Sunday, May 31, 2009

Severe acute respiratory syndrome?

Americans find the name of the above drink hilarious

It is however a favourite drink in Queensland ("Golden Circle" is a Queensland brand) and I drink it myself. The name is an abbreviation of "Sarsaparilla", related to the American "Root Beer". Coincidentally, Australians tend to find the name "Root Beer" rather amusing. "Root" is an Australian euphemism for sexual intercourse.

The SARS epidemic of 2003 was pretty nasty, killing a majority of old people who got it.

NSW police goons again: Drunk driver's rampage ended in brutal police beating

They think they are judge and jury. Note that the man has been judged NOT guilty of resisting arrest and that police deliberately obstructed video of their unlawful actions. They should all be fired. The guy they bashed was scum who should be locked up for good for the safety of the public but that does not absolve the police from acting lawfully

POLICE officers who dragged a drunken driver from his car and bashed him with their fists, boots and batons are being investigated by the NSW Police Professional Standards Command and the NSW Ombudsman. The investigation will determine whether unjust force was used during the arrest of Mount Druitt man Sione Peaua, 43, who was beaten by as many as five police officers following a 45-minute car chase on May 25 last year.

Video footage from a police patrol vehicle and the Polair police helicopter was tendered in court on Friday during Peaua's trial for serious traffic offences, The Sunday Telegraph reports. The videos show Peaua being dragged from his four-wheel drive after it hit a power pole, then being punched, kicked and bashed with retractable batons as he struggled on the ground.

Peaua - a Tongan father of six who works as a boilermaker and a local rugby league coach - had a blood alcohol reading of 0.13 when he went on a high-speed rampage through the streets of Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill in a Toyota LandCruiser. For the early part of the chase - during which speeds of 145 km/h were reached - Peaua had his six-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

On Friday, he was sentenced to four months in jail after pleading guilty to driving with a suspended licence, mid-range drink-driving and dangerous driving.

Police prosecutor Alan Baghurst unsuccessfully argued in court that incriminating video footage should not be released to the public and described it as "not a pretty sight". He said both sets of footage were being investigated by the NSW Police internal affairs unit.

Ian Lloyd, QC, representing Peaua, told the court both sets of video were the subject of a NSW Ombudsman inquiry. Peaua would be making a statement to the inquiry, Mr Lloyd said. The court heard that Peaua did not receive any lasting injuries from the beating. Mr Lloyd, however, called it a "savage and unjustified attack" and said police "may have been frustrated at being taken for a merry ride through the western suburbs".

A statement from Commissioner Andrew Scipione's office said the investigation had been initiated by police and was being "closely oversighted by the NSW Ombudsman". "Now that a person has been convicted and sentenced, the police investigation into matters in the immediate aftermath of the arrest can now be completed," the statement said.

Both videos were tendered to the court, along with photographs of Peaua's injuries. He suffered severe bruising to his upper arms and thighs, as well as an injury to his hand and left forearm, which was bandaged and plastered. The Sunday Telegraph understands Peaua is considering launching a civil action against police in relation to the injuries.

It is also understood a female constable who was at the scene contradicted the statements of other officers involved that Peaua had resisted arrest and assaulted police before they used force to subdue him. Two charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police were dropped by the police prosecutor, and Peaua's legal defence received a $41,000 cost order as a result.

A police fact sheet tendered to the court said Peaua was also sprayed with a "burst" of capsicum spray, but does not mention Peaua being punched and kicked. The fact sheet also said Peaua grabbed one officer's left foot "with both hands" and had "continued to pull away from police, swinging his arms around forcefully".

Several critical moments of the beating were missed because the Polair crew panned the helicopter's camera away as police lashed out and used batons. Nor is it clear why, at the beginning of the beating, three police officers stand in front of the police patroller's video camera, obscuring vision of the incident. The statement from the Commissioner's office says: "Standard operating procedure for police helicopters involved in pursuits is to resume patrol once an offender is in custody."

In the sound track of the incident, a police officer can be heard saying, "Don't you f****** move" before telling Peaua to lie on his side. Peaua then screams, "Get me out of here" and is told by the officer: "You shut the f*** up, c*** and lay there."

Peaua: "You know what I'm going to do to you." The officer then tells Peaua: "Let go of my f***ing leg." Peaua can then be heard screaming, "What the f*** are you doing to me?"

Close examination of the Polair vision reveals four officers standing over a handcuffed Peaua and attempting to hold him down when one officer kicks him twice in the back of the thigh. The same officer then punches him and kicks him again in the back of the thigh before punching him in the vicinity of his arm. The vision then cuts to a wide shot where two officers can be seen punching and kicking. As the shot becomes wider, it appears one or more officers are using a retractable baton.

Police began the pursuit when Peaua refused to stop after they saw him hit the kerb while making a turn in Zoe Place, Mount Druitt. During the chase, Peaua ran seven red lights, drove on the wrong side of the road 11 times and knocked down two give-way signs before slamming into a power pole on the Great Western Highway at Rooty Hill at 8.25pm. He was stopped when police deployed two sets of spikes that blew out all four of the vehicle's tyres.

Court documents state that at one stage during the chase, while his six-year-old daughter was in the car, he had the 4WD up on two wheels and "almost rolled when he crashed into a roadworks area at 70km/h," a police fact sheet said. Of Peaua's reckless driving, Mr Baghurst said: "The potential to kill people was in the extreme."

Peaua, who was still serving a licence suspension from 2006 and had a prior drink-driving conviction, pleaded guilty to charges of driving with a suspended licence, mid-range drink-driving and dangerous driving. He was sentenced to four months' jail and suspended from driving until 2014. Peaua has lodged an appeal which will be heard in the District Court later this year. He was granted conditional bail.


More feelgood but brainless legislation from Rudd

Credit law revamp could cost jobs

MOVES by the federal Government to tighten up on bad loans could backfire with a new study forecasting that 24,000 jobs could be lost as a result. The measures could also dramatically push up the cost of loans for items like whitegoods and televisions by more than $280 over the life of the loan due to increased compliance costs, the study by Price Waterhouse Coopers says.

Retail tycoon Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman has been quietly lobbying the Government behind the scenes to have the proposed laws changed.

The new government measures are designed to stop retail credit providers and banks pushing unwanted cards and increased limits on to customers who can't afford them. The laws, which are due to be introduced by the end of this year will see lenders who breach the new laws lose their lending licences, including banks. The key change is that the onus for proving credit worthiness will shift from the customer to the lender. So if you sign up to a credit deal which you clearly cannot afford it will be the bank, or retailer that has to repay the loan.

However, according to the PWC study, the changes will have unintended consequences for small business people, such as electricians and plumbers, who provide so-called "point of sale" credit. These small businesses have access to credit through a wholesale provider. They often sign up customers to credit deals on the spot, particularly in emergencies. But the new laws will shift the legal onus of credit provision back onto such tradesmen who are not trained in financial planning or documentation.

Similarly retail staff at chains like Harvey Norman will have to receive financial training, and engage in extra paper work, all of which will add to the cost of lending.


Regulator to probe Keddies conduct

About time these sharks were hauled in

DISCIPLINARY proceedings have been launched against three partners and a senior lawyer at Keddies, the state's largest personal injury firm, for unsatisfactory or professional misconduct.

Almost a year after the Herald first revealed allegations of overcharging at Keddies, the Legal Services Commissioner has launched disciplinary proceedings against Keddies' managing partner Russell Keddie, partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone, a former member of the Law Society's Professional Conduct Committee, and senior solicitor Philip Scroope.

The matter is listed before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal on July 1.

The allegations against the four Keddies lawyers relate to accusations of gross overcharging in the case of a woman who was rendered a paraplegic in a bus crash in South Australia seven years ago. While the women's injuries were catastrophic, her legal case was relatively straightforward as there were no issues relating to liability. Her case was settled with the insurers without going to court.

However, the woman told the Herald she did not receive a bill from Keddies and it was not until she complained to the Legal Services Commissioner that she discovered Keddies had charged her $800,000 in legal fees. This represented a quarter of her total payout of $3.5 million, which was to provide medical expenses for her disability for the rest of her life.

Legal experts asked to review the case by the Herald estimated the reasonable legal charges should have been between $80,000 to $120,000. After reviewing the woman's bill, the expert said Mr Scroope, the senior solicitor who had carriage of the matter, would have had to work on that case alone full-time for more than a year to justify such high fees.

The woman was angry when she discovered her case was used in Keddies promotional material.

Last year Mr Keddie was found guilty of professional misconduct, fined $10,000 and publicly reprimanded over his firm's breaches of advertising regulations.

In a statement to the Herald yesterday, Mr Keddie said: "We are extremely disappointed this action has been commenced but look forward to the opportunity to respond before the tribunal."

He said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case in question but said that "over the past year, Keddies has been in dispute with four former employees whose employment was terminated in 2006. Those employees have generated a large number of allegations which were referred to the legal regulator. All of those complaints so far investigated by the regulator have been dismissed with no adverse findings against our firm".

Keddies did not want to comment on whether any other matters were before the regulator.

The Legal Services Commissioner would not comment on the proceedings yesterday. Its website says:

"Disciplinary proceedings must be instituted … where the commissioner is satisfied there is a reasonable likelihood that the practitioner will be found guilty by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct."


Australia's immigration limits do not indicate racism

By Barry Cohen, who was a minister in the Hawke Labor government between 1983 and 1987

In the late 1890s, Moishe Koziwoda departed Russian occupied Poland in a vegetable cart to escape 30 years' national service in the tsar's army. Being Jewish, he was guaranteed the filthiest and most dangerous jobs. Few Jews survived.

From Germany he travelled to England where he found safe haven enabling him to send for his wife Zelda. After having three children in England they sailed to South Africa where they had a further three. Restless souls, they departed South Africa for Australia. Later they tried Canada and the US before deciding Australia was the country for them. Those of his family who did not have his prescience perished in the gas chambers of Chelmno and Auschwitz.

So what's special about the Koziwoda family? Only that they were my grandparents.

Almost a century after they left the villages of Pajeczno and Dzialoszyn, I "returned"..

Thanks to the generosity of the Polish Government and the mayor of Pajeczno, who opened the village archives, we departed with a treasure trove of my family's history.

"When the Nazis arrived in Dzialoszyn in June 1940, they took all the Jews out in the fields and shot them immediately," the mayor recounted. The matter-of-fact way he said it chilled my blood. "However, in Pajeczno they kept all the Jews - numbering about 500 - in a ghetto in the Jewish quarter bordered by Kosciusko Street. They remained there for about one year until one day they rounded them up and put them in the church, where they kept them for a week. While they were there, the Polish people tried to help by smuggling food to them but eventually trucks took them all away. Most were never seen again." Pajeczno and Dzialoszyn had been made, as Hitler promised Europe, "Judenrein".

It is difficult to describe my emotions at the time. At first I was numb, trying yet again, to comprehend how people - any people, let alone the most sophisticated in Europe - could behave this way to fellow human beings. Then my numbness turned to bitterness, anger and frustration. Bitterness at what those monsters had done, anger at the Allies' failure to do more to rescue those whose lives were in peril, frustration that so many of the perpetrators had escaped without trial or punishment.

To this day I cherish a fading sepia-toned photograph of my great uncle and aunt Mendel and Mindel Koziwoda and their children: Itzik, Charna, Malka, Mania, Yidel, Moishe and Faigele. Only Itzik (Jack Cousens) survived Auschwitz to be granted refugee status in Australia where he raised a family and lived into his early70s.

No one should be surprised therefore that I have sympathy for those now seeking refuge in Australia. Had Australia and other democracies shown a similar generosity of spirit to the millions of Jews desperate to escape Nazi Germany, many more would have been saved.

At the Evian conference in France, in July 1938, 32 countries met to see what could be done to help European Jewry. Former Australian PM and then high commissioner to Great Britain, Stanley Bruce recommended that Australia accept 30,000 over three years. On December 1 the then minister for the interior, and later PM, John McEwen, announced Australia would accept 15,000.

In the parliamentary debate that followed, Albert Green disgraced the Labor Party with an anti-Semitic rant that would have been more apposite in Nuremberg. Unfortunately, neither John Curtin nor Ben Chifley, who followed Green in the debate, bothered to disown him. That was left to Labor's William Maloney and United Australia Party's Percy Spender.

Kristallnacht in November 1938 and the outbreak of World War II ensured only a fraction of the 15,000 made it to Australia. Our bureaucrats were not a great help. Only Jews with sufficient money were eligible for visas. If they had sufficient money they were branded as "criminals" in Germany and prevented from emigrating.

How many should Australia have taken: 30,000, 300,000, three million? There was always going to be a limit that would be too many for some, too little for others. Which brings us to the present debate in Australia about refugees, illegals, asylum seekers; call them what you will. It's still a matter of numbers.

Since World War II Australia has taken some 700,000 refugees and people in humanitarian need. Australia's record of taking refugees is one of the best in the world. The target this year is 13,750.

That won't satisfy those in the media and academe who seem intent on proving that Australia is a deeply racist and xenophobic nation. For them, our treatment of Aborigines and the White Australia policy is proof positive of that. The abandonment of the White Australia policy by the Holt government in 1966 and the continuing efforts of successive governments to improve the lot of the Aborigines is conveniently overlooked.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the reaction to John Howard's statement: "We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come". For the chattering classes this was final proof that Howard was a racist. What they overlooked was that his words could have been used by every PM from Edmund Barton to Kevin Rudd.

When challenged to name one government since Federation with a different immigration policy, they mutter about "compassion". I'm all for compassion but tell me what that means in numbers? Howard could have chosen his words more carefully but he merely reiterated the policy of his predecessors. No Australian government, and for that matter, no government in the world has an "open-door" policy.

The immigration debate has always been about numbers but it's about time those who wail about Australia's lack of compassion look at our record in providing a welcome to the world's dispossessed and tell us precisely how many more refugees they would admit. Double, treble, quadruple? I'll go along with that, but spare us the hypocrisy of indulging in the politics of the "warm inner glow". Tell us, how many or if they would prefer an open-door policy?


Saturday, May 30, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is rejoicing at the slow downfall of Australia's Warmist laws

Rudd embroiled as tensions rise over racist attacks on Indian students

Despite the predictable official denials, these attacks are overwhelmingly by young African "refugees" that the government has kindly lumbered us with. Not only do the Africans contribute little themselves (they are mostly on the dole) but they attack those who do -- greatly damaging Australia's reputation in the process. Education is one of Australia's major export industries and it is under attack by these criminals. Letting moronic and useless thugs loose on the students concerned is disastrous. The thugs concerned should be relentlessly rounded up and jailed for long periods instead of being treated "sensitively" because of their origins. But that would depend on a sudden influx of honesty into the corrupt Victoria police and that is a big ask. The deliberately blind Victoria Police are letting the whole of Australia down at the moment

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has spoken to his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, amid growing anger in India over attacks on Indian students in Australia. The issue has raised diplomatic tensions between the two countries. In a telephone conversation, Mr Rudd congratulated Dr Singh on his recent re-election but the pair also discussed the recent series of violent assaults, sources told The Age. A statement released last night indicated Dr Singh spoke strongly to Mr Rudd about the attacks. The Indian Prime Minister had "suitably" conveyed his concerns about the vicious attacks, it said.

The Indian foreign ministry called in Australia's high commissioner to India, John McCarthy, yesterday to discuss the matter. "I told him that the Australia Government is also very concerned, that Australian ministers had expressed this, and that we are doing everything we can to address the issues," Mr McCarthy said. Mr Ravi conveyed to Mr McCarthy the Indian Government's "deep anguish and continuing concern" about the welfare of its students in Australia, a statement released last night said. It was the first time Mr McCarthy has been called in by the Indian Government since the 2007 arrest of Muhammad Haneef, an Indian doctor working in Australia, on terrorism-related charges.

As the diplomatic temperature rose yesterday, Indian Foreign Minister S.N. Krishna spoke to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith about the issue. Mr Krishna said the Australian Government had assured him that steps were being taken to protect Indian students. "We hope these aberrations that have taken place will be dealt with," he said. "They said that they are going to take stern steps and they have assured us that every student from India will be adequately protected."

Meanwhile, agents in India who arrange student placements have warned that Australia's lucrative education industry could pay a high price for the attacks. "These attacks will definitely have an impact on the market because parents are calling me up and they are very concerned," said Bubbly Johar, who runs a Delhi education consultancy and is vice-president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India. "The media coverage here is encouraging parents to rethink whether they should send their children to Australia for studies. We can't assure them that they will be safe."

In Melbourne, India's high commissioner to Australia said Victorian police were insensitive towards some Indian crime victims. Sujatha Singh said many students felt insecure and some were unhappy with police treatment. Her comments came as Victoria Police again denied that the increasing attacks — which the Indian student community claims could be as many as 70 in 12 months — were racially motivated.

Mrs Singh said the Indian high commission in Canberra had received complaints from students about police. When an incident was reported, there was a perception that there was sometimes "a delay in reacting and … perhaps a lack of sensitivity dealing with the issues".

Mrs Singh flew to Melbourne from Canberra to meet Premier John Brumby and police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland following the attack on Sravan Kumar Theerthala, 24, last weekend. He was allegedly racially abused and stabbed with a screwdriver at a party at a house in Hadfield, near Glenroy. Last night he remained in a coma in intensive care at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. A 17-year-old from Glenroy has been charged with attempted murder. It was the third serious attack this month.

In two of those, the victim or witnesses have told The Age of specific racial abuse. But Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said yesterday he had "no specific data" on that. [He doesn't want to hear it] "They (Indian students) are seen as vulnerable soft targets … I don't deny it may have happened but my sense is that these are opportunistic crimes, not racially motivated crimes." Mrs Singh said she had told police about the racial element in some attacks. She did not believe Australia was racist but "some of these attacks have not been opportunistic".

Trauma psychologist Dr Michael O'Neill, who works with Indian victims of crime in Melbourne, said he saw on average one bashed student a week and about half of those attacks were racial.


Nasty Health Dept. bureaucrat trying to destroy a popular and hard-working family doctor

Bureaucrat George Cerchez tried to get the doctor for wrongly treating 4 patients but when that failed Cerchez suddenly came up with another 19 allegations. No patients have complained and the other doctors in the area disown all knowledge of the complaints. It's just Georgy boy at work. A fine example of government regulation at work

PAUL McGinity is an old-style country doctor, so dedicated to his 3000 patients that he is berated by colleagues for working too hard, never refusing a home visit in the early hours and taking too few holidays. After 32 years of service to the rural community around Scottsdale, a timber town in Tasmania's northeast, Dr McGinity's career has come to a humiliating halt.

He has been linked to the death of seven patients after complaints to the Medical Council of Tasmania, which has suspended the general practitioner's registration pending an investigation. However, far from being treated as a pariah, Dr McGinity has the unwavering support of his patients, including at least one whose treatment forms the basis of a key allegation.

What's more, Dr McGinity is turning the tables on what he claims are "vexatious" accusers. He claims his chief accuser -- Department of Health and Human Services primary health adviser George Cerchez -- has a potential conflict of interest. Dr McGinity and his supporters claim his only crime is to be a thorn in the side of plans for a new $1.2 million clinic for Scottsdale.

A recording of a telephone conversation obtained by The Weekend Australian reveals DHHS secretary David Roberts saying Dr Cerchez was "not acting for the department" -- casting doubt on comments made in parliament by Health Minister Lara Giddings. While most politicians would run a mile from a doctor facing such serious allegations, the state Opposition said there was such a "stench" about the case that it should be subject to an independent review.

There are complaints against Dr McGinity relating to 23 patients, but unusually none is made by them or their families. Dr McGinity has been led to believe that all but four complaints were submitted by Dr Cerchez. Dr McGinity was notified of the further 19 cases at the same time his suspension over the first four was being successfully challenged on a technicality in the Supreme Court. The suspension was later reinstated.

Dr Cerchez, with whom Dr McGinity has a history of dispute, is also on the board of local doctors' group GP North. GP North has obtained federal funding of $500,000 to build a $1.2million medical complex in Scottsdale. Dr McGinity is not interested in joining the new clinic, preferring his old style of solo operation. The other four complainants are GPs at Scottsdale's other practice, despite their insistence yesterday that they had "nothing to do with" the allegations. It is expected the four will move to the new medical centre, which -- if Dr McGinity loses his registration -- will take his 3000 patients.

The 68-year-old told The Weekend Australian he was confident he had not made "any mistakes". And while accepting the medical council's obligation to investigate the complaints, he believed there should be an inquiry into the manner in which the allegations were made. He was "very concerned that there is an ulterior motive behind this" and that Dr Cerchez had a potential conflict of interest: "There are three factors: he is on the board of GP North; GP North wants to build a clinic; I've got lots of patients -- 3000; they haven't asked me to join the clinic but they need those patients." He said he also had a long history of "disagreements" with Dr Cerchez, including a dispute over the management of a case at the Scottsdale hospital in February last year. Dr Cerchez had transferred a patient against his direction, undermining his position, he said.

In the recording of his conversation with Dr McGinity, Mr Roberts says Dr Cerchez was "absolutely ... not" acting for the department in making the allegations. This appears to be a direct contradiction of advice given by Ms Giddings to parliament that Dr Cerchez "made the complaints as the longstanding medical adviser". Yesterday, Ms Giddings deferred to Mr Roberts, who said he had never meant to suggest Dr Cerchez was not acting for the department's primary health section. Instead, he had simply meant to convey that the "central department", which had to be divorced from such operational matters, was not involved. "The department is not trying to distance itself from Dr Cerchez ... I have been strongly supportive of the actions George has taken," he said.

Questions to Dr Cerchez were answered by DHHS deputy secretary Alice Burchill, who suggested concerns about a potential conflict of interest were "without foundation". "Dr Cerchez ... does not practise in the northeast and cannot personally benefit from the development," she said. "There is no underlying professional dispute between Dr McGinity and Dr Cerchez."

The Weekend Australian has a document naming the four GPs from Scottsdale's Victoria Street surgery who raised allegations against Dr McGinity: Linda Clow, Jim Wilson, Natalie Burch and Gretchen Stone. However, when asked to comment yesterday, Dr Clow said on behalf of the practice, they had "nothing to do with" the issue. "I don't know where you got that idea from, but we've got no comment," she said. "On behalf of the whole practice, we have not and will not make any comment. We've got nothing to do with this and we want to stay out of it." She would not say whether she and the other doctors at the surgery intended to shift to the new medical centre.

GP North chief executive Phil Edmondson would not say whether the four Victoria Street doctors had indicated a willingness to join the new medical complex. Nor would he say how many patients the new centre required to be viable. When asked whether he was confident the allegations against Dr McGinity were not related to plans for the new centre, he said: "I have no knowledge of the nature of the complaints against Dr McGinity. From the perspective of GP North, there is absolutely and categorically no link whatsoever between the matters."

The medical council, negotiating with Dr McGinity on conditions under which he might be allowed to return to practise while the allegations are investigated, could not be contacted yesterday. However, it has previously insisted its handling of the case has been appropriate.

Opposition health spokesman Brett Whiteley said Ms Giddings should address the "possible conflicts of interest" and order an independent review. "They came up with 19 new allegations -- they didn't say they came from one bloke, and they said 'they include seven people who died'," he said. "How alarmist is that? Who are these dead people? When did the first person die? Were there inquests? And if there were, why didn't the coroner report them? This whole decision needs a new set of eyes cast over it."


Moronic NSW education department

Banned heaters still in NSW schools. Is someone getting a kickback? Using heaters that need the windows wide open is amazingly counterproductive. Most of the heat flies right out the windows. Greenies would have a fit!

THE NSW Government will continue to fit out public schools with gas heaters that have failed World Health Organisation tests, as it awaits further tests taking place in schools this winter. The unflued gas heaters, which emit carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde fumes, can only be used safely if classroom windows and doors are left open.

Michael Coutts-Trotter, the Director-General of the Department of Education, said he had been told by NSW Health that the heaters were safe. That contradicts the results of a 2004 Health Department study.

In the meantime, the department has authorised a new $2 million study, despite existing Australian and international research which has led to the heaters being banned in other states and many other nations. "We're looking for research and evidence on which we can base our decisions," Mr Coutts-Trotter said. "My judgment was that we did need to do more research … we did need to fill that gap."

Mr Coutts-Trotter said public school students who had to have windows open in winter had it no worse than his own experiences as a child at school in Britain. "There was snow outside a lot of the time, and the windows were open. We wore a jumper," he said. [Mr Trotter should trot off into the sunset -- and take his cooties with him]

Parents of some students are fighting to have the 51,000 heaters in NSW replaced, a process that would cost $400 million, which the Education Department says is the equivalent of building 20 new schools.

They also raised concerns that the latest government study, being undertaken by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, would not be truly independent. It is being co-ordinated by a senior NSW Health official, Dr Wayne Smith, who has previously advised the Government that the heaters pose no risk. "I can't see how the process could be called independent," said Richard Kalina, who is part of a concerned parents group. "They are really hiding behind another study when there have been 35 years of studies, and most of the rest of the world has already banned these heaters," Mr Kalina said. "I just want my daughter, my children, and anybody's children, to be safe when they are dropped off at school. They're not safe."

Mr Coutts-Trotter said Dr Smith was a recognised expert in environmental health and would be completely impartial. He said the department was listening to parent's concerns but wanted to reassure people that there was no risk. "Low emissions heaters, properly maintained and properly operated, are perfectly safe," he said.

Teachers have complained to the department about the heaters several times over the past two years, but say their objections are yet to be heard. A spokesman for the NSW Teachers Federation said the issue was symptomatic of a lack of public school funding. Unflued gas heaters are generally not used in private schools, on the recommendation of NSW Health.

A spokeswoman for the Education Minister, Verity Firth, said the minister was unable to comment because she was visiting schools in rural NSW.

A government study undertaken in Blackheath Public School last year found that 30 per cent of the classroom areas tested returned nitrous oxide levels above World Health Organisation guidelines.


Writers festival gags student critics

They can't stand being laughed at. Since most of them will have been Leftists, the solution was obvious

Since 2004, UTS [University of Technology Sydney] journalism students have, for the few days the festival, produced a free daily, Festival News. Last year, the festival confiscated the first issue, declaring itself unhappy with both the students' behaviour and the content of their organ which was, the director, Wendy Were, wrote, "riddled with disparaging content about the festival and its supporters". In particular, the festival rejected a report that the arts minister, Frank Sartor, had been "booed" (the current online wording is "greeted with grudging applause") in presenting the Premier's Literary Award. There was passing mention of Morris Iemma's conspicuous absence and some gently gleeful discussion of Macquarie banker Bob Carr's declaration he didn't read Australian books.

Pretty mild stuff. Refreshing, compared with the usual pap, if perhaps a little undergrad. Given that both Arts NSW and Macquarie Bank are major funders, it makes you wonder. Was the festival just another "be nice to sponsors" week?

This year, it happened again; students and others had their paper impounded and their persons allegedly threatened with arrest. Excuse me, what? Are we suddenly transported to Burma? The festival's droll manager, Ben Strout, may argue "free voices does not mean freedom to blurt … whatever … wherever". The Walsh Bay precinct manager, Luke Mead, who apparently gave the order, may yell down the phone at any who ask that "it's private property and we'll stop people handing out papers if we want to". But in truth, they're both wrong. Free speech does mean pretty much whatever, wherever, and the festival wharf - unlike much of Walsh Bay - is still public domain.

The students, understandably, claim harassment and censorship. They point out the paper was wholly UTS-produced and funded, and a disclaimer distanced its views from the festival's. More importantly, they defend their independence. "We're journalism students," writes one, "not public relations students".

The UTS humanities dean, Theo van Leeuwen, attempted to make peace, posting an apology on the festival website, but only poured kero on the embers. The students felt betrayed. Their professor, Wendy Bacon, defended them, and free speech, only to find herself promptly banned from a panel on radicalism, when she'd simply been polishing her credentials. The festival denies the ban, but emails make it clear her presence was not acceptable.

All looking strange indeed, until the explanation emerged that puts both parties in a bizarre light. A contract - titled "Education Partner Agreement" - signed in 2006 by van Leeuwen (for UTS) and the then festival director, Caro Llewellyn, commits UTS journalism students to produce Festival News at UTS's cost. The contra for UTS includes their writers' involvement in festival panels, the festival launch of a UTS student anthology and the UTS logo on the festival website. Neither the staff nor students producing News knew of the contract's existence.

What are two supposed bastions of intelligent and unfettered debate doing colluding in the first place, in a covert sweetheart deal that leaves the university looking like a PR firm and the festival like some tacky trade fair?

They need their heads knocked together if they cannot see that teaching journalism students to think like copywriters is quite as dangerous and more insidious than fettering them to a military junta.

Postmodernism loved to blur boundaries - between disciplines (viz neurogeography), between races and cultures (Eurasian, Spanglish), between genders (metrosexual, retrosexual) and also between journalism and PR.

More universities are merging journalism into PR and "communications" faculties, as though who pays the piper matters not a jot. This is almost as ugly, and parochial, as a writers' festival stifling criticism.


Warmism: A vitriolic climate in the academic hothouse

By Ian Plimer, emeritus professor of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne. Plimer once again has the temerity to mention some of the "missing facts" that Warmists ignore

It is well known that many university staff list to port and try to engineer a brave new world. The cash cow climate institutes now seem to be drowning in their own self-importance. In a wonderful gesture of public spiritedness, seven academics who include three lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a former director of the World Climate Research Program wrote to Australian power generating companies on April 29 instructing them to cease and desist creating electricity from coal.

In their final paragraph, they state with breathtaking arrogance: "The unfortunate reality is that genuine action on climate change will require the existing coal-fired power stations to cease operating in the near future. "We feel it is vital that you understand this and we are happy to work with you and with governments to begin planning for this transition immediately. "The warming of the atmosphere, driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, is already causing unacceptable damage and suffering around the world."

No evidence is provided for this statement and no signatory to this letter has published anything to support this claim.

These university staff are unctuously understanding about the plight of those who face employment extinction in the smokestack towns of Australia. They write: "We understand that this will require significant social and economic transition that will need to be managed carefully to care for coal sector workers and coal-dependent communities.". This love for fellow workers brings tears to the eyes.

The electricity generating companies should reply by cutting off the power to academics' homes and host institutions, forcing our ideologues to lead by example. Some 80 per cent of Australia's electricity derives from coal, large volumes of cheap electricity underpin employment and our self-appointed concerned citizens offer no suggestion for alternative unsubsidised base-load power sources to employ Australians.

The Emissions Trading Scheme legislation poises Australia to make the biggest economic decision in its history, yet there has been no scientific due diligence. There has never been a climate change debate in Australia. Only dogma. To demonise element number six in the periodic table is amusing. Why not promethium? Carbon dioxide is an odourless, colourless, harmless natural gas. It is plant food. Without carbon, there would be no life on Earth.

The original source of atmospheric CO2 is volcanoes. The Earth's early atmosphere had a thousand times the CO2 of today's atmosphere. This CO2 was recycled through rocks, life and the oceans. Through time, this CO2 has been sequestered into plants, coal, petroleum, minerals and carbonate rocks, resulting in a decrease in atmospheric CO2. The atmosphere now contains 800 billion tonnes of carbon as CO2. Soils and plants contain 2000 billion tonnes, oceans 39,000 billion tonnes and limestone 65,000,000 billion tonnes. The atmosphere contains only 0.001 per cent of the total carbon in the top few kilometres of the Earth.

Deeper in Earth, there are huge volumes of CO2 yet to be leaked into the atmosphere. So depleted is the atmosphere in CO2, that horticulturalists pump warm CO2 into glasshouses to accelerate plant growth.

The first 50 parts per million of CO2 operates as a powerful greenhouse gas. After that, CO2 has done its job, which is why there has been no runaway greenhouse in the past when CO2 was far higher. During previous times of high CO2, there were climate cycles driven by galactic forces, the sun, Earth's orbit, tides and random events such as volcanoes. These forces still operate. Why should such forces disappear just because we humans live on Earth?

The fundamental questions remain unanswered. A change of 1 per cent in cloudiness can account for all changes measured during the past 150 years, yet cloud measurements are highly inaccurate. Why is the role of clouds ignored? Why is the main greenhouse gas (water vapour) ignored? The limitation of temperature in hot climates is evaporation yet this ignored in catastrophist models.

Why are balloon and satellite measurements showing cooling ignored yet unreliable thermometer measurements used? Is the increase in atmospheric CO2 really due to human activities? Ice cores show CO2 increases some 800 years after temperature increase so why can't an increase in CO2 today be due to the medieval warming (900-1300)? If increased concentrations of CO2 increase temperature, why have there been coolings during the past 150 years?

Some 85 per cent of volcanoes are unseen and unmeasured yet these heat the oceans and add monstrous amounts of CO2 to the oceans. Why have these been ignored? Why have there been five significant ice ages when CO2 was higher than now? Why were warmings in Minoan, Roman and medieval times natural, yet a smaller warming at the end of the 20th century was due to human activities? If climate changed at the end of the Little Ice Age (c.1850), is it unusual for warming to follow?

Computer models using the past 150 years of measurements have been used to predict climate for the next few centuries. Why have these models not been run backwards to validate known climate changes? I would bet the farm that by running these models backwards, El Nino events and volcanoes such as Krakatoa (1883, 535), Rabaul (536) and Tambora (1815) could not be validated.

In my book, I correctly predicted the response. The science would not be discussed, there would be academic nit-picking and there would be vitriolic ad hominem attacks by pompous academics out of contact with the community. Comments by critics suggest that few have actually read the book and every time there was a savage public personal attack, book sales rose. A political blog site could not believe that such a book was selling so well and suggested that my publisher, Connor Court, was a front for the mining or pastoral industry.

This book has struck a nerve. Although accidentally timely, there are a large number of punters who object to being treated dismissively as stupid, who do not like being told what to think, who value independence, who resile from personal attacks and have life experiences very different from the urban environmental atheists attempting to impose a new fundamentalist religion.

Green politics have taken the place of failed socialism and Western Christianity and impose fear, guilt, penance and indulgences on to a society with little scientific literacy. We are now reaping the rewards of politicising science and dumbing down the education system. If book sales, public meetings, book launches, email and phone messages are any indication, there is a large body of disenfranchised folk out there who feel helpless. I have shown that the emperor has no clothes. This is why the attacks are so vitriolic.


Friday, May 29, 2009

A warning about online computer and electronics retailer OzDirect

Report from a customer

I ordered a video camera from Ozdirect on 17/03/09. It was listed as 'in stock' and the website seemed to indicate that it would ship 48 hours after funds cleared and take 24 hours by courier to reach me. I paid an additional $20 (percentage of total) to use my credit card and thus speed up funds clearing. They debited my credit card in 10 minutes flat. After a week of waiting I started to enquire where my order was. They were slow to reply and then said there were delays in the warehouse. Another week went, by...more emails...nothing changes...another week goes by...more emails...nothing changes...I start to get angry, and they finally (after 3 weeks waiting) offer the option of cancelling the order and getting a refund...It takes another week of emails to get a response. 10 days later no refund... now they tell me it can take 30 days to refund money! They have had $600+ of my money for over 5 weeks now and I have nothing to show for it.

I lodge a complaint with NSW Office of Fair Trading...a week later they tell me they can get no response from Ozdirect, so there is nothing further they can do!! In 12 years of shopping online this is the worst experience I have ever had! Nothing else even comes close. For displaying absolute contempt for customers, Ozdirect are in a league of their own!

SOURCE. See also here

Australian immigration unlikely for Tamil Sri Lankans

Given that Tamils tend to be a very aggressive lot, this is a welcome decision. Perhaps even the Leftists of the Australian government saw that violent clashes in Australia (some of which we have already seen) between Tamils and Sinhalese were best avoided

Australian immigration officials has spoken out at media reports the country will be welcoming Tamil Sri Lankans displaced by recent violence to move to Australia. The news follows reports in Australia and Sri Lanka of an Australian immigration humanitarian program that while not wholly inaccurate, ‘may have unnecessarily raised some people’s expectations’.

"The target of Australia’s humanitarian program is those applicants who are outside their home country and who are subject to persecution or substantial discrimination in their home country,” said a Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman.

The developments concerning Sri Lankans wanting to move to Australia has been defended by Australian immigration authorities who are keen to emphasize the views of the Australian public and consulting with refugee organisations and the UN are priorities when considering any humanitarian program.

"While applications for Australia’s humanitarian program may be lodged at the Australian High Commission in Colombo, the large majority of people who apply from within their home country will be disappointed with the outcome.

“The immediate humanitarian priority for the international community, including Australia, is to support the population in north-east Sri Lanka displaced by the conflict by helping to provide food and shelter and other assistance to stabilise living conditions.”


"Green" Labor party trading Australia's future away with very poor politics

Piers Akerman

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong says the Federal Government is determined “to keep, continue to press forward” on emissions trading legislation because “it is the right thing to do”.

No, it is the Wong thing to do.

Of all the useless things the Rudd Labor Government has proposed - and we could cite many - the ETS is the most dangerous and damaging to Australia. Yet an ETS would not alter the climate. That Wong is flying the flag for this meaningless gesture and is prepared to sacrifice the jobs of Australians to this empty goal is the height of vanity politics. Both the Government and the Opposition claim they want to give “business” certainty so it can plan for the future. They should think of their other constituents.

The “business” community has no natural national interest. It has shown time and time again, through companies like Bonds or James Hardie, that it is prepared to take jobs offshore if the bottom line is at stake. Their responsibility is to shareholders, not citizens. Strip away business arguments and the proposed ETS legislation is exposed as futile. It won’t affect the Great Barrier Reef, as Kevin Rudd claimed. Or put more water in the Murray-Darling or change the weather.

The Government’s claim that the Great Barrier Reef would be saved if Australians sacrificed the equivalent of $1-a-day is an absolute nonsense. Every MP who spouts this bilge should have their mouths rinsed out with untreated effluent and be charged with false advertising. It is just not true.

What it will do is take jobs away from the mining sector at the very time Australians are looking to the miners to rebuild the economy. It will drive energy-intensive industries offshore to developing nations.

The legislation is based on the assumption that human activity is a major factor in climate change. This remains unproven and contentious, although the Rudd Government does not want to engage in this debate. Instead, it has put forward a model for an ETS that is among the most ambitious in the world. It would require that 70 per cent of carbon permits be purchased. By comparison, the US is looking to have 15 per cent of permits purchased and the European model calls for 4 per cent of permits to be purchased. It can only be concluded from proposing such a fanciful target that the Rudd Government wants to grab the international spotlight when it goes to the Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

But the assumptions behind the Rudd Government scheme only get worse, as it is based on the hope that the US would sign up to an equivalent scheme next year, China by 2015 and India by 2020. As Opposition spokesman on emissions trading Andrew Robb has said repeatedly, none of this is remotely possible.

Rudd and his ministers are trying to nail the Opposition for deferring this ridiculous legislation but it is the Labor Government which should be put through the wringer. Labor has been so delinquent in its role to present reasonable policy that it has not even factored the impact of the global financial crisis into its climate change proposal.

An analysis leaked from the NSW Government revealed all major regional centres - the Hunter, Gladstone, Central West Queensland, Illawarra, the Kimberley, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Geelong, Gippsland and parts of Tasmania - would shrink by 20 per cent or more under the scheme. Who do they really think they are kidding with their phony protestations of good governance and concern for the future? The flaws in the scheme are obvious. It is the greatest threat facing our economic recovery, and it is coming from Canberra.


Rudd is an unpleasant person in private

There have been statements to that effect ever since his time in the Queensland bureaucracy but below is the latest episode. He sent his former chief foreign policy adviser to the diplomatic equivalent of Siberia and now nobody else wants the job

ONE of the most prestigious diplomatic jobs in Australia - foreign policy mandarin in the Prime Minister's Department - has been vacant for months because no one approached so far is willing to take the post, which involves working closely with Kevin Rudd. The Prime Minister's office confirmed last night the vacancy - first assistant secretary in the international division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet - had been filled in an acting capacity since the departure of Hugh Borrowman, the diplomat Mr Rudd vetoed as next ambassador to Germany.

The Australian understands two senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade bureaucrats had rejected approaches to replace Mr Borrowman.

Nominated earlier for the top job in Berlin by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Mr Borrowman was vetoed by Mr Rudd on the grounds the diplomat - a university classmate - lacked the necessary language skills.

A former senior foreign affairs official with a close knowledge of the post told The Australian nobody of any seniority wanted the job because of Mr Rudd's micro-management. "They've offered that job to several senior diplomats, all of whom have rejected it. "They have offered that position to two people now, senior people in DFAT, and both of them rejected it on the grounds they weren't going to work in that environment. "Both of them said they would not take what is one of the most prestigious jobs in Australian diplomacy because they didn't want to have anything to do with Rudd."

Yesterday, Mr Smith played down damaging claims of a rift between himself and Mr Rudd over the appointment. "There's no dispute as far as the Government is concerned," he told ABC radio. "The recommendations I make in terms of our ambassadorial appointments are to the governor-general and Executive Council. "I've made a number of points about this in recent days. "Firstly, I don't get into pros and cons of various potential candidates for ambassadorial positions."

Mr Smith's predecessor, Alexander Downer, Australia's longest-serving foreign minister, was more forthcoming. In an interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Downer said that, unlike Mr Smith, he experienced no problems with his diplomatic recommendations after they were given to John Howard. "I usually made about 10 appointments at once," the former foreign minister said. "I didn't do them one at a time so they'd be done in blocks. "I'd write to the prime minister informing that I had appointed the following people. Now, if he had any objection, he would ring me up, but did he ever? "He basically left the appointments to me. Now there is an exception for the ambassadors to Washington, the high commissioner in London or our ambassador in Jakarta, the prime minister and I would have a chat about it."

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said she would raise the issue in question time today.

Mr Rudd's claims on Tuesday that he rejected Mr Borrowman's credentials for the Berlin post because of inadequate language skills was contrary to a statement five days earlier from Mr Smith singling out his proficiency in German, Swedish and Mandarin, Ms Bishop said.


Reading syllabus hijacked by fringe groups as basics ignored

THE nation's most respected remedial reading experts have criticised the National Curriculum Board for caving in to the demands of a fringe group of university academics and teachers who argue against a back-to-basics emphasis on phonics in teaching reading. The board, which is charged with writing the national guidelines on teaching from kindergarten to Year 12, has been accused of ignoring key players in drafting its latest advice on the shape of the proposed new English curriculum.

Researchers have told federal Education Minister Julia Gillard that the board, headed by chairman Barry McGaw, has failed to consider recommendations of the national inquiry into teaching literacy, which insists that the "explicit and systematic" teaching of the letter-sound relationships is required to learn to read.

The letter to Ms Gillard accuses professional associations representing English teachers and literacy educators of hijacking the national curriculum to remove the emphasis on the teaching of phonics as the essential first step in learning to read. The 20-plus signatories also say no recognised reading researcher or infant-years expert was consulted when the board produced the framing paper.

Among those unhappy with the position of the curriculum board - which will frame a national approach to English, maths, science and history teaching for all students by next year - are the researchers who sparked the national reading inquiry in 2004, including the Macquarie University group that developed the MULTILIT program being used with great success in indigenous communities.

The reading experts say they were locked out of the consultation process and no recognised expert was consulted "despite written requests, which included the names and contact details of recognised reading researchers".

"Any individual who can read themselves can claim to be a reading researcher, but the term 'recognised' reading researcher refers to those academics who have undertaken evidence-based research in the area of learning to read and write and how these skills are best taught," they say.

The letter says the teacher professional associations - the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, the Australian Literacy Educators Association and the Primary English Teachers Association - do not represent classroom teachers but are controlled by academics in university education faculties with little experience in teaching children to read.

All three organisations are members of the international Whole Language Umbrella group of reading and literacy associations run out of the US. "(They) have very limited membership among classroom teachers," the letter says. "According to their own published annual general reports, these associations are better known to politicians and the media than to classroom teachers and their membership base amongst classroom teachers is so low that their existence is threatened. "Executive positions on these associations are mostly held by academics from schools and faculties of education or by individuals with no expertise in basic research on learning to read and write and how these skills are best taught."

National Curriculum Board general manage Rob Randall defended the draft curriculum, saying the the research and findings of the national inquiry into teaching reading would be evident in the curriculum, which was yet to be written.

The framing paper was written by Sydney University education professor Peter Freebody, whose appointment was criticised for his association with the whole-language approach to teaching reading, which holds that phonics are not always necessary in learning to read.

The initial advice paper on English released by the curriculum board last October contains a half-page discussion about the teaching of reading in the early years of school under the subheading "beginnings and basics".

"The explicit and systematic teaching of sound-script correspondences is important, and not just for students who are in their first year or so of schooling, or for whom English is not a first language," it says.

"The explicit teaching of decoding, grammar, spelling and other aspects of the basic codes of written English will be an important and routine aspect of the national English curriculum. It should be planned, put into practice and consolidated as part of a program in English education, and it should be available to students throughout the school years."

In final advice to the curriculum writers released at the beginning of the month, reading is mentioned in the general context of literacy referring to "reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening effectively in a range of contexts". "Many students when learning to read need systematic attention to fundamentals like phonological and phonemic awareness, and sound-letter correspondences as well as the development of skills in using semantic and syntactic clues to make meaning," the paper says.

The reading researchers argue the reference to the need to develop skills in using semantic and syntactic clues, such as the syntax of the sentence and the picture on the page, "invites confusion" and could be read as supporting the "debunked three-cueing system which confuses the skills needed for reading/decoding and the skills needed for comprehension".

The letter was sent to Ms Gillard and Professor McGaw, with copies to Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, NCB director of operations Rose Naughton, Professor Freebody and the NSW representative on the NCB, Tom Alegounaris, who is the newly appointed president of the NSW Board of Studies.


There is some accountability in government health systems after all

Nurse fired over baby left at Airport, though it seems that the aircraft pilot was also partly to blame. Any repercussions for him? None that we know of

A NURSE has been sacked and another has resigned over leaving a five-day-old baby with a stranger at regional airport in South Australia. In January, The Advertiser revealed the two nurses were suspended after they left the premature baby with a young woman at the Port Augusta Airport instead of delivering him to the hospital. The baby's father, Shahzad Hassan, said at the time that it had happened on Christmas Eve because the nurse was "in a hurry" to get back to Adelaide.

The baby, Rayaan, was left for about 10 minutes before hospital staff arrived. He was born six weeks early, which put him at risk of a range of complications and he had been sent home to Port Augusta by plane with the nurse while his parents drove.

The Government Investigation Unit confirmed last night that the nurse had resigned, while her superior – who gave her permission to leave the baby and return to Adelaide – was dismissed.

Child, Youth and Women's Health Service chief executive Gail Mondy said the staff had failed to follow proper procedures for the transfer of a baby, putting it at risk, and that they had apologised to the parents.

"We've taken steps to learn from this serious incident," she said. "We have apologised to the baby's parents and we very much regret that on this occasion the two staff involved failed to follow the hospital's and the Department of Health's patient-transfer procedures, which are designed to protect patients' safety and wellbeing."

When the plane landed in Port Augusta at about 7.40am, there was no one to meet the nurse accompanying the baby and the pilot told the nurse he needed to return to Adelaide immediately. The nurse became upset, at which point a young woman – believed to be a teacher – offered to mind the baby.

Mr Hassan said he welcomed the resolution of the case. "I can't really say anything else," he said. "I can only say that they did what they thought was right." Asked whether he was upset at the five months it took to finalise the case, he said: "I think they had to make sure of what they were doing."


Thursday, May 28, 2009


A feast of news today about some of the wonderful government "services" that you pay for via your taxes. We start below with three current articles about our fine police services

Abusive police in court

I can see no reason why police should abuse suspects so I hope they lose this one. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and in this case the accused WERE innocent. There was not even enough evidence to take them to court. Unless they are being physically attacked, the police should be polite at all times -- as in the old British tradition

THREE men questioned by police on Sydney streets are suing the New South Wales Government, saying the officers made defamatory comments about them within earshot of passers-by. Alleged statements such as "we are stopping you because you guys were ... intending to steal" could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and restrict the way police conduct routine investigations, The Australian reports.

The NSW Government recently tried to have the men's cases thrown out of court. However, a NSW District Court judge not only gave the two separate cases the go-ahead, but ordered the Government to pay the men's legal costs. Payouts of up to $250,000 can be awarded if comments are found to be defamatory.

In both cases, none of the men can identify any members of the public who are said to have heard and witnessed the alleged defamatory comments made by the officers, but the court ruled they did not have to provide further details because it would be an "unnecessary expense" at that stage of proceedings.

In the first case, David Moses and Tangiwai Kawenga are suing the police for defamation over an incident in inner-city McEvoy Street in September last year. Police arrived after receiving a call that a criminal offence had taken place and arrested and charged the pair. At the time, one of the officers allegedly said to Mr Moses: "You're robbing women", "you're a thief", and "you have stolen from women". Mr Kawenga claims a police officer said to him: "You're under arrest -- you're a piece of shit ... you're f**ked -- you're going to jail."

The pair say officers were speaking "in a loud voice within the hearing of passers-by and residents of premises adjoining George Street, many of whom were standing at and near their front fence observing the police and (Mr Moses and Mr Kawenga)", according to court documents. Mr Kawenga tried to argue that the words "you're under arrest" were also defamatory but this was knocked out by judge Judith Gibson last week and he and Mr Moses were ordered to pay costs.

The charges against the pair were later dropped and no further action was taken against them.

In the other case, police were called to the exclusive watch store TAG Heuer, in Sydney's King Street luxury shopping precinct, in June last year. Staff had pressed the "hold-up button" while Michael Lassanah and another man were in the store. Police arrived shortly afterwards.

Mr Lassanah said he was defamed when police spoke to him on the footpath outside and allegedly said: "The manager of the TAG shop said you were intending to steal from the shop. We are stopping you because you guys were in the TAG shop intending to steal. You were intending to steal. Don't go into that shop. You were intending to steal."

Mr Lassanah is suing for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment and says police kept him on the footpath for an hour and searched him "in the presence of the general public".

Seeking to have the cases dismissed, the NSW Government unsuccessfully argued in the District Court that it was protected by defences available to the defamation laws. The matter will return to court in September.

NSW Police have yet to give their version of events. But a spokesman said yesterday: "It should be noted that this is an interim finding only and not final, and police will leave it in the hands of the courts to make a decision. The NSW Police Force has always stood behind its officers who carry out their duties in good faith."


Murder calls to police emergency number ignored

A CIVILIAN police radio operator in Queensland ignored two triple-0 calls which may have helped save a man's life, it has been revealed. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said the calls were received at the Maroochydore Police Communications Centre on Monday night, about 10 minutes apart. Both calls are believed to have been made by a woman screaming that someone was in trouble.

Mr Atkinson said it was "highly likely" both calls related to the death of a 48-year-old man whose body was found near a Nambour creek about 6.30am (AEST) on Tuesday. James Albert Madden, 23, of Nambour, has been charged with the man's murder. Kilah Johnelle Jones, 17, of Yandina, faced Maroochydore Magistrate's Court yesterday charged with being an accessory. Jones was granted bail, while Madden did not appear yesterday and his case was adjourned for six weeks.

Mr Atkinson yesterday admitted it was his "biggest fear" that the man's death could been prevented had information from the 000 calls been relayed to police. "The person who took the calls is a civilian radio operator . . . who has been in that position for six months," Mr Atkinson said. "He brought the matter to light today when he became aware of the murder charge and related it to the two phone calls he received on Monday night."

An inquiry has been launched by the Ethical Standards Command. "The investigation will focus on the origin, nature and appropriateness of any response to any such call," Mr Atkinson he said. He said a civilian radio operator usually would pass on such information to the duty sergeant at the communications centre. "It's early days yet but it doesn't appear as though that happened," he said. "We have grave concerns that this information that was provided at the time was not acted on." [I'm guessing that the operator brought the matter up because he DID pass the info on to the cops]


More useless police

Emergency calls 'not answered'. It is common in the USA for police to arrive within a couple of minutes of a robbery call, often quickly enough to catch the robbers. That's a dream in Australia

South Australia's Police Minister has ordered a review of the emergency response to an armed hold-up at Torrensville in Adelaide. Witnesses to the robbery at Grech Jewellers on Monday afternoon say they were put on hold for up to 10 minutes when they tried to telephone 000. When shop owner Bruce Bubner heard a gunshot at the jewellery shop, he says he called 000 straight way. But he says he waited eight minutes, then hung up.

"It was worrying that David (jeweller) could have been lying in there waiting for the police to arrive, you know, he could have been injured," he said. "I saw other people on the phone as well and I figured that they had made contact. "As it turns out, when I talked to Theresa at the snack bar, she hadn't made contact either."

Opposition police spokesman David Ridgway says the lack of response is a worry. "The system if it can't cope then it needs to be upgraded or there needs to be a full explanation about why that happened," he said.

Witnesses say police took 20 minutes to arrive. SA Police Minister Michael Wright has ordered a report on the response. "I don't think we should make any assumptions at this stage. What we do know is there was a very high volume and that may have caused the difficulty," he said. Police are searching for the two men armed with a shotgun and a tomahawk who robbed the store.



Three current articles below

Publicity squeezes some decency out of NSW Health

NSW Health will pay for the accommodation costs of a Melbourne family forced to quarantine themselves in a Sydney high-rise apartment at $300 a night.

The D'Arcy family were on board the Pacific Dawn, which berthed in Sydney on Monday despite suspicions two young boys on board had the swine flu virus. The ship is now en route to Port Douglas, after skipping scheduled stops in the Whitsundays. Passengers will be unable to disembark until test results are known.

Nicholas D'Arcy, 6, was diagnosed with influenza A while on board the vessel, but was allowed to disembark with his family on Monday with other cruise passengers despite the possibility he had swine flu.

At 8.30pm (AEST) that day his parents Fiona and John were eventually told by NSW Health that Nicholas had the A(H1N1) virus - after a day spent taking in Sydney tourist attractions such as the Opera House, Chinatown and Paddy's Markets.

The family of four are now quarantined in their World Square apartment in central Sydney, where they have complained of having to pay the $300 a night bill and $150 for room service. NSW Health had refused to help them, the family told The Daily Telegraph.

However, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant apologised to the D'Arcys today for their treatment, and offered to pay for the next four nights. “Last night we had contacted the family to indicate that we would pay for the next four nights accommodation,” Dr Chant said. “(We said) we would obviously pay for room service or groceries, and that we'd also look into some special requests in relation to toys for the young child.”

NSW now has a total of 18 confirmed swine flu cases, with a further 265 people awaiting test results. NSW health authorities are under fire for letting passengers disembark from the Pacific Dawn. Eighteen swine flu cases have now been recorded from that cruise ship, including six Queensland residents who have returned home.


Broke NSW government hospitals

SOME of Sydney's largest public hospitals frequently run out of medical supplies because they have debts of millions of dollars and the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopershave been called in to help stop the problem deteriorating. The authority running western Sydney's public hospitals owes suppliers nearly twice as much as previously acknowledged, according to internal figures that reveal for the dire state of its true financial position.

Doctors say unpaid bills mean hospitals frequently run out of supplies such as pathology chemicals and glucose tests for pregnant women, putting further stress on overworked staff. As of Tuesday, the troubled Sydney West Area Health Service - which runs Westmead, Nepean and other hospitals across western Sydney and the Blue Mountains - owed $43.7 million in invoices unpaid for at least 30 days. This included $14.6 million invoiced 90 days or more earlier, according to the figures obtained by the Herald.

The amount is far in excess of the $27 million a spokeswoman said remained unpaid at the end of April. About 400 suppliers are understood to have negotiated arrangements with the service, allowing them to be paid later than normal 30-day trading terms.

PricewaterhouseCoopers had been appointed to "provide financial management support", an area spokeswoman acknowledged yesterday, in a sign that administrators' are struggling to control their budgets.

The medical equipment supplier Synthes, which provides plates and pins for orthopedic surgery, the heart device supplier Medtronic and medical imaging company Olympus, are understood to be owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in one case more than $1 million. None of the companies would comment yesterday. A Medical Technology Association of Australia spokeswoman confirmed Sydney West was still paying 54 per cent of its invoices after the 30-day due date - compared to a 43 per cent state average - though this had improved since January, when the Government ordered all area health services to reduce their debts.

The appointment of external financial management is in addition to an external inquiry into the management of Westmead Hospital and the area health service, ordered by the Government after doctors complained their clinical expertise was being overridden by bureaucrats. According to a submission to that inquiry by Westmead's medical staff council, obtained by the Herald, staff morale was "at its worst point in the 30-year history of Westmead" as doctors and nurses distrusted management and were excluded from high-level decisions.

Andrew Pesce, chairman of Westmead's medical staff council, said the hospital frequently ran out of important supplies, such as reagent chemicals for diagnostic tests and bottles of glucose to test for diabetes in pregnant women, after unpaid suppliers refused new orders. "There's no more fat left in the system. We can't make any more progress by trimming here and there and drawing out creditor payments," Dr Pesce said.

Nepean Hospital was forced to suspend elective surgery yesterday morning when it ran out of supplies of essential anaesthetic equipment. But the area spokeswoman said this was caused by, "inadequate stock management" that did "not relate to the withholding of stock by suppliers." An inadequate supply of props to hold open patients' airways during surgery led doctors to halt surgery, resulting in several operations being delayed and one cancelled.

Dr Patrick Cregan, Nepean's clinical director of surgery, said the hospital was operating, "on paper-thin margins". Supplies of equipment necessary for patient safety were constantly on the verge of running out and doctors were unable to get authorisation to order new stock, he said.


Go to hospital. Catch swine flu

Queensland Health in its usual fine form

POTENTIAL swine flu victims are mingling with other out-patients at the first specialist clinic set up by Queensland Health to deal with the H1N1 flu crisis. The clinic, which opened yesterday at the Gold Coast's Robina Hospital, is in an area separated from the main accident and emergency ward only by a room divider.

While medical staff and paramedics wear full bio-suits and protective masks when dealing with potential swine flu victims, general outpatients enter through the same door as those visiting the flu clinic and are not issued with masks. The flu clinic waiting area is only a few metres from the outpatient waiting room. Queensland Health yesterday refused to let the media film inside the flu clinic because of the risk of infection.

Lee Daley, who was taking her 11-year-old daughter Taleea to the ward to have a broken arm checked, was frightened they could be exposed to swine flu. "I just think the clinic should be in an isolated room, not in the accident and emergency ward where people who might have swine flu are mixing with other outpatients," she said. "Everyone knows how germs can be spread through air-conditioning." Mrs Daley and her daughter opted to wait outside the hospital and were given face masks only after they requested them.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the clinic had been established to take the concentration of people with flu-like symptoms away from the Gold Coast Hospital emergency department. Dr Young said individuals will be asked to go to separate waiting rooms when presenting with flu-like symptoms. She said the clinic's waiting room was "appropriately signed to ensure individuals presenting with flu-like symptoms are in a contained area".



Two current articles below

NSW: Young boy raped while in custody of notorious child "protection" agency

It took the police to rescue the boy after the agency did nothing

A YOUNG boy was raped and abused by a foster carer after Department of Community Services failed to act on a father's warning that his son was being invited into the pervert's bedroom at night.

The Daily Telegraph reports DOCS' shame will be complete tomorrow when the pedophile foster carer, who cannot be named because of a suppression order, is sentenced in the Downing Centre District Court for having sex with a child under the age of 10 years and two counts of assault with an act of indecency on a child.

It is all too late for the father, from St Ives, who first wrote to DOCS on September 26, 2006, almost 18 months before the pedophile foster carer was arrested. "My son has lost his confidence. The world troubles him. He is afraid of people around him."

DOCS director-general Jenny Mason was forced to apologise to the boy's father yesterday and Community Services Minister Linda Burney admitted she only learned of the case when told by The Daily Telegraph.

In a letter sent in 2006, when his son was just seven years old, the father wrote to the department: "(My son) has told me that he sleeps in (the foster carer's) room. "I find this very strange and of great concern. (My son) has told me that (the carer) has been buying him gifts and toys and taking him on outings to the park and internet cafes. My prime concern is the safety and welfare of (my son) and request you take all steps necessary and possible to investigate these concerns."

He said yesterday a DOCS worker called him and assured him there was no reason for concern because the man in question was a "registered DOCS carer". The man continued caring for his own two sons and the foster son given to him by the department and through a private arrangement he said his former wife had made.

Most of the abuse took place after the letter was sent and it only stopped when the boy confided in his father early in 2008 and the DOCS carer was immediately investigated by Dee Why police.

After learning of the case late last week, Ms Burney ordered the chief of her department to meet with the father to apologise. "The outcomes of recent criminal proceedings have shown that in hindsight the concerns raised by the child's father could have been dealt with differently," she said.

The father met with Ms Mason yesterday and said he was assured there had been a change in procedures to prevent another child suffering like his son. DOCS said in a statement last night staff were "deeply sorry for the pain and suffering experienced by both the child and his family as a result of the sexual abuse". A spokeswoman confirmed measures had been taken "to improve the consistency and timeliness of investigations of allegations against foster carers".


Victoria: Relaxed child protection agency took over a year to act while children were being tortured

TWO children were allegedly tortured with pliers, kicked in the ribs and beaten daily by their stepfather for more than a year after their teachers alerted authorities. The boy, 8, and girl, 7, had bones broken, eyes blackened, lost teeth and had bruises all over their faces and bodies, allegedly as punishment for telling lies or not doing chores. The man pleaded not guilty to 58 charges relating to abuse of the children.

A court heard the children would often return to school from absences of several days with new injuries and implausible explanations for them. Two teachers kept a log of the children's injuries and repeatedly contacted the Department of Human Services. The first report was made in August 2007.

But the court heard the children were not removed from the stepfather's care until October last year, despite several visits by DHS workers to the home and the dozen or more reports by the teachers.

When doctors finally examined them, the boy had a broken left femur and rib as well as five other possible rib fractures, and 29 bruises. The girl had three fractured ribs and 44 bruises, including extensive bruising covering her entire shoulders.

The children's mother said in a statement tendered to the court that she started seeing the man in April 2007 and he began smacking the boy six months later. "I felt powerless and sat there and cried," the mother said, recalling the first time it happened. She said the stepfather began taking both children into their rooms and hitting them every day. "I suspected that the kids were having trouble walking because he was beating them but I never said anything to him or the kids," she said.

She said her partner was a violent man who manipulated and controlled the family, deciding what they ate and forcing the children to sit in a corner all day with their hands on their heads.

She said that when DHS workers visited they were told the injuries were from childhood accidents, or that the boy was harming himself. In October 2007 the boy was taken to hospital with a genital injury he said happened when he "stacked his bike". The boy later told a relative the stepfather had inflicted the serious wound - which required surgery - with pliers.

The stepfather was remanded in custody to face the County Court in August.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Three current articles below

"Prodos", global warming and the CIS

"Prodos" is a flamboyant Melbourne libertarian of Greek extraction who has done some good work in publicizing libertarian ideas but who is in my view a bit too sensationalist for me to take much notice of. For that reason, I don't think I have ever linked to any of his writings. On his occasional blog, however, he has recently put up an attack on Greg Lindsay, head of the Sydney-based "Centre for Independent Studies" claiming that Greg is a supporter of global warming. Greg is an old friend of mine and I was one of the first donors to CIS so when Gerry Jackson of Brookes News sent me a link to the Prodos article, I immediately emailed Greg expressing amazement that he had fallen for such humbug.

Greg emailed back noting that he has NEVER personally taken any position at all on global warming but referred me to a post on the subject by John Humphreys, which in turn links to his CIS monograph on the subject.

The work of CIS is to offer scholarly contributions to public policy debates from a free-market viewpoint and CIS publications often get respectful mentions in the press. And on this occasion, Humphreys took as a starting point the apparent intention of both major Australian political parties to implement global warming laws of some sort. From that point he set out to argue for the least harmful set of laws that could be adopted.

And that is what Prodos objects to. He thinks that CIS should just oppose all global warming laws and thus have no influence on what laws are adopted. I think Prodos's ego has run away with him. He thinks that his own approach is the only defensible one, whereas it is my view that you are more likely to defeat the enemy if you attack him from all sides. And the currently-proposed Warmist laws would certainly be a major enemy of Australia's prosperity. So I welcome the CIS approach and deplore the narrow-minded hostility of Prodos towards an organization that is much more influential than he is. And putting a picture of Greg Lindsay at the top of his post when Greg has never said a word in public about the subject is just plain dishonest.

Global Warming Pauses

By His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney

The tide on climate change is starting to turn. The Australian government is becoming more cautious. It is rare to read a new book likely to make a huge difference to public opinion. Professor Ian Plimer's 500 page book with 2300 footnotes "Heaven and Earth. Global Warming: The Missing Science" is such a book. 30,000 copies were sold in its first month.

Plimer is not a climate change denier, because history shows the planet is dynamic and the climate is always changing, sometimes drastically. Ice Ages have come and gone and we don't know why. History has seen glaciers at the equator and at one time Scandinavia was under 5 kilometres of ice. Sea levels have been 130 metres lower than today. Some consolation comes from the fact that ice sheets predominated for only 20 per cent of the earth's history.

Plimer demonstrates that a considerable amount of scientific evidence has been produced to counter the still predominant view that human activity, especially through industry, has polluted the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, which will produce disastrous climate changes including a rise in temperature, a melting of the ice caps and rising sea levels.

Contrary evidence is already changing the debate. Australia, with its tiny economy, is no longer aiming to lead the world. The threat of massive job losses and increasing awareness of new evidence will provoke even greater caution in the future.

Originally we were warned about the "greenhouse effect"; then it was "global warming", followed in turn by "climate change". Now we talk about reducing the "carbon footprint". The light is dawning and 30 per cent of scientists are sceptics or deniers.

Non-scientists should not blindly follow expert opinion and this includes Plimer. To the extent we can, we should examine their evidence. While it is still early days in the debate, Plimer's critics have been heavy with the abuse and short on counter evidence.

We should also look back at history for more accurate information and ignore computer models of the long-term future. Climate models making claims for decades into the future cannot work, because we do not know enough about many factors which influence weather, such as the level of activity of the sun, the earth's orbit and wobbles, the level of cloud cover, volcanoes.

One basic claim of Plimer is that an increase of carbon dioxide does not cause temperature rises, but might follow such rises. What do we make of these facts? The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to rise, but the world's temperature has not risen since 1998. In Roman times and in the Medieval Warming (900 - 1300 A.D.) temperatures were higher than today by five and six degrees Celsius. No industries then! In different Ice Ages the earth's atmosphere contained five and ten times the amount of carbon dioxide today.

Evidence shows the wheels are falling from the climate catastrophe bandwagon.


New election needed to pass Warmist laws

VOTERS are closer to an early election after every federal political party yesterday manoeuvred to ensure the defeat of the emissions trading scheme. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull raised the stakes yesterday by proposing the Government defer the vote of its ETS legislation until after global climate change talks in December. But he failed to secure numbers in the Senate, which means the legislation will be brought on in June and defeated.

With the gun now half-cocked and the Bill set for defeat, the second and final trigger for a double dissolution will be sounded if the legislation is re-introduced within three months and voted down again. The election is due in November next year but can be held as late as April 2011. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Turnbull and all the cross-benchers have lined up for a game of chicken, warning they would be willing to go to an early election if they cannot get what they want on climate change.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne, who wants the Bill defeated in exchange for greater mitigation, said the Government's policy stance was untenable and she was ready for an early election. "If the Coalition and the Independent Senators have a three-month delay or a six-month delay, it is dead as far as the Government is concerned . . . (and) let's bring it (an election) on," she said.

Mr Turnbull said he would give Mr Rudd a bi-partisan mandate to take to the meeting in Copenhagen so he could argue for targets of 5-25 per cent and urged him to wait for the advancing US legislation next year. But he said he would not vote for it in its current form. He also outlined a plan to set up a Government-authorised voluntary carbon market from January so business could start banking carbon credits.

Despite knowing the Bill is set for defeat, Mr Rudd has refused to delay it and accused Mr Turnbull of being at the mercy of climate change sceptics within his own party. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon will not support the Coalition's ploy to delay the Bill and wants the vote in August or September, but he has no support. He also plans to defeat it in its current form. Family First's Steve Fielding, who does want the Bill delayed, will vote against the "dog of a policy" when it is introduced in the week beginning June 15.

At the heart of Mr Turnbull's position of trying to delay the Bill until after Copenhagen is his untenable position of trying to unite his party.


Apprehended illegals to get an immediate right to seek employment in Australia?

The Federal Opposition says a proposed overhaul of the bridging visa system would further soften Australia's border protection policies, sending the wrong message to people smugglers.

A Parliamentary inquiry says there need to be changes to how the system works, including offering applicants increased assistance to health care, legal services and accommodation.

The Greens say the changes do not go far enough, the Opposition's immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone says the recommendations would allow people into the community before they have had their identity and security status checked.

"That is just another message right now that I think is very unhelpful as the people smugglers literally get bigger and bigger boats, and become more and more active in what is a very dangerous and inhumane trade," she said. "The message says, 'Look, we're not even going to complete all of your identity checks before we pass you into Perth or Adelaide or some other community where you can work, where you'll be given unemployment benefits if you can't get a job, where we'll find you decent accommodation'."


Swine flu family slams treatment at Gold Coast hospital

A GOLD Coast family struck down by swine flu has slammed Queensland Health's handling of their plight as "Third World". Newlyweds Nik and Kiralea Campbell, who contracted the disease on the P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn during their wedding voyage, said the Gold Coast Hospital was "totally unprepared" for the 13 suspected swine flu patients who arrived on Monday night. "Dogs would have received better treatment," Mrs Campbell said last night from her Oxenford home where she and her family were under quarantine.

She hit out as it was revealed the number of swine flu cases in Australia doubled to 50 in just 24 hours.

The Campbells fell ill on the cruise the day after they were married in Vanuatu last week. They flew home to the Gold Coast on Monday after the Pacific Dawn docked in Sydney and were later taken by ambulance to hospital as the Pacific Dawn swine flu crisis deepened. Mr and Mrs Campbell, their sons Trae, 2, Jordan,15, and Josh, 16, and Mr Campbell's mother Gloria, 67, were put into a small room at the hospital with one bed and a chair.

"They were totally unprepared for us – we were given no blankets, no food or medication," Mrs Campbell said. "Our three sons had to lay on the floor. It was terrible, especially the way we were feeling. Queensland Health should have been far better prepared."

Mrs Campbell said they were "filthy" that P&O had allowed them and other passengers to leave the cruise ship. "We were tested for swine flu on board but no one stopped us leaving," she said. Mr Campbell feared his sons and mother also had swine flu but had to wait until today for results. His Gold Coast friend Stephen Till and three members of his family, had also tested positive for swine flu after also going on the cruise.

Queensland Health yesterday said the five who had tested positive for swine flu at Gold Coast Hospital were all passengers on Virgin flight DJ531 from Sydney to Coolangatta on Monday and advised other passengers on that flight to call 13Health (13 432584) for advice.


Youth allowance criteria face Senate review

THE Coalition and the Greens have teamed up to frustrate a budget measure pushed by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard to tighten the work criteria for the youth allowance, agreeing to press for changes and to establish a Senate committee investigation.

The Rudd Government has proposed doubling the number of hours students must work to prove they are financially independent of their parents and qualify for the youth allowance independent rate of support.

The Coalition is concerned because many rural students take a gap year before starting university to earn enough money to qualify for the independent rate. Greens education spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said her party would refer the budget changes to a Senate inquiry and move to amend the legislation in the Senate.

"The Education Minister's dismissive response shows how ill-thought-out and unfair this policy is, and that the minister is out of touch with the realities for these young people and their families," Senator Hanson-Young said.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said MPs had been overwhelmed by concerned students and parents after the changes were announced. "Many young people in the regional areas have told us they will not be able to pursue further study, purely because they can not afford to do so," Mr Pyne said.

The Government argues the budget has boosted the parental income threshold from $32,800 to $42,559 next year, meaning 68,000 more students will qualify for support and another 35,000 will receive higher payments.

"This change will increase access to student income support, including for students from rural and regional areas," Ms Gillard said.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kindly nurse vindicated

Envious bitches who attacked her get slapped down. There is a great variation in how geriatric nurses treat the institutionalized elderly, with some being very rough. That an unusually kind nurse would benefit from a legacy is therefore not unexpected. I know personally of a similar case. One would have hoped that the official disciplinary tribunal would have focused its attention on the rough nurses rather than the kindly ones

A nurse who was suspended for accepting an estimated $200,000 inheritance from a former patient had done nothing wrong, a Brisbane judge says. Glennys Laurel Fletcher, 50, was found guilty by a tribunal last year of "unsatisfactory professional conduct'' in relation to Rosewood resident James Paidley, 75, who she cared for as a Blue Care nurse from 2002 to 2004.

After Paidley was admitted to Ipswich Hospital in May 2004 and later transferred to nursing homes, Fletcher continued to visit him, fed his cat, mowed his lawn and collected his mail until his death in July 2005.

The tribunal found Fletcher's failure to ensure a "proper professional distance'' was a "breach of her professional obligations'' but did not find she had tried to influence him to benefit from his will.

Mr Paidley left the vast majority of his estate to Fletcher, unbeknownst to her, in a will he drafted by his privately appointed Ipswich-based lawyers prior to his death, the court was told.

However, Brisbane District Court Judge David Robin, in a written judgment, overturned the tribunal's decision. Judge Robin said there was no evidence Fletcher had used "undue influence'' or exercised an "abuse of position'' in refusing to relinquish the "generous gift'' Mr Paidley left her in his will. "There is a problem when the location of (professional) 'boundaries' not to be crossed (by nurses) cannot be identified (in Queensland’s Nursing Act),'' he said. "It would have been a useful indication of what standards members of the nursing profession expected of someone like Mrs Fletcher. "It will be interesting to see whether this proceedings leads to an amendment (to the Act).''

Fletcher resigned from Blue Care after the organisation asked her to give up the $200,000 left to her by Paidley, or else lose her job. Late last year the tribunal cancelled Fletcher's nursing registration for two years with a condition that she could never work again as a community health nurse or in an aged care facility. Fletcher appealed in the District Court last month against the tribunal's decision, with her counsel, John Allen, describing the two years as "excessive''.

Judge Robin, in judgment, said: "In my view, no abuse of position or exercise of undue influence was shown against Mrs Fletcher,'' she said. "In particular, her refusal to relinquish the generous gift the (Mr Paidley) made in his will does not in the circumstances establish such abuse ... or unsatisfactory professional conduct within the meaning of the Nursing Act. "It appears to follow that the appeal should be allowed and the charges against the (Fletcher) dismissed.''

He also ordered the Queensland Nursing Council pay Fletcher $10,000 in legal costs. [Great!]


NSW government hospital chaos as man lay dying

An inquiry has been launched into how a patient died while one of the nation's most experienced emergency doctors was in a nearby office and junior doctors attended a training session and were not available to help clear the crowded emergency department.

Distressed nurses at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, told the Herald they pleaded for registrars attending an educational talk to help them after the department reached capacity last week, with all beds full, 23 people waiting to be seen and 11 ambulances in the waiting bay. They say the doctors were not available, forcing them to beg the department head, Sally McCarthy, to put the hospital on "code yellow" to stop more ambulances arriving.

The nurses also claim Dr McCarthy, who is the president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, was not available and could not leave her office immediately. [No doubt she had a lot of important paperwork to do] The elderly man, thought to be dehydrated and suffering a severe infection, had arrived conscious at about 3.30pm last Wednesday, but given the busy state of the emergency department he had to wait "some time" in the bay and later became unresponsive, nurses said. He could not be resuscitated.

But the hospital's general manager, Andrew Bernard, yesterday disputed the nurses' claims, saying the man had left the bay and had undergone blood tests and cardiac monitoring before dying 2½ hours later. Dr McCarthy has refused to comment.

There is no suggestion the man would have survived if the department had not been busy, but nurses who contacted the Herald said they felt traumatised. "Several nurses contacted us and all were very distressed," the general secretary of the NSW Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said yesterday.

An investigation into the incident has been ordered by the hospital. A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said no more than seven ambulances should have been at the hospital at the time.


Another corrupt Melbourne cop

Teen boy 'taped policeman's baton threat'

A 14-YEAR-OLD boy says he used his mobile phone to secretly record a police officer's threat to assault him with a baton. The boy said he was intimidated by Leading Senior Constable Matthew Lake, who he said threatened to shove a baton up his backside. The officer has been put on alternative duties while the Ethical Standards Department investigates.

The 20-minute one-on-one interview - over an accusation the boy pushed a younger child off his bike and punched him repeatedly - was at Narre Warren station last Thursday. According to a tape heard by the Herald Sun, Sen-Constable Lake warned he'd circulate the boy's photo to other police so they could harass him.

The boy said the officer also waved a baton at him during repeated threats. He said that when Sen-Constable Lake left the interview room at one point, he turned on his mobile phone recorder. On his return, Sen-Constable Lake advised the boy anything he said could be used as evidence in court.

He then asked if the boy wanted the matter to end in court. Recorded was this comment: "If I hear one more complaint . . . about your behaviour, I'll shove this thing so far up your a***. . . you won't know what day it is."

The boy was eventually given a warning; on leaving, he told his mother he had been threatened. She phoned Sen-Constable Lake, told him the interview had been recorded, then taped several heated conversations with the officer. The registered nurse said he tried to calm her, apologising and explaining he was trying to teach her son a lesson and handled it the "wrong way".

She said she was not permitted to sit with her son during the interview, which is against police regulations when dealing with a child. "The more I listen to it, the more angry I get. I feel terrible I didn't go into that room," she said. "I said 'Don't be rough with him'. When my son got out of there he was pale. He couldn't breathe." She said her son suffered an asthma attack soon afterward and had to be put on a ventilator pump. The next day he was prescribed sedatives because he could not sleep.

She said she would seek legal advice over the unprofessional and damaging conduct. "I feel abused," the boy said. "He's a big guy. He stood over me . . . he had a baton and I thought he was going to hit me. He was waving it in my face."


Federal conservatives close to deferring consideration of Warmist laws

THE Coalition may yet win Senate support to delay consideration of the Government's emissions trading legislation until later in the year so that the final form of US legislation and the outcome of the United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen can be taken into account.

To achieve a delay the Coalition would require the votes of both Family First Senator Steve Fielding and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Senator Fielding has said for some time he would vote for a delay. Senator Xenophon has been wavering, but said he could consider a delay, although maybe only until September or October rather than next year, as the Coalition is advocating.

"I've told the Government and the Opposition that I see it as virtually impossible to get this legislation through by the end of June," he said.

"I think it's better to come back after the winter break and we'll have a better idea then what's happening in the US."

Shadow Cabinet endorsed the strategy of trying to delay the bills at a lengthy meeting last night and it was this morning being considered by Liberal and National party members at a joint party meeting in Canberra.

But the National Party had been opposing the strategy, arguing the Government's scheme was a "rabid dog" that should be "put down" straight away.

The Coalition appears to be intending to vote against the laws if their bid for a delay is unsuccessful, but leaving open the possibility of supporting them if a delay is successful and the final form of US legislation is not significantly different from what Australia is proposing.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Paddy Foley’s Please Explain

A lighthearted post for a change: I put up below a little story sent to me by a relative of mine who is a former Queensland Railways man

Paddy Foley was a guard on the Mail Train working from Mackay to Townsville. In a cage in the guard’s van was a valuable breeding canary consigned to B. Lane, Cairns. The unfortunate bird died en route and Paddy’s reply to the “please explain” has become legendary. The poem below was first published in Viv Daddow’s book: The Puffing Pioneers and Queensland’s Railway Builders (University of Qld Press) 1975.

The reply:

Dear and venerated shades of my departed fathers, look down on your suffering offspring who is now charged with the wilful murder of a miserable canary. I, whose ancestors stretch in an unbroken line from the landing of St Patrick; I, whose forebears twanged their harps, composed and sang their songs on Tara’s Hall! For the inference cast, I have but this to say:

Shure the death of this bird
may not have occurred
had his coat been a beautiful green
But he being yellow,
this unfortunate fellow,
his early demise was foreseen.

This bird in the van
with a lone Irishman
may have raised his ancestral rage;
But I cannot conceive,
or hardly believe,
he murdered him foul in his cage!

And so in conclusion,
let there be no delusion
I did this poor bird slaughter.
I beg to advise
‘tis safe to surmise
he died from want of fresh air and water.

Should my reply seem confusing
when it you’re perusing,
do not think me evasive or hard.
You have the sympathy,
if of much use that may be,
of P.J. Foley-the Guard.


Carbon plan will cause jobs carnage

THERE is a surreal aspect to the present debate about the accuracy of short to mid-term economic growth forecasts contained in the recent budget. As this debate plays out, the 76 members of the Australian Senate are preparing for a crucial vote next month on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, a policy initiative the Government has described as the most substantial economic reform of the Australian economy for decades.

Yet those 76 senators will have to make their decisions on this once-in-a-generation reform without the benefit of any detailed forecasts of the scheme's short and medium-term impact. While the Government describes its Treasury modelling as the most comprehensive ever attempted, the analysis provides no forecasts on the sectoral or regional employment impacts over the first decade of the CPRS. None at all. The Treasury analysis provides intricate detail about the shift in employment shares between sectors in 2050, but nothing about what the scheme will mean for jobs in key Australian sectors between now and 2020.

Senior Treasury officials admitted this week that a limitation of its modelling is that it "doesn't capture all the transitional elements". For those unfamiliar with bureaucratic eco-jargon, a "transitional element" means someone losing their job.

In other words, the Government's premier economic agency officially has no clear sense about the near-term employment impact. This is economic policy-making with a blindfold on.

The minerals sector considers this sort of economic risk-taking is unwise at best. So we asked Australia's most experienced economic forecaster -- Brian Fisher -- to assess the impact on employment in the sector that produces about 50per cent of Australia's exports. Fisher -- a former executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics -- used the same Treasury assumptions and the same data sources used in the Treasury modelling. Unlike the Treasury, he took into account the global financial crisis. It is a sober, straightforward analysis. The results are even more sobering.

The CPRS scheme will shed 23,510 jobs in the minerals sector by 2020 and more than 66,000 by 2030. These are direct jobs. All minerals sectors will be affected, whether in coal mining, gold and base metals, alumina refining, mining services, copper, zinc, lead and aluminium smelting and so on. No state, or the Northern Territory, will be spared, no mining region will be untouched. The impact on regional Australia will be severe, including thousands of jobs in the Illawarra and the Hunter in NSW, the Bowen Basin in Queensland, remote regions in Western Australia, including the Pilbara and Kalgoorlie, South Australia, Victoria's Latrobe Valley, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

You can add to these numbers the jobs of the council workers, the school teachers, the nurses, gardeners, and employees in the hundreds of small businesses in the towns and communities that service these mining regions.

Not surprisingly, I consider these numbers should prompt a Government re-think of its CPRS legislation.

In particular, the Government has made one basic mistake. It decided that raising revenue was more important than establishing a sensible measured transition to an emissions trading scheme. It decided to auction 70 to 75 per cent of its permits from the outset of the scheme.

It is a mistake that puts the Australian scheme at odds with the European scheme and the one being developed by Barack Obama's Democratic Party in the US. The present draft of the US legislation will auction only 15 per cent of permits; that compares with 70 to 75 per cent in Australia.

That emphasis on revenue raising is at the core of the threat to job losses in Australian industry. It will mean that the CPRS will cost the mining industry $10 billion in the first five years, a cost none of our international competitors will bear. Over time, as the new analysis shows, that means a steady drain of jobs out of the industry, and out of the regional communities that depend on it.

Repairing the mistake in the CPRS will not weaken the environmental integrity of the scheme. Allocating permits without charge will not make a scheme less environmentally rigorous than if all permits are sold. But don't take my word for it. The head of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Policy (and former Clinton administration climate negotiator) Eileen Claussen told a recent congressional hearing that the "free allocation (of permits) provides the same economic incentive to reduce emissions as does an auction".

There is a simple solution. Let's do what the Europeans and Americans are doing. Let's phase in the auctioning of permits. Such an approach will establish a carbon price signal without putting the economy into reverse. It will reward firms who reduce their emissions. It will also raise sufficient revenue to ensure low and fixed income earners are not economically disadvantaged. There is no need for special treatment or compensation for certain sectors: the burden of the new scheme will be spread evenly across the economy.

We'd also have a better chance of meeting those economic growth forecasts that are front and centre of the present political debate.


More childish and futile government nannying

THE New South Wales State Government is considering the removal of ATMs from casinos, pubs and clubs to combat problem gambling. The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing is calling for tenders to conduct research into whether there should be a required distance between gaming areas and ATMs. Funded by the Responsible Gambling Fund, it will also investigate deterrents including ATM withdrawal limits, and making poker machines unable to accept $50 or $100 notes.

The move follows Victoria's stand on banning ATMs in gaming venues from 2012 and has reinforced a fierce divide between gambling support groups and the hotel industry.

ClubsNSW chief executive David Costello said there was no evidence to suggest the plan would work. "If someone wants to reduce their ATM daily limit or block their debit card, all they need to do is pick up the phone and call their bank," he said.

But Keith Richardson appealed to the Government to make the move after the death of his 28-year-old son in 2004. In a submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into gambling, Mr Richardson wrote the ATM in the Hornsby pub where his son was drinking and gambling heavily, led to him losing all his money. Having none left for a taxi home, he tried to get the train, but fell on the Normanhurst tracks and was hit by a train.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the fact that our son could beggar himself by walking a few metres from poker machine to ATM under one roof was a significant contributor to his death," he wrote.


New boatload of "asylum seekers" stokes island tensions

AUTHORITIES on Christmas Island were yesterday preparing to process a boatload of 73 suspected asylum seekers - the 20th arrival since September - fuelling tensions among local residents over food shortages exacerbated by the island's swelling population. The boat was intercepted off Ashmore Island at 7am yesterday, as new figures were released showing the number of skilled overseas workers coming to Australia on temporary 457 visas had plunged to its lowest level in four years.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus did not give details of where the passengers and four crew were from. They are due on Christmas Island by the end of the week.

The flood of asylum seekers has swollen the island's population by almost 60 per cent forcing the Department of Immigration to employ a community liaison officer to ease ongoing tensions on the tiny territory. Immigration officials were confronted for more than two hours at a community meeting last week by about 150 angry residents demanding to know how the Rudd Government intended to ease pressure on the resources of the small island, whose population of 1200 regularly endures supply shortages as a result of late shipments from Perth.

There are currently 464 detainees on Christmas Island and 226 immigration workers, contractors and service providers. The presence of the fly-in, fly-out workforce - many of whom have a daily allowance of about $80 for food on top of their wage - has led to recriminations over scarce and expensive fruit at the local store. Fresh food flown in from Perth is many times more expensive than in mainland stores - one man claimed last week to have paid $21 for three capsicums.

Some residents have grown resentful that the 29 asylum seekers living in community detention on the island are able to buy fruit on store credit provided by the department. The department moved quickly to squash rumours that asylum seekers were living on unlimited credit. It issued detailed information showing a family of four asylum seekers on Christmas Island would receive $766 in store credit each fortnight and $300 cash. [Over $500 per week for free!]


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hey! A great new way to discourage crime

Just one more of a long line of futile do-gooder fantasies -- This one emanating from the Leftist bureaucracy of Queensland, apparently. Like all such programs -- such as the famous Barlinnie Special Unit -- they tend to create a less stressful and pleasanter atmosphere for inmates and warders alike -- but they do not reduce rates of reoffending and they are costly. They also require especially dedicated staff to work at all. Story of the admittedly brave dreamer behind the Barlinnie experiment here

Convicted criminals are enjoying days out on the Great Barrier Reef, fishing and surfing trips and oyster-gathering at the beach as a reward for good behaviour in a taxpayer- funded program aimed at keeping them out of jail.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick yesterday told The Sunday Mail he has ordered an urgent review of the Government's multi-agency programs that offer offenders a stint in rehab instead of jail.

Drug and alcohol-addicted offenders in the programs have faced court charged with crimes including domestic violence, assault, drug possession and public drunkenness. Offenders are given free surfing lessons on the Gold Coast, fishing trips off Townsville, and crab and oyster hunting near Cairns. The recreational and cultural activities are delivered by non-government agencies in a bid to encourage a new life away from crime and drug and alcohol addiction.

Mr Dick said he was concerned by the recreational content of some programs, and it did not meet community expectations. It was unacceptable for Drug Court offenders to be involved in the activities, he said. "While I'm no expert, I'd like to see more sensible, practical forms of rehabilitation," he said. "I don't think it's what the community expects offenders to be involved in, and neither do I. "I've spoken to my director-general, and I've made it abundantly clear to her that I don't want this to happen again."

Victims of crime and the Opposition slammed the activities, saying the soft approach was a slap in the face for victims. Gindaja Treatment and Healing Centre at Yarrabah, south of Cairns, operates five beds for clients diverted from jail in a $900,000, three-year pilot scheme for men convicted of alcohol-related crimes [i.e. blacks. Yarrabah is a black settlement].

The centre's chief executive Ailsa Lively told The Sunday Mail a cultural program includes trips to beaches to collect oysters, crab-hunting and fishing. Participants are also given accredited training, literacy and numeracy lessons, and taught to sew and tend vegetable gardens. "They're given an opportunity to go back to their roots because they forget about all of their cultural needs when they're caught up in alcohol," she said. "A lot of people - indigenous and non-indigenous - do recreational activities".

Rehabilitation service Ozcare has a program for criminals from the Drug Court and offers fishing trips in Townsville and days at the beach for clients in Cairns. "We've got elements in the programs that are part of the therapeutic and recreational streams," northern region manager Coralie Friend said. "They can't participate in recreation until they've done chores such as keeping the house clean, doing the washing, and grocery shopping. "Recreational activities are things that will use their energy, things they can practise and afford in their life once they complete the program. "It includes normal stuff like fishing and going to the beach. It's an excellent program."

Brisbane's Paul Stanley, who set up a support and education foundation after his son Matthew died after being bashed outside a party in 2006, was disgusted by the soft treatment. "It's another slap in the face for victims," he said.

Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson demanded a review of the program. "It's a blatant abuse of taxpayers' money," he said.

The above story by Gavin King appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 24, 2009

Australia's conservatives want more Tamils in Australia

I hope this is just a ploy to embarrass the Leftist government because there is nothing cautious about it. The Conservatives are running bleeding-heart Canada at the moment and even they are running away from the same idea. And read this if you want to know how violent Tamils already in Australia can be. And see here for a roundup of the violent reactions of Tamils worldwide. They just seem to be a very violent people and it is their reliance on violence that got them into their present pickle. The Sri Lankan government negotiated with them for 30 YEARS in hopes of a peaceful settlement but got nowhere. Tamil terrorism never stopped for long. The suicide belt was a Tamil invention.

The Federal Opposition says the Government should consider offering temporary protection visas to Sri Lankan Tamils affected by the civil war in their country. Since the war ended, aid groups have warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians are homeless and refugee camps are struggling to cope under the strain. The Australian Government says it too is concerned but so far it is refusing to say whether there are any plans to offer Tamils asylum in Australia outside of the existing refugee program.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone told The World Today Australia needs to consider responding as it did in the Balkans crisis and in East Timor by offering temporary protection to Tamils. "When we were in government in May 1999 we responded to the Balkan war crisis and we brought out 4,000 Kosovars under what are called 'safe haven visas'," she said. "There's a lot of options for this Government ... to think about and it really staggers me that they don't seem to be talking about the options which are on the statutes in Australia."

She said the Migration Act 1958 has provisions for the "safe haven visas". "These visas give you a period of time in Australia while your country settles," she said. "For example with the Kosovars, they came out in May 1999 and they returned on special flights in April 2000."

She said the Tamils have integrated into Australian society as well as immigrants from other countries have. [Considering the words and behaviour of Australia's various Muslim groups, that's faint praise]

"We have one of the most successful multicultural countries on earth," she said. "Not only have our Tamils been great Australians; we have our people from the Punjab, our people from Africa now. "We are a place that has extraordinary success in offering a tolerant, safe country for new settlers. "I'm quite staggered that this Government doesn't seem to be entertaining any of the options that are available in Australian law and just seems to be talking about, 'oh we need to work out why these people want to leave the country'."

Ms Stone said any worries that members of the rebel Tamil Tigers may infiltrate Australia are unfounded because of the Department of Immigration's procedures. [Forgive me while I laugh!]

"That's always the risk, when you talk about any migration program or refugee humanitarian program," she said.

"That's why our own Department of Immigration has to be very good [It may have to be but it isn't. Why do we now have a huge problem of African crime?] at identifying people according to their security, health and of course identification factors.

"We didn't do so well it would seem after the second World War where it appears that numbers of people who were in fact war criminals ... a few [got] into Australia. "It's extraordinarily hard to be 100 per cent successful in your screening, but every country has to do that." [The woman is a moron. She knows the problem but just waves it away]


Hooray! Health authorities are being ignored in their battle against the mythical obesity epidemic

Average weight increases among children stopped in 1998

HEALTH authorities are losing the obesity battle, with almost one in two children admitting they go to school with a packet of chips in their lunch boxes. A new survey reveals 46 per cent of children take chips to school, while 11 per cent say they eat breakfast no more than once a month. And hot dogs, chips, hamburgers and pies are the most popular with children who buy their lunches - either at school or on weekends. The number of students ordering the fatty favourites is double those buying fruit and salad, the Cartoon Network survey reveals.

In some good news, 59 per cent of children have fruit in their lunch box each day. But lollies and sweets feature in the lunches of one in five students.

Schools across Victoria are introducing eating programs to help parents pack healthier lunches for their children. Nutrition Australia has helped more than 50 schools with Reclaim the Lunchbox sessions to help parents cut high-fat, high-salt snacks. But project officer and nutritionist Linden Clarke admitted there was still work to do to change the eating habits of school children. "Packaged snacks are not healthy and they can be expensive," Ms Clarke said. She said packets of chips could not only cause constipation in children because of the products' low fibre content, but also create litter problems for schools.

In January 2007, the State Government banned soft drinks, hot chips, battered sausages, cakes and ice cream from school canteen menus. Lollies and sweets were banned from canteens from this year. But principals said some students left the school grounds to buy takeaway lunches nearby.

Oak Park Primary School has led the fight against fat by changing its lunch timetable to 11am to encourage children to eat a main meal earlier in the day. Acting Principal Trevor Daly said the scheme meant children ate slow-burning foods earlier so they concentrated for longer. They had their high-energy snacks in afternoon recess instead.


Another damaging tax-office stuff-up

THE Australian Tax Office has dropped a court action against juice company Nudie after accusing the firm of not filing a tax return since 2005. Nudie Foods Australia Pty Ltd was on the case list for the Downing Centre Local Court last Wednesday after ATO allegations that it had failed to file an income tax return for the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Court documents revealed the ATO threatened the company with four charges under the Taxation Administration Act and fines of up to $61,600 after warnings about its supposedly late statements. But at Wednesday's hearing, the ATO's solicitors said the matter had been "withdrawn".

Nudie's lawyer Mark Douglas, from Argyle Lawyers, said the ATO had mistakenly launched the action and that Nudie had lodged all the four tax returns on time. An ATO spokeswoman said the ATO could not comment on the matter because of privacy laws.

According to court documents, Nudie was sent a written notice by the ATO on December 12, 2008, demanding it provide the statements by January 23. The ATO ordered Nudie to provide "a complete statement of all income derived from the Nudie Unit Trust from all sources in Australia and elsewhere". When Nudie did not respond by December 12, its owners were given a court attendance notice at their Eastgardens headquarters on April 30. The ATO said Nudie had been given "a reasonable" period to lodge the documents.

Mr Douglas said the matter "should never have started" and that the ATO had contacted him and said a statement would be given in court as to why it was being withdrawn. "It was a complete mistake ... their own systems have let them down," he said. "They've misled me and they've misled the court."

He expressed concern that the court matter would damage Nudie's reputation. "The Australian public takes a dim view of companies that are seen not to be completing their tax and Nudie would not like to be seen like this in the public arena," Mr Douglas said.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rapist Indian doctor still allowed to practice in Victoria!

It is acknowledged that he has a mental illness so who knows what else he may do? Is Australia so short of doctors that the government has to take a risk on this guy?

VICTORIAN Health Minister Daniel Andrews is examining the case of rapist doctor Sabi Lal after he was permitted to continue practising. But Mr Andrews won't say if he has the power to overturn the decision.

Dr Lal retained his registration after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) allowing him to treat patients. The doctor was refused registration by the Medical Practitioners' Board because of prior sexual assault convictions and appealed to VCAT.

VCAT granted Dr Lal registration on the condition he see only male patients aged over 16. The tribunal ruled that he had a low moral culpability because an obsessive compulsive disorder contributed to his offending.

"This is a complex matter, it's a serious matter, I'm getting advice from my department in relation to the ruling of the Court of Appeal," Mr Andrews said today. He said he was yet to read the judgment but would take "action appropriately" once he had been briefed. Mr Andrews said he planned to meet with the head of the Medical Practitioners Board, Dr Bob Adler.

"I believe that the vast majority of medical practitioners...across our Victorian community do a fantastic job, have the best interests of their patients at heart and act in a totally appropriate way. "There is a system for those that do not."


Meat pies and lamingtons hit NYC

Meat pies are Australia's national food. I suffer pie-deprivation feelings if I don't have at least one a week. A pie getting sauced first below followed by a tray of lamingtons

A MELBOURNE businessman is beating the US economic downturn - one pie at a time. University dropout Lincoln Davies, 37, is about to expand his booming pie-making business by opening a second store in downtown Manhattan. "Our business just keeps getting stronger," Mr Davies said. "We expanded as soon as we got the money to do it." April sales at his eastside hangout the Tuck Shop are up 30 per cent on last year and since 2007 weekly turnover has doubled.

Co-owner Niall Grant said there was never a better time to be flogging pies to Americans. "There is more demand than ever for inexpensive, good quality comfort food in New York," Mr Grant said. "We noticed a real spike in October when the downturn really hit."

Now, they sell about 200 meat pies a day, drumming up most of their business through word of mouth. The grungy cafe, which opened in 2005, is well known among Australians but even after four years it still has some locals mystified. "They think a pie is a pizza," Mr Davies said. So how does he educate them? "I just tell them to start eating."

Davies abandoned his business degree at the Melbourne University and fled to Noosa before moving to London where he faked his way through a career in finance by pretending he had an accounting degree. He eventually landed in New York, where he opened the business.


Another brain-dead bureaucracy

THE Tax Office has been attacked in an official report for doing a substandard job at preventing and catching the worst white-collar tax dodgers. In a sweeping review of how the Tax Office manages "serious non-compliance", the Australian National Audit Office yesterday said the tax agency had considerable scope to lift its game in deterring, tracking and prosecuting tax fraud and evasion. These cost the country billions of dollars a year.

The review excluded Operation Wickenby, in which the Tax Office has pursued high-profile names such as actor Paul Hogan and music entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley, leading critics to say the agency was more interested in headlines than recovering revenue. Wickenby has recovered $99.56 million in tax but has cost $300 million over six years.

The report criticised the Tax Office for poor research and analysis and inadequate databases to monitor a specialist non-compliance unit. The audit said the Tax Office had made only limited assessments of the effectiveness of its efforts to deter tax dodgers. The audit said the number of investigations by the serious non-compliance unit fell from 685 in 2003-04 to 178 in 2007-08. The number of convictions also fell in a similar period.

But considering the difficulty of the work, the auditor acknowledged the agency had had some wins. The 178 investigations last financial year recovered $191 million, compared with the unit's annual funding costs of $41 million, the audit said.

Despite these successes, the audit office said there was "considerable scope for the Tax Office to improve the effectiveness of the arrangements to deter, detect and deal with fraud and serious evasion". Tax evasion refers to "deliberately and dishonestly" dodging tax payments. It can include serious criminal conduct and highly organised activities such as abusing revenue systems.

Although the Tax Office has not estimated the total cost of the most serious breaches, official estimates from 2003 said tax evasion cost the country $17.9 billion a year, or 2 per cent of the economy. An estimate by the Australian National University in 2002 put the cost at $122.3 billion, or 14.1 per cent of gross domestic product.

The Tax Office agreed with six of the audit office's seven recommendations and said it had already begun changes consistent with the tenor of the audit office's report. While tax revenue is expected to fall sharply because of the recession, the chances of high-income earners and big businesses trying to dodge taxes are expected to rise when the economy recovers.

Last week's budget allocated $302 million more over four years for the fight against tax avoidance. This was expected to raise an extra $1.3 billion in revenue over four years.


Australian migrant alert system flawed: audit

The database used by immigration authorities to detect criminals, terrorists and other undersirables entering Australia has been criticised as outdated and inaccurate. A report by the National Audit Office has found serious problems with the Immigration Department's Movement Alert List, the database aimed at protecting Australia from dangerous people. The report found the quality of the information on the system had been declining for several years. It also criticised the Immigration Department for not properly maintaining the database and for failing to purge it of dated, inaccurate information.

The report, which made five recommendations, noted the integrity of the database had long been a problem. "Despite efforts to improve MAL data, the overall quality of data has been declining in recent years," the Audit Office said. "Contributing to this position has been the challenge faced by the department in implementing an effective accountability regime to assure the quality of records over time." Compounding the problem was the fact that no one in the department took responsibility for flaws in the system. The system's shortcomings increased the likelihood that authorities might fail to detect a person who posed a threat to the community, the report found. However, the auditor said there was no evidence this had occurred.

The Audit Office said the department had conducted numerous reviews aimed at improving the quality of information, but noted that "most often, these actions falter at the point where someone within DIAC has to take responsibility for carrying out corrective action".

The quality of the Immigration Department's record-keeping has long been an issue. In 2005, the Palmer Report into the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau criticised the department for "siloing" information.

The MAL is a huge, sprawling database comprising millions of entries. It has two components: a Person Alert List (PAL), which is a database of more than 680,000 people on whom Immigration holds "adverse" information; and more than 2.4 million records of travel documents believed to be lost, stolen or otherwise considered suspect. At present fewer than 1000 Australians are included on the list.

The Audit Office criticised Immigration for wanting to expand the number of Australians on the list. "DIAC's policy on the inclusion of Australians on MAL is not currently coherent or complete," the auditor wrote. "It has not fully clarified its reasons for wanting to list Australians on MAL, nor therefore identified the specific characteristics that would justify considering Australians for listing on PAL."


Sometimes "wogs" are OK

I originally wrote this post for my TONGUE-TIED blog but I think it belongs here too

There is a video here in which a young woman who was a bystander to a shooting uses the term "wog" to refer to what were probably a couple of Lebanese. "Wog" is a common Australian term for whites who are not of British or Northern European ancestry and is generally considered derogatory.

But in this case the speaker seems not to have been condemned, but praised instead. I am not sure of why but I suspect that it was recognized that she was simply talking in the way a lot of normal Anglo-Australians do talk among themselves and a lot of normal Anglo-Australians were glad to hear it in public. I myself use certain wicked words in private conversation too. I think it is quite obnoxious that we have to have different standards for public and private speech, though.

I learn something everyday. From the girl's imitation of what the participants said, I thought initially that the dialogue sounded Maori but where the expression "fully sick boys" came from I had no idea. It is certainly not normal Australian slang. But one of the commenters said it is most likely Lebanese. And it is certainly more likely that Lebanese would have guns than Maoris would. Despite Australia's gun bans, handgun ownership and use seems to be common among Lebanese Muslims in Sydney. That is part of the reason why the Sydney police have a special "Middle East Crime Task Force".

Another report of the story here, noting that the video concerned has been hugely popular. A Leftist blogger has a big dummy-spit about the popularity of the lady here

I suspect that "dummy spit" might be solely Australian slang: If you have ever seen a baby spit out its dummy (pacifier) and start howling at the top of its lungs, you will get the idea of what is meant. It means a bad-tempered tantrum (roughly).

There is a picture of one of the "wogs" here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Do you own a copy of "Lolita" by Nabokov? Then you're a pedophile!

That seems to be the implication of the Australian court judgment below

A MAN found guilty of possessing child porn in the form of a fictional story about an adult male and pre-pubescent girl, has had his conviction thrown out. Last September, a District Court jury in Brisbane found Don Gordon Campbell guilty of knowingly possessing child exploitation material and he was sentenced to a 12 month intensive correction order. But today the Court of Appeal said the Crown had not proved Campbell ''knowingly possessed'' the material which was found on his computer.

In a unanimous judgment the court quashed the conviction and entered a verdict of not guilty. Justice Peter Dutney said the prosecution had failed to link Campbell to ownership of the files and there was not sufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict.

The court heard that police went to Campbell's home after a tip off and found five computers on which there were two copies of the story. A computer expert said one version of the story had been downloaded from the internet and the second version had been copied across from that file.

The case was the latest in which there was confusion about the definition of "child exploitation material" and "possession" in child porn offences. Before the original trial there was legal argument about whether a fictional story constituted child exploitation material. The judge ruled it was not necessary for the offending material to depict a real person as long as that person was a child under the age of 16.

The Court of Appeal found the judge was correct in finding the story was child pornography but said the Crown had not proved its case on the "knowingly possessing" component.


Schools compared -- despite opposition from teachers

For the first time in Queensland, parents tomorrow will be able to compare their primary school's academic performance to others in a special liftout. More than 1300 state, Catholic and independent primary schools will be listed in The Courier-Mail with information based on school annual reports.

The Queensland Teachers Union has labelled the liftout irresponsible and "bordering on deliberate fraud" but parents and the state Opposition have welcomed it.

Professor Geoff Masters, the expert commissioned by Premier Anna Bligh to help raise Queensland students' literacy and numeracy standards, said uniform test results provided a very important "snapshot", but a snapshot only, for parents.

It follows a two-month long investigation, including numerous requests to the State Government and its authorities for a centralised list of Year 3, 5 and 7 academic data. The requests have either been ignored, refused or referred, prompting The Courier-Mail to extract the information from the latest annual reports, which are legally required to be posted on school websites. The academic information includes results from the 2007 state-based tests.

Shadow Education Minister Bruce Flegg said the publication of academic information was necessary to drive change. "The reality is nobody took the deficiencies of numeracy and literacy seriously until the NAPLAN (national tests) results were made public," Dr Flegg said.

Wilston mother-of-three Penny Williams said how a school performed academically was one of her biggest concerns and she looked forward to reading the data.

But QTU president Steve Ryan said the results were meaningless unless a full disclosure of school resources, enrolment restrictions, other assessment items and "dodgy" conditions under which the 2007 tests were administered and collated, was made.


Nasty old police bitch fires younger woman

Jessica Parfrey was described as "valuable" by her police superiors immediately before she was sacked for allegedly offering sex to male colleagues. But the woman who recommended the 19-year-old Newcastle officer be fired yesterday admitted she overruled the glowing assessment.

It was Sergeant Heather Campbell, Ms Parfrey's education officer, who wrote an internal report saying the probationary constable "stalled . . . and never improved". That led to Ms Parfrey being dismissed in late 2007 after at least four of her male colleagues reported her for making sexual advances - including two at a drunken off-duty party.

Ms Parfrey, now 21, has taken the matter to the Industrial Relations Commission. She denies the sexual harassment allegations and said it was she who was harassed. Ms Parfrey said she was not even told she was under investigation while her superiors - including Sgt Campbell - hauled her in for meetings.

In the witness box yesterday, Sgt Campbell was shown a report from Ms Parfrey's last field training officer which read: "I am confident the probationer will become a valuable member of the police force." But she denied her own damning assessment of Ms Parfrey was unfair. "There were other factors considered - her professionalism, her conduct, her attendance at work," she said.

Ms Parfrey's lawyer Tony Roberts asked: "It is in complete contrast with the officers who were with her in the field, correct?" "Yes," Sgt Campbell replied.


Another failure of official child protection

DELAYS in getting medical treatment for a 10-year-old Adelaide boy led to his death when an ear infection turned septic, a coroner has found. Jarrad Delroy Roberts, who lived in squalor, died in October 2006, though a post-mortem examination found his condition would have responded to antibiotics.

South Australian coroner Mark Johns said if the boy had received earlier medical treatment, his death could have been avoided. "Jarrad's death was entirely preventable,'' Mr Johns said. "It is clear that a significant cause of Jarrad's tragic death was the fact that medical treatment was not afforded to him during the week and a half, or thereabouts, that he was ill prior to his death.''

In evidence to the coronial inquiry the boy's mother, Michelle Roberts, said she did not notice he was sick until two days before he died. But Mr Johns said it must have been apparent much earlier that Jarrad was suffering from an unpleasant ear infection. He said by the time the boy was taken to see a doctor, it was too late and he was in the grip of an overwhelming sepsis.

The coroner also detailed what he said were the boy's unusual living circumstances. "He was living in an unsanitary environment with a mother who was completely unable to provide him with proper care,'' Mr Johns said. "His diet was completely inadequate, consisting only of takeaway fast foods. "The circumstances in which he lived were unsanitary and would have exposed him to risk of infection that would not be tolerated in any reasonable household.''

The coroner also criticised authorities for not acting on the boy's habitual non-attendance at school. He said prosecutions against parents or guardians were almost never launched. "In my opinion they should be,'' he said.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Only one submarine left to defend Australia

This is what happens when Australian bureaucrats think they can commission "innovative" technology. They are incapable of it. They have been trying for a decade to get these subs to work and are still failing. Australia should ALWAYS buy defence systems "off the shelf" -- i.e systems that are already working well.

SUBMARINE woes have hit a new low with just one of six Collins Class craft fit for service. Experts differ on the security risk this poses for the nation, but they agree that having just one boat available to defend the nation is a terrible return on a $10 billion taxpayer investment. With HMAS Waller tied up at the Henderson shipyard south of Perth for urgent battery repairs, the only seaworthy sub is HMAS Farncomb. The other four boats are either out of active service (HMAS Collins) or out of the water for major maintenance known as full cycle docking (HMAS Sheehan, Rankin and Dechaineux).

The latest submarine crisis comes just a month after the navy released a damning report into the management of the submarine force and its overworked crews with a solemn promise to fix the problems. It also coincides with a $20 billion-plus push to equip the navy with 12 new generation submarines over the next 20 years. [Spare us!]

Despite having just one operational vessel, the navy has promised the Government the subs will be available for an extra 160 days of duty next year. Documents released with the Federal Budget show that the navy plans to increase the number of "unit ready days" for the fleet next year from 762 to 914 or more than 300 days each for three boats. "There is less docking maintenance scheduled for FY09/10 hence the URD forecast is higher," it said.

Military expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Andrew Davies said many issues needed to be sorted out before the nation invested $20 billion in a new submarine fleet. "Do we spend more time thinking about buying new things than we do looking after what we have got?" he asked.

When they are working the Collins boats are the Australian Defence Force's most important strategic weapon. However, the subs have been dogged by major technical problems including leaky welds, excessive noise, and unworkable combat systems. Waller's battery problem, the second inside a year, is reportedly so serious it could cost more than $3 million and take months to fix.

The navy denies any problem with Waller and says the maintenance stop was "scheduled".


African problems in Brisbane too

An example of the thanks Australia gets for taking them in as refugees. There are of course much more frequent such examples in Sydney and Melbourne

FOUR Sudanese nationals seriously injured two senior off-duty police officers at a Brisbane football club after having first threatened to rape their wives and children, a jury has been told. A Brisbane District Court jury was told the four also allegedly assaulted the manager of the Southern Districts Rugby Union Club at Annerley about 12.30am on November 24, 2007. Magid Santino Agwaig, 25, Marier Majur Amour, 22, and brothers Doctor Martin and Hakuma Martin Mirich-Teny, 21 and 25, all yesterday pleaded not guilty to two counts each of grievous bodily harm and one of common assault.

Prosecutor Catherine Birkett said off-duty officers Senior-Sergeant David Ewgarde and Inspector Stephen Munro, who is also the football club's president, were at a Christmas party on the evening of November 23. Ms Birkett said the officers and manager Donald Godfrey had been standing on the clubhouse veranda when they heard loud banging sounds nearby. The court was told Godfrey and Munro went to investigate and found a group of men kicking metal signs.

Ms Birkett said Godfrey and Munro asked the group to desist and move on, but were then subjected to a string of loud expletives and racial slurs. The jury said members of the group made comments such as "you white pieces of s***", "get back on the boat" and "go back to England". Ms Birkett said one comment heard was: "We are going to rape your children."

She said when Godfrey tried to entice them to leave he had liquid, possibly cheap wine, thrown in his eye and was then repeatedly hit. The jury was told both Ewgarde and Munro were then assaulted by one or more of the group. Ms Birkett said Munro later required surgery for several fractures to his eye-socket, while Ewgarde required dental treatment to remove teeth smashed in the alleged attack.

Munro testified he was "king-hit" when he tried to move the youths off the club's grounds. "The next thing (I know) I am king-hit straight into my right eye," he said. Munro said he later required 13 stitches for three lacerations around his left eye and required surgery to correct his eye-socket fractures.


Welfare changes 'will hurt rural students'

The National Party says country students will be disadvantaged by changes to the Youth Allowance. In its Budget, the Government lifted the amount of hours young people must work to qualify for an independent allowance. The move is designed to stop young people from wealthy families qualifying for the allowance by deferring university and working for a year.

Mr Truss says many country students need a gap year to save up the money required to study in the city. "Surely they could have devised a system that kept in place necessary support for country students, and not just provide additional benefits for those who live in the cities," he said. "The new arrangements requiring 30 hours of work per week for 18 months will essentially mean that people will have to take a gap two years not a gap one year. "For many they will simply not bother with a university education at all." [That might not be such a bad thing]

The Greens say they will refer the Youth Allowance changes to a Senate inquiry. South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the Government's changes will make it harder for students to qualify for the payment. Ms Hanson-Young says the payments are vital for full-time students who are currently living below the poverty line. "The changes to the eligibility criteria, the lack of increase in financial support for young people who are studying, all of these things are inconsistent with the Government's rhetoric about an education message," she said.

"We know that the best way of pulling Australia and the world out of the global financial crisis is to retrain, re-skill and prepare ourselves for the new type of economy, and the best way of doing that is investing in education."


"Progressive" school syllabuses in the firing line in NSW

THE incoming head of the nation's most influential school curriculum body has declared the days of the vague curriculum over, saying syllabuses have to specify precisely the knowledge students should be taught. The newly appointed president of the NSW Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said yesterday having explicit syllabuses setting out mandatory knowledge in a systematic course of study was the only way to ensure all students, regardless of their family background, had the same opportunities for learning.

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Alegounarias, who is the NSW Government's representative on the National Curriculum Board, said a specific syllabus enshrining the essentials all students should know would set a common reference point for all teachers, ensuring all students were offered the same curriculum. "I don't believe in a separate curriculum for groups of students, and I don't think we have been as clear as we should in the past about making sure it doesn't happen," he said. "The syllabus should set out in a systematic way the fundamentals to be taught that allow for further learning that enfranchises all students and gives them an opportunity to participate in a range of learning."

Mr Alegounarias -- a former high school economics teacher, education policy-maker and bureaucrat in the NSW Education Department -- was the founding head of the NSW Institute of Teachers, where he developed the nation's first and most comprehensive system of professional accreditation.

The appointment of a board president from outside a university education faculty or the mainstream teaching ranks -- and ahead of candidates with doctorates or professorial chairs -- is viewed as a sign the NSW Government intends to curb some of the progressivist excesses in some state and education circles.

Mr Alegounarias's reputation is for supporting rigour and quality in education, often aligned with more traditional teaching approaches. While the education debate has been characterised by often-heated disputes over what should be included in school curriculums, Mr Alegounarias believed teachers' views were more closely aligned with those of the wider community than the public debate suggested.

Intimating professional associations purporting to represent classroom teachers take a more extreme view than the majority of the profession, Mr Alegounarias said the disputes were a reaction to a perceived dichotomy. "When you get to the fundamentals of what should be in the curriculum, I think you'll find consensus," he said. "In my experience, when teachers are left to ponder questions of what is essential, their views don't depart from the general community."

On the topic of one of the most heated education debates -- the subject of English -- Mr Alegounarias favours a commonsense approach, that traditional grammar is the inalienable starting point for teaching students how to write. On the question of literature versus other types of texts such as websites, Mr Alegounarias said the starting point was written and oral language. "I don't agree that in English you study forms that aren't literature or language-related. It's not to say you don't study them at all, but not in English," he said.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't tell us how to bring up our children

My kids don't watch TV. Ever. Neither do yours. In fact, no one watches TV any more. That's because according to the experts, it's no longer called TV. It's a Non-Productive Sedentary Behaviour device, or NPSB. Doesn't really roll off the tongue does it?

But if the authors of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Guidelines for Early Childhood get their way, we'll stop thinking of TV as an innocent childhood pastime. Instead, we'll think of it as one of the great evils of our slacker modern society.

Looking through the guidelines for kinders and childcare centres, which are being considered by the Federal Government, there's a long list of nasties. Besides TV, high on the black list are parents who drive their kids to kinder or child care, use food as rewards or punishments, give their kids "sometimes" foods sometimes, and give them treats in their lunchboxes.

What rot. What parent doesn't slip a sweet treat into their child's lunchbox as a bribe to make them eat the healthy stuff? What parent doesn't rely on a six-pack of Wiggle yoghurt or a Chuppa Chup at the checkout to smooth a circuit of the local supermarket with an irritable toddler? What parent doesn't heave a sigh of relief when they turn on the TV at the end of a long day to give their three-year-old some time out or to get some work done? What parent doesn't drive rather than walk between home and kinder or child care because it's quicker and easier?

Don't get me wrong. The guidelines are medically and nutritionally sound and full of sensible, healthy suggestions for kinders and childcare centres. I hope the kinder and childcare centre my three-year-old attends follow most of the tips. But I do object to staff taking things one step further and "educating" me as a parent about how I bring up my kids. It's pretty much none of their business how much TV they watch, whether we have dessert, and what I put in my child's lunchbox.

Sure, staff can make information about healthy eating and physical activity available to parents, but I don't believe they have a role in "encouraging" or "discouraging" certain behaviour. In this case I think young mum and Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella is right: programs should aim for individuals at risk rather than setting all of us up to fail.

Maybe as a busy working mother with three young kids I'm a bit defensive about my food, entertainment and transport choices. Like most parents, I do the best I can, but the last thing I want is some helpful hints from strangers about how to bring up my kids. For instance, guidelines suggest parents can be "educated" about the benefits of walking part of the way between home and child care or kinder. Great idea, but it's not always practical. Although I live about half an hour's walk from my son's school and my daughter's kinder, I usually find myself driving them around because it's quicker and more convenient.

However, as a family we play lots of active games and spend lots of time running around the yard and the local park, so I wouldn't really welcome some suggestions about my decision to drive them during the week. Really, it's no one else's business. Sure, if there are kids who are clearly unhealthy or at risk, then education staff have a legal duty to take further steps, but why interfere when there's clearly no need? Why can't staff provide some information about healthy lifestyles, but stop short of judging us?

In any case, surely we're taking away all the spontaneity, the fun and the celebration of childhood. Walking into my child's daycare centre yesterday I was hit by the beautiful, sweet aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip biscuits. Our wonderful chef Rachel had baked them from scratch for the kids as a mid-morning treat, and it made the entire place feel homey and welcoming. But this would be frowned upon at many centres following the healthy eating guidelines to the letter. Similarly, our centre has yummy ice cream cakes for kids' birthdays - a much-loved tradition that does no one any harm.

Never has there been a greater gap between the realities of most families and the advice from the experts. No wonder many parents feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of articles, books and commentators telling them what to do. If experts set the bar too high, parents are just going to stop jumping.


Attack on contracts a nightmare for business

Janet Albrechtsen

AN alarming realisation is firming in the minds of close observers of the Rudd Government. Increasing signs suggest that this is not a Hawke-Keating style of Labor government: careful, consultative and sensibly managerialist. Instead, what is emerging is the Whitlam model that relishes revolutionary changes and grand gestures, wreaking vast upheavals in the name of ideology or class war without sufficient thought or care for the consequences.

Just about every week, we see more of this style from the Rudd Government. Its $43 billion national broadband proposal was uncovered to great fanfare, but with no business case or indeed any prior feasibility analysis. Then came laws touted as instilling a responsible lending revolution but which will dry up the flow of credit when the Government is desperately trying to stimulate the economy.

More ill-conceived policy emerged last week when the Rudd Government proposed a taxation regime for employee share schemes that betrayed a deep ignorance of the way these schemes work. The new measure has already led companies to suspend their schemes and unless changed will ultimately kill share schemes stone dead, not wring tax from them.

Possibly worst of all is a little-noticed, but revolutionary, measure sneaked out by Chris Bowen, the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, in the pre-budget week and given an 11-day period for consultation. The new national unfair contract terms legislation will, at a stroke of the legislative pen, render the vast majority of Australian contracts uncertain. Uniformity is a fine idea except when it means uniformly bad laws. Overnight no business or consumer will know whether the contracts they have entered, or seek to enter, will be enforceable. Any term - apart from the price and main subject matter of the contract - in a standard contract may be declared void by a judge who thinks it unfair.

The certainty of contract so fundamental to Western commerce - and prosperity - will no longer apply in Australia. We will substitute rule by judges for the rule of law, at least in contracts. No standard contract, though freely entered into by willing parties, is final. If one party decides the contract no longer suits him, he can take it to a court and roll the dice to see if a judge will back him out of that contract.

Not content to follow the Victorian model enacted in 2003, which only covers consumer contracts, Bowen’s draft is far more Whitlamesque in its sweep. Bowen’s draft applies to all standard-form contracts between any parties of any kind. The legislation would be problematic even if it only applied to contracts entered into by consumers. However, applying the new laws to all standard-form contracts between businesses is radical lunacy of a kind that even Gough would worry about.

Every contract is presumed to be a standard contract unless the party who wants to enforce it can prove otherwise. And any inequality of bargaining power or evidence the contract was presented on a “take it or leave it” basis - as so many contracts are - will invariably allow a court to treat it as a standard contract, open to potential judicial interference.

A judge can strike down any term in a standard contract apart from the “upfront price” or the main subject matter of the contract. That leaves nearly all contractual terms open to uncertainty. It means that when a person signs a contract with an Australian party, they effectively sign up to whatever an unknown judge at an unknown future time decides the contract should be.

Standard contracts are the lifeblood of businesses, small and large. These businesses use standard forms so they can have uniform, predictable risk allocation and thereby price their offerings sensibly. They save time in negotiations and make it easier to train staff. They promote efficiency and reduce prices to consumers. Whole industries standardise their contracts so consumers are offered a common product and can easily do comparisons.

It is obvious Bowen sorely lacks any kind of experience in, or appreciation of, business and does not understand how business is conducted. Clearly he does not understand the stifling and costly consequences of his proposed laws. His demonisation of standard contracts betrays his ignorance. Indeed, Bowen ought to get out more and see how litigants will use laws like these. Borrowers (even large corporate borrowers) will now routinely be able to defer or avoid repayments of their loans by complaining about terms in a loan contract. It will become standard for anyone who does not like how a contract has turned out, or who has financial problems, to buy time or seek “go away” money instead of honouring their contract.

The international consequences don’t bear thinking about either. Microsoft, Dell and all other foreign providers of services in Australia will be told that their Australian lawyers can no longer give the usual opinion that their contracts are enforceable in accordance with their terms. Standard-form global agreements in the financial services sector - such as foreign exchange, swap and derivative agreements - are now only as good as the judge who hears your case.

Foreigners will learn fast about “maverick judge” risk in Australia. And more likely they will ask, why should we subject our standard terms of trade to the whims of some hometown judge if our Australian counterparty gets into trouble and wants to renege on its contract? Australia may well become an international contractual pariah. Regrettably, the legal profession - normally so vocal on matters legal - is silent on this issue. No surprise. These laws may be disastrous for Australia but they offer lawyers newfound riches.

What is almost as troubling as this draft legislation and the legal profession’s silence is the process Minister Bowen has adopted. This draft legislation was slipped in before the budget with only 11 days for consultation. And Bowen’s previous attitude suggests he won’t be listening anyway. His insistence last week that he would stand by his employee share scheme tax changes - even after it was pointed out that it would kill off employee share ownership by requiring employees to pay tax on shares that may never vest - was stiff-necked and haughty. Likewise, his stubborn rejection of criticism on issues such as creeping acquisitions and the new cartel laws points to that most lethal cocktail of characteristics: equal parts of incompetence and arrogance.

Murmurs that some senior Labor ministers feel unable to rein in Bowen’s obvious blunders because he is Kevin Rudd’s protected golden-haired boy are even more troubling. One can only hope that wiser and more experienced Labor minds will give the inexperienced Labor pup a clip over the ear, if only for the sake of sanctity of contract in Australia.


The Queensland Health Department is incompetent: Its boss says so

HEALTH Minister Paul Lucas has ratted out his staff over an Anzac Day mouse attack on a war veteran at a nursing home on the Darling Downs. Mr Lucas yesterday said ministers were not responsible for setting mouse traps and blamed his department and own office staff in State Parliament for him only finding out about the incident through the media on April 30.

Queensland Health had known about the plague since early February before two residents at the Karingal Nursing Home in Dalby on the Darling Downs were attacked, including an 89-year-old Digger who had his face and neck bitten by the rodents. However, Ray Hopper, Liberal National Party MP for Condamine, which encompasses Dalby, emailed Mr Lucas's office about the problem at lunchtime on April 29 - a day before the media told him - and got a response from a staffer 26 hours later.

Mr Lucas said he had told everyone involved he should have been told sooner but insisted it was not his responsibility anyway. "Dealing with mice in a facility is not a matter that requires ministerial intervention, or it ought not to be," Mr Lucas said. "It should not be necessary for ministerial intervention or notice in relation to these matters as we expect them to be resolved locally. "If the Leader of the Opposition (John-Paul Langbroek) thinks that every day the Parliament should direct where the mouse traps will be laid, that shows how unfit he is."

But Mr Hopper said staff had been sick of asking for action to be taken, and Mr Lucas as the minister should take responsibility. "Mr Lucas is in denial about the shocking incident and today in Parliament refused to take any responsibility for his department's failure to properly trap and bait the mice, which had infested the buildings since the end of February," Mr Hopper said.

The Federal Government is investigating the incident but Queensland Health insists many mice have been caught since measures were ramped up after the matter became public.

Mr Lucas said he found a spotless nursing home facility when he visited Karingal last week, but staff had been upset by the media coverage. "I have to say that they were somewhat upset at the nature of the publicity surrounding this incident. "Not for a moment do I contend that this was not a matter of public interest in terms of the media."


Another complacent bureaucracy shows its form

Giant pipeline declared safe two months before rupture

QUEENSLAND Government authorities last night revealed that one of two giant water mains that supply all of Brisbane was given the all-clear just two months before it burst yesterday, cutting supplies and damaging property. The burst main, at Anstead in Brisbane's west, sent 150 megalitres, enough water to supply 600 households for a year, thundering through neighbouring properties and into nearby creeks.

Acting Water Grid chief Barry Dennien said the underground pipe was last inspected for corrosion and structural faults during February and March and showed no problems.

The mishap cut off water supply entirely or reduced pressure to scores of suburbs in Brisbane's west and south for several hours. However, acting Natural Resources Minister Geoff Wilson insisted issues of compensation were a matter for the main's operator, Government-owned agency LinkWater.

Earlier, Mr Dennien defended the time it took to fix the rupture. "This is a big piece of infrastructure, a critical main for many parts of other infrastructure and suburbs," he said. "There is 16,000km of mains in southeast Queensland. Nailing it all down, working out who is affected from that main does takes time." The main's construction dates back to the late 1960s....

The Government's forced changes to the way water in southeast Queensland was managed meant that LinkWater took over responsibility for the main from Brisbane City Council in July last year. However, the council remains responsible for emergency repairs to the main.

LinkWater general manager of operational services Andrew Moir said the pipe was "maintained on a regular basis".


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last hurrah for Australian lingo from long ago

SOME are dying, many are dead. They're not cute like bilbies or cuddly like koalas but they're endangered all the same. They are words, Aussie ones in particular, dying cruel, lonely deaths with each passing year, victims of Americanisation, globalisation and the frenetic, quick-response worlds of generations ''y'' and ''i''.

It is with deepest sympathy and regret that I inform you of the recent passing of ''cobber''. It led a long and useful life, bridging that uncomfortable gulf between ''acquaintance'' and ''mate''. This most likely Yiddish-derived gem of a word first appeared in Australian English in 1893. Historic, yes. Hip, hardly. Not in a lexicon of ''peeps'', ''pals'' and ''BFFs''.

My condolences, the results are in, it's worse than we first thought: ''bonza'' is on its last legs. It's booked a plot in the Australian word graveyard, right alongside ''drack'' (unattractive, unprepossessing), ''illywhacker'' (small-time confidence trickster) and ''brasco'' (a toilet). Nothing's ''bonza'' any more. Attractive and pleasing things are ''excellent'' and ''magic'' these days. Nothing's ''bosker'' any more, either, or ''boshter'' for that matter.

There was a time when Queensland and northern-NSW children carried their ''ports'' to school. Now everybody carries ''bags'' and ''backpacks''.

Once upon a time, a car-loving, flannelette-wearing, AC/DC fan from Queensland might have been called a ''bevan''. Such a man in Tasmania might have been called a ''chigger'' (someone from Chigwell). Such a man in Canberra in the early '90s was called a ''booner''. Such a man in Melbourne and Sydney might be called a ''westie''. Now all these men are covered by the less regional term, ''bogan''; one word threatening to destroy four more descriptive, more specific words.

These are dangerous times for words and, says Bruce Moore, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre in Canberra, one can never be sure what word will pass next through the cemetery gates. ''It's impossible to predict what word and when it will become extinct,'' he says. ''Take a word like 'cliner'. It's a favourite of mine, meaning 'girlfriend'. ''This word first appeared in Australian English in 1895. It came with the Germans [Kleine] who came into Australia. It was very common. Someone like (poet) C. J. Dennis used it all the time. By 1930 it was dead. Language decided it wasn't needed. ''Anybody who used cliner is dead now, too.''

One year you're king of the lexicon - bandied about like an ''al fresco'' or a ''random'' - the next you're starving for an airing, like ''toey'' and ''scuttlebutt''.

One aspect of Moore's job is maintaining the status and relevance of words in the Australian National Dictionary. ''When words are starting to go out they are usually marked with the term 'dated','' he says. ''That means, to put it politely, they're only used by older people. The next step after 'dated' is 'obsolete'. ''These words should be highly worried. There are still people in Australia who would use the term 'drack', for example, which is dated, but there wouldn't be many, or any, who would use the term 'cliner', which is obsolete.''

And right next to the Australian word graveyard is a mass burial ground full of lost Australian sayings. ''How long has it been since you've heard someone say they feel like `the cocky on the biscuit tin'?'' Moore asks. ''It refers to the bird on the front of the old biscuit tins. It means you're on the outside looking in, out of the loop. It makes no sense to young people because we don't have biscuit tins any more.

''How many people would now use the term, 'Full as a state school hat rack'? That was very common, but we don't use the term because we don't have hat racks any more. It's almost completely dead.

''How long has it been since someone in a rush has said to you they're 'off like a bride's nightie'?'' Wonderfully descriptive. Brilliantly evocative. And almost as dead as a dead dingo's you know what.

How long can ''not within cooee'' last in the 21st century? Or ''sillier than a two-bob watch''; ''goes like the clappers''; ''like a lizard drinking''; ''kangaroos in the top paddock''?

''But it's interesting,'' says Moore, ``Words can come back when you least expect it. ''Take a word like 'dag'. It's been around for a long time in Australia. It was under threat in the late '80s, early '90s, in the face of American words like ''nerd''. But it has come back. We still have dags. Words can save themselves sometimes.''

Endangered words and phrases

Ripper: great, as in ''ripper Rita''.
More hide than Jessie: Jessie was an elephant at Taronga Zoo.
Drack: possibly derived from Dracula, meaning unattractive.
Port: something to hold your school books, from ''portmanteau'', a leather case which traditionally opens in two halves.
Full up to dolly's wax: Can't eat any more, from the time when dolls had wax in their heads.
Short of a sheet of bark: Not the full quid.
Bring a plate: bring a plate of food along to the party.
Rough end of the pineapple: the sharp end of the stick.
Toey: feeling amorous, but originally used in the sense of being fidgety, ''The square leg umpire is getting toey''.
Bottler: something to be admired, ''You little bottler''.
Laughing gear: mouth, ''Wrap your laughing gear around this''.
Drongo: slow-witted, possible Big Brother contestant.
Bludger: refuses to work, see above.


Old-time toys are the best

This may well be true but no research evidence is quoted

CREATIVE play with traditional toys and games is a healthy way to stimulate the imagination and support learning, childhood development experts say. University of Adelaide child psychiatrist Dr Jon Jureidini is concerned about the shift towards electronic toys and computer games. "The role of the child in play becomes more reactive," he said. "Much more of the content is going to be generated by the computer than would be the case if a child was playing with a doll's house . . . The danger is that children aren't having as much stimulation to their imagination and creativity."

Dr Jureidini uses play in therapy. "Playing through some distressing event helps children to come to terms with it and feel less bullied by their scary memories,"he said. "There's the working-through aspect and also the communication aspect."

Deakin University Associate Professor Karen Stagnitti said imaginative play also had been shown to expand children's vocabulary, comprehension and social skills.

Pembroke Junior School visited the Australian Museum of Childhood in Port Adelaide to see how toys had changed over time. Teacher Alison Woodcock said some children had to be taught how to play. "The children are very confident on the computers these days," she said. "We need to help them develop skills in creative play."

Student Julian, 6, said he liked playing with trucks. "I play with them and build things in the dirt, like building New York City," he said.


Conservatives dig in heels on carbon tax

MALCOLM Turnbull has locked the Coalition into a bruising fight with the Rudd Government over Labor's controversial carbon tax on big polluters. On the same day Peter Costello backed Mr Turnbull's decision to block moves to means-test the private health insurance rebate, Mr Turnbull reaffirmed his opposition to the emissions trading scheme in its present form. Asked if the Government's ETS was unacceptable to the Coalition, Mr Turnbull said: "At the moment, yes of course it's unacceptable, but it's not going to stand where it is."

The ETS is shaping as the most likely trigger for a possible double-dissolution election, which can be called if the Senate twice blocks the same piece of legislation more than three months apart. The Government's climate-change troubleshooter, NSW MP Greg Combet, was last night meeting with the Queensland Resources Council over concerns the ETS will gut mining jobs in Queensland.

Mr Turnbull said the Coalition also had major concerns with Labor's plan to set the income threshold for employee share schemes at $60,000. The changes, he said, would "effectively shut down just about every employee scheme around the country", affecting millions of Australians. "If it was (the Government's) intention, then I think it may prove to be one of most controversial and unpopular and unpalatable elements in the Budget," Mr Turnbull told the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week said he wanted the Budget passed in its entirety and threatened a double-dissolution election if key pieces of legislation or Budget measures were blocked in the Senate. But on the weekend, Mr Turnbull indicated the Opposition would no longer block the Government's tax hike on pre-mixed drinks.

Asked for comment, former treasurer Peter Costello said the important thing was to follow good policy. "These are always judgment calls," he said. "But I am not in the camp that says just vote for anything that Mr Rudd wants so that he can't get a double dissolution. For example, I think it is absolutely right to oppose the Government's attempts to restrict private health insurance rebates." Mr Costello said he did not believe Mr Rudd would rush to an early election.

The latest Nielsen opinion poll, the first to be taken after the federal Budget, showed Mr Rudd's personal approval rating had plummeted 10 percentage points to 64 per cent. "You would have seen last week that (Mr Rudd) was threatening an early election," Mr Costello said. "After today's polls, he may get a little less keen on an early election."

Mr Rudd said the Government had taken a hit because it had made tough decisions in last week's Budget.


Another forestry investment scheme collapses

Investors may lose $4bn. When will they ever learn? These schemes have been falling over for decades

THE nation's biggest forestry investment scheme has been swept into administration owing more than 40,000 mum and dad investors up to $4 billion. The collapse of Great Southern, which was structured to exploit agriculture tax breaks for investors, could lead to as much as 1.75 million hectares of agricultural and forestry land flooding the market, The Australian reports.

Great Southern, which has 43,000 investors, owes up to four times as much as Timbercorp, the group's biggest rival, which collapsed late last month under a mountain of debt.

The stock exchange-listed group used a network of 800 financial planners to attract investors into its "managed investment schemes", which focused on wood pulp, cattle and wine grape production. In the year to June 2008, Great Southern spent $62.4 million on "commissions, marketing and promotion of product and industry".

Great Southern and Timbercorp, both of which used legal loopholes to provide agricultural tax breaks to ordinary investors, have been hit hard by the global financial crisis as investors flee high-risk products. Great Southern administrator Martin Jones, of Ferrier Hodgson, said the group had called in the corporate doctors because it was in danger of being unable to repay investors. "Great Southern has a complex structure with numerous managed investment schemes and significant agricultural assets," Mr Jones said. "It's not a space you'd want to be in at the moment."

In a prepared statement, Great Southern managing director Cameron Rhodes said the group had been forced to call in administrators after it had been declined additional funding by its lenders. "Not withstanding the fact that the company remained within the terms of its facilities and no debt was currently due and payable, our banking syndicate declined our request for additional support," Mr Rhodes said.

Investors who bought into the managed investment schemes, which had life spans of between five and 20 years, effectively owned part of each agricultural company and shares in the profits of any produce and any gains on the underlying land values. In the past five years alone, the group raised $1.8 billion from investors.

Mr Jones said it was too early to tell exactly how much the group held at the time of its collapse. "People will look back and dissect in hindsight whether or not the decision to obtain a tax deduction was compatible to decide to invest in an agricultural product," he said. Mr Jones said he would need to examine each of the 45 investment schemes to determine whether they were to be wound up or kept afloat. Older, "cashflow positive" schemes were less likely to be wound up than newer schemes, which typically required more investment. The administrator would also examine the possibility of "substantially" restructuring the company by selling assets as a way to pay down debt.

Great Southern management, led by managing director Cameron Rhodes and chairman David Griffiths, launched an unsuccessful restructure last August. The group subsequently offered for sale hundreds of millions of dollars of property assets. "We will be working with management and key stakeholders to leverage the work already done to date, and to preserve assets and maximise the value of the Great Southern assets," Mr Jones said.

Great Southern owns and leases 1.5million hectares of cattle grazing land and a further 240,000ha of forestry land.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Aboriginal campaigner breaks Aboriginal tradition to protect his family

A rare example of realism

A LONG-TIME campaigner against racism says he banned his Aboriginal relatives and friends from staying in his home for fear of his two children being sexually assaulted. Stephen Hagan said his decision a decade ago initially caused resentment, but he felt it necessary to ensure the safety of his children, Stephen Jr, now 16, and daughter Jayde, 13. "I chose not to have people, in particular men in town on business, sleeping under the same roof as my young children," the University of Southern Queensland academic said. "I took that decision principally because I was not fully cognisant of their past inclinations around children."

The former Aborigine of the Year - who fought a successful decade-long campaign to rename the ES "Nigger" Brown Pavilion at the Toowoomba Sports Ground - also refused to lend money.

In a speech to a forum on preventing violence in indigenous families in Mackay, Mr Hagan said he gave up drinking alcohol and gambling to be a better role model for his children. He told the forum he would never have been able to live with himself if he allowed someone to stay the night in his Toowoomba home and later found out that the person "abused my trust by wandering into one of my children's rooms with the intent of violating their innocence". "Today, I sleep soundly knowing they are safe in their beds without a worry in the world about devious intrusions from within," he said.

Referring to the federal Government's National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children report released last month, Mr Hagan said that if women who were the victims of violence got no satisfaction from the Government, they should "do what we are best at in times of crisis - look out for and protect each other".

"In 1999, I reprioritised my personal and family goals," he said. "It was the year I discerned the critical proactive role I needed to play in support of my immediate family. I took those decisions knowing they were directly opposed to the desire to always attempt to satisfy the shallow expectations of my extended family and friends. "In its infancy, this process was quite painful as I stopped lending money to my family and friends - most of which anyway was never returned in full, or sometimes at all - and I declined requests from them to bunk down for the night at my residence when visiting from out of town. "While initially my actions put me offside with disgruntled relatives and longstanding acquaintances, it nevertheless gave me complete confidence to provide uncompromising safety and financial security for my family - and an increase in quality time with them."

It was a sad reality that other indigenous parents could not sleep soundly in their homes because community expectation was often so great they "succumbed to the pestering of visitors seeking free accommodation", he said. "It is in fact this very issue of overcrowding of indigenous homes that today has been identified as one of the chief reasons for high incidents of sexual abuse of children as articulated in the Little Children are Sacred Report done in 2007 in the Northern Territory.

"I often wonder why perpetrators of domestic violence don't take out their frustrations on someone in the pub and spare their loved ones at home the indignity of being violated by them. "Too high-risk, I guess - the other fellow in the pub might hit back and, worse still, hit a lot harder."

Mr Hagan criticised indigenous adults who did not take action when they knew of violence occurring in their communities, even being committed on their daughters by drunken husbands. "Although men's groups are growing steadily around the nation with the goal of assisting other men to address issues of intergenerational violence, I'm afraid they still lag behind their female counterparts nationally and globally in setting strategic goals," he said.

"I recently spoke to an Aboriginal friend I had not seen since high school and she told me of her past 30 tumultuous years of unsuccessful and painful relationships. She told me she tolerated the first 15 years of hell at the hands of her unstable high school sweetheart before finding the courage to leave while she still had her sanity. "She said she forgave him for the first assault as she justified the loss of his job as a passable excuse for the unanticipated violent outburst." But the woman told Mr Hagan the bashings continued "a couple of times a week after drinking sessions with his mates".

"She said her children knew when he was drinking and left to visit friends for the night to be out of harm's way. I noticed a deep sadness in her eyes when she recalled how she waited, fearful and alone at home, cowering in her lounge room chair for him to arrive and commence his usual verbal abuse, telling her she was a useless so-and-so. She said she never sought protection from friends at their house after her first experience that resulted in her husband tracking her down, forcing entry to the house and beating her in front of her friends, and then bashing them as well.

"The day after these beatings, her children would routinely return home to get dressed for school and attempt to patch their mother's wounds. "Their inebriated father slept soundly, sprawled across the blood-spattered sheets on the double bed in their rented Aboriginal Housing Company house.

"My friend took some delight in saying, with a toothless grin, that she was now living alone, but ashamedly revealed her sons became teenage statistics in the prison system and her daughters 'had children to a couple of no-hopers while still children themselves'. Only time will tell whether the vicious cycle of violence will be continued into the next generation of this unlucky family whose only mistake their loving mother made was an extremely poor choice of partners."

Mr Hagan's battle to remove the word "nigger" from the now-demolished stand at the Toowoomba Sports Ground was settled out of court in February. He had gone to Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Tribunal seeking $10,000 in damages for the "hurt and humiliation" caused by the Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust. The trust counter-sued Mr Hagan for $80,000 in legal costs for the court battles, which went as far as the UN.

Mr Hagan's bid to have the sign removed failed in the Federal Court and the High Court. In 2003, a UN committee deemed "nigger" offensive and insulting, and recommended the sign be removed. But the signage remained and it was intended the nickname would be included in a planned memorial to the footballer after the stand was demolished last year. In September, the state Government - which is funding a $2.15million upgrade of the stadium - declared it unacceptable for the word "nigger" to appear at any venue.

Mr Hagan launched legal action last year against the Toowoomba Chronicle for $750,000, saying the newspaper encouraged people to lampoon and vilify him on the basis of his race. He blames the Toowoomba Chronicle for fuelling racial hatred in his home town.


Tamil rage comes to Australia

I am generally biased in favour of people from South Asia but I am beginning to think that Tamils are a very nasty exception to the usual virtues of patience and non-aggression among South Asians. Maybe the "Tigers" were not so exceptional among Tamils

A man is expected to lose his eyesight after he and a friend were splashed with acid during a violent home invasion in Sydney's west overnight. Jayasri, a 22-year-old student from Sri Lanka, was today in an induced coma in Concord Hospital's burns unit after the attack, which friends say was carried out by local Tamils targeting supporters of the Sri Lankan Government.

The other man in the house - Chathurika, 27 - also suffered acid burns, was stabbed in the stomach and broke his ankle in the attack. He is in a serious but stable condition at Westmead Hospital.

Neither of the men were involved in politics or in yesterday's brawl between Tamils and Sinhalese, and were probably only targeted because it was known Sinhalese - the Buddhist ethnic majority in Sri Lanka - lived in their house, said a friend. "But this house has always been famous for Sri Lankans ... they are always having parties and stuff, so they know [there are Sinhalese here]," said the friend, who did not wish to be named.

It also emerged that Chathurika was only recently married. He arrived back in Sydney last week after his wedding three weeks ago, but his wife remained in Sri Lanka. He worked in a fast-food restaurant.

Today Sri Lanka's consul general, Ms Gothami Indikadahena, visited the house and appealed for calm. "This is a very tragic incident - these boys were just sleeping,'' she said. "We want to contain these incidents because we are a united country. "I am really very disturbed. These are innocent boys,'' she said. "I feel like they are my brothers or my sons. I feel very very sad.'' She said a witness to the attack was being protected.

The attack occurred just before midnight last night, and left walls splattered with blood and debris scattered through the house. Police said five men broke into the house and threw acid at the victims. "My friend who lives in [Alexandra Avenue] rang me about 11.30pm and said: 'These Tamil guys are here and they are going to kill us,' " said the friend. "I could hear them screaming." Chathurika and Jayasri knew the attackers were Tamils because they were screaming in Tamil during the rampage, he said.

Relatives of Jayasri had been told by doctors this morning that the young student was likely to lose his eyesight as a result of the acid attack, the friend said. A third occupant of the house escaped injury by hiding during the attack. The friend said he was still trying to contact him at midday.

A neighbour said he heard screaming from the house and was about to call police, but they arrived before he had a chance to phone. "Someone else must have heard it too and called them," said the man, who did not wish to be named. "I was asleep, and I heard the noises and got up and went to my kitchen window. I saw one of the guys going back and forth ... but I didn't [see who did it]."

The trail of destruction left by the attackers was still visible this morning, with blood splattered on walls and on the floor, bloodied handprints on light switches and door handles and debris scattered throughout the house. Glass sliding doors at the front of the house had been smashed. In the lounge room, a glass coffee table and TV were smashed, and a fridge and microwave had been thrown on the floor.

The victim's friend said the attack had followed clashes between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sydney's west yesterday afternoon, after the Tamil Tigers' admission of defeat in Sri Lanka in their long-running battle with the Government. Groups of Sinhalese had celebrated at parks yesterday, but the victims had not been present, the friend said. "They didn't come to the celebration; they were working, that's why we were wondering [why they were attacked].

"But this house has always been famous for Sri Lankans ... they are always having parties and stuff, so they know [there are Sinhalese here]." The Sinhalese community was now petrified, he said. "Everyone's worried, every single person is worried. You don't know how many calls I'm getting about this." The friend said he drove to the victim's house from his Blacktown home as soon as he heard about the attack, but by that time the attackers had fled and his friends had been taken to hospital.

The victim's neighbour said they had lived in the house about 2½ years, and that there had been no trouble in the past. He said he was angry at the attack.

Ms Indikadahena said Sri Lanka was a united country and appealed to the local Sri Lankan community not to escalate the violence further.

Police had no details about the attackers, or how they got away.


Teachers subject to harrowing attacks by students

Lots of British schools have police permanently stationed onsite. That would seem to be the future for Australia too

TEACHERS are being terrorised by students who have assaulted them with bricks, furniture, threatened with death, spat on and held hostage. A shocking list of assaults and harrowing attacks by students on teachers since January last year has been supplied to The Courier-Mail. It comes as state school teachers across Queensland get ready to strike tomorrow.

The list of assaults, provided by the Queensland Teachers Union, shows teachers are bearing the brunt of a current wave of violence in state schools. One special school teacher had her jaw broken and multiple teeth knocked out in an attack by a student using fists, feet and furniture. Another suffered extensive eye socket and rib damage after a student's assault. Students terrorised one primary teacher and the teacher's young family for three nights in a row at the family home, throwing rocks on the roof.

Another teacher was forced into a storage room and then terrorised by a student whose hat she had confiscated in class. "The teacher tried to use a phone in the room to call for help but the student repeatedly disconnected the call by pressing the hook switch on the phone. The teacher was eventually able to pass the student and sought help from the school admin," the list states.

It follows revelations in The Courier-Mail over the past two months of violence in schools, including more than 150 attacks on staff and students across the state from intruders last year and rising violence against teachers inside Prep classes.

A teacher specialising in behaviour management contacted The Courier-Mail last week to detail a barrage of attacks over the past fortnight. "I've had a brick thrown at me, been threatened with dangerous weapons, had a chair thrown at me, a classroom window smashed, received very specific and detailed death threats and an assurance that, after I was dead, my classroom would be burned down," she wrote.

QTU president Steve Ryan said the account was not unusual. But, he said, teaching was still a career he could not recommend highly enough. "About 5 per cent of the population gives you about 95 per cent of the problem," he said. Mr Ryan blamed rising disrespect for authority, a lack of resources and student behavioural problems for the violence.

Education Queensland has 325 full-time equivalent behavioural staff across the state - more than one for every four state schools. An EQ spokeswoman said violence had no place in the sector. More than 17,000 students were suspended for violence in Queensland state schools in 2007-2008, with almost 300 expelled.


Australia fares best in downturn

TIMES may seem bad but the Australian economy is beating the best and biggest in the world. In terms of growth and employment, we are proving more resilient to the global recession than any other major advanced nation. Analysis of data from the International Monetary Fund shows that of the world's 12 largest developed economies, Australia's is forecast to perform best this year. The IMF predicts we will have the mildest recession - a contraction of 1.4 per cent this year.

The Economist's most recent survey draws the same conclusion.

The UK is tipped to go backwards at nearly three times the pace of Australia and Japan at more than four times the speed. And the IMF believes our jobless rate will reach 6.8 per cent this year - 2 per cent lower than Germany, France, Italy and the US. If we were doing as badly as those countries, an additional 200,000 Australians would be joining the dole queue.

What is more, we are one of the few leading countries with remaining capacity to cut interest rates if the economy requires further stimulation. Most nations' central banks have monetary policy settings at close to zero. Some, such as the UK, have even resorted to printing money to kick-start economies.

"Australia is certainly doing much better than other developed nations," JB Were chief economist Tim Toohey said. And it is doing better than the Government wants you to think. Forecasts contained in the Federal Budget were much more pessimistic than the IMF's outlook - and that of most economists. Mr Toohey said the Government's numbers were "unrealistically bearish", although he said there was a reason for this. "Treasury has low-balled the economic assumptions so that any improvement in economic news flow over the next two years can be attributed to sound economic policy," he said.

Jodie Fried is one Sydney entrepreneur defying the downturn. She has a product the world wants and can't get anywhere else. One of her big recent wins was to have her hand-made furnishings stocked by ABC Home in America. Ms Fried's company Bholu, started in 2004, was placed in the Top 100 of Time magazine's influential green designs for its stuffed toys, carpets and blankets - made by women in rural India, whose communities receive part of the proceeds. Four schools have been built with the money and another three are under way. "We've had a really big wave of business come in off the back of Time," Ms Fried said.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another episode in the NSW police goon saga

A British cop who did something very similar got several years in jail. Any hope of that here? You'd be joking!

A YOUNG woman is fighting for her life in hospital after being struck down by a police car on Friday night, sparking a brawl between her friends and officers on the streets of Sydney. Carmela Pronesti, 20, was celebrating at an 18th-birthday party at the Mykonos Restaurant in Parramatta when she was hit by the marked police car outside the venue. Some witnesses claim the vehicle had its warning lights on but no siren.

Ms Pronesti's friend, James Pike told The Sunday Telegraph the police car seemed to appear out of nowhere. "She walked out on to the road, we said 'stop', then the cop car came flying through and hit her," he said.

Friend Murray Reilly said Ms Pronesti's boyfriend and police at the scene became embroiled in an altercation. "We just ran in to see if she was OK," he said. "She was lying on the road; she wasn't moving."

More than 12 police cars arrived as plain-clothed officers and uniformed police were confronted by Ms Pronesti's friends. A sergeant-ranked policeman, from Parramatta Local Area Command, was behind the wheel of the car and was allegedly responding to a report of a brawl in the area.

Witnesses said the car collided with the woman, who had just left the party with friends and was walking on the road. She was taken to Westmead Hospital where she remains in intensive care in a serious but stable condition.

A critical incident investigation, led by police from Eastwood Area Command, is under way. It will explore conflicting statements between friends of Ms Pronesti and the officer, who may have run a red light when he allegedly ran her down. The sergeant will also be quizzed by members of the NSW Police Force Professional Standards Command, a Parramatta source told The Sunday Telegraph. "He's certainly the subject of an investigation," the source said. "He was responding to a brawl and he got into one."

The internal police investigation will also examine allegations of police brutality. Another witness, John-Ross Campbell, claimed he was mistreated when he tried to break up the melee. "The police stopped us, then they shoved me against the wall," he said. "We we're just, like, 'We want to know if she's all right.' We all just got roughed up. I was just helping my mate who was on the ground. I fell to my knees and I put my hands up to give in."


Massive shark lurks metres from shore at popular island

Since the Greenies got all sharks protected, we are seeing more and more of them close to people. There have already been attacks but shark life matters more than human life to Greenies

ANGLER Col O'Donnell has seen the arrival of some fierce competition at his favourite fishing spot. But the experienced fisherman is happy to step back and let the latest visitors, a group of whaler sharks, catch their fill, watching in awe as they herd their prey and devour it with ruthless efficiency.

Mr O'Donnell's fishing mate Alex Augheros snapped a photo of this terrifying tourist - a five-metre predator identified by experts as a whaler - cruising just metres from shore at Moreton Island, off Queensland's coast. The shark had four hungry buddies with him. The fishing spot is close to Stradbroke Island where bronzed whaler sharks killed a 21-year-old woman in 2006.

Mr O'Donnell, 72, says he quickly retreated to higher ground. "We were fishing at Long Point, on the southern end of Moreton Island, when the sharks came in for the bait fish," he said. "It was certainly exciting. I was in knee-deep water and had to take a few steps back, while keeping an eye on the rod and an eye on the sharks. "I've never seen them at that spot before."

Mr O'Donnell, who has fished in the area for years, said he was happy to share his fishing spot with the ocean's finest hunters.


Rookie teachers quitting

You'd quit too if you had to stand up in front of an undisciplined rabble every day

YOUNG teachers are leaving the profession at an "alarming" rate, new figures reveal, threatening a staffing crisis in NSW public schools, with half of the teaching workforce approaching retirement. The number of teachers resigning after four years or less in the job has increased by nearly 20 per cent over two years, according to official government figures obtained by the NSW Opposition under freedom of information laws. The figures show a similar increase in the rate of resignations among teachers with five to nine years' experience. The overall number of teachers resigning from public schools has increased by nearly 10 per cent over the same period, between 2006 and 2008.

The Opposition's education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said the figures were "alarming" and suggested the State Government had failed to provide young teachers with enough support. "The NSW Labor Government thinks they can churn out graduates, send them into schools that are under-resourced and without support, and hope for the best. These statistics show that theory is not working," Mr Piccoli said.

"The way to deal with it is to support young teachers with more mentors, help them deal with challenging students and give them more opportunity for professional development." Mr Piccoli said the Government had "turned a blind eye" to the looming teacher shortage crisis and that teachers were being asked to do "more with fewer resources". "No one lasts in a climate like that," he said.

The NSW Teachers Federation president, Bob Lipscombe, said the new figures presented a worrying future for state education. "This is particularly alarming because we know that 50 per cent of the teaching service will reach retirement age by 2016," he said. "If we can't hold these early-career teachers in our system then the future will be bleak."

Mr Lipscombe said the new figures reinforced the findings from an Auditor-General's report released early last year, which showed that 41 per cent of schoolteachers were aged 50 and over. A third of schoolteachers - more than 16,000 - would reach retirement age in three years. It was estimated that by 2016, 25,000 staff would reach retirement age.

A national audit conducted by the Australian Education Union of more than 1500 new teachers, released this year, showed that more than half those surveyed did not believe they would be teaching in 10 years. The main reasons cited for dissatisfaction with teaching included the workload and behaviour management.

Mr Lipscombe said despite repeated warnings the NSW Department of Education was not doing enough to attract and retain teachers. "The State Government must take action," he said. "It can't just hope there are going to be sufficient teachers in the future."

The teachers' union has lobbied the State Government to reduce classroom teaching time by one hour for all new teachers. It says the Government has released permanent teachers from an hour of teaching time, but it has not given thousands of beginning teachers, who work on a temporary basis, the same allowance.

The union has asked for more mentoring for teachers but says the Department of Education had not increased the number of mentors from 50 full-time positions it provided in 2003.

Last year, Mr Lipscombe said the State Government issued a press release saying there were 110 people on a waiting list to fill vacancies at a school in a country town. "Yet they were unable to fill two vacancies the next day and the following week they had three vacancies," Mr Lipscombe said.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said experienced teachers also needed to be rewarded with extra pay to ensure they remained in the profession. Starting teachers in NSW earn $52,745 and classroom teachers earn a maximum of $78,667. Teachers need to be promoted out of the classroom to head a department before they can earn $90,532. "Teachers are overworked, undervalued and continue to be underpaid," Mr Gavrielatos said.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Verity Firth said that for a workforce of about 50,000 permanent schoolteachers, resignation rates were very low. "Last year, the retention rate of teachers in NSW public schools in their first year of service was 96 per cent and the retention rate of teachers in their first five years of service was nearly 88 per cent," she said. "There are a vast range of initiatives in place to support our teachers, particularly those just starting out. This financial year we are investing $5 million in the Teacher Mentor Program, which began in 2003.

"NSW public school classroom teachers are among the highest paid public school classroom teachers in Australia. "The Rees Government is not complacent about our strong teacher retention rates and will continue to investigate further ways to ensure teaching remains an attractive and rewarding career."


As more and more public hospital horror stories emerge, more Australians turn to private insurance

AUSTRALIANS are flocking to take up private health insurance, with more than 4000 people joining each week, a surge likely to undermine claims that the private system is about to be king hit by changes announced in last week's budget. A leaked report obtained by The Sunday Age reveals that 225,000 more people took up private cover during the 12 months to March this year.

The report, from the independent but publicly funded Private Health Insurance Administration Council, shows that more than 9.7 million Australians are now covered for private hospital insurance, equivalent to 44.6 per cent of the population — the highest proportion since March 2002.

The surge came despite warnings from insurers and the Opposition that changes announced in last year's budget would force people to abandon private insurance, putting more pressure on the public system. Similar claims followed last week's budget, which announced plans to means test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate for singles earning more than $75,000, and for families earning about $150,000. The rebate will phase out completely for couples earning more than $240,000.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has pledged that the Liberals would vote against the plan, warning that it would lead to people dropping out of insurance schemes. Family First senator Steve Fielding and Independent Nick Xenophon have also expressed concern....

A spokeswoman for the Health Insurance Association said more people were joining because people were concerned about the state of the public system and that the 2008 budget changes had been watered down.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday accused the Opposition of plotting to force people on low incomes to pay private health insurance. "The reason that Mr Turnbull wants to get rid of private health insurance measures that the Government has proposed in the budget is because he believes, and has explicitly said, that every Australian should have private health insurance," Ms Roxon said. "What that means is that every pensioner, every veteran, every family, no matter what their income, should have private health insurance."

Mr Turnbull actually said that in "an ideal world, every Australian would have private health insurance". He said the Opposition strongly supported Medicare as a cornerstone of a health system that also encouraged self-reliance.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some reminiscences of Adelaide in the 60s

Sent to me by an older Australian. I have retained the 60s language. Apologies for that to anyone who needs them. Note: XXXX is a popular Queensland beer. "Piss" is a common Australian synonym for beer, presumably because of its diuretic effects

When I was in RAAF Adelaide in the late sixties the Torrens River was a well know haunt for poofters. It was a bloody nice river but it was not the type of place you wandered around after dark unless you were a shirt lifter. Only ever ventured down there once and that was in daylight. I had a shelia on my arm a WAAF, Frances Thiel was her name, and I would say one of the best looking women I ever went out with.

I took her out for about three or four months until she was posted to Williamstown, were it was rumoured they sent all the best looking new female recruits because there was a lot of officers stationed there and she was a stunner. Don't know what she saw in me.

Anyway back to the poofs and Dunstan. My uncle, mum's brother who was a minister in his government came into the parliament from the waterside workers union and was a rough tough character who wasn't adverse to a bit of biff, was not as far as I know a big fan of poofs so I don't know how he would have got on with Dunstan.

When I went to parliament house in Adelaide the uncle introduced me to a number of pollies but I can't recall him ever mentioning Dunstan's name. When I stayed at my uncle and aunt's house in Port Pirie on weekends, Dunstan's name was never mentioned, not even by my cousins. They talked about just about every other pollie on both sides of the house but never the premier which I thought was strange because he had not long been elected leader.

Back then I had not really heard of Dunstan so his name would not have meant very much to me even if had been mentioned. In later years I often wondered if my uncle knew he was a poof at that time because I reckoned he must have voted for him to be leader. Then again these f*cking pollies, my uncle included, would have voted for the devil if they thought they were going to get a seat on the front bench.

Adelaide was full of pooters, someone told us about a bar of King William Street that sold XXXX beer -- the only place in Adelaide that did, so about nine of us all in uniform trotted off to this pub and lined up for some good old Queensland piss. Apart form the barman and us there was only one other bloke in the place. We only had one beer when one of the blokes with us, John O'Connor, turned around and thumped this bloke and sent him flying across the floor and we all got chucked out or warned to leave by the barman, who told us the bloke my mate hit would be back with about twenty of his mates and don't be fooled they will fight.

We were all pissed off and when we got outside I asked O'Connor why he hit the poor inoffensive looking bastard, he said he had put the word on him and patted him on the bum. We found out when we got back to the base that the place was a gay bar -- probably the first out in the open one in Australia. O'Connor went looking for the bloke who told us about the place threatening to knock his f*cking head off, I think it took him about two weeks to get over it.

Every now and then I used to say to him, f*ck it let's nip into the Napoleon Hotel (never forgot the name, of the only gay bar I have ever been in, and the only pub I ever got chucked out of) and grab a XXXX. Didn't he get cranked up -- reckoned we should have stayed and got stuck into the sick bastards. When I look at the size of that poof Roberts who played league it was probably a good thing we didn't.

When I read about the murders down that way I wasn't surprised, if ever a place was likley to have a gang of homo murderers Adelaide would be the place. It might have been the fact that I was a country boy from Cairns but to me the place looked to be full of weird looking pricks, female and male.

Mind you, there was no shortage of women and most of them were pretty easy on the eye and were not backward in coming forward when it came to a bit of slap and tickle. I can recall taking the head of the Adelaide Fire Service's daughter home one night and giving her a quickie in the phone box outside the fire headquarters, she had her gear off quicker than a fireman slips down a ladder, good thing no one wanted to ring the fire brigade. I got the suspicion it was not the first time she had used that venue for a bit of the other. The good old sexy sixties.

Background on Dunstan here

Australian soldiers headed to Afghanistan told to take out their own life insurance

AUSSIE Diggers being deployed to Afghanistan are being warned by the Defence Department to pay for extra life insurance because existing compensation has been deemed "inadequate". A day after 600 troops from Townsville left for the warzone, The Courier-Mail has revealed hundreds of soldiers have been issued with letters from the department advising of the need for "appropriate insurance". "The additional accident insurance cost for basic cover is less than a night out on the town for a few beers with your mates each month," the letter reads.

The soldiers are required to sign the letter, either agreeing or disagreeing to take out the policy, before their deployment. Those who decline to take out the policy are informed that in the event of injury or death their families will be advised they chose not to take out the extra cover.

A brochure provided by AIG Australia, which is offering the policy, shows the cost of the top cover is about $100 a month. A high-ranking soldier who spoke to The Courier-Mail said troops being sent to Afghanistan had been given the forms to sign along with standard deployment paperwork. The source said many of the soldiers who had received the letter were disgusted. "It's ridiculous," the soldier said. "While the family is mourning and upset they're going to tell them you didn't care about them enough to take out this extra insurance. "If it's that important, the Army should be paying for it."

In the letter, the department admits existing support mechanisms in place for soldiers and their families have been found "not to be sufficient, especially by those who have experienced a loss in recent years".

War widow Naomi Nary, whose SAS officer husband David was killed in Kuwait in 2005, said compensation was inadequate. "It doesn't allow the families to move on in a way that is consistent with what they had before the death of their husband," Mrs Nary said. She said the department had an obligation to inform soldiers about their entitlements but to be "railroaded" into taking out extra cover was wrong. "The way they're going about it is emotional manipulation," Mrs Nary said.

A review of the current military compensation arrangements was announced last month by Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin. Under legislation introduced in 2004, compensation for partners of soldiers killed in the line of duty was increased to a death benefit of up to $118,362 plus a war widow's pension for life or an age-based lump sum equivalent of up to $507,967. War widows are also eligible for free lifetime health care, educational allowances for dependent children and military superannuation.

Under the additional cover being offered by AIG, soldiers' families would get another $250,000 upon their death - providing they pay the premium of about $100 a month. Online calculators indicate a 30-year-old person with two young children and a $200,000 mortgage would require more than $2.7 million in insurance.


Biker laws a threat to rights, says chief prosecutor

For once I fully agree with Mr. Cowdery

THE Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, has condemned the Government's new bikie laws as "very troubling legislation" that could lead to a police state and represent "another giant leap backwards for human rights and the separation of powers - in short, the rule of law".

Mr Cowdery's warning comes after a second wave of anti-bikie laws passed through Parliament this week, this time providing for penalties of up to five years' jail for members of a proscribed gang who "recruited" members. Last month the Premier, Nathan Rees, insisted the first set of laws be rushed through Parliament after the death at Sydney Airport of Anthony Zervas during a bikie brawl. Those laws allow the Police Commissioner to move in the Supreme Court to proscribe criminal gangs and jail members who associate with each other. But the laws are yet to be used and the Government will not say when they might be.

In a paper published on his website, Mr Cowdery says: "There may be a need for better enforcement [rather] than for legal powers." He warns that the law "does not apply only to bikie gangs but 'to any particular organisation' in respect of which the Police Commissioner chooses to make an application. "Where will the line be drawn?" he asks. "These words cast a very wide net … Why should the responsibility for identifying which organisations warrant being declared under the act be vested in the Police Commissioner, an unelected official? "The spectre of a police state lurks here: an unacceptable slide from the separation of powers by linking the powers of the Police Commissioner with those of 'eligible' judges."

Mr Cowdery says the fact the Attorney-General has the power to declare which "eligible" Supreme Court judge could hear an application to proscribe a gang meant an attorney-general could have "unfettered power to 'stack' the hearing of applications for declarations of organisations under the act with judges willing to enforce it". The Attorney-General could also "revoke or qualify the authority of a judge to determine applications for declarations if he or she does not perform to the Government's satisfaction'.

He says that while this may not be the intention of the present Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, "a provision so drafted left on the statute books is extremely dangerous and potentially open to serious misuse".

Mr Cowdery writes: "It matters not that the motives of the urgers or policy makers may be honourable … we all need constantly to be alert to the erosion of rights and be proactive in preventing it … This is especially a time for vigilance in NSW. Someone once described it as the price of liberty."

When Mr Rees rushed through the laws, he said it was "proportionate response to an escalation in violence [involving] outlaw motorcycle gangs". He said bikie gangs had "crossed the line" with the Sydney Airport brawl in March and subsequent shootings on "public streets". The laws received initial internal opposition from Mr Hatzistergos.

Last year, the the fiercely independent Mr Cowdery described the Iemma government as as "ruthless" and guilty of "grubby" tactics and said Mr Hatzistergos was a "micro-manager" who had lost sight of the "bigger picture". Recently, the Government legislated to give a future DPP a 10-year-term in the job, rather than open-ended tenure.


Howard slams Rudd's handling of economy

Former prime minister John Howard has slammed the Federal Government for its handling of the Australian economy during the global recession. Mr Howard says Kevin Rudd wasted money by giving away cash handouts and has contributed to unemployment by scrapping WorkChoices.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Howard says Mr Rudd has made things worse for the economy after inheriting a huge surplus. "Mr Rudd, if he was honest with himself, ought to thank me every night for the state of the Australian economy that he inherited on November 24, 2007," he said. "Because the strengths it now has in the face of the global downturn, are the strengths given to it by my government."

Before the last election, Labor promised to scrap the Coalition's WorkChoices laws and it managed to get its new laws through Parliament earlier this year. Mr Howard says the changes have pushed up the cost of employing people. He says that is bad for an economy in a recession. "The biggest challenge that the Government now faces is stopping unemployment going too high," he said. "They are now by dismantling our industrial relations reforms. They are adding to unemployment. They are doing it deliberately as an act of choice."

Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull has been heavily critical of the Government's debt levels in the wake of this week's Budget, which revealed a record deficit and a peak of $188 billion in net debt by 2013.

The Government says if it did not borrow to fund spending on infrastructure projects and other stimulus measures the economy would be in a far worse state.

Mr Turnbull says a Coalition government would be able to keep debt and the deficit lower but has not put a figure on how much less the Opposition would be able to borrow while still keeping the economy in good shape.


Friday, May 15, 2009

More Federal Keystone Kops

They are alleged to be "elite" and "sophisticated" but even a Google search was too difficult for them! It took a newspaper to tell them that they had hired a crook

An elite crime-fighting agency, responsible for tracking the dirty cash of criminals, accidentally [negligently, more like it] employed a man who had supplied drugs and allegedly offered money-laundering services. The highly secretive Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre has been forced to stand down disgraced former Gold Coast barrister Paul Darveniza. Darveniza managed to pass through the federal agency's police record and security checks and was employed late last year to monitor gambling transactions in northern Australia.

The revelation throws a shadow over the agency's prowess countering organised crime and terrorism through its monitoring of money movements. A simple Google search can identify Darveniza's shady past, including how he was found guilty in 1998 of having supplied speed and ecstasy to an undercover police officer in 1996 and 1997. The Barristers Board of Queensland and the Bar Association's successful court case to strike Darveniza off the roll of barristers in 2000 is also available online. It details how he had also registered to practise in NSW by failing to declare his history.

The Court of Appeal proceedings detail how the undercover officer alleged Darveniza offered him money laundering services through paid commissions or the internet at a cost of $550 for each $10,000. The court found Darveniza had shown an "utter disrespect for the law" after lying about his association with the officer posing as a drug dealer.

However, Darveniza's history escaped the attention of Austrac, which touts how its highly qualified staff use "sophisticated tools" to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Austrac, which has offices in most states, was established in 1992 to operate as Australia's financial intelligence unit. Following the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the US, this role included a greater a focus on countering the financing of terrorists.

It is believed Darveniza slipped through the watchdog's net because no conviction was recorded in his 1998 drugs case. The agency insisted its checks had not been compromised. "Austrac does not comment on staffing matters," a spokeswoman said. "In all recruitment exercises we take appropriate measures to ensure that the recruits are suitable to be employed by Austrac." [Really??]

However, it is understood Darveniza was stood down and an internal investigation launched this week after Austrac was informed of their senior manager's history by The Courier-Mail. The probe will also look at potential breach of the agency's code of conduct.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus has indicated he will seek answers to the bungled background check. "Internal staffing is a matter for the chief executive officer (of Austrac) but the Minister has asked for an urgent briefing on the matter," Mr Debus's spokeswoman said.

A former police officer, Darveniza has also served as the head of the Surfers Paradise Chamber of Commerce. After he was struck off, Darveniza ran a consulting business that gained licences for prostitution, adult entertainment, liquor and gamingbefore leaving mid last year. The firm's website said "happy customers" had included Fitzgerald inquiry figure Warren Armstrong and late Sydney crime boss Abe Saffron.


More crooked Victorian cops fired

A VETERAN detective who was secretly recorded wishing death on every Victoria Police corruption investigator was sacked yesterday. Det-Sgt Denis Linehan was dismissed after pleading guilty to a fraud-related offence. The Office of Police Integrity has recommended Linehan be charged with other criminal offences relating to allegations he tried to sabotage a double murder inquiry in which a fellow officer was the prime suspect. That officer, has since been charged with murder.

The Herald Sun has also discovered Victoria Police last month sacked another police officer, Sen-Constable Joseph McDermott, 38, after he was found to be almost five times over the limit when he crashed his car through a freeway guard. McDermott was taken by ambulance to Geelong Hospital, where a blood sample showed his blood alcohol reading was .234. He was convicted in January of exceeding .05, dangerous driving and unlicensed driving.

Linehan and McDermott are the first officers dismissed since Simon Overland became chief commissioner in March. Mr Overland wasn't personally involved in the two sackings, but he is pushing for State Parliament to quickly introduce new powers to sack rogue officers. It took Victoria Police more than 12 months to get rid of Linehan and McDermott.

The Herald Sun revealed late last year that 168 police with criminal convictions -- including drug trafficking, serious assaults, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office -- were still serving members of Victoria Police.

Linehan, 47, was accused during explosive OPI hearings of hindering a police investigation into a double murder. The former armed robbery squad detective has denied the accusation. Secretly taped telephone calls between Linehan and his long-time friend and former detective were played during the OPI hearings last June. In one call, Linehan described police corruption investigators as "the filth" and said he hoped "every one of them dies".

Garry Livermore, counsel assisting the OPI, suggested the calls showed Linehan was trying to find out who was on the double murder taskforce, was monitoring its progress and was trying to interfere with potential witnesses. He was accused of sharing sensitive information about the double murder with his friend, who has since been charged with murder. OPI director Michael Strong recommended in a report to State Parliament that Linehan be charged with perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice, misconduct and attempting to mislead the OPI. No such charges have been laid against Linehan.

It was his guilty plea in February to a charge of obtaining a financial advantage by deception that led to his sacking yesterday. Linehan deceived an insurance company by falsely claiming his former wife -- and not their son -- was involved in a car accident.


Special forces plead for more armour

Australian special forces in Afghanistan are pleading for better protection against roadside bombs as they approach perhaps the most intense fighting season they have experienced in the conflict. ABC TV's Lateline program has revealed that a majority of the patrol vehicles used by a major group of Australia's elite soldiers have not been given the extra armour that can help protect against improvised bombs.

At the start of April, two diggers were wounded while driving through southern Uruzgan province. An improvised mine exploded under their patrol vehicle and one soldier nearly died after suffering severe wounds to his legs and lower body. He is recuperating in a hospital in Sydney.

Some soldiers are disappointed and others are angry because the patrol vehicle lacked the armour that, through different avenues, soldiers have been requesting for nearly two years. Neil James from the Australia Defence Association says it is a legitimate concern. "You should always listen to the soldiers and the commanders in the field, particularly when they tell Defence bureaucrats about what type of vehicle they need to fight," he said.

Extra armour has been tested and some of the patrol vehicles have been given extra protection, but the next phase of what has been called "up-armouring" has not happened. It probably will not happen before the current northern summer has finished. That means there will be no new armour through what is expected to be the most intense fighting season experienced by Australian soldiers.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says that in general, the soldiers have what they need. "Absolutely. Nothing holds my focus more than ensuring that our troops in theatre have all the capability and protection they need, to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible," he said. "We are constantly reviewing those concepts, and I'm absolutely satisfied they have all the protection and capability they need."

Regular diggers in the Mentoring and Reconstruction Taskforce have armoured cars and access to heavily armoured vehicles like the Bushmaster, and they have been through some intense fire fights as well. But Special Forces need fast-moving vehicles they can fight from and that can travel large distances. But for a significant section of the Special Operations troops, more than half of the vehicles available to them have received no new armour for the mission in Afghanistan.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston says this problem has been around for a long time. "The particular project the DMO has undertaken to up-armour the vehicles started in 2004," he said. "The objective of having all of these light vehicles mine-resistant and ambush-protected is a very, very difficult one. But I actually think we should have done better that we have to this point in time. This whole project has been stalled now for 18 months. "The problem is that we are exposed. Most of the casualties we've had have been the direct result of IEDs. IEDs are the number one threat to our personnel in Afghanistan. And in saying that I would have thought we would have done better, sooner."


Unbelievable: Timber plantation schemes still going

These have been regularly crashing for decades

So ANZ has a $500 million exposure to the failed Timbercorp tax deduction empire. What fools. It's hard to know for whom to feel the most scorn - bankers stupid enough to back inherently flawed businesses or the mugs suckered into buying products on the lure of tax deductions - and the salesmanship that tends to come with particularly fat commissions.

And then there's Great Southern Plantations, trading presently suspended pending some further attempt at rescue. Ditto the scorn for all involved. Oh, and the various "independent" expert reports that have been purchased by management at various times, never mind alleged "investment recommendations".

But maybe I should tell you what's really my opinion of the rural managed investment scheme industry: it's the biggest single scam in Australian financial history, probably losing more money than HIH [failed insurer] and Bond [failed real estate company] combined. And some parts of the MIS [Managed Investment Scheme] mob have been nearly as flagrantly dodgy as Firepower [purveyors of a fake "fuel additive"].

What's worse is that it's been wilfully helped along by Australia's leading banks, law and accounting firms - never mind the dullard politicians who allowed the disease to fester and spread, only belatedly attempting to limit it in 2007. Mind you, I suppose much the same could be said of HIH and Bond.

How much has been blown? A lot. There's a number floating around that we taxpayers have dropped $4.6 billion on rural MIS this decade - our little donation to the promoters, marketeers and mug punters.

Investors in the schemes will have had opportunity costs of at least that much - what they could have earned putting their funds into mainstream investments not flogged on their "tax effectiveness". And then add on the value of the various schemes that have or will fail outright. There's no shortage.

There are some rural MIS that are legitimate. Perhaps not outstanding investments, but at least legitimate and not based on rip-off commissions and promoters' profits. They are in a minority. At the other end of the game, there have been schemes so dodgy that they admitted in their prospectus fine print that only 20 cents in the investor's dollar was actually going to go into the ground. An investment ratio of 50% was common. It's hard enough to make money out of the land at the best of times, but throw 80% of your capital up against a wall to begin with and, well, you'd have to be stupid not to work that out.

And plenty have been stupid. The belated limits on the rural MIS industry - limiting the game to forestry and insisting a minimum of 70 cents in the invested dollar actually went into growing trees - stopped the worst of it in its tracks but it's also shown how unsustainable key players were.

There will be investors feeling pain here wanting to blame everyone but themselves, particularly the government for curtailing the spread of tax-driven rural schemes that threatened genuine farmers.

Of course the failing members of the industry - after overpricing their questionable products and ripping off customers - will point fingers in every direction other than admit the fundamental flaws of a game that required an unending and growing source of mugs desperate for immediate tax deductions and, perhaps, some feel-good factor about growing trees. Save the planet.

Or maybe it was just solidarity with the bush, a desire to lose money on the land like so many real farmers, that helped keep the game rolling, the punters coming. Certainly the commission structure and marketing incentives helped.

Remember when Westpoint [Ponzi scheme] and its peers were going under? Sales commission of 10% was cited as a factor in the dubious marketing of those mezzanine finance houses by some financial advisers - but commission of 10% has been common for rural MIS. And there has often been more over the years - bonus payments, "marketing" assistance payments, the occasional conference and junket.

Sometimes a window on the racket has been opened by the more legitimate outfits. For instance, on the same June day last year that he "resigned" as Futuris CEO, Les Wozniczka was asked in an interview why Futuris' MIS operation, ITC, was having trouble increasing MIS sales when other tree scheme floggers were doing much better. He answered:

"This year's MIS product from ITC is more highly rated than in previous years and is one of the most highly rated in the market. Feedback we have had is that notwithstanding our ratings, this year has seen increased competition from 'low-doc' and 'no-doc' packages. Sales can also be highly sensitive to commissions paid. ITC has a conservative policy in relation to the financing of MIS investment, with the result that it has had minimal defaults from investors/borrowers. ITC has not moved away from rigorous application of its policy."

It's not hard to read between those lines and form the opinion that Les might have thought the Timbercorps and Great Southerns were, well, less rigorous.

ITC is still plugging away, not particularly successfully from an investment point of view, but it has a business. Similarly, Gunns still has an MIS business. Like ITC, it doesn't run on the sort of numbers that made Timbercorp and Great Southern such cash machines during more trusting, less thinking times. In an interview two years ago, Gunns executive chairman John Gay was asked why his company sold its timber MIS so much more cheaply than the competitors - $6000 a hectare. Gay answered:

"Well, we started off with a reasonably low price because our view was that we wanted to get a large amount of trees in the ground to develop a pulp mill and we set the prices with a very reasonable margin for Gunns and a good investment for the investors and we've stayed on that line."

By comparison, Great Southern Plantations' current project was charging $10,000 a hectare, 66% more than Gunns. The extent of the profiteering in the industry before the Howard Government finally acted in 2007 was astounding. In June 2006, an Australian Financial Review feature on the rural tax schemes cited the example of a genuine listed agribusiness company, Tandou, selling its Millewa vineyard to Great Southern for $10 million.

"Tandou got about $45,000 a hectare for the property, which included 178 hectares of developed vineyard and valuable water rights, a pretty good price in the current climate," the AFR reported. "In June, Great Southern took Millewa and three other vineyards and sold the package to the public for about $78,000 a hectare as the 2006 Wine Grape Income Project... The $78,000 doesn't buy investors any land, but covers the cost of running the vineyard for the next 20 years plus a profit margin."

Yes, folks, as incredible as it seems to a rational soul, the scheme operators kept the land.

One of the ways the scam lasted for so long is the time it took for tree investors to find out the product was a dud. You can sell a lot of other schemes while waiting for the first rotations of blue gums to yield less money than promised. Great Southern's first rotation infamously proved to be such a poor deal that the company kicked in cash to dress up what the wood was actually worth. Hey, there were other investors out there to be harvested - better keep the faith.

Timbercorp had told the 1999 crop of investors that they would start to see money from some of their trees this year - but before Timbercorp fell over, it seemed the gums were taking 12 years rather than 10. No surprise. For those suckered into Timbercorp schemes, they are left with the most appalling legal mess - owning the trees, but not the land, with great uncertainty about who, how and for how much someone else might tend and harvest the crop over several years to get back, well, not a great deal. I suppose punters who went into it wanting a tax deduction certainly had their wish granted.

As we wait for Great Southern to unveil whatever their latest rescue plan might be, lest their clients find themselves in the same boat as the Timbercorp victims, I have a question: will KPMG partners band together to make a takeover bid for the company? That would seem a reasonable thing to do if said KPMG partners still stand behind the wit and wisdom of the "independent expert reports" prepared by their firm for Great Southern's attempt at restructuring earlier this year.

For an example of the reality of "independent expert reports", the January 12 KPMG effort on Great Southern's proposal for investors in the 1998 hardwood timber plantation project to swap their forestry lots for Great Southern shares is as good as any. KPMG managed to come to the recommendation that the offer was in the best interests of the growers as a whole and that it was both fair and reasonable - an amazing effort given the major and many qualifications KPMG itself then placed on its own recommendation.

Gee, KPMG said, this is a fair and reasonable offer. Really? As the KPMG report itself notes, the Great Southern share price the day before (the report was published) was 17.5 cents, the swap was on the basis of shares being worth 28.45 cents, they'd have to be trading at 44 cents in August for the growers to break even on the deal and the company had just suspended the paying of dividends. And it says this as well:

"The opinion of the company's auditor, Ernst & Young, in relation to Great Southern's financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2008 is unqualified but includes an emphasis of matter in relation to inherent uncertainty regarding Great Southern's ability to continue as a going concern in its current form and, therefore, whether it will be able to pay its debts as and when they become due and payable and realise its assets and extinguish its liabilities in the normal course of operations and at the amounts stated in the financial report."

So in January 2009, a participant in the 1998 scheme with half a brain might have had an opinion that differed somewhat from KPMG's "fair and reasonable".

I am not suggesting KPMG are unethical or dishonest but in my opinion, a genuinely independent expert report would find that Great Southern looked like a basket case and a 1998 grower would have to be completely stupid to swap trees that were worth something for shares that might well be worth nothing at all. Instead, KPMG's report kept using a net tangible asset figure for Great Southern of 85 cents a share and suggesting that at some stage, barring any number of bad things happening, the shares were likely to trade at more than 44 cents. Hence my wild erratic fancy that KPMG partners will happily buy all of Great Southern at its last traded price of 12 cents. Then again, they probably won't.

KPMG did eight separate "independent expert reports" (no, I can't type that phrase without quotation marks) for Great Southern's attempted restructuring. The 1998 timber example I've quoted is the best of this particular eight as it does heavily suggest growers ignore the recommendation as they are close to harvesting their trees. I've seen much worse such reports.

Great Southern is a company that used to pull in the thick end of half a billion dollars a year from punters seeking the up-front tax deduction and whatever story was told about agricultural returns. The rural MIS industry overall used to take between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion a year and most of it - Great Southern and Timbercorp have been the Big Two - doesn't look too flash.

This should be absolutely no surprise. Corporations with highly questionable business models have this habit of eventually failing. At some point the greed gets to them. However many millions the boys at the top have pulled out, the structure finally proves unsustainable.

As for the ANZ Bank, there's another touch of the cultural failure here that marked its involvement in Opes Prime [collapsed stockbroker].


Thursday, May 14, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted by the gang rapes carried out by National Rugby League footballers.

Youths throw rocks, terrorise elderly home: No penalty

A NORTHERN Territory nursing home went into lockdown after a gang of youths jumped the back fence and terrorised elderly residents. The Northern Territory News reports that young thugs hurled rocks at the elderly residents' private villas and lurked around the premises, peering through windows.

Frightened nursing staff hit the panic button, which locks all the residents' doors, in fear of what the wayward teenagers were up to. "We were worried as the residents were vulnerable," a nurse said. "I don't know what (the youths) intended to do but we didn't want to risk it, so we went into physical lockdown."

The ambush happened at the 56-bed Terrace Gardens nursing home in Farrar, Palmerston, about 9pm on Tuesday. Police were called and quickly swarmed the area, rounding up almost a dozen kids hidden in bushland nearby. They were taken to the Palmerston police station where they were later released without charge.

Commander Rob Kendrick said the problem lay with "parents who just don't care". "Some of these youths are not from normal homes and police are left to deal with the consequences of their upbringing and actions," he said.


At least SOME of the NSW police goons get caught

A TOTAL of 25 police officers have faced courts in NSW in the past six months for offences ranging from assault and theft to drink driving and drug supply. An investigation by The Daily Telegraph has found the officers' alleged crimes also include drag racing, conducting illegal searches and gaining unauthorised access to the NSW Police computer system.

Among the police officers charged is Senior-Constable Antoni Jozef Krawczyk, accused of taking $100 from a lost and found purse handed to police. The 33-year-old Quakers Hill police officer is the son of Parramatta's highly regarded Detective Inspector Jan Krawczyk. The younger Krawczyk has been suspended from duty with pay.

His case was heard in Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday along with the case of North Sydney Constable Luke Maxwell Sweetman, 28, who faces three charges of accessing restricted data in the NSW Police computer system. Sweetman remains on duty with full pay.

Krawczyk has been charged with larceny for allegedly taking two $50 notes from the purse on December 2. He is alleged to have taken the money after visiting a home in Glenwood, where the purse containing documents and cash was handed to him by a member of the public.

Krawczyk comes from a family with a long history in the police force. His younger brother Michael recently graduated from Goulburn Police College, his sister Fiona is with the police prosecution branch and his father Insp Krawczyk was awarded the NSW Police Medal after 40-years of service.

Solicitor Kenneth Madden, who is representing both Krawczyk and Sweetman, told the Downing Centre Local Court that he had 18 witnesses to give evidence on behalf of Krawczyk and wanted both matters to go to hearing. Neither has entered a plea.

Nine off-duty police have been charged with drink driving and four with assault.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said officers who committed crimes represented only a "tiny proportion" of the force. "The public expects the highest integrity of the 15,300 police officers in NSW and the tiny proportion of those who commit a crime let down the vast majority of officers who work to uphold the law," he said. "I am disappointed every time an officer is charged. "But police are not above the law and if they choose to behave illegally they will be dealt with."


More on the vast and fatal government incompetence during the Victorian bushfires

Despite such fires being a frequent problem, they showed totally inadequate preparedness

DESPERATE Black Saturday residents calling for emergency help were put on hold by Telstra and in some cases diverted to Centrelink. As Victoria's worst-ever fire advanced towards them, callers heard a soothing voice say, "Don't disconnect, your call will be answered". The bushfires royal commission was told yesterday some people who tried to contact the Victorian bushfire information line on February 7 were diverted to Centrelink, the Herald Sun reports.

In an extraordinary breakdown, it also emerged that 24 hours after 34 people were killed in Marysville, Victoria's peak emergency body believed all there were safe. The Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner issued a situation report at 8am and 5pm on February 8, saying: "We understand everyone in Marysville is safe." The bushfires royal commission yesterday heard the situation report listed nearby Taggerty as a "concern", when the fire had ripped through the town the day before.

Counsel assisting the commission, Rachel Doyle, said the information was "just embarrassingly out of date". Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin agreed, saying the reports were "unfortunate and wrong".

On the communications breakdown, Mr Esplin said 9088 triple-zero calls and 970 SES calls were received on February 7. He said Telstra emergency calls were passed on to the state's Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority and if there was a surge, callers would hear the recorded message. "My understanding is that Telstra activated a recorded voice announcement," he said. "I have been advised that ESTA didn't activate a voice recorded announcement."

Mr Esplin said if ESTA was overloaded it went to "second, third and fourth responders", but he could not say if that happened on Black Saturday. Ms Doyle asked if emergency calls were passed to CFA volunteers at their homes during a windstorm that hit Victoria in April 2008. "Last year some CFA volunteers literally received triple-zero calls?" Ms Doyle asked. Mr Esplin: "That is correct. Passed through from Telstra."

Ms Doyle: "Some CFA volunteers responded by telling the person to wait while they themselves tried to call 000?" Mr Esplin: "That's correct."

Ms Doyle asked what happened when the bushfire information line, which was supposed to relieve the load on triple-zero, was itself overloaded. "My understanding is that there is a pre-arrangement with the Department of Social Security ... in other words Centrelink," Mr Esplin said.

Earlier, he said the Government did not approve a national phone alert system until 16 days after Black Saturday. If the system had been in place on February 7 it would have been an "important tool", but he could not say if it would have saved lives. He said the system would be in place by October.

Mr Esplin also said a radio and television emergency break-in signal was not activated on Black Saturday. He said the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) was used routinely in cyclone-prone areas but was never discussed in bushfire planning meetings between emergency services.


How governments get people out of their cars (another example)

Where did they get this insane bus driver? What training was he given? Are they psychologically evaluated before being given charge of lots of people? And judging by many past verdicts (e.g. this one) he will do no jail time for his appalling behaviour

A BRISBANE City Council bus driver assaulted a 79-year-old passenger because he was "a few cents short" of his fare, a court has been told. Dennis Fath Chow, 38, was yesterday committed to stand trial for the serious assault of the man, who cannot be identified, at Chermside West in September 2008.

A Brisbane Magistrate's Court committal hearing was told the men had argued over the price of a bus fare. High school student, Jaqueline Williams, 16, told the court she was travelling on a No.345 bus when it stopped at the corner of Rode Rd and Maundrell Tce at Chermside West. She said Chow became involved in an argument with his elderly passenger when he could not produce the correct fare.

After rebuffing the girl's attempt to pay the fare, Chow started pushing and shoving the elderly man, the court was told. "The bus driver just started screaming at him," the girl said. "He was grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking and pushing him. He lifted him up and chucked him off, kind of like a footy."

The man fell headfirst on to the concrete footpath, the girl said. "I saw the old man bleeding and I went to see if he was all right. I had tissues in my bag so I was just trying to clean up as much blood as I could," she said. The court was told the man sustained facial fractures and extensive bruising and cuts to his hands, hips and elbows.

Another witness on the bus recounted hearing the sound of the man hitting the concrete. "I could hear his head crack like an egg on the footpath," he said. "(The bus driver) was going to drive off but I told him I was calling the police and to stay right there."

Magistrate Jacqueline Payne committed Chow to stand trial in the District Court.


Amazing! Leftist Federal government allows an illegal immigrant to be deported

Will this be the last such episode? Judging by recent policy pronouncements, I expected that the illegal might just be given coffee and money instead

A Nigerian man who was pulled off a fence at Sydney's Villawood detention centre overnight will be deported tomorrow, just two days before he was due to marry an Australian woman. The man climbed onto the fence on Tuesday afternoon to protest against the Immigration Department's plans to send him home. He was given blankets, food and water before police were called to the centre about midnight last night.

Detainees threw rocks at police and security staff, who talked the Nigerian down while standing on a cherry picker around 2:00am (AEST).

The Fire Brigade also sent two crews to put out two small blazes that were lit inside the centre during the commotion.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, says it is a particularly sad case because the man had planned to get married this Sunday. "A woman, Marie, knew him before he arrived in Australia apparently but has been visiting since he arrived in May last year," he said. "It was very well known that they were to be married on Sunday and yet at the moment, he's still scheduled to be removed on Friday."

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan says tomorrow's deportation will put an end to a long-standing case for the man. "We understand he may have been upset; however, he's exhausted every avenue of appeal to remain in Australia," he said. "It's only right - and I think the community would expect it - that people who have no right to remain in Australia should be returned."


Will visa limits stop further illegals being allowed into Australia this year?

REFUGEE advocates are calling for an increase in humanitarian visas as a 12th refugee boat this year was intercepted in Australian waters yesterday. It was carrying 31 asylum seekers and three Indonesian crew members.

Immigration policy observers are expecting a "modest" increase to the humanitarian program beyond 750 additional spots announced in last year's budget for Iraqi nationals who assist Australian defence personnel in the Gulf war. That already-announced increase will take Australia's overall humanitarian intake to 13,750 annually.

Graham Tom, refugee advocate for Amnesty International, said as conflicts worsened in trouble spots such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Western nations would have to raise their humanitarian intake.

Earlier this year the UN Refugee Agency released figures showing an increase of 12 per cent globally across 2008 of people seeking asylum. That has correlated with a sharp increase in boat arrivals in Australia since September last year, 19 in total carrying 710 people.

Since September last year there have been 138 approvals for humanitarian visas for people in various forms of immigration detention on Christmas Island. Fourteen have been refused and four have returned voluntarily to Sri Lanka.

There are a further 459 people on Christmas Island with asylum seeker claims, with the additional 31 — believed to be adult Afghan men — now en route to the island for immigration processing. A spokesman for the Immigration Department said last night approvals of asylum seeker claims would fill all available visa spaces this financial year.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heaven+Earth on Fire: Warmism fading in the Australian parliament

That's "Heaven+Earth", the new book by Prof. Ian Plimer debunking the Global Warming Scare, now in its 5th printing. Yes, the 5th. Already. It's out-selling the most wildly optimistic estimates.

I went to a book signing at Abbey's in Sydney and had the pleasure of speaking a few words with the great man himself. The dictionary definitions of 'humble' and 'down to earth' could have a photo of this guy in the margin.

He has been meeting with all the major State and Federal politicians in Australia recently - at their invitation. He says there has been a sea-change in attitudes to the Global Warming Scare in the political sphere. As little as a year or two ago he couldn't get an audience with any politician - now they're all calling him. In response to my question as to whether it would be worth sending a copy to Malcolm Turnbull he said he has already spoken extensively with him and has given him a copy of the book. He added, with a bit of a twinkle in the eye, that he has also had long discussions with Peter Costello. The Liberals are 80% on board with us sceptics. The Nationals 100%, as we know. A large number of Labor politicians (basically most except the caucus) are as well. Things are definitely moving in our direction and away from the alarmist's.

The book, which none of the major publishers would touch, is now planned for release in the UK and the USA. (It's being published by a tiny husband and wife publishing firm. Just goes to show how stupidity opens up opportunities). Plimer's son is getting married in Canada soon, and so he will be combining that visit with a US book tour. US readers keep watch!


Skilled migration cut back. Useless parasites welcome

There is a very high rate of welfare dependency among "refugees". None of them are in fact genuine refugees. They could have claimed refuge in any of the several countries they passed through on their way to Australia.

SKILLED migration will be slashed in the next year, but the Government expects the number of migrants to reach record levels in the long term. Net migration could reach up to 230,000 arrivals a year, well above the 180,000 expected in 2009-10.

Expectations of more boat people arriving on Australian shores means greater border protection, fewer skilled immigrants and a revamp of the country's biggest mainland detention centre. While the Rudd Government has tried to play down the recent flurry of people smuggling boats in Australian waters, the Budget highlighted a change in direction.

Border protection measures included $1.3 billion to increase patrols in Australia's northern waters, including another boat. Two more aircraft will boost aerial surveillance, while more than $100 million has been set aside to strengthen relationships with neighbouring countries and improve co-operation on people smuggling laws. Airport security and international counter-terrorism efforts will be increased, with the Australian Federal Police given an enhanced international role. The Defence Department has earmarked $1.5 billion for an extra 700 Navy recruits.

The skilled migrant intake has been slashed to 108,000 from the Government's previously planned cap of 133,500. New skilled migrants will need a better grasp of English and will have to meet skills testing targets. But an extra 1000 people will be welcomed to Australia under the humanitarian program and there will be another 3800 places for families.

Overall migration for 2009-10 will fall just short of 169,000 places -- down 21,600 on the planned level. The Government said it was planning for the long-term migrant intake to range from 150,000 to 230,000 net arrivals a year.

The Immigration Department has also set aside $40 million over the next four years to further combat people smuggling, specifically those coming from or through Indonesia. Some of this money will help the Indonesian Government manage its detention centres to relieve pressure on Australia's border patrols.

An extra $12.6 million has been tagged to help Asia-Pacific countries strengthen anti-terrorist measures.

The Immigration Department predicts it will save about $160 million over the next four years through slashing programs and increasing efficiency.


Greenie opposition to evolution

Reduction of native species by "invasive" species is just evolution speeded up: With the fitter dispacing the less fit. It is a completely natural process that man has simply speeded up

RESIDENTS across NSW may be asked to put traps in their backyards to capture and eradicate pest birds. About 30 councils and 35 community groups will meet to discuss a plan to reduce numbers of Indian myna birds.

The territorial pests drive protected native bird species from nesting hollows, kill chicks and destroy eggs.

Efforts to reduce myna numbers - including one council which spent $5000 and caught two - have failed. The main group to have been successful in slashing numbers, the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc, will tell the conference in Nowra tomorrow how it succeeded.

President Bill Handke said traps in 620 backyards took the birds from third most common to 12th in three years. Residents lured the birds with dog food into a wire trap where pest controllers destroyed them.

University of Western Sydney native and pest animal unit biology lecturer Dr Ricky Spencer, who worked with Blacktown City Council on a $48,000 trial, said councils would need to employ a professional to handle the birds, then humanely destroy them.

Mynas were first known as the "farmers' friend" but soon after their release into NSW in 1862, they became the "cane toad of the sky". Like the ugly amphibians, they were brought in from the subcontinent to eat cane beetles but bred out of control.


Stupid government thinks it can repeal the law of supply and demand

It didn't work in "Prohibition" America of the '20s so why do they think it will work anywhere else? It's not the suppliers who are responsible for the high prices that Aborigines pay for alcohol. It's the government that set up the stupid system in the first place

GROG-runners are preying on Aboriginal communities by charging up to $400 for a bottle of bourbon during bush gatherings such as funerals and ceremonies. The practice is common in remote parts of the Northern Territory, according to Katherine Police Commander Jeanette Kerr who has described the perpetrators as "social parasites''.

Her comments follow the seizure of a large amount of booze ahead a large funeral in the Arnhem Land community of Ramingining. Police were tipped off last week ahead of the gathering about 500km east of Darwin. The information prompted them to mount a major offensive, dubbed Operation Haricot, aiming to disrupt the trafficking of alcohol and illicit drugs into the community.

Cmdr Kerr said five bottles of Jim Beam bourbon were discovered in luggage on the plane that was transporting the deceased back to the community for burial. "Following debriefs with people found in possession of alcohol, it was discovered that third parties were purchasing alcohol, then on-selling to other community members for upwards of $400 per 1.125ml bottle of spirits,'' she said.

"The people who organise the mass purchase and distribution of alcohol and cannabis to take advantage of people coming together for ceremony and to express grief are social parasites. "Even more offensive is the drunken behaviour and violence that results from the trafficking of alcohol, effectively diminishing the significance of funeral ceremonies.''

Police on the fringes of Kakadu National Park searched more than a hundred cars and netted about 84g of cannabis, 40 cans of VB, 50 litres of spirits, 22 litres of port and 20 litres of cask wine. Two vehicles were seized, one drug infringement notice was issued, two arrests were made and 11 summons issued.

"There is often a problem with grog-running into these dry communities, but when we are told that people are paying as much as $400 for a 1.125ml bottle of Jim Beam you can see just how big a problem it is,'' Cmdr Kerr said. "People will try almost anything to bring it in and others will pay almost any price to drink it.''

But, she said, grog running was not just a matter for police. "Community members also need to take some responsibility,'' she said. "It must be obvious to everyone when an increased amount of grog is coming into the communities. "In the case of Ramingining it's clear that everyone knew that large amounts of grog were expected.''


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very skeptical about tonight's Federal budget

World Vision children's charity goes into the global warming business

Comments below by Andrew Bolt. I too was once a World Vision donor but stopped immediately when they started making anti-Israel statements. In 2006 I asked them could I sponsor a poor Jewish child in Israel. They said No. I still have the emails concerned. Maybe I should put them online -- JR

I’ve been a donor to World Vision for more than a decade. I’ve helped to publicise its work and urged you to support it, praising above all its commitment to giving the poor the direct help they need.

That’s now over. When my current sponsorships end, I will not renew. I will not donate a dollar more than I’ve already promised. An organisation I once admired for pragmatism has now fallen for the giddiest ideology of all. Under Tim Costello, so ignorant and alarmist that he blames global warming even for tsunamis, donors’ money is now being wasted on a great sham. A once-Christian organisation is now switching its focus from saving people to saving Nature, as it follows a neo-pagan gospel. The latest evidence? From World Vision’s jobs page:
Strategic Technical Advisor (Carbon and Poverty Reduction Facility - Asia Pacific)

This exciting and newly created role based in the Asia Pacific provides technical assistance in the design and implementation of carbon and poverty reduction projects and programmatic responses, helping position World Vision Australia as the pre-eminent development NGO in climate change.

Campaigns Leader - Climate Change

We are seeking an experienced Campaign Leader for our Policy & Programs Group to work on effecting change within our region.

Project Manager

This role has been created to provide multi-disciplinary support through business analysis, research, proposal development, project design and management, stakeholder engagement and communications, particularly around climate change related to Carbon and Poverty Reduction Projects.

Reader Daniel is furious:
World Vision through very expensive advertising campaigns educate and look after children in deprived circumstances in the third world. What are they doing joining the very crowded world of those preaching global warming?

That leaves me needing a new charity. I’m starting already to switch my support to Very Special Kids. Could anyone also recommend a charity that gives meaningful help to the poor overseas?


A number of readers say they’re cancelling their sponsorships immediately. That’s not something I’m doing. I’ve made implied promises to children that I intend to keep. The issue is what I do with my money once those sponsorships lapse. I hope no one makes children suffer for the ideological giddiness of Tim Costello.


4BC’s Michael Smith isn’t impressed, either.


Tim Costello has rung to make the following important points:

- None of the money given for World Vision’s sponsorships go to its global warming programs.

- By getting involved in global warming, World Vision actually makes money, getting donations from governments and international bodies.

- The money it gets for carbon offsets, for example, is used to benefit people though the planting of trees that are also a food source.

Tim has challenged me to consider what I would do in his place, if there was so much money I could use for the poor that was being offered by global warming campaigners.

My answer to him was and is: I would take it, indeed, but I would not preach as true that which is false. There are ways to help the poor that do not involve endorsing a new faith that is a threat to reason, development and even humanity itself. You, however, may consider his answer sufficiently pragmatic to continue to support World Vision.

SOURCE. See the original for links

Helpline thrown to bashed Indian students

Big deal! The only real solution would be to send the "refugees" who are the main perpetrators of the violence back to where they came from in Africa

A HELPLINE to assist Indian students who are victims of crime will begin operating from Friday amid mounting alarm over violent racist attacks in Melbourne's western suburbs.

The strategy comes as statistics obtained by the State Opposition reveal violent crime has risen by up to 100 per cent in some areas in the west over the past eight years.

And the growing number of attacks on Indian students have made headlines in India, with the Hindustan Times reporting students were "scared" and the Economic Times of India warning the Australian Government's $3.5 million campaign to attract Indian students to combat the recession could remain a "non-starter" if the issue of racial attacks was not addressed.

The helpline, to be staffed by trained volunteers fluent in English and Hindi, will provide guidance on what to do and where to go in a crisis. It is an initiative of a police reference group, formed with members of the Indian community.

But Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said that without a zero-tolerance approach to racial assaults and more police, there was little hope of stamping out the violence.

Statistics obtained by the Opposition under Freedom of Information laws show violent crimes against persons in Melton increased by 101 per cent from 2000-2001 to 2007-2008. There was an increase of 51 per cent over the same period in Brimbank, 43.5 per cent in Wyndham and 15.2 per cent in Hobsons Bay, while Maribyrnong bucked the trend with a decrease of 11.4 per cent.

The Federation of Indian Students of Australia said police had failed to curb racist attacks against Indians and it did not see many positive developments from the reference group.

Other strategies discussed by the group include educating Indian students to keep a low profile by not displaying signs of wealth, such as iPods or laptops, and not talking loudly in their native tongue when travelling on trains late at night. Police say these suggestions came from Indian members.

Federation of Indian Students of Australia president Amit Menghani said keeping a low profile would do nothing to prevent Indian students like Mr Sharma from being bashed by racist gangs.

Assistant Police Commissioner of Region Two West, Sandra Nicholson, denied police were failing to act. She said police last year established the Embona anti-robbery taskforce specifically to address attacks on Indian students.

"They have been extremely successful — last week alone they made seven arrests for robberies," she said.

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson said the increase in violent crime over the past eight years had to be considered in light of population growth in the west, with Melton and Wyndham among the highest growth areas in the state.


Mental hospital staff try to cover up dangerous negligence with a pack of lies

And they are so arrogant that they offer the whistleblower "counselling"

A MENTALLY ill man in the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital was "accidentally" released only hours before threatening a neighbour with a knife. The man's daughter said yesterday she was still awaiting a reply to her formal complaint about how her father was able to abscond on March 17 and how hospital staff misled her about his disappearance.

The western suburbs man, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was able to leave the RBWH's mental health unit by telling staff his daughter was waiting downstairs to take him on approved leave. He had been admitted under an involuntary treatment order two weeks earlier after suffering a psychotic episode and threatening to kill neighbours and himself.

The young woman said the hospital had contacted her the previous day to ask if she could supervise him for three hours' leave, but she had refused. "My father later told them I was waiting for him in a cab and they just buzzed him out," she said.

After another family member told her that her father was out of hospital, the woman called the mental health unit. "They told me he hadn't been released and that he was 'Here on the ward as we speak'," she said. "I thought, 'That's weird', and so I rang home and Dad picked up the phone. I then rang the hospital back to ask what's going on and was told 'His daughter picked him up'.

"When a patient is released to someone's care, that person has to be sighted, ID checked, and there is paperwork to be signed. But I never went to the hospital that day. "Then they said it was his sister who signed him out, but all of his relatives live in England except for me and his brother."

The woman arrived at her father's home just before police detained him for threatening a neighbour with a knife.

RBWH's acting mental health director, Dr Warren Ward, said Queensland Health was unable to comment on specific patients. "Risk assessments occur regularly to ascertain levels of restrictions and leave ," he said.

The man's daughter said she had an "emergency meeting" with RBWH staff the next day, but had not had a reply to her written complaint. At the meeting she had been offered counselling. "I'm very concerned at how easily someone can walk out of a secure mental health unit," she said.


Welfare parent trap

THE Rudd Government’s budget eve promise of paid parental leave is a political rebranding exercise designed to make people feel good.

But the symbolism sidesteps the much more serious problems of genuine disadvantage entrenched by Australia’s welfare state.

Claims that Australia lags even Third World nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo by not providing paid parental leave are mostly semantic, according to the Productivity Commission.

Australia ranks sixth among rich nations in the share of national income it spends on family policy. And it directs more of its social spending to families than any other developed country.

The $5000 baby bonus and other family benefits already operate as a “generous” form of parental pay, whether or not parents exercise their existing entitlement to up to a year’s unpaid leave after the birth of a child.

Parents who choose the new entitlement for 18 weeks’ leave on the minimum wage will lose their baby bonus and other family payments. The new scheme will add only $260 million, or a bit more than 1 per cent, to the $20 billion or so of annual family subsidies.

Yet despite spending so much, more Australian children still grow up in jobless families than in all but one other developed economy (Hungary). In the mid-1990s, a startling one in six Australian children lived in families where no one held a job.

By last year, this had been ground down to one in eight children, thanks to a strong economy, a less-regulated industrial relations system, lower taxes and a modest toughening of welfare rules that began under the Keating government during the previous recession. This is troubling because family joblessness and hence poverty can be handed down from generation to generation. And now even the modest inroads into genuine disadvantage since the mid-’90s are threatened by the job shake-out, the reregulation of the labour market and pressure to ease welfare rules.

The puzzle of why so many Australian children remained trapped in jobless families, even when the overall unemployment rate fell to generational lows, is answered in a Centre for Independent Studies paper by Jessica Brown.

It found that the parents of these children, particularly single parents, had opted out of the labour market and hence out of the jobless numbers to instead be supported by welfare.

Concern that the welfare system discourages work has engaged a new consensus on the issue that includes Treasury secretary Ken Henry.

As a brash young Treasury economist in the mid-’80s, Henry thought fairness simply got in the way of efficiency. Today he heads the Government’s review of the tax and transfer system and says equity is “central to Treasury’s mission”.

But the need now, Henry adds, is to move beyond “steeply progressive taxation and the further expansion of the welfare state”.

His critique is strongly influenced by Indian economist and Nobel prizewinner Amartya Sen, who argues that the role of policy is to foster people’s “capabilities” to live meaningful lives, whether they begin in troubled public housing estates, rural poverty or remote indigenous disadvantage. As Henry argues, the classical liberal focus on rights and the subsequent utilitarian concentration on income distribution can actually entrench, rather than alleviate, social disadvantage.

Henry has worked closely with Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson, whose attack on “sit-down money” and social dysfunction has left the old welfare model and its rights obsession in ruins. In Pearson’s agenda, mutual obligation and individual responsibility may overrule rights (say, through grog bans) or income support (if parents don’t enforce school attendance).

Moreover, Henry says the tax-transfer review panel has heard time and again how welfare motivates the disadvantaged to accept passive income support rather than to work, study or retrain.

A parent with a couple of young children often finds it is not worth working after the income-related withdrawal of benefits, the tax onadditional income and the cost of child care. A maze of rules encourages disabled people capable of working part time to go on to the disability pension, which pays $70 a week more than the single dole and does not impose an activity test. This, warns Henry, “could be discouraging some people from work that could make them happier and healthier and our society more equitable”.

Similar poverty traps exist in public housing, where rents are set at 25 per cent of the tenant’s income, so lifting the effective marginal tax rate on extra income.

In her CIS paper, Brown notes that children in single-parent families are 10 times likelier to live in a household where no one works. By the 2006 census, this amounted to 383,000 jobless one-parent families and 213,000 jobless two-parent families.

In the ‘90s, the so-called five-economists plan called for a US-style earned income tax credit to maintain incomes for low-paid workers while freezing the minimum wage to make them more attractive to employ.

But Brown notes that the Australian version of this income top-up - the low income tax offset - provides a tax break to all low-income earners, whether they get their income from work or welfare.

While the idea that the welfare state makes work unrewarding is not new, unsophisticated voices were the first to scream it out.

Last week’s 20th anniversary Media Watch episode proudly reprised the ABC’s show’s censure of commercial television for pillorying the Paxton family kids for appearing comfortable with life on the dole in preference to getting out of bed, getting a haircut and getting a job in the mid-’90s. It again slammed the interview ambush of a youngish mother said to have had five children with five different fathers.

Yet, for all its sleaze and foot-in-the-door rudeness, the raw truths of tabloid journalism historically have reflected a mix of real-world common sense and politically incorrect prejudice of its working-class and aspirational audience.

In this case, its instincts have been right, however alien to left-progressive sensibilities.

The welfare state has hurt, not helped, the poor.

The Media Watch claim to be a defender of the powerless against tabloid bullying is as conceited as Labor’s assertion that its rebranding of family payments is “a huge step forward for all mothers”.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Guess what? It's Howard's fault

WAYNE Swan has promised help for the poor in a "very Labor" Budget tomorrow, but will also use the economic blueprint to demolish what he describes as John Howard's contentious system of middle-class welfare.

The Treasurer has also appealed to voters to accept that the global recession is so severe it has forced Labor to shift direction on key policies it took to the 2007 election campaign.

Two days before delivering his second Budget at a time of unprecedented global economic upheaval, Mr Swan yesterday told The Australian his efforts to deal with the recession-driven, $200 billion collapse in revenue had been complicated by a legacy of reckless spending by the previous government. In an apparent move to make Mr Howard a fall guy for a tough Budget, Mr Swan said the former prime minister had behaved "as if the mining boom was never going to end" in handing out payments across the community. "As a consequence of those unsustainable habits which developed at the top of the boom and, given the nature of the global recession and the unwinding of the mining boom, everybody will have to do their bit to put the budget on a more sustainable footing," Mr Swan said.

His comment provides the first glimpse of Labor's political strategy leading into the Budget session, with the Coalition already accusing it of breaking promises and threatening to fight it in the Senate. Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said yesterday the Coalition would be looking at all these "so-called tough initiatives" and how much of the deficit they would pay off. "Ultimately someone will have to pay for all this," Mr Hockey said. "It has to be all Australians. They will end up paying higher taxes, higher interest rates, not just for one or two years, but perhaps a decade or more."

Access Economics is forecasting a $58.9 billion deficit for tomorrow's 2009-10 budget, allowing for an extra $9 billion of infrastructure spending and $3.9 billion for pension reform. In its Budget Monitor, it expects a $53.2 billion deficit in 2010-11.

For 2009-10, the deficit would represent 5.0 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), trumping the deficits racked up during the early 1990s recession and the deficits of the Whitlam years, it says. Access economist Chris Richardson says the damage to the budget bottom line was done well before the past year. "The boom in the budget in recent years was brilliant. We then promptly spent most of it," Mr Richardson said. "The federal budget will be mired deeply in deficit after the GFC (global financial crisis) is long gone."

He said governments usually hold their policy fire to assist with fighting downturns, but in the past six years parties of "both stripes" had handed back the fiscal dividend of the good times, limiting the ability to defend Australia from recession. [This is an absolute lie. The Howard government used strong revenues to reduce the national debt to nil and also put aside large savings in a future fund -- which the Labour government promptly blew]


Comment from Australian Conservative

Let me make sure I understand this properly. Wayne Swan says all the trouble with the budget is because of John Howard’s legacy of middle-class welfare.

So he is evidently going to respond in tomorrow’s budget by announcing a delayed paid parental leave system which would be means tested above $150,000. So a working parent earning, say, $120,000, is going to be given nearly $10,000 every time they have a child. If that isn’t middle class welfare, then what is?

That the media, including The Australian, have not worked this out is another example of the media giving Kevin Rudd and co a great big helping hand to hoodwink the electorate.

Promises, promises

What do YOU think a politician's promise is worth?

AUSTRALIA will finally join the rest of the Western world in introducing a paid parental leave scheme, but not till 2011. [i.e. after the next election]

And the scheme will not be universal. Around 140,000 stay-at-home mums - and the rich - will miss out. But tens of thousands of women who work part-time or casually could end up getting more than their working wage. Eligible parents will collect at least the minimum wage of $544 a week while on 18 weeks' leave to look after newborns.

Treasurer Wayne Swan used Mother's Day yesterday to announce the scheme, as final touches were applied to a Budget billed as the toughest in living memory. An attack on middle-class welfare - including means-testing of the private health insurance rebate and elimination of lucrative superannuation concessions - will allow for tax cuts and an increase in age pensions. But the Budget is still expected to plunge to a record deficit of around $60 billion, while borrowings will blow out to as much as $300 billion.

Consequently, the parental scheme is unlikely to begin until January 1, 2011 - possibly after the next election. Mr Swan said that start-up date was necessary because the global economic crisis had ripped a $200 billion black hole in revenue over four years. But shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said this was "putting promises on the never-never".

Mr Swan said: "We are one of only two countries in the Western world that doesn't have paid parental leave. "We have got to get that balance between work and family right, and paid parental leave is an essential reform," he told the Nine Network.

Families in which the main breadwinner earns $150,000 or more will be ineligible. And to qualify, a prospective mum would have to have worked only 330 hours, or one day a week for 10 months in the 13 months before the birth. The $5000 baby bonus will be bundled into the new payment.

But stay-at-home mums will get only the baby bonus, plus family tax benefits, halving the overall cost of the scheme to around $260 million a year. "Stay-at-home mothers are being dudded once again," Australian Family Association president John Morrisey said. "And 18 weeks is not long enough anyway. A child needs two or three years of one-on-one with their mother, instead of becoming aggressive graduates of long day care."

But working mum Sarah Horton wishes the scheme had been available sooner. "It would have been fantastic to have had financial help with our first child. In all probability, we would have started a family earlier," she said. Mrs Horton, who gave birth to Ned Robert yesterday, said the scheme would be fantastic news for her next child. "It means we can go ahead without the worry and concern about financial stability."

Parents can share the 18 weeks' leave, or one parent can take it all. And workers can still use parental leave provided by employers, either at the same time or back-to-back.

Employers will not contribute to the government scheme or cover superannuation on leave entitlements. But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Peter Anderson warned the Government not to force businesses to pay administration costs, which could leave them out of pocket. Though welcoming the announcement, Council of Small Businesses of Australia chief Jaye Radisich said its impact on small businesses would be greater. "But if you want to encourage women to have babies, maternity leave is good for society," she said.


Green leek parrot endangers 1000 jobs in NSW

All based on speculation that the birds MIGHT be upset. Nobody is killing them and they are still there after years of work in the area

A PARROT is about to cost 1000 workers their jobs because the Federal Government has ordered a timber industry to be shut down to protect the bird. The unprecedented government intervention will see the jobs cut within days.

The Daily Telegraph has learned Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett's department issued a stop-work order to the New South Wales Government 10 days ago, a move the industry claims could wipe out the entire town of Deniliquin in the state's south.

The Opposition says the move is overkill and has branded Mr Garrett a "warbling twit". "There are a lot of them out there," Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said of the parrots. "As one person put it to me this morning, you've got the warbling twit protecting the green leak parrot but sacrificing 1000 jobs."

The Environment Department ordered New South Wales cease all clear felling of red gum in the Central Murray Darling region - timber used mainly for firewood and railway sleepers - due to concerns over the future of the parrot.

Sometimes referred to as the green leek parrot, the social bird nests in the hollows of the red gums and is nationally listed as vulnerable. Conservationists claim the flight patterns of the bird, which lives for up to 25 years, are being disrupted as it does not like flying over open spaces.

The discovery hundreds of families face losing their livelihoods comes a day before Treasurer Wayne Swan hands down a Budget aiming to help buffer the country against unemployment. The State Government is seeking an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Mr Garrett, claiming the intervention by the Commonwealth to declare the logging illegal would cause the immediate loss of at least 500 timber jobs and 360 indirectly related jobs.

The NSW Government is also seeking legal advice on whether it can get around the Federal Government order, which has given NSW State Forests until May 31 to stop logging of the Central Murray wetlands in the Riverina area or face legal action. A Forests NSW briefing note obtained by The Daily Telegraph warned 11 sawmills would be forced to close overnight and 800 people would lose their jobs along with the closure of an industry worth $60 million to the NSW economy. It accused the Federal Government of being cavalier in its approach to NSW by acting before a $2 million State Government funded Environmental Impact Statement on logging in the area had been completed. It was due to go on public exhibition a day later on June 1.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained a letter of demand to stop work, written on May 1 from Mr Garrett's secretary for the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Rose Webb, to Forests NSW manager Garry Rodda. Ms Webb raised concerns about the impacts of the State Government's harvesting practices on the birds' flight patterns and nesting habitat.


Universities demand easier passage for academic migrants

Hard to see any objection to this

UNIVERSITIES are urging the Government to ease immigration restrictions on academics to help head off a looming shortage as large numbers of baby-boomer professors and lecturers retire. Amid the fallout from the global financial crisis, the Government in March moved to cut the permanent skilled migration intake. But universities, which see migration as a way to overcome looming academic skills shortages, are warning that the move could leave the economy short when it recovers.

"There is generally a two-year time lag from immigration policy change to outcome, so as a response to the global financial crisis, this policy will do little to protect the jobs of Australian citizens in the short to medium term," Vicki Thomson, executive director of the Australian Technology Network group of five universities, said in a briefing paper. "In fact, it has the potential to see the economy left wanting precisely at the time we expect to see improved economic conditions."

The ATN is lobbying Immigration Minister Chris Evans to ease restrictions on academic migration to make it easier to recruit offshore amid rising competition globally for academics. Between 1994 and 2006, Australian universities employed more than 7000 academics from overseas on permanent or long-term arrangements. "This figure will need to grow expotentially to replace the exodus of academics leaving the workforce in the next 15 years," the ATN said.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fat frenzy

HAVE healthy, normal children such as Bianca been wrongly labelled by health authorities as overweight? Richard Guilliatt talks to researchers and angry parents who are warning of a backlash.

Bianca Stoneman is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fat kid. She’s a little shorter than most six-year-old girls, and she weighs a fraction above average, but that is something you could only surmise by careful measurement, because in all respects she’s a perfectly normal, cherubic first-grader.

She likes fairy books and dressing up in ballerina tutus. She’s learning to play the piano and taking swimming lessons, and she has just finished her first season playing T-ball at a footy oval in Canberra’s northern suburbs.

So her mother, Jodi, was perplexed, not to mention angry, when the ACT Health Department notified her recently that Bianca might be "overweight or at risk of becoming overweight", and suggested that the Stoneman family might want to consult a dietician or participate in a "Talk About Weight" group session at their local health centre, where their family’s eating habits and physical activities could be analysed.

That notification followed a health check - the kind that is now becoming ubiquitous across Australia - in which every child in Bianca’s kindergarten was assessed for Body Mass Index (BMI), the standardised test by which levels of obesity and excess weight are calculated.

Bianca’s test registered as 17.4, which put her in the "high" category on the specially formulated BMI charts for children. In fact, when Jodi Stoneman consulted the chart it appeared that her daughter was right up near the obese kids. On one level this was absurd, for anyone could look at Bianca Stoneman and realise she is not even chunky, to use an old-fashioned term.

But the more Jodi Stoneman read the letter ACT Health had sent her – with its warnings about the dangers of diabetes and high blood pressure, its links to the Westmead Children’s Hospital website and its suggestion that she consult her doctor for advice about nutrition – the more confused and offended she became. "Bianca’s weight was in the normal, healthy range and her height (114cm at the time) was in the normal, healthy range for her age," she says. "But when you put those figures together, her BMI looked like it was through the roof. How does that skew their statistics if they’re trying to measure levels of obesity?"

That’s just one of several questions now being asked about the obesity "epidemic" which has been touted as the greatest health crisis facing the western world. For nearly a decade researchers have been issuing increasingly dire warnings about the state of the national girth. Australians are fatter even than Americans, it was claimed last year, and a third of us could be obese by the year 2025.

Our children are said to be a generation of bloated couch-potatoes destined for a life of clogged arteries and diabetes. Obesity could rival smoking and the Black Death as a killer, according to high-profile overseas experts. Those claims are now coming under sustained attack from a range of newly published research and in books such as The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos, Diet Nation by Patrick Basham and John Luik, and The Obesity Epidemic by Australian academics Jan Wright and Michael Gard.

The thrust of their arguments is that obesity rates are not skyrocketing, that many people classified as overweight may be healthier than those who are slim, and that the campaign to eradicate obesity has become a moral crusade fuelled by commercial interests which are seeking to profit from the medicalisation of chubbiness.


An interesting test of Victoria's judicial system

My guess is that he will get only a slap on the wrist for the offences below: No jail time and nothing to discourage re-offending

A DRINK-driver ran a red light in a bonnet-less car, police say. And the fact the 24-year-old unlicensed driver managed to make it on to the road at all almost beggars belief, the Herald Sun reports. Travelling without the standard fittings, including a bonnet, lights and a conventional car battery, the Werribee man managed to draw further attention to himself by allegedly running a red light in peak hour in full view of police at Hoppers Crossing.

Stunned police nabbed the driver about 6.15pm on Monday at the corner of Derimut Rd and Pentlowe St. Conspicuous by the absence of a bonnet, the red Holden Gemini also featured a makeshift car battery, which had been connected to the old battery. When police intercepted the vehicle, the battery powering the car was sitting in the front passenger footwell, beside a full ashtray and a slab of bourbon cans.

In an act of pragmatic stupidity, the bonnet of the car had been removed to allow the conductor leads to travel from the old engine inside the vehicle to the new one. The man had a blood-alcohol concentration of .082, police said.

He was charged with unlicensed driving, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving an unroadworthy vehicle, possessing a controlled weapon, disobeying traffic signals and exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol.


Preventable public hospital deaths top 180 in six months

The number of preventable deaths in NSW hospitals has risen sharply, with the majority of cases due to clinical care mistakes. The latest Clinical Excellence Commission report reveals there were 183 preventable deaths in NSW public hospitals between January and June 2008, representing more than the total number of deaths across the preceding 24 months.

"The Rees Labor government admitted to 120 deaths in the two years 2006 and 2007, we now have 183 deaths in just six months,'' opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said in a statement. "The incompetent Rees Labor government was either lying about the previous years' figures or there has been a massive increase in the number of deaths in our hospitals. "These figures show ... (the) government is failing patients."

The report showed "clinical care mistakes'' were responsible for 73 - the majority - of the 183 preventable deaths. Fifty-four suspected suicides by mental health patients were also included in the report.

NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said the increased numbers of preventable deaths shown in the report could be partly attributed to "under-reporting'' in previous years. "I'm getting a bit tired of Mrs Skinner and her continuous harping on the skills and quality of care provided in our public hospitals,'' Mr Della Bosca told reporters in Sydney. "The simple fact of the matter is the report itself deals with that issue, speculating about under-reporting and changes in process."

The report also found that between January and June last year there were 10 cases of instruments being left inside patients, and five instances of babies getting the wrong breast milk.

Mr Della Bosca said the release of such information was important for the identification of deficiencies in need of improvement. "The NSW government is demonstrating it's leading the way in providing the most transparent and open possible reporting about our public hospital system,'' he said. "And of course we want to make sure that any problems, and mistakes, any issues in the system that lead to preventable deaths or any other incidents, are addressed. "That's why we have a system that's fully open to the public and made available to the public on an annual and more often basis, but also, we want to make sure that doctors, nurses and allied health professionals have the information they need to improve the care they provide our public hospital system.''


The one sure thing about "organic" food is that it will keep you poor

Organic food and groceries ring up a huge premium

PEOPLE buying organic food and groceries are being hit with huge premiums as shortages bite. Consumers going green are slugged thousands of dollars more a year, a report has found. Organic beef sausages and margarine were almost triple the price of ordinary options. Chicken, rice and sugar were more than double. A typical basket of fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, cereals, cleaning products and other staples rang up at $246.54 - almost $100 more than conventional choices.

But natural is not always mean on the budget. A floor cleaner, corn chips, rolled oats and pumpkin were actually cheaper.

Business analyst IBISWorld's price review comes as authorities move to crack down on dubious organic labelling. A voluntary national standard for all products including food, cleaning agents and cosmetics will be released this year. Standards Australia deputy chief executive Colin Blair said the new system would ease confusion over what is truly organic, and give consumers extra confidence that they were buying the real deal.

Consumer group Choice advises shoppers to look for products with a certified organic logo. Food policy spokeswoman Clare Hughes said organically farmed products were generally more labour-intensive and costly.

Organic Federation of Australia chairman Andre Leu blamed limited supplies and higher production costs for some large price differences. Mr Leu said costs should fall in future as more producers entered the industry. "There will always be a premium for a better product, but when you look at more mature markets overseas the price difference is about 20 to 30 per cent," Mr Leu said.

IBISWorld compared costs at an organic and standard supermarket in inner Melbourne last month. IBISWorld Australian general manager Robert Bryant said organic prices had fallen in the past five years.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

The usual public broadcaster bias gets frantic

Andrew Bolt

An increasingly shrill Kerry O’Brien on the ABC’s 7.30 Report last night asked, pleaded and demanded the Liberals be more “fair” to poor Kevin Rudd, and stop mentioning the “scary” deficit he’s helped to rack up with his reckless spending.

It was astonishing. Here are all O’Brien’s questions last night to Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull. I defy anyone to characterise them other than as the most partisan heckling of Turnbull, and most desperate excuse-making for Kevin Rudd, and I defy O’Brien - who has form for this barracking - to present a single interview he’s done with Rudd that is so overwhelmingly hostile, and so demanding of more fairness to the other side:

KERRY O’BRIEN:...Malcolm Turnbull, in your speech today you painted quite a bleak picture of Australia’s future debt levels because of the Rudd Government’s spending to stimulate the economy during the global recession. Are you comfortable that your speech was a fair representation of the facts - no exaggerations, no major sins of omission?

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, what I’m getting at of course is whether you’re going out of your way to paint the worst picture you can, rather than a balanced picture?

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well I think the point is, whether you are right to lay so much of (the blame for the deficit), as you are, at the door of the Rudd Government, rather than to say a significant portion of this, or a very large portion of the situation Australia is in has landed at our door from global influences?

KERRY O’BRIEN: No, no. Can I suggest that that’s not quite fair (to say Rudd’s huge giveway of free money achieved too little) because in fact that money was spent before those cheques went out and there’s - if I can quote one economist to you, JP Morgan economist Helen Kevans, “it’s a big shock in retail sales. It was a lot stronger than expected. In anticipation of the cash handouts that were to be received in April and May, consumers went out and spent a lot of discretionary items.”

KERRY O’BRIEN: But they are spending a great deal of money. They are planning to spend a great deal of money on infrastructure?

KERRY O’BRIEN: You made an enormous amount today about the debt levels. Just two weeks ago, the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said this of the Australian economy: “Public finances remain in very sound shape, with modest debt levels and a medium term path for the Budget back towards balance.” That’s a very different picture from the one you presented today.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But is Mr Stevens wrong when he says that public finances remain in very sound shape; when he says “modest debt levels”, and when he says, “a medium term path for Budget back towards balance”. He’s presenting a very calm message, I would have thought, by comparison with yours.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But you didn’t once acknowledge in your speech, as I read it, that the bulk of the deficit the Government faces in this Budget, the bulk of the debt will come from a massive drop in tax revenue due directly to the impact of the global crisis, while at the same time you put heavy emphasis on Mr Rudd running up massive debt. Now was that fair, was that really a balanced picture?

KERRY O’BRIEN (after being told he was actually wrong): But did you acknowledge how much the impact on Government revenue was? $115 billion that we know of and probably much, much more.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But did you acknowledge that? Did you acknowledge that?

KERRY O’BRIEN: That’s if your assumption that they’re blowing it is correct.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well there are a lot of credible economists who are arguing differently. The governor of the Reserve Bank.

KERRY O’BRIEN: The Reserve Bank Board governor said as recently as yesterday, “The stance of monetary policy together with the substantial fiscal initiatives will provide support to domestic demand over the period ahead.” By “fiscal initiatives supporting domestic demand” he’s obviously referring to Mr Rudd’s stimulus package?

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well you know that jobs are going to be lost regardless of what happens, simply because of the impact of the global crisis.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Would you have been able to - would you have been able to - would you have been able to stop a haemorrhage of jobs in this country if you were confronted with what has been happening in the global economy?

KERRY O’BRIEN: You talk about Australia’s debt levels in terms of hundreds of billions, which can be made to sound quite frightening, but as a percentage of GDP ...

KERRY O’BRIEN: But as a percentage of GDP, it sounds much less scary, doesn’t it?

KERRY O’BRIEN: In fact, even if we see a $60 billion deficit next year, it would be about five per cent of GDP. That is still vastly less than those other big major advanced economies, is it not? Five per cent of GDP?

KERRY O’BRIEN: But this is the biggest global crisis since the Great Depression.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Isn’t that the biggest single factor we’re talking about here, that the Government is dealing with, by far? Isn’t it about the global crisis?

KERRY O’BRIEN: I did not say it doesn’t matter. What I said was that when you talk in those round figures, it can sound scary.

KERRY O’BRIEN: When you put it in the context of a percentage of GDP in this climate against what’s happening elsewhere in the globe it does not sound quite so scary. That was what I put to you as a proposition.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, as a final point, I’ll just put to you once again Mr Turnbull, the Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens describes public finances in very sound shape with modest debt levels. He says the debt levels are modest.

KERRY O’BRIEN: How else do you interpret the term “modest debt levels” without accepting them as modest debt levels?

KERRY O’BRIEN: No one’s used the word trifle, Mr Turnbull. I was just quoting the governor of the Reserve Bank as describing them as modest debt levels. But we’re out of time.


Brag now, pay later - it's just hot air

The article below is mocking but also accurate

OK. This climate change debate has now officially disappeared up its own fundament. Consider this: Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong are now completely committed to forcing emissions trading legislation through Parliament as soon as possible. The legislation itself won't do anything, seeing as it will set the start date of any actual emissions trading scheme back beyond the next election. In passing the legislation, the Government can harvest all the political kudos for having kept its promise to introduce an emissions trading scheme, while putting off the fuss and bother of actually having one.

It's a nifty idea, isn't it? Kind of like legislative lay-by. Legislate now and receive 24 months interest-free!

As a practice, "brag now, pay later" is not entirely new. Successive governments have experimented, for example, with the art of back-loading promises into distant budgetary years. Many's the punter who's marvelled at a government minister's election-eve announcement that promises $10 billion on something-or-other "over four years", only to look at the fine print and discover that "over four years" means "nothing this year, $10 the following year, $50 the year after that, and the remaining $9,999,999,960 to be paid in year four, by which time my rabble of a government will be a distant memory and I will be seeking solace in the cushiony bosom of my superannuation".

But the emissions trading scheme sets a whole new standard. The Ruddbot and his Wongbot are investing deeply in symbolism, at the expense of progress. After all, symbolism has worked in the past for the Labor crowd; you can understand why they're having trouble abandoning it now.

The pair of them seem also to have pulled off a magnificent meta-swifty on the green lobby. In return for the business-friendly concessions in their revised emissions trading scheme (more money for big polluters, lower carbon price, free neck rubs for everyone at Rio Tinto), the green crowd has been thrown the assurance that if things go well at the Copenhagen summit this year, the Government might commit to 25 per cent emissions cuts by 2020.

It takes considerable skill to execute a successful trade of something real for something pretend. But effectively, the deal Kevin Rudd has pitched to the green lobby goes something like this:

KR: OK, funsters. Here's the new situation. Things are getting tougher, so I'm gunna need those sandals, that hemp shirt, your bike and those fun hacky sack balls. All three of 'em, thanks.

Greenies: Huh? What? Damn! Etc.

KR: Wait a minute there, dudesters. Calm your farm. You're not gunna lose out. In return for all that stuff, I might be able to get you the Obama puppy, depending on whether the two little girls are willing to give it up.

Greenies: No way! Excellent! Isn't that a Portuguese water dog? They rock! Etc.

The truth is that climate change policy in this country has always been arse-up, no matter who's in power. To sign legislation to reduce emissions without actually reducing any emissions, as Kevin Rudd is doing, seems weird - sure. But is it any weirder than containing emissions while steadfastly refusing to sign legislation to contain emissions? That's what John Howard did, year after year. Remember?

When the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, Australia's delegate to that memorable conference - the Howard government's then education minister Robert Hill - pranced home to great acclaim for the permissive deal he had secured for Australia, in which we were permitted to increase our carbon emissions by 8 per cent over 1990 levels by 2012. John Howard was especially pleased; giving Hill a scratch behind the ears, he described the outcome as a "stunning diplomatic success" and a "first-class outcome for Australia".

It wasn't until later on that Howard - having listened to the coal industry and chewed the fat a little with his Texan friend, Mr Bush - started to see the Kyoto deal as a flawed agreement that would cost Australian jobs. So he decided not to ratify it. But he did promise to honour Australia's undertakings to contain greenhouse emissions nonetheless.

So you ended up with a very strange situation whereby the Howard government complied with Kyoto but refused to capitalise on the political advantages of doing so. This cleared the way for Kevin Rudd to win the election, so that he could legislate an emissions trading scheme but not actually reduce any emissions.

Anyone looking for a simple answer on where Australia stands on the climate change issue could be forgiven for feeling very confused at this point. The Government that only a year ago was advocating the necessity of tough and timely decision-making on carbon emission reduction has pulled back because the whole thing turned out to be quite tough. You can almost hear the Rudd cheer squad now.

"What do we want? TOUGH DECISIONS!"

"When do we want them? WHEN IT'S EASIER!"

And Malcolm Turnbull, who was one of the Howard ministers who tried unsuccessfully to get his old boss to take a more digestible line on Kyoto, isn't providing much by way of useful clarity these days.

Poor old Turnbull. It's been a trying week for him, all round. Fair dinkum, he must be the only Opposition leader in the developed world dealing with a retail trade mini-boom and a spike in employment. How he must yearn for England, the land of his forebears, with its deserted high streets and its bitter armies of unemployed; where the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has just whacked the top tax rate up by 10p in the pound and seems certain to be run out of town on a pointy stick just as soon as voters get a chance.

But Malcolm Turnbull is not in England. He's in Australia, where Kevin Rudd has just acceded to the two key Turnbull demands he's been making on the emissions trading scheme: delay it and make it nicer for business. Having secured this victory, Turnbull - who does not want to vote for the scheme - is now obliged to rely instead on his objection that the Government is not sufficiently interested in biochar, or the burying of small charcoal pellets in arable land.

Turnbull has recommended that the Productivity Commission - that collective of master reinvestigators - stage an inquiry into emissions trading. A new inquiry? Ordinarily, that would sound like a Rudd idea. But not in this crazy, mixed-up age.


Australia's own Fawlty Towers

A great pity. Blue Mountains resorts have a long tradition of the highest quality. I hope the Hydro Majestic back to its old standards by now, a wonderful place on my visits to it

ONCE a Blue Mountains icon, Leura's York Fairmont Resort has been turned into the region's Fawlty Towers with claims of unwashed sheets, dirty towels, a filthy leaf-clogged swimming pool and irate guests demanding their money back. Immigration officials raided the place last month; the federal Workplace Ombudsman is investigating claims by former workers that they have been ripped off; motoring organisations across Australia have suspended the resort's rating; and NSW tourism organisations have stopped taking bookings.

The business couple who run hotels and shopping centres, Michael Kwok and Helen James, bought the award-winning former Peppers Resort from Mirvac group for $47 million in December 2007. Since then more than 200 of the 240 staff have been laid off and the situation has become so intolerable that even the few staff left are fed up.

The hotel's business manager, Priscilla Lagatule, said: "Fairmont has always had a good name … in the first year of York taking over, that reputation was intact. Obviously, they've made the wrong choices in the decisions they've made since." Mrs Lagatule said management had told staff last Friday that the company engaged to outsource housekeepers had been sacked. When experienced Peppers staff were dispensed with, they were replaced by workers with less experience.

Mr Kwok and Ms James have admitted to former staff members that they no longer have anybody in senior management with hospitality experience. Despite requests, neither Mr Kwok nor Ms James returned the Sydney Morning Herald's calls yesterday.

The chairman of Blue Mountains Tourism, Randall Walker, said: "That something like this would happen to such an iconic property is unprecedented." When the Herald visited the resort yesterday, signs of decay were common. In a car park, the duck-shaped boats that once plied the resort lake are stacked, some missing heads. Insulation hangs from holes in the eaves.

The resort's problems came to a head on Easter Saturday when police were called after more than 200 guests signed a petition demanding their $250-a-night payments be returned. The guests complained of inadequate staff numbers, rooms not being serviced, and dirty and broken facilities. Ten member organisations of Blue Mountains Tourism offered complimentary one-night stays at other locations and entry to local attractions to Fairmont guests to atone for any ill-feeling.

Sylvia Avati of Balmain said the best way to describe her stay was an Easter horribilis. "No one would answer the phone, room service/house-keeping/reception/main switch were never answered. I had to walk the 120 metres to reception and complain to get an ice bucket delivered to the room," she said. "The whole floor was incredibly dirty. Towels thrown into corners of the corridor. Room service trays left out in the hallway for over 24 hours."



Three current articles below

Rural school ignores bully reports

That great government education again. It makes a mockery of the claim that schools act "in loco parentis"

BULLYING is so out of control at a small rural school that parents are threatening to pull their children out while some have already done so. One child was so badly terrorised at Mt Tarampa State School, about 40km north-west of Ipswich, that after years of bullying his mother pulled him out of the school. Kathrine Rodgers said she was so concerned about her nine-year-old son being abused that she reported the incidents to the school repeatedly - but his ordeal continued for two years. “He was being bullied and harassed constantly,” Ms Rodgers said. “One time he even got hit with a star picket in the middle of his back.”

The turning point for Ms Rodgers was when her son, who was in year four at the time, was punched repeatedly. Ms Rodgers said she reported the incidents but little was done. After witnessing more students being bullied at the school she has gained the courage to support other parents in their fight to stop the bullying.

A teacher, who cannot be named, worked at the school for more than a year and described the classrooms as “out of control”. The teacher said she left after a year because her concerns fell on “deaf ears”. “Some of the students should be expelled or suspended because they are out of control,” she said. “There are students at that school who shouldn't be there because their behaviour is unacceptable and disruptive to other children and they need more support than is available.”

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said her two sons aged 10 and 8 were constantly being bullied and victimised at the school. “They are getting beaten up on a regular basis and they are absolutely petrified of going to school,” she said. “They get their hair pulled, stomach punched and kicked and it doesn't matter how many times I tell the school nothing changes.”

But she is confident with a bit of help she can make the school a safer environment for her children. “I have them crying and pleading with me every day to not make them go to school but my only hope is that things will change,” she said.

No one from Education Queensland was available to comment yesterday.


School invaders menace students and teachers

VIOLENT intruders, including some armed with weapons, are attacking and hurling abuse at teachers and students almost daily in Queensland schools. The Courier-Mail can report parents as well as complete strangers last year invaded schools at least four times a week on average. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show some intruders waved knives and axes. In one shocking incident, an intruder told teachers at a Brisbane school that he was a terrorist and threatened to wreak vengeance with an AK-47 assault rifle, which fires 600 rounds a minute.

In other cases of school violence, intruders have assaulted girls outside school toilets and teachers have been kicked and headbutted. The documents detail at least 152 school invasions during the 2008 school year but Education Queensland issued only brief letters to parents for some cases and little more than a dozen media releases for the entire year.

Parents also are taking matters into their own hands, picking fights on behalf of their children and storming classrooms. One parent tried to kick in the door of a principal's office. In another incident last May at Runcorn State High School, in Brisbane's south, a person terrorised staff and students after entering without permission during the lunch break. "The male went back to his bike and came back with an axe, which he held up in a menacing way," an internal report said.

In one high-profile case, not detailed under FOI, several teenage gang members last July allegedly armed themselves with a meat cleaver and hunted students at Brisbane's prestigious private boys school St Laurence's College. Two 15-year-old students underwent surgery after the alleged attack.

While most cases occurred on Brisbane's southside and the Gold Coast, one case at Indooroopilly State High School, in which an male intruder was reported wandering around the school on four occasions, received special attention by top bureaucrats "given that there are some high-profile media parents of the school". Just a month later, the school faced an even graver threat when a Year 11 girl received a text message stating an intruder planned to "come to the school with a gun". "I'm going to come and shoot up your school," the SMS read.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson yesterday insisted schools had systems in place to deal with intruders, calling police for criminal behaviour, while angry parents faced bans. However, he conceded schools were hard to protect given their size. "I don't believe anyone wants to send their child to school behind barbed wire," he said. "All schools have lockdown procedures in place, which are practised on a regular basis each year to ensure students and staff are prepared for any potential incidents."

However, teachers at Brisbane bayside schools experiencing a spate of intrusions in February last year were told to catch the female intruder themselves. "Should she attempt to leave the grounds, follow at a discreet distance," an internal report said.

Students at Yeronga State High School last year "displayed signs of trauma" for days after a stranger attacked two staffers in front of children and claimed to be a terrorist with an AK-47 assault rifle. "It has been stressful as many students report not seeing such level of violence before in our school community and it has led to them to question the safety of our school," a teacher said in an incident report.

Queensland Teachers Union state secretary Steve Ryan yesterday blamed society for school invasions, saying he was surprised only 152 had been reported. "It's another example of the unnecessary and unwanted pressures that are forced upon schools as a result of societal changes," Mr Ryan said.

Education Queensland has admitted it keeps no record of intrusion statistics, while many of the FOI documents have been blacked out beyond personal details – with some cases completely censored.


Curriculum reform looking hopeful

DURING her time as Minister for Education, Julia Gillard has made her stance, and that of the Government, very clear on school curriculum. Mirroring concerns about falling standards and state and territory dumbed-down curriculums, Gillard describes herself as a traditionalist and argues for a back-to-basics approach to learning, where the subject disciplines are centre stage. As such, it should not surprise that the most recent round of national curriculum documents, released yesterday by the National Curriculum Board (appointed by the Rudd Government), embody a conservative approach.

When outlining the principles and guidelines on which the national curriculum will be built, the board argues that all students, regardless of socioeconomic background and perceived ability, must be taught "the knowledge and understandings on which major disciplines are based".

While nodding in the direction of cross-disciplinary learning and teaching generic skills, such as problem solving and working in teams, the paper, The Shape of the Australian Curriculum, states that each discipline is unique and that schools must provide students with a "systematic engagement with a discipline-based curriculum". Thankfully, after years of curriculum frameworks being full of vague and generalised statements that drown teachers in useless detail, the national board argues that frameworks must be concise, manageable, free of jargon and explicit.

After years of curriculum development being based on no more than ideological bent, personal preference and whatever is the most recent educational fad, it is also good that the National Curriculum Board states there must be a "strong evidence base" for any new curriculum, both in terms of theory and what works in the classroom.

Additional evidence that Australia's national curriculum is on the right track relates to its assessment and reporting regime. During his period as the education minister under the Howard government, Brendan Nelson mandated A-to-E reports (or equivalent), detailing student performance. Not only does the board also argue for A-to-E reports, but in opposition to the current practice of grouping curriculum into key stages (such as kindergarten to year two, or years five and six) states that so-called achievement standards, detailing standards of learning students should demonstrate, will be year-level specific.

No longer will students move from year to year with vague and confusing comments such as "consolidating" and "not yet established'. Parents and teachers will have a clear standard at each year to evaluate each student's level of performance, with a D or E signifying cause for concern.

The first stage of the national curriculum, to be implemented at the start of 2011, involves English, mathematics, history and science. The document Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English (to be used as a guide when writing the English curriculum K-12) provides further evidence of a conservative bent.

Readers who have followed debates in The Australian will appreciate how English teaching has been adversely affected by whole language (where children are taught to read by looking and guessing) and the failure to teach grammar and more formal aspects of language use, such as spelling, punctuation and syntax. Not only does the English document call for teaching the "fundamentals, like phonological and phonemic awareness", it also states that grammar should be taught "across all the years of schooling" and that "explicit teaching and consolidation of the fundamentals of spoken and written English are important aspects of the national English curriculum".

While the definition of literature is weakened by the inclusion of multimodal texts (can watching a film or posting an entry on Facebook ever replace the type of engagement demanded by the printed word?), specific mention of the need to teach those works associated with "Australia's literary heritage" should be commended. When detailing the importance of literature, the board's paper, in opposition to texts being analysed in terms of power relationships and the rights of victim groups, states that literary texts are significant because of their cultural value and that students should explore the "aesthetic and ethical aspects of literary texts".

Since the personal-growth model became prevalent during the early 1970s, and more recently with the advent of discovery learning, where teachers become facilitators and students self-directed knowledge navigators, more formal approaches to teaching have been shunned. Thankfully, the English document argues for a proper balance between curriculum content and process - both are essential and how they are employed depends on the task at hand - and between explicit teaching and more student-centred approaches.

While the curriculum frameworks to be implemented in 2011 have yet to be written, and the devil will be in the detail, based on the two documents discussed above, there is cause for optimism.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Another "debate is over" jerk

This is a scientific debate with no obvious political implications but I have taken an interest in it from the beginning because of a related matter that DOES have considerable political implications. And as soon as you see a "debate is over" claim you realize that science is taking second place to something else. The debate is NEVER over in science. The debate was "over" about Newton's laws of motion for centuries -- until Einstein proved them wrong.

The related matter is that in Australia there are common claims from the Left that Australian Aborigines are "owed" various things (mostly land and money) because they were the "original inhabitants" of Australia. But they were not. There was a pygmy race before them that they mostly wiped out. Some of the pygmies concerned survived in a mountain redoubt near where I was born in far Northern Australia, however, and there are photographs of them still. They have since intermarried with Aborigines but there are still some VERY short Aborigines in the area. I have seen them. Note this story of a very elderly 3'7" tall Aborigine from the area I speak of. The existence of Australian pygmies has however been hushed up in the usual Leftist way in pursuit of their "reparations" claims on behalf of Aborigines.

So when I saw the announcement that fossils of very short people had been discovered on an island near Australia, I immediately said: Aha! More pygmies! That was not a conclusion universally shared, however. There were many claims that the individuals concerned were a different species and not homo sapiens at all. Since then the controversy has raged with arguments for and against them being homo sapiens. The latest claim is below. I add a footnote in reply (A footnote in more ways than one!).
A sensational theory that the 18,000-year-old remains of the hobbit were those of a modern human with a brain deformity who had received prehistoric dental work has been debunked.

According to physical anthropologist William Jungers and his Australian, Indonesian and US colleagues, their new study of the very long foot of the very short hobbit, Homo floresensis, is the final evidence that she and her tiny ilk were a never-before-seen human cousin, combining primitive and modern traits. "The (deformity) debate is officially over," said Professor Jungers, head of the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University Medical Centre in New York.

No known syndrome nor pathology of modern people could explain the mix of features displayed by the hobbit, which lived on the Indonesian island of Flores from 90,000 to possibly 13,000 years ago, Professor Jungers said. "Wishful thinking, arm-waving and woolly conspiracy theories can't change inconvenient facts," said Professor Jungers, lead author on one of two studies reported today in the journal Nature.

Leading critic Maciej Henneberg, a University of Adelaide physical anthropologist, told The Australian he stood by his hypothesis that the individual hobbit studied was a deformed human with dental work. "What we are seeing is a strange mixture of very modern characteristics and some that are like a deformed human ... There is no precedent and it doesn't fit into what we know about the evolution of higher primates," Professor Henneberg said.

According to Harvard University physical anthropologist Daniel Lieberman, that's the point of the Jungers group's findings. "Recently discovered (fossil) footprints from Kenya indicate that a modern foot had evolved by 1.5 million years ago, presumably in (an early human) Homo erectus," he writes in an independent commentary, also in Nature. "Unless the Flores fossils re-evolved a primitive foot, they must have branched off the human line before this time."

In the related Nature paper, palaeontologists Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister -- both with London's Natural History Museum -- suggest the 1m tall hobbit's head -- disproportionately small for the rest of her body -- could be an evolutionary response to living for thousands of years on a tiny island. Other animals on the island -- stegosaurs, for example -- shrank in a well-known process called island dwarfism. They found evidence that this had happened to the hobbits by studying -- surprisingly -- pygmy hippos in Madagascar, which also have exceptionally small brains for their size.

Dr Weston and Professor Lister compared the "hippo model" with ancient humans and hobbits, concluding the hobbit's brain-body ratio was comparable with Homo erectus, as a result of island dwarfing.

Regardless of whether the hobbit downsized from Homo erectus or evolved from an even more primitive ancestor, Homo habilis, the latest reports add to a growing body of anatomical, archaeological and even medical imaging evidence that the hobbit is a real species from the ancient past. As Dr Lieberman noted, there's only one way to test each hypothesis: find more fossils, especially in Asia. "Get your shovels," he said.

It is perfectly reasonable that a large foot should have re-emerged in an isolated human population. We have in our genes the information from a lot of our evolutionary past and it sometimes re-emerges. There have, for instance, been in China some people born with tails. And the entire human species is said to be neotenous -- meaning that we have "regressed" to an infantile state in various ways. So the large foot that the "debate is over" man relies on proves nothing. If anything, it is a confirmation of Darwin's Galapagos Island observations that the same species can change in response to their environment.

Border security to get $500m boost in 2009 budget

What's the point if when you catch illegals you treat them as honoured guests? Australias Leftist government "punishes" them when they arrive by giving them money to go shopping and will listen sympathetically to any pack of lies. I kid you not: Money to go shopping is one of the first things they get when they arrive, plus better accommodation than they have ever had before. John Howard used to just send them to jail

BORDER security is expected to get up to $500 million in funding in next Tuesday's federal budget. Since the Rudd government abolished temporary protection visas last August, 18 vessels of asylum seekers have been intercepted in Australian waters. This has led to opposition claims that the government's border protection policy has failed.

The government will outline a Regional Action Plan which could receive between $200 million and $500 million in anti-people smuggling measures, The Australian reports. The funding is expected to finance more boats and aircraft, training for border-control staff and extra Australian Federal Police (AFP) in the south-east Asia region.

The AFP is tipped to get an extra $80 million for counter-terrorism measures overseas.


Delaying Warmist laws not enough

AN old lesson all governments have to learn anew is that it is the election promises you keep that are likeliest to get you into trouble. It is a lesson Kevin Rudd is learning the hard way, with his ignominious retreat from his (always delusional) ambition to make Australia a world leader in its response to global warming.

It has been obvious for months that rushing ahead with a clearly flawed carbon trading scheme, one that would have serious adverse consequences for jobs and economic activity in the midst of what Rudd and Wayne Swan refer to, correctly, as the worst global recession since the Depression of the 1930s, was an act of national irresponsibility. However, the Rudd Government appeared to be living in a parallel universe.

The Treasurer likes to say that the world changed in September last year, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a near meltdown in global financial markets and a precipitate decline in economic activity. Yet in December last year, when the escalation of the crisis was frightening governments and central banks across the world, Rudd and his Climate Change Minister Penny Wong were telling us it would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and environment to delay the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

So, what changed? Or as Rudd was asked at his press conference on Monday: "Why isn't today's decision reckless and irresponsible?" His reply was unusually short, perhaps indicating irritation at this impertinence. "Well, what we've had is a deepening of the global financial crisis, which has now become a global economic crisis and the worst recession in three quarters of a century. That's what happened." Oh, really?

Delaying the introduction of an ETS is a sensible decision but it should have been made months ago. Presumably it has been made now because the political risks of pushing ahead have become unacceptable. There has been a rising chorus of complaint from business and Labor's legislation faced certain defeat in the Senate.

The Government has resorted to heavy political spin and artful manipulation of interest groups to minimise the damage. At his press conference, Rudd helpfully identified the groups the Government spent a lot of time massaging ahead of its announcement, to give it political cover for its embarrassing backflip. These were, in order, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF, the Climate Institute, the ACTU and the Australian Council of Social Service.

The last five are obvious allies of the Government on climate change, if now somewhat disillusioned ones. But you may have thought the BCA and the AIG would have seen the opportunity to take a much harder line on the threat the Government's scheme posed for many of their members. But no, both rushed forth to compliment the Government on its decision and urge support for its proposal to push its (amended) legislation through parliament as quickly as possible.

A few months ago John Roskam, executive director of conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, posed some interesting questions: What are business organisations for? Do they exist so their chief executives can sit on government advisory boards and have afternoon tea at the Lodge? Or is their purpose to represent the interests of enterprises and employers? Not the latter, it would seem. As Roskam also has observed, business is to blame for allowing the ETS juggernaut to progress as far as it has: "There's not a single significant business association in the country that has opposed the notion that Australia should have an ETS."

They will protest, of course, that they have succeeded in winning delay and cash handouts, and that their objective is to provide certainty for business about future investment plans. But there is no certainty in the Rudd Government's plans. Nor can there be, as the outcomes that really matter are out of its hands and have to be determined internationally.

To be fair, some business organisations have expressed considerable scepticism about the ETS, notably the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as have leading companies. The MCA, for example, recognises the promised certainty as an illusion, "a temporary stay of execution for thousands of mining jobs and billions of dollars in investment". None has gone so far as the IPA in calling for the ETS to be scrapped in the absence of a comprehensive international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, and realistically there is not much chance of that.

But the Rudd Government's backdown gives the lie to all the hysterical claims by it and others that immediate action is needed to save the planet. Instead Australia should take the opportunity to have a comprehensive, independent, review of the Government's emissions trading plans, the alternatives, the Government's modelling of the economic effects, and challenges to the so-called scientific consensus on global warming.

The report on the Government's ETS by economist David Pearce of the Centre for International Economics for the federal Opposition exposes a range of serious problems and risks with the present scheme. In particular, the scheme fails to offer any rigorous assessment of the transitional costs of moving to a low carbon future. These transitional costs for an economy such as Australia's - with its abundant carbon-based energy resources, its energy-intensive industry structure, coal-based electricity generation industry and its coal and gas exports - are potentially large and the associated risks considerable.

Pearce suggests the Productivity Commission should be asked to examine the Government's scheme and alternatives, a suggestion taken up by Malcolm Turnbull and which industry should get behind. The terms of reference for such an inquiry should let the commission start with a clean slate and not have its hands tied by government-imposed policy assumptions. And no pre-emptive legislation should be passed ahead of the international climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year.

If that conference fails to come up with a comprehensive agreement on emissions control that includes India and China, as seems likely, then it's back to the drawing board and the commission's inquiry can inform a new course for policy here.


Precipitous dumbing down in Queensland schools

Teachers still incompetent after completing 4-year teaching degrees -- degrees which are notoriously mere fluff. Standards were higher when teachers needed a one-year diploma only

THE maths skills of Queensland school students fell so greatly during the 1970s and 1980s that researchers have likened it to losing two years of learning. Education expert Geoff Masters has told the Bligh Government that when there was an emphasis on maths in Queensland primary schools, the state outperformed all other Australian students. However, he said the state recorded the biggest national decline in junior secondary school mathematics in the 30 years up until 1995.

Professor Masters' review also listed survey results which showed that only 44 per cent of Queensland Year 4 teachers felt "very well" prepared to teach Year 4 science. Premier Anna Bligh has backed the report, which urges the introduction of literacy and numeracy tests for teacher graduates as part of their registration.

However, that recommendation has been given a cool reception by teacher unions, who are set to begin negotiations with the Government over future pay and conditions. Professor Masters said he found many outstanding teachers, school leaders and primary schools throughout the state. However, he said the review was also told of "teachers whose own literacy skills are little better than those of the students they teach, of underperforming school leaders and of entire schools in which levels of students attendance, behaviour and achievement are unacceptably low".

He said the evidence he uncovered raised questions about the overall performance of Queensland students and the "significant disparities" between their achievement and those of interstate and overseas students. Increased support for teachers and school leaders was the key to raising reading, writing and numeracy skills in Queensland primary schools, he said.

Improved student performance would come from schools with committed teachers who knew their subjects well and school leaders who set high expectations and demanded success for all. "A theme that emerged from the review was the fundamental importance of having all players – teachers, students, parents, school leaders, system leaders – working in a consistent and mutually supportive way," Professor Masters said.

He dismissed the argument that Queensland students have 12 months less schooling than their primary school counterparts on the same year level in other states, saying the state's underperformance continued into lower secondary school.


Cairns base hospital under fire again

But nobody in government gives a hoot: "Just routine" is the attitude

BODIES at a Queensland Health mortuary were left with gaping wounds after autopsies, stored with medical equipment attached and allowed to decompose. Funeral directors have told of the unsavoury practices and raised a litany of other concerns over the treatment of bodies at the Cairns Hospital mortuary.

Queensland Health is investigating the complaints and the Crime and Misconduct Commission has been alerted, The Courier-Mail reports.

In letters to senior Queensland Health bureaucrats, the Queensland Funeral Directors' Association said its members' complaints about poor practices at the mortuary had fallen on deaf ears for years. "We have tried over the years to try to resolve some of the concerns but now we have received formal complaints and concerns and we now write to you hoping that some progress can be made," QFDA secretary Wayne Bell wrote.

Funeral directors said it was common for bodies to continue to bleed after autopsies because they were packed with plastic incontinence sheeting and roughly stitched up with wax string. They said bodies from the Cairns Hospital mortuary "frequently" had catheters, drains and IV access equipment attached to them, from which blood and body fluids continued to drain. Body bags were often re-used and poor controls were in place to prevent the spread of diseases, including cleaning with the general purpose product Spray N Wipe.

"I have witnessed a number of body trays that have blood and body fluids on them when presented for placement of bodies we are delivering for coronial investigation," a letter from one funeral director said.

Health Minister Paul Lucas yesterday said he expected the issues raised by funeral directors to be taken seriously.

In a statement, Queensland Health clinical and statewide services acting chief executive officer Greg Shaw said a preliminary report had found work practices were "generally satisfactory" and found no evidence of "major problems". "However, like all audits it includes suggestions for improvements," he said.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Zealand projection

Consider the following two recent news summaries and then read the story below. "Projection" is seeing your own faults in others

No dating, thanks, just sex: "Dating culture is dead - instead, young New Zealand women are regularly getting drunk and cruising around in packs looking for men to have sex with. That's one of the findings of a TVNZ Sunday investigation into the sexual behaviour of New Zealand women. The programme makers did the story after Kiwi women last year topped the Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey as the world's most promiscuous. They are reported to have an average of 20 sexual partners, double that of their Australian and British counterparts and almost three times the global average of seven. TVNZ Sunday correspondent Janet McIntyre said there was anecdotal evidence from the five women on the show that the Durex survey findings were valid. "There's a new kind of mating ritual sex is the point of entry into the relationship." If the first-up sex wasn't any good women weren't prepared to waste their time progressing the relationship. "There's no dating culture any more." In candid interviews about their sexual experiences some of the women who are all in their twenties felt empowered by having sex and wanted to celebrate and enjoy it. McIntyre said all the women who had experienced one-night stands had been affected by alcohol, a term described by at least one expert in a report as "getting pissed and hooking up".

Tricky New Zealander: "A KIWI fugitive infamous for his tricky evasion of police has inspired a new range of "Where's Wally" -style T-shirts that make a joke of his failed capture. William Stewart has been on the loose in New Zealand's South Island since February 10, attracting endless publicity with his thefts and evasion stunts, including blasting through police cordons on a farm bike. The self-styled criminal captured the imagination of fellow Kiwis when he stole dinner from a farm kitchen and etched a thank-you note in the table signed "Billy the Hunted One''. He captured the imagination of property developer Barry Toneycliffe, who has started selling "Where's Billy'' T-shirts online, fetching as much as NZ$60 ($47) a piece. Mr Stewart, 47, a long-haired, unkempt Michael Bolton lookalike, has been described by police as a dangerous, methamphetamine-addicted loner. They believe he sleeps rough in rural areas during the day and moves at night in his latest stolen vehicle with two shotguns at his side. He has been sighted robbing stores in several small towns, all of which feature on the T-shirts with their names obscured. A South Island freezer worker has also been inspired by Billy, penning a song in his name after hearing about it at his small town pub. "He's a bit of a legend in this place at the moment ... and he's obviously got a lot of followers out there,'' Robbie Robertson told the Timaru Herald. But the police say it's no laughing matter and have warned the public not to help the fugitive. "This guy is a scumbag thief, a career criminal,'' said Sergeant Stu Munro, who insisted police are not embarrassed by his evasion."

AUSTRALIANS have been made an international laughing stock by New Zealand's blockbuster comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords. The pair have gone to town on Aussies in their second TV series, which is being watched by millions in the US and hundreds of thousands in New Zealand. Australians will get their chance to see it soon, with SBS confirming yesterday it had bought season two and plans to screen it later this year.

The series, bankrolled by American TV giant HBO, continues with Jemaine Clement and Bret MacKenzie playing two bumbling, down-and-out Kiwi musicians struggling to make it as a novelty folk band in New York.

Enter an intriguing Aussie character who conforms to every stereotype ever thrown at an Australian, much to the delight of New Zealand and American audiences. Shy and awkward Jemaine picks up a woman at a nightclub and goes back to her place only to discover in the morning that she is, shock horror, an Aussie.

Keitha - she's named after her father - is a rough broad with slobbish habits, a family heritage steeped in crime, and an accent so thick not even the New Zealanders can understand her. Jemaine realises the mistake he's made on waking in a room covered in posters of a koala, Uluru and Men at Work, not to mention the Foster's empties and Australian flag doona cover.

Keitha, played by actress Sarah Wynter, produces lines like, "I've got a tongue like a badger's arsehole" and exclaims that she'd rather "root" than talk.

Jemaine is hopeful she might not really be an Australian, but she proudly assures him: "Mate, you couldn't get more Australian than me." "My great-great-grandfather was a renown rapist," she says, adding that her great-great grandmother was a prostitute, while her mother was, you guessed it, a panel beater.

Kiwi film and cultural specialists are light-heartedly nervous about what Aussies will make of it. "They'll be shocked, I'm sure, because every stereotype they've ever heard about themselves is there, as plain as day," said Misha Kavka, a senior media lecturer at the University of Auckland.

Australian social history specialist Professor Peter Hempenstall, of the University of Newcastle, said it was clear the script writers had delighted in the cultural stereotypes, with Australians coming off second best. "It's all there, the convict stuff and the stereotype of the loud, raw, assertive, sexually-aggressive women," Prof Hempenstall said. "It's almost as though the New Zealanders have adopted the high moral ground here."

But Dr Kavka said this wasn't the Kiwis taking a swipe. Written for the US market, Conchords was a Kiwi take on what Americans know about the world Down Under. "You have to remember it's actually a bit of a compliment to Australians," she said. "At least Americans know something about Australia, even if it is about their convict past. They know zilch about New Zealand."

But she said New Zealanders do take "a little bit of pleasure" in precisely how reductive the Australian depiction is. "I'm not surprised it's been such a hit (in New Zealand), and I'm sure the Australians, with their good sense of humour, will enjoy it too." "After all, it's very, very funny."

Americans, for their part, have definitely got the joke about trans-Tasman rivalry and they're playing along.


Australia's banks laughing all the way to profit

Banks in Australia could be subject to tougher global regulation of capital levels despite the major institutions locally being ultra-conservative compared with their international peers. A report by KPMG, to be published today, shows that Australian banks are among the best capitalised in the world after raising at least $40 billion since the Government's banking guarantee was introduced last year.

The rush of capital raisings, mainly through domestic and international bond deals, has lifted the tier-one capital ratios of the major four above 8 per cent, well in advance of the recent average of 7.6 per cent, reports The Australian.

The KPMG report also finds that the Australian majors have weathered the global financial crisis well, with the top four recording a half-year pre-tax profits of $12.47 billion.

The result is a 23 per cent lift on $10.13 billion in the second half of 2008 and in line with $12.42 billion in the first half of last year.

KPMG's banking partner Michelle Hinchliffe said there was a risk that the Australian banks could become subject to tougher international regulatory rules from the G20 to require financial institutions to hold more capital, even though the domestic banking sector was in stronger shape than the US and Britain.

"That will have to be applied to be globally consistent but the Australian banks are in a much better position and have nowhere near the problems of the US and the UK.

A separate report on the banking industry from PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that a major driver of the bank's profit sustainability was the maintained increase in net interest income, which grew by 18.9 per cent in the March half compared with last year.

It found that net interest margins for the big four banks rose by six basis points from an average of 2.08 per cent in the second half of the 2008 banking financial year to 2.14 per cent - showing Australian banks are making more on lending than they were before the financial crisis.


Strange priorities at a large Melbourne university

Victoria University is axing foreign languages for remedial English. Given the ever-sagging standards in primary and secondary schools throughout the Anglosphere, the expanding need for remedial English teaching is understandable (even Harvard teaches remedial English) but what benefit is Vietnamese language teaching supposed to bring? Can there be any doubt that major European languages are culturally more important? Cutting Chinese is understandable, if regrettable, though. It is just too hard for most native speakers of English.

Victoria university is a cobbled-together set of former technical colleges -- not to be confused with the much more distinguished New Zealand university of the same name

VICTORIA University has dropped all its language courses except Vietnamese, while intensifying remedial English courses for which students are clamouring. Members of Melbourne's Chinese community demonstrated yesterday outside the university's Footscray campus against the decision to stop teaching Chinese language. "We need more and more people familiar with Chinese language and culture, so this move almost beggars belief," said the president of the Victorian chapter of the Chinese Community Council, Stanley Chiang.

Victoria University's Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Harman, defended the move, which she said was in response to student demand. "Victoria University's first priority is to the communities we serve, which are ethnically diverse and multilingual with more than 40 per cent of our students from non-English-speaking backgrounds," she said. "Our community is telling us that they want English language programs that help them through their courses of study. Over recent years, relatively few of them have expressed a demand for the (foreign) language courses that we have been teaching."

A university spokeswoman said the decision to intensify the teaching of English was based on the results of student surveys. Some Australian-born students were still lacking English proficiency after receiving university places.

Chinese had been axed, she said, substantially because of the dwindling numbers. While 36 were enrolled for the first year, just five were studying the subject in the third year. "This is not a course that students want to do," the spokeswoman said. Ms Harman said no student would be disadvantaged as a result of the decision not to teach Chinese. She said students who wished to study Chinese, and other languages, could undertake those studies at the University of Melbourne, where there would be more places available.

Victoria University is reducing its language courses to a single language, Vietnamese, which Ms Harman said "is an important community language in the west" of Melbourne. [So why do you need to teach it??]

Dr Chiang said the council would lobby federal and state ministers to reverse the decision. "We understand fully that in these economic times the university might have to rationalise and reconsider where to place their emphasis," he said. "But we would have thought that as China's economy becomes more and more important to us, that Chinese language teaching would be the last thing to cut."


Corrupt West Australian cops still refusing to admit that they did any wrong

ANDREW Mallard - awarded $3.25m over his wrongful murder conviction - is not satisfied with the payment and is talking to his lawyers. Mr Mallard told reporters: "I am extremely disappointed and I will be conferring with my lawyers." He would not be drawn into comments on the desired amount for the payout, describing it as a "very delicate situation".

Mr Mallard was yesterday offered $3.25m compensation for serving more than 12 years in jail for the a 1994 murder he didn't commit. He was wrongly convicted of murdering Mosman Park jeweller Pamela Lawrence, but later acquitted by the High Court.

Attorney General Christian Porter announced the compensation offer to Mr Mallard, the highest of its kind in the State’s history.

Mr Mallard served 12 years of a 20-year jail sentence before his conviction was quashed by the High Court in 2005. He walked free from jail in 2006. The murder investigation and his wrongful conviction was the subject of a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry into whether police officers had engaged in misconduct. Two assistant police commissioners, Mal Shervill and David Caporn, were forced to step down from their top jobs in the wake of the CCC's findings.

Mr Mallard had demanded $7.5 million on advice from his lawyers and on the weekend Opposition legal spokesman John Quigley claimed Mr Mallard was injected with drugs as part of efforts to make him confess to the crime.

Labor MP and friend John Quigley, who has championed Mr Mallard's case and lobbied for his release, said he knew the final settlement would be ``miserable''.... ``There is no way Premier Colin Barnett or Attorney-General Christian Porter would accept $3.25 million for 12 years imprisonment and the destruction of their lives. ``There is no way they would accept that as proper compensation. ``In fact the sum being given to Andrew is about the same amount that Mr Barnett will receive from his superannuation scheme when he retires.’’ Mr Quigley revealed last week that Mr Mallard was seeking a $7.5 million payout.

Mr Quigley re-iterated that Mr Mallard would sue police in light of the $4.25 million shortfall. ``The government should have offered the $7.5 million straight up, or they should have appointed an independent assessor,'' he said. ``I would have thought the police union won’t be happy with this. ``Too right, Andrew will sue.’’

WA Police Union president Mike Dean wouldn’t be drawn into comments by Labor MP John Quigley that Mr Mallard would now sue police. Mr Dean said he stood by the officers, including Mr Shervill and Mr Caporn, and believed the $3.25m amount offered by the State Government was sufficient. “I’m sure the Government would have liked to have settled all issues, (but) the officers are extremely confident on their legal position,” he said. He said he did not believe the offer had left the officers exposed to personal litigation.

“I don’t believe there’s any legal exposure for these officers whatsoever – they still stand by their position that they have not acted inappropriately in any way,” he said. “If (Mr Mallard) wishes to pursue the civil writs, then they will be defended.”


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rudd's insane and destructive credit policies

Leftists are experts at destruction in the name of doing good so this is not entirely a surprise

POPULIST policies, almost by definition, are damaging in the long term. But the “responsible lending” policy announced last week by Superannuation and Corporate Law Minister Nick Sherry enjoys a distinction rare even among the most populist of policies. It will be damaging, perhaps disastrous, in the short term as well as the long term. Most disturbing, it will significantly harm those it seeks to help: the working families so beloved of the Rudd Government.

As usual, the key features of this shambolic policy sound heart-warming. “For the first time, Australia will have laws that prohibit irresponsible lending to consumers by all types of credit providers,” Sherry says. The new laws will require lenders and finance providers to assess a borrower’s needs and whether a proposed loan is “not suitable” for those needs. New penalties, including civil and criminal charges, will be imposed on lenders or brokers who approve or recommend unsuitable loans.

What could be wrong with such noble aims? Let’s start with the short-term costs. These provisions work a revolution in lender liability. Traditionally, the law has assumed the borrower is best placed to assess their own interests. Now, however, a duty is placed unilaterally on the lender to ensure the borrower can repay. There is no obligation on borrowers to look after their own interests. Indeed, the legal effect of these new laws will almost certainly be to relieve borrowers of any duty to look after their own interests.

Even if you accepted that as a good policy, this is a radical shift. The result will be an immediate and costly overhaul of basic lending practices and processes. At a time when the Rudd Government is desperately seeking stimulus, the wheels of credit will be gummed up. Banks will have to slow credit to a trickle while they assess what certificates from lawyers, accountants and employers will be required before they can safely lend.

Lenders fearful of criminal sanctions will become much more risk averse, strangling the flow of credit even to quality borrowers. The increased costs of making loans will be passed on to all borrowers, but will hurt those who can least afford it the most. Some modern lending practices integral to today’s economy will simply become unlawful.

The mad rush to “do something” demonstrates the Rudd Government’s inexperience: it simply doesn’t get modern lending. It plainly doesn’t realise that vast amounts of consumer credit are advanced on the basis of automated credit scorecards generated by computer programs. It is not economically feasible for banks and credit providers to assess individually the thousands of applications for small amounts of credit and debts they receive every day. So they use sophisticated software utilising vast data banks of aggregated credit histories to conduct those assessments.

Well, goodbye to all that. Individual credit assessments will be required now, even though modern evidence is that computerised credit scoring predicts credit card default at least as well as individual assessment. At a time when the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are begging consumers to go shopping, Sherry is cutting up consumers’ credit cards with his crack-a-nut-with-a-hammer policy.

Another paradox is that although these laws are intended to exclude most forms of business lending, they do cover loans to investors in residential real estate. So while the Rudd Government says it seeks to stimulate the building industry, these proposals will significantly reduce the flow of credit to real-estate investors. Also at risk will be the loans that support the first-home owners grant. Banks are already concerned that these grants are being used by young borrowers with no savings history and little ability to withstand an increase in interest rates, let alone a bout of unemployment. So lenders may, under the responsible lending laws, commit a criminal offence if they lend to risky borrowers.

Sherry has therefore neatly detonated the pillar that supports the Rudd Government’s central economic policy: spending our way out of a recession.

This inconsistency may seem lunatic enough. Now consider the longer-term implications of Sherry’s proposals. By shifting the burden of credit risk from borrower to lender, the new laws threaten to repeat the policy mistakes of the subprime lending fiasco in the US. Though politicians rarely acknowledge this, a chief contributor to that crisis was the Clinton administration’s policies of emphasising borrowers’ rights to home loans (especially among socially disadvantaged groups) without doing anything about traditional US practices requiring home loans to be limited in recourse to the mortgaged property. Limited recourse loans remove the need for the borrower to borrow responsibly. And now Sherry is trying to impose that same culture of borrower rights without responsibility in Australia. We now know where that leads.

Regrettably, when Australia has its own Sherry-induced subprime crisis one day, our banks will be in no position to rescue us. While the prudent banking practices of our banks have, to date, meant we have stood strong in a world of insolvent banks, when riskless borrowing leads to inevitable economic problems, our banks will be in deep trouble. Their loans will have been rendered unenforceable by armies of clever lawyers and courts desperate to help the little guy.

Could this foolish legislation be improved? Unfortunately, the populist appeal of this policy makes it unlikely the Government will do the sensible thing and dump this ill-considered plan. However, there are at least two things that would mitigate the folly.

First, the Rudd Government must surely permit so-called positive credit reporting. Amazing as it may seem given the Government’s stated desire to ensure responsible lending, Australian lenders are denied access, on privacy grounds, to large amounts of readily available information about a borrower’s creditworthiness. Lenders can access central databases of so-called negative credit information: for example, whether the borrower has defaulted on loans or gone bankrupt. Yet governments have steadfastly refused banks and lenders access to the sort of positive credit information available in many other countries about a borrower’s repayment history.

Given that such information is a critical predictor of defaults, this is nothing short of Kafkaesque. On the one hand, the Rudd Government demands lenders lend responsibly. On the other it denies lenders the information that would enable them to do precisely that.

The second, and most critical, change is to re-establish a sense of personal responsibility in borrowers. Borrowers have a duty to themselves and their families to take all the steps they reasonably can to ensure they borrow responsibly and that they give lenders the accurate information and assistance they need. These new laws should explicitly impose those duties on borrowers. Not to do so would be the height of irresponsibility.


NSW government refuses to reform its disastrous ambulance service

The untouchability of government employees once again

THE controversial head of the NSW Ambulance Service will not be sacked despite a damning parliamentary inquiry that found he had presided over a decade-long failure to deal with bullying and harassment within the organisation that led to at least nine suicides.

The Minister for Health, John Della Bosca, said the tenure of the ambulance chief executive, Greg Rochford, had been reviewed in January three months after an upper house committee called for an urgent investigation into his performance.

In announcing the Government's response to the 45 recommendations made in the report, Mr Della Bosca said yesterday he was committed to a statewide "culture change and improvement program" to end endemic bullying in the service. However he refused to take direct responsibility for the service or the performance of its chief executive.

Mr Rochford, whose resignation has been called for repeatedly by the Health Services Union, will keep his job, although a committee of long-time current and retired NSW public servants will be appointed to oversee his efforts to resolve disputes and address workplace behaviour. And Mr Rochford will continue to be responsible for the management of senior ambulance executives, despite the report finding they were a "nepotistic old boys' club" who swept claims of bullying and harassment under the carpet for 10 years.

Phil Roxburgh, whose revelations about bullying at the Cowra ambulance station sparked the inquiry, said Mr Rochford and other senior executives should have been removed. "To find out these people are still in the same positions, offering no more than lip service [to anti-bullying policies] is very disheartening and disappointing," said Mr Roxburgh, who is now manager of the Moruya ambulance station. "I do not want to see our only chance for a change in culture blown."

A paramedic, Christine Hodder, the first woman to work at the Cowra ambulance station, took her life in April 2005 after years of bullying. Mr Roxburgh, her former manager at Cowra, went on stress leave after he was harassed for supporting her.

Mr Della Bosca said many of the recommendations from the inquiry were already being dealt with by the Government including the appointment of an extra two investigation staff to ensure serious matters were dealt with rapidly, a "healthy workplace manager" to deal with grievances and a compulsory "respectful workplace training" program for all staff. "Change on this scale will always create workplace tensions and it's a credit to the workforce that the healthy workplace initiatives are being embraced," he said.

The committee chairwoman, Robyn Parker, a Liberal member of the Legislative Council, said some issues raised in the six-month-long inquiry, such as wages and conditions, had since been resolved following a hearing in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. However, the Government had not explicitly accepted the majority of recommendations in its response but used "weasel words" to claim issues were already being addressed, without any evidence of change.

Ms Parker said she had been getting numerous letters from people saying "nothing has changed, the culture and the environment is as toxic as it was during the inquiry". "Unless there is a massive cultural change starting from the very top of the service, how can officers trust the Rees Government?"


Federal police a "shemozzle"

THE lawyer for former terror suspect Mohamed Haneef says the resignation of Australia's top cop should be seized as an opportunity to correct mistakes committed on his watch. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty is to step down from his role in September. Barrister Stephen Keim represented Indian-born Dr Haneef, who was wrongly charged and detained for a month in 2007 over suspected links to the UK bombings. Dr Haneef is now working in Dubai but is seeking compensation from Australian authorities.

"We think that the news that Mr Keelty is stepping down provides an important opportunity for the Commonwealth Government to correct the built-up mistakes from the past,'' Mr Keim said. "It was a great concern of ours that even after the collapse of the case the AFP did everything they could to attack (Dr Haneef's) reputation.''

He said while the Clarke report into Dr Haneef's case exposed specific flaws with the AFP, the agency's problems went "much deeper''. "The Clarke report revealed that the organisation was just a shemozzle,'' Mr Keim said. "One of the problems with Mr Keelty is that in his public statements over the years he has not shown any ability to acknowledge error on his part or the organisation.''

Mr Keim was publicly criticised by Mr Keelty for his leaking of a 142-page police transcript to the media, but he was later cleared of professional misconduct and given a civil rights award.

He said any overhaul of the AFP needed to look at the powers and resources of the ombudsman to oversee its operation and an improvement in the AFP's release of information to the public.

Mr Keim said the chief's resignation also provided an opportunity to look at the way the AFP dealt with cases involving Australians who potentially faced the death penalty for crimes in another country. He said Scott Rush could have avoided the death penalty had the AFP taken the advice of Rush's family and stopped him from boarding a plane to Bali. One of the so-called Bali Nine, Rush, 23, was arrested at Bali's airport in April 2005 with 1.3kg of heroin taped to his legs and is now on death row.


Some boatpeople seeking asylum for second time

They know that everything has changed and that the new Leftist government will "punish" them by giving them money to go shopping and will listen sympathetically to any pack of lies. I kid you not: Money to go shopping is one of the first things they get when they arrive, plus better accommodation than they have ever had before

AT least a dozen of the asylum seekers who have arrived in the current wave of boatpeople are return visitors, some having been granted temporary protection visas and others having been rejected after arriving on the now-infamous MV Tampa. Figures supplied by the Immigration Department revealed that between October and January, four of those who arrived by boat had been in Australia previously on temporary protection visas. The figures will reignite the debate about the effectiveness of the controversial visa scheme, which the federal Government abandoned but which the Coalition has suggested should be restored.

A further five boatpeople in the recent influx had been detained on Nauru as part of the now-defunct Pacific Solution and were voluntarily repatriated after their claims for protection failed. Of those five, four had sailed for Australia and been rescued by Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, which arrived in Australian waters in 2001, becoming a flashpoint election issue and leading to the Howard government creating the Pacific Solution of offshore processing centres.

The department revealed yesterday that since January, a further three boatpeople who had arrived were known to have either been in Australia previously or been detained on Nauru. The figures mean that at least 12 of the asylum seekers to have journeyed to Australia in the current wave of arrivals have tried, or succeeded, in coming to Australia before. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said last night it was possible the number could climb because some of the 231 asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia since January had still to be processed.

There have been 17 unauthorised boat arrivals since the Government announced in August a softening of detention policies.

The Coalition has said changes to Australian policy, in particular the abolition of TPVs, have contributed to the spike by conveying the impression Australia is now a soft touch. TPVs allowed asylum seekers to stay in Australia for three years, requiring them to demonstrate a need for protection on an ongoing basis. They were abolished in May last year, fulfilling an election pledge by Labor.

Malcolm Turnbull has said given the current surge, the Government must consider restoring the controversial visa. But he has stopped short of committing the Coalition to such a move amid fears it could reopen a damaging rift in his party between moderates, who opposed the visa - and hardliners. The Government has rejected the Coalition's arguments, saying a worldwide surge in refugees is behind the recent influx.

Yesterday, Refugee Council president John Gibson said it was difficult to know exactly why refugees might have chosen to leave Australia without assessing their individual cases. But he suggested one reason might be the visas themselves. "There have been some cases where people have been given protection but have returned home out of concern for their families," Mr Gibson told The Australian. "One of the causal functions in the increase in the number of people aboard the boats was the fact that TPVs didn't allow family reunions."

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said the Coalition would be watching the processing of two-time asylum seekers very closely. "If they haven't experienced extreme trauma in the intervening years since their first rejection, then the Coalition will demand to know how the criteria for refugee selection has changed," Dr Stone told The Australian.

Mr Gibson said a change in the political or physical situation in a refugee's home country might also account for a decision to return or reapply.



Two current articles below

Science has become subservient to political expediency

THE notion that human activity has an alarming influence on climate is based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and spurious claims about a scientific consensus. Independent scientists who question these claims are accused of being in the pay of the energy industry and of believing that the notion of man-made climate change is a conspiracy.

To the best of my knowledge, no climate conspiracy has ever existed. But another force has driven science into its present parlous state where the output of computer software is held in higher regard than observational data, where marketing spin is more important than fact and evidence, and where a trenchant defence of the notion of man-made global warming is seen as paramount.

The single, pre-eminent force driving this distortion of science originates in the once-august UN. The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change set the tone by linking climatic variations to the air and water pollution issues that it was quite reasonably addressing at the time. It ignored recognised natural climate forces and declared that recent variations in climate were attributable to human activity. Although the IPCC, which was set up by the UNFCCC to investigate the matter, backed away from the assertion that all modern climate change is man made, it nonetheless operates under a charter that considers only the risks of "human-induced" climate change.

Raising these matters under the UN banner was a political masterstroke because it drew national governments into the process. UN bodies have a reputation for political allegiances rather than peer-group pressure but the result is much the same, and even more so when government appointees, often fervent believers in the cause, speak passionately and seem backed by UNauthority.

No individual or government had the temerity to stand up to the UNFCCC or IPCC and say, "we don't agree". Some stridently endorsed the claims, and many interpreted the statement, "we don't know what else might be causing climate change, so it must be human activity" as proof positive rather than admission of incomplete knowledge.

The IPCC has now delivered four scientific assessment reports, each accompanied by an increasingly urgent call to action regarding climate change driven by greenhouse gases. National governments, which are signatories to the UNFCCC, have almost without exception bought into the alarm, modulating it only to accord better with their own political philosophies. This, combined with the allocation research funding according to policy relevance, means governments now attempt to predetermine the findings of scientific research.

For many years climate researchers have understood that their proposals will only be funded if they are pitched in line with government policy. Even worse, unless some aspect of their results appears to perpetuate government thinking, renewal of their funding is unlikely. Other climatologists are acutely aware of the potential consequences for their employers and their own employment prospects should they speak out in criticism of the dominant alarmist paradigm. Scientists who have criticised the hypothesis of human-caused climate change have had their funding curtailed or employment terminated.

Climate modellers have been very aware that their expensive and powerful computing facilities would be supported only if their research produced alarmist climate predictions. This notwithstanding, these models often produced results that were not in good agreement with historical data, perhaps because they poorly replicated or even omitted variations in climate.

These deficiencies and more have been papered over by reviving outdated and inaccurate research about the warming effect of carbon dioxide. The numbers still didn't add up but the inclusion of some "positive feedbacks" masked the problem, and the models were declared "proof" of a significant human influence on climate.

The peer-review process was originally a sanity check for the editors of scientific journals but has always been open to abuse by reviewers who wish to support or suppress a particular line of argument. The recent narrow focus of climate research funding has caused an outburst of scientific papers that support the IPCC's alarmist beliefs and relatively few papers that contradict it. Reviewers with vested interests suppress contradictory papers and support the "official" line.

Vested interests now dominate climate science. Whether climatologists, their employers and other people believe the government-approved line has become irrelevant, because they all wish to retain an income stream and whatever reputations they've established. These people advise governments, which subsequently set policy and research funding regardless of any contradiction with observational data.

Climate science is no longer an impartial truth but a slave to the yoke of politics and opportunism. If this continues, society will be the inevitable loser.


Rudd's backdown from Warmism needs to be more open

DESPITE the Government announcing it has backed away from early action to reduce carbon emissions, the Prime Minister's website continues to say, "The cost of inaction on climate change will be much greater than the cost of taking action now."

Like others working for Kevin Rudd, his website managers can't keep up with his policy changes. Costs of "inaction on climate change" have just assumed a new meaning. At the very least the PM, in postponing the carbon trading tax, is acknowledging that immediate measures to reduce emissions would be costlier than doing nothing.

But his proposed watering down of the already diluted proposals has all the hallmarks of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

Ross Garnaut, Rudd's hand-picked consultant on global warming policy, had already said that the white paper was irresponsible in proposing a free supply of emissions to electricity producers and energy intensive firms. Now Rudd plans to increase that supply further.

Garnaut, Rudd and Penny Wong all talked about failure of a meaningful international agreement on emission reduction at Copenhagen later this year as being unlikely. Now that such failure is a certainty, the costs of Australian action to the economy are becoming clearer even to mystics who see only evil in production. Hence the PM's humiliating backdown. But, never one to acknowledge his own misjudgments, Rudd is spinning this as a means to buying the Opposition's support and as some sort of hiatus to remain in place only while the global economic crisis runs its course.

Doubtless Rudd's postponement of the planned new carbon tax is a prelude to an attempt to replace it with a tax on households to help defray some of the costs of his reckless cash giveaways.

What is increasingly clear is that there will not be a carbon emissions trading scheme.

Australia has an energy-intensive industry structure, a coal-based electricity generation industry and coal and gas as our export mainstays.

Capitalising on our natural advantages in fossil fuel energy has required forging supportive institutional structures, a process that has taken many decades. Our carefully developed political and administrative framework has allowed the creation of an energy supply industry that is the backbone of our present living standards. To become one of the world's lowest cost energy suppliers has entailed marrying our resource endowment with entrepreneurial and workforce skills. All this would have been jettisoned by a tax squarely aimed at destroying that productive efficiency fostered by low-cost energy.

Strongly performing industries will be at a premium in a world economy that's likely to be facing sluggish conditions for many more years. Even the most complacent optimists can no longer take as given the income derived from our present industry structure. Compounding the effects of the global economic meltdown's external assault on living standards with some purpose-made domestic measures is now revealed as a sledgehammer blow to the welfare of all Australians.

Formally announcing a total abandonment of the carbon trading scheme must be the next step. Such action is necessary, and the sooner the better as the prospect of the proposed tax hangs like a sword of Damocles over any prospective investment decisions involving energy. Australia can never afford to carry such baggage and the global financial crisis merely brings this home.

Inadvertently, the PM's website remains spot-on in saying, "There is no greater challenge now facing our world and our nation than dangerous climate change." The challenge is to his Government's credibility at having commissioned endless reports, undermined the integrity of Treasury forecasting and created a monster department of hundreds of globe-trotting drones to promote phantom opportunities that a carbon tax would offer Australia. The "dangerous climate change" is the shift in the climate of business opinion and community opinion more generally, as the reality of a crippling new energy tax looms.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The killer bitch that the NSW ambulance sees no reason to fire

They had good grounds to fire her years ago -- but government employees are a protected class, of course

THE horrendous triple-0 record of the operator who took teenager David Iredale's last harrowing call includes hanging up on a desperate caller and ignoring emergency calls to read novels. The callous attitude of Stacey Dickens is revealed in the triple-0 operator's ambulance service disciplinary records, obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

Five years before she ignored David's pleas for a rescue helicopter and put him on hold while he was lost and dying in the Blue Mountains, Ms Dickens was disciplined for terminating an emergency call. Like David's case, ambulance officers were having difficulty finding Riyadh Alenzi, who had collapsed and stopped breathing while working at the Leppington Pastoral Company on September 10, 2001.

When a colleague called triple-0 to ask when a lost ambulance would arrive at the Bringelly company in Sydney's southwest, Ms Dickens terminated the call and failed to try to call him back despite having the number.

The Daily Telegraph has gained exclusive access to Ms Dickens' disciplinary record, including other incidents in which she was chastised for reading novels while on the job. According to the documents, on some occasions there were triple-0 calls flooding into the Sydney ambulance operations centre while she remained engrossed in her book.

Despite her record and even after admitting at an inquest into David Iredale's death that her mind was not on the job and that she was failing to absorb what the dying teenager was telling her, Ms Dickens is still employed by the NSW Ambulance Service as a triple-0 operator.

In the Leppington Pastoral Company incident, the ambulance arrived 45 minutes after the original call, and Mr Alenzi recovered. A spokesman for Health Minister John Della Bosca refused to weigh into Ms Dickens' position with the ambulance service or whether she had been disciplined.


A great kid

And another lesson for us all from Asia. Odd that "racism" didn't hold her back, though. Racism affects American blacks only, apparently

JUST two years after she arrived from Vietnam struggling to speak English, Tram Ngo is one of Queensland's greatest academic success stories. Her story is just one highlight of the 2008 Year 12 results, released by the Queensland Studies Authority and detailed inside The Courier-Mail today. Ms Ngo not only graduated with an OP 1 from Alexandra Hills State High School last year, but won a scholarship at QUT to study engineering.

Ms Ngo admits she had no idea what her teachers were saying for her first three months of Year 11. "I can read and write, but I couldn't understand 50 per cent of what the teachers say, so I take the notes and then when I went home I would read the book again and match what the teachers say to the book," she said.

She credits as her inspiration her teachers and fellow students who spent countless hours helping her. But her teachers say it is the other way around. Alexandra Hills State High School acting principal Jan Jarman said Ms Ngo was an inspiration. "She proves if you want something enough, if you want something hard enough and you are prepared to put in the effort, you definitely can succeed."



Four current articles below:

Hot-air doomsayers have nothing substantive to say in defence of their cause

By Ian Plimer, a professor at the University of Adelaide, and author of "Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science"

In "Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science", I predicted that the critics would play the man and not discuss the science. Initial criticism appeared before the book was released three weeks ago. Well-known catastrophists criticised the book before they actually received a review copy. Critics, who have everything to gain by frightening us witless with politicised science, have now shown their true colours. No critic has argued science with me. I have just enjoyed a fortnight of being thrashed with a feather.

Despite having four review copies, ABC's Lateline photocopied parts of chapters and sent them to an expert on gravity, a biologist and one who produces computer models. These critics did not read the book in its entirety. The compere of Lateline claimed that he had read the book yet his questions showed the opposite. When uncritical journalists have no science training, then it is little wonder doomsday scenarios can seduce them.

In The Age (Insight, May 2), David Karoly claims that my book "does not support the answers with sources". Considering that the book has 2311 footnotes as sources, Karoly clearly had not read the book. Maybe Karoly just read up to page 21, which showed that his published selective use of data showed warming but, when the complete set of data was used, no such warming was seen.

Robert Manne (The Weekend Australian, Inquirer, April 25-26) claims to be a great democrat yet demonises dissent on a matter of science. He is not a scientist. The gains made in the Enlightenment, the scientific method, history and integrated interdisciplinary science are all ignored in an ideological push to remodel the economy.

Primary producers should be very worried about an emissions trading scheme underpinned by incomplete science. Unions in industrial centres may even make conditional financial support of the ALP because the workforce they represent will be lambs to the slaughter with an ETS.

Capital city ABC and newspaper media outlets have treated the public with disdain. They have used arrogant pompous scientists who talk down to the public and yet these scientists forget that the public employs them. My critics are never asked: Who funds them? What have they to gain by following their party line? Why have they ignored a huge body of contrary science? What are their political associations? What unelected groups support them? Yet I am constantly asked these questions.

The huge number of recent letters tell me that there are winds of change. The average punter has been told for more than two decades that we are all going to fry. He is not stupid and is blessed with a rare commodity missing in many academic circles: common sense.

Life experiences of rural people are very different from those of city folk who have little first-hand experience of nature. My correspondents feel helpless and disenfranchised with the unending negative moralistic cacophony about climate change. They know it smells but they cannot find where the smell comes from. The reason why the book has been a publishing sensation is because the average person knows that they are being conned and finally they have a source reference.

The hypothesis tested in my book was that increased atmospheric CO2 creates global warming. This was shown to be invalid on all time scales and by a diversity of methods.

In the past, climate change has never been driven by CO2. Why should it be now driven by CO2 when the atmospheric CO2 content is low? The main greenhouse gas has always been water vapour. Once there is natural global warming, then CO2 in the atmosphere increases. CO2 is plant food, it is not a pollutant and it is misleading non-scientific spin to talk of carbon pollution. If we had carbon pollution, the skies would be black with fine particles of carbon. We couldn't see or breathe. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong appeals to science yet demonstrates she does not have a primary school understanding of science.

The atmosphere contains 800 billion tonnes of carbon in CO2. Soils and plants contain 2000 billion tonnes, the oceans 39,000 billion tonnes and rocks in the top few kilometres of the crust contain 65,000,000 billion tonnes of carbon in carbon compounds. The atmosphere only contains 0.001 per cent of the total carbon in the top few kilometres of the Earth.

If all the fossil fuel on Earth were burned, the atmospheric CO2 would double. The Earth has been there before and high atmospheric CO2 has accelerated plant growth and increased biodiversity. It is the sun, water vapour, rocks and oceans that have stopped a runaway greenhouse or a permanent snowball Earth.

I would like to see some fundamental questions answered by the climate catastrophists. If CO2 drives temperature, why were there past ice ages when the atmospheric CO2 content was many times greater than at present? Why has the role of clouds been ignored, especially as a 1per cent change in the amount of cloudiness could account for all the changes measured in the past 150 years? If natural forces drove warmings in Roman and medieval times, how do we know that the same natural forces did not drive the late 20th-century warming? Why didn't Earth have acid oceans and a runaway greenhouse when the atmospheric CO2 was hundreds of times higher than now? Is the present increase in atmospheric CO2 due to the medieval warming?

It is human arrogance to think that we can control climate, a process that transfers huge amounts of energy. Once we control the smaller amount of energy transferred by volcanoes and earthquakes, then we can try to control climate. Until then, climate politics is just a load of ideological hot air.

To argue that human additions to atmospheric CO2, a trace gas in the atmosphere, changes climate requires an abandonment of all we know about history, archaeology, geology, solar physics, chemistry and astronomy. We ignore history at our peril.

I await the establishment of a Stalinist-type Truth and Retribution Commission to try me for my crimes against the established order and politicised science.


Climate backdown: Rudd should retreat on jobs legislation too

This is the first big policy retreat Kevin Rudd has had to swallow in the face of the global recession. Let's hope it's not the last. The alternative for the Prime Minister to backtracking on his climate change promise was to deepen Australia's recession. And the risk to today's jobs was always going to trump a threat to the environment decades later.

Rudd's promise to bed down a full-blown carbon emissions trading scheme by the middle of next year was always a stunt to get in ahead of John Howard. It was a big ask to bolt on a scheme that threatened Australia's advantage in cheap carbon-based energy that had fuelled the nation's modern prosperity. It became madness to do this as the economy hopefully tried to drag itself off the canvas after the king hit from the deepest global recession since the 1930s. So delaying the start date, to mid-2011, and a softer ramp up, with a low $10 fixed price on each tonne of carbon emissions, were inevitable moves.

The fanciful idea that mandatory emissions reductions would be good for the economy, without any cost, by producing "green jobs" has gone up in smoke. There inevitably will be a cost, at least in the lengthy transition.

Business wants some certainty on exactly what carbon costs it will have to plug into its investment models.

Rudd's retreat will open up the issue of whether the carbon trading scheme with all its special deals - as opposed to a cleaner carbon tax or some hybrid model - is the best way to go, in light of the UN's Copenhagen summit in December.

It also will increase the pressure on the Government over its other policy vulnerabilities. One is the raising of expectations for increased entitlement spending - such as on the aged pension and maternity pay - just as the recession has exposed the structural black hole in the federal budget.

The other is Julia Gillard's reregulation of the job market during a recession that could push unemployment to double-digit levels. Rudd should now demand that Gillard's award modernisation, which threatens to push up casual and penalty rates across much of the services sector from the start of next year, be put on hold.


Conservatives still ready to fight Warmist laws

MALCOLM Turnbull has refused to back Kevin Rudd's amended plan for an emissions trading scheme, insisting the Government needs to give more protection to the coal industry. The Opposition Leader yesterday accused the Prime Minister of having executed an embarrassing backflip on emissions trading, but said the Government ought to ask the Productivity Commission to review its proposals.

The comments came after Mr Rudd announced he would delay Labor's promised 2010 start-up date on emissions trading until 2011, and lift the target for carbon emissions reductions from 10-15per cent to 25 per cent. Mr Rudd appealed for Mr Turnbull to support his new plan, saying it had addressed the key Coalition concerns on timing and the targets.

But Mr Turnbull withheld support yesterday as the Greens continued to attack the Government's scheme as too generous to big polluters. "Today's announcement represents a massive backdown, a humiliating backdown given the way he's attacked the Opposition relentlessly for more than a year as we've pointed out the flaws in his emissions trading scheme," Mr Turnbull said. "But given that he has given himself more time to start the scheme, why not give ourselves more time to get it right? The most important thing is that we ensure that we have a scheme that is environmentally effective and economically responsible. That requires more work."

Mr Turnbull said the Coalition believed the Rudd plan placed trade-exposed industries at a disadvantage against their competitors. And there was inadequate support for the nation's biggest export earner, the coal industry. The plan also included no forecast on the near-term impact of the ETS on jobs and growth and was short on detail on other means of emission abatement.

The Greens rejected the Government's new plan, saying it would give $2.2billion in assistance to big polluters. "If you add a little bit of green to brown, you still get brown," said Greens deputy leader Christine Milne. "By delaying the start of the scheme and capping the carbon price at $10 a tonne for the next year, the Government has ensured that there will be essentially no climate action in Australia until July 2012 at the earliest."

The Southern Cross Climate Change Coalition, which includes unions, the Climate Institute and environment groups, said lifting the emissions reduction target to 25 per cent would boost international efforts for an agreement on reducing emissions worldwide. "This internationally-credible target, coming after COAG (the Council of Australian Governments) cleared the way for renewable energy legislation and further steps on energy efficiency, means the CPRS should be supported so business can get on with investing in the clean energy and other low-carbon jobs that other competitor countries are investing in," the coalition said.

Business Council of Australia president Greig Gailey supported the revamped scheme. "Given Australia's current economic circumstances, the BCA welcomes and supports the Government's responsible decision to delay the commencement of the CPRS by one year to July 1, 2011, to provide business with more time to prepare for the scheme and to alleviate some of the pressures confronting Australian business as a result of the global financial crisis," he said.

The Minerals Council of Australia was cool on the scheme, saying the changes did not address the central flaw, which was to embark on full permit auctions from the outset.


Solar panel nuttiness gets nuttier (and incomprehensible)

BRISBANE environmental lawyer Jo Bragg and her partner, Gary Kane, spent $28,000 on three roof panels to generate solar power for their home in the inner Brisbane suburb of Highgate Hill. After receiving a federal government rebate of $8000, they hoped to recover their investment in a cleaner planet within a few years by selling excess power into the mains electricity grid. In the three months to April, they used 1384 kilowatt hours and produced 388 kilowatt hours of excess power, for which they received the princely sum of $12.96 after taxes. "Governments are not being serious about reducing energy consumption with lousy amounts of money like that," Ms Bragg said.

Her family is the kind Kevin Rudd had in mind yesterday when he announced that individuals and households would be part of a revamped carbon pollution reduction scheme. The Prime Minister said households would be able to calculate their energy use at home and pledge contributions to the $25million energy efficiency savings fund to effectively offset their emissions. "Individuals will be able to calculate their energy use and establish the savings they could achieve with a more energy-efficient home," Mr Rudd said.

"A household or individual could then make a tax-deductible donation to the pledge fund, which the fund would use to buy and cancel carbon pollution permits equivalent to that level of energy use."

Ms Bragg said she hoped the carbon permits scheme would be flexible enough to allow households with renewable energy to be paid for the gross amount of power produced -- not just the excess -- as happened in Germany and some other countries. "It makes sense to provide incentives to homes to make it worth their while to invest in renewable energy," she said. "Even if we were paid for the gross amount of power produced, it would take us eight or 10 years to recover the investment."

Mr Rudd said a website would be provided for people to calculate their energy use and buy and retire carbon pollution permits. "Because the pledge fund will pool pledges, even small amounts can combine to make a big difference," he said. "People will be able to pledge as little or as much as they can afford." The fund would be voluntary.


Monday, May 04, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is skeptical about the swine flu panic. He thinks it might be drummed up by "the usual suspects"

Illegal immigrants who overstay visas will no longer be put in detention camps

Instead they will be invited in for chat and given coffee -- I kid you not -- JR

ILLEGAL immigrants will no longer be locked up and deported when caught by authorities, in a major softening of immigration procedures. Instead, people who overstay their visas will be invited into an immigration office and could even get temporary bridging visas. Immigration officers have been instructed not to detain visa violators unless they are known to be violent criminals or have previously been instructed to leave.

Until last week, illegal foreigners were immediately detained at detention centres and put on planes home within weeks. The new approach is in line with a general softening of immigration policy by the Rudd Government. Under the policy, officers are required to issue illegal foreigners with bridging visas and work with them to get them home. "We basically have to invite them into the office for a coffee," an insider within the department said. "They can get a couple of weeks or six months, whatever it takes to get them home without detaining them."

Mandatory detention was axed last year, but until now only asylum seekers have been allowed to live in the community. The new directive from Immigration Minister Chris Evans' office was issued to immigration officers verbally last week.

There are almost 50,000 visa overstayers living illegally in Australia. More than one in 10 is from China. Entrants from the US, Malaysia and Britain are also big overstayers. Most come in on tourist visas, but about 3600 are foreign students who disappear into the community when their course is over.

The Government has also closed down offshore processing facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.

Senator Evans' directive has divided opinion within department ranks, with some fearing the softer approach could send a dangerous message. "I guess it says people can pretty much do whatever they want now," the insider said. "They've been caught, but they can stay and go home when they want."

The move could open the floodgates for unwelcome visitors. "It certainly could be open for exploitation," the insider said. "Prisons are not nice places to be in. Many of these people are not criminals, but I guess it doesn't convey a strong message."

Senator Evans said detention would only be used as a last resort. "The presumption will be that persons will remain in the community while their immigration status is resolved," he said. "If a person is complying with immigration processes and is not a risk to the community, then detention in a detention centre cannot be justified. "The department will have to justify a decision to detain - not presume detention."


The ever-growing flood of "boat people"

Detention renovations as island struggles with influx

OUTDOOR areas will be dormitories and dozens of bunks have been flown to Christmas Island's detention centre before the arrival of 136 asylum seekers. There are already 262 asylum seekers in various forms of detention on the remote island - the highest number since the mass arrivals that preceded the Tampa stand-off in 2001.

The surge that began last September has so far delivered 411 asylum seekers to Christmas Island, and the rise in numbers, although good for local businesses, has created an expensive challenge for the Government. Last week, the Department of Immigration reverted to bringing in staff, contractors and supplies on commercial flights to save about $70,000 it had been spending each Thursday on a charter flight from the mainland.

Since 2001, the commonwealth has invested more than $500million in detention-related infrastructure on the island, including 162 bedsits, five duplexes and two houses for staff and community detainees, but shortages are now being felt keenly. Negotiations are under way that could allow guards and staff to live at the island's mothballed 156-room casino, and the department's review of accommodation on the island has included talks over two more blocks of flats in the suburb of Poon Saan.

The department's stock of accommodation has become strained as increasing numbers of families and minors are granted community detention; last month, a group of five Sri Lankan asylum seekers was moved out of a department-owned duplex in the suburb of Drumsite and back to transportable huts on the site of the island's old detention centre to make room for new community detainees.

The old detention centre, built as a temporary measure after the Tampa incident, is also being used again by immigration officials processing asylum seekers from the adjacent family compound, which houses 41 adults and children. The compound initially had a capacity of 50, but has been adapted and has held as many as 61 in recent weeks.

The island's main detention centre now holds 193 single men and, as HMAS Tobruk prepares to deliver a further 136 people, it is being readied for what its staff term "surge capacity".


Sex instruction book Where Did I Really Come From? aimed at toddlers

A BOOK which teaches children about lesbian mums getting pregnant using sperm donors is being pitched at kids as young as two. The controversial publication, Where Did I Really Come From?, also features a drawing of two gay men holding a baby in a chapter about surrogacy. The publisher's marketing spruiks the book, which includes in-depth descriptions of sexual intercourse, as suitable to be read to two-year-olds.

It is being advertised at some Sydney book stores and inside the cover as being part of the New South Wales Attorney General Office's Learn to Include program. A spokesman for the Attorney General was unable to confirm yesterday if the book had been funded by the State Government.

In a chapter on assisted conception, the book tells children: "Sometimes, a woman really wants to have a baby but she doesn't want to have intercourse with a man. "Some women want to bring up a baby by themselves, or with another woman, so the baby gets two mums."

However, angry family advocates claim the book targets children too young. "It devalues the traditional family unit and at the very least desensitises us," Focus On The Family spokeswoman Deb Sorensen said yesterday.

The book was first penned in the early 1990s, but has been updated and relaunched by Learn to Include, which has published a range of books featuring child characters whose parents are gay. Learn to Include's website said that the book's "simple, non-judgmental explanations of sexual intercourse, assisted conception, pregnancy, birth, adoption and surrogacy were "suitable for 2-12 year olds".

Author Narelle Wickham defended the book, describing it as a mainstream publication which just went further about ways of conceiving children. "It is just trying to normalise to children that there are many ways to conceive a child," she said.


Bureau of Meteorology backs down from a claim that temperatures at Australia's three bases in Antarctica have been warming

THE Bureau of Metereology has backed down from a claim that temperatures at Australia's three bases in Antarctica have been warming over the past three decades. A senior bureau climatologist had accused The Weekend Australian of manufacturing a report that temperatures were cooling in East Antarctica, where Australia's Mawson, Davis and Casey bases are located.

The trend of temperatures and ice conditions in Antarctica is central to the debate on global warming because substantial melting of the Antarctic ice cap, which contains 90 per cent of the world's ice, would be required for sea levels to rise. While calvings from ice shelves in parts of West Antarctica have generated headlines, evidence has emerged that temperatures are cooling in the east of the continent, which is four times the size of West Antarctica. Contrary to widespread public perceptions, the area of sea ice around the continent is expanding.

The Weekend Australian reported last month a claim by Bureau of Metereology senior climatologist Andrew Watkins that monitoring at Australia's Antarctic bases since the 1950s indicated temperatures were rising. A study was then published by the British Antarctic Survey that concluded the ozone hole was responsible for the cooling and expansion of sea ice around much of the continent. The head of the study project, John Turner, said at the time that the section of Antarctica that included the Australian bases was among the areas that had cooled.

Dr Watkins said The Weekend Australian had misrepresented the results of the BAS study, which made no findings about temperatures at Australian bases. When it was pointed out to Dr Watkins that Professor Turner had been quoted directly, Dr Watkins said his bureau, and not the BAS, was the agency collecting temperature data.

"You kept going until you got the answer you wanted," Dr Watkins said. "You were told explicitly that the data collected by the Bureau of Metereology at the Australian bases shows a warming for maximum temperatures at all bases, and minimum temperatures at all but Mawson."

However, Professor Turner told The Weekend Australian the data showed a cooling of the East Antarctica coast associated with the onset of the ozone layer from 1980 onwards. Professor Turner said the monthly mean temperatures for Casey station from 1980 to 2005 showed a cooling of 0.45C per decade. In autumn, the temperature trend has been a cooling of 0.93C per decade. "These fairly small temperature trends seem to be consistent to me with the small increase in sea ice extent off the coast," he said.

Dr Watkins did not dispute the figures referred to by Professor Turner. Referring to the bureau's data collection since the 1950s, Dr Watkins said Professor Turner's figures were "only half of the full data set". However, Dr Watkins admitted that analysis of the data might show "an ozone-induced cooling trend in the latter half of the record" -- a reference to the past three decades.

Dr Watkins declined to release the temperature data to The Weekend Australian. He said it had still to be fully analysed by the bureau.


Note as an addendum to the above story that Anthony Watts has a lot of pictures of Australia's Antarctic bases and that the temperature monitors are clearly shown as located within a few yards of the buildings. So the extra heat put out by the expanding base should inflate the readings on the temperature sensors. The bases create their own little heat islands, in other words. Temperature time series from such sensors are hence useless at best and misleading at worst. Dr. Watkins would have been much wiser to keep his head right down

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Food research finds meat pie not so Aussie after all

WE might have taken ownership of it, but the pie belongs to Europe. According to Brisbane food historian Dr Janet Clarkson, who has spent years researching our culinary icon, the pie was invented as a way to preserve meat in medieval Europe.

The pastry, today an essential part of a good pie, was not meant to be eaten, The Courier-Mail reports. "There were no metal baking dishes or ways to keep food fresh, so the pastry was used both as cooking container and preserver," Dr Clarkson said. "Called a 'coffin', it was made with very hard rye flour up to seven inches thick and wrapped around the meat and baked. This could preserve meat for up to a year."

Author of the just released Pie A Global History, Dr Clarkson said the rock-hard pastry was given to the poor or crumbled up in the kitchens of the rich and used to thicken soups.

While the pie may today be an egalitarian symbol of our classless society, beloved by tradies and share traders alike, it was originally food for the rich, according to Dr Clarkson. "Only the wealthy had ovens. It wasn't until Victorian times that the pie became street food and popular fare among all classes."

So how did Australia come to adopt the pie as its culinary symbol? It was simply a case that all the ingredients were at hand. "Pies could only be made in countries that had wheat and dairy or pork. "With the focus firmly on meat and a low priority for vegetables, as well as being able to make them out of just about any meat it was the perfect settler food."

Since those days, Australia has embraced the pie. "Europe might have invented it, but Australia took over the pie and made it our own. I reckon today the rest of the world try to copy ours with our pastry and the types of meat we use", says Scott Barker, owner of Rock 'N' Roll Bakery in Brisbane's Greenslopes.


Another disaster looming as NSW hospitals computerize

Such projects rarely work. The British version has cost 12 BILLION pounds so far and is still not working properly after many years of trying

BY THE end of next year, every public hospital in NSW will move from paper patient notes to electronic medical records that can be accessed by any health worker, the Government has announced. The Minister for Health, John Della Bosca, said the $100 million project to digitise 250 hospitals will save money by eliminating duplicate diagnostic tests and imaging. It will also improve patient safety by alerting staff to a deteriorating patient and reduce the likelihood of errors.

Mr Della Bosca said doctors, nurses, allied health and social workers will be able to access a centralised repository of a patient's medical chart, laboratory results, prescriptions and referrals, no matter where the patient enters the health system.

Peter Garling, SC, recommended an urgent roll-out of electronic medical records (eMR) in his special commission of inquiry into acute care services, which found NSW's record-keeping system is "a relic of the pre-computer age" that puts patient safety at risk.

He said various hospitals and community health centres have established ad hoc databases but they were "spasmodic and patchy". The inability of distinct IT systems to synchronise with each other and lack of IT support staff meant clinicians had to rely on incomplete data to make important medical decisions and spent time chasing information.

Mr Della Bosca said the Government would make implementing information and communication technology within its capital works program a priority, which will make NSW Health the biggest IT user in Australia. A basic eMR system that allowed clinicians to order diagnostic tests and view results online was successfully trialled at St George, Calvary, Sutherland and Lismore hospitals last year and by last month 20 hospitals were using it.

"Prior to the introduction of eMR, some requests for medical imaging and pathology could require referral back to the requesting clinician due to incomplete or illegible hand-written records," Mr Della Bosca said. "This technology will improve the efficiency of hospital care and free up doctors and nurses to focus on patients and not paperwork, which will further improve patient safety."

The next step will link hospital-based records to primary care providers, such as GPs, by way of an electronic discharge summary. But the Health Action Plan For NSW, released in March, revealed the Government would not meet Mr Garling's 18-month deadline for a digital radiological imaging system. This is to be set up in every public hospital to electronically transmit medical images to remote locations.

And an electronic health record, which would extend patients' information beyond hospital walls to all GPs, specialists and health systems in other states, was not possible without a national e-health strategy, it said.

A report commissioned by the Federal Government last December found state and federal governments have spent $5 billion on electronic health initiatives over the past 10 years but have made little progress towards creating a national system for sharing information.

NSW Health has admitted that two previous attempts to implement electronic medical records in 1991 and 1999 had failed, at a cost of $12 million and $30 million respectively.

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission has recommended an individual patient-controlled electronic health record owned by the patient who decides which health care providers can access it.



AUSTRALIA'S electricity generators have warned the Rudd Government that power stations could face insolvency this year under an emissions trading scheme that forced such rapid change it risked "blowing up in their faces".

The National Generators Forum told a Senate committee yesterday that many power stations would simply not be able to afford the 100 to 200 per cent increase in operating costs under the current plan to require them to buy more than 80 per cent of necessary emissions permits. This would leave some insolvent and all struggling to find $50 billion in new and refinancing capital over the next five years.

The forum said the $3.9 billion compensation in free permits on offer fell short of the $10 billion or more in asset value loss they would suffer.

The warnings came as the Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said there was almost no chance the Nationals would agree to emissions trading amendments being prepared by the Liberal Party in preparation for Senate negotiations over the Government's "carbon pollution reduction scheme".

"I think it is exceptionally, exceptionally unlikely that an alternative emissions trading scheme would be any better, any less tokenistic, than the Government's emissions trading scheme," Senator Joyce said.


NSW police goons again. This lot ordered to pay $55,000 for wrongful arrest

POLICE have been ordered to pay $55,000 in compensation to a man for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment over a minor traffic infringement.

The payout to Brendan William Stocks came in the same week the NSW Police were ordered to pay $306,000 in damages to another man because officers abused their powers of arrest. On April 20 in Downing Centre District Court, Judge Kevin Coorey found that constables Brent Dutoit and Shaun Skehan of Quakers Hill acted unlawfully in arresting and falsely detaining Mr Stocks at his Riverstone home when investigating a traffic breach on March 21, 2004. The officers asked who was driving the car when the offence occurred.

In a statement of claim presented to the court, Mr Stocks's lawyer said that, at the time of his client's arrest, his jaw had been medically wired shut so it could heal from a fracture caused by an incident unrelated to the traffic offence.

Mr Stocks told the officers that his car was not involved in the incident a month earlier but, instead of police dealing with the case by issuing an infringement notice or summons, he was placed under arrest for refusing to disclose the identity of the driver. He was dragged struggling from the house.

Judge Coorey heard that, during the three hours Mr Stocks was held at Quakers Hill police station, officers refused to hand over surgical wire cutters issued to him by a doctor to cut the wiring in an emergency if he vomited or gagged on food. Mr Stocks has declined to comment about the award.

On April 23 Allan Frederick Hathaway was awarded $306,000 in the Supreme Court by Justice Carolyn Simpson after she found Wagga Wagga police had assaulted and maliciously prosecuted him in what she described as a "misuse and abuse of police power". The case involved an incident in February 2003 in which police assaulted Mr Hathaway with a baton, fracturing his face and arm.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Feds hose down swine flu panic

There is no reason to believe it is any worse than any other flu

DOCTORS have been warned by the Federal Government not to over-prescribe drugs for swine flu as a split over prevention measures emerges in Queensland.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young has encouraged people to stockpile food in the event the killer disease strikes the state but Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday dismissed the advice.

"People might like to think about having a few extra cans of food in their pantry, some frozen vegetables in their freezer. So that people just think a little bit ahead of what might come," Dr Young said. "If this pandemic arrives, if this new strain arrives in Australia and circulates widely and causes problems, then we will be giving messages for people not to do shopping as frequently as they do normally. "So maybe only doing it once a week to just decrease the numbers of people in our shops."

But with 120 suspected cases in Australia, including 10 in Queensland, and no confirmed cases, Ms Roxon said the measure was unnecessary. "We're certainly not advising people that there's any need at this stage to make particular provisions in their own pantries," Ms Roxon said. She also highlighted concerns over the sales of Tamiflu and Relenza – drugs the World Health Organisation has recommended that people take if they are suspected to have swine flu.

She said she had received advice that their sales had increased up to four-fold and she hinted new guidelines may have to be introduced for doctors who are prescribing the drugs. "We're asking GPs to exercise some additional care, given that there seems to be a little bit of a rush on these products," Ms Roxon said. "We need people to be respecting the importance of using those anti-virals when they're needed and not unnecessarily hoarding them if they are not needed."

The caution came as pharmacies across Brisbane reported selling out of face masks and anti-bacterial gels. Craig Coffey, chemist and owner of Coffey Pharmacy in inner-city Kangaroo Point, said he had sold two dozen boxes of masks. "We've had a lot of tourists coming in, who are very conscious of the flu," he said.

Many chain pharmacies have scrambled to get further supplies from wholesalers, with the masks varying in price from $1.50 to $6 each. As swine flu fear grips Queensland, sales of anti-bacterial gels and wipes have also skyrocketed and sold out in many areas. One pharmacy in the CBD ordered 400 small bottles of anti-bacterial gel and sold out within a day. [Since a virus is not a bacterium, that is quite pointless]


Kevin Rudd's push for missile supremacy

THE navy will acquire a formidable arsenal of long-range cruise missiles for its new submarines, destroyers and frigates, able to strike at targets thousands of kilometres from Australia's shores. The new-generation submarines and major surface warships will be fitted with land-attack cruise missiles with ranges of up to 2500km as Australia becomes the first regional defence force to have the potent weapons system. The cruise missiles will give the Government "options to conduct long-range, precision-strike operations against hardened, defended and difficult-to-access targets, while minimising the exposure of ADF platforms and personnel to attack by enemy forces", the defence white paper says.

Reflecting the Government's consciousness that the planned maritime defence build-up could provoke criticism from regional neighbours, the white paper asserts that acquisition of land-attack cruise missiles is "fully consistent with Australian treaty obligations and customary international law".

The core of the Government's thinking about the far more potent next-generation defence force is that the risk of a major conventional war in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be ruled out. "It would be premature to judge that war among states, including the major powers, has been eliminated as a feature of the international system," the white paper says. "Shows of force by rising powers are likely to become more common as their military capabilities expand. Growing economic interdependence will not preclude inter-state conflicts or tensions short of war, especially over resources or political differences."

The Defence Department, with a current annual budget of $22billion, has been charged with the massive task of finding up to $20 billion in savings and efficiency gains over the next decade to pay for more than $100 billion worth of hi-tech equipment.

The Rudd Government has also decided it will produce a new defence white paper every five years to update national security risk assessments and keep abreast of the rapidly changing strategic dynamics in the Asian region.

"Force 2030 ... will be a more potent force in certain areas, particularly in undersea warfare and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surface maritime warfare, air superiority, strategic strike, special forces, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and cyber warfare," the white paper says. "It is conceivable that, over the long period covered by this white paper, we might have to contend with major power adversaries operating in our approaches - in the most drastic circumstance, as a consequence of a wider conflict in the Asia-Pacific region."

The white paper embodies Kevin Rudd's pledge to maintain an annual real increase of 3 per cent in the Defence budget until 2018 and 2.2 per cent beyond that to 2030.

The Royal Australian Navy has emerged as the biggest winner from the new defence blueprint, to be launched in Sydney today by the Prime Minister, with both its surface and submarine fleets set for dramatic expansion from 2020. As previously detailed in The Weekend Australian, the new white paper, titled Force 2030, will double the number of submarines to 12 and replace the Anzac-class frigates with eight larger ships equipped with helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and sophisticated anti-submarine sonars.

The RAAF will get about 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters starting with three squadrons of up to 72 planes as well as eight new long-range surveillance aircraft, expected to be the P-8 Poseidon, to replace the ageing AP-3C Orion fleet. In addition, the air force will also get seven high-altitude long-range unmanned platforms, possibly the US-made Global Hawk.

The army's regular infantry forces will evolve into 10 battalion-sized "battlegroups" and will get a new fleet of 1000 protected vehicles to replace the current generation of armoured personnel carriers and the special forces will also get a range of new equipment including vehicles. In addition to the 30 MRH-90 battlefield helicopters the army is also getting seven new CH-47F Chinook transport helicopters to replace its existing D models.

The new submarines will be larger than the existing Collins-class boats, with greater range and capabilities including strategic strike, intelligence collection and to carry uninhabited underwater vehicles for surveillance and reconnaissance. The submarines are expected to be about 4000 tonnes in size and will be able to stay longer on patrol but the Rudd Government has ruled out nuclear propulsion for the new boats. They will be built in Adelaide in what is set to become Australia's largest-ever defence industry project, lasting 30 years.

The three new air warfare destroyers, already on order, will be equipped with SM-6 long-range anti-aircraft missiles with a range of 400km. The RAN will also get about 20 "offshore combatant vessels" of up to 2000 tonnes which will replace the existing range of Armidale-class patrol boats, mine counter-measures, hydrographic and other specialised smaller vessels. "The future Offshore Combatant Vessel will be able to undertake offshore and littoral warfighting roles, border protection tasks, long-range counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, support to special forces, and missions in support of security and stability in the immediate neighbourhood," the white paper proposes.

The navy will also get a fleet of at least 24 new naval combat helicopters equipped with advanced anti-submarine warfare equipment including dunking sonars and air-launched torpedoes. The white paper places far greater emphasis on anti-submarine warfare given the anticipated rapid expansion of submarine fleets in regional navies, led by China, over the next generation.

The permanent defence force will grow to about 58,000 personnel from its current size of 53,000. Defence's existing formula to compensate for annual inflation indexation to its cost base will now be fixed at 2.5 per cent out to 2030, which will also help fund the new capital equipment program. "The Government has committed to sustainable funding arrangements for the Defence budget in future years to provide funding certainty for planning and real funding growth to meet the growing cost of the military equipment we will need in an increasingly demanding world," the white paper says.


Rudd wary of relying on Obama and his ilk

America will not protect us, warns Rudd

THE Rudd Government has acknowledged that the supremacy of the US has begun to fade and Australia is preparing for an uncertain future in which it can no longer rely on the protection of its main ally. In a fundamental shift in defence plans, the Government has explicitly declared that US primacy in the Asia-Pacific - the bedrock of the nation's security since World War II - may be ending. The change, caused by the rise of new great powers such as China, is set to produce growing regional tensions and a "sudden deterioration" in Australia's security. A 20-year defence blueprint, to be released by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, today, prepares for a multibillion-dollar build-up of naval and air forces to ensure that Australia can defend its northern and sea approaches.

It says a regional shake-up is under way but US supremacy will not be blunted before 2030 and assesses the chances of an attack on Australia in the short term as "very remote".

The white paper, Defending Australia In The Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, is the first since 2000 and outlines a range of security threats, including instability caused by the financial crisis, cyber warfare, failed states in the Pacific, Islamist terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and climate change.

It warns that Australia must ensure it can protect itself amid an emerging range of great powers in the region - particularly China, India and Russia - which could lead to a "miscalculation" with disturbing consequences for Australia. "Australia has been a very secure country for many decades, in large measure because the wider Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace and stability underwritten by US strategic primacy," the paper says. "That order is being transformed as economic changes start to bring about changes in the distribution of strategic power. Risks resulting from escalating strategic competition could emerge quite unpredictably."

The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the world faced "the beginning of the end" of the unquestioned dominance of Australia's principal ally since the Cold War.

The paper criticises China for failing to explain its substantial military build-up in recent years, which appears to have exceeded the force needed for a war over Taiwan. China's military modernisation will be little affected by the global financial crisis and is set to limit the ability of the US to control the region, it says. "The pace, scope and structure of China's military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained, and if China does not reach out to others to build confidence regarding its military plans. "As other powers rise, and the primacy of the US is increasingly tested, power relations will inevitably change. When this happens there will be the possibility of miscalculation … A potential contraction of US strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with a requirement for allies and friends to do more in their own regions, would adversely affect Australian interests, regional stability and global security."

The paper affirms support for the US alliance and for US-led efforts to bolster global security but warns Australia will not put troops at risk "in distant theatres of war where we have no direct interests". Instead, the Government has focused on defending the borders of Australia, primarily by building air and naval power to protect the northern sea-air gap, maritime approaches and offshore oil and gas reserves.

A range of large-scale purchases includes a doubling of the submarine fleet to 12, about 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, eight frigates with submarine detection capability and - as planned - three air warfare destroyers. For the first time Australia will acquire an arsenal of sea-based long-range cruise missiles. "The ability to deter or defeat armed attack on Australia will continue to be the primary force structure determinant … This means focusing predominantly on forces that can exert air superiority and sea control in our approaches."

The Government has kept its commitment to boost the Defence budget by 3 per cent each year until 2018, but plans to scale this back to 2.2 per cent until 2030. It says an internal reform program will save $20 billion.


Queensland teachers face competency exam before teaching

Good idea

QUEENSLAND primary teachers may face an Australian-first competency exam before they will be allowed to teach the state's young. Education expert Professor Geoff Masters today handed down a report into improving Queensland students' literacy, numeracy and science levels after a test last year showed results were lagging behind other states. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study showed Queensland's Year Four students ranked last in science and seventh in maths out of the country's eight states and territories.

The report made five recommendations to improve standards, including that all aspiring primary school teachers sit a Queensland College of Teachers test to show proficiency levels and gain their registration. It would be the first time such a test was imposed on Australian teachers before their registration. Its proposal followed concerns expressed to the review about some new teachers' own levels of competence in mathematics, science and literacy.

Premier Anna Bligh, who called the report a "road map'' to better results, said she expected the recommendation to be controversial. But the premier said last year's results were unacceptable and she wanted to ensure the best people were teaching the state's children. "I know there'll be some controversy about this recommendation, but teaching, like other professions, needs to have an open mind about these sorts of ideas,'' Ms Bligh said. "To become a barrister for example, a law graduate has to sit the Bar exam and satisfy the requirements for that exam.''

The report also recommended a new program be designed and delivered through distance education for teachers to improve their teaching methods. Additional money should also be provided for the advanced training and employment of specialist literacy, numeracy and science teachers to work in schools.

Ms Bligh said the government would now examine all recommendations and look at where money needed to be spent.


Friday, May 01, 2009

CHEEESH!! For once Telstra is doing the right thing and some !@#$%^& judge blocks them

These "Premium" SMS services seem to be almost entirely a con. Check your bills for them. I was billed for such services myself when I was with Vodafone, although I had never asked for or received such services. Voda promptly reversed the charges when I complained but refused to co-operate with any investigation of how the charges arose. And the TIO seemed to think that no investigation was needed because Voda had reversed the charges. Prevention of fraud is obviously not one of their priorities. I think I know how I got targeted but nobody wants to hear it apparently. I even wrote to ACMA but they too refused to take any interest. The crooks who targeted me were called "Mobile Messenger"

TELSTRA has been blocked in its bid to throw an SMS service off its network after it received a high number of complaints from annoyed customers. Telstra wants to disconnect premium SMS supplier Oxygen 8 because it has received a "disproportionately large" level of complaints about its service.

The NSW Federal Court was told traffic to Oxygen 8's services tripled between October 2007 and January 2009, The Australian has reported. The court also heard evidence from a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman that nearly two-thirds of complaints about premium SMS services were from customers who said they had never signed up to receive them.

In February, Telstra gave Oxygen 8 60 days' notice that it would be dropped from its network, citing a clause in the contract between the two companies which would allow it to do so. Oxygen 8 was granted an injunction against being dropped while it challenged the action in the courts. It says Telstra's system for handling complaints is in breach of their contract and federal rules. Telstra had been trying to have that injunction dropped and Oxygen 8's claim dismissed, but in court yesterday Judge Geoffrey Flick ordered the injunction remain in place.

Judge Flick ordered the two companies to begin preparations for a trial starting on July 27. He gave Telstra leave to apply to vary the orders, including lifting the injunction. Telstra refused to enter into mediation with Oxygen 8 to settle the matter out of court.

A Telstra spokesman said: "Telstra is confident about the validity of its termination notice and its prospects on the final hearing. Telstra is committed to the responsible provision of premium SMS services."

Oxygen 8 has alleged that Telstra's SMS complaints handling systems and procedures are inadequate and in breach of the ACMA Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No1).


Welfare payments to the young will stop for those not learning or earning

A good move -- should reduce the population of ferals somewhat

JOBLESS young Australians who are not training or studying will be stripped of welfare payments under changes to ensure skilled workers emerge from the recession. The federal and state governments yesterday agreed to guarantee training or education places to anyone aged under 25 as part of their Compact with Young Australians, The Courier-Mail reports. Nationally, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd estimates 135,000 Australians aged under 25 could get higher qualifications.

The changes come as the Treasury forecasts that one million people could be out of work due to the recession. Mr Rudd unveiled the agreement in Hobart at a Council of Australian Governments meeting. Mr Rudd said young people who lost their jobs must not become the long-term unemployed of tomorrow. The Government will also crackdown on welfare payments.

Anyone aged under 20 who has not completed Year 12 must be studying or training to get the Youth Allowance, which starts at $203.30 a fortnight. The same conditions will apply to parents seeking Family Tax Benefit A. If young people or their parents want to get government benefits the quid pro quo is that the young person is working or earning a Year 12 equivalent qualification, Mr Rudd said. Anyone aged under 17 must be in full-time school, training, or work.

But Mr Rudd brushed aside questions about whether the training compact would help keep jobless young Australians from being counted in the damaging official unemployment figures.

Australian Industry Group head Heather Ridout applauded the measures, saying the jobs compact would help deliver employment opportunities and skills. The states also agreed to bring forward from 2020 to 2015 the goal of having the 90 per cent rate of students attain Year 12 qualifications.


Guns, knives on the increase in NSW schools

TEACHERS have faced an escalation in the number of incidents involving students bringing weapons into the classroom, prompting calls for crisis intervention to address the problem. New figures show 400 suspensions were given to students caught with firearms or knives in school last year.

The data has triggered calls by the State opposition for an urgent increase in the number of school counsellors available, to identify and engage in crisis intervention with students at risk.

The data, provided under Freedom of Information laws, shows there were 14,405 suspensions handed out to students between kindergarten to Year 12 last year. A student who receives a long suspension is banned from entering the school grounds for 20 days. Further breaches can result in a formal expulsion.

The suspensions were for using or possessing a prohibited weapon, firearm or knife, engaging in serious criminal behaviour and physical violence. Other categories of suspension have included persistent misbehaviour, possession or use of a suspected illegal substance, or using an implement as a weapon. The figures show that the number of suspensions given for "use or possession" of a gun, knife or other prohibited weapon rose 17 per cent from 339 in 2005 to 398 last year.

However, the category with the biggest increase was for students engaging in serious criminal behaviour, such as stealing. The number of students suspended for offences that could attract a criminal charge also rose, with 970 suspensions handed out - an increase of 45 per cent on four years ago. The largest number of suspensions were handed out to students who had engaged in physical violence, which included assaults or bullying.

The figures show there were 6500 suspensions for violent behaviour - a 20 per cent increase over the past four years. A further 6061 suspensions were given to students for persistent misbehaviour - up 43 per cent. Increasing numbers of students were also removed for using or threatening to use an implement as a weapon with 204 suspensions handed out - an increase of 27 per cent.

A breakdown of ages shows the vast majority of misbehaving students are aged between 12 and 16. The data also shows pupils in Years 7-10 made up 74 per cent of the total number of suspensions.

State opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said the State government needed urgently to increase the number of counsellors in schools. The latest data showed there was roughly one counsellor for every 1500 students, he said. "Counsellors can identify kids at risk and carry out crisis prevention, clinical assessments and identify behavioural difficulties before it comes to the point of weapons being brought to school," Mr Piccoli said. He said a recent survey conducted by school principals showed the greatest need for increased counsellor numbers was in schools in the Campbelltown, Cumberland, Liverpool, Mt Druitt and Dubbo regions.

A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Verity Firth said the figures showed more principals were using increased powers introduced in 2005 to suspend misbehaving students. But he said more school students were also learning from their mistakes, with 73 percent of those suspended only suspended once.


Another Queensland Health disgrace: Rodent attack on elderly patient foreseen but nothing done

QUEENSLAND Health knew about a mouse plague in a Darling Downs nursing home three months before the rodents gnawed a war veteran's head on Anzac Day. As the Federal Government demanded action on the scandal at the Karingal aged care home attached to the Dalby Hospital, it emerged that a second elderly man was also attacked at the facility last week. Queensland Health yesterday said extra staff, traps and bait had now controlled the rodents.

Staff initially began demanding action against the infestation in early February. It is another shameful episode within the embattled Health Department, highlighted by recent bungles involving staff housing security before and after a Torres Strait nurse was sexually assaulted in February last year.

The Digger [vet], 89, who served in New Guinea during World II, was resting on Saturday when his face, neck and ears were "severely chewed" by the rodents. His daughter, who only wished to be known as Julie said her father tried to brush the mice away but ended up covered in blood, with 10 cuts. She said her father was so distressed he required morphine and almost died. "You know that the inevitable is inevitable but you do not want mice to be the catalyst," Julie said.

Queensland Health last night confirmed the wife of the other patient told staff on Monday her elderly husband had been bitten on Friday. "When staff were notified they sought to treat the wound on the man's forearm but were unable to find a lesion," a Health spokeswoman said.

The revelations emerged three days after Queensland Health issued a media release about the plague which failed to mention the weekend attack. Deputy Premier Paul Lucas is the latest Health Minister to be left clueless about his department's failings. "The simple point of this is I found out about this this morning," Mr Lucas said yesterday. "I am told it happened a few days ago. It is not acceptable that I found out this morning. I would like to apologise that this incident took place."

The Digger's daughter said staff at the facility had repeatedly demanded radical action from the department against the infestation in February. "My understanding is that since the end of February staff – who have been marvellous in caring for my father – have recognised there is an issue that should be dealt with," Julie said.

She complained to Liberal National Party MP Ray Hopper, who asked Mr Lucas in a letter on Wednesday to order a neighbouring paddock be poisoned to supplement other control measures in place in the nursing home and hospital. But because the state-owned paddock has been zoned commercial/residential the use of an agricultural strength chemical lethal to mice is banned.

Queensland Health asked the Dalby Regional Council to rezone the land rural for 24 hours so the land could be sprayed, Mayor Ray Brown said. "We could not do that," he said. "Imagine the brouhaha if we bent the rules to accommodate Queensland Health." He said Queensland Health had wrongly claimed that council was responsible for the issue.

National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O'Neill said: "Authorities need to realise our oldest citizens have been exposed to risk and someone should just get on and fix it."


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