics) Margaret Simons, Wendy Bacon and others have been factually wrong on many of these issues. The media studies class is so infected with postmodernism, facts no longer matter to it.

"I urge readers to Google the political backgrounds of the academics in the Finkelstein report. It will be an eye-opener for many readers and for many young journalists."

Sources have told Inquirer the key authors of the report, including Finkelstein, were predisposed against the idea of a formal regulator until they were persuaded otherwise by the critical testimony given to the inquiry, much of which was provided by media academics.

Tiffen says the findings of the report have been gravely misrepresented by the mainstream media, which has an obvious self-interest in the outcome.

He denies the proposed statutory body, which can force newspapers to print corrections if it judges they have been unfair, will erode press freedom. He therefore disputes any suggestion that media academics are seeking to water down such freedoms.

"The findings have been misrepresented," he says. "It does not restrict freedom of speech, it keeps all existing standards and codes; the only way it does (affect freedom of speech) is that media companies have to print something (mandatory corrections) through gritted teeth that they otherwise don't want to print. But this enlarges the amount of information and exchange rather than restricts it."

Media academics do not speak with one voice and there are many who oppose Finkelstein's call for formal regulation of the industry.

One of these is Monash University's Bill Birnbauer, who until three years ago was a practising award-winning journalist of 30 years' standing.

"I don't agree with (those who support calls for a media regulator) and I am surprised by their views," he says. "I spent six years on the news desk at The Age and for some years my job was to write "We Were Wrong" for the paper.

"I had to assess whether people's complaints about the coverage and whether the journalism was accurate or otherwise. In doing that I found a lot of shades of grey. I found that people were motivated by all sorts of agendas.

"The notion of a panel of lawyers and academics, as suggested by the Finkelstein report, undertaking the same process without being imbued with the journalistic free speech culture worries me immensely."

The study of journalism is one of the most popular and fastest growing academic disciplines in Australia, sprouting from only a handful of courses a decade ago to more than 27 across the country today. Such is the popularity of the courses that the scores needed to obtain entry can sometimes rival those required to get into blue-chip courses such as law.

Yet Australia's tertiary institutions are perpetrating a fundamental fraud on their students by accepting larger numbers of them into journalism courses when the industry is shrinking. At best, one in 10 journalism students will find employment in the mainstream media.

What's more, few journalism teachers have recent experience in the profession. Some are career academics who have never spent time in a working newsroom. These non-journalists have little understanding of, or sympathy for, the daily chaos that unfolds as reporters and editors race against the clock to try to cobble together coherent and accurate stories.

The result is that many of today's journalism courses lean more heavily than they once did on media theory, including critical assessment of the media's role in society, than they do on the nuts and bolts of reporting, such as how to gather information, structure stories and break news. The discipline appears divided about whether its role is to act as a watchdog on the industry or to train new journalists.

Gawenda says there is an inherent friction within journalism schools between former journalists and academics.

"There is this tension between former journalists who are involved in teaching journalism and media academics who were never journalists and who have been critics of journalism," he says.

Peter Fray, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, says there is an understandable divide between media academe and the industry. "Academics are paid to think and critique, to delve deep and bring their own and different tools to a legitimate field of study, the media," he says.

"I have met many, many academics who are -- or have been -- skilled practitioners of the craft of journalism. Many academics have a true passion for what we do: they don't want to sit on the sidelines and throw rocks; they have valid contributions to make.

"I have also met some academics who have little or no interest in the practical aspects of journalism and, yes, can see the industry as some sort of specimen under a bell jar. There is room for both academic extremes, and many variances between."

There are relatively few senior journalists teaching journalism in Australia because many of the best journalists do not have the higher degrees required to win senior jobs at universities and then progress through the academic system.

By contrast in the US, where higher degree restrictions do not apply, many journalism courses are run by high-profile journalists.

Jschool's Henningham says when the Journalism Education Association of Australia was formed in the mid-1970s, it was unheard of for a journalism lecturer not to have been a journalist.

"Now there is a real stress on qualifications and higher degrees," he says, "so people who have built up a reputation in journalism have to go into a corner and do a PhD for three years, while other non-journalists leap-frog over them."

Inquirer understands when Melbourne University was searching for a new head for its Centre for Advanced Journalism recently, it was recommended the name of one of the country's most senior and best-credentialled journalists and editors. But that candidate did not have a PhD. Instead, it chose a less-credentialled journalist turned academic in Margaret Simons, whose public profile relies largely on a strident disdain for News Limited. As such, this fledgling journalism college of only three years' standing now labours under the perception that its work will be tainted by the overt bias of its director against the country's largest media company.

These sorts of decisions have the effect of further distancing the industry from the discipline of journalism studies. The industry has a preference for journalism schools to focus on the practical rather than the theoretical.

"My view is that theory can be useful, it offers would-be journalists a different set of tools, a different way to think, but it is no substitute for hands-on experience," the SMH's Fray says. "A few semesters of semiotics is probably not a good or useful prep for police rounds. I have yet to meet a cop who was overly impressed by my knowledge of Noam Chomsky."

Many editors still prefer to look outside journalism schools for their recruits, placing more emphasis on life experience and personality than on qualifications.

Jschool founder Henningham says he does not want tomorrow's generation of journalists to have a jaundiced view about the media industry and their chosen career.

"Too often journalism graduates come out thinking only negative things about the media, its faults and flaws," he says, "without equal emphasis on the heroism of journalism: those who go to their deaths or to jail in defence of journalism."

When Henningham spoke with his new students at orientation day this year, he discussed the courage of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times journalist who was killed last month while trying to tell the world what was really happening inside the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

"We didn't talk about News of the World, we talked about Marie Colvin," he says. "We need to get journalism students to see the positive side of society and be proud of the role which journalists play in our democracy."


School's in for more four-year-olds, but experts argue that's too young

It should depend on the kid's mental age, not his chronological age

WHEN Eleni Savva had to decide if she would enrol her son in school as a four-year-old, she worried he might struggle. Alexander started prep at Keilor Primary School this year and is smaller than many of his classmates.

But Ms Savva felt Alexander was ready to start school, based on the advice of his kindergarten teachers. By late last year she could see he had developed the independence and social skills that would help him get by in the classroom. "Alexander is a very confident, assertive boy," she said. "He feels confident enough to stand up for himself."

Alexander turns five this month and belongs to a mini-boom of children who have reached school age, according to The Saturday Age Lateral Economics index of wellbeing. It means more parents are facing tough decisions about whether their children are ready to start school. Keilor Primary School enrolled 81 children in prep this year, compared with 65 last year.

Alexander started school a year after his sister Katerina who is seven. Ms Savva and her husband Nick decided their daughter should do a third year of kindergarten so she could better prepare "socially and emotionally" for school.

"From what I could see in her development, she needed at least another eight months of pre-school before she was ready for school." Keilor Primary School principal Sue Seneviratne said kindergarten teachers were best placed to judge when a child was ready to start school. "If the kindergarten is saying they're ready, rarely do they get that wrong," she said. Children should be independent and resilient when they begin prep.

Monash University senior education lecturer David Zyngier said Australian children are too young when they start school. He said seven was a better starting age. "Children are just not ready for regimented schooling. They should be playing and socialising," he said.

Children in countries such as Finland start school at seven and achieve better results, he said. "But they have free, available and professionally staffed childcare."

Ms Savva said starting children in school when they are older would help them become better students in later years. "Our system in Australia doesn't really allow for that, but I think it's a great idea," she said.


Criminal record no problem to Queensland Health

QUEENSLAND Health has hired hundreds of people with criminal convictions, including fraud, armed robbery, assault, rape and murder, in the past five years.

The beleaguered agency grapples with being fleeced of millions of dollars every year through staff scams - the worst of which was the theft of $11 million in one go by convicted fraudster and fake Tahitian prince Joel Morehu-Barlow.

The department has previously pleaded ignorance of Mr Barlow's criminal past because his crimes occurred in New Zealand, an admission that prompted Premier Anna Bligh to announce criminal checks between the two countries in future.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show hundreds of people with convictions, mostly for fraud or other serious crimes, had been given jobs in Queensland Health since criminal checks first started in 2006.

They also show staff have been investigated for abusing and supplying drugs, sexual assaults and violence against patients.

Allegations included a punch to a patient's mouth, a patient's face smashed into the ground and another bashed in a shower.

Staff have also been investigated for stealing money and patients' belongings including a gold watch and two diamond rings, and for stealing cab vouchers and medical supplies, such as pregnancy tests and contraceptives.

The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday there were potentially 6000 cases of fraud alone, 141 of drug allegations, most of which related to theft, and $9.4 million owing in false hardship claims.

Queensland Health notoriously also employed the state's most wanted man, convicted killer Luke Andrew Hunter, who had escaped prison and was on the run for 15 years, at Herberton Hospital in the far north.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday washed her hands of ongoing failures by the department, saying it was "frankly dysfunctional" and blamed former auditor-general Len Scanlan, who is now calculating the costing of LNP leader Campbell Newman's election promises.

"The report that recommended some of these controls is a report that in my view should have been considered and should have been dealt with by the audit committee," she said.

The Courier-Mail also revealed yesterday that a draft Ernst & Young report showed the department was warned more than five months before the "Tahitian prince" debacle that it was open to systemic fraud of the highest level.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls said Ms Bligh's attack on Mr Scanlan was an act of desperation and it was the minister, not Mr Scanlan who failed to act.


George Negus loses $25,000 Telstra hosting gig after The Circle furore

THE fallout from the furore surrounding Channel 10's program The Circle continues with Telstra dumping George Negus from a plum corporate hosting gig.

The veteran reporter was booked to compere a private Telstra conference for senior management in Melbourne but has been informed his services, believed to be worth around $25,000, are no longer needed.

The move by Telstra to drop Negus from the lucrative hosting role follows intense public outcry sparked when he and Circle host Yumi Stynes mocked Australian Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith.

The conference, on March 26 and 27, will bring together local and international guests, including former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Telstra spokesman James Howe said given the company's range of community activities, it did not believe it was appropriate for Negus to host the event.

"Based on our strong links to Legacy and our work with troops overseas, Telstra believes it would not be appropriate in light of recent comments to have George Negus MC our event," Mr Howe said.

Negus, who is in China, was unavailable for comment.

Negus and Stynes sparked a ferocious social media-led backlash after they made inappropriate comments on live television about footage of a shirtless Corporal Roberts-Smith in a swimming pool.

A string of sponsors including Swisse Vitamins, BIG4 Holiday Parks and coffee chain Jamaica Blue have since pulled their advertising from The Circle.


10 March, 2012

Greens in Tasmania‏

An email from a Tasmanian reader

I live in Tasmania and have investments in George Town, which is near the proposed Pulp Mill in Bell Bay. As you might know Gunns Pty Ltd have been trying to put the mill into reality for some 7 years and have obtained all the permits, conducted all the studies etc in face of concerted and continuous Green opposition. The impoverished Northern Tasmania has been waiting with bated breath for the mill, particularly with threats to the Bell Bay Aluminium and Manganese plants due to poor profit results and lack of competitiveness. As you might know, the Greens have orchestrated a virtual destruction of the $1 billion a year Tasmanian timber industry, under their many peace deals which are never good enough, and now they are decimating grazing in Tasmania with what amounts to a practical ban on 1080, causing a wallaby plague with some 60-70% of loss of pasture in most areas. More on this later, if you are interested.

As you might know, Gunns have been falling over themselves trying to appease the Greens and obtain a "social licence", causing a huge financial damage to the company with no perceptible results. Gunns have, however, attracted attention of a billionaire investor, a Mr Chandler, of the RCC company. He was willing to buy 40% of Gunns for $150 million which would enable Gunns to start getting out of debt and eventually find a venture partner for the $2 billion mill.. The announcement was made in early February inst. The negotiations then appeared to proceed to an inexorable investment conclusion.

The greens saw a great opportunity to put themselves on the map, both in Tas and federally. Mr Bob Brown wrote a letter to Mr Chandler where he was apparently clearly trying to deter him from investing in Gunns. Mr Chandler's offsiders then came to Tasmania some two weeks ago, where they met local politicians including the Green Leader Mr McKim. He is actually a Minister for Education and also Prisons in the Green Labour government here. He, and other Greens, were strangely quiet after the meetings, quite unlike the usual howls of protest against greedy capitalists, as one would expect.

The Chandler corporation announced today that they are pulling out of the deal. They made no comment as to why.

I have no doubt that the local Greens have frightened Mr Chandler so much with their threats, that he decided that the investment was too exposed to public noise dangers. The Tas Greens have sabotaged business deals here many times in exactly the same fashion. They have caused a drop of woodchip production here to one fifth of the previous figures whilst other states have increased theirs, by going to Japan and telling them things along the lines that there are hardly any trees left here, (about 50% of the land mass is now locked away from forestry activities) and that forestry practices are defective, which they are not (see ABC interview with forestry financial consultant, Mr Eastman). They went to London to explain to the Olympic Games organisers that they should break the contract for buying parqueting wood from Tasmania since the company involved was using "native forest" (now meaning anything which is not a plantation under 20 years old, apparently). They have done similar things to Harvey Norman, I believe.

These are boycotts of business, normally prohibited under the Consumer and Competition Act 2010. If, however, the dominant purpose of this conduct is substantially related to environmental protection, the boycott protagonist is exempt (section 45DD). This effectively gives the environmentalists "a licence to lie" (Mark Poynter, forestry industry spokesman).

I think that we have a real fifth column here of the most savage variety, whose only interest is attention, publicity and fund seeking. For this they are clearly prepared to sacrifice anybody who wishes to advance himself or his community by remunerative activity. Now that the climate gurus are on the run, it may be time to turn to some other shocking practices of the Greens.

Tasmania: Greenie job destruction => reduced government revenue => deep cuts in health care

SENIOR surgeons fear budget cuts will cause catastrophic damage to the long-term viability of the state's healthcare system.

They also believe patients are being driven to near suicide, the cuts are too deep, there has been a lack of consultation on cuts and one hospital could be closed in the state's North-West.

The statements were presented to a parliamentary inquiry into budget cuts by Medical Staff Association chairman Frank Nicklason.

Dr Nicklason said senior staff had serious concerns that cuts to elective surgery would put patients' health at risk. "There are a lot of ways there can be negative impacts from delayed surgery," he said. "My overwhelming experience is that people are having to wait far too long."

A 50-year-old Hobart woman on a waiting list for serious arthritis in her knee had even contemplated suicide because she could no longer work, he said. "She got so desperate she was going to get in her car and drive into a tree."

He said the waiting list for elective surgery could be better prioritised. "I am not sure if at this stage we are doing this well enough," he said. Dr Nicklason said a drop in elective surgeries could see specialist staff heading to other states for opportunities and experience.

"A surgeon is nothing if they can't maintain their skills and reputation," he said. "A worrying number of people were considering leaving the hospital. Some specialists can't be replaced."

He said there were widespread fears that if specialist staff left in the next few years amid serious budget cuts it could take a decade or more to replace them.

Staff understood the difficulties facing governments with shrinking GST revenue and growing health needs. But, staff felt there had not been enough consultation about cuts, Dr Nicklason said.

He said there was a general consensus the state did not need the bureaucracy of three separate health networks and the Mersey Hospital could be merged with the North-West Regional Hospital in Burnie.


Darwin Mayoral candidate hits out at park and street dwellers

Most Aboriginals are quite relaxed about living in the open with minimal shelter -- so they tend to "camp" for extended periods on public land -- in parks, on beach foreshores, etc.

Since they also tend to be alcohol abusers, this is experienced as unpleasant by the rest of the community -- who avoid places where the Aborigines are camped

LORD mayoral candidate Katrina Fong Lim has vowed to rid Darwin's streets of itinerants. One of her opponents - rubbish warrior Trevor Jenkins - is homeless.

In a press release entitled "Fong Lim targets itinerants", Ms Fong Lim said Darwin residents had the right to use the city's parks, beaches and shopping centres without having to be humbugged.

"We live in an affluent society and no one should be homeless - however some people, for whatever reason, cannot conform to standard suburban living," she said.

"I believe (the) council has a role in helping address the issue whether it is through better designed and maintained public areas, examining our place in delivering appropriate services and/or looking for innovative solutions such as a possible increase of night and day patrol services."

Ms Fong Lim was quickly criticised by incumbent Graeme Sawyer and community groups, who accused her of demonising the most vulnerable members of our society. Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer said Ms Fong Lim was taking a cheap shot at Darwin's most vulnerable in a bid to score a political point. "Itinerants and homeless people are part of our community too," he said. "It's very cheap for someone to come out and say local government should come out and do something about this."

Mr Sawyer said the council already helped itinerants through its program Homeless Connect and was working with 56 organisations on the issue. It was also working with the Government to house homeless people, he said.

NT Shelter policy officer Morgan Sabbith said homeless people had every right to use the city's parks and beaches. "This is how they live and the rest of us don't like seeing it," she said. "A lot of people have nowhere to go. "There's not enough housing; Aboriginal people are actively discriminated against when they apply for housing."

Ms Sabbith said the best thing to help homeless people was to build shower and toilet facilities around the city, East Point, and near the hospital.


Abbott plans cuts in health, defence and education jobs

A COALITION government would take the axe to public service jobs in health, defence and education as part of a promise by Tony Abbott to undertake a thorough audit of federal government spending.

Among those specifically targeted will be the public servants who scrutinise the states' spending of federal money to ensure the money is not wasted.

In a keynote economic speech delivered in Melbourne yesterday, Mr Abbott said he would establish a commission of audit which would report within four months on all areas of government spending and recommend what spending and which programs could be abolished.

He said the creation of the independent audit commission, which would be similar to one John Howard commissioned in 1996 upon winning government, would be preceded in priority only by abolishing the carbon tax and instructing the navy to turn back asylum seeker boats.

The opposition has already promised to abolish 12,000 federal public servant jobs in its first two years if elected.

Mr Abbott said yesterday he would tell his audit commission to focus on the Health and Education departments and the Defence Materiel Organisation.

He questioned why the federal Health Department has 6000 staff when "the Commonwealth doesn't actually run a single hospital or nursing home, dispense a single prescription or provide a single medical service".

Similarly, he said the Education Department did not need 5000 people when the schools are state-run, and the DMO, which oversees the procurement of defence equipment, had 7000 staff while its British counterpart made do with just 4000.

"It's vital to ensure that the Commonwealth and its agencies are only doing what they really have to do and doing it as efficiently as they reasonably can," Mr Abbott said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, alluded to Mr Abbott's announcement in a speech on Wednesday. He said there was an "army of public servants to measure and assess the performance of the states where funding is tied to performance benchmarks".

"It does not seem to be an efficient use of resources to employ public servants to check on other public servants," he said.

The Gillard government, which has been squeezing the public service in recent years with annual enforced savings targets known as "efficiency dividends", ridiculed Mr Abbott's speech.

The Finance Minister, Penny Wong, said the Coalition had a $70 billion savings target to meet.

That figure was the equivalent of four years of Medicare payments or two years of pension payments. "It's not a few health bureaucrats," she said.

"The reality is that Tony Abbott says, 'I'm going to bring the budget back to surplus' but then he doesn't tell people how he's going to find the $70 billion worth of cuts to services to Australians that his own finance spokesperson says he needs," she said.

Mr Abbott also used yesterday's speech to draw a line under spending promises of his own. He has already alarmed sections of his party with a promised $3.3 billion paid parental leave scheme and a pledge to increase military pensions. He is also promising tax cuts in the first term, all while promising a budget surplus each year of that term.


Australian universities are dumb, say foreign students

Asians tend to have high standards in mathematics so Australian levels of competence in that would undoubtedly be disappointing

SOME Australian university courses are like being "back in grade 2", the head of an international students group says. Council of International Students Australia president Arfa Noor told an education conference the country would not attract the best and brightest from overseas until universities lifted their game.

"I don't mean to be harsh or anything but universities need to make sure that they are good enough to attract a very intelligent student," the Pakistani business student told more than 100 academics at the Universities Australia conference.

"You do hear sometimes from students who come from very good institutes back home, who work a lot, and they come into university and they say it feels like they're back in grade 2 because the things that they are being taught at a master level ... I covered at a postgraduate level."

The Melbourne Institute of Technology student said her organisation had complaints some tutors could barely speak English, class sizes were too big, and lecturers simply stood and read from slides.

"If you're from a country, especially from the Asian region, where education is very competitive ... you would have a certain level of expectations, and a lot of students are disappointed by the quality of education," she said.

But Ms Noor said students came to Australia for the experience, not just a degree, and she had loved her three years here.

However, she said universities and governments should fix accommodation and public transport issues so struggling students did not have to cram 10 to a house to save money.

About 550,000 international students study in Australia each semester and last year contributed $13.9 billion to the economy.


9 March, 2012

The bureaucracy that flooded Brisbane

There would have been no flood if Brisbane's big flood control dam had been used properly. The flood compartment should have been kept fully available as long as possible. It wasn't. It was used for storage to avoid the cost of running the creaky desalination plant.

That left bureaucratic alertness as the only barrier between Brisbane and a flood. That barrier failed. The bureaucrats were asleep or indifferent, in the usual bureaucratic way

ONE week out from the flood inquiry report that delayed state and council elections, The Courier-Mail has uncovered another serious flaw in the investigation tasked with finding out what went wrong in 2011.

A Courier-Mail analysis of data commissioned by the inquiry but never published shows thousands of homes would have been spared flooding in 2011 and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage avoided under alternative dam management strategies devised by the inquiry.

Its hydrology expert, Mark Babister, had to generate the data for a key report into these strategies but he was never asked to produce the information and was not questioned about it during hearings.

Lawyers, with $1 million in funding from a company that profits from mass legal actions, will trawl flood-hit suburbs this weekend for victims willing to sign up to a no-win, no-fee class action against the State Government.

They are seeking to prove that the Government should have made bigger, earlier dam releases - exactly the scenarios that Mr Babister modelled.

Ultimately any payouts to victims will be funded by taxpayers.

The inquiry is due to deliver its final report on March 16.

But it is unlikely to include the crucial data on river flows obtained and analysed by The Courier-Mail.

The information can be used to show that more than 5000 properties could have been spared and at least $600 million worth of devastation avoided if larger, earlier releases had been made, based on 2007 property prices and development levels.

Flows are the best way to predict how much damage will be caused downstream. But the inquiry focused instead on river levels.

Mr Babister told the inquiry that its alternative release scenarios could have reduced the level of the Brisbane River at Moggill by up to 1.3m and at the Port Office in Brisbane by up to 60cm, although he argued it would have been "unreasonable" for the dam engineers to have made such releases.

When asked under cross-examination whether he had looked at how many fewer houses would have been flooded under the different scenarios, he said: "No, we haven't, and that would be the sensible way to analyse the benefits of different strategies."

Mr Babister's flow calculations also undermine the basis for State Government claims about the mitigating effect of Wivenhoe Dam during last year. He found that peak flow in January 2011 was 10,300 cubic metres a second (cumecs), more than 1000 cumecs higher than the official Seqwater figure. By comparison, during the 1974 flood engineers recorded a peak flow of 9500 cumecs at Centenary Bridge.

Knowledge of flows is also crucial for flood mitigation planning, with only small flow increases causing Brisbane Valley damage to rise dramatically during large floods.

The Courier-Mail obtained Mr Babister's spreadsheets, which show river flows would have been significantly reduced under all the alternative scenarios.

The paper measured Mr Babister's results against damage curves developed for Brisbane, Ipswich and Somerset councils. It shows under the most effective of the inquiry's alternative scenarios, more than 5000 properties would have been spared and about $600 million worth of damage avoided in the three council areas.

Even the least effective of the strategies would have avoided $250 million worth of damage in Brisbane.

Brisbane hydrologist Max Winders, who has repeatedly warned of shortcomings in the management of the dam, said flood mitigation using dams was "all about flows". "If you want to reduce levels, you dredge, or you build levees," he said.

Mr Winders, who has seen The Courier-Mail's analysis, said it gave only a very low estimate of how much money could have been saved in 2011. "Six hundred million is just what the commission thought they could save," he said. "(The dam operator) could have saved a lot more than that. "It's too much money to be sneezed at."

The only way properly to explore the issues would be to hold a completely new inquiry, Mr Winders said.

More than 1000 flood victims have signed up to a planned class-action lawsuit against the State Government, claiming dam operators failed in their duty of care.


Apartheid not the answer for Aboriginal schooling

Sara Hudson

Koori schools in Victoria are a prime example of how throwing money at a problem is ineffective. According to The Age, the Victorian government is wasting millions of dollars on schools with tiny enrolments, abysmal attendance rates, and poor academic performance.

Initial findings of an independent review of the schools are due to be presented to the Victorian Department of Education on 26 March. However, it shouldn’t take a review to figure out the concept is flawed and does not provide value for money or a decent education.

The four Koori schools in Victoria (in Glenroy, Morwell, Swan Hill and Mildura) receive $3.9 million in funding a year even though they educate less than 1% of Indigenous students in government schools. The total enrolment in all four schools was only 65 students in 2011. Ballerrt Mooroop College was recently closed by the education department: The school was receiving more than $1 million in funding and employed 13 staff despite having only one full-time student!

Funding for each student in these schools was among the highest in Victoria, with one school, Woolum Bellum College in Morwell, receiving more government funding per student than any other school in the state. According to the My School website, the school received $82,277 per student, eight times the state average of $10,946 per student.

At the same time, student attendance rates in the Koori schools languish between 44% and 64%. Two Rivers College, the only Koori school to post its NAPLAN results on My School, performed substantially below the national average in all categories.

Clearly, taxpayer dollars are being wasted on providing separatist schooling for a few Aboriginal children in Victoria rather than giving more resources to help disadvantaged Indigenous students in mainstream schools.

Indeed, Chris Sarra made the same recommendation in 2009 in a report on the Koori education system. But the state education department ignored Sarra’s advice and spent another three years wasting public funds propping up failing Koori schools.

How long will it take the Victorian Department of Education to realise that separate is never equal?

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 9 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Fairfax's angry man says it's racist to criticize half-Japanese airhead

Because George Negus hasn't come under as much scrutiny for his comments on The Circle as Yumi Stynes. The fact that Stynes and Negus made different comments (etc.) doesn't count, apparently

John Birmingham

It is possible, if only just, to imagine that the hateswarm engulfing Yumi Stynes this week has nothing to do with her being an attractive Asian woman, but unfortunately my imagination doesn’t stretch that far. So I’m gonna say it – most of the vitriol being spewed in her face over the comments she made about Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith on The Circle are motivated by racism, gender and jealousy.

Yumi Stynes and George Negus disgraced themselves when they mocked the VC winner Roberts-Smith in a seriously ill-considered grab for a couple of cheap laughs. What they did was wrong and quite literally shameful. Media careers have been extinguished by much lesser offences. Giles Hardie wrote a great piece explaining how such mistakes are often made, not just on live TV, but at barbecues, bars and in the tea rooms of millions of workplaces every day. He explained their oafish behaviour without excusing it, because there is no excusing it.

But while those two particular citizens are probably wallowing in their shame – and I say ‘probably’ because Negus has a hide much thicker and tougher than even the giant Walrus of Stupid – some of the deranged responses directed at Stynes in particular are appalling and immeasurably more shameful than her original sin. She is being attacked with a savage and terrible glee that is largely absent from the criticism of Negus.

Producers are removing or disallowing any comments on The Circle’s Facebook page that go beyond reasonable criticism. Sexual threats and insults, threats against Stynes’ family, misspelled and misogynistic abuse (so odd, how those two often go together), they’re all being zapped. But there is no shutting down the interwebz and a search on Twitter for Stynes and Negus finds thousands of comments, some of them quite level-headed and judicious critiques of their foolishness, but many, many of them not. Many, indeed, present with an air of menace and promised violence that would go a long way towards securing Stynes the protection of the law, if she chose to seek it.

Why the difference? I asked this, not entirely seriously, on the twitterz and farcebuck the other day, as the shrieking of the horde reached an ugly, feral pitch. “I wonder why the hatin' on Yumi Stynes is so much hatier than the hatin' on George Negus? What possible difference might there be?”

Only one respondent actually replied with any sort of coherent defence of the lynching of Stynes, an irregular drop-in here at the Instrument, Lobes, who wrote on Facebook that, Stynes' comments were worse "for a start". She has achieved little since she was a contest winner VJ on Foxtel, he argued, whereas at least Negus has had a career of some accomplishment. "Saying that though, they are both retards*, but she definitely deserved it more… The initial comment was made by Stynes about BRS being brainless. She set the tone and Negus followed.”

I doubted that the mob assaulting Stynes had parsed the original exchange so minutely, and Lobes replied, “I see where you are coming from JB, and believe me I do not share the sentiment that seems to motivate those thousands. But just because you take a different path does not preclude you from arriving at the same conclusion.”

Why delve into these individual responses? Because for better or worse they at least characterise some of the moderate and more considered ‘debate’ that has flowed from Stynes’ and Negus’ abysmal misjudgment.

For the most part, though, it’s been a feeding frenzy, with the worst of our natures on display. The only person to come out of this with their integrity unsullied is Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith who graciously accepted the apologies of Negus and Stynes and moved on. He doesn’t need the army of trolls and orcs which has come boiling out of the lower levels of internet hell to defend him. The sick-making abuse and threats of violence they’ve heaped on Stynes, and the contrast with the relatively light treatment of Negus – in spite of his shark’s tooth amulet and porno mo – is a disgusting example of double standards and cowardice.


Immigration paves Australia's way into the Asian century

BY: CHRIS BOWEN (Chris Bowen is the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in Australia's Green/Left government)

What Chris Bowen's writers say below is true enough in that East Asians and South Asians integrate well into Australian society and, now that that is generally recognized, their presence is not controversial.

Though young Caucasian/Australian women could be forgiven for being bothered by the way that East Asian young women tend to snap up all the tall Caucasian men. No shortage of integration there!

Bowen deliberately ignores what IS controversial in Australia, however: Illegal immigration. The people are overwhelmingly against it but the Leftist government winks at it. Leftists represent elites and would-be elites these days, not the people.

And since Afghans are prominent among the illegals, there is good reason for disquiet. Importing medieval ignorance and religious hostility has little good to be said for it

SOMETHING big happened in the history of immigration last year. It didn't get any headlines. It had nothing to do with boats or asylum-seekers. It wasn't debated in parliament.

But it is probably the most important development in immigration in years. Last year, for the first time in the history of Australia, Britain was not our largest source of permanent migrants. For the first time, more people moved to Australia from China than any other country.

As we talk of Australia's role in the Asian century, there is a lot of focus on trade and resources, naturally enough. But it is immigration - and skilled migration in particular - that is the greatest cross-cultural and economic development program of them all.

Skilled and business migrants from Asia increase our trade links, our understanding of the region and our national language skills. And it's not just China we're talking about, of course. Putting aside New Zealand, which has separate migration arrangements with Australia, India and The Philippines are our third and fourth largest sources of new residents.

All of this has occurred with little public criticism. The days of John Howard or Pauline Hanson warning of the social upheaval caused by Asian migration seem like an eon ago.

Skilled migration is vital to our economy. Without migration, the labour force is expected to contract by 2050. Australia simply won't have enough people to keep our economy growing - even with the government's strong investment in skills and education, participation and social inclusion, and productive capacity. We need migrants for future growth and prosperity.

We are no longer victims of the tyranny of distance. Indeed, we have been blessed by geography. But let's be clear, the opportunities the Asian century present Australia aren't purely down to chance.

Our nation is a highly open economy, open to significant flows of people. More than a quarter of our people were born overseas and migrants add more to our population each year than natural increase.

The potential then offered by six million migrants, a third of them born in Asian countries, is extraordinary. Think also about the hundreds of thousands of Australian residents fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Punjabi, Indonesian, Tagalog and Japanese.

Asian migration to Australia is very much driven by a mutually beneficial emphasis on skills. Much more than 60 per cent of migrants to Australia come under our skilled migration program, and this applies particularly to migrants from Asia.

Perhaps the most reassuring element of the shift in emphasis towards Asian migration is that we don't need to tweak the system to tap into these skills, because the skilled migration system we have developed has the flexibility to automatically respond to shifts in the world's economic activity.

Of equal importance to our economic future are temporary migrants, such as students. Students from Asia now comprise 68 per cent of all student visitors - which has already equated to 100,000 visas granted in the past seven months.

The importance of international education for the bottom line of our universities is well understood, as is the economic activity of the students and their families who regularly visit them. Not as frequently discussed is the importance of international education to the nation's long-term strategic interests.

Having large numbers of Asia's future leaders who have had a positive education experience in Australia is of incalculable benefit to our long-term diplomatic engagement in the region. Every international student becomes another ambassador for our country, another advocate for our interests in the region. And those advocates often end up in some pretty important roles.

When I travel through the region, I'm often struck by the number of senior players in government who studied here or who have children who study here and therefore have a heightened appreciation and positive disposition towards Australia.

Singapore's first directly elected president, Ong Teng Cheong, and Indonesia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marty Natalegawa, both studied at Australian universities. Australian university alumni are littered across the region, particularly in China, India, Malaysia and Singapore.

The reforms Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans and I have announced, based on the recommendations of former NSW Olympics minister Michael Knight, are very focused on encouraging more genuine students, particularly from Asia, to have the Australian education experience.

We will provide post-study work rights of two years for bachelor degree graduates and up to four-year work rights for PhD graduates. We are also streamlining the process for assessing genuine students to make it easier for people who want to study here.

The rise of Asia brings new and exciting opportunities for Australia. Solid economic fundamentals and geography mean we're well placed to act.

Dwindling domestic labour force growth and the need to shore up our economic future mean we must act. If we get it right, the potential is profound.


Taxpayers face huge bill after power sale

No easy way out of the mess left by the previous ALP government

NSW taxpayers could be left paying tens of millions of dollars a year in penalties incurred by the state's electricity generators after they are sold under the O'Farrell government's privatisation plans.

Legislation to facilitate the sale gives the Treasurer, Mike Baird, the power to transfer the financial liabilities attached to the power generators to other state-owned entities before they are sold.

These may include tens of millions of dollars in "availability liquidated damages" each year if a generator fails to supply the amount of electricity it is contracted to produce.

The NSW Auditor-General revealed last year that one generator company, Delta Electricity, expected to be liable for $46.3 million in damages payments over the next four years. Another, Eraring Energy, had budgeted to pay $6.7 million in penalties for 2011-12.

The liabilities are a consequence of Labor's partial sale of electricity assets before last year's election, under which the trading rights to electricity output from a number of power stations were sold, but the power stations were retained in public hands.

An expert report commissioned as part of the Tamberlin inquiry into the electricity industry said any future sale of the power stations would be "significantly compromised" by the terms of the contracts between the power stations and the companies that bought the trading rights.

If Mr Baird decides to shift the liabilities from the power stations to another state-owned entity then the financial burden of the penalties would remain with taxpayers even after they are sold.

A spokeswoman for Mr Baird said the legislation "empowers the government to do what's in the best interests of NSW taxpayers" and was guided by the recommendations made by former judge Brian Tamberlin.

"The detail of the sale of the state's generators has been subject to expert advice, as was recommended by Justice Tamberlin," she said. "The government is implementing Justice Tamberlin's findings that the state should not be in electricity generation. Throughout this process the government will act in the best interests of NSW taxpayers."

The government is likely to consider removing the financial liabilities as a means to secure a better sale price for the power stations, which may be done by tender or a public float.

But the NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the government was "looking for a quick hit of cash to fatten its election war chest, while leaving households to carry the downside risk for decades to come".

"Privatising the profits while forcing taxpayers and consumers to bear all the risk might work for the Coalition's 2015 election plans but it will leave the state and households much worse off," he said.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has ruled out selling the network businesses, or "poles and wires", despite the urgings of business groups and the chairman of Infrastructure NSW, Nick Greiner.


8 March, 2012

Former student radical to be appointed ABC chairman

They don't mention below that he was a student radical but he was. I was there at the time

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, Jim Spigelman, is to be appointed chairman of the ABC. An announcement is expected to be made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, today or tomorrow, sources say.

Cabinet approval was given on Monday for Mr Spigelman to take up the part-time $151,000-a-year post.

Mr Spigelman, who retired from the bench last May, replaces the former stockbroker Maurice Newman, who stepped down at the end of last year.

Mr Newman's tenure at times was marked by controversy. He said journalists had succumbed to groupthink because they failed to predict the global financial crisis and his parting shot was a suggestion to merge the ABC and SBS to save money.

Facing Mr Spigelman will be a long list of issues, the top of which is how the ABC remains relevant in a changing media landscape and its response to the government's review on convergence in the media.

He will also have to negotiate another round of triennial funding and ask for more money as the corporation expands its reach with new channels and appears on more digital devices.

The appointment completes a circle in a career that began with the then nascent area of communications in the Whitlam government.

Mr Spigelman's long association with Labor - he was an adviser to Gough Whitlam and in 1975 was appointed secretary to the first department of the media - will inevitably attract some accusations that he is a political appointee, a charge often levelled at his predecessor, who was a close friend of John Howard.

Mr Spigelman dropped a heavy hint that he was heading for the role at a breakfast talk a fortnight ago. He was asked what he thought about the corporation moving into new genres. "That's also something I don't have an informed opinion about but I'm looking forward to developing one," he replied.


Conservatives will allow some industries to fail

The Coalition is not discounting the Australian dollar hitting $US1.25 as it shapes policy proposals for those industries which would be most affected.

In a broad-ranging speech on the economy yesterday, the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said that if elected, the Coalition would ask the Productivity Commission to look into the dollar and other structural changes which were afflicting industry and "recommend appropriate government responses".

Mr Hockey said that according to some analysts, "it is not inconceivable for the Australian dollar to reach $US1.25 over the next 12 to 18 months".

"It is time to carefully consider what a comparatively high Australian dollar means for key sectors of our economy," he said.

In a warning to those in the Coalition advocating protectionism, Mr Hockey said it would not be propping up unsustainable industries.

While it was worth providing help to those industries facing short-to-medium-term pressures, such as the high dollar, industries which are proving unsustainable over the longer term for many reasons would not be saved.

While they could be eligible for such assistance as retraining or relocating workers, "we should not, however, be in the business of propping up industries that for many reasons do not have a sustainable future in Australia", he said.

He said the "brutal truth" was that managers and consumers, not government, would determine the fate of individual businesses.

Mr Hockey did not single out any specific industries but his words were, in part, a message to those colleagues pushing for tighter regulation of the supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths.

Also, in January, Mr Hockey won an internal battle to ensure the Coalition would not increase assistance to the automotive industry by 2015 by matching the $500 million extra that Labor has pledged.

The Coalition has also yet to announce what assistance it will provide the car industry post-2015.

While much of Mr Hockey's speech was spent attacking the government, he agreed the Reserve Bank was Australia's frontline defence against another financial crisis.

With the budget in deficit because of the stimulus measures taken to keep the global financial crisis at bay, the government believes monetary policy - decreased interest rates - should be the first weapon deployed should further stimulus be required.

"Under the Coalition, the budget will not be the first lever pulled in the event of another downturn," Mr Hockey said. "I would prefer to see greater use of monetary policy for managing demand, with movements in interest rates to smooth the economic cycle."

However, Mr Hockey would face the same problem as the government because the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ, NAB and the Commonwealth, now ignore the signals sent by the Reserve.

Last month, after the Reserve Bank left its rates on hold, the big four increased their rates, a move that would slow growth rather than help it.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said yesterday there was no excuse for the behaviour of the big banks.

After a recent week of confusion and conflicting messages within the Coalition about when it would return the budget to surplus, Mr Hockey pledged yesterday that there would be a surplus year in the Coalition's first year in power along with each subsequent year of its first term.


Conservatives to allow culling of hordes of bats

There's millions of them in thousands of colonies so they are not remotely "endangered"

THE RSPCA and about 40 animal and conservation groups say an LNP plan to reintroduce shooting and electrocution of native flying foxes is a return to the dark ages. They have pledged to fight the move, which is aimed at helping farmers reduce damage to orchards. It is likely to be challenged in court on cruelty grounds, with electrocution having been banned for a decade and shooting for four years.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said his organisation remained apolitical but strongly opposed the policy. "The RSPCA has advised Queensland governments that electrocution and shooting of flying foxes is inhumane," Mr Beatty said. "...Most Queenslanders abhor cruelty and would oppose the use of inhumane methods for crop protection. "We've been trying to talk to (LNP Leader) Campbell Newman about this ... but his office tells us he's too busy to be talking to organisations such as ours."

Opposition agriculture spokesman Andrew Cripps told Parliament last year the LNP would continue low interest loans for bat netting and would encourage farmers to use non-lethal methods. "...An LNP government will reintroduce damage mitigation permits to farmers to use lethal deterrent where non-lethal deterrent have failed," Mr Cripps said.

Opposition environment spokesman Andrew Powell said in a statement the policy balanced conservation with public health and agricultural production.

An LNP Government will work with councils and landholders affected by nuisance colonies of flying foxes to ensure human health and agricultural productivity are not adversely affected," he said. "An LNP Government will overhaul the damage mitigation permit system in relation to moving bat colonies."

Shooting is deemed cruel because of a high rate of wounding. A 2009 study found that of 146 bats shot, 44 were wounded and would have died slowly and the young of 41 lactating females left in roosts also would have died from dehydration and starvation.

Wildlife Preservation Society spokesman Des Boyland said governments should help nationally threatened species such as spectacled and grey-headed flying-foxes, not shoot them, and if the LNP wanted to ease problems for farmers, they could look at subsidising netting.

Bats Conservation and Rescue president Louise Saunders said her organisation rehabilitated nearly 1000 of the tree pollinators a year and it would be bitterly disappointing to see killing reintroduced. It was irrational that possums, rats and birds did substantial damage to fruiting crops yet flying foxes received disproportionate blame.

Queensland Conservation spokeswoman Carol Booth said if the ban was overturned, thousands of animal would be killed annually.


Hospitals face $170m hit from sick carbon tax

VICTORIA'S health system faces a $170 million carbon tax slug in the next decade. A secret report reveals the controversial tax will add 15 per cent to hospital power bills.

Private hospital patients also face higher charges, as leading operators warn they will pass on tens of millions of dollars in costs of the Gillard Government's greenhouse emissions scheme.

2A report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Health reveals the state's public hospitals will have to find $12.3 million more for energy bills in the first year of the carbon tax.

Cost increases will also hit medical supplies such as anaesthetic. Ambulance and hospital catering bills will soar.

Hospital catering costs will rise by $131,000 from next year, while Victoria's ambulance service will have to find an extra $334,000 as higher energy and aviation fuel costs flow through.

The total annual tax hit from July across the public health sector will be $13.4 million.

The Sinclair Knight Merz report, obtained by the Herald Sun, shows carbon tax costs will rise to $14.8 million in 2014 and hit $19 million by 2020. Over 10 years, the total cost to the Victorian public health system will be $170 million - about two thirds of the price of a new Monash Children's Hospital, which is still to be financed.

According to the report, "the carbon price results in an average real increase of 14 per cent" in electricity prices while natural gas will rise by an even steeper 16 per cent next year.

For Melbourne's biggest public hospitals, such as the Alfred and the Austin, the annual cost will be about $1 million. "Should the Federal Government not come to the party and compensate our hospitals for this massive impost, it's Victorian patients that will suffer," Health Minister David Davis said. "This tax will slow the growth in operations and other patient services."

Private hospitals warned the tax could result in higher private higher insurance premiums.

Chris Rex, the head of Australia's largest private hospital chain, Ramsey Health Care, said his company expects to pass on the costs.

A spokesman for federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the costs of health services were forecast to rise by just 0.3 per cent - 10c a week for the average household - according to Treasury modelling.

The Government will provide increased family payments and pensions to counter the effects of the carbon tax on family living costs.


7 March, 2012

Yumi not so yummy

She's just an airhead but why does the channel want an airhead fronting their show? Australia has a very proud and honourable military tradition that most Australians respect -- not least because so many families have lost loved-ones in war. So in that context, mocking a soldier as distinguished as a VC is the height of ignorance and disrespect. Cpl. Roberts-Smith is someone of whom most Australians are proud. But Yumi is half Japanese so she may not have been exposed to normal Australian feelings in the matter

CHANNEL 10 is resisting calls to sack Yumi Stynes as co-host of The Circle.

Ten has backed Stynes amid an online hate campaign, including physical threats, aimed at the morning show presenter.

The broadcaster has been forced to censor the Facebook page for The Circle after tasteless comments were posted, with some thought to involve her children.

"Yumi remains a valued member of The Circle team and we are all focused on moving forward," a Ten spokesman said. "We are concerned about the extreme nature of some of those comments and are monitoring them closely."

It is believed that seven sponsors have quit or are reviewing their involvement with the show. Mirvac Hotels & Resorts has joined Swisse Vitamins, coffee company Jamaica Blue, garden fittings company Hoselink and Big 4 Holiday Parks in pulling out. "All ties with The Circle have been severed by the cancellation of our sponsorship," Mirvac posted on its Facebook page yesterday.

The protest against Stynes also has spread to radio. The Facebook page for the Australian Radio Network's 3PM Pick-Up show, which Stynes co-hosts with Chrissie Swan, has been inundated. Listeners have called on Swan to dissociate herself from Stynes, labelled a disgrace, disrespectful and ungrateful by angry listeners.

"To date, there has been no effect on sponsorship," ARN content director Duncan Campbell said.


Greenie mayor stymied by conservatives

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell spikes Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore's city-of-bikes strategy. Zeg will be pleased

Clover Moore in Greenie uniform

THE Sydney CBD's controversial network of bike paths has hit a major road block - Premier Barry O'Farrell. Declaring war on Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Mr O'Farrell will today announce new laws that will take away Ms Moore's transport and traffic planning powers. Under the changes, a joint state government-City of Sydney committee will manage the city's transport issues.

The move comes after it was revealed yesterday Ms Moore was planning to make on-street parking as expensive as commercial carparks and hoped to turn dozens of parking bays into bike racks.

"There will be no extension of bike lanes, no change to traffic routes unless it goes through this committee on which the government has four nominees," the Premier said.

"The Sydney CBD is too important to be held hostage to the political constituency of Clover Moore. It's very clear Clover Moore's pitch for re-election is built around more bike lanes and making the CBD as unfriendly to cars as possible. That is why we have decided to act in the best interests of wider Sydney."

The committee will have four representatives from the government, including the transport ministry director-general, as well as three representatives from council. Asked what he would do if Ms Moore did not fill the council spots, the Premier said the committee would operate with only the government's nominees.

Mr O'Farrell said the government was taking action on behalf of CBD workers, businesses, residents and visitors to "ensure major transport decisions are properly co-ordinated between the NSW government and City of Sydney Council".

The Premier said the government was in disagreement with the council on speed limits and car access to the CBD, the provision of layover space for buses, the extension of the network of bikeways and the extension of low-speed shared zones. "The lord mayor's vision of the CBD is at odds with Sydney's position as a global city," Mr O'Farrell said.

The Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee would be responsible for "co-ordinating plans and policies for public transport and traffic within central Sydney and making decisions on major transport issues".

"Sydney is Australia's only global city and the CBD deserves a first rate and properly functioning roads and transport system," Mr O'Farrell said. "Transport issues in the Sydney CBD have a far broader impact on the state's economic activity. We need to ensure both levels of government working together to deliver the best results for the state's economy.

"I've come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure this is to establish a legal framework that requires coordination between the state and the council, modelled on the successful Central Sydney Planning Committee." Mr O'Farrell said the committee would "for the first time, bring all traffic and transport decision-making under the one umbrella".

Ms Moore warned today that the transport authority could become just another layer of bureaucracy for Sydney. In a statement she said she was interested to see how the new system would differ from current arrangements. "The city has limited powers and the NSW government already has to approve all of the city's transport projects - including all bike routes," she said.

She added the council already worked closely with NSW transport agencies. "The city has neither stopped anything the state has sought to improve transport, nor has the city done anything without state approval," she said. "So unless this new panel has any authority or funding to take action, it will be in danger of becoming just another level of bureaucracy."

Both the council and the government shared the same objective in wanting to see 80 per cent of city commuters using public transport and 10 per cent of all trips made by cycling, she said.


Bureaucracy at work

Dietician is overpaid $30,000 but Queensland Health says keep it

"I've been begging them to take it but they won't," said Mrs Wilcox, 68, a dietician, who retired in September last year. "They told me the computer refuses to take it back, and no, they won't override it because it would make the system vulnerable to fraud."

Mrs Wilcox said she complained so often she was appointed a case manager. But the case manager tells her there is nothing she can do.

The bizarre episode highlights the ongoing embarrassment for the State Government in the payroll debacle that left thousands of nurses and doctors without pay in the past two years. The repair bill has so far topped $219 million but Queensland Health acknowledges it is still not perfect.

Mrs Wilcox said her troubles began when she received $35,859. "I thought, My God," she said. "They only owed me around $1000. I keep telling them it is not my money and they say it is. It belongs to someone else, not me."

She believes she may have been paid her final salary and long-service leave twice. "I'm a little bit stressed about it to be frank. The state has so much debt it is absurd."

In December last year Queensland Health said it was owed $75 million in overpayments. The department said yesterday a case manager would discuss options with Mrs Wilcox.

"Queensland Health has not sought to recover any overpayment at this stage as the former employee has asked for an audit of her entitlements against her pay, and one is being conducted," said Lyn Rowland, acting deputy Director-General of Human Resource Services.


Coal hatred from Greenpeace

Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson on Tuesday said environmental activists were living in "fantasy land" after a plan to disrupt the country's coal export boom was leaked to the media.

Greenpeace is spearheading a multi-million dollar campaign to disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure by eroding public support for the industry while funding legal challenges against controversial mines.

The plan also involves exploiting opposition to coal-seam gas to put pressure on governments to block mining, The Australian reported, citing confidential documents.

Australian resources, including coal, are in big demand from developing countries such as India and China as they build power projects to fuel their fast-growing economies.

But environmentalists are concerned about the impact of the boom on farmland and groundwater aquifers as land is increasingly used for mining, as well as the consequences for climate change.

"If we fail to act decisively over the next two years, it will be too late to have any chance of stopping almost all of the key infrastructure projects and most of the mega-mines," the Greenpeace-led coalition says.

It added that it was seeking investment "to help us build a nationwide coal campaign that functions like an orchestra with a large number of different voices combining together into a powerful symphony".

Emerson said the concept was "recklessly irresponsible". "The idea of flicking a switch from coal and other fossil fuels to renewable energy cannot be done," he said. "We would have a global depression if we just said 'that's it, we're out of coal, we are just going to move to renewable energy' just because they believe that is good for the world. "It would mean mass starvation and they ought to wake up to that, instead of living in a fantasy land and organising these sorts of campaigns."

The trade minister said Australia was tackling issues of concern by putting a price on carbon pollution from July 1.

From that date, a levy of Aus$23 (US$23.80) per tonne of carbon pollution will apply before the country moves to an emissions trading scheme in 2015.

Greenpeace Australia's John Hepburn, co-author of the campaign document, told ABC radio there were legitimate concerns about the scale of the mining boom. "We're looking at mega-mines that would increase Australia's coal exports two or threefold within the next 10 years, with massive impacts on our best farmland, on our groundwater aquifers, on the global climate," he said.

"And they're also having a big negative impact on the economy, destroying jobs in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. So we think it's completely legitimate."

Mining-powered Australia was the only advanced economy to dodge recession during the global downturn due to the resilience of resources exports to Asia, but other parts of the economy are struggling due to the strong local dollar.


6 March, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pouring scorn on the Green/Left Lord Mayor of Sydney over her plans to get cars out of the CBD

Developer may sue to trigger rethink on sea level rises

Warmist-inspired laws and regulations being tested in court! Could be fun

CRACKS are appearing in the state's response to rising sea levels, with one council facing potential legal action from a developer and other residents worried about planning controls and insurance risks.

Lake Macquarie Council recently updated its recommendations for about 10,000 people living up to three metres above the average sea level. All their properties could be exposed to inundation and increased flood risks by the end of the century, according to guidelines developed by the CSIRO.

But a property developer, Jeff McCloy, said he was contemplating leading a class action suit against the council, which he said was "falling for this unjustified, worldwide idiocy about sea level rises".

Mr McCloy recently arranged for climate change sceptics Ian Plimer, Bob Carter and David Archibald to address residents and councillors, and said the presentation seemed to convince many people there was nothing to worry about.

It comes as the NSW government reassesses its plans regarding sea level rises, including the possibility of a moratorium on sea level-related planning restrictions until more studies are done.

Mr McCloy is seeking to gain approval for a subdivision of 24 homes that is likely to be affected by the Lake Macquarie planning guidelines.

"This is not about me though; this is about the poor little property owner who had had hundreds of thousands of dollars knocked off the value of their property," Mr McCloy said.

He said he had studied sea level rise on the internet and concluded it was rising at only a very slow rate, and that rate had slowed in the past decade, so any planning restrictions were unjustified.

Lake Macquarie Council said its guidelines were based on rational science. "Our position is informed by the available evidence," said the council's sustainability manager, Alice Howe.

"In November last year we revised our policy in light of new flood-mapping, and we have written to all the affected residents," Dr Howe said. The area in question consists of a low-lying area near the lake that is expected to be partly submerged by the end of the century, a middle zone that could be affected by extreme weather and high tides, and an outer zone including areas up to three metres above sea level that could be affected by extreme events in 2100.

The mapping is based on coastal projections developed under the previous state government that used CSIRO studies to determine sea level heights as climate change intensifies in coming decades.

A committee chaired by the the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, will review the coastal planning guidelines. "Establishing this task force is an important step in ensuring that NSW has the best arrangements in place to manage coastal erosion and other coastal hazards," a spokesman for the minister said.


Australian state of NSW toughens law for Muslim veils‏

Muslim women in Australia's most populous state will have to remove veils to have their signatures officially witnessed under the latest laws giving New South Wales officials authority to look under religious face coverings.

New South Wales state Attorney General Greg Smith said in a statement on Monday that beginning April 30, officials such as justices of the peace and lawyers who witness statutory declarations or affidavits without making identity checks will be fined 220 Australian dollars ($236). "If a person is wearing a face covering, an authorized witness should politely and respectfully ask them to show their face," Smith said.

The government on Monday began an information campaign to ensure the public and officials were aware of the new penalties before they came into force. The laws are a response to a court case last year in which a Sydney woman was convicted of falsely claiming that a traffic policeman had attempted to remove her niqab — a veil that reveals only the eyes.

A judge overturned the conviction because the official who witnessed the false claim did not look under the veil of the person who made it, so the judge was not certain that the defendant was responsible.

The latest laws were passed Dec. 23 by the state parliament. They follow New South Wales laws passed last year that introduced a $5,500 fine and a 12-month prison sentence for anyone who refuses to remove face coverings when requested to do so by police.

Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils an advocate for Australian Muslims, said while some Muslims regarded the laws as a knee-jerk reaction to the court case, the majority did not object. "I don't object as long as the laws are enforced with respect and sensitivity," Patel said.

Patel said he was also a justice of the peace and would never witness a document without seeking proof of the author's identity. He said Muslim women can find female justices of the peace working at most post offices. Women who object to showing policemen their faces have an option of being taken to a police station where their identities can be confirmed by a female official.

New South Wales laws demanding the removal of religious face coverings are an Australian first, although other states including Victoria and Western Australia are considering similar legislation. Muslims are a rapidly growing minority of 400,000 within Australia's Christian-majority population of 23 million.


Bob Katter claims LNP 's Campbell Newman insulted Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen

Very unwise of Newman. There are still a lot of people around who voted for Joh and have fond memories of him

KATTER'S Australia Party leader Bob Katter yesterday angrily accused Campbell Newman of "spitting on the grave" of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and insulting Lady Flo.

"What a dirty, low, filthy act," Mr Katter said of the LNP leader's suggestion the Bjelke-Petersen government was corrupt. "Who does this Johnny-come-lately, this little lightweight fella, think he is?"

Mr Katter said Sir Joh and the National Party had presided over the building of much of the state's infrastructure while Mr Newman was living interstate.

Mr Newman made the remarks in Kingaroy, close to where Lady Flo still lives at the family homestead Bethany.

"He (Newman) spits on the grave of a man unable to defend himself," said Mr Katter, a long-standing member of the Bjelke-Petersen government, which ruled Queensland for a generation. He said the old National Party government was not corrupt. "Members of the police force were and we investigated that, at great (political) cost to ourselves," he said.

Former main roads minister Russ Hinze was charged with corruption but died before his trial, while Sir Joh's trial ended in a hung jury.

Mr Katter spent yesterday on the Gold Coast, releasing a $15 million arts policy before having a drink with locals.


Prisons a revolving door for criminals, says Australian Institute of Criminology report

AUSTRALIA'S prisons are a revolving door, with close to half of all criminals released returning to prison or being put on home detention orders within two years.

The Sunday Mail can reveal the Australian Institute of Criminology's annual report confirms recidivism by former prison inmates remains a major problem.

Just two years after jail inmates were released, 38 per cent had returned to prison under sentence and 44 per cent were in jail or on community correction orders.

According to a national census of the prison population, there were nearly 30,000 people in prison in 2010, with the rate of imprisonment increasing by 97 per cent in the past 30 years.

One in four prisoners is Aboriginal, with indigenous Australians 18 times more likely to be imprisoned than white Australians.

On the plus side, the number of victims of robbery in 2010 was the lowest since 1996, with 14,582 victims. That's a substantial decrease since 2001 when 26,591 victims of robbery were recorded in official statistics.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the good news from the national snapshot was that home break-ins and violent crimes were decreasing.

A snapshot of crime in Australia has also confirmed women are most likely to be attacked by a partner or family member while men are most likely to be assaulted by a friend at work or at a pub or club.

Cocaine arrests are also booming with 15 per cent of male detainees at Sydney's Kings Cross police station testing positive for the drug.

In Melbourne's Footscray, a startling 43 per cent of detainees in police cells tested positive for heroin. But the most common drug Australians are arrested for carrying is marijuana.

Car theft had also reduced by 61 per cent over the last decade.

The report also reveals that the most common weapon used in homicide is a knife, which accounted for nearly 40 per cent of all murders.

The number of victims of robbery in 2010 was also lowest on record since 1996, with 14,582 victims. That's a substantial decrease since 2001 when 26,591 victims of robbery were recorded in official statistics.

Marijuana was involved in the highest number of drug-related arrests with 57,170 arrests.


5 March, 2012

Psychologist Lewandowsky at the University of Western Australia claims that Greenie lies and deceit are justifiable

During my career in psychological research I repeatedly came across very low intellectual standards among my colleagues so Lewandowsky is no surprise. Psychologists are very good at believing what they want to believe -- JR

Comment below by Anthony Cox

In a recent article Stephan Lewandowsky has attempted to justify the fraudulent procurement of confidential material from the Heartland Institute by Peter Gleick. Gleick is described as:
"a hydroclimatologist by training, with a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley from the Energy and Resources Group. His research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrological impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.

Dr. Gleick is an internationally recognized water expert and was named a MacArthur Fellow in October 2003 for his work. In 2001, Gleick was dubbed a “visionary on the environment” by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 2006 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C."

That’s as good as it gets in respect of climate credentials. Gleick is at the top of the global warming [AGW] pile. Yet what Gleick did is lie, deceive, procure and publically disseminate private information; along with a fake document which he either produced or willingly used.

Lewandowsky, a psychologist and avid disciple of the AGW ‘church’, would have us believe that Gleick’s actions put him in the same class as strategy to defeat the Nazis or Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon papers. This is a weird comparison. How can a strategy to put an enemy like the Nazi’s off-guard or the release of documents which contain important, relevant information for citizens in a democratic society be compared with fraudulently obtaining irrelevant information about a private entity in a democracy?

Lewandowsky claims that since Heartland is at the forefront of denialism [sic] and opposing measures to ‘save’ the planet from AGW that infringement of its rights is in order.

We should not be surprised about this line of ‘reasoning’ from Lewandowsky. The pro-AGW side has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to exaggerate, lie [see comment 246], break the law, oppose the democratic structure itself to ‘save the planet’ and be misanthropic. Lewandowsky and other pro-AGW advocates have indicated a willingness to censor and suppress ‘denier’ viewpoints; they have been prepared to hide their doubt about the ‘science’ supporting AGW in private while promoting the false idea that this ‘science’ is settled. The Climate-gate emails clearly show this.

So, we should not be surprised at any tactic used or capacity of the pro-AGW supporters.

But is their cause a noble one? Lewandowsky is in no doubt: “Revealing to the public the active, vicious, and well-funded campaign of denial that seeks to delay action against climate change likely constitutes a classic public good.”

Some facts about this noble cause of “action against climate change”:

* AGW ‘science’ and predictions unquestionably contributed to and acerbated the consequences of the 2 worse natural disasters in Australia in recent times. They were the 2010 QLD floods and the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

* The funds directed to ‘solving’ AGW in Australia runs into 10’s of $billions. Between now and 2015 the Gillard government will ‘give’ $13 billion to sustainable energy schemes. That is money down the drain since the primary recipients of this money, wind and solar, do not work in any meaningful way and never will.

But it is worse than just $13 billion. All the ‘real’ energy producers will be obligated to source 20% of their power from renewables by 2020. The $13 billion will allow start-up schemes to be created on paper with the ‘potential’ power able to be on-sold to the hapless ‘real’ power producers. That will at least double the initial $13 billion and will be passed straight on to the consumer, assuming the ‘real’ power producers don’t close, who will pay for nothing in return.

* There is no doubt the $23 per tonne carbon tax will send many companies to the wall; there is no doubt it will bankrupt Australia and in all likelihood cause power shortages. People will suffer and possibly die to lack of heating or air-conditioning.

* There is not a scintilla of evidence to support AGW; if the effect of AGW does exist it is entirely dominated by natural processes and variation. All the predictions of AGW have either not eventuated or are false correlations and a product of natural variation.

So, we have a theory, AGW, with no evidence, which has already greatly harmed people and will economically decimate the nation being used by people like Lewandowsky as an excuse for illegal and otherwise unethical behaviour.

There is no noble cause. So this is not noble cause corruption. It is just corruption.


Australian universities teaching quack medicine

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC health courses are undermining the credibility of Australian universities, according to an editorial in a leading medical journal.

Homeopathy, iridology, reflexology, kinesiology, healing touch therapy, aromatherapy and energy medicine are offered at more than a third of the nation's universities.

But some academics are angry about what they see as a dumbing down of universities by offering courses that lack scientific credibility.

"Pseudoscientific courses sully the genuinely scientific courses and research conducted at the same institution," say professors Alastair MacLennan and Robert Morrison, who co-wrote the editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

They call on all tertiary institutions to review their health-science teaching.

"Their scientists and students should be concerned by any retreat from the primacy of experimental, evidence-based approach in science and medicine.

"Academics at these institutions need to stand up for science."

The professors say acupuncture and chiropractic claims of being able to treat a broad array of afflictions are flimsy.

"The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best, and such randomised controlled trials of these therapies as exist mostly do not support their efficacy," they say.

"As the number of alternative practitioners graduating from tertiary education institutions increases, further health-care resources are wasted, while the potential for harm increases."

Chiropractic is cited as an area of particular concern, with the editorial warning that people in the field are extending their role beyond the treatment of musculoskeletal problems related to the back.

"Some self-regulated chiropractors' associations have a more extreme vision that chiropractic should become the major primary-care discipline," the editorial says.

"Alarmingly, some chiropractors now extend their manipulation of the spine to children, making claims that this can cure asthma, allergies, bedwetting, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, colic, fever and numerous other problems, and serve as a substitute for vaccination ...

"We respect those who distance themselves from such unproven beliefs."

The professors say federal funding is wasted on universities that support pseudoscience health courses.


Union admits staff paid to protest at conservative leader's announcement

Typical Leftist thuggery

A QUEENSLAND union has admitted its staff were sent to accost Campbell Newman on the hustings in Brisbane. Several protesters staged a fake auction outside the Toowong State School as Mr Newman arrived to announce a $54 million prep school policy, alleging he would sell Education Queensland assets.

They denied to reporters any political links but one later revealed on her Twitter page she was getting paid to protest.

The woman, who worked for United Voice, was sacked yesterday afternoon when it was also revealed she had posted photographs of a phone survey being conducted by the union in the Ashgrove electorate, which included private details of residents.

The LNP said the tweets were proof unions were "misusing members' money and paying staff to stage protests. "Labor have been caught red-handed," an LNP spokesman said.

United Voice state secretary Gary Bullock confirmed the union was behind the protest.

He said the union also had a commercial arrangement with the ALP to conduct the phone survey but said employees had been instructed to maintain the privacy of residents called.


Colon cancer drug hope through research into inflammatory bowel disease

A TEAM of Queensland researchers has developed a world-first treatment for the leading cause of colon cancer.

The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience has been working for more than a decade on a medication for inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that is estimated to affect 30 million people worldwide.

"We thought that certain enzymes involved in digesting food in the gut may, if uncontrolled, cause inflammatory bowel disease, so we developed a drug that blocks the effects of these enzymes on colon cells," one of the research team leaders, Dr Rink-Jan Lohman, said.

"Not only were we able to treat and prevent the symptoms, our drug was effective at 10 per cent of the dose of current treatments and it can be given in tablet form rather than injected."

The researchers believe that the drug might show similar benefits in treating other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, and could prevent a variety of cancers from developing.

"If we can treat diseases like inflammatory bowel disease adequately we can likely reduce the risk of colon cancer in the population in the future," he said.

To move a drug to human trials costs millions of dollars, so the IMB team must get further funding to advance their research.

"The process of taking a drug from a promising molecule to a product on the shelves takes years, but discoveries such as these should give sufferers hope that better treatments will one day be available," Dr Lohman said.

The study has been published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.


4 March, 2012

New Free Speech Campaign Launched

You would all know by now that Mr. Ray Finkelstein QC, a left-wing former Federal Court Judge with no media experience, issued a 400 page report for the Gillard Government which calls for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to 'regulate' political speech and - among other things - impose new laws to stop Australians from speaking up.

Its “recommendations” should sicken every single Australian: They actually call for a Big Brother Super-Regulator to censor not just the newspapers and TV, but websites, personal blogs, and even what you say on Twitter!

This is a proposal that would seem right at home in North Korea or Zibmabwe. I never thought – as dark as things seemed- we could stoop this low here in Australia.

The size and scope of the proposed Super-Regulator is breathtaking. They will have the power to impose a “code of ethics”, force you to print views you don’t agree with as part of a ‘right of reply’, take you to court, and even make you take pieces down! Even personal blogs that get only 40 hits a day will be covered! To make matters worse, the SuperRegulator "would not have to give reasons for its decisions" and the decisions "would not be subject to appeal." Even climate change websites in other countries like Watt’s Up With That will be coved by this!
This is not a matter of partisan politics. If you are left wing or right wing, you should take action against this horror.

We need to speak out now – while we are still allowed.

This is why we just created so we can work together to help stop this nightmare from becoming a reality.

It includes an online petition, which I STRONGLY urge you all to sign and to pass onto all your family and friends, as well as an “Action Centre” detailing what other activities you can take, a resource toolkit, and links to a Facebook page and Twitter account.

Australia is already behind countries like, Niger, Mali, Slovakia, Namibia and Poland in the Index of Media Freedom. If this is passed, we will be joining North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe.

Here’s what you can do right now to stop this nightmare from becoming a reality:

1)Visit and sign our online petition calling on the government to reject these recommendations outright. Then pass this on to your family, friends, bloggers you read, and any other contacts you may have!

2)Visit our online resource centre to find out what MP’s to contact, and a draft email of what to say.

3)Call your local talkback radio station, or write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing your disgust at this proposal!

4)Follow this new campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and share with all your contacts!

5)Make a donation of $25, $50, or $100 to help us spread the word. As much as I would like to, I can't afford to run this campaign myself, and every cent donated will go to making sure this does not become a reality!

Freedom of speech is at the very heart of democracy, and if we do not stand up to defend it now, we might not have the chance again: all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

I know I can count on you to do the right thing and take action now. Our future as a free society depends on it.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Exposing Finkelstein’s Dirty Trick

Mr. Finkelstein, in his 400 page attack on freedom of speech in Australia and call for Big Brother regulation of the media, website, blogs, and even Twitter, spent a number of pages discussing media bias in Australia regards to Climate Change.

It is clear from the report, particularly paragraphs 4.31-4.42 that a major driving force behind this proposal is to muzzle climate sceptics; it is pretty explicit about this.

However, what is interesting is the dirty little trick Mr. Finkelstein used.

Mr. Finkelstein pointed out that only 21% of Australians agree that the media reports all sides of the story (at paragraph 4.27). In the next paragraph (4.28) he comments that a different study found 72% thought that the media was fair to the Coalition, and only 55% to Labor. The next paragraph (4.29) cites another study that 62% of Australians believe that newspapers are biased against Labor, and even 42% of non-Labor supporters agree with this.

The implication from context is clear: the media biased to the Coalition which is why we need to take action.

Except for one thing. The polls showing a pro-Labor bias were from… wait for it… 1966 and and 1976. That’s right, they are decades old. Yet they are in the same section as debate on climate change, and used later on as justification for this regulatory regime.

This would be funny, if it wasn’t so scary…


Gillard opens the flood gates for illegals

AUSTRALIA will quadruple the number of asylum seekers released from detention to live in the community, prompting accusations the Gillard Government has quietly dismantled mandatory detention.

The dramatic increase allowing 400 asylum seekers a month to be released on bridging visas to live and work or claim welfare payments before their claims are finalised prompted Coalition warnings yesterday of a "let them in and let them out" policy.

But it will be welcomed by the Greens, who have long called for the dismantling of the inhumane detention of asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers had previously remained in detention until their claims for refugee status were finalised, some after years, and were then released into the community or deported.

The forecast of 400 asylum seekers a month to be released into the community is the same number the department expects to arrive by boat every month over the next year.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flagged the new policy in November, predicting 100 asylum seekers a month would be released.

"The rate at which we are currently processing people would see us releasing about 400 people a month on bridging visas," deputy secretary John Moorhouse said.

Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe added in evidence to a parliamentary hearing that on current boat arrival, "we believe we will probably get up to that figure".

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison ridiculed Minister Bowen's earlier pledge that the policy of mandatory detention was "rock solid". "Labor's policy for illegal boat arrivals has now been exposed as simply being let them in and let them out," Mr Morrison said.

"The revelation the number of bridging visas will rise to four times the level indicated by the Minister when he announced the scheme just three months ago shows just how far the Labor Government has embraced the Greens policy of onshore release.

"The big winners are people smugglers. The Government's own figures reveal the average price paid on these boats is $10,000 a person."

But the Government expects to rein in a budget blowout sparked by rising arrivals under the policy. That is because it is cheaper to allow asylum seekers to live and work in the community or claim welfare payments than it is to house them in remote detention centres.


Means test selective school parents

Smart people will always tend to get rich and will pass on their smarts to their children so this is how it always will be. But rich people already pay more tax. Why penalize them again?

THE families of children attending selective public high schools are among the most affluent, prompting questions about the equity of the system and whether parents should face a means-tested levy.

Entry to a selective school is based on academic performance, but data from the federal government's My School website shows that children whose parents are from higher social and educational backgrounds are over-represented, while those from disadvantaged backgrounds are significantly under-represented.

Educators call it apartheid within the public school system, and a leading private school principal, Timothy Hawkes, has suggested wealthy families with children in selective public schools should make an extra financial contribution to the education system through a means-tested levy.

My School publishes every school's distribution of students across the different quarters of socio-educational advantage from top to bottom. For example, At James Ruse Agricultural High School, the state's top performer academically, almost 60 per cent of its students come from the top quarter while only 4 per cent come from the bottom.

Hornsby Girls High School has the highest proportion of students from affluent backgrounds in the selective system with 68 per cent. Just 1 per cent of students come from the lowest quarter.

Normanhurst Boys High School has a similar profile with just 2 per cent of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and 66 per cent in the most advantaged.

Selective schools in less affluent areas of the state are not immune from the pattern. Penrith High School takes 5 per cent of its students from the bottom quarter while 56 per cent come from the top.

A strong supporter of public education, former principal of Asquith Boys High School Chris Bonnor, now fellow of the think tank Centre for Policy Development, said equal access to the selective system based on academic merit was a fallacy.

"There is a bit of an urban myth which has been peddled that selective schools take students from a wide range of social backgrounds but in reality they don't," he said.

"There is a disproportionate number of children from high socio-educational families in selective schools and that doesn't change when you look at selective schools in middle- to lower-class suburbs."

The social status of children attending selective schools is similar to those attending some of the state's most exclusive private schools.

Mr Bonnor called for a review of the selective school system.

The headmaster at The King's School in Parramatta, Dr Hawkes, said the wealthy parents of children attending selective schools should make a fairer financial contribution through a payment that would work in a similar way to the Medicare levy.

"There is an imperative for parents who send their children to selective schools to make a contribution if, and only if, they have the financial means to do so," he said.

"There is no question that there will be a number of families who are doing it tough and have children in selective state schools.

"These examples will invariably be trotted out and presented as a reason why this idea is inappropriate but these sorts of parents are often in the minority."

NSW has the highest number of selective schools in Australia with 17 fully selective schools, 25 partially selective schools, four selective agricultural schools and an online selective program.

A specialist in school systems at the University of Melbourne, Professor Richard Teese, believes the high number of selective schools in NSW has led to a two-tier public system.

"It's a form of social segregation based on academic selection," he said. "Selective high schools are a way of multiplying social advantage."

"There is an intensification of disadvantage at the other end."

The deputy chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, Brian Chudleigh, said David Gonski's federal school funding review, which recommended a student-based, rather than school-based, funding model would help close the gap between the haves and have-nots.

"In theory, enrolment at a selective school is based on academic merit," he said.

"Unfortunately, that nexus between socio-economic status and enrolment in selective schools is plain for all to see. The Gonski approach to funding would go a long way to helping that situation.

"It's clearly an equity issue. Children from less fortunate backgrounds, while they may be just as intelligent as children from more affluent homes, struggle to compete right from the word go."


Pressures to diet weighing on children

And all based on a political fad with very dubious science behind it. Dieting usually ends up making you FATTER

CHILDREN as young as four, panicked by aggressive anti-obesity messages, are starving themselves.

In 2010-11, 42 primary school children were admitted to hospital for eating disorders and the number of under-12s seeking help at Eating Disorders Association Queensland almost doubled from the previous year.

There was a 100 per cent increase in the number of cases relating to primary school boys. More than 500 parents in total made contact.

The shocking new figures come as food warrior and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver yesterday called for Government's to regulate what goes in to school lunchboxes.

In Australia this week, Mr Oliver said: "I think school lunch boxes are the wild west.

"Diet-related disease is costing more money to any government in the world - it is a miserable bastard of an epidemic.

"So your government needs to catergorically control what is and isn't appropriate in a school lunch, and it needs to educate parents what to put in those lunch boxes."

However, experts closer to home are now warning of a new health crisis with children confused about the anti-obesity message.

"We are just starting to see in the figures the fallout from the 'thin at all costs' anti-obesity message being forced on our kids," said Desi Achilleos, the co-ordinator of Eating Disorders Association Resource Centre.

"The message is not working for children who are overweight and is creating a class of self-loathing healthy-weight children.

"In 2010-11, we dealt with 47 per cent more primary school children than the previous year. The youngest was a preschooler.

"Last week I had a call from a guidance officer in a state school asking my advice about a Grade 2 child, a six-year-old girl who refuses to eat. She says that she hates her body and no one will marry her if she's ugly."

A staff member at the group was told of a healthy-weight primary school child being picked on by friends for having a muffin in her lunchbox.

The association is putting much of the blame at the feet of the state's schools. Damning feed-back from clients paints a picture of schools using food diaries, classroom weigh-ins and public humiliation.

"There are horror stories, but as a whole primary schools are well-meaning and adhering to curriculum guidelines, but nutrition needs to be taught in a broader context of collective health. We would recommend more collaboration with parents and caregivers - they are making the food choices for kids," Ms Achilleos said.

Brisbane GP Leanne Barron, who treats kids with eating disorders, said: "I have seen a five-year-old who has lost 3kg in one school year because she is so frightened of taking 'unhealthy' food and of not being able to eat the quantity of 'approved' foods in her lunch box.

"Fanaticism by the broader community has led to classroom weighing, lunchbox nazi-checks by teachers and schools vying to have the 'healthiest tuckshop' while in their playgrounds underweight children and teenagers shiver through the heat of Queensland summers, unable to maintain a healthy body temperature."

According to Ms Achilleos: "Queensland schools are doing their best to address nutrition through the Australian Curriculum Guidelines of a 'no-harm' approach."

However, the association is adamant the use of a food diary in some state schools breaks the "no harm" policy and slams any shaming of children for their food choices.

Asking kids to be accountable for their food choices when they are not the ones choosing their food is concerning," Ms Achilleos said. "Also, things like the calling out of sizes of sports uniforms at sports time can be very damaging."

Amanda Dearden, co-ordinator of Isis: The Eating Issues Centre Inc, told The Sunday Mail that Isis, in collaboration with the Queensland Eating Disorders Advisory Group, has met Education Queensland representatives a number of times to express concern about the growing number of young children with eating disorders.

Education Queensland told The Sunday Mail some state schools had hired a nutritionist and acknowledged the presence of food diaries but insisted they were optional.


3 March, 2012

The powerful climate impact of oscillations in ocean currents

La Nina matters; Global warming doesn't

A SWIFT current flows past Stuart Gordon's home where once rough sand blew. Light rain shivers the eucalyptus leaves as he prepares HMAS Hopeful, a small dinghy, to ferry his children to their outback school.

During the worst drought for years, the Darling River at the foot of Mr Gordon's garden ran bone dry. Now the trees are swamped canopy-deep by its forging flow.

The equivalent of two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water every second was rushing past Bourke in central northern NSW yesterday. At that rate, the entire flow for the eight consecutive years between 2002 and 2009 would be delivered in just 15 days.

As the floodwaters that drenched Queensland and northern NSW last month wash downstream, the wide brown land has been transformed.

After the drought that plagued the first 10 years of this century, two seasons of La Nina rain have dressed the landscape in newly verdant hues. Satellite images comparing 2009 with this year show how the bloom of green has spread inland. Even older locals say they've never seen the country looking so lush.

Once the water recedes, its legacy will be abundant fodder for livestock and several years of good crops. But in the meantime, the floods are inconvenient, dangerous and messy.

Heavy rain was expected to continue to hammer large parts of Australia at the weekend, with flood warnings in place for NSW and Victoria.

Emergency services in NSW have ordered about 1500 people to leave their homes and told another 1500 to prepare to evacuate since the heavy rain began falling earlier this week.

SES Emergency Commissioner Murray Kear said yesterday: "There were heavy falls ... across parts of the state last night, and because of the duration of the event some records may be broken as far back as 1886."

The main focus for emergency services overnight was southeast NSW, where 11 flood rescues took place in areas including Tumut, Queanbeyan and Goulburn.

In western Sydney, authorities were making final preparations to deal with the imminent spill of Warragamba Dam and the release of water into the Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers.

Emergency supplies were dropped to three communities in South Australia after floods cut roads across the state's north. The State Emergency Service co-ordinated the aerial drop of food and medical supplies to about 100 people in Nepabunna, Iga Warta and Balcanoona.

In Bourke, no homes have been inundated yet, but the water was already close to lapping the base of the historic Bourke bridge, built in 1883.

Mayor Andrew Lewis said the town was well prepared. "It's one of those major floods that we'll be talking about for years," he said. "Certainly, the good seasons we will be talking about for generations."

In the branches of a tree on Mr Gordon's property, a cubby house rests just above the rising flow. "When I built it, I said we should put it up high so it wouldn't flood," he said. "The river is now almost 14m above where it normally is."

If the Darling reaches its expected peak of 13.8m tomorrow, it will be the town's worst flood in 14 years. If it goes a little higher, it will be the worst since the mid-1970s.

Since flooding began three months ago, more than 25,000 people have been isolated and 5000 ordered to evacuate across various parts of northern NSW. Yesterday, about 2000 people on rural properties and in small communities remained cut off.

Over one million hectares were inundated in the state's far northwest, according to Colin Betts, senior ranger with the Darling Livestock Health and Pest Authority.

Authorities began helping farmers to prepare more than a month ago. "At one stage, we had six helicopters running for about a week ... we air-lifted about 10,000 head of sheep and moved about 3500 cattle," Mr Betts said.


Taxpayer-funded body needed to regulate media

Anyone for a free press?

A TAXPAYER-funded body should regulate all of Australia's news and current affairs across all media, an independent inquiry has urged. The Independent Media Inquiry wants a statutory watchdog to set standards and handle complaints involving all print, radio, television and online platforms.

The highly controversial measures were detailed in the inquiry's report, released yesterday by the Federal Government.

Aspects of the report already face strong opposition. Kim Williams, chief executive of News Limited - publisher of The Courier-Mail - questioned the role of government in the proposed body.

"The spectre of a government-funded overseer of a free press in an open and forward-looking democracy like ours cannot be justified," he said. "If print and online media are to continue to be able to robustly question, challenge and keep governments in check, they must remain self-regulated entirely independent of government."

Inquiry chairman Ray Finkelstein, QC, argued strongly for the new body, a regulatory regime to cover all the media. He said existing mechanisms regulating the media were not sufficient to deal with accountability in all news and current affairs platforms.

He singled out the Australian Press Council, which handles public complaints and monitors the professional standards of its print medium members.

But the APC opposed the proposed new body. Instead, it pushed for the strengthening of its own organisation to include news and comment in all platforms. This was the alternative the APC had presented to the inquiry for consideration.


Rich people are poison?

A confirmation that hate is the basis of Leftism

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended Treasurer Wayne Swan's attack on the "vested interests" of the super rich, describing his comments as core Labor values.

In an essay published in The Monthly magazine, Mr Swan accused a handful of entrepreneurs, including Australian mining magnates Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest, of using their incredible wealth to pursue vested interests.

Those interests had resulted in "ferocious and highly misleading" campaigns waged against the federal Labor government's mining tax and pricing carbon plans, he said.

Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne dismissed the comments as a form of class warfare.

Ms Gillard defended the comments, saying they represented core Labor values. "In Australia we've done something unique. We've had the ability to grow stronger, but also to continue to be fair," she told reporters in Canberra today. "That's a great Labor tradition." "That's a great Labor vision for the future, that is what Wayne was pointing to," she said.

Ms Gillard urged the "very very rich" - people she said tended to be able to exercise considerable power - to share that vision

In the essay, Mr Swan said wealthy opponents of measures such as the carbon tax and mining tax misrepresented "their self-interest as the national interest" and were part of a new global concentration of power in the hands of a few.

"Australia's fair go is today under threat from a new source," Mr Swan wrote in the essay. "To be blunt, the rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy. "We see this most obviously in the ferocious and highly misleading campaigns waged in recent years against resource taxation reforms and the pricing of carbon pollution."

Mr Swan took particular aim at Ms Rinehart, describing her recent raid on Fairfax shares as an attempt to "wield greater influence on public opinion and further her commercial interests".

The attacks come as the Government takes a tougher approach in selling its economic message. Labor is keen to prevent a repeat of the corporate backlash against its original mining tax that helped bring down Kevin Rudd's leadership and led to a weaker version of the impost at a time when the Budget is under pressure.

"This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy," Mr Swan said.


Waiting for Mr Right can be wrong for Aussie women

AUSSIE women are being urged not to be too proud in their search for Mr Right, as new research reveals many are shocked to find it is hard to conceive after age 35.

Federal Women's Minister Julie Collins yesterday called for more support for women to have babies earlier if they choose to.

IVF specialist, Associate Professor Steve Robson, said women should "not be proud" and get online to find a date rather than consider donor sperm or freezing their eggs.

"The preferred option is that women fall in love. I say to them get online and start dating," Dr Robson, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists, said yesterday. "Find the right guy, but start looking now. The theatre nurses call me Dr Love."

But women's groups told them to stay out of the bedroom. Mr Close Enough was not good enough, they said. "Women don't go around looking for Mr Right; they get on with their lives and their work," Country Womens Association national president Heather Wieland said.

Ms Wieland, who has five children, 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, said children were too important. "Women may be choosy but there's nothing wrong with that," she said. "If you marry someone just to have a child, you have to think of the future of that child and its parents need to be able to at least understand and respect each other because they will be involved for the rest of their lives."

Erin Horisk, 21, of Edgecliff, said that, like her friends, she can't see the problem in waiting until her late 20s or early 30s to have children because she wants to travel and focus on her career for now. Ms Horisk said when she is ready she won't be settling for anything less than "Mr Right" to have them with.

It comes as the average age for women to have a baby is now 31.5, up from 30.4 just a decade ago. Sixty per cent of women now have babies when they are aged more than 30, up from 53 per cent a decade ago.

UK researchers published a study in the latest International Journal of Nursing containing interviews with a group of 35 to 50-year-old women both with and without children.

Dr Alison Cooke and her research team from Manchester found half of the women interviewed were aware of the risk of infertility, but many rejected age alone as a reason for poor fertility outcomes as long as they were healthy.

The study also found women do not delay childbirth for purely selfish reasons, but most often for reasons beyond their control. Most cited a lack of suitable relationship, lack of money, infertility and illness.

Ms Collins said many women are concerned about the impact on their careers and long-term earnings from taking time off for a baby.


2 March, 2012

Wasteful energy

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich on Greenie logic

Sometimes a little economic logic can save a lot of money – $10 billion for starters, which is how much the federal government will commit to its flagship climate change policy, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

By providing capital to subsidise clean energy projects, the CEFC aims to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions. But the government has multiple climate change policies, including the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to cap greenhouse gas emissions from 2015, a situation in which the CEFC cannot succeed.

Economic logic says if a fully implemented ETS will determine the total amount of emissions for the economy, why subsidise alternative energies at all? By its very construction, the amount of carbon emissions would not change but the price of the right to pollute would be reduced. This may be good for polluters but it is of no consequence to the environment.

In terms of ineffectiveness, the CEFC is going to beat all previous programs – such as Pink Batts, school halls, or Roads to Recovery – that produced dubious outcomes. Under a comprehensive, fully functioning ETS (big assumptions, of course), the CEFC will yield a carbon dioxide saving of precisely zero grams.

A $10 billion cost for a non-existent benefit should secure the Australian government a place in the Guinness World Records for the most wasteful climate change policy. Alas, the German government has already usurped that honour.

For more than a decade, Germany has been trying to combine subsidies for renewable energies with the European Union’s cap-and-trade scheme at a cost of more than $15 billion per year. Even the German government’s own economic advisors have repeatedly stated that these subsidies cannot lower overall emissions as they are locked in via the European Union’s ETS. Unfortunately nobody is listening to them. What do economists know about the environment anyway?

Given Germany’s disastrous experience with this so-called energy policy, it is astonishing that any other country would want to copy it.

Australia is trying to return the budget to surplus, so a saving of $10 billion would be handy. But blinded by activism and without a sense of economic logic, Australia is bound to waste both money and energy.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 2 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

An old trick: Waiting lists to get on hospital waiting lists

Prompt non-emergency surgery is a dream in Qld. government hospitals

A PEAK doctors' group has accused Premier Anna Bligh of lying when she says Queensland has the shortest elective surgery waiting lists in the country.

Australian Medical Association state president Richard Kidd said unless something was done to radically change the way the public health system was run, some people would never get their surgery.

"The Premier lied when she said that we had the shortest waiting lists," he told journalists today.

Dr Kidd said public hospitals were returning thousands of referral letters to general practitioners telling them they could not see their patients in a timely way.

"Those patients don't get counted on the waiting list," he said.

Dr Kidd said other patients languished fpr many years before getting an appointment to a public hospital specialist for assessment, making up the so-called "waiting list to get on the waiting list".

"We need to talk about the waiting list, the waiting list for the waiting list and the I'm never going to get onto the waiting list, waiting list," he said.

The AMA Queensland today called for sweeping changes to the way public health was run in the state, including removing absolute power from the Health Minister.

Instead, the AMAQ wants a task force to run public health policy, including politicians from both major parties, senior bureaucrats and clinicians.

"Every time there's a restructure in health, every aspect is changed except the leadership model. It's time to take the politics out of health decision-making to allow a focussed, long-term approach," Dr Kidd said.

"The task force would have access to a set budget, provided by the government of the day and be run similar to a corporate board.

"It would meet regularly and have the power to make and sign off on policy decisions that would be enacted by the department.

"The day-to-day running of health will belong to the Health Minister and the Director-General of Queensland Health but both will report to the task force which will act as a panel of review as well as the ultimate decision makers.

"The health haemorrhage must be stopped from the strangulation of clinical services by the massive and burdensome beast of bureacracy to the starvation by decades of underfunding of frontline services. It's time for a new approach.

"It's time for both sides of government to recognise doctors, nurses and other clinicians can provide valuable insight, feedback and a refreshing point of view."


Strange defence priorities

TUMMY tucks, nose jobs, liposuction and even a sex change have been paid for on the public purse as thousands of Diggers go under the knife, cutting into Defence's health budget by $3.5 million.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Australian Defence Force approved more than 1500 taxpayer-funded plastic surgery procedures for its personnel in the past three years - on medical or psychological grounds - including breast reductions, varicose vein surgery and eye-lifts.

Defence was unable to provide a breakdown of how many procedures related to injuries sustained during training or combat or were approved on psychological grounds, including depression and low self-esteem.

Defence, which provides comprehensive health care to its 58,000 personnel, said cosmetic procedures solely for the purpose of preserving or improving a person's appearance were not provided at public expense.

However it provided plastic surgery for its soldiers, sailors and airmen or airwomen "under certain circumstances", a department spokesperson said.

"Compelling psychological or psychiatric reasons may also be considered. In these cases, service personnel are referred to a psychiatrist who provides professional advice. The specific operations provided (in the past three years) all had identified, justifiable and well-documented clinical indications and all have been managed in accordance with Defence policy."

Serving military personnel said they had found it "amusing" in the past when female navy officers had received breast enlargements due to "low self-esteem". "It's a bit of a joke that you hear about every 12 months or so," one navy officer said.

But unlike breast enlargements, reductions were commonly associated with medical complaints such as back pain or difficulty exercising due to their size.

Breast reconstruction surgery was commonly undertaken following breast cancer.

In the public health system, Medicare would meet about 75 per cent of the scheduled fee for such procedures if it was deemed medically necessary.

Opposition defence spokesman Stuart Robert said it would be near impossible for military personnel, who were all excluded from Medicare, to misuse their health entitlements.

"These guys (ADF) are incredibly conservative. "If Defence has spent money on plastic surgery, you can be pretty sure there was a compelling reason," he said. "We (ADF) hurt a lot of (our) people and it's not a normal (working) environment.

"You can be almost certain that every decision (for plastic surgery) has been made because they've been given a strong recommendation from a medical professional of some sort."

RSL Australian Capital Territory state president John King said he experienced the rigorous vetting process first-hand while serving in the military two decades ago. "I had a procedure and it took a good 12 months of appointments before they approved it," he said.

The amount spent on plastic surgery has blown out from $670,000 in 2004-05 to an average of $1.2 million a year from 2008-11. Defence's total health budget for 2011 was $296,603,000.


Crowding of the welfare state is detrimental to everyone

Dr Jeremy Sammut

Prime Minister Gillard’s victory speech after defeating Kevin Rudd for the leadership of the Labor Party on Monday raised some important issues for those interested in public administration.

To emphasise that the federal government was now ‘moving forward,’ the prime minister spoke of her devotion to finding ways to improve the lives of all Australians. She also reiterated the government’s commitment to ‘getting on’ with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to help the most vulnerable members of the community.

Mentioning support for the NDIS has become a common refrain in political interviews. Any politician looking to humanise their image and identify with the underdog gives the disabled a metaphorical hug.

The notion that politicians have discovered how useful the NDIS is as a rhetorical prop is certainly cynical. There is of course a genuine need for greater awareness of the challenges facing people with disabilities and to recognise how inadequate disability services often are.

Hence it is a good thing that doing things differently in this sector is on the national agenda. Yet this begs a question that has received insufficient attention: Why is it that government has grown so large in the name of creating a welfare state that has demonstrably failed to properly secure the welfare of those who require the greatest assistance?

The obvious answer is that instead of targeting assistance towards the genuinely needy, politicians prefer, as per the prime minister’s speech, to operate universal or quasi-universal programs that help ‘all Australians’ and are most likely to harvest the all-important ballots of marginal voters come election time.

Hence in this country we have the spectacle of government doling out generous family, pension and health entitlements to the middle classes and above who ought to be self-reliant, while the most disadvantaged, including the disabled and the mentally ill, receive well below par support.

Those on the Left have hailed the NDIS as another great leap forward for social justice. They ignore the incongruity of piling a new welfare scheme for the disabled on top of the existing welfare state. Similarly, the problem of ‘middle class welfare’ only attracts the Left’s attention in relation to pet ideological hates – such as the private health insurance rebate.

The Left also downplays the obvious problem of cost. It is entirely likely that despite expressions of bi-partisan support, both sides of politics will baulk at the hefty price tag of the NDIS. In other words, all of the unnecessary but politically important welfare provided to those who don’t need it will continue to crowd out assistance to those who do.

Those on the Right who criticise ‘big government’ are often called heartless and accused of not wanting to help the disadvantaged. But it is only by limiting the role of government, and ending the charade that is the contemporary welfare state, that we can help those most in need.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 2 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

1 March, 2012

Labor attacked over 'solar vandalism' after ending hot water subsidy

Warmism slowly dying

THE Government's decision to abruptly end a solar hot water subsidy is being called "solar vandalism" in attacks by the Opposition and Greens.

Late yesterday the Government announced that the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme would end from today, except for installations already underway.

The reason was the need for savings to meet the promise of a Budget surplus in 2012-13. The Government will save about $70 million from a program which so far has cost $320 million.

More than 250,000 households have used the scheme which had been a boost to the solar installation industry which expected many more families to take up the rebate.

The scheme will officially end on June 30 but effectively stopped today. "To be eligible for the rebate before the scheme closes, systems must be installed, ordered (and a deposit paid) or purchased on or before 28 February 2012," said Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyfus in a release issued just after 5pm yesterday.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt called the shut-down "solar vandalism". "Businesses who are on the ground building the clean energy economy have invested in stock, parts and production schedules and are now being thrown on the scrap heap by the Government," said Mr Hunt.

"My office has taken calls from several businesses shocked that they would be treated in this way when car manufacturers, smelters and others in the old economy get handouts of hundreds of millions of dollars."

The Greens said Mr Hunt said just $24.5 million was allocated for the scheme in 2012-13 and the closure of the program would not do much for the Budget.

Deputy Greens leader Christine Milne said the Government was sending the wrong signal on the move to a clean energy economy and demanded the scheme be reinstated. "Solar hot water is a great Australian clean, green manufacturing industry, exporting to the world and helping householders to cut their power bills and their greenhouse footprint," said Senator Milne.

"Cutting this scheme with no notice at all is a short-sighted sacrifice of a great industry to meet a political target of a Budget surplus next year."


Warmist ticked off over false prophecies

METEOROLOGISTS suggested Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery leave weather forecasting to them as the big wet defies his prediction rain would become scarce.

In 2007 Professor Flannery said Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane were in urgent need of desalination plants.

Four years on, Warragamba Dam is on the verge of overflowing and Brisbane last year endured the worst flooding in almost four decades.

After yesterday discovering Professor Flannery is not a meteorologist, the Weather Channel's meteorologists said it was probably best he left the forecasting to them. "People ideally suited to that are meteorologists. From what I can see on Tim Flannery, meteorology wasn't one of his specialties," Weather Channel's Dick Whitaker said.

A commission spokeswoman yesterday said Professor Flannery was in Germany, but said droughts were expected to become more frequent and "just because it is raining does not mean we should not think ahead and prepare for a drier future."

Professor Flannery's statements in 2007 came "in the midst of a record-breaking drought with dam levels perilously low," she said.


Benign neglect is good for kids

In Japan, kindergarten kids walk home from school without adults

PICTURE this. It is 2005, I arrive for the first time in Tokyo. I am making my way across the busy city when I encounter a small group of kindergarten children walking home from school. They are oblivious to my presence as they busy themselves crossing streets, picking up autumn leaves and chatting. There is not a supervising adult in sight, no older siblings. As a parent I feel a sense of foreboding - I worry about their safety.

I recount my experience to a Japanese colleague and exclaim, "There were no adults watching out for them." He is taken aback. "What do you mean, no adults? There were the car drivers, the shopkeepers, the other pedestrians. The city is full of adults who are taking care of them!"

On average, 80 per cent of primary-age Japanese children walk to school. In Australia the figure in most communities is as low as 40 per cent. Why? What happens in Japan that makes it so different?

At a community seminar recently I asked the audience to imagine themselves aged eight in a special place and to describe it. Most recounted being outside in their neighbourhood, with other children, out of earshot of parents: "My friends and I would go to this vacant lot and build our own cubbies" (Richard, 36); "We used to get all the neighbourhood kids together and go out on the street and play cricket" (Andrew, 39).

Author Tim Gill would call this parenting style "benign neglect" and for many of us, growing up in baby-boom suburbia, this was our experience. It made us independent, confident, physically active, socially competent and good risk assessors.

I asked the audience if they would give these same freedoms now to their own children. They all said no.

The big issue for parents around children's independence in the streets is "stranger danger" and child abductions. Statistics show almost all abductions are by family members, and the numbers have been going down for a decade. When I tell my audience the odds of a child being murdered by a stranger in Australia are one in 4 million, they answer like Andrew: "I know the chances are slim but I just couldn't forgive myself."

So is there a middle ground between "benign neglect" and "eternal vigilance"? There is in Japan and in Scandinavian countries, where children's independent mobility is high. While parental fear of strangers is still high in these countries, rather than driving children to school or other venues, parents and the community have initiated activities to increase their safety.

In inner Tokyo, a neighbourhood has parent safety brigades that patrol the streets around schools, shopkeepers are signed up as members of the neighbourhood watch program and the local council has provided a mamoruchi, a GPS-connected device that hangs around a child's neck and connects them instantly to a help call centre. These strategies are reliant on one critical cultural factor: a commitment to the belief that children being able to walk the streets alone is a critical ingredient in a civil, safe and healthy society.

If we want to start claiming back the streets and local parks for children then it's our role as community members to let parents know we are willing to support them and play our part.


Improving education in Australia: First improve the teachers

One attraction of the study that Dr Ben Jensen has been doing on education for the Grattan Institute is its focus on what we could be doing better.

As measured by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's regular testing of the performance of 15-year-olds at reading, maths and science under its program for international student assessment (PISA), Australia is doing well. We don't do as well as Finland and Japan, but we're consistently better than the Americans, British, Germans and French and about the same as the Canadians.

As more Asian countries are added to the comparisons, however, we're slipping down the rankings. We also have a worryingly wide gap between the performance of our best and poorest students.

So we shouldn't be resting on our laurels. What can we do to improve our schools' performance? Well, it's not simply a matter of spending more money.

Jensen says most studies show more effective teachers are the key to producing higher performing students. "Conservative estimates suggest that students with a highly effective teacher learn twice as much as students with a less effective teacher," he says.

"Teachers are the most important resource in Australian schools. Differences in teacher effectiveness account for a large proportion of differences in student outcomes - far larger than differences between schools. In fact, outside of family background, teacher effectiveness is the largest factor influencing student outcomes."

Jensen says there are five main mechanisms to improve teacher effectiveness: improving the quality of applicants to the teaching profession; improving the quality of teachers' initial education and training; appraising and providing feedback to improve teachers once they're working in the profession; recognising and rewarding effective teachers; and moving on ineffective teachers who've been unable to increase their effectiveness through improvement programs.

His greatest interest is in appraisal and feedback. "Systems of teacher appraisal and feedback that are directly linked to improved student performance can increase teacher effectiveness by as much as 20 to 30 per cent," he says. Such an improvement would lift the performance of Australia's students to the best in the world.

Jensen says our present systems of teacher appraisal and feedback are broken. This is not to attack teachers, which would be both unfair and counterproductive. On the contrary, it acknowledges the central importance of the work of individual teachers and argues we should be investing in their greater effectiveness.

Indeed, no one understands the inadequacy of the present arrangements better than teachers themselves. A survey finds 63 per cent of them say appraisals of their work are done purely to meet administrative requirements. More than 90 per cent say the best teachers don't receive the most recognition and reward, and 71 per cent say poor-performing teachers in their school won't be dismissed.

"Instead, assessment and feedback are largely tick-a-box exercises not linked to better classroom teaching, teacher development or improved student results," Jensen says.

He proposes a new system of teacher appraisal and feedback that avoids a centralised approach. "Instead, schools should have the responsibility and autonomy to appraise and provide feedback to their own teachers."

Appraisal should be based on a "balanced scorecard" that recognises all aspects of a teacher's role. It thus shouldn't rely solely on students' performance in national competency tests but should include such things as teachers observing and learning from other teachers, direct observation in the classroom by more experienced teachers, and surveys of students and parents.

Such an approach would require a culture change in many schools, but it offers huge benefits for relatively little cost.


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