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

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


31 May, 2010

Urgent ambulance plea ignored

A SUBURBAN footballer known for his wide smile and friendly nature has become another victim of Victoria's ambulance crisis. Sunbury footballer Stephen Buckman, 20, died in hospital on Thursday after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance - five minutes outside the Brumby Government's emergency guidelines.

Witnesses said an off-duty MICA paramedic who came to his aid was refused an urgent request for an air ambulance because of Ambulance Victoria "protocol".

Instead, a MICA ambulance with more specialised equipment and expertise to treat the Rupertswood Football Club ruckman took at least 22 minutes to arrive after being sent 38km from Royal Melbourne Hospital to Sunbury, where he had collapsed at footy training. All non-MICA ambulances from the Sunbury station near the ground were out on non-urgent calls, so a vehicle had to be sent from Burnside.

Mr Buckman's mother, Sue, described him as a "loving son and brother who did everything to the best of his ability". "He had a huge, cheeky grin - a real glow about him," she said.

Mrs Buckman did not hold the ambulance service responsible for his death, saying her family was "extremely thankful" to everyone who fought to save his life. Ambulance Victoria regional services manager Tony Walker said five ambulances in the area were attending other emergencies.

"This did affect our response time, but we had the first ambulance there in 20 minutes and a MICA crew two minutes after that," Mr Walker said. "We also knew there was a doctor and off-duty MICA paramedic on scene who had commenced CPR on this patient. The helicopter was ... available, but it was decided it would be quicker to drive the patient as opposed to waiting for the helicopter."

But Ambulance Employees' Australia state secretary Steve McGhie queried why the off-duty paramedic was ignored. "There should have been a helicopter dispatched, they should have erred on the side of caution and reacted to how seriously that paramedic said the case was," he said.

Mr Buckman's heartbroken teammates observed a minute's silence before senior and reserves matches yesterday. President Rob Morrice said Mr Buckman had left the field, sat down, lost consciousness and didn't recover. He said: "We don't know what happened or what caused it.".


Paying for negligence: Public hospital birth bungles cost $115m in NSW alone

MEDICAL negligence that has left babies with brain damage and mothers permanently scarred has cost the State Government $115 million in compensation over the past five years.

When families pursue legal action against hospitals, it sometimes takes years, with the settlements often occurring out of court and normally undisclosed. But documents obtained through Freedom of Information reveal the extent of the claims over negligence involving birth.

In one tragic case, a woman died at Nepean Hospital after complications with a caesarean-section delivery. It is unclear how much her family received in compensation, but the Sydney West Area Health Service, which runs Nepean, had the largest medical negligence bills, totalling $34.5 million.

Some cases involved babies being born with cerebral palsy or starved of oxygen, doctors failing to diagnose abnormalities and injury caused to mothers.

In Hunter New England, a family received almost $8 million because doctors failed to properly diagnose abnormalities.

Bankstown Hospital has paid more than $13 million in compensation - the highest amount among hospitals in its area.

Obstetricians said they were unfairly targeted and not always to blame for negligence. "They are in the firing line because they have the insurance," Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver said. "Even when it may be a case of staffing shortages or even unrelated to the doctor's negligence, the doctor will be pursued."

The college wants a no-fault compensation fund that would allow families to be compensated but without the doctor having to admit fault if he was not to blame.

But lawyer Bill Madden, a medical negligence specialist, disagreed and said people were entitled to recoup as much of the cost as they could. "There's no doubt that errors happen in our hospital system. The days are long gone when the medical profession would say anything different," he said.

A NSW Health spokesman said the amount of money paid out was no indication of the number or seriousness of the events.


Another Rudd promise broken

A FURTHER blow has been dealt to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's credibility with revelations that a secret pact was made with then NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

The deal took place when Mr Rudd was Opposition leader and centered on going to war with the union movement after he was elected Prime Minister, in return for the State Government delaying critical reforms.

An explosive tell-all book by The Daily Telegraph's chief political reporter Simon Benson, reveals that Mr Rudd broke a critical promise to help Mr Iemma privatise the state's electricity industry in return for him delaying the project until after the 2007 election.

Those reforms would have helped pay for more than $20 billion worth of road and rail projects in Sydney.

Mr Iemma confirmed the secret meeting which occurred during the 2007 APEC summit. At the meeting, Mr Rudd pleaded with Mr Iemma to delay his plans to privatise the power industry over fears that a union backlash would torpedo his election campaign - a campaign fought largely over John Howard's industrial reforms.

"If you help me, I'll get elected and you will prosper. Work with me and, when the time comes, we can f*** them (the unions) together," Mr Rudd is revealed to have told Mr Iemma in a meeting attended by two other senior Labor staffers. "Sometimes we have to save the (union) movement from itself."

Less than a year later, having walked away from the commitment, Mr Rudd refused to step in to protect Labor MPs under threat from the unions opposing privatisation, when Mr Iemma called to ask for the favour to be returned.

"I'm asking you to support me on a matter of principle," Mr Iemma asked the PM in a telephone conversation on August 27, 2008. "It's a state issue, I can't get involved," Mr Rudd replied. A week later Mr Iemma was forced from office after his privatisation plans collapsed.

The revelations contained in Betrayal come at a time when Mr Rudd's popularity has plummeted to an all-time low - primarily because of a long list of broken promises and policy backflips.


Secretive Victoria police

They're getting worse instead of better -- but I guess they've got a lot to hide

VICTORIA'S police chief Simon Overland has been warned the reputation and independence of Victoria Police command is being compromised by a "partisan refusal" to release documents requested under freedom of information laws.

The warning is contained in a letter sent to the Chief Commissioner by opposition crime spokesman Andrew McIntosh over the weekend, which accuses Victoria Police of breaching the FOI Act and withholding information about secret deals struck with private companies.

Mr McIntosh accuses the police of taking "extraordinary and unprecedented measures during an election year to block and frustrate access" to information on law and order issues.

In December, Mr Overland publicly said he would do everything he could to release under FOI details of the arrangements between Victoria Police and private companies to pass on sensitive information about known protesters.

The comments followed revelations police had authorised the release of sensitive personal information about protesters to AquaSure, the company building Victoria's desalination plant.

Mr McIntosh said in his letter, seen by The Australian: "The ongoing refusal of Victoria Police to release material consistent with their obligations under the FOI Act is not only a breach of the legislation but inappropriate.

"The standing and reputation of Victoria Police command may be damaged by what could only be interpreted as a partisan refusal to release this information."

Mr McIntosh last night reiterated his concerns. "The sudden refusal by Victoria Police in an election year to release information that had previously been freely available can only be interpreted as a political decision."

The latest stoush between Victoria Police and the opposition comes after The Australian revealed last week that the police had issued a prohibitive $17,000 quote to Mr McIntosh for access to crime statistics, when similar requests had been granted free of charge in previous years.

And in a separate battle, Mr Overland has issued legal proceedings against Mr McIntosh in the Supreme Court to overturn a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that granted him access to the police rosters.

A police spokeswoman yesterday said the organisation "rejects wholeheartedly any notion that Victoria Police does not have operational independence. All FOI requests are treated equally and no consideration whatsoever is ever given to external political factors."

On December 11 last year, Mr Overland said he was "happy to make available" a list of agreements police had entered into with private companies.

But on legal advice, two hours later, he said information would only be made available after an FOI request.

Mr McIntosh submitted his FOI request on February 5.

The police FOI department initially told the opposition the material was "too voluminous", and Mr McIntosh then narrowed his request to seven 20-page documents that have still not been released.


30 May, 2010

Crooked and totally incompetent Muslim doctor suspended for only 6 months!

How can they be considering unleashing him on the public again? We all know that doctors defend doctors but this is criminal. Is this another example of special privileges for Muslims?

A PERTH doctor has been suspended after a litany of medical errors, including failing to recognise a terminally ill patient needed treatment.

Mohamed El Rakhawy continued to practise in WA for nearly six months after he told the state Medical Board he would stop pending an investigation into his skills. He tried also to register as a doctor in other Australian states without disclosing he was being investigated for incompetence.

The Medical Board of WA told the State Administrative Tribunal that Dr El Rakhawy made a number of errors in early 2007 while working as a GP at a Midland medical centre and a Boddington clinic.

The board said that in March 2007 Dr El Rakhawy sent a male patient home without prescribing any treatment even though the patient had been losing weight for months and had difficulty swallowing. The next day the patient was taken to Royal Perth Hospital's emergency department and admitted. He died in RPH a month later.

The Medical Board said Dr El Rakhawy made several other mistakes about this time.

Among them were:

-Giving penicillin to a patient who specifically told him he was allergic to it.

-Ignoring a lump in a female patient's breast that was possibly cancerous.

-Injecting more than five times the amount of medication into a patient, causing swelling and bleeding.

-Failing to prescribe treatment for a patient suffering temporary blindness, and

-Misdiagnosing a patient who had been in a traffic accident.

In August 2008, two doctors wrote to the WA General Practice Training board claiming that Dr El Rakhawy was "deficient in his practice of medicine".

Dr El Rakhawy undertook a voluntary understanding with the Medical Board of WA that he would stop practising medicine pending an investigation into his skills.

However, from October 2008 to June 2009 he practised in breach of this undertaking.

He also tried in or about August and September 2008 to apply for mutual recognition as a doctor in other Australian states without disclosing his dealings with the Medical Board of WA.

Dr El Rakhawy admitted all the allegations made by the Medical Board of WA to the SAT.

The SAT found that Dr El Rakhawy should be suspended from practising medicine for at least six months.

He was also ordered to complete a number of medical training exams before he is allowed to practise as a doctor again.

Dr El Rakhawy will also have to pay $15,000 in court costs to the Medical Board of WA.


Creationism to be taught in Queensland classrooms

Well, Queensland IS bigger than Texas

CREATIONISM and intelligent design will be taught in Queensland state schools for the first time as part of the new national curriculum.

Creationists dismiss the science of evolution, instead believing that living things are best explained by an intelligent being or God, rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

The issue of creationism being taught in schools has caused huge controversy in the US, where some fundamentalist religious schools teach it as a science subject instead of Darwin's theory of evolution.

In Queensland schools, creationism will be offered for discussion in the subject of ancient history, under the topic of "controversies".

Teachers are still formulating a response to the draft national curriculum, scheduled to be introduced next year.

Queensland History Teachers' Association head Kay Bishop said the curriculum asked students to develop their historical skills in an "investigation of a controversial issue" such as "human origins (eg, Darwin's theory of evolution and its critics"). "It's opening up opportunities for debate and discussion, not to push a particular view," Ms Bishop said. Classroom debate about issues encouraged critical thinking – an important tool, she said.

Associated Christian Schools executive officer Lynne Doneley welcomed the draft curriculum, saying it cemented the position of a faith-based approach to teaching. "We talk to students from a faith science basis, but we're not biased in the delivery of curriculum," Mrs Doneley said. "We say, 'This is where we're coming from' but allow students to make up their own minds."

But Griffith University humanities lecturer Paul Williams said it was important to be cautious about such content. "It's important that education authorities are vigilant that this is not a blank cheque to push theological barrows," Mr Williams said. "I would be loath to see it taught as theory. "It's up there with the world being occupied by aliens since Roswell."

Ms Bishop said there were bigger problems with the national curriculum.

History teachers are planning to object to repetitive subject matter, such as World War I being a major part of the Year 10 course and repeated in Year 11.


Australian academy rejecting global warming

Australia's former chief scientist, Professor Robin Batterham, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over climate change within one of the nation's elite science academies. As president of the peer-elected Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor Batterham faces demands by members to drop plans for the academy to issue a policy statement supporting climate sceptics.

Documents obtained by The Canberra Times show Professor Batterham has indicated support for a statement clarifying the academy's position on climate change.

Professor Batterham is overseas, and could not be contacted. The academy's deputy chief executive Bill Mackey refused to comment on the growing rift within the academy over the contentious wording of the statement. "When we have something to say on this matter, we will say it," he said.

A two-page draft, posted on a password-protected section of the academy's website, said the academy "does not believe the science is settled" regarding climate change. It said many scientists believed "climate changes are nothing unusual, based on past geological records".

An exchange of emails shows the statement has sparked anger and alarm among members. More than 50 of Australia's top agricultural and environmental scientists are among those objecting to the statement. A letter signed by 12 climate scientists has also been circulated to members.

An alternative policy statement, drafted by academy member and Melbourne World Climate Research program director Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, has been emailed to members. It says the academy will "continue to foster open and reasoned debate on all aspects of climate change" but sees "little point in promoting debate based on belief rather than evidence".

In a recent lecture to the University of Western Australia as academy president, Professor Batterham warned of the dangers of a political over-reaction to climate change. He said there was "still much of the science that is uncertain" and used data in an academy-badged slide presentation that claimed investment to create green jobs in Spain had resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs, or 2.2 jobs for every "green job" created.

According to a report of the lecture published in a mining newsletter, Professor Batterham said despite scientific uncertainty, "we need to drastically reduce CO2 or face runaway temperature rise".


More criticism of proposed national history curriculum

Since the curriculum was designed by a well-known Marxist and former member of the Communist party, this was all foreordained. Macintyre's extreme Leftism has of course given him a charmed life in academe but Rudd knew what he was doing when he appointed him

THE new draft national history curriculum has been attacked by leading historians and educators as "politicised", "dumbed down" and pushing an agenda. The Opposition said it was a Labor-designed manifesto in the latest salvo in what has become a fresh break-out of "history wars". Its creators said the curriculum reflected changing values in society.

Prof Geoffrey Blainey said the draft curriculum appeared to represent a "left-wing view of Australian history". Prof Blainey said he was uneasy about the curriculum's treatment of Aboriginal Australians. He said it did not address the failures of pre-settlement Aboriginal society.

Education consultant and former history teacher Dr Kevin Donnelly said the new curriculum had put indigenous and Asian content and perspectives ahead of Australia's Anglo-Celtic tradition, the debt we owe to Western civilisation and the importance of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Dr Donnelly said the curriculum contained 118 references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture and history - with grade 5s studying White Australia and grade 9s Aboriginal massacres and displacement. There is just one reference to Parliament and none to Westminster or the Magna Carta.

Curriculum chief Prof Stuart Macintyre said the new course was not politically motivated.

Last week, this newspaper quoted a historian by the name of Andrew Garvie about the history curriculum. Andrew Garvie is a pen name used by senior Australian academic Dr Ian Pringle, who now works in sensitive parts of Asia as a teacher and consultant and is an economic history expert.


29 May, 2010

Don’t trust Google, trust the government

By Jessica Brown

Thank goodness for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his tireless campaign to protect us from the nasty World Wide Web. Like a brave David squaring up against colossal Goliath, he vows to protect us from the evil clutches of internet behemoth Google and its dastardly ways.

In a Senate Estimates hearing this week, Conroy launched a scathing attack on the search giant for a privacy breach in which personal data were inadvertently collected from some Wi-Fi users. The breach was indeed serious, and Conroy is not the only person around the globe to raise concerns. But he just might be the angriest.

A quick scan of HANSARD, however, reveals that Conroy’s real problem with Google is that the search engine doesn’t know its place. ‘They consider themselves to be above government,’ says the Senator. ‘When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, “Trust us.” They state on the website, “Trust us.”'

And it is this attitude that, according to Conroy, is so dangerous. Perhaps he has a point?

Google can decide – on a whim – to remove web pages it doesn’t like. We will never know what they are because its blacklist is a secret. We don’t even know what criteria are used to decide which pages get binned, or if and when those criteria are changed.

But guess what? It’s the same story with Conroy’s proposed internet filter.

The only difference is, if you don’t like the way Google works you can switch to Bing, Yahoo or any of the other multitude of search engines. If you don’t like the way the government’s internet filter will work, your best option is to leave the country.

Conroy doesn’t really see the connection though. While Google is a ‘corporate giant who is answerable to no one and motivated solely by profit,’ his government is driven by an altruistic urge to protect us all.
But what about those times when it is motivated not by altruism but by a desire to win the next election? Or push an ideological barrow? Or buy off an interest group? Or pander to the political views of an independent that holds the balance of power?

Can we really trust the government to decide – behind our backs – what is in our best interests any more than we can trust Google?

Perhaps a (not so?) radical idea would be for Conroy to trust us to decide for ourselves.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 28 May. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Tough immigration policy will play well for the conservatives in Australia's forthcoming election

Even the Left-leaning writer below can see that

TONY Abbott's embrace of the Pacific Solution to deter boat arrivals will be popular but it affirms the deeper story about the Coalition: it is smart on politics but weak on governing credentials.

Its new hard line on boat people is a "trust us" declaration that invokes the John Howard brand. This is a case of Abbott being Howard, hence his remark that "my values are very, very similar to those of John Howard". Because this statement is true, Abbott's pledge that his policy "is about stopping the boats" will resonate deeply.

Liberal Party research shows boat arrivals remain a red-hot issue. Much of the sentiment is ugly, hostile and deep-seated. As usual, Abbott has taken an absolutist stance: facing a complex challenge he offers populist purism. "We've done it before, we will do it again," he said. "Stop the boats, we must. Stop the boats, we will." The message: Kevin Rudd is weak on boat arrivals and Abbott is strong. That's it. Roger, over and out.

It is a variation of his stance on the resource super-profits tax. "This great big new tax has already put all investment decisions on hold," Abbott said in his budget reply. "The Coalition will oppose the mining tax in opposition and we will rescind it in government." No debate, no qualifications. No concession that taxing profits is the superior principle in a resource tax regime. Abbott's stance is policy must not hinder politics. Indeed, he told 2GB's Alan Jones this week that miners "are paying more than their fair share of tax", a claim much of the industry doesn't even make in its self-defence.

Such absolutism gives Abbott a cut-through quality that maximises his mobilisation of anti-Labor sentiment. People know what he stands for. But it raises another question: is running Australia this simple? Julia Gillard said yesterday that on boat people Abbott had "a slogan, not a solution". The day before Rudd dismissed Abbott for having no resources tax policy whatsoever despite his campaign.

The opening Labor seeks is obvious: Abbott can coin a slogan but you wouldn't want him running the country. In a sense the more progress Abbott makes the more Rudd depicts him as motor-mouth but not a viable prime minister. During a campaign Rudd's capacity to mount a disciplined argument that he is better able to manage the challenges of office should not be discounted.

Beneath Abbott's populism lies his obsession with values. Policy is hard; values are easy. Policy is about balancing competing interests; values are about taking stands. Such tensions are accentuated in the asylum-seeker debate; this is difficult policy but lends itself to populist hyperbole.

Rudd is susceptible because he tried to find a compromise (protecting the borders but softening Howard's repression of asylum-seekers) only to face a resurgence of boats.

So far in 2009-10 there have been 104 boats carrying 4893 people, the highest number on record.

This triggers an iron law of Australian politics: any prime minister is vulnerable if unable to halt the flow of boats. Put another way, every PM needs to show credibility as a border protectionist. Much of the media either cannot grasp or cannot accept this logic but it has complex and legitimate roots in our political culture.

In a tactic to intensify the heat, Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have unveiled a revised policy resting on three principles: where possible the Coalition will turn back the boats; all unauthorised arrivals will be processed offshore and this means negotiating "to establish an offshore processing detention centre in another country" to supplement Christmas Island because it is now at capacity; and restoration of temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals, with such people having no family reunion rights and no right to re-enter the country if they depart, thereby allowing the Coalition to lift Labor's discriminatory treatment of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum-seekers.

How such pledges would work in practice is highly speculative. Abbott and Morrison know their policy is riddled with uncertainty. Turning back the boats requires another nation's co-operation, usually Indonesia. Immigration Minister Chris Evans says under Howard only seven boats were returned and none after 2003. As former foreign minister Alexander Downer said, Jakarta was prepared to allow some tow-backs after the Tampa crisis but this was kept as quiet as possible. Scope to revive this technique seems most improbable with Indonesia hardly a willing conscript. Morrison concedes prospects rest entirely on regional relations.

The Coalition's position on offshore processing duplicates Howard's Pacific Solution. This arose in 2001 because Howard refused to have the Tampa people processed in Australia and his government intimidated and bribed agreements with Nauru and Papua New Guinea for detention and processing facilities.

Morrison refuses to nominate which country an Abbott government would favour for such a deal. Obviously, it could only be revealed in office. The policy says "processing in another country provides the necessary deterrent to discourage illegal boat arrivals". It means intercepted boats would be "taken to non-Australian territory". This equates to a tactic of permanent boat diversion.

Could an Abbott government strike such an arrangement? The Coalition wants the International Organisation for Migration to operate the facility with support from other regional nations.

In this sense it would be an expensive regional solution difficult to negotiate. Coalition policy says Australia would accept some refugees from such offshore processing but "we will not take blanket responsibility for all those transferred to this facility".

Abbott has drawn a fresh line in the sand. "At the moment the Rudd government is bringing illegal arrivals onshore," he said. "That must not happen." Delivering this declaration relies on truly heroic assumptions: that a willing nation can be found and other parties will agree to Australia's conditions. Abbott's claim he sees no reason why negotiations would not succeed is blind optimism.

How smart is the Coalition to revive the Pacific Solution? It faced no compulsion to do this. While the public wants the boats stopped, the Pacific Solution is hardly calculated to win mass applause. The political lesson, however, is that once the boats flow the winner is the leader taking the toughest stand. This is the essence of Abbott's tactic. Rudd cannot out-tough Abbott on this. For Labor, Howard's Pacific Solution was the most detested of all his border protection measures, so its revival maximises the differences between Coalition and Labor.

A similar argument applies to the Coalition's commitment to temporary protection visas. The evidence under Howard is they had a poor record as deterrents or as workable policy instruments. Yet they put more product discrimination between Labor and Coalition over boat people.

This week's events will shape the election campaign. The Coalition plans an intense and researched assault in the campaign proper around asylum-seekers, surely with paid advertising as Abbott matches Howard's border protection message. If a series of boats arrive in the week before the vote, the effect will be inflammatory and unpredictable.

This policy release sets the scene. Morrison said: "We have had 60 boats arrive this year. They are arriving at a rate of more than three per week where in the last six years of the Coalition government they were arriving at a rate of three per year."

While last Thursday's Coalition policy must have been released with an eye to the weekend Newspoll, its long-run purpose is more important. The lesson is that Abbott will wipe the floor with Rudd as a populist. Labor needs to grasp this and act on it. Its strategy must be to present itself as the more capable, responsible and disciplined team for government.


Black educational handicaps CAN be beaten

With disciplined instruction and enthusiasm -- NOT with currently conventional methods

If you want to see a real Education Revolution then you should go to the remote Cape York town of Aurukun, where Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has imported a radical teaching program into a school in which more than half of the students were barely reading at kindergarten level, if they could read at all. In terms of indigenous disadvantage, Aurukun was at rock bottom, with NAPLAN test results 70 per cent below the national benchmark, and every year the achievement gap widening.

The social dysfunction of the Cape's most violent town, driven by gambling, drugs and alcohol, was being played out in the schoolyard. But Pearson says the children's backgrounds has always been used by principals, teachers and education department bureaucrats as an "alibi for schooling failure". His philosophy is that if a student is at school and ready to learn, "a learning failure is a teaching failure". Already, after just one-and-a-half terms, the American-designed Direct Instruction program in which teachers deliver scripted lessons, according to a strictly prescribed, methodical program in literacy and mathematics, has surpassed even Pearson's extraordinarily high hopes. It is a program on which he has staked his reputation, forced into being against the will of much of the educational establishment, and on which his legacy will be judged.

This week, the 17th week of the DI program, a year 4 girl named Imani Tamwoy became the first in the school to have caught up to her grade level in reading. The grade 5 to 7 students managed to master 76 per cent of the kindergarten program in the first 11 weeks, and the prep - or pre-kindy class of four-year olds - is already 40 per cent through the kindergarten language program.

"I'm surprised," Pearson said on Thursday, during a visit with his five-year-old son Ngulunhdhul, aka Charlie, to Aurukun school, two hours by charter flight from his Cairns home. "I thought in Aurukun we'd have a hell of a time with behaviour … I thought Aurukun would be special case, with the notoriety of the school and the community. But it hasn't been, and the great thing is we're doing it with your stock standard Education Queensland teacher. This is the biggest surprise and they're doing a bloody great job."

Pearson travelled to Oregon last year to meet the architect of DI, Professor Siegfried Engelmann, and after a series of bruising negotiations, and entrenched opposition from some teachers and bureaucrats, installed a $7 million three-year trial in Aurukun and Coen schools at the beginning of the year, with the cautious support of the Queensland Education department.

The new principal, Geoff Higham, 59, drafted early this year to replace his less than enthusiastic predecessor, remembers how students in years 8 and 9 used to bring iron bars to school. "The senior boys were out of control. They were reading at kindy level and they hated everything about school," he says. "It's hard to believe the transformation in just 15 or 16 weeks. "This is a wonderful system. All the children are put into ability groups so no one is failing. The teachers aren't failing. The children aren't failing … It's a magnificent successful educational experiment."

Having taught in hardscrabble schools from Kenya to Thursday Island, the former Victorian describes himself as an old-fashioned "chalk and talk" teacher. His previous schools have been described as places where "even the grass sits up straight". He says DI accords with his educational philosophy, that every child can learn, given a disciplined routine and effective instruction. But even in his wildest dreams he hadn't known how effective DI could be.

"I have no doubt the pupils will be at the national level in maths and English in three years' time, and many children will be one, two or three years above that level."

Walking through the collection of modest white buildings nestled among stringybark and palm trees at the school of 250 pupils, you see everywhere, on teachers' shirts, on banners and in classrooms, the motto Pearson has coined for his education revolution: "Get ready. Work Hard. Be Good."

In Sarah Travers's kindy class, she wears a microphone around her neck to amplify her voice for children with chronic ear infections. It seems to work, because her 10 five-year-old students sit attentively on the floor, calling out sounds as she points to phonetic symbols in a book. At 1.45 pm at the tail end of a busy school week, their concentration and focus is remarkable.

In another classroom, children are sounding out words as the teacher clicks her fingers rhythmically to speed up their voices so that the sounds soon join up to become a fluent word.

Colleen Page, a 24-year-old teacher from the Sunshine Coast, in her third year at Aurukun, says the change DI has had on her pupils is marked. "They thrive on it. It's really good to compare the last two years with this year … Previously the kids would be running around your classroom … not listening. Now they're confident about participation in class."

She tells the story of the eight-year-old boy who came to her one morning proudly telling her how he had applied his previous day's lesson. "Miss, I saw a frog, and I said, 'You are an amphibian. You are born in water and raised on land."'

An essential part of the DI program is weekly testing and data crunching. Every Thursday, 120 pages of detailed test scores and information about each student and class is faxed to a DI centre in North America to be analysed. The following Tuesday, the school leaders have a conference call with DI experts in Oregon, about any problems identified.

For example, the data may pinpoint a deficit in a particular child's understanding that came from a particular work sheet in a particular lesson that may have been taught six weeks earlier. The solution is prescribed and the process repeats itself.

The children seem to thrive on the organised routine. Even those difficult older children in years 9 and 10, who have not gone away to boarding school like most of their peers, and who were expected to be too far behind to reap many rewards from DI, have responded in a way that is heartening and heartbreaking, as you consider countless lost opportunities.

The next stage in Pearson's plan is to extend the school day to run from 8.30 am to 4.45 pm, with direct instruction of basic skills until 2.15 pm. Afternoons will be devoted to two crucial areas of learning: Club, which is physical activities such as Auskick, and Culture, which is devoted to learning their traditional Aboriginal culture and becoming literate in the first language of most Aurukun children, Wik-Mungkan.

With growing community delight in the new DI system at school, and the charismatic leadership of Pearson, there is a feeling of renewal in the air. Or, what Principal Higham calls a corner of light.


Rudd treats us like mugs with latest backslide on government ads

Readers of my columns could have gleaned by now that I like to talk. I confess it takes a great deal to render me speechless. But when I walked into the office this morning I was handed a statement that made me open my mouth in shock, sit down, and take a moment to compose myself.

I learned there was an emergency and the Government was going to use millions of dollars of your money to fix it. I’m a bit slow on the uptake. Even though I’ve been covering the story all week, I hadn’t quite grasped that the resources tax stoush had reached the status of national emergency.

But apparently it has. Events are such that the Rudd Government has decided to suspend its own flimsy guidelines for policing taxpayer funded advertising in order to get $38.5 million worth of ads praising its tax reforms on the air. Pronto.

Like tomorrow. And the day after. The new tax ads start tomorrow. Newspapers first. TV to come. Yes, this morning, the Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig had the honourable task of telling us that the government had decided to clear any hurdle between them and a big expensive ad campaign in order to counter the sound and fury from the resources industry.

These ads have not been cleared by the independent committee now charged with ensuring government ads contain necessary information rather than thinly disguised partisan propaganda. They have been cleared by the government. No-one else.

I hope you all find them interesting and informative given you are paying for them.

The Government has set aside its own process because ...? Ludwig: ‘‘I note and accept the Treasurer's advice that there is an active campaign of misinformation about the proposed changes and that Australians are concerned about how these changes will affect them. I further note and accept the Treasurer’s advice that, as tax reform involves changes to the value of some capital assets, they impact on financial markets.’’

‘‘Given that co-ordinated misinformation about the changes is currently being promulgated in paid advertising, I accept the need for extremely urgent action to ensure the Australian community receive accurate advice about the nature and effect of the changes.’’

Let’s recap the whole sequence for a second. Kevin Rudd comes to office in 2007 promising he will not abuse the process of government funded advertising like the Howard Government did so egregiously. If climate change was the "great moral challenge of our time" government advertising, according to Rudd in 2007, was "a long term cancer on our democracy." He wins. He appoints the Auditor-General to police government ads.

The Auditor-General runs a ruler over everything, thinking he’s doing his job (given the cancer and all that). He asks lots of questions. The government gets annoyed and bones him.

The government installs a new independent committee of former public servants to play the Auditors’ role. These public servants report to the government, (unlike the Auditor-General, who is independent from Government and reports to the Parliament.)

To cap off the backflip, it amends it own guidelines to give itself more discretion to bypass even the new watered down process in order to respond in cases where someone in the government decides there is a ‘‘compelling reason’’ to — how can I put this delicately — go for broke at the taxpayers expense. Then, today, it fulfils its own disappointing prophesy.

It takes advantage of its new ‘‘flexibility’’. It decides it won’t even bother with its new watered down accountability process and just whacks ads on the air. The trend of decision-making on this issue is all bad, not quite as bad as John Howard, but getting there.

Now let’s try and see things from their point of view for a moment. Of course the miners are digging into their deep pockets in order to beat up the government and squeeze the best deal possible out of the proposed Henry changes.

A number of big reforms — most importantly the emissions trading scheme — have been killed by negative fear campaigns by special interests. There is a case to advertise the tax changes because they are far-reaching and complex. But is there really a case to suspend its own standards of accountability in order to do it?

Seriously? Does the Government conclude that voters are so silly that they can’t see a special interest campaign when they see one? Do they so doubt their own capacity to communicate a clear message that they have to bring in the ponytails of ad land to dig them out of a political hole?

Whatever Joe Ludwig gets paid, it’s not enough to be the minister responsible for accountability in this government - having to routinely and consistently announce he is hacking into the high standards the government set itself when it came to office in 2007. They are slipping on this issue, and they are mugs if they think voters won’t notice.


28 May, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is celebrating the departure of Malcolm Fraser. I don't think Zeg gets all the details of history right but he has got the general drift pretty right.

A REAL "stolen generation" needed?

If Mr Justice Martin is correct below -- and I believe that he is at least partly right -- the problem with violent black males starts when the males concerned were themselves abused as children. So shouldn't we be removing such children to more peaceful homes? And given the lack of peace in most black homes that would mean bring up black children in white foster homes -- precisely what the Leftist "stolen generation" accusers condemn

VIOLENCE in north Australian indigenous communities shows no sign of abating and it could be a further 25 years before any meaningful progress is made, a top judge has warned. In words laced with anguish and despair, Northen Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin announced his surprise resignation - eight years before compulsory retirement age - admitting that "some of the cases have been rough and demoralising". "You reach a point," he said, "where you say enough is enough."

Justice Martin said jail had become an ineffective means of rehabilitation and that he had become tired of seeing a growing tide of Aboriginal men repeatedly before the courts for violent crimes against women. "It is somewhat demoralising and distressing to see so many cases of that nature and so many offenders who are repeat offenders," he said. "These need to be addressed at a level before it gets to the court because there is a limit to what we can do. "We can put people in jail, but that in itself has proved to be an ineffective way of rehabilitating people."

Justice Martin's comments will add to an already heated debate in the Territory about the merits of so-called "soft" and "hard" sentencing of indigenous offenders.

"We (the courts) are right at the tail end of all the experiences of the life of the offender that has ultimately led to this type of offending," Justice Martin said yesterday during a candid and wide-ranging press conference at the NT Supreme Court chambers. "Being at the tail end, we can't cure them. That's the problem.

"We see many offenders who come from homes in which they were the victims. "They end up becoming offenders. We have to break that cycle somehow."

Justice Martin said stamping out the violence would take generational change and special attention needed to be given to children. "The project in my view is at least a 25-year project," he said.

"It starts with getting the very young children out of the dysfunctional lifestyle and circumstances and get them into the right lifestyle and break the vicious cycle that has been set up."

Indigenous academic Marcia Langton last night branded the 25-year timeframe as "defeatist" and insisted the situation be turned around earlier. "We shouldn't make kids wait that long for a decent life," she said. "People become defeated by how difficult the task is but you have to be tough. "It's about vigilance. There are a lot of parties that could do so much better." [Like whom?]


Official climate "experts" can't even spell

A waiver is the voluntary surrender of some right or privilege. Does the big brain below mean "waver"?
DSE invites members of the Victorian Public Service to a presentation on: Dealing with climate change denialism with Paul Holper, CSIRO

Popular opinion on climate change often waivers, particularly when the media focus on denialist views and encourage “debates” with climate change scientists. The Victorian Government, along with other governments in Australia and across the world, rely on the scientific community for advice on climate change and its likely impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognised as the international authority on climate change science and denialist views often lack rigor and credibility in comparison. Paul Holper (CSIRO) will present on ways to approach climate change denialism in a Victorian context.

Paul Holper Paul manages the CSIRO’s involvement in the Australian Climate Change Science Program, a $15 million program supported by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. This program undertakes observations of the atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial systems, as well as climate model development, and projections of Australia’s likely future climate. Paul coordinated the most recent climate change projections for Australia (based on IPCC models), announced by BoM and CSIRO in 2007.


Note that Public servants only are invited. Secret knowledge? I'd love to go and ask some awkward questions but I don't have that much time to waste anyway.

It would be fascinating to see a transcript of Mr Holper's lecture but I'm betting that he won't have the balls to release it. He would know that to do so would expose him to ridicule and refutation.

Misleading Federal government advertising

Just a blatant use of taxpayers' money to plug as achievements what are no more than Leftist promises

Qualification and nuance discounts affirmations of all kinds, particularly when you are trying to sell somebody something.

So that's probably the reason the federal government has opted to omit the grey area when it comes to the advertising campaign currently on air at your expense - the one that intones reassuringly that the Australian Government "will deliver better health and better hospitals".

You wouldn't want to bog the advertisement down with untidy and ill-defined bits and pieces. Like the fact that Western Australia has not yet agreed to the Commonwealth's health and hospital reforms. Or that the Senate is yet to consider any legislation that might be required to give effect to that agreement. Best keep it simple.

Rather like the lovely glossy brochures printed at your expense plugging the government's new paid maternity leave scheme. It's cool. It's big. It's fabbo. "On 1 January 2011, the Australian Government will deliver Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme."

Well let’s hope the country can strike a modest blow for modernity after all this time. But that too depends on the Senate, which is yet to consider the necessary legislation giving effect to the scheme. But why sweat the details?

After all, this wouldn't quite work would it? "On 1 January 2011, the Australian Government will (probably) deliver Australia's first national paid parental scheme (if the unrepresentative swill in the Senate allows us to)." Not so schmick. But it would be a more accurate representation of current political reality.

I wouldn't get picky if it wasn't my money. And yours. And I wouldn't harp on about this issue if this government had resolved to be just like the one it replaced: the one that thought nothing of taking large sums of your money and investing it in advertising telling you how good they were.

You remember that period of course. Eventually the degree of taxpayer-funded self-congratulation going on under the Howard government drove us all stark raving mad.

This particular Rudd government actually had an accountability agenda. It promised to be different than its predecessor. And there is evidence to show that on several fundamentals it is different from its predecessor on the issue of taxpayer funded advertising. But there is troubling evidence too of back-sliding.

In March the government dumped the Commonwealth Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, a man it had appointed (consistent with a 2007 election promise) to the important task of policing government campaigns. McPhee (who sets his own agenda and reports to the parliament) has been replaced with a committee of retired public servants (appointed on shorter contracts and answerable to the government).

That happened in March. In May, despite the Herculean effort to get the budget back into surplus earlier than forecast, the government found more than $100 million over the forward estimates to fund advertising campaigns. These campaigns are already in the pipeline.

Health is already on the air. Quite apart from its lack of disclosure, this campaign cannot be compared with an eminently justifiable information exercise: get a breast screen, check your prostate, slip slop slap. It is simply an exercise in informing all of us that the government is doing something, lest you conclude that all that’s happening in Canberra is rave parties or book clubs. If this one represents the tone of future government advertising it does not bode well.

McPhee told Senate Estimates earlier this week that his office would not be in a position to properly scrutinise any of the new spending until next year. That's after the election folks.

No one quibbles with the right of governments to inform the public, or to run campaigns where public action is required, or to communicate on issues where education is warranted.

The recent debacle surrounding the insulation program could serve as a case in point. If there had been an advertising campaign warning the public explicitly of the possible risks, and I mean possibe, then some of the disasters could have been avoided. But current practice is less than reassuring.


Freedom from information in Left-run NSW

INVESTIGATORS are repeatedly refused access to critical documents by agencies such as the Roads and Traffic Authority, despite commitments by the Premier, Kristina Keneally, and her predecessor, Nathan Rees, to reform the government's approach to freedom of information.

The Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, is seeking to change a nine-word loophole in the legislation that governs his powers and which he says significantly hinders his ability to investigate government agencies.

The loophole allows agencies to refuse access to documents they say are covered by legal professional privilege.

Mr Barbour says his requests, over 2 years, for a change have been met with "a series of unhelpful fob-offs" and has warned he is preparing to make a special report to Parliament to force action on the issue.

"The amendment would ensure proper scrutiny of government agencies [which are] the subject of investigation," Mr Barbour told the Herald. "Importantly, it would remove the opportunity for agencies to hide behind this exemption. "It's difficult to understand why the government is so reluctant to make such a simple yet important amendment to the Ombudsman's Act."

The NSW Ombudsman, who holds royal commission powers of investigation, is the only ombudsman in Australia hamstrung by the legal loophole. The Police Integrity Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption are not prevented from accessing any type of document.

Mr Barbour has written to at least two premiers, not including Ms Keneally, and the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet raising his concerns and requesting an amendment to the act. In a parliamentary committee report tabled last month, he revealed that draft legislation was being prepared, but that it was "pulled before it went to Parliament".

Mr Barbour described a letter he received from Leigh Sanderson, the deputy director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, as "another in a series of unhelpful fob-offs".

In the Ombudsman's latest annual report, Mr Barbour highlighted his frustration at being stonewalled during "a very significant investigation into the RTA" and another into a freedom-of-information request refused by the Board of Studies.

During the Ombudsman's investigation into the Board of Studies' refusal to grant a group of students access to their raw and "cut-off" HSC marks, he was refused access to 60 documents on the grounds of legal professional privilege.

Refusals were also made during an investigation into how the RTA handled freedom-of-information requests, which uncovered a longstanding practice of sending draft determinations to the office of the minister and not acting until it received their endorsement.

In its report, the government-controlled Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission has recommended the act be changed, but the government has yet to respond. Earlier this month Ms Keneally issued a memo to her ministers and department heads warning them to abide by new freedom-of-information laws which take effect on July 1.


27 May, 2010

Curtains For

Antisemitic Leftist hate-site wonders why it attracted few advertisers. Excerpt from their announcement below. Picture of Marni Cordell, the writer of the piece below, also follows. Some background on the publication here

It’s with heavy hearts that we announce the end of the site will cease publishing on Friday, 25 June.

What’s brought us to this? The short answer is: we’ve run out of money. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that has never operated on a profit. However, we had projected that the site would break even by 2010.

We’ve now come to realise we were being too optimistic and that we’re unable to continue publishing into the next financial year. This is in large part due to the sheer difficulty of selling online advertising in the current media environment.

When was bought by its current owner Duncan Turpie in February 2007 the site was operating at a significant financial loss. That year we made the decision — perhaps too hastily in hindsight — to drop subscriptions in an effort to boost our readership and to increase our revenue from advertising.

We’ve certainly achieved the first of those aims: each year for the past three years our hits have more than doubled. There’s a steady and growing cohort of readers who return daily to for news and analysis.

However, the advertising simply hasn’t followed. Moreover, as the site has increased in popularity, so have our running costs — and with them the knowledge that we are unable to subsidise the project indefinitely. The big media players are struggling to find a workable online business model that allows them to pay their writers and maintain high standards — and so are we. Since we already run a very lean operation, cutting costs is not an option and we are taking the only path available to us at this time.


Rudd to backflip on mining tax rate

Still making policy on the run without proper consultations. He hasn't got a clue

THE Rudd Government is moving towards a major backdown on its $12 billion tax on resources and is now expected to increase the threshold at which its proposed super-profits levy kicks in from 6 per cent to 11 or 12 per cent.

Only three weeks after unveiling the new resource super-profits tax, the Government is preparing to lift the threshold definition of a super profit following a ferocious campaign by the mining companies,

Despite this expected backdown, the big mining companies have already declared the changes do not stop the risk to investment in Australia.

To offset the lost revenue in raising the threshold to the same level as the existing petroleum resources rent tax, which applies to offshore gasfields, the Government intends to withdraw the 40 per cent taxpayer-funded compensation originally offered for mining projects that fail....

But all the major mining companies have rejected the new proposals as "tinkering at the edges" and not addressing the main risk to mining investment in Australia.

The mining companies are demanding more negotiation with the government on the issues of the retrospective application of the new tax, different rates for different minerals and the 40 per cent tax rate.

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers declared last night that any thought the petroleum tax would work for minerals was "naive" and demonstrated "a lack of knowledge as to how investments are made".

And Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis said from South Africa: "The Government needs to do what it should have done all along and enter into full and open consultations with the industry where every aspect of the super tax is open for debate. Tinkering at the margins will not avoid the significant long-term damage this tax could do to mining investment in Australia.

Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis told the company's shareholders that Australia's reputation had already been damaged by the super-profits tax proposal.

"We are concerned that the proposed resources super tax will erode Australia's competitiveness, severely curtail investment and limit jobs growth," Mr du Plessis said yesterday.

More here

Conservative coalition insists refugees work for their keep

REFUGEES would be forced to work for their welfare benefits and may only be permitted to stay in Australia for as little as six months under a tough new border security policy to be announced by the Coalition today.

In an attempt to capitalise on rising community anger at the continued flow of boats that have brought 2805 asylum-seekers to Australia so far this year, the Coalition will unveil a suite of measures designed to harden its border security credentials.

At the heart of those measures is a new, tougher class of temporary protection visa to be issued to all unauthorised asylum-seekers.

In echoes of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, the Coalition is expected to announce new measures to process asylum-seekers offshore.

The Coalition will also flag its intention to dump the suspension of new refugee claims for Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, which was unveiled by the Federal Government in April. The suspension freezes new Sri Lankan asylum claims for three months and new Afghan claims for six months.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told The Australian that abolishing the suspension would restore the non-discriminatory tenets of Australian asylum-seeker policy. "We have tough policies but they are applied equally to everyone," Mr Morrison said.

"We have a clear view that people who arrive illegally will get different treatment to those who arrive legally. "We don't seek to hide the fact what we are trying to do is ensure there is a different outcome for those who come illegally and those who don't."

The new announcements are designed to silence Coalition critics who for months have accused the opposition of failing to provide convincing alternative policies to stop the rising number of boats.

They are also an attempt to capitalise on growing disquiet in marginal electorates in the months leading up to this year's Federal Election.

Mr Morrison yesterday defended the proposed temporary protection visa, saying it was a fairer, more versatile method of providing protection. "Refugee status is not a permanent condition and you need a policy to reflect that," he said.


Malcolm "Trousers" Fraser: A bitter old failure

No wonder he consorts with the Left these days. Bitterness is their shtick

Now comes news that Fraser formally quit the Liberal Party in December because it's too conservative for him. The former prime minister quit in spirit a long time ago. He seems eaten up with the need to settle old scores and be proved right on every little point, a sad state to be in at the age of 80. Listening to him is a reminder of how unelectable the Liberal Party would be today if he had any say in it.

He has always gone out of his way to malign and belittle John Howard, his one-time treasurer who well and truly eclipsed him in the PM stakes. How it must have rankled that some half-deaf nerd from Canterbury Boys' High could best him, the tall imperious scion of the Victorian squattocracy who speaks as if he has a mouthful of cotton wool.

He showed himself on Monday night to be no better a friend to Tony Abbott, describing Langton's fair-minded but uncompromising appraisal of the Opposition Leader as "extraordinarily kind".

"… Instinctively it's in your nature either to try and tell the truth even when you're losing your temper, or it's not, and if it's not you're entitled to say, every time a man [i.e. Abbott] says something, 'Well, is this fair dinkum or is it not?' "

He also accused the opposition, laughably, of not pursuing government wrongdoing hard enough. Better yet was his confident claim that the British and American governments knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and the Howard government, if it didn't know, "should have".

He's obviously been reading too much Green Left Weekly, or perhaps he gets his history from the Hollywood conspiracy genre of Green Zone. Even the host, Tony Jones, didn't pursue this fruitcake line.

The Freudian highlight of Monday night's show came when Jones inadvertently referred to Fraser as "Malcolm Turnbull". Fraser looked pleased, and you can see some similarity in the two men's unscrupulous ambition and capacity for destruction. But Turnbull is positively humble by comparison, can admit mistakes, and does not eat himself up with old grievances. He is a far sunnier fellow.

While spruiking his memoirs earlier this year, Fraser denied that he had become a leftie, insisting he had not changed but the Liberal Party had lurched to the right.

That is his perception. But to many observers the Reinvention of Malcolm Fraser is a fascinating study in internal psychological conflict writ small into the craggy creases of his former matinee-idol face.

He used to be a cartoon version of the jut-jawed, born-to-rule elite, the "Life wasn't meant to be easy", razor-ganging, Nixonian supply-blocker who became the most loathed politician of his time; now he resides in the very bosom of the progressive left which once reviled him, the pin-up boy of the GetUp! crowd.

It's as if he has a permanent case of Stockholm Syndrome - the defence mechanism in which captives identify with their tormenters and eventually adopt their beliefs.

There he was, having come to office in 1975 in a most ruthless and unorthodox manner, by overthrowing Labor's progressive darling Gough Whitlam, violently hated by those who saw him as an illegitimate symbol of oppressive patriarchy, and soon enough snubbed by his own party. On university campuses the family name was defaced with a swastika in place of the "s". For a long time he was not welcome in fashionable circles and was ridiculed for losing his trousers in Memphis. Regarded as disappointing and a bit of an embarrassment by colleagues, the prime minister who once lionised Mugabe and Mao was blamed for making the Liberals unelectable for 13 years.

It would have broken lesser men. So in a way you can understand his eager acceptance of the small kindnesses which started to come from former opponents. Whitlam always had an amused, half-bemused look on his face as he posed with his new best friend, a convert to all sorts of progressive convictions. The more Fraser converted, the kinder his former foes were to him, and the more he must have boiled at the petty injustices from his own indifferent party.

The odd thing is that he would have done a lot more damage to conservatives if he'd remained in their ranks. Instead, he's turned into the crabby old muppet Statler, harmlessly heckling the rest of the cast from his balcony seat.


26 May, 2010

Good riddance to bad rubbish

He always was "holier than thou" -- a supercilious old b*stard. I regret that I once shook his hand. After his wimpish Prime Minstership, he has been loathed by many Australian conservatives for a long time

FORMER Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has quit the party, allegedly over a belief it has tilted too far to the right.

Mr Fraser resigned in December, shortly after Malcolm Turnbull was turfed as Opposition leader over his support for emissions trading, The Australian Financial Review reported.

He allegedly told friends his replacement, Tony Abbott, was "all over the place" on policy and disliked the racist overtones adopted by the party in the debate on immigration.

Mr Fraser, the prime minister from 1975 to 1983, confirmed his decision to quit yesterday, saying the party was no longer a liberal party but a conservative party.

Although he failed to elaborate, he has recently been critical of the Coalition in the media, particularly over its stance on the Israeli passports affair.


Useless emergency hotline again

Another case of an emergency call "diverted" to somewhere a long way away from the emergency -- where it gets "lost"

FEARS are held for the safety of teachers in a Cape York Indigenous community after a frightening attempted break-in yesterday.

Queensland Teachers Union north Queensland delegate Maureen Duffy said tension had been building in the town since a riot last week, with an attempted break-in yesterday heightening concerns.

The attempted break-in was particularly frightening for the two female victims, who were unable to get through to Aurukun police. Their call diverted to Cairns instead.

Ms Duffy said the two female teachers, both under the age of 26, were alerted by a security light about 3.15am yesterday, which revealed three intruders, who had duct tape with them, trying to break in. “They tried to get in the side door and then they went around and tried the front door,” Ms Duffy said. “They (the teachers) were screaming out ‘We are going to call the police!’. “They (the intruders) then scaled the fence and ran away.” A roll of duct tape was later found outside.

“I do know that they tried to ring police and it diverted to Cairns and the report I was told was that details was supposed to be given,” Ms Duffy said. She said the principal also tried to call Aurukun police about 8.30am yesterday and that phone call also diverted to Cairns.

Meanwhile a police officer from Aurukun Police Station denied there was a riot earlier in the week, and said there just fighting between families. "It was nothing out of the ordinary for here - just ongoing tension and family fights,’’ he said.

Aurukun police officer-in-charge Sen-Sgt Alan Dewis said the attempted break-in was not reported to police when the call was diverted to Cairns. "You can't complain about a service if you don't report what actually happened," he said. "If that information had been passed on it's without a doubt there would have been a quick response."

Sen-Sgt Dewis said he could not make any further comments as the investigation was ongoing.


Streamline teacher sackings, say NSW parents

PARENTS want the state government to speed up the process of sacking underperforming teachers from schools, which they say is too long and needs to be reviewed.

The call follows the release of a report yesterday which said principals were failing to do anything about poor teachers and that the system for evaluating teachers was "broken".

The president of the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, Dianne Giblin, said yesterday the procedure to remove underperforming teachers was "too long and complex". "Every parent wants a quality teacher in front of a classroom," she said. "There needs to be a review and the process of removing ineffective teachers should be quicker and more succinct.

"There is a lengthy period … where teachers are monitored and reviewed and often transferred to another school where the process starts again."

The state government has backed away from its decision in early 2008 to give principals the autonomy to hire and fire teachers, in response to pressure from the NSW Teachers Federation.

A spokesman for the Education Minister, Verity Firth, said every teacher deserved "due process". Teachers deemed to be underperforming were placed on a 10-week improvement program. If, at the end of the program, the teacher has not satisfied "specific quality benchmarks" he or she is "referred for … disciplinary or … remedial action, which could include dismissal," the spokesman said.

This year the NSW Institute of Teachers will begin evaluating teachers who apply for accreditation at the higher levels of "accomplished teaching" and "teacher leadership".

The head of the institute, Patrick Lee, said 350 experienced teachers had applied for evaluation under the new standards, with 150 more expected to apply by the end of the year.

Public school teachers who receive accreditation would not qualify for higher pay in the same way as independent school teachers, who earn an extra $6862 for achieving the new standards.

The NSW Association of Independent Schools has negotiated a scale of performance pay for teachers at 120 private schools, and the highest rate is more than $100,000. Public school classroom teachers earn a maximum of about $79,000.

The Catholic Education Office in Sydney will appoint teacher educators to 20 primary and 11 secondary schools this year. The educators will be paid about $110,000 to improve standards.

Gary Zadkovich, deputy president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said the government and Department of Education had failed to provide enough support and guidance for public school principals to implement teacher improvement programs.


Anti-American Left clutches at the usual cliches

IMAGINE surprising your audience, challenging their preconceived views, allowing people to learn something new, think afresh, rather than simply seek out reaffirmation of what they already believe. Imagine this happening when five international guests gather to talk about America for the 2010 Sydney Writers Festival. A festival that promised to bring "provocative ideas" and "feisty debate" to Sydney.

Maybe next year. The festival's big event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday evening started and finished as a caricature of all that has gone awry with the Left. Not just the refusal to try for nuance, difference or debate on a panel. Progressives seem to think gathering people of different skin colours can be used as proxies for different views.

Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody. Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama, yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration ("evil was being actively pursued every single day"), Sarah Palin and Fox News ("I blame Australia. Thanks, Rupert.") This is the same kind of blubbing uniformity you find at a Tea Party convention.

But it's the smugness of the Left that strikes you the most. Are there different views? Not among decent-minded people surely. Not among our audience anyway, who reek of sensibility with their sensible shoes, their sensibly warm cardigans and scarves.

It's true the audience seemed content, clapping, heads nodding and shaking in tune. Perhaps this is what the elderly do to relive their salad days of unruly protest marches. Past the age of youthful chanting and traipsing the streets holding up anti-American placards, the audience -- with a mean age of 60 -- seemed to be here to have their views affirmed. And so did the aging activist Anne Summers, who chaired the panel session. Alas, the taxpayer-funded Sydney Writers Festival is not meant to be a political or ideological gathering. Or a protest march for oldies.

Opening the panel, Summers mentioned an article by James Fallow in a recent edition of Atlantic Monthly. A thoughtful piece about the American cycle of crisis and renewal, Fallows has the intellectual honesty to explore what is great about America while also exploring its greatest flaws. Turns out Summers is a dreadful tease. There would be no such intellectual integrity on display in the Town Hall. No fascinating exploration of what Fallows traces as the "jeremiad" national ritual where Americans issue harsh warnings about American decline as a rallying cry to get people to address problems.

No honest appraisal of history where America is always depicted as in decline for one reason or another. Prior to World War II, America was always falling short of the expectations of God, the Founding Fathers or the past. After emerging as a global power, it was always accused of falling behind another emerging power. And no mention of the brilliant American capacity to bounce back every time.

Instead, Summers presided over and, with simplistic questions, prompted 90 minutes of bashing America in general, and conservative America in particular. She kicked it off with a quote from a book by panellist Lionel Shriver. "Americans are fat, inarticulate and ignorant. They're demanding, imperious and spoiled. They're self-righteous and superior. . ." and so on. Cue the panel. British protester Raj Patel said he recently took up American citizenship so that he "can now be arrested and not deported back to the United Kingdom".

He joined the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle and the 2000 protests against the World Bank. He would later recite a nostalgic poem, Let America Be America Again, once published in a pamphlet by a group of communists.

Shriver, now living in Britain, told the audience to forget about moving to America because "if this is as good as it gets, then it doesn't get very good". Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar, remarked on the enormous similarities between Iran and America: the sense of greatness, the role of religion in society. Americans treat their founding documents as "scripture", he said. "That's called fundamentalism." So America "feels like home," he said.

One panel member mocked the belief in small government as a "weird contradiction". Ignoring centuries of genuine liberal political philosophy, he wondered how any sensible person could believe in government only to then say they want government off your back?

An hour earlier, at an entertaining session about plain English, an intelligent chair talked to Christopher Hitchens, Annabel Crabb and former NSW premier Nathan Rees about the problems with cliches.

Clutching at cliches is not a case of bad thinking, said Hitchens. "It's not doing the thinking at all." Across town, Summers presented the 90-minute crash course: Left-Wing Anti-American Cliches 101.

There was no sign of reality. As one panel member said, "I just don't like reality." No honest scorecard of America, a big country that makes big mistakes, to be sure. But also a big country that delivered big help to Europe during World War II, to Bosnian Muslims in Serbia in 1995, to the thousands of people devastated by the Asian tsunami in 2004, to the Burmese in 2008 left to die by their military leaders, and so on. No recognition that the soft power of Europe has done precious little to rescue people in need.

Instead, there was smugness. Ironically, the very same smugness explored a few days earlier by Shriver during an intelligent discussion with broadcaster and journalist Caroline Baum. When talking about humour, Shriver said she doesn't care for the clubby nature of most political satire where it is assumed you are all on the same side. "It's what annoys me about liberals in general. Conservatives, as a type, do not assume when they meet someone that you're a conservative . . . Liberals are presumptuous and especially if you seem like a half-way decent human being. The assumption is, of course, you are wildly left-wing." Everyone is regarded as being in the same club. It's "very self-congratulatory", Shriver said.

No doubt, the authors on stage subscribe to the view of novelist Peter De Vries, mentioned in Hitchens's new book, Hitch 22. De Vries said his ambition as a writer was for his books to attract a mass audience, "one large enough for his more elite audience to look down upon".

When one panel member on Saturday evening seriously suggested that obesity in America was the fault of George W. Bush, it was time to wrap things up for anyone with a modicum of free thinking. Let's Talk About America should have been called Let's Attack America, remarked my friend as we walked out.

Memo to festival organisers: please bump up ticket prices for the 2011 festival so governments can stop subsidising you. And taxpayer money can be used somewhere useful next year.


25 May, 2010

What the hell happened here?

How did a prisoner in a Victorian police cell become "bloody"? And how come it was initially covered up?

Sickening CCTV footage of a bleeding prisoner crawling from his cell has been described as "deeply disturbing" by a Victoria Police commissioner.

The Chinese man, in his 50s, who was arrested and placed in a cell at Dandenong police station for being drunk, pleaded for help, soiled himself and was bleeding when he was bailed by police on May 12.

Five minutes later, as an interpreter tried to help him, police called an ambulance, but he died the following day in hospital.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said an officer had been put on alternative duties while the ethical standards department and the homicide squad investigate the Dandenong death.

"My view is that if you see a prisoner crawling on the ground, that should be a very clear signal that we should be calling an ambulance, and I'm very concerned in this case that did not occur," he said.

Mr Cornelius said there was no evidence of the man being physically mishandled by police.

"It is a deeply disturbing and very disappointing image. I would never want to see anything like that again in my policing career," he said.

Police investigating the tragedy will compile a brief for the state coroner.

The circumstances of the man's death only came to light yesterday after an interpreter who witnessed the incident phoned a radio station.

The woman, "JJ", said the man repeatedly yelled that he needed to go to hospital and was writhing in pain. She said she was struggling to erase the images of his blood-stained face and the "despair" in his eyes.


Another account of the matter:

A Chinese man who was seen bleeding from his mouth and crawling from his police cell "like a dog" begged officers for help hours before he died in hospital, his interpreter claims.

The woman, known as JJ, said she was called to Dandenong police station after the allegedly drunk man was arrested about 2.30pm on May 12.

JJ told Radio 3AW today the man had soiled himself, was bleeding from the mouth and complaining of such intense pain he couldn't stand up or walk at the police station.

She said when the cell door was opened, the man crawled out "on his knees and hands like a dog" with no assistance from police officers. "When I looked through I saw blood everywhere in the cell and he was on the floor yelling ... he was in pain," she said. "I heard him yelling out 'I can’t take this anymore I need to go to the hospital'."

After the man's paperwork had been processed, JJ said he was taken to the garage area and told by an officer to "Get out! Get out!".

"He said 'I can't move, I can't move' and then two officers came and just grabbed him and threw him out," she said. "He yelled in pain, so much pain, he yelled as if someone was killing someone."

JJ said outside the police station the man, aged about 50, told her his back and his right hip were causing him pain. After waiting on the footpath for 40 minutes police organised an ambulance, she said. He died in hospital the next day.

JJ claimed she was told by police the man was "dying anyway". She said the man was married with a 15-year-old daughter. "I just hope his family would get some fair answer," she said.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius today confirmed the incident was being investigated by the homicide squad and ethical standards department.

He said he understood the man had been "very unwell for some considerable time" and tests had revealed a "substantial amount" of alcohol in his blood.

He said there was "no evidence of physical force in the course of his body being examined".

Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said the interpreter had provided a statement to investigators from the ethical standards department and he had "no reason to doubt the account provided by the witness".

He also revealed a police officer who had contact with the man has been assigned a new role while the investigations continue.

"I understand that the duties of one of the members involved was reviewed and as a result that member is undertaking other duties," Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said. "At this stage we haven't formed a view one way or the other about the appropriateness of the conduct of those members."


The disdain of the self-elected Leftist elite for the "illiterates" who pay their way

From New York to Sydney and on to Melbourne, many an inner-city intellectual is full of contempt for their fellow men and women. It's just that not many 'fess up to what they really think.

Not so the Australian expatriate Peter Carey. The New York-based novelist told the taxpayer-subsidised Sydney Writers' Festival at the weekend: "We are getting dumber every day; we are literally forgetting how to read." Carey has not released the text of his address but, according to a Herald report, he complained: "We have yet to grasp the fact that consuming cultural junk … is completely destructive of democracy."

According to the report, the novelist's audience was of the converted kind. No disagreement was evident when Carey declared the nation of his birth has "become intolerant of any news that is not entertaining".

Carey's complaint is, in Australia, cookbooks and Dan Brown novels top most best-seller lists. And he expressed the wish, by as early as next year, every 14-year-old would understand and adore William Shakespeare and learn to love Charles Dickens's work. If young teenagers go for Shakespeare and Dickens, well and good. But if they will settle for Brown, this should be good enough. What matters is that the young learn to love reading - and virtually any reading will do for starters.

As a novelist, Carey is worried about the status of the novel itself. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported how, at a function in the New York Public Library, Carey responded to a question about the kind of novels he writes with a version of the conversation he claims to usually have on planes. It went as follows. The person says: "What do you do?" "I write novels." Person: "Should I know your name?" Carey: "Only if you're literate."

Enough said.

The fact is people read more than ever before. This reflects increasing literacy rates in the less developed world, along with the growth in online reading in the developed world. Carey's claim "we have forgotten how to read" is hyperbole - whether spoken to American or Australian audiences. Yet it is more than this. The novelist's disdain for the reading tastes of his fellow citizens reflects a deeper disenchantment with societies which do not assess intellectuals to be as important as intellectuals regard themselves.

In an interview on Radio National's Breakfast in 2006, Carey declared if he still lived in Australia he "would spend so much time in a total blinding rage". He is on record as having described Australia as a "flea circus".

Carey's Sydney Writers' Festival whinge is but the most recent complaint of the inner-city leftist writer or commentator who decries the (alleged) lack of culture among those who live in the suburbs and regional centres. A similar critique is commonly heard in Australia.

Earlier this month, The Age dismissed its Brunswick-based columnist Catherine Deveny. The immediate cause turned on her Logie night attempt at humour - to the effect it would be a you-beaut idea if 11-year-old Bindi Irwin got laid. This controversy diverted attention away from Deveny's contempt for those who live in the suburbs, some of whom read The Age. She mocked shoppers at the suburban shopping malls, ridiculed families with signed and framed football jumpers on their walls and dismissed believers as mere idiots.

No one quite matches Deveny's contempt for the less educated and lower socio-economic groups. However, in 2004 La Trobe University academic Judith Brett warned readers of the edited collection The Howard Years that, in contemporary Australia, "the opinions of the ignorant or uninvolved are given equal weight to those of the passionate and the knowledgeable". How shocking is that?

Writing in the Herald Sun last February, columnist Jill Singer opined: "There is nothing wrong with being an accountant, farmer or fisherman - but these are insufficient credentials to, say, run a nation's finances." According to this logic, one-time train driver Ben Chifley was not qualified to be treasurer in John Curtin's successful wartime government but Jim Cairns was just the man to hold the position in Gough Whitlam's erratic government in the early 1970s. Yet Chifley was competent at his job while the former academic Cairns was a disaster.

In 2005, journalist and academic Margaret Simons wrote in the Griffith Review about her experiences in visiting the Fountain Gate shopping centre in suburban Melbourne. It was an "us" and "them" experience. One minute Simons was in Carlton with its devotion to "conspicuous refinement and good taste". Just an hour later, dressed in hemp, she was in suburban Narre Warren asking shoppers whether they had heard of the culture wars and wondering why they ignored her questions. All this in search of an answer to Simons's query as to what is "the difference between the people who chose to live here and ourselves". The question is as embarrassing as the account of her research for an answer.

It seems that some parts of the inner-city are more, in Simons's terminology, sophisticated than others. On ABC radio in Melbourne last February, John Faine dismissed Altona as so "industrial" it "gets the fumes from the industrial zones wafting across it". Not attractive, was Faine's judgment. Not enough coffee shops and insufficient hemp worn, apparently.

The irony is that much of this inner-city snobbery is funded by taxpayers who live in industrial areas or near suburban shopping malls. Carey's alienation found expression at the Sydney Writers' Festival while Simons's analysis appeared in the taxpayer-subsidised Griffith Review. Brett is an academic and Faine works for the public broadcaster. It's enough to make you reach for the nearest cookbook.


Teachers get no incentive to improve

GOOD teachers are not recognised and rewarded while poor teachers are not penalised because methods to evaluate their performance at school are meaningless and ineffective.

A report by the independent think tank the Grattan Institute, to be released today, calls for a radical overhaul of the nation's systems for evaluating teachers, saying the profession believes they are meaningless and undertaken only to satisfy administrative requirements.

"Although all Australian schools have systems of evaluation and development in place, they clearly aren't working. Teachers believe that the systems are broken," the report says.

It adds that 92 per cent of teachers work in schools where the principal never reduces the annual pay rise for underperforming teachers, and almost three-quarters, or 71 per cent, say teachers with sustained poor performance are not dismissed.

The report uses data from the first international survey of classroom teachers, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found Australia was the fourth worst of 23 developed nations in recognising effective teachers.

Director of school education research at the Grattan Institute, Ben Jensen, said yesterday debate on the quality of teaching in Australia in recent years had been cast in terms of using student results in a merit pay scheme or in setting standards for teachers.

But Dr Jensen, who was involved in the OECD's survey, said almost all Australian teachers, 91 per cent, report the most effective teachers in their schools do not receive the greatest recognition, and they would not receive any recognition for improving their own teaching.

"When you consider the most important way to improve the school education system is to improve the quality of the teaching workforce, it's really a shocking finding that almost all teachers say under-performance is not addressed in their school," he said.

"Teachers are saying they want the most effective school education system we can have; teachers want school improvement, they want to improve themselves and they want to see their school improve."

The report notes that with an excellent teacher, a student can achieve in half a year what would take a full year with a less effective teacher, and the impact is cumulative.

Students with effective teachers for several years in a row outperform students with poor teachers by as much as 50 percentage points over three years.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the government was committed to a better system of assessing and rewarding teachers, and was developing the first national professional standards for teachers, and funding programs paying the best teachers top salaries to work in struggling schools.

"Unlike the opposition, we are putting our money where our mouth is," she said. "All of this will go if Tony Abbott is elected. The opposition has said they will cut funding to these programs."

Opposition spokesman on education Christopher Pyne said a Coalition government would move quickly to give school principals the autonomy granted their peers in non-government schools, with the power to hire and fire and to pay staff based on performance.

"If you don't have these mechanisms at work, then the findings of the Grattan Institute are completely unsurprising," he said. "That disenchantment and disappointment teachers have in their profession will only get worse until there is a real revolution in education, which introduces competitive principles and gives principals in schools autonomy."

Federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the union supported systems that recognised and further rewarded teachers who demonstrate higher quality skills.

"Teachers prefer to work with peers or their grade group in a collaborative environment in evaluating and assessing their teaching programs, and what's lacking in schools is the space, time and respect for teachers to do so," he said.

The Grattan report says previous research in Australia has shown that nearly all teachers receive satisfactory ratings under existing evaluation schemes, and progress in their careers, making their salaries dependent on their tenure, not the quality of their work.

Dr Jensen said a meaningful system for evaluating teachers was required that identified strengths and weaknesses, providing recognition, and room to expand on their strengths and programs to address their weaknesses.

The system should pay effective teachers more and have them running professional development programs for colleagues, while underperforming teachers should have access to programs to help them improve.

Failing that, they should be moved out of the profession.


Cap and trade our way out of red-tape?

The author below, Dr Hartwich, is German and I think this is an example of German humour

WHAT do carbon emissions and red tape have in common? They are both unwanted by-products. Carbon emissions result from the use of energy, whereas red tape is caused by regulation. Since both of them are a kind of pollution, there is no reason we should treat them differently.

For both energy consumption and regulation, politicians agree it would be better to achieve more with less wasteful by-products.

We would still like to use energy but with reduced carbon emissions. And although some regulation may be necessary, we would prefer to keep the form-filling to a bare minimum.

At least until Kevin Rudd had taken temporary leave from the "greatest moral challenge of our time", cutting carbon emissions through an emissions trading scheme had been his preferred policy for addressing climate change.

Many economists have questioned whether this was the most appropriate way of tackling the problem as the government planned to compensate all the big emitters. However, the general principle behind cap and trade still has great economic appeal.

Put simply, an ETS makes it possible to cut emissions where this can be achieved in the most cost-efficient way. While the total amount of emissions is capped, polluters can trade emissions certificates among themselves, thus deciding where precisely to make the cuts.

Could we apply the same logic to cutting red tape? How about not an ETS but an RTTS, a red tape trading scheme? With red tape it's just like with carbon emissions. Almost everybody agrees it needs to be cut, yet no one seems to have any idea how this could be achieved.

This is not just an Australian phenomenon, of course. Across the globe politicians have been trying to cope with excessive form-filling, overzealous bureaucracies and regulations that, once put in place, develop lives of their own. The number of international "better regulation" commissions, proposals, strategies and initiatives is countless.

Some governments have experimented with sunset clauses that make new laws expire automatically on a certain day in the hope that unnecessary regulations will simply disappear if nobody proposes to renew them. The reality, however, is that you have only to pass a blanket, routine renewal act to circumvent this sunset clause.

Another idea is to assess the regulatory effect of new laws before they become laws. In theory, this should stop legislators from imposing high burdens on households and businesses. In practice, this has never stopped a government from legislating what it thought necessary.

It's a sad irony that the British government once issued guidelines on filling in these regulatory impact assessments, which ran to 65 densely written pages. Deregulation had become the new regulation.

It is clear, then, that new ideas are needed to deal with excessive bureaucracy and this is where the RTTS comes in.

There are two advantages to an RTTS. First, it can cut red tape in the most efficient way. Second, the public servants sitting idle in the climate change department could be given a proper task to do. They'd need only to change the signs on the doors, putting them in charge of the RTTS instead of the ETS.

Sound like a good idea? This is how it could work. First, the government would need to do a stock-taking of all present bureaucracy costs. This is not as complicated as it sounds.

The Dutch government has developed a standard cost model, which makes measuring regulatory burdens a straightforward task. The time needed to fill in forms is multiplied by the hourly costs of employing the form fillers.

Multiply this by the number of these forms filled in across the whole economy in a year and you get the red tape cost of this one form. Do this with all forms and you know what red tape costs us in total.

This may seem a little difficult but the Dutch have completed the measuring exercise for their economy within two years.

After this audit has been completed, red tape certificates could be issued to polluters -- say, the Australian Taxation Office or the health department. But there's a catch. Like an ETS, certificates would be capped at, say, 95 per cent their present bureaucracy levels.

Government departments and agencies would have to cut the red tape by 5 per cent or trade with other departments that have excelled at cutting their regulatory emissions. As a result of the RTTS, red tape would be cut by the amount specified by the cap.

It would be left to the creativity of government officials to identify the best ways to tackle bureaucracy. They would also have strong incentives to meet their targets. To most politicians, this proposal may sound crazy at first. But it only applies the logic of an ETS to red tape reduction. Maybe it is not such a barmy idea after all?


24 May, 2010

Tens of millions in foreign aid wasted on salaries and commissions

The welfare "industry" again. As Peter Bauer said long ago, foreign aid is a scheme for transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. These days, it looks like rich people in rich countries are getting a big slice of it too

AUSTRALIA'S foreign aid program is under siege after revelations tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on huge salaries for consultants and rich contracts for private firms. An extensive investigation has uncovered a lucrative foreign aid "industry", raising questions about the Rudd Government's decision to double annual spending to more than $8 billion.

And a high-level review has slammed the $414 million program in Papua New Guinea, claiming $100 million is being paid to a handful of firms – but delivering little.

Aid experts also have questioned the size of contracts paid to "briefcase" advisers who fly in to poor countries, including East Timor, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The Courier-Mail's extensive investigation can reveal:

• A small clutch of five firms have secured $1 billion in contracts.

• More than a dozen aid consultants are earning more than Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, flying around the Pacific to advise on everything from "gender integration" to sport, transport, energy and justice.

• Millions of dollars are being diverted to aid programs including $12 million to research the giant panda in China and $13 million to redevelop a single school in Nauru.

• AusAID, the agency in charge of foreign aid, is investigating allegations of fraud – and is about to undergo a significant restructuring.

• And millions of dollars are being spent by the AFL, Girl Guides, ACTU and other community groups "selling" a pro-aid message to the public.

The review is embarrassing for the Government – and raises serious questions about the value of pumping billions of dollars into fragile states.


Retreat on tax row as Rudd appeases miners

The Queensland Labor government want the threshhold for the tax to rise from 6% to 11%. Everybody could live with that

WOUNDED by criticism, the Federal Government said yesterday it was open to negotiation on a key component of its proposed super profits tax on miners.

While adamant a 40 per cent tax rate was non-negotiable, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said a panel was investigating issues such as raising the profit threshold rate at which the tax would cut in, which is currently set at 6 per cent.

"There will be a profit-based tax in Australia, the headline rate is going to be 40 per cent, but there are refinements that can be made to make the tax appropriate and balanced from a mining industry point of view while getting an appropriate cut," he said.

The sudden softening of its approach yesterday came as the Government's hand-picked mining tax consultation panel was expected to urge the Government to reconsider a key selling point of its new resource super-profits tax -- the promised 40 per cent tax refundability for failed projects, The Australian reports.

The tax consultation panel, headed by the Treasury's David Parker, has listened to the arguments of mining companies that they place little value on the 40 per cent tax write-off, and will finalise its report this week before delivering its findings to the Treasurer by the close of business on Friday.

The write-off is a key feature of the proposed tax -- the government plans to take 40 per cent of the super profits in the industry but also bear 40 per cent of the cost of all mining projects that fail.

Any move to wind back the tax break on losses would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars, delivering flexibility to address one of the key complaints about the tax -- the 6 per cent profit threshold after which the super-profits tax applies.


Israeli diplomat expelled. Any friends left for Rudd to attack?

By Andrew Bolt

Brilliant. After offending Japan over whaling, India over uranium sales, Indonesia over boat people, Singapore over Kevin Rudd’s “Asia forum”, and China over general dithering, the Rudd Government now drives a greater wedge with our most reliable friend in the Middle East by expelling an Israeli diplomat:
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has told Parliament Israel was responsible for faking four Australian passports used in the killing of a senior Hamas official.

“Investigations and advice have left the Government in no doubt Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports,” he said today.

Mr Smith has asked that a member of the Israeli Embassy in Canberra be withdrawn from Australia within the week, as a result of the scandal.

How much was this decision - or at least the timing of the retaliation - abother typical piece of Rudd spin, designed this time to distract attention from his mining tax disaster?


One wonders how the good minister figured out that the passports were faked in Israel? Was he there at the time? This is just guesswork. Is guesswork a good foundation for government policy?

Catholics reach back to church tradition

With extensive input from Australian Prelates. Cardinal Pell is Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney

A NEW translation of the mass soon to be celebrated by more than 100 million English-speaking Catholics reaches back to church tradition, replacing the more colloquial and dumbed-down liturgy that was adopted by the Vatican 40 years ago.

The Weekend Australian today provides an exclusive and comprehensive preview of the changes, which are the biggest revision since Pope Paul VI approved the current Roman Missal in 1969 after the Second Vatican Council. In style, the new translation of the mass is reverential and traditional, restoring emphasis on the transcendent and the sacred, and replacing words such as "happy" with "blessed" and phrases such as "this is" with "behold".

It revives a classical style of liturgical language rarely heard for 40 years, using such words and phrases as: oblation, implore, consubstantial, serene and kindly countenance, spotless victim, divine majesty, holy and venerable, and "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high".

Cardinal George Pell said the new mass had a "different cadence" to the translation of the Roman Missal that two generations of Australian Catholics grew up with, and which was a "bit dumbed-down".

"The previous translators seemed a bit embarrassed to refer to angels, sacrifice and perpetual virginity," Australia's senior Catholic cleric said. "They went softly on sin and redemption."

The new translation places a heavier emphasis on Christ's sacrifice and underlines the dependence of individuals on God. In one of the most controversial changes, the words of the consecration in the mass specify that Christ shed his blood "for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins", rather than "for all" as the present translation puts it.

Cardinal Pell said the change reflected the official Latin version of the Roman Missal, and although Christ died for everybody, this would remind worshippers of the need for personal repentance.

In the creed, the faithful will now say "I believe" rather than "we believe", emphasising the importance of personal belief.

Most of the changes are in the parts of the mass said by priests, with changes in the laity's responses deliberately kept to a minimum to avoid confusion.

A new Latin edition of the missal was published under Pope John Paul II in 2002, and the next step was to produce authentic vernacular translations.

After a major education program that will start later this year and is already under way for priests in some dioceses, the new translation is likely to be introduced from Pentecost Sunday in June next year. Several DVDs have already been produced to explain the changes across the English-speaking Catholic world.

The translation, which has taken more than eight years to prepare, was written by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which is chaired by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in northern England.

The project was guided and overseen by the Vox Clara (clear voice) committee of cardinals and bishops from the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, India, Africa and the Caribbean. Vox Clara was chaired by Cardinal Pell.

Canberra's Archbishop Mark Coleridge also played an important role in the translation, chairing the editorial committee of the commission.

In secular terms, the new mass is a triumph of tradition and intellectual rigour over post-modernism. Leading Australian theologian Tracey Rowland, of Melbourne's John Paul II Institute, said that after 40 years of "liturgy wars", it would put paid to what Pope Benedict refers to as "parish tea-party liturgy".

Professor Rowland, author of Ratzinger's Faith: the Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, said the new translation was "theo-centric liturgy", focused on the worship of God, rather than "self-centric liturgy", focused on community celebration of the parish, the Year 7 class, or the netball team.

She said the new translation of the mass was close to Pope Benedict's heart. "He has complained about 'sacro-pop' and 'emotional primitivism' in liturgy, and said everything associated with the Eucharist must be marked by beauty."

Professor Rowland said the new translation was in accord with the Church's 1963 text Constitution on the Scared Liturgy. That instruction called for the rites of the mass, which dated back to the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, to be simplified with "due care being taken to preserve their substance" so that "devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved".

Professor Rowland said the Second Vatican Council's call for renewal was widely misinterpreted in the 1960s, with pushes from some for outlandish changes that were never envisaged at the council. In 1966, for example, an article in a prominent Jesuit magazine in the US called for Catholic worship to employ "the language of the Beatles".

"The new translation of the missal settles the issue," Professor Rowland said. "I'm not surprised it has taken almost nine years. They had to get it right, and they have."


23 May, 2010

DON'T expect students to learn about Gallipoli in the new national history course

This is ridiculous. It proves that the curriculum has fallen into the hands of far-Left academics who hate all that Australia stands for. The Gallipoli landings are the foundation of Australia's most solemn day of remembrance: ANZAC day.

And in typical Leftist fashion, there is no consecutive history taught: Just disconnected episodes that Marxists like. They dread that students might get some idea of the broad sweep of Australia's history with its long record of positive achievement. We can't have kids being proud of their country, can we?

HISTORIANS say the new national modern history curriculum for schools reads like a Marxist manifesto that ignores popular aspects of our past and neglects Australia's role in world politics and war.

The course, designed for years 11 and 12, is heavily focused on revolutionary struggles, colonial oppression and women's struggle for equality.

It neglects Australia's British roots and institutions and its military history, with no mention of Gallipoli, Tobruk or Kokoda, the experts say.

The draft lists World War I as a potential case study in "investigating modern history". It lists "controversies surrounding ... memorial sites and commemorative events" as an area of study but does not mention Gallipoli or the battle of Fromelle.

In a topic headed "Australia 1880-1945", the draft lists "the formation of organised labour", "White Australia" and "wartime government controls, including conscription, control of the labour force, rationing, censorship and propaganda".

But it does not mention the settlement of Australia or the deeds of the first AIF in World War I.

The draft history course was released this week for public discussion, divided into five units: The nation state and national identity; Recognition and equality; International tensions and conflicts; Revolutions; and, Australia and Asia.

Historian Andrew Garvie said the course agenda should be altered to give a more balanced view of history. "This appears to be a very trendy, right-on curriculum. It looks heavily influenced by a Marxist view of history - there's lots about about revolution and struggles against oppression," Mr Garvie said. "But it lacks an appreciation of Australia's place in the world.

"There seems to be very little about our military history or our links with Britain. Gallipoli and Kokoda appear to be just footnotes to the whole thing."

He said the course also seemed to be organised as a "slice of life" approach to history. "It seems to me students will be given bits of history to study. They may not gain an appreciation of the whole of an era or century," Mr Garvie said.

Education consultant Russell Boyle said the history curriculum was too selective.

"The ancient history curriculum spans the period from pre-history to 500BC, while the period of investigation in the draft modern history curriculum is from the late 18th century through to the end of the 20th century," Mr Boyle said.

"There is much in the period in between that would deepen students' understanding of the events and issues that have shaped humanity and our contemporary world."


Another complete cockup from defence acquisitions

European torpedoes supposedly bought "off-the-shelf" 12 years ago but still not operational

AFTER 12 years of delays and mismanagement and a $400 million outlay for new lightweight torpedoes, Defence has nothing to show for the money.

In the latest damning report into Defence projects released yesterday, government auditors have revealed that the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) in 1998 signed up to spend $665 million of taxpayer funds on the European-made MU90 lightweight torpedo without conducting even basic checks.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) said that both organisations thought the torpedo was a straightforward "off-the-shelf" buy and that it was in service with other navies. "This was not the case," the report says.

The auditors said the original capability will not be delivered, schedules will not be met and the project was only within budget because the airborne version was dumped in mid-2009.

In March 1998 an order was placed under project JP 2070 for the weapon to be fitted to two classes of warships and three aircraft, the RAAF P3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and the navy's Seahawk and Seasprite helicopters. The MU90 is 3m long, weighs 300kg and has a range of up to 10km.

The auditors found that as of February this year $397.51 million had been spent on the project by the DMO. "Some 12 years after JP 2070 commenced, and nine years after Government approved Phase 2, which was to buy an initial batch of torpedoes and integrate the torpedo into five ADF platforms, the project is yet to deliver an operational capability," the report says.

The auditors found several major shortcomings with the project including:

A LACK of scrutiny on costings.

INADEQUATE planning and management.

LITTLE support for new alliance contracting.

INSUFFICIENT understanding of the weapon.

POOR risk mitigation.


Defence Minister John Faulkner said the project was still in trouble. "The management of this project . . . has simply not been good enough," Senator Faulkner said. He said the Government had told Defence chiefs to report every two months on progress.

The torpedo program is a partnership between Defence, Thales Australia, French defence manufacturer DCNS and Italian torpedo-maker Whitehead Alenia.

It has been added to the Government's notorious "Projects of Concern" list that includes others such as Collins-class submarine maintenance, the Wedgetail early warning aircraft and Airbus KC-30 multi-role tanker planes.

The audit office made three recommendations that were all agreed by Defence and the Government has ordered a follow-up audit in 2011.


Rudd's only ever had one idea -- and it's a hugely expensive white elephant

THE recently released McKinsey/KPMG study on the National Broadband Network is 534 pages long. How many times does it say the NBN is worth doing? Not once. As postmodernists say, read the silence.

What the study shows is that the NBN will earn a rate of return that fails to cover the project's risk-adjusted cost of capital.

But risk is as real a cost as any other. And a project that doesn't cover that cost makes a loss every bit as real as one that cannot pay its employees' wages. Shifting that loss on to taxpayers in no way makes it disappear. It merely hides it, undermining both fiscal honesty and economic efficiency.

The study does not gloss over the high risks the NBN, with its estimated $43 billion outlays, involves. But the best return it can find barely equals that on a deposit account. And even to come up with that gloomy forecast the study makes some brave assumptions.

First, it assumes wireless broadband will not be an effective competitor. True, guaranteed high speeds may at some point give fixed networks a decisive advantage. However, that point seems far away. Rather, it is consumers' insatiable demand for mobility, as evidenced by the iPhone and the iPad, that now drives the development of services and applications. Difficult to believe then that wireless competition will not erode the NBN's revenues.

Second, the study assumes that even without an agreement with the government, Telstra will simply hand its customers to the NBN. As a result, the scenarios it models do not include one in which Telstra competes aggressively with the NBN. But given the study's recognition that in most countries, networks such as Telstra's compete successfully with those based on fibre, that scenario cannot be ignored.

Third, and most surprising, the study assumes that NBN Co will get away with massive price increases. Specifically, the study assumes that NBN Co will charge retailers $25 to $30 a month to use its lines for basic telephony. But providing basic telephony involves other costs as well. Given those costs, NBN Co's proposed charges mean users who only want phone service will face a price increase of some $5 to $10 a month, or 20 to 40 per cent.

The study then assumes that, as a monopoly, NBN Co will be able to increase its prices by about 1 per cent a year above inflation. As a result, charges in thirty years will be 35 per cent higher in real terms than at the start of the NBN's life.

Yet telecommunications prices in Australia declined by over 50 per cent in real terms in the past 30 years. And the trend internationally is for prices to continue falling.

Will Australia really reverse course, and become the only developed country with steadily rising telecommunications prices?

But even assuming it does (and imposes a virtual prohibition on competition to boot), the study finds the new network can only expect to earn the bond rate. This is deeply problematic.

First, the bond rate provides taxpayers with no compensation for being forced to bear the high risk the NBN involves.

Second, it contradicts claims made when the NBN was announced. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the new network would provide taxpayers with "a utility-style rate of return". However, recent regulatory decisions show Australian regulators believe even very low-risk monopolies such as electricity distribution require rates of return twice the bond rate.

Third, allowing the NBN to set prices to such low required returns would, as the study recognises, breach the government's own Competitive Neutrality Guidelines. These require government businesses to cost their capital commercially.

Fourth, it implies a misallocation of scarce savings. As a recent Productivity Commission study of public investment criteria stresses, each dollar invested in projects such as the NBN is a dollar not invested in alternatives that could earn a fully commercial return. Each tax dollar needed to fund the NBN's losses imposes further costs by distorting decisions to work, save and invest.

How big is the loss due to the shortfall between the bond rate and the project's real cost of capital? The government has not released the study's detailed modelling (but should). However, using the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's methodology, the study estimates Conroy's promised utility-style rate of return for the NBN at 8.8 to 12.4 per cent (compared with the government 10 year bond rate of 5.48 per cent).

This implies the project will lose some $12.5 billion in present value terms, even on the study's assumptions about costs, prices and take-up. Effectively, nearly half the project's capital has to be written off at the start. It follows that the project cannot meet the national accounting guidelines' criteria for it to be taken off-budget: that it will "recover a considerable proportion of its costs", "cover its capital and other costs" and not be dependent on grants or subsidies. Rather, the loss is a taxpayer-funded grant to the project that should have been disclosed in the budget.

Many criticisms can be made of the study. But it is a serious piece of work, and its findings deserve respect. Kevin Rudd committed the government to evidence-based policy. Well, here is the evidence.It's up to the government to show it can listen.

And it should listen in another area too: the proposed mining tax. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry said the commitment to eventually repay a share of miners' costs was "identical" to giving miners a government bond. This is incorrect. The commonwealth has never defaulted on its debt; but it has made countless changes to the tax rules, particularly when strapped for cash. Promises to repay costs through the tax system are therefore high risk. Miners can no more borrow against that promise at the bond rate than they can fly to the moon. If the rate at which they're compensated does not reflect the risks, they will take their dollars for capacity expansion elsewhere.

Not even government can wish risk away. Trying to force it on to miners, who have a choice about where they invest, is foolish. Forcing it, as in the NBN, on taxpayers merely makes the community poorer. Experiments show even monkeys understand that higher risk requires higher reward. Surely government can too.


Richo: Both NSW and Federal ALP on the nose

Richo has always had great political antennae so this verdict is likely to be spot-on

LABOR warlord Graham Richardson has conceded defeat at the upcoming state election, sledging the scandal-prone NSW Government for not doing enough for voters in the state.

The influential party powerbroker and former federal minister has also taken a swing at Kevin Rudd, saying his "gloss has gone" and voters are "battling to see who's worse" - the Prime Minister or Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Mr Richardson is the first significant Labor figure to publicly concede defeat - nine months from election day.

In a highly embarrassing but brutally honest appraisal, Mr Richardson said the NSW Government's death knell had sounded long before Transport Minister David Campbell was caught secretly visiting a gay sex club.

"People, I think, have already made up their minds that they want to get rid of Labor," Mr Richardson, a former boss of the NSW Labor Party, said in a candid interview on Nine's Today show.

"So it's just a matter of waiting till March and seeing how bad it's going to come. Labor's already polling abysmally, as distinct from badly.

"We're around 30 per cent as a primary vote. That's just appalling, and it's been stuck on that mark for six months now."

Mr Richardson, who has helped see off Labor premiers such as Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees and is regarded as a mentor for incoming ALP general secretary Sam Dastyari, said the NSW Government had signed its own death warrant by failing to build infrastructure.

"The State Government still isn't doing much - you have to be seen to be actually doing things," he said.

"Why are they getting only 30-odd per cent of the primary vote? I suspect it's because no one sees the roads being built that they think are needed, no one sees the rail being built.

"There are promises things will start in 2015, but no one believes them."Mr Richardson, no stranger to political scandals during his long career, said he felt sorry for Mr Campbell, whom he had known for 30 years. The situation the former minister had been placed was "tragic".

"There is no privacy," he said. "Politicians don't have a right to any sort of private life any more.

"And I don't think they've had that right for 20 years; it's been eroded steadily over a long period of time, but now anything goes."

Mr Richardson described Premier Kristina Keneally's handling of the affair as "spectacular".

But he handed the Prime Minister an embarrassing backhander. Mr Richardson, an architect of several election victories for federal Labor during the Hawke and Keating era, said Mr Rudd was in a race to the bottom with Mr Abbott.

"The problem for the next election is that the gloss has gone off Kevin Rudd. His massive popularity is all gone now - and they don't seem to love Tony Abbott, either. "It's going to be a case of people batting to see who's worse."


Man held over racial assault

Another charming Muslim -- a Turk in this case. What did Australia do to deserve him?

A MAN who allegedly assaulted a woman in an unprovoked racially motivated attack has been remanded in custody.

Serkan Sonmez, 29, of Guildford, appeared before magistrate John McIntosh via videolink at Parramatta Bail Court yesterday. He has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and breaching his bail.

Police allege Mr Sonmez was kicked out of the Eastern Hotel on Oxford Street at 3.45pm on Friday. As he left, Mr Sonmez allegedly uttered a racially offensive statement about Asians.

Police facts stated an Asian woman was walking towards Mr Sonmez on Oxford Street. Mr Sonmez allegedly then punched her in the stomach with significant force. An off-duty policeman saw the alleged attack and tackled Mr Sonmez to the ground.

Mr Sonmez was returned to custody after his court appearance. His lawyer requested he have a medical assessment. In court his lawyer said Mr Sonmez suffers from schizophrenia.


22 May, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has some very derogatory words for Kevin Rudd's new tax on the mining industry

Former staff member says juvenile detainees running Victorian detention centres

CIVIL rights of young inmates have overtaken common sense in juvenile justice as staff are subjected to constant assault, a former staff member claims.

They cannot even raise their voice in retaliation, former unit manager Colin Richardson says.

In recent weeks, a pregnant officer at the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre was threatened with death by an inmate and another officer lost two front teeth in an assault.

"Nobody gets charged. And if you yell at an inmate you get stood down," Mr Richardson said. Metal detectors and strip searches were banned, so drugs and weapons were common inside the centre. He said of about 140 officers at the centre, he believed up to 70 per cent had made injury or stress-related WorkSafe Claims.

"They can't even isolate inmates if they misbehave - it's all about rewarding good behaviour with things like takeaways and outings," Mr Richardson said. "And this is the breeding ground for inmates to go onto bigger and worse things." He said youth officers gave the inmates too much trust, when many were locked up for serious crimes.

WorkSafe spokesman Michael Birt said staff at the centre had made 136 claims to Work Safe since 1996. That amounted to about 10 claims per year, which was "not astronomical" given the nature of the work.

Last year DHS's youth justice custodial services branch won a Work Safe award for its strategy to deal with stress, trauma and burn-out amongst staff.


Bureaucracy eats third of school-building funds

Victoria is just as bad as NSW

ONE dollar in every three spent under the Building the Education Revolution scheme is being frittered away on needless bureaucratic costs, onerous documentation requirements and expensive building materials.

A preliminary assessment by Melbourne quantity surveying firm Swift Construction of the template library and classroom building used by the Victorian Education Department says the project management system for primary schools "ensures added cost for no discernible value adding to the project".

The report also says builders are required to hire a professional photographer to document every stage of construction.

The assessment of the template building intended for Berwick Lodge Primary School, in Melbourne's southeast, was handed to the head of the federal government's BER Implementation Taskforce Brad Orgill on a visit to the school yesterday. The school hired its own project management firm and, through it, commissioned an independent quote for the project and an assessment of the value for money of the template building it is receiving.

The report by Swift Construction claims the documentation required for primary school buildings under the BER is at a level required for $50 million projects, not $3m classrooms, causing "hurt money" to be added to the costs.

While the NSW government releases estimated costs for all its BER projects, the Victorian government has been criticised for its lack of transparency, and the Education Department failed to appear before the Senate inquiry into the program earlier this week.

Principal Henry Grossek has been a vocal critic of the BER program, and was one of the first to raise concerns about waste and inflated costs.

The school received $3m in the first round of the BER and successfully opposed the state Education Department to secure approval for a library and six classrooms, rather than an unwanted gymnasium, after the intervention of federal Education

Mr Grossek said the preliminary report from Swift Construction describes the template as "an architectural wank". Given the present management structure, onerous documentation requirements and the design and materials used in the template, the firm doubts the building can be completed for $3m.

But the report says the school could save $1m and complete the building for $2m by reducing bureaucracy and documentation and simplifying the template.

"The level of documentation associated with P21 (the Primary Schools for the 21st Century building program) is more in keeping with $50m projects rather than $3m projects and is either frightening off prospective builders and subcontractors or resulting in what in the industry is referred to as 'hurt money' costs being built into quotations, leading to overpricing," the report's summary says.

Examples of waste in the template identified by the quantity surveyor include the concrete slab costing twice what it should, unnecessary external recesses in the brick wall, stepdowns in toilets that are not needed, and nine different cladding systems when two or three would be adequate.

Mr Grossek said the report showed $1 in every $3 spent under the BER was being wasted and he called on Ms Gillard to freeze all projects yet to be tendered.


Melburnians in outer suburbs left without local ambulance crews

SICK and injured Melburnians in outer suburbs have been left without local ambulance crews for entire nights as shortages hit.

The January and February rosters for the Pakenham and Berwick regions show that graduate paramedics were drafted in to try to cover gaps after three ambulances were short of crew members on two separate nights.

The Herald Sun has previously revealed problems in outer suburbs after Officer grandmother Lorraine Pigram was left to wait in agony for 1 1/2 hours.

Ambulance Victoria said the missed shifts were small in number.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the system was broken and government incompetence meant Victorians were suffering. "John Brumby promised 11 years ago to fix Victoria's health system, yet Victorian families are suffering from a desperate shortage of ambulances because things have got worse, not better," Mr Baillieu said.

Ambulance Victoria metropolitan regional manager Simon Thomson said missed shifts were a reality at any workplace. "When an illness occurs at short notice we take all efforts to fill that vacancy," Mr Thomson said. "When this occurs on a Friday or Saturday night, it can be harder to get paramedics to work overtime. "During that time we use other neighbouring resources to provide coverage."

Mr Thomson said the number of missed shifts was actually "small" in the Pakenham/Berwick area. He said Ambulance Victoria's 250 new graduate paramedics would make an impact as they came on line.


Former Victorian police sergeant jailed after lying about speeding fines

And he was in the force for 20 years before they caught him! The dishonesty and deception starts at the top in Victoria police

A CROOKED cop will spend a year in jail after pressuring a witness to give false testimony and dobbing in his friends to take the blame for speeding fines.

The County Court heard Tony Anto Juric, 42, was a sergeant at St Kilda police station when he pressured Andrew Lawry to lie to ethical standards police about an accident involving a divvy van.

Mr Lawry saw Senior Constable Belinda Rampal - a subordinate officer to Juric - reverse the divvy van into a four-wheel-drive in April 2006, the court heard.

After being pressured by Sen Constable Rampal to give a false witness statement, Mr Lawry sought legal advice and contacted the ethical standards department with his story, the court was told.

Mr Lawry was wearing a hidden wire when he met with Juric at the St Kilda police station on 2007. The court heard Juric wanted to cover up the crash and in the taped exchange encouraged Mr Lawry to claim he couldn't remember what he saw. "Just act like an idiot," Juric said. "You don't remember doing your statement. Heaps of blokes have done it before. What are they going to do? They can't kill you."

Sen Constable Rampal and a second officer, probationary Constable Alan Black, were suspended in October 2006.

Juric pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice and two counts of perjury. He was charged with perjury after falsely filling in a statutory declaration nominating two friends to take the blame for two speeding fines.

The court heard Juric had lost all his demerit points in September 2006 when he opted to keep his licence for six months on the condition he didn't accrue any more speeding fines. He was caught speeding in March 2007 and used LEAP information to access driving information about a friend before filing dobbing in the same friend to shoulder the fine. Juric used another friend to take on a second speeding fine in May 2007.

The father-of-four later told police he was disappointed in himself for his "petty and stupid" decisions. He resigned in July 2008 after serving 20 years in the force.

Judge Howard Mason sentenced him to 30 months in prison, suspending 18 months of that term. He said he took account of Juric's excellent contribution to the Croatian Social Club, of which he has been a president since 1995, and his high standing with the police force before the offences were committed.


21 May, 2010

150 guests to attend 150th anniversary dinner at Queensland Parliament

I heartily endorse the comments of the Speaker below. How many other places have had 150 years of unbroken democracy? Not many: Mostly other Anglo-Saxon democracies. And Queensland is undoubtedly one of the best of the Anglo-Saxon democracies -- plenty of political snarling and occasional corruption but in the end a committment to honesty, fair play and respect for the will of the people. Extreme Leftism, with its total disrespect for such things, has never taken hold in Queensland, something one cannot say of the USA or the UK. I feel very safe from political madness in my home State. I note that the guest list is bipartisan -- including some fairly undistinguished politicians from both parties

It could be one of the most exclusive dinners ever in Queensland. No fewer than 150 people will attend a $150-a-head banquet at Parliament House tonight on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament.

At the top table, choosing between grilled barramundi and roast eye fillet, will be the state's political heavy hitters led by Premier Anna Bligh, Speaker John Mickel and Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek.

Governor Penelope Wensley [I gather that Her Excellency is something of a Greenie but she is also a supporter of my old church so I forgive her for that!] and her husband Stuart McCosker will head a line-up of VIPs from across Queensland including political, academic, church and civic leaders and a plethora of current and former members.

"Tomorrow's 150th anniversary of the first sitting of the Queensland Parliament on 22 May 1860, in the old convict barracks building in Queen St, is a genuinely significant occasion," Mr Mickel said.

"To have had 150 years of unbroken democracy, and the rights and freedoms that go with that, is no small deal. It's a big deal actually, as much as we might take it for granted. "It's definitely a milestone worth marking, and an occasion worth celebrating."


Injured waitress gets six-figure compo from 'negligent' north Queensland cafe

Cardwell is in Far-North Queensland, where I come from, and I can understand well what is reported below. The old Australian "She'll be right, mate" gospel rules up there, implying a general disrespect for rules, regulations and precautions. Sadly, however, things are sometimes NOT right and the case below would seem to be an instance of that. I am pretty sure that in Cardwell the general opion would be that it was just bad luck but the learned judge has found otherwise so he may be right. As a man of the Far North, however, my respect for learned judges is not high. It is easy to be wise after the event about precautions that SHOULD have been taken

A Cafe operator that failed to properly guard against cooking oil spillage was ordered to pay $463,158 to a waitress who slipped on the kitchen floor, yesterday.

In the Supreme Court, Justice Peter Lyons found Mollking Holdings Pty Ltd, which ran a cafe and service station at Cardwell in north Queensland, had caused by its negligence injury to employee Cherrie Ann Jones.

Last month in Cairns, Justice Lyons ordered Mollking pay $470,628 in damages but he reopened the case to make an adjustment of the damages amount in Brisbane, yesterday.

He reduced the figure by $7469 to reflect compensation already paid to Jones.

The court heard Jones, 34, was carrying plates on a tray away from the washing up area into the cooking area when her feet went from under her. She fell heavily landing on her buttocks. Jones suffered a fracture of the sacrum (vertabrae near the pelvis) and chronic soft tissue damage.

Mollking defended the case on the basis of contributory negligence in that it alleged Jones was walking too fast when carrying the tray. However, Justice Lyons rejected the contributory negligence claim.

Justice Lyons found the arrangements in the kitchen area were likely that oil would spill on the floor and it should have been known to those running the cafe. He said that increased the risk and a practical arrangement could have been made to avoid the problem.

Justice Lyons said it followed Jones's injuries were caused by Mollking's negligence.


More lying Greenie propaganda in the schools

Government trying to pass the buck

What a great little kid!

A 12-YEAR-OLD Queensland schoolgirl has taken aim at the controversial NAPLAN tests, claiming they are brainwashing children not to eat beef. Cheyenne McCamley from Bajool, 35km south of Rockhampton, a member of the famous Queensland cattle family, said she was infuriated by a Year 7 reading comprehension question headed "Moo to Roo".

The essay that was the subject of the test makes pointed comments about beef farming and promotes eating kangaroo as an alternative. It claims that beef contains 10 to 20 per cent fat. And it says the Garnaut report found the livestock industry more polluting than the coal industry.

"I was appalled to find the article they had chosen to use," Cheyenne said. "I felt that it was evil brainwashing, and it made me worried what other children would think about the cattle industry. "Some of the information seemed wrong at the time, and I have since found out that it is wrong. But other children would not know this, especially the city kids.

"I am disappointed in the Government for letting that type of article into an Australia-wide test. "It makes me concerned about how this could impact the future of the beef industry and my own future as a grazier [rancher]."

Cheyenne's response won support from Meat and Livestock Australia, which said assumptions in the test question were "plain wrong". General manager David Pietsch said the article was "poorly referenced" and contained a "biased point of view that unfairly denigrates the beef industry".

"The article suggests that a typical beef steak has a fat content of 10 to 20 per cent," he said. "The average beef steak has only 2.8 per cent fat, is an important source of nutrients and receives the National Heart Foundation tick. "Also, the national greenhouse accounts report that 37 per cent of emissions come from electricity generation, mostly coal, which is around three times the amount of the livestock industry."

The MLA has called for a "please explain", while other graziers have complained to the Ombudsman.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said: "The national literacy and numeracy tests sat last week by more than a million schoolkids include written comprehension questions. "These questions are not set by politicians in Canberra. They are set by experts in curriculum who are interested in knowing that our kids can read a passage then answer questions on it."

She said if anyone wanted to raise an issue with any of the test questions, they could contact the independent statutory authority responsible, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. The authority was yesterday unavailable for comment.


Guard threatened with prison-crafted 'shiv' as six teens make daring escape from Parkville's Juvenile Justice Centre

Interesting that only one of them appears to be of Northern European/British appearance, despite people of that ethnicity being the overwhelming majority of the Australian population.

Equally interesting that Victoria police refused to issue the pictures. It took a court order to get the pictures released. Victoria police are deeply committed to hiding from the public the huge problem of ethnic crime. I'm glad I don't live in Melbourne. A lot of Queensland police are thugs but they are not compulsorily dishonest and deceptive

THE Police Association has slammed the inadequacies of the state's justice system as the faces of six 'desperate' teens who escaped from a juvenile justice centre last were finally revealed.

The teens, aged between 15 and 17, fled the Parkville Juvenile Justice Centre about 10pm last night and are believed to have already committed an armed robbery on a Coles supermarket and stolen a car. can now reveal the faces and names of the escapees, after a court order was issued granting permission for their use.

Police have named them as: Jason Vaivao, 15, Liam Groeneveld, 17, Rodrigo Magele, 16, Vincent Pua, 16, Tony Ulu, 15 and Robert Marshall, 16.

Police Association secretary Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said the escape showed the inadequacies of the justice system.

"Incidents like this show how police are often stuck on a merry-go-round where they pick up people committing crimes, drop them at the exit and by the time the merry go round comes again the offenders are standing waiting to get back on the ride,’’ Sen-Sgt Davies said.

"It highlights that people with a propensity for violence or who commit serious offences, regardless of age, should be dealt with by the full force of the law and not be put in a position where they can walk away....

The six youths were serving sentences for various offences, including some for assault and armed robbery and were said to be wearing blue tracksuits when they escaped.



ONE of six violent youths who staged a daring jail break from a youth detention centre is still on the run more that 24 hours after his escape. Fifteen-year-old Tony Ulu remains at large, but Det-Acting Insp David Defrancesco warned the young absconder "the net is closing".

Five were back in custody last night after police took the unusual step of issuing their names and photographs. Police quickly found success with the air unit, the dog squad and heavily armed officers swooping on two houses in Frankston.

The Department of Human Services was applying to the Children's Court to have two 16-year-olds moved to an adult prison. The youths each have a history of violent crime, including assault and armed robbery...

The security lapse happened despite a management warning that staff should not enter cells at night unless there was a medical emergency. The security breach was being taken very seriously, a DHS spokesman said. "A comprehensive internal review is under way into the events which took place and resulted in the escape," Bram Alexander said.


Wow! Brutal and senseless crime attributed to an African

The iron curtain against mentioning the ethnicity of criminals is obviously more permeable in NSW than it is in Victiria

A young Sudanese refugee who was refused a cigarette has been jailed for at least 16 years for the "cowardly" Sydney murder of an innocent bystander. "This was an offence of the most disturbing and senseless kind," Justice Megan Latham said in sentencing the boy in the NSW Supreme Court today.

The youth, who was 15 at the time of the offence and cannot be named, was found guilty of the stabbing murder of Edward Spowart, 54, in the early hours of April 21, 2008, during a brawl in the streets of Granville.

"It might be said that his exposure to violence in the Sudan and Kenya desensitised him to some extent to the use of violence in order to settle disputes," the judge said. "However, the offender is not without intelligence and, according to his stepmother, was a respectful, polite young man until his entry into high school in Australia in 2006."

The murder arose out of a confrontation between members of Mr Spowart's group and the teenager's. The intoxicated teenager had asked someone in the other group for a cigarette but was rebuffed and told to go home. "Apparently reacting out of a wounded sense of pride, the offender threw a punch," the judge said.

A brawl then broke out, with various men and youths arming themselves with sticks, bricks and street signs. "However, Mr Spowart played no active part in that confrontation or in the later hostilities," the judge said.

"He was an innocent bystander who had retreated to the relative safety of a grass verge and was carrying nothing more than a plastic shopping bag when the offender ran towards him with a knife and viciously assaulted him." Describing the attack as "cowardly and vengeful", Justice Latham said Mr Spowart posed no threat and bore no responsibility for the conduct of his friends.

The murder "demonstrates yet again the havoc that is wreaked all too often when a knife is carried in public by intoxicated males, who resort to violence to vindicate themselves over some relatively petty slight," the judge said. She set a maximum term of 23 years.


20 May, 2010

Man dies while ambulance is "ramped"

Ambulance availability is severely curtailed by the fact that many hospitals will not take in patients immediately. An ambulance can be held up for hours just waiting to unload a patient -- which means it is not available to go to any emergencies which may arise during that time. Such delays are called "ramping". So hospital understaffing does kill people. Without ramping, the patient below would have been seen to within a few minutes

A WOMAN ran to an ambulance station, screaming for help as her husband lay dying in their home 150m away. Marlene Gouge had already called an ambulance after her husband Richard, 78, had a heart attack. But she said it took the best part of an hour for the ambulance to arrive.

The Maryborough great-grandfather died waiting, becoming the latest in a string of deaths linked to rural ambulance delays. It is believed the local ambulance was with a non-urgent patient at Bendigo Hospital for 2 1/2 hours, waiting for a bed to become available. It was therefore unable to respond to three Code 1 emergency callouts in the area that night, May 13. Mr Gouge's ambulance came from Avoca, 26km away.

Mrs Gouge became desperate during the long wait and ran to the nearby station. "I was running down the road screaming 'Please, somebody help me. Somebody help me' and I was crying," she said. "I thought, if nobody's going to come soon it's going to be too late."

She rang the doorbell several times, but nobody was in. "I was screaming, 'There's just nobody around. Why can't someone come and help me?' "I just ran back home. " I just wanted to be with him, and I lay on the bedroom floor with him ... It was pretty traumatic."

She couldn't understand why Maryborough's newly built ambulance station was not manned 24 hours a day. "They could have been here within five minutes of my phone call, but nobody was there," she said. What is actually going on with the ambulances around here? It was a long time to be hanging around when your husband is lying on the floor dying."

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said the ambulance took 38 minutes. The State Government's benchmark for Code 1 emergency ambulance responses is 15 minutes.

"It's a problem we have in a lot of country towns ... if you have that one more job than you have ambulances, the situation in rural Victoria is (that) the next ambulance has to come from the next town," the spokesman said.

Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie said Maryborough had been an area of concern for some time.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said he had asked for a detailed report on the matter.


More evidence of huge "stimulus" waste

Catholic canteens five times cheaper

SCHOOL canteens built by the Catholic school system under the $16.2 billion stimulus scheme are up to five times cheaper than those delivered by state governments.

The 500-strong St Lawrence Primary School at Bluff Point, near Geraldton, 420km north of Perth, is building a new architect-designed canteen measuring 10m by 7.5m - about the size of a double car garage - for $4053 a square metre.

By contrast, the tiny and unusable 8.47m by 3.1m canteens being built across NSW for between $550,000 and $600,000 are costing taxpayers $23,000 per square metre.

The Parents and Citizens Association of Tottenham Central School in central NSW, which has received one of those canteens, yesterday fronted a Senate inquiry into the Building the Education Revolution program to express dismay at what the school described as a "colossal waste of taxpayer and government money".

"We thought it was going to be great . . . when you're getting something worth $600,000, you don't think small," P&C president Rick Bennett said.

"The new canteen can't even store all our freezers, and with a pie-warmer, meat slicer and microwave on the stainless steel bench, there is hardly any room to prepare food."

St Lawrence Primary School principal Michael Friday attributes the hands-on approach within the Catholic system as the reason why his school had avoided the massive building cost public schools face under the BER.

Mr Friday said he had worked closely with a local architect to ensure a new canteen and other buildings could be built within budget. "We were lucky in that the Catholic system . . . seems to have handled it exceptionally well," he said. "I know the government schools were told, 'This is what you're getting at your school', whereas we got to ask for what was going to meet our needs."

The vast difference between the cost of buildings delivered by state governments and those delivered by Catholic schools was highlighted yesterday at the Senate hearing into the BER.

Bill Walsh, executive officer of the NSW Catholic Block Grant Authority, which is handling $1.03bn of funds and delivering architect-designed buildings at a fraction of the cost of the public sector, said the authority set maximum construction rates for all Catholic schools, to prevent price gouging and rip-offs.

"We know what a building should cost; we didn't allow any price gouging" Mr Walsh said.

"We don't allow builders to say 'You've got funding of $3m, so this building is going to cost $3m'."

Mr Walsh told The Australian school libraries, classrooms and halls were delivered at a maximum rate of $2451 per square metre, $2426 per square metre and $3500 per square metre respectively.

Those costings were based loosely on industry averages reported by construction group Rawlinsons, with a 40 per cent maximum levy added for all non-construction costs such as fitouts, site preparation and water and electricity installations.

By contrast the NSW Eduction Department estimates school libraries, classrooms and halls cost $5400 per square metre, $4271 per square metre and $5800 per square metre respectively.

Fronting the inquiry yesterday NSW Department of Education director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter said he "absolutely" stood by claims the NSW government "ensures value for money" under the BER. But he was unable to adequately explain the vast difference in costs of buildings delivered to Catholic schools from those delivered by the government, except to claim those NSW government buildings were of a higher quality.

In response, Mr Walsh said each building delivered to a Catholic school under the BER had been architect-designed to suit the school's need and was "best quality".

Tottenham Central School told the inquiry its new canteen was only half the size of the existing canteen, and was not able to fit all the equipment required to store and prepare the school's food supplies. The building was also not vermin- or dust-proofed and, until just last week, had no air-conditioning system.

The K-12 school already had a large canteen area, which included a 4.9m x 7.6m demountable canteen building, a 10.5m x 19.6m permanent shelter and a 2.4m x 7.6m secure storage area. Mr Bennett said the structure was worth "about $80,000", $520,000 less than what was paid under the government's stimulus program.

Mr Bennett said he was also annoyed that local contractors were not used in the building process.

At St Lawrence, the school canteen is part of a larger building that includes a cleaners' store, another storage room and a meeting room, with a total floor space of 104.2sq m and an allocated budget of $423,187. Mr Friday said it would be big enough to meet all health and safety requirements.


Unhappy NSW government school heads bullied into silence over waste

THE NSW government actively discouraged schools from self-managing projects under the $16.2 billion schools stimulus program and then muzzled principals who spoke out against government waste and mismanagement.

Fronting a Senate inquiry into the scheme yesterday, NSW Teachers Federation president Gary Zadkovich said NSW school principals who had spoken out against the scheme were "pressured into silence" and told they were required to be "positive advocates for public education".

"The principals who spoke out about problems with the program were pursued by department officers and pressured into silence by the use of the department's code of conduct," Mr Zadkovich said.

"That's the way our principals were treated when they sought to stand up for their school communities and advocate on behalf of their parents and students for the best deal possible for their school."

In one letter, read out to the inquiry by Mr Zadkovich, an education department employee berated a principal for "posting a negative message" to other principals on an internal email network and for "making public comment".

"It is evident that you breached the code of conduct and made public comment in the media," the letter said. "It is my expectation that in the future you do not engage in such activities."

Mr Zadkovich said school principals were "actively persuaded" to not self-manage projects, each receiving a letter from the department stating they could personally face $55,000 fines if injuries occurred on building sites.

In the letter, submitted to the inquiry, the department warned that schools that managed projects themselves could be "liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of extra building work", and principals would be required to report weekly on "expenditure, progress jobs and apprenticeships" or face the prospect of the federal government "ceasing the funding of the project".

School buildings delivered by the NSW government have cost about twice as much per square metre as those delivered by private and Catholic schools.

The director-general of the NSW Department of Education, Michael Coutts-Trotter, yesterday told the inquiry he "absolutely" stood by claims the NSW government "ensures value for money" under the scheme.

But he was unable to explain the difference in construction costs between state government-managed school buildings and all other school buildings delivered under the scheme, except to claim school buildings managed by NSW were of a higher quality.

Explaining why, he said public schools were provided with termite-resistant materials so as to avoid spraying.

Claims NSW government-managed schools were of higher quality were rejected by the NSW Catholic Block Grant Authority. It said all of its buildings were constructed to "best quality".


NSW school heater madness finally winding down?

They can only be used safely if the windows are wide open -- which means that almost all the heat escapes immediately, without warming the classroom! Only a government could be so stupid. Coutts-Trotter is also the man most responsible for the vast waste of "stimulus" money in NSW schools. Coutts-Trotter should trot off into the sunset ASAP

The NSW government is being accused of a cover-up after refusing to release test results it admitted showed "health effects" from unflued gas heaters on children in public schools.

It insisted fumes from the heaters did not pose "major health dangers". But the Asthma Foundation of NSW attacked the government's "vague comments" and said the results of an unreleased study should be made public urgently in the interests of tens of thousands of students and parents.

"Existing scientific studies do not support the thesis that these heaters are safe to operate in NSW classrooms," said the Asthma Foundation's chief executive, Greg Smith.

The report the government is holding is understood to show significant correlation between the unflued heaters and respiratory illness in children. The heaters are banned in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT, and in most developed countries, but 51,000 of them are used in NSW schools.

Draft findings from the government-commissioned report, which measured the health of students in 20 NSW schools, were presented to the NSW Education Department in March.

Some test results were emailed to researchers and public servants involved in the study, but they were followed immediately by another email asking them to delete the results.

It was not until a memo outlining the findings was considered by the NSW cabinet last week that the department quietly ordered a halt to the installation of 2500 new unflued gas heaters under the Building the Education Revolution program. The schools will now be fitted with heaters that are safer but in some cases at least twice as expensive.

The report, undertaken by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research last winter, may be tabled in Parliament today after the upper house passed a NSW Greens motion calling for its release.

The director-general of the Education Department, Michael Coutts-Trotter, said he would not authorise the release of the report until it had been published in a peer-reviewed journal, even though the results the government had seen were enough to put the installation of new heaters on hold.

"What we had hoped was that the process of peer-review would be complete by now," Mr Coutts-Trotter said. The department's advice is that the heaters are safe as long as classroom doors and windows are left open, he said.

He said the results he had seen pointed to "health effects but not major health dangers".

The Asthma Foundation said the Woolcock study was paid for by taxpayers and the findings should be released now.

The NSW Greens MP, John Kaye, also said it should be made public. "It is overwhelmingly in the public interest that this report is in the public domain."


Computer Models, Climate Forecasts and other Dice Games

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for an investigation into the IPCC/CSIRO computer models relied on for the scare forecasts of drought, floods and rising sea levels.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, challenged the IPCC claims that their computer forecasts have a 90% probability of being correct. “The World Bank computers did not forecast the Global Financial Crisis. “The British Met computers failed to forecast Europe’s frigid winter. “Computers were unable to forecast the spread of swine flu or volcanic ash clouds. “Since the introduction of its new computer program Queensland Health has been unable to pay their own employees properly. “And the Australian Weather Bureau cannot forecast next month’s weather.

“Yet we are asked to believe that the IPCC computers are able to forecast global temperature, sea levels, hurricanes, droughts and diseases for a century ahead. They promise that, if we just stop using coal and oil, everything will be rosy. “That is like betting our jobs, our industry and our energy and food supplies on a roll of the dice in the casino.

“There are about 20 Global Circulation Models using variable assumptions that claim to represent climate processes. “Every model uses suspect or manipulated data and disputed processes, is fudged to fit past data and its forecasts reflect the biases of the builder.

“In twenty or so years of forecasting, not one has yet made a forecast that has proven to be correct. Moreover, no two forecasts agree. “But we hope one gets it right soon so we can scrap the other 19 and so save a lot of money.

“Until then, all IPCC forecasts should be written in pencil. “And we should ignore them.”


19 May, 2010

Rudd knows nothing about climate science

There were several immediate ripostes to Rudd's ignorance of this matter -- e.g. from Andrew Bolt -- but I let the matter lie at the time -- knowing how easily Rudd's ignorance could be exposed. Joanne Nova has however done an excellent hatchet job on his ignorance, complete with a very wide-ranging set of temperature graphs. I reproduce just her opening salvo below. Go the the original for graphics

Rudd let slip a line in his frustration this week that reveals how little he knows about the topic he holds so dear. He has so completely swallowed the PR on climate science, that when poked, he reflexively fires back exaggerated scientific claims that would make even the IPCC blush. In 2007 the IPCC and Gore et al offered Rudd the perfect Election-Wedge-on-a-Platter. They’d primed the audience with propaganda; trained the crowd to recite: Carbon is pollution. It looked like a no-brainer. Yet having based his leadership and campaign on it, it’s obvious he had not done even the most basic of checks (and still apparently hasn’t).

It’s an abject lesson in the importance of doing some homework before rewriting a nation’s economy.

Last week Tony Abbott (the Australian opposition leader) told school children that it was warmer ”at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth”. This banal line set off a flurry of denial and bluster.

Rudd was incredulous in the Parliamentary Hansard record to the opposition members last week: "…how is it that, in the 21st century, you could support this Leader of the Opposition, who says that the world was hotter in Jesus’ time? How could you actually hold to a belief, in defiance of total science around the world, that somehow in the last 2000 years the world has become cooler, not warmer? How could you stand behind a leader who says that the industrial revolution, in effect, did not happen?"

In defiance of “total science”? Or totalitarian science?

It’s true it’s difficult to know the exact temperature of the globe in the year one (it’s difficult to know the exact global temperature in 1975, too), but there are scientists reporting in journals from all over the world that back up Mr Abbott. We know it really must have been warmer in Europe thanks to written historical records and artefacts that pop out of melting glaciers. As William Kinninmonth points out, Hannibal took an army of elephants across the Alps in winter in 200 BC. And we all know that the Romans are not known for wearing fur coats.

Rudd is apoplectic with the non-sequitur about the industrial revolution: If temperatures were warmer in 10BC, somehow that nullifies the steam engine 1800 years later? In Rudd-land, no one can even imagine the parallel universe where carbon might not control the climate.

A warmer world in Roman times?

A quick tour of peer reviewed research around the globe shows it was also warmer in China, North America, Venezuela, South Africa, and the Sargasso Sea 2000 years ago. And of course, Greenland tells an evocative tale.

Long-term, temperatures have been declining for at least 3000 years. The graph stops about 100 years ago but even allowing for the extra rise in the last century, temperatures today are cooler than in Medieval times and cooler than Roman times. It’s clear from hundreds of studies that the medieval warm period was a global phenomenon and was warmer than today. Some of the studies below may not include modern temperatures, but they show that the Roman era was comparable to Medieval times.


Another Rudd backflip

Do they ever stop?

You can add ads to Rudd’s list of policy backflips. Have you heard a radio advert lately telling you that the new health reforms are really good for you? They are hard to miss and there is avalanche to come.

According to the Budget, the Rudd Government will spend $126 million on five campaigns in the next few months. These campaigns cover topics including climate change, tax reform, health reform, broadband and paid parental leave. $33 million will be spent in the next six weeks alone.

You would be right to be surprised by this given the high talk and large promises made by Kevin 07 prior to the last election.

He promised in May 2007 that a Rudd Government would have the Auditor General ‘vet’ all government advertising programmes over $250,000 to ensure that they were not political. After watering down this promise in government, the new ‘Kevin 10’ dumped this promise two days before Easter this year.

In fact, he was so strong in his claim, he actually said to Matthew Franklin at The Australian:

“Why not have a system whereby three months prior to when an election is due ... for there to be a ban on publicly-funded advertising unless explicitly agreed between the leader of the government and the leader of the Opposition?” Mr Rudd said. “That is an absolute undertaking from us. I believe this is a sick cancer within our system. It is a cancer on democracy.”

An ‘absolute commitment’ which is interesting because we are now about three months from an election and one may be entitled to think that at this stage Kevin 10 would be seeking Tony Abbott’s agreement on which ads should go ahead and which should not. Now Kevin 10 may do that, but it does seem quite strange that the list of advertising campaigns just happens to fit into the political priorities for the Labor Government and these are issues that are undoubtedly contentious and unlikely to be agreed to by the Opposition.

One thing is for sure, the climate change advertising won’t mention the words ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’ or for that matter ‘political courage’.

To make it worse, as the Punch revealed here previously, punters are also faced with State Labor Governments advertising for their federal comrades. The funny thing is that in Kevin 07’s day he had a plan to fix State Labor Governments advertising as well when he said:

“If we form the next government of Australia, that (the Auditor General vetting) would be a requirement that we would make through the Council of Australian Governments to all states and territories

The fact is Kevin 07 and Kevin 10 barely share the same DNA.

In 2007, Kevin 07 was an economic conservative. In 2010, he has handed down the biggest budget deficit in history.

In 2007, Kevin 07 wanted 260 more child care centres. In 2010, Kevin 10 dumps the policy altogether.

In 2007, Kevin 07declared climate change to be the greatest moral challenge of our time. In 2010, Kevin 10 can’t run away from it fast enough.

So, in the coming months when you hear Kevin Rudd say he is ‘absolutely committed’ to a policy, don’t trust him because what he says before an election won’t stand after an election.

You can be sure that the Rudd/Gillard Government will always do what is in the Labor Party’s interest, not that of Australia’s future.


Joe Hockey takes swing at e-Health scheme

It cost the British taxpayer over 12 BILLION pounds for their eHealth scheme so one must fervently hope that Hockey wins this one

JOE Hockey will today map out the Coalition's return to economic conservatism, promising to cut the Rudd government's controversial new e-Health scheme to save $467 million and announcing a review of the Trade Practices Act to help small business.

In a speech to the National Press Club, the opposition Treasury spokesman will announce that the review -- which he will describe as the most significant in decades -- will not be headed by Treasury secretary Ken Henry. That is an apparent swipe at the independence of the Treasury boss.

The "root and branch" review will be charged with easing burdens on small business and infrastructure projects through the laws defining business conduct.

And the Coalition will kill the e-Health scheme which was announced with the budget and which will cost $467m over the next two years. Mr Hockey will argue that the initiative is fundamentally flawed.

It is one of a number of cuts the Coalition will announce to prove it is willing to be tough in order to get the budget back into surplus.

The E-health initiative gives patients the choice of opting in to the system, even though all Australians will automatically be given a new identification number that can be linked to their medical records. The budget papers say patients will be able to access their e-Health records when and where needed.

In the Rudd government scheme, patients' sensitive health records, including test results and prescriptions, will be stored on a national database accessible via the internet.

Mr Hockey will use the speech to cement the Coalition's economic credentials and will attack Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan as irresponsible spenders who turned a $20 billion budget surplus into a $27bn deficit in just one year and had broken so many 2007 election promises they could no longer be believed.

Tony Abbott yesterday refused to pre-empt what changes Mr Hockey might announce in terms of savings and said this would be an important speech. "He's going to broaden and deepen our attack on the budget," the Opposition Leader said.

But he did hint that his proposal for a "green army", which was expected to cost $750m a year, could initially be scaled back to find savings.

Mr Abbott said he remained committed to the plan to mobilise a 15,000-strong green army to work on land-care projects but said it would take time to implement. "We'll be building up to it. It's not going to happen overnight," he said.

The Opposition Leader last week vowed a Coalition government would save $4bn by freezing public service recruitment.

He has also pledged to overhaul the government's school building program, oppose Labor's planned resource super-profits tax and scrap its $43bn national broadband network.


Hospital staff pull knives on one-another but that's OK

Is there no limit to Queensland Health negligence?

THREE Gold Coast Hospital workers involved in two violent confrontations, including a stabbing, at the Southport facility have reportedly gone undisciplined and continued working on full pay.

Hospital sources have told the Bulletin the latest incident allegedly involved a worker stabbing a fellow hospital employee in the leg after a rubbish row erupted in a staff lunchroom in late April.

It was the second time knives had been pulled in disputes between porter staff in recent months and three men at the centre of the violence have not been disciplined.

While Queensland Health has refused to comment on whether the employee involved in the latest incident was still working, Health Minister Paul Lucas said the allegations were of concern and had been passed to police.

However, a hospital insider yesterday said victims had been actively discouraged from reporting matters to police while perpetrators had remained working on full pay as snail-paced internal investigations were undertaken.

A worker, aged in his 20s, needed stitches after a knife was thrown during a lunchroom dispute in April. The hospital source said the young man had misjudged as he threw his lunch wrapper towards the bin and it landed beside another staff member. "He turned around and lost it completely," said the source.

The source alleged the staff member lifted up the rubbish, and also a steak knife, and threw it towards the young man. "The knife ... penetrated the person in the thigh, through the material of his uniform, and embedded in his thigh," said the source.

The victim required four or five stitches in the wound and a tetanus shot. He has since been off work on stress leave. "But the person who did the damage (is) walking around working at the hospital," said the source.

"You don't expect to go to work and have a knife thrown. "I do feel they are going to sweep it under the carpet. In what other industry can you throw a knife at someone and still be walking around doing a job?"

About 70 porters work at the Gold Coast Hospital.


18 May, 2010

Budget papers fudged to boost Rudd's stimulus effect

"It will always be difficult," said Ken Henry in February 2009, after he was asked whether the government would ever be able to judge the success of its stimulus package. Just over one year later, that caution has completely disappeared.

About a minute into Wayne Swan's budget speech last week the Treasurer said he was "proud to announce this strategy is working, ensuring our economy has far outperformed the rest of the developed world; Without stimulus, we would have gone backwards".

And the Government's budget papers soberly concur: "It appears that the impact on economic growth of the fiscal stimulus that countries, such as Australia, put in place has exceeded expectations."

So: verdict's in? Not quite.

Certainly, Australia's economic performance has been comforting. Our unemployment rate is around 5.4 per cent. Compared to the United Kingdom, which has an unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent, or the United States, which has an unemployment rate of 9.9 per cent, we're doing pretty damn well.

But the question isn't whether we have done well. It's whether we have done well compared to how we would have done if we hadn't had a stimulus, or if it that stimulus had been smaller.

And here the Government has scored an extraordinary own goal.

Slotted within Budget Paper Number One, Statement Two, Box Four is a graph which purports to be the final word on stimulus packages. The graph measures the size of the stimulus packages of 11 countries. It then calculates how their economies have performed, compared to how the International Monetary Fund one year ago predicted their economies would perform. Using this technique, the graph shows a big stimulus package is closely correlated with good economic performance.

Putting aside whether the causation flows the other way (could dire economic forecasts from the IMF have scared countries into implementing bigger packages?) it's an elegant way of showing stimulus works.

Well, it would be - if the Treasury hadn't cherry-picked the data.

In fact, there's a pretty strong case the Government is being deliberately misleading.

That's because the IMF data on which the Treasury graph is built doesn't list just 11 countries. It's actually a list of the G20 countries - 19 states plus the European Union.

RMIT Professor (and my IPA colleague) Sinclair Davidson ran the calculation again, this time with all 19 countries included. And - surprise! - the correlation disappears. There is no statistically significant relationship between stimulus package size and economic performance.

So why did Treasury pick those 11 countries? They're not OECD countries - there are 31 members of the OECD. And they're not the world's "advanced economies", although Wayne Swan keeps using that phrase. Thirty-four countries make up the IMF's official advanced economies list.

Damningly, the Treasury seems to have deliberately ignored those G20 countries (like Russia and South Africa) which implemented massive stimulus packages but have subsequently had terrible economic performance, and those countries (like India, Argentina, and Indonesia) which had small packages, but have still done well.

It's like ignoring patients that died after they took an experimental medicine, or got better without taking it - but applying to be listed on the PBS anyway.

This is not an academic problem. Whether the stimulus package worked is at the absolute heart of the Rudd Government's re-election strategy. If the Government can't take credit for Australia's economic performance, it loses its only real policy success.

Governments aren't all-knowing and all-seeing. The stimulus package was a crap-shoot as much as anything else; a massive amount of money dumped as quickly as possible into an essentially random smattering of industries, with the hope the Government could lift the economy by brute force alone.

After all, does anybody believe that home insulation is the pivot on which our economy turns?

Few Governments have had so many chips fall in their favour. The economy is performing well, and, at least until late last year, an overwhelming majority of Australians supported the Government's proposed action on climate change. Yet, even with all this, Kevin Rudd has seen a precipitous fall in his popularity. No surprise Rudd and Swan are falling back on a story about performance during the economic crisis.

Rudd is being forced to run on his economic record, and Treasury's argument that countries which pushed through a big stimulus had a big recovery.

So the fact that Treasury had to cherry-pick data to prove the stimulus worked is not a good look.

It makes you nostalgic for the old Ken Henry, who back in February 2009, said "there are sufficient differences among economies that that sort of analysis … would not be particularly useful".

Shame this modesty couldn't last an election cycle.


The population implosion

Comment from Miranda Devine

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Pill this week, 1960s sex symbol Raquel Welch blamed the oral contraceptive for the breakdown of marriage, decline in moral standards and rise of promiscuity.

"One significant, and enduring, effect of the pill on female sexual attitudes during the '60s, was: 'Now we can have sex any time we want, without the consequences. Hallelujah, let's party!' " she wrote in an article for CNN.

The 69-year-old actress said that she felt it was her duty to "speak up" and wave the "red flag of caution" because she used to be a sex symbol.

But what she didn't mention was the impact on birth rates and the associated demographic disaster the world is hurtling towards.

As the tattered sexual revolution spawned by the pill hits middle age we can see the consequences of unmooring sex from the possibility of children, and the rejection of the age-old imperative to be "fruitful and multiply".

The result is a so-called contraceptive culture, societies which regard children and childbearing as a nuisance, a burden and an expense, rather than a blessing. We seem trapped in the mindset of past doomsayers, from Thomas Malthus to Paul Ehrlich who claimed in his 1968 book The Population Bomb that the greatest catastrophe facing mankind is too many people. Today, the pervasive misanthropism of the modern green movement holds that every new human is a burden to the planet, just another carbon footprint to be resented.

There is even a green charity in the UK, PopOffsets, which has people offset their carbon footprint by funding projects to reduce the number of babies in places like Madagascar.

But, as the US conservative writer Don Feder told a group of young men from the University of NSW's Warrane college on Wednesday night, the precipitous decline of birth rates by more than 50 per cent worldwide since 1979 signals a looming "Demographic Winter".

Whereas in 1979 the average woman on the planet had six children, today she has 2.8, and declining, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects publication of 2006.

There are 6 million fewer children aged under six today than in 1990. "It could be the greatest crisis to confront humanity in this century," says Feder, my former Boston Herald colleague.

The Demographic Winter will spark "wars and international conflict on a massive scale". Nations without enough young people to man armies will fall prey "to those who have a cause to advance".

In much of the developed world, birth rates today have sunk to below replacement levels of 2.13 children per woman.

Contrary to popular opinion, these trends of the past 30 years are being mirrored in the developing world, in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

"Barren wombs and empty cradles" are a phenomenon of both the Christian and Muslim worlds. Even Iran has retreated from its baby boom of the 1980s, with the fertility rate of 6.5 collapsing to 1.7. The same trend can be seen in the once fruitful United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon. The world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, has a birth rate just above replacement, at 2.31, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook.

The birth rate for Muslim immigrants in Europe may be higher than the countries they come from, leading to the widely predicted Islamification of the continent in the next 50 years. But it is nonetheless declining.

Despite recent small gains, Australia's birth rate of 1.78 is still below replacement, below China's 1.79. Britain is worse at 1.66, Canada at 1.58, while the US is at 2.05. Germany and Russia are at 1.41, above Italy and Spain at 1.31. Catholic Poland is languishing at 1.28.

Japan, at 1.21, has lost 24 per cent of its people in 20 years. By 2050 there will be two senior citizens for every child.

The highest birth rate is in sub-Saharan Africa with Niger at 7.75, Uganda at 6.77.

In the Anglosphere, New Zealand has the highest birth rate, at 2.10, and a tradition of cherishing babies in hundreds of tiny ways - from restaurants with high chairs to nosy questions of newlyweds to official street signs pointing to baby health clinics. By contrast, in Australia, children are regarded as nuisances, with complaints about monster prams and bitter competition for space in Sydney parks. Attitudes may make a difference.

Feder attributes the Demographic Winter, at least in the West, to the "me generation" selfishness of the '60s sexual revolution, and 43 billion abortions worldwide each year.

"Today for the first time in history just under half of the world's population uses some form of contraception … We don't ask if sex has an emotional or moral component, or if it serves a higher purpose, only if it's safe."

Unlike Malthusian environmentalists, he insists "people are the ultimate resource". The population explosion of the past 200 years - from 980 million to 6.7 billion - fuelled "every human advance from the Industrial Revolution to the computer age [and the] phenomenal growth of productivity, prosperity, scientific advance, health and general human well-being."

Today's children are the "workers, employers, producers, innovators, caregivers and taxpayers of tomorrow".

As fewer babies are born and people live longer, we face the perfect demographic storm, with the greying of the population stressing welfare and health systems, which are funded by less tax from a shrinking workforce.

It's a warning for Australia. If the shadow cabinet this week did put the kybosh on Tony Abbott's suggestion of a $10,000 baby bonus for stay-at-home mothers, it was a shortsighted victory for fiscal rectitude.

Abbott's proposal for a parental leave scheme guaranteeing working women wages so they can spend time with their newborns was similarly scorned earlier this year. But as we saw with the baby boomlet associated with the 2004 baby bonus, governments can influence family choice. Abbott seems to be rare among his colleagues as a politician who understands the dangers of the Demographic Winter.


Leftist ratbag ends up as Qld. State Premier

She leads international trade trips, has appointed her husband to a plum post in the bureaucracy and appeared in Australian Women's Weekly. Yet almost 30 years ago, Premier Anna Bligh was rallying against junkets, opposing jobs for the boys and fighting the "insidious" impact of women's magazines.

Even the humble milk flavouring Ovaltine earned the ire of Anna Bligh in her days as a student radical at the University of Queensland.

Minutes of student union meetings from the early 1980s have emerged for the first time, revealing the extreme change in Ms Bligh in her journey from student to state leader. And her chief nemesis on many of the issues she championed at union meetings was fellow student leader Paul Lucas, her current deputy and close political ally.

In one exchange in 1981, the pair found themselves on the opposite side of an argument as to whether a ban should be placed in the union shop on the sale of men's magazines Playboy and Penthouse and women's magazines Cleo, Cosmopolitan and Women's Weekly.

Mr Lucas argued the magazines should continue to be available and banning them was a "very offensive" type of censorship. However, Ms Bligh argued it wasn't censorship if they were sold elsewhere. She said the union should not profit from pornography that promoted violence against women, and from "insidious" women's magazines that encouraged a "passive" attitude.

"Anna did not agree that the removal of Playboy etc from sale in the union shop was censorship, as they could be bought anywhere in Australia," the minutes record. Ms Bligh won, and the magazines were banned in a motion that also promised "militant action" against any anti-women, anti-homosexual or anti-lesbian material.

The pair also found themselves at loggerheads the following year in what Bligh termed the "Ovaltine scandal". Ms Bligh led the charge against the milk flavouring after being offended by scantily clad women handing out Ovaltine sachets on campus.

And in her pitch for the student union presidency, Ms Bligh campaigned on a platform of being opposed to junkets and jobs for the boys. Nor did she back down on her opposition to Playboy and Ovaltine. When Mr Lucas fought for election on the student body the following year, he campaigned on a platform of "Bringing Ovaltine Back" – after originally supporting the ban.

But not all Ms Bligh's political rhetoric has changed over the ensuing years. She promised then – as she promises now – to take issues out of the "too hard to handle" basket.

When Mr Lucas ran for vice-president in 1981, he used a spiel in Semper [the student newspaper] to attack his opponent – (now retired MP) Rod Welford – as an "unknown man", and promised booze and better food for the bistro. Mr Welford won, and so did the magazine and milk flavouring, which were eventually allowed back.

Ms Bligh yesterday said she and Mr Lucas now laughed about their student battles, yet their passion for debate and ideas remained the same. "I think it's a great thing for young people to be involved in politics, and I certainly look back on that experience fondly," she said. "I think like most people, my views on things have changed over time as I've gotten older and wiser."

Mr Lucas remains gracious in his defeat at the hands of Mr Welford, saying he was also "better looking than me". He was philosophical about his student days, saying while his opinions now appeared quaint it was important for young people to believe in something. "If only life in 2010 was as simple as having to decide whether or not to ban Ovaltine or Playboy," he said.


Government medicine in its usual form

A 4 hour wait is GOOD by government standards -- and too bad if some of the peasants die

NAMBOUR Hospital's emergency department has been described as "frequently a disaster zone" after an elderly man died while waiting four hours without seeing a doctor.

Neville Keith Evans, 87, died in the Nambour ED at 8.20pm on Mother's Day, after arriving from the Sunshine Coast's Rotary Garden Village with stomach pains at 4.20pm. The incident follows three deaths in the Nambour ED in April, two assessed on arrival as non-urgent category 4 patients.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Mason Stevenson said Nambour emergency patients were frequently having to wait much longer than what was considered medically safe before being seen by a doctor.

"We now have patients sporadically dying at Nambour emergency department while waiting to be attended to, at times after having been triaged as a non-emergency case," said Dr Stevenson, a Sunshine Coast general practitioner.

"The Nambour emergency department is a disaster zone on frequent occasions. Staff are doing the best they possibly can but they are deluged with patients from a huge catchment area of almost 500,000.

"With that scenario, there will be loss of life. People will get under the radar and the severity of their condition may not be fully appreciated when you are overwhelmed, overworked and exhausted."

Ambulance union organiser Kroy Day said Mr Evans was assessed as a category 3 patient when he arrived at the hospital with paramedics and should have been attended to within 30 minutes under medical guidelines.

Instead, Mr Evans spent the next four hours being monitored by a paramedic on an emergency department bed because ED staff were too busy to see him. At 8.20pm, his heart stopped and he could not be revived. "If the doctors or nurses had seen him an hour earlier, or half an hour earlier, would it have made any difference? We don't know," said Mr Day, of the Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union. "But I do know waiting four hours is wrong."

Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District chief executive officer Kevin Hegarty extended his sympathies and offered support to Mr Evans' family.

"Any death that occurs within a hospital is subject to review and the outcome of the review will be made available to the family," Mr Hegarty said.


17 May, 2010

Rudd's budget trick: pie in the sky when you die

This is from normally Left-leaning economist Ross Gittins

The annual debate about the budget gets ever more unreal. This year it reached the height of absurdity. Budgets used to be about what the government plans to do in the coming financial year. Now they're about what supposedly will happen any time over the next four years.

How unreal can you get? Who on earth knows what will happen over the next four years? No one. Certainly not Treasury (nor any of the smarties who think they know better than it). This time last year Treasury's best guess was that unemployment would peak at 8.5 per cent next year; now we know it peaked at 5.8 per cent in the middle of last year.

This time last year we were told revenue collections over five years would be down $210 billion on what the "forward estimates" had told us the year before. Now we're told they'll be down $110 billion - but why would you set much store by that guess? We know from repeated experience that Treasury is quite bad at telling us in early May what the budget balance will be at the end of the following month. And yet we take seriously what it says the balance will be in three or four years' time.

This year there's been huge emphasis - encouraged by the government's rhetoric and amplified by the media (including yours truly) - on one figure: the projected budget balance in three years' time, a surplus of $1 billion. Hallelujah! Home and hosed. All over bar the shouting.

How absurd can you get? Treasury isn't even prepared to dignify this figure with the status of a "forecast"? It's the product of a completely mechanical, punch-in-predetermined-numbers "projection". Here's another absurdity: the public debate about the budget treats all its figures as if they were accomplished facts. No ifs or buts or maybes. And do the purse-string ministers - who know better than anyone how unreliable these figures are - make it their responsibility to warn us not to take them too literally? Not a bit of it.

Here's Lindsay Tanner: "The result is that we are back in surplus three years ahead of schedule in three years' time and the level of debt Australia has will be half of what was initially projected" (my emphasis).

Last year's projection was rubbish, but this year's is fact. Of all the (inescapably) rubbery figures in the budget, the one we've fixated on is the rubberiest: the $1 billion cash surplus in 2012-13. The one thing you can bet on is that the budget balance that year won't be a surplus of $1 billion.

One billion! One billion! Do you realise how infinitely small that figure is in what's projected to be a $378-billion budget and a $1.6-trillion economy?

What if it turns out to be an equally infinitesimal $2 billion overestimate? Oh my lord, still in deficit! By any sensible metric, any outcome within $5 billion either side of zero represents a balanced budget. Why allow commonsense to spoil a good story?

This relatively recent shift from focusing on the budget year to taking a blurry look at the next four years has made it easier for governments to manipulate our perceptions of the budget. And boy, weren't the pollies working hard at it this year.

The budget papers boast that all the new budget measures since November "have been delivered within the fiscal strategy and are fully offset over the forward estimates by a reprioritisation of other policies".

Reprioritisation? That's the latest econocrats' weasel word. What does it mean, exactly? We're not told. I think we're meant to guess it's a euphemism for spending cuts (think canning the home insulation scheme and breaking the election promise to build 260 childcare centres).

I suspect it also covers changing the timing of spending, pushing it off into the future beyond the four-year forward estimates. Consider defence spending. About 10 days before last year's budget Kevin Rudd made a grand announcement that the previous government's commitment to increasing real defence spending by 3 per cent a year would be continued.

But 10 days later the budget pushed a lot of that spending (mainly the purchase of major equipment) off into the never-never. This year's budget papers say real defence spending is expected to fall by 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 and by a further 3.8 per cent in 2012-13 (the year we supposedly return to surplus).

Then, however, it grows by 5.3 per cent the year after (and, if we only knew, no doubt skyrockets in the years beyond the forward estimates). Rudd's grand promise just gets rolled further and further into the future.

Though it's true Rudd's new spending programs are planned to be fully offset by "reprioritisation" over the forward estimates, it won't become true until the last year of the forward estimates, 2013-14, when "saves" are intended to exceed "spends" by $5.9 billion. Until then, spends exceed saves - and worsen the budget balance - by $1.9 billion this financial year, $2.4 billion in the new financial year and $2 billion in 2012-13. See what I mean about exploiting the four-year fuzzy focus?

Then we have the discovery by Joe Hockey's people that some helpful fiscal fairies improved the budget's profile of ever-diminishing deficits by bringing $1.8 billion in spending forward to this financial year, thus making the base-year higher and the subsequent improvement greater.

The other trick is that so many of the vote-buying goodies - the cut in company tax, the small-business instant write-off, the superannuation concessions, the new standard deduction and the bank interest concession - don't take effect for two or three years. This budget's "fiscal conservatism" rests heavily on the promise of pie in the sky sometime before you die.


Leftist NSW government trying to destroy non-government medical facility

The head of the state's biggest injury rehabilitation centre has accused the Health Department of trying to destroy it by slashing funding and playing political games at the cost of patient welfare.

Funding for the Royal Rehabilitation Centre in Ryde, which treats people with severe burns and brain and spinal injuries, had been cut by more than a quarter in one year, its chief executive, Stephen Lowndes said yesterday. This would cause "serious liquidation issues" and put a planned 60-bed redevelopment in jeopardy, he said.

A $50 million upgrade of the centre, which is a not-for-profit charity, had been in the pipeline for five years. It was to include a new accommodation block for 32 patients too badly injured to live in the community, a childcare centre for children with special needs, wetlands and a community centre, Mr Lowndes said.

It would also have a specialist 20-bed brain injury centre, the first of its kind in Australia.

But the plan is under threat because funding cuts coincided with Ryde Council's delaying its decision to grant permission for a developer to buy 12 hectares of the site, despite approval already having been granted by two former planning ministers, Frank Sartor and Kristina Keneally.

Frasers Property Australia had agreed to pay $82 million for the land and wanted to start work constructing 790 dwellings within months but the delay was leading to cash flow problems, Mr Lowndes said.

"We've already been given approval so it seems there are political reasons why the council would try and hold this up," he said. "If we don't get that money by August, we're in a very tenuous position. We're under real duress and we cannot go ahead with the redevelopment."

In October the state government announced it was hiving off 30 of the 60 proposed beds, funded solely by the Royal Rehabilitation Centre, and moving them to a new facility at Ryde Hospital, after it made more than $35 million from the sale of the former Graythwaite convalescent home.

The sale was expected to raise only about $22 million but a Supreme Court ruling insisted the entire $35 million be spent on rehabilitation services at Ryde Hospital. "The problem is that it is not economically viable to run less than 60 beds, so it leaves us in a difficult position," Mr Lowndes said. "We're not against developing Ryde Hospital but it should not be done at our expense or the expense of our very vulnerable patients."

In a letter to Ms Keneally last month, Mr Lowndes said it was "unfathomable" that NSW Health would "seek to destroy those specialist agencies such as Royal Rehab".

"We cannot continue to permit [NSW Health] to unilaterally reduce our recurrent funding to levels below the reasonable cost of service delivery or to make unilateral decisions to terminate our services," he wrote. 'Our existence is threatened by the very department that we should be partnering with to deliver first-class healthcare to the citizens of NSW … it is a perfect example of the very poor health administration that the federal government has expressed its resolve to address."

He had asked for an urgent meeting with Ms Keneally in order to secure a stay of execution on the decision to shift 30 beds, a guarantee of "reasonable funding" and long-term security.


"Stimulus" corruption never stops

No money for charity hospital but PILES of money for unusable school buildings

BARELY bigger than a cubby house, canteens built under the federal government's schools stimulus scheme are costing taxpayers $25,000 a square metre. In NSW, 19 of the school tuckshops measuring 3m x 8m will cost between $550,000 and $600,000 each.

Orange Grove Public School, in Sydney's inner west, was knocked back on its request for a school hall, but given $550,000 to build a brick canteen too small to fit a stove or even a pie-warmer.

The materials for the canteen are estimated to have cost $29,680, based on an analysis of the NSW Education Department's materials list, and prices from the building industry costs guide Rawlinsons.

A fitout for a commercial cafe would cost $126,000, according to the Rawlinsons guide. Yet the Sydney school has been charged $308,000 for the canteen superstructure, $81,853 for design documentation, field data and site management - the architectural and engineering fees - and $60,956 for preliminaries, which includes scaffolding, security fencing, portaloos and protection equipment for building workers.

The secretary of the school's Parents & Citizens Association, Louise Appel, said yesterday the canteen was the size of her kitchen at home, "and I don't have a very big kitchen".

"It's crazy, really," Ms Appel said. "It's like a cubby house. We have no room for anything like we had hoped for, like a stove. "We were given two hotplates to sit on top of the bench. "We've got an old pie oven and are still trying to work out where to put it on the bench because there isn't any room."

Ms Appel said the school already had a tiny tuckshop and had asked that a larger one be incorporated into a new hall, as the 188 students had to walk to the nearby Leichhardt Municipal Hall or use neighbouring schools' facilities.

But NSW Education told the school its federal grant would not cover the cost of building a hall, so it was given the tuckshop instead.

"We understand economic stimulus, but this is not what this is," Ms Appel said. "They're doing this with our money, with taxpayers' money."

The project manager, Abigroup, is eligible for $5421 in project management costs, as well as a $15,320 incentive fee for building on time and within budget.

The builder, Redwood Projects, reveals on its website that it had fitted out a 150sq m commercial kitchen in the northwest of Sydney for just $150,000 - or $1000 per sq m.

Craig Mayne, a parent from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Brisbane electorate who has waged a campaign against Building the Education Revolution blow-outs, yesterday said the 24 sq m canteens should cost only $31,500, based on Rawlinsons' estimates figures.

Yet in outback NSW, more schools are receiving $600,000 canteens through the Rudd government's $16.2bn BER scheme. A school in the Aboriginal community of Toomelah, near the Queensland border, has had to cough up about $20,000 to finish off its $650,000 tuckshop with airconditioning, a security door, shelving and concrete.

Its 24 sq m "superstructure" is priced at $184,825, with another $114,237 for "preliminaries" and $92,922 for "design documentation, field data and site management".

Principal Paul Sortwell confirmed that extra funds had been used "to enhance the facility for our own personal use" for the school's 60 students. "That's money we've happily spent to modify it to our needs,"Mr Sortwell said.

Yanco Public School, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, also has a tiny tuckshop costing $600,000, with $166,867 for design documentation, field data and site management, $11,925 for site services and $42,704 for preliminaries.

Tottenham Central School, west of Dubbo, cannot fit the fridges from its old demountable canteen into the new building that is half the size.

P&C president Rick Bennett said the local council was building a stainless steel canteen and office six times the size of the school's new tuckshop - with toilets - for $415,000 just 500m from the school.

"I'm absolutely bloody gutted that there's been $600,000 of taxpayer money on this," he said yesterday. "It should cost $80,000."

Mr Bennett, who will make a 1000km round trip to Sydney at his own expense to address the Senate inquiry into BER tomorrow, said the school feared it would lose its old demountable tuckshop. "I know in our community you could put up two four-bedroom houses (with $600,000) yet we've got a canteen that's not big enough to put in the fridge or freezer."

Mr Bennett said that when he complained to a meeting of NSW education bureaucrats and building managers that the school's meat slicer would not fit into the new tuckshop, he was advised to buy pre-sliced meat.

The project manager, Laing O'Rourke, will be paid a $4675 "incentive fee" and $18,001 in "project management costs".

The NSW Education Department's BER website reveals the canteen "superstructure" will cost $161,042, with $116,000 for site services, $114,162 for design documentation, field data and site management, and $80,000 for "preliminaries".


WA Libs launch anti-tax campaign

THE West Australian Liberal Party will launch a $50,000 advertising campaign tomorrow in a bid to turn opposition to the Federal Government's mining "super tax" into votes at the next election.

The proposed 40 per cent resources super profits tax is deeply unpopular in resources-rich WA, which has Australia's only Liberal State Government and an 11-seat margin over Labor at the federal level.

"This new tax will be a disaster for Western Australia - but it can be stopped," WA Liberal Party director Ben Morton said in an appeal to supporters over the weekend. "The only way to stop this new tax is to change the government."

The Liberal campaign, which claims the new tax would threaten up to 500,000 Australian jobs, will include radio broadcasts and mail drops into electorates where Labor is believed to be vulnerable.

The Liberals have said they are quietly hopeful of picking up the WA federal seat of Hasluck, which they lost at the 2007 election, and which is held by Labor's Sharryn Jackson by just 1.8 per cent.

Labor also holds the seats of Perth, Fremantle and Brand, after losing Swan and Cowan at the last federal election despite an overall swing towards the party in WA.

Mr Morton said the Liberal campaign would be expanded if it received financial support. "Stage two of the campaign will depend on the financial support we receive to fight this new tax from the WA community," he said.


16 May, 2010

Five reasons Tony Abbott could topple Kevin Rudd

SUNDAY Telegraph political columnist Peter Van Onselen reveals what will help take Opposition Leader Tony Abbott all the way to the Lodge - and what could trip him up

Why Abbott could win

1 Tony Abbott has managed to unite the Coalition in a way that shows he's a strong leader. After three years of Rudd backdowns and backflips, that can only be a welcome thing. Abbott has significant ministerial experience from the Howard years which means he won't be the risk that Rudd was when he was made PM with limited experience.

2 The paid parental leave scheme is a generous one which, unlike Rudd's minimum wage plan, would stop treating women giving birth like welfare cases. Abbott plans to give women their full working wages for six months if they have a baby, which if enacted would be one of this country's most significant advances in women's rights. If Abbott delivers such a policy it would be a surprise to some.

3 Abbott has core values and beliefs. You would never see a Rudd-style back-down from Abbott on his core beliefs on the monarchy or mutual obligation. The thing about Abbott is everyone knows he's a passionate politician whom you can either love or loathe. Rudd tries to be all things to all people.

4 Oppositions don't win elections; governments lose them. That's the old saying and on that score Labor may well have done enough to deserve to lose the next election. From roof insulation problems to humiliating back-downs on emissions trading, the Government hasn't been as good as it promised it would be and Abbott has done well at drawing this to people's attention.

5 Abbott's Budget reply speech demonstrated his commitment to a fast return to surplus, at least as fast as the Government's target. He's light on how he intends to do it, promising those details closer to the election. If we get the details and they're fully costed, a fiscally competent Abbott administration is far more appealing than one led by our ever shrinking Prime Minister.

And why he can't

1 Abbott has softened his persona since he was elected Liberal Party leader, but that doesn't get around the policy and philosophical positions he took when he was John Howard's attack dog in government. He was a strong supporter of the draconian industrial relations policy WorkChoices. He led the campaign against allowing for access to the abortion drug RU486. And he did cut projected spending in the health portfolio when he was health minister. People would be well within their rights to wonder if the Abbott who had the power of the Prime Minister's office stayed the same as the Abbott now running the Opposition.

2 A majority of Australians believe in man-made climate change, but Abbott isn't so sure. He said the argument was "absolute crap". It might not be "the greatest moral challenge of our generation", but Australians do have to ask themselves if they really want a prime minister who has such disregard for something potentially so serious to the future of our children.

3 However good a job Abbott is doing as Opposition leader since he took over the position late last year, the team around him doesn't look nearly ready for government. The Coalition line-up no longer includes the heavyweights from the Howard era. Instead, the front bench includes the likes of Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce, and Abbott won't even find room for Malcolm Turnbull despite his obvious talents now he has said he won't be retiring at the next election.

4 Opposing the Government's plans to increase compulsory contributions to superannuation is almost enough reason alone to reject the Coalition. Ageing is regarded by most experts as one of the most important challenges we will face in the years ahead. Ensuring people will have enough money to live on when they reach old age is good policy and it's a disgrace that Abbott doesn't see that.

5 The Coalition has burned through three leaders in less than three years, during which time they haven't come close to looking like an alternative government. If they can't run their own parties, how on earth can we trust them to run the country? More time in the wilderness would help them get serious about what they really stand for and what they would do differently as a government. (So far, they're light on for detailed policy.)


People being rushed through NSW hospital emergency rooms without being given adequate treatment

More people are returning to emergency departments a short time after an initial visit, according to new figures that indicate the standard of treatment may be falling. The data, provided to The Sun-Herald as part of our MyHospital project, relates to 12 hospitals in the south-eastern Sydney and Illawarra areas.

The statistics indicate an 8 per cent increase in patients returning to the same emergency department within 48 hours of a first visit. Repeat visits have risen from 4.3 to 4.8 per cent of all emergency attendances in the first four months of this year, compared to the same period in 2009, according to figures released to a patient under Freedom of Information laws.

Separate figures published by NSW Health show Sutherland Hospital has improved in the politically sensitive measure of triage performance, increasing the proportion of people seen by a doctor within benchmark times between 2008 and 2009.

But the revisit statistics - which are not routinely made public - show that may have been at the expense of treatment quality, as the hospital has more recently experienced a 12 per cent surge in emergency attendances that were return visits within two days.

Sutherland's 4.5 per cent revisit rate now exceeds the government's target of a maximum 4.1 per cent. The measure indicates the suitability of patients' emergency-department treatment, and whether those who need it are promptly offered in-patient admission.

Eight of the area's 12 hospitals have not met that benchmark in the period to April, compared to five last year. Sydney Children's, St Vincent's and Wollongong hospitals all saw their triage performance worsen between 2008 and 2009, while their rate of repeat emergency visits also deteriorated early this year.

But recent triage figures are available only for larger hospitals, making it hard for the public to scrutinise the performance of regional units such as Shellharbour and Shoalhaven hospitals.

MyHospital for the first time puts key statistics on individual hospitals at patients' fingertips. It includes the most recent full-year figures and will be updated as new data emerges.

Sally McCarthy, of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said the repeat-emergency-visit data was ''useful among a constellation of measures'' but should be viewed in context with a facility's overall re-admission rate.

Dr McCarthy said country hospitals such as Bulli, where 17.7 per cent of patients returned within 48 hours, did not necessarily have poorer treatment.

She said, ''They don't really function like a true emergency department. They may require patients to return for planned visits for review of wound dressings or fractures. It's more likely reflective of a model of care that's gone from [urban units].''

A South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service spokeswoman said, ''As our population ages, our health services see more chronic conditions that result in patients having regular peaks and troughs in their health status, often requiring repeat medical care.''

St Vincent's spokesman David Faktor said, ''Our hospital has a patient population with the highest rates of homelessness, drug and alcohol issues and poverty. We have a high number of patients who use the hospital as their primary healthcare provider.''

After the MyHospital data appeared last week, the Bureau of Health Information flagged its first report on its website, based on the 2009 patients' survey.

Shadow health minister Jillian Skinner said, ''They are just moving things from one website to another. This is another example of how the NSW government is failing to implement any of the improvements recommended by Peter Garling in his report into the health service.''


How to deal with gross social worker failure: Cover it up!

More corruption in Victoria

A REPORT into how authorities failed a woman who was raped daily by her father for almost 30 years - and bore him four children - will not be publicly released.

Community Services Minister Lisa Neville resisted calls for her resignation when the case came to light last year. Instead she ordered Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary to investigate why authorities ignored repeated warnings about the woman's wellbeing.

The report was delivered more than a week ago, but Ms Neville's office says it was never meant to be made public. The Government is considering its findings.

"The purpose of inquiries such as this is to bring an independent and systemic approach to the operational and practice areas of service delivery," a spokeswoman said. "The findings and the recommendations of these inquiries are forwarded to the Minister for Community Services for consideration and, where evidence supports the need for new approaches, for implementation."

The Herald Sun revealed the woman's story last year, detailing how authorities had been repeatedly warned she was being abused but failed to act.

In February, the woman's 66-year-old father was sentenced to 22 years and five months' jail. "You defiled your daughter over many years on a regular basis ... To describe your treatment of (her) as appalling is a gross understatement," said County Court Judge Susan Pullen.

After the Herald Sun revealed the case last year - which Ms Neville said she was not aware of - authorities provided more services to the woman and her children.

Child safety advocate Chris Goddard said Mr Geary's report was not independent and called for a full review of the case. "This case deserves a fully independent inquiry, if nothing else," he said.


Robbed of identity, now she must change her name

Carmela Grande can trace the moment she lost her identity. It was the last week of October 2007. Now, in a battle to regain it, she is about to give up her name.

Her nightmare started in October 2007. After a few days away, she had no mail waiting for her. It was unusual, but she blamed a post office redirection error.

About four weeks later, about $25,000 had disappeared from her account after fraudsters had changed her mailing address and applied for new bank cards. They had stolen her mail from a locked letterbox and created fake IDs, using her name and birthday and someone else's photo.

But she had caught it early, got reimbursed by her bank and hoped she had got off lightly.

Police warned her the fraudsters would lie dormant for a while before striking again and advised her to change her name. "I didn't want to … I've grown up with it. It's who I am. I have defined that name," she said. But after being hit a second time, she has now conceded it is the best thing to do.

Half a million Australians became victims of credit or bank card fraud or identity theft in 2007, says the Bureau of Statistics. It is the number one fear of adults in this country, according to the Unisys Security Index.

The head of the Queensland fraud unit, Superintendent Brian Hay, said given a person's name, gender and the postcode they lived in, a fraudster could identify that person from freely available information nearly nine times out of 10.

Nevertheless, the head of the NSW Fraud Squad, Superintendent Colin Dyson, believed a name change was not necessary.

Ms Grande realised she had been targeted again last June when she tried to check her superannuation balance but was denied access to the account, even though she had warned the fund two years earlier.

Again, her postal address and PIN had been changed, and nearly $100,000 had been taken from her account.

Police have since charged someone with the fraud, but Ms Grande says she cannot be sure her personal information has not been sold on. Again she was lucky not to lose any money, although it took the super fund nine months to reimburse her.

She has now put in place safeguards: she cannot withdraw or deposit money without personal identification, and her mail goes to a post office box.

But she has been warned that clever fraudsters can phone banks or pretend to deposit money and find out where you have an account, before finding out your details.

Ms Grande has identified a name she likes a few generations back in her family, but is determined the fear of fraud will not get her down. "I'm not going to let it get the better of me. If you do that, what sort of life are you going to have," she said.


15 May, 2010

Mining tax could kill off the Labor government

KEVIN Rudd's mining super-profits tax directly threatens four Labor-held seats, three in Queensland and one in Western Australia, as the government prepares to defend a slender nine-seat buffer at this year's election amid a dramatic drop in support in the polls.

The risk in the mining states comes as the government struggles with the fallout from a series of policy backflips and bungled programs.

The mining tax also risks erasing a favourable redistribution that promised to deliver five seats to the government. The net loss of just nine seats could cost Labor government.

As Tony Abbott vows to turn the federal election, expected later this year, into a referendum on the mining tax, a senior Labor source conceded the Queensland seats of Leichhardt, which includes Cairns, as well as Dawson, which includes Mackay, and Flynn, which includes Gladstone, would be at risk if the government failed to convince voters of its merits.

And in Western Australia, where the government is facing a states' rights campaign from the Liberal government over the mining tax and its clawback of 30 per cent of the GST as part of the hospital reform plan, expected gains have evaporated and the Liberals are now targeting Hasluck, held by Labor's Sharryn Jackson with a 1 per cent margin.

In Perth, the Liberals this week blitzed mining companies, sending out 450 letters seeking a "direct financial contribution" for a marginal-seats campaign to kill the resources super-profits tax.

A special Morgan poll - taken after the mining tax changes and last Tuesday's budget and released yesterday - showed the Coalition would win a close election if it were held this weekend.

The poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday nights found Labor's primary vote had slumped 3.5 percentage points in a week to 36 per cent, while the Coalition's vote increased 1.5 points to 46 per cent, giving the opposition a two-party-preferred lead of 52-48 per cent over the government.

The Morgan survey follows leaked party polling published in Sydney's Daily Telegraph yesterday, showing Mr Abbott to be the most popular leader in key NSW marginal seats and that the government could lose the western Sydney seat of Lindsay, the north coast seat of Page and the bellwether regional seat of Eden-Monaro.

Yesterday, in his home town of Brisbane, Mr Rudd defended the mining tax and predicted it would win support among voters as it would fund local infrastructure.

"I think if you spoke on the ground to what people are saying in those communities about what they need locally and how it should be funded, every one of those communities I've been to, whether it's in Rocky or whether it's in Mackay or Gladstone - each one of the local authorities

has asked me this question: how do we plan for and fund for growth? How do we do that?" Mr Rudd said. "Now, we can't just invent that from somewhere, that's got to come from somewhere, and that's why we believe that there should be a fair share and a fair return for miners, that's true."

Wayne Swan also used an address in Brisbane to sell the budget before a trip to Perth tomorrow.

The Treasurer, addressing the Queensland Media Club, said he wanted Brisbane to be the first stop in his post-budget tour "because I think Queensland's economy is arguably the best backdrop for the biggest economic challenges and debates we're having right now".

"When you're talking about the challenges of a two-speed economy; when you're talking about the impact of a high dollar; when you're talking about another resources boom and all that means for the demand on infrastructure and skills, Queensland is a great place to start," Mr Swan said.

Mr Rudd has swept through NSW and Queensland seats in the past month, holding meetings of up to two hours with newspaper editors in centres including Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns as he promoted his health reform package.

This week he paid tribute to the local press while sledging ABC 7.30 Report interviewer Kerry O'Brien, saying the locals reported "what's happening on the ground".

Fraser Coast Chronicle editor Peter Chapman said his meeting with the Prime Minister was "one of the most refreshing talks I've had with a politician in my life".

The next day the paper ran a headline saying "Prime Minister is our new very best friend", while explaining the importance of the Nationals-held marginal seat of Hinkler to the upcoming election.

The Townsville Bulletin editor Peter Gleeson suspected he would see more of Mr Rudd in coming months. "It's obvious that he sees Herbert and Dawson as prime targets at the next election and so he should - they're both marginal," Gleeson said.

Mr Abbott said the government was proposing with its new mining tax to "plunge a dagger into the heart of Australia's prosperity".

"It is a triple-whammy tax," the Opposition Leader said. "It is a tax on the 500,000 Australian workers whose jobs depend directly or indirectly on the mining industry. It's a tax on the millions of Australian retirees whose incomes are drawn from those shares and those dividends that the mining companies pay.

"It's a tax on consumers because you can't raise the price of coal, you can't raise the price of oil and gas, you can't raise the price of building material, you can't raise the price of fertiliser, without that flowing through into the Consumer Price Index."

Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Swan conceded the resource super-profits tax could cost Labor at the election, but said he was acting in the national interest. He said he could not do nothing after receiving analysis showing how much Australians were being ripped off under the current state-based mining royalty regime.

Labor has been struggling in the Queensland marginals for months, especially mining-rich Dawson and Flynn, where there have been fears the now-shelved Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and now the mining tax, will halt the resources boom.

First-term Labor MP in Flynn Chris Trevor has publicly raised his concerns over the proposed tax, as has Labor's candidate in Dawson, Mike Brunker.

The Coalition is trying to unsettle blue-collar voters who have already questioned the government's handling of insulation and school upgrade programs.

Leichhardt services the lucrative far north Queensland bauxite mines, and Labor incumbent Jim Turnour faces a comeback from popular former Liberal member Warren Entsch.

The Nationals have been active in the marginals - Barnaby Joyce is the lead campaigner in Flynn and Dawson - warning of the threat Labor poses to both the national and local economy, and questioning why more mining royalties have not been returned to mining communities.

Senator Joyce told The Weekend Australian yesterday he had spoken to packed houses in Mackay and Gladstone, and Lismore in the NSW marginal seat of Page, and that "the mood is changing" in favour of the Coalition.


More Rudd loopiness over mining tax

He is making completely contradictory claims about it. Will the tax grow or shrink the industry? BOTH, says Rudd!

KEVIN Rudd is refusing to budge on the 40 per cent rate of his new $12 billion-a-year mining tax but has held out the prospect of changes in the details in the face of continuing pressure from miners.

Mining executives accuse the Prime Minister of wanting to slow growth in the resources sector to help slower sectors catch up.

Defending the new tax in Queensland yesterday, Mr Rudd said the government believed "we've got the rate about right" but "on the question of detail, on the question of implementation, on the question of transition, that's all part of the consultation process".

The industry wants the government to lower the rate, allow more deductions and raise the threshold for the start of the tax from 6 per cent of profits.

Mr Rudd said people in Mackay told him "the mining boom is fantastic -- what we want is a fairer share of the proceeds for our city".

But the latest Morgan poll has shown a majority of people oppose the resource super-profits tax and mining executives are complaining about Mr Rudd's comments to a dinner last week in Perth.

The miners said Mr Rudd told them the new tax would help the rest of the economy by slowing down the mining sector. At the private dinner on May 4, the Prime Minister argued that the commodities sector had driven up the value of the dollar so much it was hurting other areas of the economy. Mr Rudd cited financial services, tourism, wine exports and foreign students, which he said were being badly damaged.

He said the executives might be looking after their shareholders' interests, but as Prime Minister he had a responsibility to govern for all Australians and to ensure more balance in the economy.

Mr Rudd's blunt comments contradict the government's repeated assertions that the proposed 40 per cent tax on mining super profits is not aimed at slowing investment.

In the face of strong criticism from the federal opposition and mining industry that the new tax would slow down development, ministers have repeatedly denied this prospect or that they wanted to use the tax to deal with the pressures of a two-speed economy.

Tony Abbott has given notice he wants the election to turn on the imposition of a tax, which he maintains will kill off the resources boom -- a claim dismissed by the Prime Minister. The stunned executives were told by the Prime Minister at the Perth dinner that the mining industry was creating problems by soaking up skilled labour and that the sector cost a lot to support in terms of infrastructure and funding remote towns.

Mr Rudd said that in terms of return to GNP, the mining industry gave back less to the community than did the finance sector.

He also said the new tax would be popular with 80 per cent of Australians. In contrast, he said the fall in the government's polling figures was all to do with the tax hike on cigarettes.

The industry was expecting a profits tax but has been blindsided by its punitive design, the details of which were not discussed with companies in advance.

They believe its impact, particularly on the larger, low-cost profitable projects that have contributed heavily to the surging terms of trade, will be disastrous and dramatically hold back large-scale investment.

The Reserve Bank and Treasury believe a slowdown in the resources sector would have benefits from a macro-economic viewpoint, in particular reducing inflationary pressures and capacity constraints in terms of labour and infrastructure.

But the official modelling on which the government is relying predicts an increase in investment in the mining industry because it will supposedly encourage the development of smaller, more marginal projects. [Only an intellectual could make such a stupid assumption. I cannot even begin to think of a reasonable rationale for it -- JR]


A VERY "stimulating" price, courtesy of Kevvy and the NSW government

More abuse of "stimulus" money. Neither Leftist government seems even to have heard of cost control or contract supervision. Waste is normal to Leftist governments. They just don't care about it. It's not their personal money that they are wasting

PARENTS at a NSW school are furious that the cost of a new library funded under the Rudd government's Building the Education Revolution program has blown out to be almost three times the manufacturer's price.

Last year, Cattai Public School, in the Hawkesbury region north of Sydney, was told it would be given a $678,000 library and a $202,000 shade structure under the federal government's $16.2 billion schools stimulus program.

At the time, Parents & Citizens Association president Helena Bark raised serious concerns over those costings, as the pre-fabricated "cookie-cutter" designed library cost just $341,000 from the manufacturer.

Further, the school had 18 months earlier built a covered outdoor learning area, or COLA, twice as big as the proposed new structure for $70,000, just one third of the proposed price.

Now, not only have the school's concerns gone unanswered, but they have been told the cost of the library has blown out to $920,000 - more than the school's entire original budget - and plans for a new shade structure have been scrapped.

"We have been told we cannot have the COLA anymore because the library has gone over-budget," Ms Bark told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "We had asked for amendments to the building design because it was too small but we were told we couldn't change anything because it was all pre-designed and pre-determined by the NSW government. "But now we're told one thing has changed, and that's the price."

Ms Bark said the school's repeated requests for information regarding how the price of the prefabricated building had soared by more than one-third in the past year had been unanswered by the NSW government and the managing contractor handling the scheme, Brookfield Multiplex.

"Our unanswered question remains: how can pre-fabricated, standard government-designed buildings simply soar in price for no apparent reason?" she said.

The issue of vastly inflated prices of pre-fabricated "cookie-cutter" designed buildings delivered under the scheme is becoming a key focus of wastage under the BER.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard has attempted to explain away scores of examples of public schools receiving poor value for money under the BER compared with private schools and industry costing standards by claiming such examples do not compare "apples with apples".

However, under the BER the standard design, pre-fabricated libraries, school halls and classrooms are manufactured by the same companies that were building those identical structures before the BER.

The manufacturers traditionally deliver and fully install those buildings - at a total cost of between $400,000 and $500,000. Under the BER in NSW, managing contractors take control of the buildings and install them, typically charging about $900,000.

Those manufacturers interviewed have been outraged by the enormous prices being charged for those buildings, but say they are unable to speak out for fear of losing key contracts with the NSW government.


New national curriculum less rigorous than existing NSW curriculum

The new national curriculum threatens to water down the content of some Higher School Certificate courses for NSW senior secondary school students, critics say. And they say the consultation period for the draft curriculum, which ends on July 30, is being rushed in an election year.

The highest-level courses in maths and English do not appear to extend students as much as existing courses, under the proposals for years 11 and 12.

NSW students will have to learn more about statistics in maths and the modern history of Asian countries under the draft curriculum for year 11 and 12 students. A strong focus on World War I in year 12 will be replaced with an emphasis on World War II, the Cold War and the modern history of Australia's Asia-Pacific neighbours.

Teacher associations fear many of the changes threaten the rigour of the HSC syllabus. The national curriculum specialist maths course covers only some of the more challenging areas of the extension two HSC course.

For most students studying English the focus will shift from literature to language and literacy. But a specialist literature course will be available for brighter students.

A spokeswoman for the NSW English Teachers Association, Eva Gold, said: "The problem for NSW is that all our top students, even those with an inclination towards maths and the sciences, engage in a rigorous study of literature and language. In the national curriculum, top students may not have the exposure to literature that we are used to."

The president of the Mathematical Association of NSW, Mary Coupland, said: "A lot of work needs to be done to make it anywhere near as good as what we have in NSW. I get a sense it is all being rushed."

Rob Randall, general manager curriculum for the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, said the national curriculum courses would replace equivalent courses in each state and territory.

States and territories could continue to offer extension courses, he said.

Launching the draft curriculum at North Ryde Public School, the federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, said it was "important to our sense of being one nation". "It's important to those school kids who move from one state to another during school, and around 80,000 schoolchildren [do so] each year."

The state Minister for Education, Verity Firth, said that while she recognised that having eight curriculums was unsustainable, a national curriculum posed a problem. She believed the national curriculum would not water down the high standards of NSW but raise them everywhere.


Queensland cops colluded to protect killer colleague

The thug in question above

QUEENSLAND police colluded to protect an officer who caused the fatal injuries to an Aboriginal man in his custody, a coroner has found. However, Coroner Brian Hine said the unreliability of police and Aboriginal witnesses meant he was not able to make a definitive finding on the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee.

Mr Doomadgee died on the floor of a watch-house cell on Palm Island in November 2004.

Mr Hine accepted the fatal injuries suffered by Mr Doomadgee - a burst portal vein and a liver which was cleaved in two - were caused by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. However he was unable to rule whether the injuries were inflicted deliberately or accidentally.

Mr Hine said the injuries could have been caused by Sen Sgt Hurley accidentally falling on top of Mr Doomadgee or by the officer "dropping a knee into his torso". He also accepted Sen Sgt Hurley had punched Mr Doomadgee in the face and abused him during his attempts to force him into the police station.

The coroner's inability to deliver a definitive finding on the death in custody of an Aboriginal man was a "tragedy", the deceased's family says.

Lawyer Andrew Boe, representing the family of Cameron Doomadgee, said the officers should "hang their heads in shame". "This is a tragedy not just for the family, but for all of us, to think that this level of investigation went so badly because of the specific conniving conduct of police officers" he told reporters in Townsville. "This judgment documents an abysmal failure of duty of care to a man in custody and abysmal investigation by police."

The inquest held fresh hearings in March after Queensland's Court of Appeal upheld a decision to overturn the 2006 findings into the matter by Deputy Coroner Christine Clements.

Sen Sgt Hurley was acquitted of Mr Doomadgee's manslaughter by a Townsville jury in 2007. [That acquittal would now appear to be badly polluted by police malfeasance. Grounds for a re-trial?]


(Note that this is just one of the recent stories on my Queensland Police blog)

14 May, 2010

Conservative reply to Labor Party budget

Abbott vows to stop the ceaseless growth of the bureaucracy and stop strangling the mining industry

TONY Abbott last night declared war on Kevin Rudd's resource super profits tax and pledged to balance the nation's books through deep cuts in spending. "This reckless spending must stop," he said in his official Budget reply speech, a key test in the 2010 race for The Lodge.

Foreshadowing a "rolling" series of economic announcements in the lead-up to the election, he provided few details of his alternative plan but committed to wipe out the existing $40 billion deficit in the same time-frame as the Government but without big new taxes.

This will be achieved through cutting public servant jobs and slashing government advertising by 25 per cent. A two-year freeze on public service recruitments is calculated to save the Budget some $4 billion over the next three years. Uniformed and front-line service personnel would be excluded.

Risking the ire of business, he acknowledged that scrapping the mining tax would make tax cuts impossible. "Until Labor's debt and deficit has been dealt with, it's not hardness of heart but economic prudence to say "no" even to good causes," he said.

"In other circumstances, you could fund a company tax cut and depreciation allowances for small business but not at the cost of an economy-stopping tax on our most successful export industry."

The typically combative display showed he would not be dictated to by the Government's budget strategy which relies heavily on the $12 billion Resource Super Profits Tax yet to pass the Parliament.

"Let me make this clear, the Coalition will oppose the mining tax in opposition and we will rescind it in government," he said. "It's my goal to return the Budget to surplus at least as quickly as the Government proposes but not the lazy way through a great big new tax that threatens miners' jobs, retirees' incomes, and everybody's standard of living."

The Government's $16 billion school halls program would be restructured rather than cut by giving money directly to school communities. The national broadband network, however, would be scrapped.

Mr Abbott said, that if elected, he would be true to both the conservative and liberal traditions of his party. "We will be a contemporary government, not just a conservative one." Earlier in the day, Mr Abbott showed he understood the weight of the occasion.

"This is a very big moment for me," he said. That admission came as the Government launched a pre-emptive all-guns-blazing assault in a bid to deny him the scope to bring the Budget back into the black as fast as the Government's 2012-13 time-line.


It’ll be easy being green in Australia after $30m "education" campaign

Brainwashing and propaganda are always described by Leftists as "education"

THE government will embark on a $30 million “education’’ campaign on climate change, following the shifting public opinion on its failed emissions trading scheme. The national campaign will run on radio, print, TV and a dedicated website to “educate the community on climate change, including on climate change science,’’ budget papers said.

The government has also pledged an extra $102.7 million to deliver over 600,000 home sustainability assessments, which provide advice on ways to improve energy and water efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Investment in renewable energy will see an injection of $652 million over four years in a future fund, to leverage private investment in large and small scale renewable energy projects, including wind, solar and biomass.

Additional funding worth $178.2 million over two years for the international Climate Change Adaptation Initiative will go towards helping countries in the Pacific and Caribbean to ``better adapt to the impacts of climate change through improved scientific information, planning and assessment and financing of adaptation measures.’’

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government ``accepts the science of climate change and the need for combined global and domestic action.’’

“As we continue to work to build the necessary domestic and international consensus for carbon markets, we will roll out the most substantial renewable energy plan this country has seen – consistent with our decision to increase the renewable energy target to 20 per cent by 2020,’’ he said.


Cheating teacher admits changing test results

Another teacher who just can't face having his poor performance known

A teacher at an Adelaide primary school has been suspended after admitting to altering national literacy and numeracy test results.

Another teacher at St Leonard's Primary School at Glenelg North dobbed in the teacher when she saw year seven NAPLAN test results being altered. It is not yet clear whether the teacher will be sacked.

South Australia's Education Minister Jay Weatherill says the students will be tested again to ensure the integrity of the controversial NAPLAN testing.

"An equivalency test is available. That test will be available to be administered next week. Parents will be advised this afternoon of the incident that has occurred at the school and the fact that every effort will be made to ensure that their students, their children are not disadvantaged," he said.

"On any objective view of the professional obligations of a teacher, this behaviour is utterly unacceptable. I think any teacher would understand that, even this teacher I think must be fully aware of the consequences of the action.

"This teacher has been stood down from duty and the disciplinary process will now take its course."


New resources tax a threat to all investment

I CAN understand the justification for mining royalties but the proposed resources rent tax makes no economic sense.

According to the traditional theory of the mine, royalties are levied as a payment to the owner of a resource to compensate for the depletion of that resource. The royalty is a price signal reflecting the fact that production subtracts from the value of a resource. Under simplified conditions the royalty on a unit of ore should be equal to the value of the same amount of ore in the ground immediately prior to depletion, appropriately discounted back to the present. This amount is hard to calculate in practice but the principle is clear.

By signalling that ore in the ground has a future value, royalties encourage conservation. The higher the royalty the more likely it is that production will be deferred into the future, perhaps to a time when resource prices are higher. In Australia, royalties are often received by state governments, which claim the legal ownership of minerals. But they can also be received by companies and individuals. Royalties would still be paid in a fully free enterprise system and, in the language of economics, they are required for inter-temporal efficiency, or efficiency over time. They also allow the owners of a resource to maintain their asset position; as their resource in the ground depletes, the royalties give them a flow of funds to purchase other and similarly valued assets.

Australian economists have tended to regard royalties as disreputable, perhaps because of the influence of the US approach to mineral economics. The theme of US mineral economic theory, which originated during the Depression, was that resources would always be plentiful and cheap without ever becoming exhausted. If ore sitting in the ground has no value, and the mining industry can always operate at constant cost, then mineral royalties would be just another government imposition and more resource misallocation. Yet the theory that once made sense in the US is highly anomalous in modern Australia. If there are excess profits in the Australian mining industry it is only because ore bodies do have a value.

In fact, the tax has no particular connection to mining or resources at all. If it were really appropriate for the mining industry, it should be equally appropriate for all other industries and for the same reasons. Excess profits are general, not industry specific. Additional 40 per cent taxes could be levied, with as much justification, on the excess profits of banks and the financial sector, farmers, shops, industrials, hotels or any other group we envied or disliked.

A resources rent tax is less efficient than a royalty precisely because the rent tax doesn't correct inter-temporal misallocation. The case for the resource rent tax is that it is neutral, meaning that it will not discourage investment. This is correct in the instance of a theoretical resources rent tax, which observes precise mathematical rules. It would tax the profits of all mining companies at 40 per cent but then it would have contributed 40 per cent of the total wherewithal to bring these companies to production. The government would pay 40 per cent of the total costs of the mining sector, but it would get 40 per cent of the total return. Conversely each mining company would put in only 60 per cent of the total costs, but each would take only 60 per cent out, leaving the company in the same position except that its scale would be reduced. The company would get less but it would also need less of its own finance to get a project started. The government would forgo tax receipts until its 40 per cent share accumulated, but eventually, if there were excess profits, it would be rewarded for years to come. But we have been talking about a theoretical resources rent tax, and between the theory and the fact there lies a large gap.

A theoretical resources rent tax resembles a sovereign wealth fund. A sovereign wealth fund would be even better than a theoretical resources rent tax because it would allow the government to select its investments. After all, the mining industry has more than its share of liars, lairs and lunatics and the government is not really in a position to invest 40 per cent across the whole sector without consideration of the details of any project. The differences between a theoretical resources rent tax and a sovereign wealth fund are:

(i) If someone wins the lottery, and if the government has paid for 40 per cent of all the tickets and gets 40 per cent of the prizes, then it has levied a theoretical resource rent tax.

(ii) If the government simply buys 40 per cent of the lottery tickets and takes its own chances, then it has established a sovereign wealth fund.

(iii) If the government claims 40 per cent of the prize after the event, offering to pay 40 per cent of just the one winning ticket, then it is a levy on capital.

The implementation of the tax will doubtless combine the theoretical resource rent tax with a capital levy but, whereas the neutrality of the resource rent tax has been emphasised, the capital levy will be the more significant part of the package. The theoretical resources rent tax is simple to express in general terms but it is extremely complex to implement. A government that tried to implement the pure form would not just subsidise contemporary exploration, but would pay its full 40 per cent share of all historical costs. It would offer 40 per cent subsidies for all the exploration that has previously occurred in Australia, and for all the past development and the infrastructure spending. The government would track down the mining firms that had failed and disappeared - the losers of the lottery - and offer their shareholders 40 per cent of their past expenditure. Alternatively it would offer the winners a risk premium, a substantial multiple of what they had spent, because they had climbed the investors' wall of worry while the government held back. But the government is not in a position to act in this way or on this scale. Nor do I believe that the government would want to outlay more money than it received for years to come.

Confiscatory capital levies do not have the properties of a resource rent tax and they are not neutral with respect to investment, enterprise and risk. Commonsense and experience suggest that a pseudo resources rent tax would substantially discourage mining investment. If it were perceived to be part of a pattern of confiscation it would discourage investment in all Australian industries for a long time to come. Would the reader still keep their money in a bank that had commandeered 40 per cent of the depositors' cash balances? It is not sensible to tax another 40 per cent of the value of the entire Australian mining sector, offer crumbs in return, and expect no repercussions on investment.

So what should the government do if the resource rent tax is abandoned? I believe state royalties are too low so there is room for the commonwealth to impose profitable ad valorem royalties (calculated as a fraction of the value of the mining output rather than dollars a ton) and good reason to put the money not into general revenue, but a sovereign wealth fund.

This should be structured to have resilience against downwards movements in the resource industry, for no one knows the future, and it should also be used to buy Australians a part ownership of the mining sector. That policy, unlike the resource rent tax, would be consistent with efficiency and economic growth.


13 May, 2010

Australian science body wants money to prove that the Medieval Warm Period was global

The writer below is a geoscientist but makes his case for funding by omitting a lot of the evidence he should be aware of -- such as the borehole data I mentioned yesterday. He's got Buckley's chance anyway as skeptical science doesn't get official funding

THE deferral of Australia's emissions trading scheme for three years allows us time for additional scientific studies that may be critical in shaping future legislation.

A touchstone in the debate on causes of global warming is the record of global temperatures of past millennia. Most who follow this debate are familiar with the cooling from the 16th to 18th centuries known as the Little Ice Age; this is generally accepted as a global phenomenon.

Most are also aware of the Medieval Warm Period covering much of the 9th to 15th centuries. This has been the source of greater debate because, while it is clear in anecdotal descriptions from Europe, such as Vikings growing crops in Greenland, it is less clear whether it is a global phenomenon. The debate has high stakes because the rate of warming and temperatures attained in Europe during the MWP are of similar order to the warming of past decades. If the MWP were to be proven to be global, then the basis of present science stating that industrial-era carbon emissions are the dominant cause of today's warming would be significantly undermined.

One of the giants of global warming science, Wally Broecker of Columbia University in New York, wrote a discussion in 2001 of evidence for the MWP being a global phenomenon, concluding tentative support for its global nature. Three years later, Phil Jones, now director of the Climate Research Unit, East Anglia, co-authored a review that concluded the MWP was a regional phenomenon. The IPCC4 report of 2007 concluded similarly; curiously, Broecker's paper did not get a mention.

Proving the MWP or other historic and prehistoric European warm periods to be global is not easy because large-scale atmospheric-ocean interactions are capable of producing either or both of warming in one hemisphere matched by cooling in the other, and warming in high latitudes balanced by cooling in tropical latitudes.

A statistical analysis of all the available temperature records by Michael Mann and colleagues of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, published in Science last year, also concluded the MWP was regional. However, that study was dominated by northern hemisphere records, leaving open the question of whether more global data may give a more global conclusion.

The ongoing importance of debate over the MWP is underscored by comments by Jones in a recent BBC interview, where he said the MWP was best expressed in records from the northern hemisphere, adding: "If the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today [based on an equivalent coverage over the northern and southern hemispheres] then obviously the late-20th-century warmth would not be unprecedented."

Undoubtedly the truth is contained in temperature records written in terrestrial biological records, ice sheets and rocks. Thus far, however, the process of deciphering those records has been successful at only a couple of dozen sites, distributed unevenly across the globe.

There are climate records from the southern hemisphere, from Cold Air Cave stalagmites in northern South Africa, tree rings in Tasmania and New Zealand, and ice core records in Law Dome, Antarctica, all of which show an imprint of a medieval warming.

One of these localities, the Cold Air Cave stalagmites, has been studied for more than a decade by a team led by Karin Holmgren of Stockholm University, Sweden. A reduction in temperature of about a degree is evident for the Little Ice Age. Before that we see a 700-year stretch of time corresponding to the MWP, which contains perhaps eight approximately 100-year-long cycles, of which five show temperatures similar to or greater than those of the past century. The authors postulate these centennial cycles are driven by variations attributable to the sun. But results from a single site do not prove the warming and cooling to be global.

I am not aware of any comparable published studies in Australia; it would be most instructive if evidence for a MWP and centennial climate cycles were to emerge - or be proved absent - from studies across a range of latitudes on this continent. Indeed, if the centennial cycles noted in South Africa are sun-driven, we may well ask if we have similar cycling in our own climate; the great Federation drought (1895-1902) and the present drought of southeastern Australia might be seen as part of a cyclic continuum rather than the latter being attributed mainly to anthropogenic global warming.

Another tool for documenting climate change in past centuries was announced in March in the journal Nature. William Patterson, an isotope chemist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, led a team in a study of oxygen isotope data in clam shells recovered from a drill hole in a bay off the coast of Iceland. Unlike tree rings (which yield at best annual temperature variations) growth lines in the clam shells yield weekly or even daily temperature records. Patterson's work affirms evidence for the MWP in Iceland.

This high-resolution method may be applied to clam or other shells in coastal geological records the world over. It has the potential to answer quantitatively the key scientific question of whether the medieval warming was a global phenomenon. If the answer were to be yes, then warming during the past century should be seen as predominantly natural climate change rather than driven by man-made carbon emissions. A legislative response would be no less important but would focus on environmental management of the consequences of change.

There is a huge opportunity for CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to extend their recent climate assessment, which was based on 1960-2010 data, to incorporate fossil-shell, cave-deposit and tree-ring records from tropical to Antarctic Australia and territories. This would cost a few per cent of the $652 million allocated on Tuesday to the new Renewable Energy Future Fund. It would make Australia a leader in addressing a great scientific challenge of our time.


Rudd cuts back the army

Typical Leftist budget move. The Australian army is tiny anyway -- but still has many calls on it

THE build-up of Australia's High Readiness Reserve of troops has been halted, with the Rudd government demanding a leaner, better-equipped and more capable force.

While the Howard government saw the need for rapid expansion of the HRR to help with the war on terror and overseas deployments, Labor's policy of doing more with less in Defence will see the Reserves undergo sweeping changes.

The Australian revealed in January that Defence chiefs were considering a secret plan to send more Reserves to the front line, using part-time personnel to fill skill shortages and help relieve members on multiple, repeat deployments.

The Howard government wanted 2460 in the HRR by next financial year, but Tuesday's federal budget confirms there will be only 1500 personnel, with its total strength to remain at 1626 after 2011-2012 -- much lighter than envisaged under the Coalition, and still 535 fewer than Labor anticipated a year ago.

A Defence spokesman confirmed the HRR had been "rationalised" to just six company-size combat teams. The future of its surplus personnel will be decided next financial year.

"By 2014, a full review of HRR conditions of service, training and preparedness will have been completed to see how the HRR capability may be generated more effectively," the spokesman said.

Defence is also moving to expand the general Reserves and add to its skills base, while cutting costs. The Defence spokesman said regular members who completed full-time service would be encouraged to transfer to the Reserve.

By increasing the rate of transfer by 15 per cent from 2012, Defence will not only bolster Reserve capability but reduce training costs for departing members who might otherwise take a break before returning on a part-time basis.

With certain specialist and technical ADF personnel in most demand -- and most at risk of being poached by the private sector -- the broader role of Reserves is also being redefined.

Not only is the ADF assessing and recording the civilian qualifications and experiences of its members, in the hope some can fill skill shortages, but industry bodies are also being approached with a view to establishing Sponsored Reserves.

Force modernisation reviews in the army may see full-time, part-time and civilian components integrated to maintain capability and reduce costs.


Register of UNMARRIED relationships in NSW?

The man who will be the state's attorney-general if government changes at next year's election, Greg Smith, went down with the metaphorical ship late on Tuesday night, when the Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly to establish a register for unmarried couples.

The register is to make it easier for such couples (opposite-sex and same-sex) to qualify for de facto status but is seen by some to be a back door into a blazing world of permissiveness.

While the government voted along party lines, the Coalition declared a conscience vote on the legislation. Cue Smith: "For too long the debate about marriage … has been dominated by ideological pontificating," he told Parliament. "The passing of this bill will be another increment in the undermining and destruction of marriage and the traditional family."

After managing to get in a reference to the Alamo (!), Smith claimed: "The supporters of marriage and the family feel like the occupants of strife-torn Derry during the troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s."

Also opposing the legislation were Michael Richardson (Lib), Greg Aplin Lib), Katrina Hodgkinson (Nat), Malcolm Kerr (Lib), Wayne Merton (Lib), Andrew Stoner (Nat), John Williams (Nat) and Thomas George (Nat).

The bill, which was to be presented to the Legislative Assembly last night, is not certain to go through. Before the session, the Premier, Kristina Keneally, who has been referring to the bill on Twitter as "My Govt's Bill" (even though she herself did not vote on it), tweeted the following: "My Govt's Relationship Register Bill, endorsed by my cabinet & caucus, risks defeat today in upper house at the hands of Barry O'Farrell."

But even Keneally must see that a conscience vote hardly constitutes a concerted effort to defeat "her" - or any - bill.


The good old State-run Queensland ambulance service again

Dad dies after 75-minute wait for ambulance following heart attack. QAS are good at that sort of thing. Public servants don't give a damn, basically

A FAMILY has been left shattered after a 45-year-old father of three died waiting for an ambulance that took 75 minutes to find him after he suffered a heart attack.

The Queensland Ambulance Service has referred the case to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission and the coroner. The QAS ethical standards unit will also investigate and notify the Crime and Misconduct Commission of its findings.

It is the third time since 2006 that a Mackay heart attack victim has died waiting for an ambulance.

Gregory van Moolenbroek was unloading a garden trench digger on Monday afternoon on a vacant block near Marian, outside Mackay, when he began feeling unwell. In desperation he contacted his wife, Sharyn, at their North Mackay home and asked her to call an ambulance. Mrs van Moolenbroek immediately called 000, telling a dispatcher in Rockhampton her husband needed help and had a heart condition.

The QAS dispatched a vehicle within five minutes. However it went to the wrong location and became lost after 30 minutes, apparently because crucial information wasn't communicated to the driver who thought he was looking for a house instead of a block of land. The entrance to the vacant block was not clearly marked, but Mr van Moolenbroek's white vehicle was visible from the road.

The call was also dispatched as a code 2a, not a code 1 (full emergency response with lights on flash).

Mr Moolenbroek's father, Adriaan, said his son, a coal terminal worker, had three children, aged 21, 19 and 17. "I will do my best for the rest of my days to make sure this never happens again," he said.

After calling 000, Mrs van Moolenbroek drove to the property to be with her husband and waited in vain as the emergency crew circled the area.

It was unclear why the dispatcher did not keep Mrs van Moolenbroek on the phone. "It was a terrible situation for her to have been left in," Mr van Moolenbroek's grieving brother, Mark, said.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone, who has criticised QAS's management as overly bureaucratic and not focused on outcomes, demanded the Government do a thorough investigation. "This is an absolute stuff-up," he said.

The QAS confirmed the details of the incident but did not comment further.

A special investigation by The Courier-Mail over two months last year highlighted concerns about the QAS's dispatch process, equipment, spending and workplace culture.


Amazing sloth from Victorian ambulance too

And the bureaucrats are in denial

A grieving father whose son was the victim of an ambulance delay is demanding to know whether the delay was deadly. The trip from Adam Cummaudo's Epping home to the Austin Hospital should have taken about 20 minutes, But when the 25-year-old arrived at hospital, 90 minutes after an ambulance was called, he was unresponsive.

Yesterday - three years after his son's death, after collapsing at home from a stroke- Sam Cummaudo was at a parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing to see Health Minister Daniel Andrews questioned about Adam's death, and other delays.

"I think about him every day. It is a pain that never goes away," Mr Cummaudo said. "I should know that everything was done correctly for him, but I don't know whether he was given every chance. That is all I am looking for because I don't want any other parent to go though what I have."

Mr Cummaudo has gone to Ambulance Victoria, the coroner and the Health Services Commissioner - all of whom have found no wrongdoing by paramedics or the system.

But he yesterday accused Mr Andrews of hiding behind response figures and policies. He says he still doesn't know why paramedics would not lift his son into an ambulance, why they waited 21 minutes to call more paramedics for help, and why they did not take the most direct route to the hospital.

Ambulance Victoria chief executive officer Greg Sassella said investigations did not fault the treatment: paramedics arrived within 15 minutes, stabilised the patient and travelled 29 minutes to hospital. GPS data shows they took an appropriate route to the specialist stroke centre that had the best chance of saving Mr Cummaudo, he said.

Opposition health spokesman David Davis called on Mr Andrews and Premier John Brumby to fix the ambulance system. "An hour-and-a-half from Epping to the Austin hospital is simply not acceptable," he said.


12 May, 2010

A totally delusory budget just released

These guys seem to believe their own fantasies and lies. They are relying on a "new mining boom" to balance the budget after just adding a tax that has closed most of the proposed new mining projects down!

I reproduce just the mad bits below. He really thinks his new tax will raise lots of money. That tax hikes often REDUCE revenue seems quite unknown to him. People always act to avoid new taxes and thus often cancel out entirely the expected gains in revenue

THE Rudd Government is using new taxes and the mining boom Mark II to base its re-election pitch on a claim of good economic management using an early return to budget surplus in 2012-13 and an extended cap on Government spending....

The economic recovery is built on a $100 billion “clawback” of tax revenue lost during the financial crisis with most coming from big companies and personal income tax.

The return to a a surplus in 2013 is also built on what Mr Swan described as “the mining boom mark II” lifting revenues and growth, the new Rudd Government taxes on cigarettes, which raises $1.13 billion next financial year, and the Resources Super Profits Tax, which raises $3 billion in 2012-13 and $9 billion in 2013-14.


Andrew Bolt's comment on the budget

THIS is a Budget worth boasting about - if it didn't rely so crucially on desperate tax grabs, heroic assumptions and broken promises. And if it didn't betray just how much we've paid for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's mistakes already.

The boast is that the Government got us so well through a global financial crisis that it promises a boom next year. Even better, we'll return to a Budget surplus by 2013, three years ahead of schedule.

This is indeed good news, and gives Rudd a powerful argument to take to the next election, given many people assume he really is responsible for a recovery he didn't see coming.

True, there were remarkably few new giveaways of the election-year kind, and the few that were announced on Tuesday rarely sang. One of the biggest was $467 million for "individual electronic health records", yet few voters will know how precisely that's meant to make them better.

But Rudd has not only run through our surpluses, but our patience. He's promised so much and delivered so little that another flurry of promises could only have increased the growing scepticism many voters seem to feel at his every word.

So, sober and steady was the key - and it was particularly vital that he honour his word last year to keep real spending growth to no more than 2 per cent a year until we're back into surplus.

On all these critical points, the Budget was good for Rudd. The 50 per cent tax rebate on interest earned on bank deposits should also help him, and help our savings, too.

But look deeper in the Budget and you can see the desperation - even trickery - that produced his most flattering numbers. And you can see the billions he's so recklessly wasted.

"We have offset all new spending," crowed Treasurer Wayne Swan. Yet how crudely - and perhaps unsustainably - they did so. Fully half the $30 billion the Government claims as "savings" over the next four years came not from real savings but from just two last-minute grabs for cash.

Nearly $5 billion is to come from smokers - for their own good, of course - and another $12 billion from miners, thanks to the new "super profits" tax.

These are huge figures, and the mining tax depends crucially on there actually being "super profits" left to plunder.

If China's growth stalls and our mineral exports shrink, Rudd's forecasts are finished. If the miners, furious at Rudd's smash and grab, keep announcing the cancellation or deferral of big projects in response, his tax take will shrivel, and our economy with it.

Then there's Rudd's other sign of desperation - the shelving of the emissions trading scheme that he once claimed was his answer to the "greatest moral challenge" of our times. The Budget admits that delaying the ETS to some never-never time when other countries Do Something will save it another $3 billion in outlays over five years, largely in the compensation it won't have to pay for the great green tax it won't impose, either.

That's the second desperate measure Rudd took (actually more of a book-keeping fiddle) to meet his self-imposed 2 per cent cap on real spending growth - which in turn was probably his real motive in dropping the ETS, the greatest promise he ever made.

But such "savings" would not be so desperately needed were it not for Rudd's colossal waste and bungling. His disastrous weakening of our boat people laws, for instance, triggered a flood of boats that forced extra spending in this Budget of $202 million for more places in detention centres, $97 million for Christmas Island infrastructure, $16 million for the lease of an extra ship; and $6 million for two officials to work in Kabul to resettle Afghans sent home.

Or take the $2.5 billion free insulation fiasco. The Budget effectively treats the whole of the $1 billion left unspent when the scheme was scrapped as money needed to fix the homes made unsafe and the manufacturers left facing ruin.

Yes, it promises to return anything left over to the Budget, but no leftovers are predicted in its numbers. That means Rudd's insulation and boat people disasters alone will soak up all the extra tax he's now ripping off smokers over the next two years.

But there's more. His green loans scheme, which almost collapsed, is being saved with an extra $102 million. Another $13 million is being spent on a task force to check the rampant rorting reported in Rudd's $16 billion Building the Education Revolution.

Then there's the money being frittered on Rudd's global warming and global-posturing delusions - including more than $350 million to help other countries supposedly deal with a warming that's actually paused since 2001, another $652 million for the holy grail of renewable energy, and $30 million on a "national campaign to educate the community on climate change". Which means trying to persuade us that spending all this money on global warming isn't utterly mad.

Such waste. So little to show for the billions gone. Such frantic grabs for cash to make up for it all. But give Rudd credit. In three years, he cries, we'll be back in surplus again.

And quietly, just quietly, the Budget suggests he's finally learned from his many failures. It's on page 286 of Budget paper number 2 - a brief announcement that $12 million more is to be spent on Rudd's own department, to "support the delivery of the Government's reform agenda and implantation of its major new initiatives'. If only that help had come sooner.


Federal Government defends move to accomodate asylum seekers in motel

THE Federal Government is defending a decision to house 79 asylum seekers in a four-star Queensland motel, saying they are vulnerable families with children. "We don't think they should ever be put behind razor wire," Small Business Minister Craig Emerson told Sky News today.

The Palms Motel in suburban Brisbane reportedly has been awarded a $1.2 million government contract for at least six months to accommodate the group. A private security guard has been employed to protect them and other guests, Channel 9 said.

"These are very vulnerable families with children and it's something that needs to be done on a short-term basis," Dr Emerson said. The measure did not happen all the time, but it had occurred under the previous Howard government, he said. "Let's just have a little bit of space."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison acknowledged the practice was not new, but said the latest move was due to an upsurge in boat arrivals. "It happens when all of your detention centres are full," he said. "That's why people are in motels."

The Government's asylum-seeker policy was out of control, Mr Morrison said, adding 16 boats had arrived since Labor announced it was suspending new claims by Sri Lankan and Afghan boat arrivals.

Family First senator Steve Fielding says the move will only encourage more unauthorised boat arrivals. "First it was Hotel Christmas Island, now it's Hotel Queensland," he said in a statement. "There is no way we should be detaining asylum seekers in hotels because it just gives the people smugglers an extra selling point."

The immigration department says the group is under 24-hour "monitoring and guarding". "They're not allowed to come and go," spokesman Sandy Logan said. "They've all been through full security and health checks before being transferred from Christmas Island."


There sure are some shitheads who drive government buses

No wonder parents drive their kids to school. This driver should be fired immediately

A four-year-old Tasmanian girl was left distraught when she was thrown off a bus and told to walk by herself to school. Tiarnah Fahey of Gagebrook was thrown off a Metro bus at 8.24am yesterday because her free school bus pass or Greencard didn't work, The Mercury reports.

Her family says the female bus driver told the prep student that she had to walk to school up a hill and across busy double lanes of the East Derwent Highway until she could get her Greencard working.

Her quick-thinking sister Chloe, 13, jumped off the bus to save Tiarnah from being abandoned alone to walk to school. The bus then drove off, leaving the girl in tears.

Ms Watts said Greencards were provided to all her eight children as part of the Government's free school bus travel policy for social-welfare recipients and that Tiarnah's card being out of action had nothing to do with her, or the family's, finances. She said it must have been malfunctioning when placed on the bus-pass validation machine.

"How could anybody, let alone a bus driver who has a duty of care towards these school kids, abandon a little four-year-old by the road and expect her to walk 20 minutes to school?" Ms Watts said. "I'm angry, really angry. She's only four and all she wants to do is to go to school."

Tiarnah finally arrived at Herdsmans Cove Primary with the help of Chloe, who then had to walk for another hour to Bridgewater High.

Ms Watts said she had immediately called the Government-owned Metro company, after talking about the incident with Tiarnah's teachers. Metro chief executive Heather Haselgrove was not available for comment yesterday. However, the company has agreed to immediately send Tiarnah a new school bus pass.

A public relations company hired by Metro confirmed the bus company had received a complaint from Ms Watts, which it was taking seriously. "We are reviewing CC-TV vision from the relevant bus and are investigating," public relations executive Nicholas Turner said.


11 May, 2010

The hollow man revealed

KEVIN Rudd will stake his political future today on the gamble that he can convince voters that Labor is better at managing the economy than the Opposition.

Labor's final Budget before this year's Federal Election will need to halt the fall in the Prime Minister's personal approval, with Mr Rudd suffering his third damaging opinion poll in on ten days yesterday and senior Labor figures warning him that his leadership hinges on no more backflips.

In the poll released by the union-aligned Essential Research, Federal Labor's primary vote fell 11 points in six months to just 37 per cent and it was now only marginally more popular than the NSW Government.

On those figures, the Government could lose 20 seats, and up to six in NSW, including the Central Coast and key western Sydney marginals.

In a sign that the Prime Minister is now Labor's greatest liability, 39 per cent of voters said they could still trust Mr Rudd, a fall of more than 10 per cent in six months.

The ER poll echoes voter sentiment in last week's Newspoll and yesterday's Nielsen poll, but is potentially more damaging for the Government as ER polls are normally regarded as being favourable to Labor.

Management of the economy was the greatest single factor that would influence the way they voted, followed by health.

In just three months Labor has squandered its commanding poll lead and is now behind where it was going into the last Federal Election against John Howard. The collapse in the Government's fortunes was reflected in the primary vote, which dropped from 48 per cent six months ago to just 37 per cent yesterday.

Mr Rudd's own personal ratings also buckled, with a 10 per cent increase in the number of people who think he is superficial and a 11 per cent drop on those who think him a capable leader.

One Labor backbencher said: "It's just astounding to think about where we were, and where we are now, and how we got here." On a two party preferred basis, the Coalition and Labor are now at 50/50, making it impossible to pick a winner if there was a vote today.

Senior Labor Party figures have made it clear that Mr Rudd's leadership will not survive any further policy backflips or bungling.

The Prime Minister has told colleagues that he accepts responsibility for broken promises and backflips, including the decision to shelve a plan for a carbon emissions trading scheme and the home insulation scheme....

With heir apparent Julia Gillard yesterday twice forced to rule out a pre-election leadership challenge, the sources said Mr Rudd had to lift his game to reconnect with voters. "The only good thing about the polls is that while we have lost support, it's not going to Tony Abbott," one source said. "We can win it back. But it will take work."


Surveyor rejects 'insane' school building costs

THE nation's most respected construction costs surveyor will exclude the "insane" cost of school buildings delivered under the $16.2 billion schools stimulus program from its cost calculations because they would distort its data.

The principal of Rawlinsons in Australia, Paul McEvoy, said the group, which publishes the renowned industry costing guide Rawlinsons Construction Handbook, would discard the high cost of buildings delivered under the scheme as "anomalous".

As revealed by The Weekend Australian, state governments are charging public schools as much as $5800 a square metre for basic school halls being erected across the nation -- more than three times the amount Rawlinsons reports those buildings should cost.

"We produce this handbook each year and we have people undertaking cost research all year round to ensure its accuracy," Mr McEvoy said. "We discard anomalous projects where it looks like something is erroneous. We would never say it is going to cost $5000 (per sq m) to build a school hall. "We have so many examples of projects where buildings are consistent with our cost estimates; we would simply not use this (scheme) information."

Mr McEvoy said level-one or two primary school buildings typically cost between $1300 per sq m and $1400 per sq m to build, plus "professional services" fees of no more than 12 per cent.

Those costings allowed for contingencies for cost overruns and the full cost of preliminaries, substructure, superstructure, finishes, fittings, and services such as plumbing, electrical, fire and mechanical.

Mr McEvoy said he had no idea why school halls and libraries in NSW were being delivered at $5400 per sq m and $5800 per sq m respectively. "I can offer no explanation for such a high figure," he said."Insanity comes in many forms".

Education Minister Julia Gillard has been unable to explain why public schools are being charged so much for buildings under the BER, except to claim media reports were not comparing "apples with apples". "I often find when these figures are used in the newspapers there isn't a clear apples-to-apples accounting," Mr Gillard told Sydney radio host Alan Jones this week.

The high cost of buildings delivered to public schools under the BER has caused anger among school principals, with buildings delivered by state governments twice as likely to be viewed as poor value for money compared with those delivered independently.

The Australian National Audit Office's report into the schools stimulus, released on Wednesday, found 82 per cent of schools that were self-managing projects -- almost exclusively private schools -- believed they had received value for money compared with 40 per cent for other schools. Private schools have been obtaining buildings within industry standard costings, delivering them for far better value for money than their public peers.

The International Grammar School in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo is building an architect-designed four-level building, complete with arts and crafts centre, library and rooftop deck -- for $3.9 million. That equates to $2785 per sq m for the multi-level complex, less than half the cost by area of the modest school halls being given to public schools.

The Mount Evelyn Christian School in Melbourne's west is building a 1600sq m architect-designed hall to house two basketball courts, a rock climbing wall and a stage, for $2.27m. That equates to $1420 a square metre.

Mr McEvoy said CBD banks were among the most expensive type of buildings covered by Rawlinsons, and cost $5030 per sq m.


Your regulators will protect you (NOT)

THE Medical Practitioners Board is set to be sued for millions of dollars over Victoria's hepatitis C scandal as it emerges there could up to 100 victims.

Investigators are expanding their search for alleged victims of a hepatitis C-carrying doctor from 18 months to four years, involving thousands of patients. Detectives have told one victim they believe 100 women may have contracted the highly infectious disease.

In an unprecedented action, the medical board is facing legal action because it allegedly failed to protect patients.

Dr James Latham Peters, an anaesthetist, had a drug problem in the years before he is alleged to have infected women with hepatitis C at Croydon Day Surgery, Victoria's only late-term abortion clinic. The board registered Dr Peters despite his history of drug abuse and a 1996 conviction for falsely obtaining pethidine.

The medical board placed Dr Peters on its program for drug-abusing doctors and forced him to do drug tests for a year. It also limited his access to certain drugs until it was convinced he was clean and renewed his registration.

But his licence was suspended on February 15 after the Department of Human Services found 12 patients had been infected with a strain of hepatitis C genetically matched to the same virus carried by Dr Peters. It has also been revealed the females exposed to the doctor included teenagers wearing school uniforms when they went to the Croydon abortion clinic.

Legal sources claim the women could seek damages of about $300,000 each and if the number infected reaches 100 it would mean a $15 million damages claim.

One victim, Suzanne, said when she contacted a board member they had no explanation why Dr Peters was registered. "I wanted them to hear from a victim that the board is responsible for this," Suzanne said. "You don't give pedophile school teachers a second chance to go back into the classroom, so why do this for a drug-addicted doctor?"

Law firm Slater & Gordon is acting on behalf of seven women - three of whom have not been identified by the Health Department, suggesting there are more unreported cases. It is also investigating an eighth case.

The firm's leading medical lawyer, Paula Shelton, said: "My clients have been betrayed at a time when they have placed their trust and their health in the hands of a health professional. "Unfortunately, I think even more infections will come to light once women are contacted and tested."

She said the medical board was a statutory authority created by an Act of Parliament and any legal claim would be based on its breach of statutory duty to protect the community.


Carbon Capture & Burial – all Carbon Cemeteries are already Full.

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for an end to the colossal waste of community resources and energy on research and development for “Carbon Capture and Burial”.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that billions of dollars are being wasted on sacrifices to the global warming god - endless bureaucracy, politicised research, piddling wind and solar schemes, roof insulation disasters, ethanol subsidies, carbon credit forests, carbon trading frauds and huge compliance costs.

“But perhaps the biggest waste of all is the futile quest to capture carbon dioxide from power stations, separate it, compress it, pump it long distances and force it down specially drilled bore holes, hoping it will never escape.

“The effect of CO2 on global temperature, if it exists, is so small that no one has been able to demonstrate or measure it. The touted effect exists solely in computer models whose forecasts to date have all failed. Therefore there is ZERO proven benefit for mankind in trying to capture harmless CO2 in order to bury it in carbon cemeteries. Worse, it is removing valuable plant food from the biosphere – a step towards global food suicide. Moreover, for every tonne of carbon buried, we bury 2.7 tonnes of the gas of life – oxygen.

“The quantities of gas to be handled just from power stations are enormous. For every tonne of coal burnt, about 11 tonnes of gases are exhausted – 7.5 tonnes of nitrogen, 2.5 tonnes of CO2 and one tonne of water vapour. These are all harmless and valuable natural recycled atmospheric gases. Life on earth would be impossible without them.

“Normally these harmless gases are vented to the atmosphere after filters take out nasties like soot and noxious fumes. To capture the CO2 would require additional energy to collect the 11 tonnes of gases and separate the 2.5 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of coal burnt. Then even more energy would be required to compress this 2.5 tonnes of CO2 and pump it to the burial site.

“All of this is possible, but the capital and operating costs will be horrendous. It is estimated that 30% - 40% of the power currently generated will be used just on carbon capture, compression and pumping. More energy still is required to produce and erect the steel for all those pumps and pipes and to drill the disposal wells. All this will chew up more coal resources and produce yet more carbon dioxide, for no benefit.

“But the real problem starts at the burial site. “There is no vacuum occurring naturally anywhere on earth – every bit of space is occupied by solids, liquids or gases. Thus to dispose of CO2 underground requires it to be pumped AGAINST the pressure of whatever is in the pore space of the rock formation now – either natural gases or liquids. These pressures can be substantial, especially after more gas is pumped in.

“The natural gases in rock formations are commonly air, CO2, methane or rotten egg gas. The liquids are commonly fresh or salty water or, very rarely, liquid hydrocarbons.

To find a place where you could drive out oil or natural gas in order to make space to bury CO2 would be like winning the Lottery – a profitable but very unlikely event. Pumping air out is costly, pumping CO2 out to make room for CO2 is pointless and releasing large quantities of salty water or rotten egg gas would create a real surface problem, unlike the imaginary threat from CO2.

“In normal times, pumping fresh water out would be seen as a boon for most locals, but these days it is probably prohibited. Naturally, some carbon dioxide will dissolve in groundwater and pressurise it, so that the next water driller in the area could get a real bonus – bubbling Perrier Water on tap, worth more than oil.

“Regulating carbon dioxide is best left to the oceans – they have been doing it for millions of years. It’s time for tax payers and shareholders to protest this gigantic waste of money, energy and coal resources on fantasies like carbon capture and burial.

“Because, no matter where we look for space for carbon dioxide burial, we will find signs saying: “All carbon cemeteries are already full”.


10 May, 2010

Nurses to replace doctors under Labor Party plan

EVERY doctor's practice in the country will get its own nurse to help treat patients, make home visits, write prescriptions and co-ordinate follow-up care, under a medical revolution in tomorrow's Federal Budget.

Each GP will be eligible for $25,000, worth up to $75,000 a year to a three-doctor practice, enough to hire a full-time nurse.

The nurses will lead a revolution in healthcare, teaching patients with chronic problems like diabetes and heart disease how to manage their conditions, dressing wounds, and carrying out asthma tests and vaccinations.

They will also carry out pap smears, test blood sugar and cholesterol and co-ordinate follow-up care with specialists and health carers.

The care they provide is expected to come at no cost to the patient and it will free up GPs to carry out the more complex medical care.

Currently, government incentives for employing nurses are capped at $40,000 per practice and only apply in rural areas or those with a workforce shortage. About 40 per cent of practices do not employ a nurse.

Medicare also currently provides a rebate to doctors for only three types of services provided by nurses - pap smears, vaccinations and dressings.

The federal Budget will extend the incentives to employ a nurse at more general practices.

The payment will be lower if the practice employs an enrolled nurse with lower qualifications than a registered nurse or an Aboriginal health worker instead.

Medicare rebates for nurses are expected to be scrapped under the reforms with GP clinics instead receiving block government funding to employ nurses instead.

This will free up practice nurses to carry out a much wider range of healthcare duties.

Experts believe there are 441,000 unnecessary admissions to hospitals each year because patients don't manage their chronic conditions or get their follow-up care.

The job of the nurse will be to make sure this happens.

In a speech to the Australian Practice Nurses Association on Friday Health Minister Nicola Roxon promised nurses they would "play a key role" in the Government's reforms to primary health care.

Doctors are also expecting the Budget to contain government grants to the nation's 7000 GP practices so they can add rooms to their surgeries to accommodate the nurses and allied health practitioners like physiotherapists and dieticians.

This would help deliver on the Government's goal of turning every GP clinic into a one-stop shop for health care.


More people are realizing that Rudd hasn't got a clue

KEVIN Rudd's approval rating has slumped even further, and if an election were held now Labor would lose, a new poll shows. The Prime Minister's approval dropped by 14 percentage points in one month to 45 per cent, while his disapproval rating has risen 13 points to 49 per cent, according to a Nielsen poll published today.

The loss of personal support is the most dramatic for a prime minister in a decade and marks the first time Mr Rudd has had a disapproval rating higher than his approval rating.

The plunge comes in the wake of the Government's announcement last week of its 40 per cent tax on mining profits - a move that appears to have failed to gain popular backing. And it adds pressure on the Government to win support with tomorrow's Federal Budget, although Treasurer Wayne Swan said yesterday he would not use the Budget to try to buy votes.

The approval and disapproval ratings of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott remained steady at 46 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. But Mr Rudd still leads Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime mininster 53 to 38.

The poll of 1400 voters comes after a bad month for the Government, in which it scrapped the home insulation scheme and shelved attempts to implement an emissions trading scheme. It follows a similarly dire Newspoll published last week.

The Nielsen poll, which is published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age shows that on a two-party-preferred basis, Labor and the Coalition are even at 50 per cent, compared with 51-49 a month ago. This represents a 2.7-point two-party swing against Labor since the election. If the swing were uniform and an election were held now, Labor would lose 19 seats - and government.

Meanwhile, advertising legend John Singleton is being courted to handle Tony Abbott's election campaign. Several sources told The Australian that Mr Singleton, who helped catapult Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke into The Lodge - has been sounded out about handling the Liberal campaign after the party was advised it had to make a clean break with the campaigns of the Howard era if it hoped to win.

The Opposition Leader last night launched a pre-emptive election advertising campaign using the line "support real action", but it is believed the party could look to Mr Singleton for advice on how it can unseat Labor. It is understood Mr Singleton is considering the invitation, with his newly formed agency, Banjo, expected to take the account if a deal goes through.

Mr Singleton controls 2GB in Sydney, Australia's most influential talkback radio station which features Alan Jones and Ray Hadley as presenters, and recently extended his footprint to Melbourne with the launch of 3MTR, with Steve Price and Steve Vizard.

A source familiar with the situation said: "John has talked about the possibility of doing an election campaign for the Liberal Party. "John has had conversations (with Abbott), but they have been pretty short."


Huge hike in asylum funding

The good old generous taxpayer again -- paying for illiterate and useless Afghan Muslims to come here -- a choice bunch

THE Immigration Department will receive a multi-million-dollar funding boost in tomorrow's budget in an attempt to meet the rising cost of detaining asylum-seekers.

The funding comes as authorities report fewer boat arrivals as news of the Rudd government's temporary suspension of Afghan and Sri Lankan refugee claims filters through to prospective asylum-seekers.

The Australian has been told overseas-based Australian government agencies have briefed Canberra on the impact of the changes, announced last month.

While emphasising that their assessment was tentative, they said the early indications were that the policy changes were having some deterrent effect.

"The changes have been received with some concern by the community," one source said yesterday. "But the challenge is that people-smugglers are still spruiking the message that it's business as usual."

Last month, the government announced it would suspend all new refugee claims from Sri Lankans and Afghans for three and six months respectively.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said improved humanitarian situations meant more Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims were likely to fail. But the opposition savaged the policy, labelling it an election-year fix.

It is understood the government will boost funding for Christmas Island and onshore detention facilities, strained as a result of the surge in boat arrivals. It is also expected to announce the replacement of eight Customs Bay-class patrol boats as part of a multi-million-dollar border security spend.

It is not clear how much money will be allocated to cover detention outlays, but the figure is likely to be substantial given the sharp rise in boat arrivals last year.

There is also speculation the budget will fund infrastructure upgrades on Christmas Island, which has been groaning under the weight of the asylum trade.

The influx of detention centre workers has placed upward pressures on prices, particularly housing, a source of annoyance to residents of the island.

In order to manage the ballooning number of asylum-seekers, the government announced last month it would transfer detainees to the Australian mainland.

While the move went some way to easing the pressure on the island's beleaguered detention centre, it placed a corresponding burden on mainland facilities.

The government also announced it would reopen the Curtin detention centre in the West Australian Kimberley. The cost of upgrading the facility is sure to be high, given its remote location.

As a result, detention centres in other cities are close to capacity.

According to Immigration Department figures, there were 41 people detained at Perth, just one short of its capacity. And there were 411 people crowded in to Darwin's Northern Detention Centre, which has a normal operating capacity of 382 and a "surge" capacity of a further 164.


Olympic Dam mining project in doubt, says BHP chief Marius Kloppers

MARIUS Kloppers has warned that a host of multi-billion-dollar projects in Queensland and Western Australia could stall because of uncertainty surrounding the Rudd government's planned resource profit tax.

The BHP Billiton chief executive ratcheted up the pressure on Canberra, saying he could not rule out shelving its biggest Australian project -- the $20 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine in South Australia -- because of the impact of the planned tax.

BHP has to make investment decisions this year or next on iron ore and uranium projects in Western Australia and coal projects in Queensland that could be affected by the tax. "While the uncertainty is in place, it would be very difficult to approve any of those projects," Mr Kloppers said yesterday on ABC TV's Inside Business program.

The warning came as Treasurer Wayne Swan hit back at mining executives, escalating the war of words over the tax. Mr Swan called on shareholders to tell company managers to "calm down, get into the process and engage properly", and detailed the benefits of the new tax regime. "Threats and abuse will not alter the government's resolve," he said.

Mr Kloppers said expansion plans at Olympic Dam, where a decision was due by the end of 2011, were also in the firing line. "Our (Olympic Dam) environmental impact statement, I think, will finish in about 18 months' time and this new tax proposal does upset the apple cart there a little bit," he said.

Mr Kloppers said it had only been a week since the government revealed its Resource Super Profits Tax, so it was too early to say whether the project would be shelved. "What I can say, though, is if you move the tax rate from 44 per cent to 57 per cent or possibly more, that doesn't make it any easier."

Mr Kloppers, who is spearheading the mining industry attack on the tax, accused Canberra of a breach of trust because of plans to tax existing projects. "What we have advocated is: don't break the trust or the basis on which past investments have been made," Mr Kloppers said.

Instead, BHP wanted any new tax to apply only to new projects, as was the case in the 1980s when Australia introduced the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax. This would allow investors to make decisions with their eyes open. "That point certainly hasn't got across," Mr Kloppers said.

His concerns were backed up by a survey of some of the nation's biggest fund managers, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia. Fifteen of 21 quizzed by research company Radar Group said the decision would have a significant impact on the perception of regulatory or sovereign risk in Australia. "Why bother with new projects if you can't rely on the regulatory framework?" said one of the fund managers surveyed.


Defence equipment bungles again

Australia's defence equipment buyers are so incompetent that they wouldn't know if you were up them

THE Defence Department has been left red-faced after a public relations exercise to promote its own issued equipment turned pear-shaped.

After a Herald investigation last week revealed troops were spending up to $1000 of their own wages to replace the packs and webbing issued by Defence, the Army newspaper went on the attack. ''Equipment Safe'' was the headline above a photo of three Australian infantry soldiers on patrol, captioned: ''Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan use some of the best equipment available.''

There is one small problem. The troops in the photo may have been using the best gear available, but it wasn't the gear supplied by Defence. Instead, the men are wearing non-issue webbing and pouches, including what appears to be a $110 chest rig made by SORD Australia.

The Herald has revealed soldiers are being put at unnecessary risk because of defective gear issued by a Defence procurement unit riddled with suspect tender practices and incompetence.


9 May, 2010

Milk Fascism comes to Australia

If people prefer their milk unprocessed, why should they be penalized for taking the small risk involved?

And the risk really is small. TB is the big bugbear behind pasteurization as cows can carry TB if the herd is not tested. But the answer to that is to test the herd for it and remove the affected animals. That is now normal practice in most places.

Milk processing in the small Australian country town where I grew up must have been pretty casual because when all the kids at my school were tested for TB (with the Mantoux skin test), hardly any of us needed vaccination because we all had TB antibodies in us anyway. Being young and healthy country kids, we had been infected with TB but had simply thrown it off with no lasting effects and without even knowing about it

People in poor health would be unwise to take risks, however

IT'S a story of undercover agents and an illegal substance, set in the heart of Queensland's best-known hippie community.

The Maple Street Food Co-op in Maleny on the Sunshine Coast has become an alternative lifestylers' icon over the past three decades. But now the store has been busted – for allegedly promoting the sale of raw, or unpasteurised, milk for drinking which has been illegal in Australia since the 1980s.

The co-op stocks raw milk produced by Trevor Mahaffey at his dairy farm in Goomboorian near Gympie and sold around the country under the brand "Cleopatra's Bath Milk" as a cosmetic.

In February last year, a plain-clothes Queensland Health official bought a bottle from the Maleny store. Authorities allege a shop assistant promoted the milk for drinking. The co-op claims entrapment, saying the official acted as an agent provocateur, asking if the milk was fit for human consumption. The worker said although she drank it, the shop's policy was that it was for cosmetic purposes only.

The case is due to be heard at Caloundra Magistrates Court on July 9. If convicted, the co-op could face fines of up to tens of thousands of dollars. "We are terrified," said financial officer Dick Newman. "This could put us out of business, kill us. They have a couple of high-powered barristers working on the case and we have a folk singer representing us." Mr Newman said the co-op had always complied with regulations. "This does seem a bit insane."


Most Australians (2 out of 3) not convinced that climate change is man-made

A huge collapse in faith -- brought on by the crookedness of the "scientists" at the centre of the scare

Two out of three Australians are not convinced climate change is man-made, and even those who do believe it is aren't prepared to pay much to fix it, a new poll shows.

A Galaxy Poll, commissioned by the conservative Institute of Public Affairs, found 35 per cent of respondents blamed humans for global warming. Fully 26 per cent believed it was just part of a natural cycle, while 38 per cent remained uncertain.

Thirty-five per cent said they would not be prepared to pay anything to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming.

Of those who believed climate change to be man-made, 27 per cent said they would be prepared to pay only $100 or less a year in increased tax and utility costs.

The poll shows young people are most convinced that global warming is man-made, and older people are the least worried. Just 27 per cent of those aged over 50 believe climate change to be man-made.

Institute executive director John Roskam said this was the polling Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did not want Australians to see. "This reveals why Kevin Rudd has run away from what he had previously described as the greatest moral challenge of our times," he said in a statement.


Victoria police again: Blind faith in DNA evidence slammed

SERIOUS failings within Victorian police, prosecutors and forensic services in viewing DNA evidence as having almost "mystical infallibility" led to the wrongful conviction and jailing of a 22-year-old man for a rape that did not occur.

In a scathing independent review of the "disastrous" case of Farah Jama, former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent found a miscarriage of justice had occurred when the DNA evidence that prosecutors used solely to convict the Sudanese man was contaminated and forensic procedures did not adhere to national standards.

He also found that "warning bells" about the lack of evidence in the case were overlooked by police investigators and prosecutors because they were so blinded by the DNA evidence.

"In this present case, the obviously unreserved acceptance of the reliability of DNA evidence appears to have so confined thought that it enabled all involved to leap over a veritable mountain of improbabilities and unexplained aspects that . . . could be seen to block the path to conviction," Mr Vincent wrote.

Mr Jama spent 15 months in jail after a sample of his DNA contaminated one taken from a 48-year-old woman believed to have been raped at an over-28s nightclub in Melbourne's southeastern suburbs.

The 22-year-old was not seen by any witnesses in the nightclub or in the area, the alleged rape victim had no memory of the sexual assault and Mr Jama had an alibi for the night of the incident. Despite this, police went ahead with the prosecution and a jury found Mr Jama guilty.

"It is almost incredible that, in consequence of a minute particle . . . by some mechanism settling on a swab, slide or trolley surface, a chain of events could be started that culminated in the conviction of an individual for a crime that had never been committed by him or anyone else," Mr Vincent wrote.

Mr Vincent recommended that police and prosecutors be trained on the limitations of DNA evidence, that procedures at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine be improved, and that sealed sexual examination kits be used.

The Victorian government has adopted all the recommendations in the report.

SOURCE (Note that my Queensland Police blog is still getting frequent updates)

Australia treats adult video gamers like children

THE head of one of the world's largest computer game publishers has accused Australia of censoring video games.

Frank Gibeau, the head of interactive powerhouse EA Games, weighed into the debate on whether games in Australia should be granted an R18+ rating by writing an open letter to the Government criticising its lack of support for the adult rating.

Mr Gibeau's comments come on the eve of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which begins today and is expected to address the R18+ Rating proposal.

Australia is one of the few Western nations in the world which doesn't have an adult rating for games and it will take a unanimous verdict by all seven state representatives to change the classification.

More than 90,000 signatures have been collected in a petition calling for an R18+ rating by game retailers EB Games, GAME and review website PAL GN and delivered to each state's Attorney-General.

Mr Gibeau said the current policy forcing developers to rewrite game code was "censorship". "Government policies that don't allow for the rating of mature content in video games effectively censor entertainment choices for adults," he said. "These policies show a poor understanding of today's video gaming audience.

"Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the video game industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today."

Mr Gibeau said adult consumers were entitled to be responsible for their own entertainment choices and the classification system for films had done a good job protecting children from inappropriate content. "The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books," he said.

"Governments don't insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. "Adult gamers want their governments to treat them with the same respect they get as movie-goers and book readers. "Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes."

Mr Gibeau also warns the existing Australian policy towards gaming classification could also have a negative financial impact on the many talented local developers. "Policy makers should consider the environment they create for game makers," he said. "Governments that design policies hostile to game developers and their creative medium will struggle to attract investment from the global industry."


Patients forced into long waits for surgery in NSW hospitals

MORE than a third of patients waiting for semi-urgent elective surgery were not treated in time in 30 NSW hospitals, according to the latest annual figures. The list includes major hospitals such as Canterbury and Sutherland as well as country hospitals such as Coonabarabran, which only managed to treat just over half its category two elective surgery patients within the desired 90 days.

And in the Gosford emergency department, almost half of all patients with imminently life-threatening conditions were not seen by a doctor within the 10-minute target time.
my hospital

The Sun-Herald analysis of hospital performance is presented on our MyHospital website and is based on the NSW Health Services Comparison Data Book 2007/2008. The most recent quarterly figures show some hospitals have improved, but these figures are less comprehensive and do not include all hospitals or performance categories.

Doctors have warned that the hospital performance data is being manipulated and the actual figures could be far worse. In February, Dubbo Base Hospital emergency physician Antony Nocera wrote an article for the Medical Journal of Australia claiming emergency data had been manipulated since performance-based funding was introduced in the 1990s.

He highlighted examples of data manipulation in hospitals including Shellharbour, Ryde and Gosford. In Shellharbour, the hospital created four virtual beds in the emergency department to bump up performance figures.

"If you don't have true data then what you have is propaganda," Dr Nocera said last week. "What is interesting now is that you are getting reports of hospitals not performing when it is actually the true circumstances emerging because of increased surveillance of hospital data."

He pointed to a 2003 Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into claims of misrepresentation of elective surgery waiting times at five hospitals. ICAC found the guidelines were "so loose and ambiguous that they created extensive opportunities for data to be … manipulated."


8 May, 2010

Federal budget spending to target Muslim radicals in bid to boost national security

One of course hopes that it will do some good but I suspect that it is just pissing into the wind. Deporting Muslim criminals at the end of their sentences would undoubtedly be a lot more beneficial

MILLIONS of dollars will be spent trying to halt the spread of radical Islam as part of a big-spending Federal Budget package to bolster national security.

Tuesday's election-year Budget will include hundreds of millions of dollars for national security as Labor tackles concerns it has gone soft on border protection following the flood of asylum seekers in recent months.

The Government will announce "preventative" measures to counter the growth of radical terrorist cells across Australia. While the Government will be careful not to demonise Muslims with its policies, it is understood new programs will target the potential spread of radical extremism in the nation's jails.

Some states already have their own programs, aimed at stopping the rise of radical Islam in prisons. But the Budget is expected to outline a national scheme, with religious classes and better contact between inmates and their families.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The body charged with keeping Victoria police honest was itself corrupt

A "CATASTROPHIC" series of leaks of top-secret operational information about a covert Victoria Police murder inquiry was suspected by senior detectives on the investigation taskforce to have come from the state's Office of Police Integrity.

The head of the murder taskforce, Superintendent Rod Wilson, told OPI investigators in a recorded interview that the leaks -- the most detailed in Victoria Police history and published in The Age newspaper in September 2007 -- were traced to the OPI by several of his detectives, who were going "ballistic" because of the threat to the murder investigation.

When the OPI held public hearings in November 2007 into leaks about Operation Briars, it did not scrutinise itself to determine whether it was the source .

There was no suggestion in the OPI's public report, Exposing Corruption within Senior Levels of Victoria Police, that the OPI might have leaked. The report's only finding in relation to The Age stated: "There is no evidence as to who supplied the information set out in the articles."

The OPI focus involved blaming Victoria Police's then media director, Steve Linnell, and then assistant commissioner, Noel Ashby, for leaks and for undermining then deputy commissioner Simon Overland.

Neither Mr Ashby nor Mr Linnell was in a position to know the operational details published in The Age.

Mr Ashby and the former secretary of the Police Association, Paul Mullett, who were unsuccessfully prosecuted after OPI hearings, accuse the OPI of an unlawful double standard and of abusing its powers to oust them for political reasons.

The OPI's practices have been described as "corrupt" by Mr Ashby's lawyer, Phillip Priest QC.

The OPI's exemption from operational scrutiny and extraordinary powers mean it is not answerable for its decisions.

A transcript obtained by The Weekend Australian shows Superintendent Wilson told the OPI the information being leaked was remarkably accurate and The Age had indicated one of its sources was the OPI.

He believed leaks were also coming from the police Ethical Standards Department and another taskforce.

When the OPI investigator named a senior OPI officer as a possible source of leaks, Superintendent Wilson replied: "Oh, not fingering anyone in particular, but you know, people within OPI were leaking to the, you know, leaking out parts of the story.

"So that was their view. I tried to say, well that could be right, but there are many other sources and avenues, and (Victoria Police) has got a pretty notorious reputation for leaking itself, so let's not go overboard on it.

"But it was like there would be a call come over the TI (telephone intercept), especially the one in relation to the meeting we had in this office. There was (four named people) and me, and next minute they are discussing it over the phone."

An OPI spokesman said there was no evidence to suggest the OPI was the source of the leaks.

"Superintendent Wilson made the comment in 2007 in the context of who had knowledge of the information at the time. He raised a number of possible scenarios and OPI was just one of them. There is no investigation currently into the leak because there was no evidence of who the leaker was. We weren't responsible for the leak, and that is categorical."

The OPI did not release the transcript of the 2007 interview during its investigation into leaks.

Superintendent Wilson said after The Age's report was published: "There's nothing we can put to (the suspects) they haven't read in the article. They know the guts of the case. The consequences or the outcomes or the fallout from the story was that the job was basically over as far as we're concerned."

Simon Overland, then deputy commissioner, was "amazed at the level of detail", while Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said Superintendent Wilson "was very concerned that this proved the existence of a high-level leak, possibly within OPI", as it was clear there were limited parties to the discussions.

Mr Cornelius and Mr Overland were concerned early in 2007 that if Operation Briars were to leak, it would be "catastrophic", and would lead to strong calls for a royal commission.

The operation was established after a tip-off that a serving Victorian police officer was implicated in a murder by providing the victim's address to a hitman.


Conservative leader uses Roman and Medieval warm periods to discredit Warmism

And on the most recent polls, he will be the Prime Minister in less than a year

TONY Abbott has urged primary school students to be sceptical about man-made climate change, saying it was warmer during the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus than it is now.

The Opposition Leader, wrapping up a two-day visit to South Australia yesterday, told Year 5 and 6 students that climate change had always happened and, historically, humans had not been responsible.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said it was "irresponsible and disappointing" for the Liberal leader to encourage climate-change scepticism in the classroom.

Mr Abbott's impromptu history lesson came in a question-and-answer session with students during a visit to the Trinity Gardens Primary School in the marginal federal seat of Sturt, held by Liberal Chris Pyne.

Mr Abbott asked the students if they knew about the Ice Age and if it "was caused by human beings".

"OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now," Mr Abbott said.

"And then during what they called the Dark Ages it was colder. Then there was the medieval warm period. Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. "It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays."


Government knew of probable deaths under Greenie scheme but still went ahead

They've got blood on their hands

OFFICIALS in Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett's departments assessed the risk of death or injury under the government's insulation program to be "extreme" three times in the three months before the first of four young workers was killed.

The officials, who were in charge of the rollout of the botched $2.45 billion insulation scheme, believed that, even if steps were taken to address their safety concerns, the risks would still remain "high".

The risk assessments were made on July 31, September 17 and October 1, and concluded that unsafe or incorrectly installed ceiling batts could lead to "fire/damage, injury or death".

The assessments were prepared by the Project Control Group set up to oversee the program, which included officials from the Department of Environment, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and other agencies, including Medicare and the Australian Taxation Office.

The documents were released only after a request from Liberal senator Simon Birmingham during a Senate inquiry into the scheme.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt last night accused the government of deliberately covering up the documents. "This is a smoking gun that shows the Prime Minister and those around him at the highest levels of government were aware of the risks," Mr Hunt said. "It's clear there was no action to deal with the risk of fatalities. "The government has deliberately kept these documents hidden. It is an unforgivable cover-up."

The first installer to die was 25-year-old Matthew Fuller, who was electrocuted on October 14, on his sixth day on the job.

By the time the insulation program was suspended on February 19, four installers had died and up to 1000 roofs had been electrified.

The program has also been linked to 120 house fires and widespread allegations of rorting.

The officials also concluded that the risk of fraud, including the prospect of installers charging for jobs not carried out, was extreme. They warned that even commonwealth public servants could try to rort the scheme by registering and processing fictitious payments.

A later Project Control Group document, prepared in December, assessed the ongoing risk of fraud to be "extreme" and of poor-quality materials and installations to be "high"....

A review by former public servant Allan Hawke, which led to the program being axed last month, said environment officials regularly briefed the minister on the safety risks. The review found the minister responded in a timely way but said this was "largely reactive" and there had been no proper senior oversight.

The release of the documents came after Assistant Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet announced details of the government's foil safety program. The program will cost taxpayers $90 million and brings to more than $155m the cost of putting in and cleaning up the foil insulation program.

The collapse has destroyed many legitimate businesses in the foil insulation industry. Mr Combet was yesterday forced to defend a $15m industry rescue package that insulation installers and manufacturers have said is woefully inadequate.


Federal government forced teachers to call off boycott

Julia Gillard has stared down the teachers' unions and forced them to drop their plans to boycott next week's national literacy and numeracy testing in schools.

The Australian Education Union yesterday called off the proposed boycott of the NAPLAN tests after the Education Minister agreed to set up a working party to examine student performance data.

But Ms Gillard did not agree to remove any information from the controversial My School website, concerns about which prompted the union's boycott threat.

A meeting of the union's federal executive yesterday decided to lift the moratorium on administration of the NAPLAN tests. Before the AEU had time to make its backdown known, Ms Gillard angered some in the union by publicly praising its decision.

It is understood Ms Gillard had struck a deal with the union in the past few days and was told the executive would support a backdown by 11am yesterday. Ms Gillard's statement was sent out before the meeting ended.

AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said Ms Gillard had offered to set up a working party to provide advice on the use of student performance data and indicators of school effectiveness.

"The working party will provide a way to advance and address the profession's educational concerns relating to the misuse of student test data including school league tables," he said.

"It will also provide an opportunity for teachers and principals to engage in a genuine dialogue with the government on a sound approach to school accountability and improving results."

Mr Gavrielatos said the working group provided a resolution to the impasse, which had led state governments to seek casual or relief teachers to oversee the tests.

Ms Gillard said the government would ask the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority to set up a working group with literacy and numeracy specialists, principal organisations and representatives of the Independent Education Union and the AEU.

The AEU had threatened to boycott the tests because it believed the results published on the My School website were misleading for parents.

Ms Gillard said the tests would proceed next week without disruption, saying the union had made a sensible decision.

She denied she had made concessions to the unions. "The government has always said we were committed to the My School website, that all of the information on the My School website would stay and be updated."

Ms Gillard said the working group would help provide advice on the use of student performance data that would be used to improve the My School website.

School principals welcomed yesterday's resolution, but remained cautious about the proposed working party.

The president of the Australian Primary Principals Association, Leonie Trimper, said she hoped it would prevent misuse of the My School website.

The NSW Teachers Federation executive late yesterday endorsed the decision to abandon the boycott.


7 May, 2010

One in three Australian voters against paying for climate change 'myth'

AUSTRALIANS are rebelling against the idea they should pay to fight global warming, entrenching the Federal Government's woes on the issue.

A new survey showed more than a third of voters don't want to pay for climate-change bills. The authoritative Galaxy opinion survey also found that those who buy the family groceries and low-income earners are in the forefront of the new resistance. It is a sign much of the electorate accept Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's ETS description as "a great big new tax".

The Government's abrupt, three-year pause in introducing an emissions trading scheme angered many of the 35 per cent of voters who believe human activity is changing the climate. Now even some of those believers are refusing to pay the rises in power bills and other household costs which would be caused by an ETS, the survey has found.

About 35 per cent of all voters told Galaxy they did not want to pay a cent, and that group included 15 per cent of people who agreed with the concept of man-made climate change.

Of the change believers, 27 per cent would not pay more than $100 a year extra. Almost half - 47 per cent - would not pay more than $100 a year to combat climate change, the poll commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs showed. About 60 per cent would not pay more than $300 a year.

If you buy the family groceries, you strongly oppose paying much if anything for an ETS.

The survey found 37 per cent of those who bought family supplies would not pay anything, and just over half would not pay more than $100 a year.

The survey showed two-thirds of respondents were not convinced by man-made climate change, despite "billions of dollars of government propaganda," said John Roskam of the Institute of Public Affairs. "These polls also show Australians won't pay huge amounts of money to fix a problem they are not sure exists," said Mr Roskam.

The lower your income, the less you are likely to want higher bills, which is why nearly half the unemployed oppose the idea. The greatest opposition to paying even a cent extra came from Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.


Dangerous police secrecy in NSW

Whistleblower on trial! Below is the man who thinks you are too inferior to know what is going on

POLICE Commissioner Andrew Scipione once tried to prevent details of a serial child sex attacker being released publicly despite the fact he remained at large, it was claimed yesterday.

The revelation came at a sentencing hearing for former superintendent Adam Purcell, forced out of the police force in part for disobeying that order.

Mr Purcell has pleaded guilty to two charges arising out of a Police Integrity Commission hearing and faced a sentence hearing in the District Court yesterday.

Purcell admits divulging details of the child sex attack investigation to a reporter.

Then-assistant commissioner Mark Goodwin told the court he had acted on orders from Mr Scipione - then the deputy commissioner - to ensure detail about the serial nature of the offences not be released.

Mr Goodwin said the directive should have been followed but he believed Purcell should have been allowed to use his discretion.


Leftist love of destruction on show again

They're happy with anything that tears down the civilization they live in

By Andrew Bolt

I am told I've engineered the sacking of The Age's most popular columnist, noted barbarian Catherine Deveny. But I'm told that for this service to the state I must now be sacked in turn. The Left demands it. To even the score.

Yes, that really is how adolescent and tribal are the howlers who, like Deveny, have drowned out so much civilised debate. But first the background.

Deveny was fired on Tuesday by Age editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge for having sent more of her spittle-flecked tweets. This time she'd been lolling on her couch on Sunday, watching the Logies, when she spotted on the screen the demure Bindi Irwin, just 11.

Cleverly using her opposable thumbs, Deveny banged out this tweet: "I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid." This, she later explained, was one of her "grown up jokes".

Here's another, also sent this same wild night after she saw comedian Rove McManus with Tasma Walton, whom he married after his first wife died of cancer: "Rove and Tasma look so cute ... hope she doesn't die, too."

Still, it wasn't until two days later that Deveny was fired, with Ramadge declaring it was because "the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age".

This startled me, I admit, because until then I had no idea The Age kept any standards at all. Until then, Ramadge seemed happy to pimp a woman whose one trick was to throw a tantrum with as many foul words as she could get away with, in the hope that this would be seen as "brave", "courageous" and "challenging", as she rather forlornly put it this week.

Until then, The Age had promoted as its marque columnist a woman whose fame rested on yelling "get your rosaries off my ovaries" to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on television, or calling conservative broadcasters "c---s", or Anzacs "racists", or Liberal MP Peter Dutton a "boong" hater with the "face of a rapist".

I do not wish to speculate on what drove Deveny to scream so frantically for attention. But more than six months ago I warned The Age on my blog that it was exploiting someone it should instead help, and not simply because she was trashing its brand - or, indeed, pandering to a rising tide of f--- you barbarism that threatened us all.

The cause of my warning then was that Deveny had just written of standing up at a meeting to shout at Cardinal George Pell that she'd aborted her baby and wanted to know if it would go to hell.

Any wise and compassionate adult would consider this a scream of pain, fear and rage, and not at all a "grown up joke" or exercise of reason. Yet The Age continued to employ Deveny, applying that feral abacus of our dark age - subtracting sales gained from today's educated barbarians against those lost from the truly civilised, and calculating that our modern morons were many and monied.

Only this week did Ramadge conclude that in setting fire to herself, Deveny was now scorching his paper as well, as he could no doubt judge by the scathing coverage in the Herald Sun, and on A Current Affair and Today Tonight. And, who knows, maybe he read my blog as well.

IT'S that final possibility that stuck in the craw of some tribalists of the Left - who, like all collectivists, defend not principles but sides, and decided to save Deveny, or at least not lose her without an equal sacrifice from the "Right".

I read all this in the witterings of, for instance, Jonathan Green, who edits The Drum, blogsite of the ABC, once a bulwark of our culture rather than the hole in our hull. I'll quote him at length, because he's typical in both his arguments and in two critical evasions:
Age columnist Deveny was dumped yesterday by The Age's editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge, not because of anything she wrote for the paper, but because of some off-colour gags she sent out on Twitter ...

Ramadge ... gives the appearance of acting not as an immediate response to the Sunday night tweets (would Bindi get "laid" would Rove's new partner die etc) but rather in response to the heated kerfuffle drummed up by the usual stern guardians of media probity: Andrew Bolt, Neil Mitchell, A Current Affair and Today Tonight ...

All of which presents the unfortunate impression of The Age, a once fearless champion of journalistic diversity, caving to the sort of hypocritical, faux indignant cant that propels trash talk radio and tabloid TV.

LET'S ignore the fact that my contribution to this "heated kerfuffle" was, pre-sacking, a single blog item written when the outrage was already bubbling on The Age's own website.

But here we're already brought to Green's first evasion. Many Age readers - even its editor-in-chief, perhaps - have actually shared my disgust with Deveny's comments, despite being as of the Left as Green would demand.

This alone suggests that the prime author of her downfall is not me or some other "stern guardian of media probity" but Deveny herself. She sought fame and wealth through shocking people, and cannot now complain at finding those people genuinely shocked and her services no longer thought worth the expense.

Indeed, if there wasn't an edge beyond which lay disaster, no comedian such as Deveny would be able to profit by testing where it lay. They'd be merely pretending to be teetering on the painted edge of a fake volcano, and what's the daring in that?

As for my own role, I criticise many things about The Age, but never has its editor-in-chief shown any sign of taking notice. I suspect, then, that what made Ramadge sack Deveny was, above anything else, his own judgment on what she herself had done. Deveny set out to shock, Ramadge's readers were shocked, transaction complete.

But rather than blame Deveny for yet one more catastrophic lapse of taste, Green claims that any disgust at her comments cannot be honestly felt - or, as he puts it, is mere "hypocritical, faux indignant cant".

The most damning thing he can say himself is that Deveny told "off-colour gags" - in which benign category, I guess, you'd put Benny Hill sketches.

That brings me to Green's second typical evasion. As you may have noticed, not once has he repeated in full what Deveny tweeted on Logies night.

This evasion is astonishingly common among those of the pro-Deveny media Left. Check also the articles by comedian Ben Pobjie, Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham, or the Leftist gossip site Crikey.

I suspect none of these Deveny defenders quoted the words that were the immediate cause of her sacking because they secretly knew that almost anyone with a skerrick of moral sense reading them afresh would instinctively know Deveny indeed crossed a deeply dug line, and that any revulsion was quite likely to be genuine.

Indeed, what's most likely to be faux is a Greenish reaction of sophisticated nonchalance. He is a father, after all, and cannot be so dead to disgust, despite having himself once called the Down syndrome child of conservative politician Sarah Palin "a mongrel".

There's another reason that Green, the Meanjin editor, the comedian and the Crikey writer may have been reluctant to quote Deveny's words. To do so would have destroyed their other petulant defence of one of their own - that the other side is just as bad. Most, for instance, complain that if Deveny is to be sacked, then so must I.

Deveny herself complains of double standards and says this is "about gender". Or as Cunningham puts it: "It just doesn't pay to be a badly behaved woman in this town, but it certainly seems to pay pretty well to be a badly behaved man - just how much is Andrew Bolt paid again?"

But as any fool but these would know, had I been so vile as to write as Deveny did, I guarantee I'd be hounded out of my job, too, and by some of these very same people now defending Deveny. But, of course, conservatives like me are more inclined to maintain moral standards than kick at them.

Yet there are indeed questions raised by Deveny's sacking. She is indeed to some extent correct to say "nobody's editorial policy should be dictated by 'Offended from Balwyn'."

BUT this is not because of any high-minded principle of free speech. After all, Deveny remains free even now to say all she likes about the need for child stars to be "laid".

The issue is solely whether The Age is obliged to print them, and whether it's in its interests to do so. In fact, there are more than 20 million people in this country whose columns The Age won't run, and there's no reason Deveny has any more right to publication than anyone else.

Still, in making the specific decision not to publish her, The Age runs the risk every media outlet takes when it restricts the range of views it presents.

By not running a Deveny, The Age may now lose the support of barbarians and a certain kind of resentful arts graduate, almost inevitably female and poor, who mistakes rage for truth, abuse for integrity, and unreason for mystic insight.

So be it. Or, more seriously, The Age may lose the last shred of its reputation for publishing truly daring stuff.

But wait. This is the newspaper that some years ago let go its last on-staff conservative columnist, no doubt to placate "Offended from Fitzroy" - the kind of Leftist Age reader who is offended by opinions contrary to her ill-founded own.

That's why The Age for years rarely, if ever, published opinion articles questioning global warming, and still won't run one pointing out its sacred "stolen generations" are a myth.

No screams then from Deveny that The Age should publish "challenging voices". No demands then from a Green that it must be "a fearless champion of journalistic diversity". No hour-long debate then on Jon Faine's show on ABC 774 on the silencing of a different point of view.

No, to such folk it is now a greater scandal for The Age to fire a Leftist who wanted an 11-year-old to get "laid" than to drop the last staff columnist who wanted John Howard to get elected.

That's all. The tribe rages for the loss not of a principle, but of a fellow barbarian. And for the civilised, that's one thing to fear, and another to almost cheer.


For Australia's sake, we need to ban the burqa


The burqa is no longer simply the symbol of female repression and Islamic culture, it is now emerging as a disguise of bandits and n'er do wells.

In Sydney this morning a man was robbed by a burqa wearing bandit who further disguised his (or her) identity by wearing sunglasses. The bandit was described by police as being of "Middle Eastern appearance". Well of course he was (assuming it was a he) because the only characteristics the victim could see were the burqa and the sunglasses. Now unless the sunglasses had 'made in Iran' stamped on them, it's fair to say that the 'Middle Eastern appearance' line was attributed to the head to toe veiling of the Islamic burqa.

In my mind, the burqa has no place in Australian society. I would go as far as to say it is un-Australian. To me, the burqa represents the repressive domination of men over women, which has no place in our society and compromises some of the most important aspects of human communication. It also establishes a different set of rules and societal expectations in our hitherto homogenous society. Let me give you a couple of examples.

As an avid motorcyclist I am required to remove my helmet before entering a bank or petrol station. It's a security measure for the businesses and no reasonable person objects to this requirement. However, if I cover myself in a black cloth from head to toe, with only my eyes barely visible behind a mesh guard, I am effectively unidentifiable and can waltz into any bank unchallenged in the name of religious freedom. Little wonder bank bandits in the UK are now becoming burqa bandits.

The same can be said for any number of areas where photographic identification is required. How many of us would ask for the veil to be dropped so we can compare the photo with the burqa wearer's face? I suspect the fear of being called bigoted, racist, Islamaphobic or insensitive would prevent many from doing what they would not think twice about under normal circumstances. Put simply, the burqa separates and distances the wearer from the normal interactions with broader society.

But there is a greater reason the burqa needs to be binned. Equality of women is one of the key values in our secular society and any culture that believes only women should be covered in such a repressive manner is not consistent with the Australian culture and values.

Perhaps some of you will consider that burqa wearing should be a matter of personal choice, consistent with the freedoms our forefathers fought for. I disagree. New arrivals to this country should not come here to recreate the living environment they have just left. They should come here for a better life based on the freedoms and values that have built our great nation.

The burqa isolates some Australians from others. Its symbolic barrier is far greater than the measure of cloth it is created from. For safety and for society, the burqa needs to be banned in Australia.


6 May, 2010

Big Rio Tinto project first casualty of new Rudd mining tax

RIO Tinto has raised the stakes in the mining industry's fight with Kevin Rudd over his new super tax by shelving its $11 billion expansion plans in Western Australia.

In a fresh blow to the Prime Minister's tax reform plans, the mining giant said it would withdraw its plans for expanding its massive iron ore operations in WA because of the uncertainty sparked by the proposed tax on super profits, The Australian reported.

As Mr Rudd faced down industry executives in Perth for a second day yesterday, it also emerged that fellow miner BHP Billiton was reassessing the viability of its iron ore and coal projects in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

And Origin Energy said the proposed 40 per cent "resource super-profit tax" would push up "retail energy prices" by making gas and coal to drive power plants more expensive.

Origin said "wholesale energy prices are also likely to increase with any increase in resources tax".

After attending a meeting with resources industry leaders on Tuesday night and holding a breakfast briefing with smaller miners yesterday, the Prime Minister refused to describe the 40 per cent rate as non-negotiable but said it was "about right".

At the "robust" dinner, mining executives told Mr Rudd his plans had done "irretrievable damage" to the Australian resources sector, were driving investment overseas and wiping out the retirement funds of thousands of Australian shareholders who could not now "afford to retire".

Shares in Australian mining companies shed more than $16 billion this week, with heavy falls by BHP and Rio in London contributing to a plunge on global markets overnight.

Shares in BHP, Rio and Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group stabilised yesterday as analysts said the selling had been overdone.

Mining executives at the meeting also accused Mr Rudd of deceiving the public by calling the tax a "super-profits" tax.

Mr Rudd is standing by his plan but has agreed to meet the mining companies again next week. It is understood Treasury is already revising its modelling on the implementation of the tax.


Abbott readies for election fight on mining tax

Tony Abbott is expected to put the Prime Minister's resource super profits tax at the centre of the opposition's election agenda today by announcing officially that the Coalition will oppose the $10 billion-a-year tax.

The opposition is expected to mount a scare campaign similar to the one it ran against the emissions trading scheme. The shadow cabinet resolved yesterday to oppose the measure after Mr Abbott and his senior shadow ministers met executives from BHP and Rio Tinto, including the BHP chief executive, Marius Kloppers.

Mr Abbott has been hostile to the tax since it was announced on Sunday but has said the Coalition would decide when it saw the legislation.

Yesterday he telegraphed the shadow cabinet decision, saying the only way to avoid the tax was to change governments at the election.

The opposition was touting claims by Origin Energy that the tax would "place further upward pressure on coal and gas prices, increasing energy costs further".

The Prime Minister was in Perth yesterday selling the 40 per cent tax, which would be levied when profits hit a certain level. The government is open to negotiations, but not on the 40 per cent rate. Mr Rudd met executives from 27 mining companies, starting with a dinner on Tuesday night. By all accounts, the dinner was polite but heated.

Mr Rudd, who joked upon arrival that he was facing the "execution squad", called on the miners to "show me the facts" regarding the impact the tax would have on their businesses.

"Rudd was very clear that he wanted to be spared the rhetoric and asked for facts, case studies, anything that we could provide that would show the devastating affect this is going to have on the industry," said one person who attended the dinner.

"He said 'show me that [the Australian resources sector] is being taxed higher than anywhere else in the world'. To his credit he did listen to what we had to say but doesn't want to budge on the 40 per cent level."

Mr Rudd followed up with a breakfast meeting in Perth yesterday.

Mr Kloppers and the other executives told the Liberals that the tax would render the mining sector uncompetitive. They were understood to much angrier at the prospect of the new tax than they were at the ETS. "Kloppers wouldn't get involved in the ETS but he's frothing over this," said a source. The government argues the Australian people's share of mining industry super profits has dwindled over the years and it will use the savings to cut company taxes, boost national savings and build infrastructure.

"Remember, the people own these resources, the companies lease them," Mr Rudd said. "I'm all for a fair return to the mining industry but I also want to see a fair return for working families."

Shares in the big miners tumbled after Sunday's announcement. Mr Rudd claimed that over the longer term the industry would benefit. "It is important to [place] emphasis on the independent modelling [MODELLING! You can get anything you want out of modelling!] of Treasury [which has] put all the factors together and projects this industry will grow by 6.5 per cent over five to 10 years," he said.


Auditor-General slams "stimulus" red-tape

SCHOOLS are shackled to excessive rules that "unduly constrain" their ability to get the best out of the controversial $16 billion stimulus package, the Auditor-General has found.

A nine-month audit of the Federal Government's school building program released on Wednesday was not the damning document the Opposition had predicted, but did reveal that problems arose in the rush to get the money spent.

However, the Auditor-General did not examine whether the projects were value for money, which has been one of the key criticisms of the stimulus package.

A survey of principals as part of the audit found almost 29 per cent believed they had not got value for money. A federal taskforce will instead investigate suspected rorts and rip-offs and report by August.

The audit also found key school data relied on to back up Commonwealth claims the scheme was creating jobs was unreliable.

It said reporting requirements for schools were too complicated and unclear and the one-size-fits-all method risked delaying projects.

Auditor-General Ian McPhee said schools were working to very tight deadlines and the rules "unduly constrained" the flexibility of education departments to determine how to roll out their share of the funding.

Mr McPhee concluded there were some positive early indications the program was reaching its aims and said 95 per cent of principals surveyed said the funding would provide ongoing improvements to their schools.

Although the Government had claimed the school projects would be built with energy efficiency in mind, the audit found there was a limited green focus and commitment. In fact the Queensland Government said its projects would add $30 million a year to its energy, water and maintenance bills.

The Opposition said the program was a "disastrous waste of taxpayer's money" and it would use Parliament to pursue audit revelations the Government knew a cost blow-out was likely before the program even began.

Education Minister Julia Gillard yesterday said the program had helped keep Australia out of recession and the Government remained focused on getting value for money.


Bureaucrats catch the bully bug from anti-test teachers

Eve and Katsuya left Sydney at 7.30am and drove home, arriving at 12.30pm. Eve drove for the first two hours at an average speed of 60km/h. Katsuya drove the rest of the way, averaging 90km/h. What was the average speed of the whole journey? a) 67km/h; b) 75km/h; c) 78km/h; d) 84km/h.*

This is an example of the sort of innocuous question that will appear next week in the national NAPLAN tests, which are causing World War III in education circles.

It's hard to believe teachers' unions would stoop so low as to threaten casual and retired teachers brought in by schools to supervise the tests for years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

But their bully-boy tactics are there in black and white on the NSW Teachers Federation website: "You should be aware that if you [supervise the tests], you may quickly find yourself in a hostile environment where the teachers . . . have refused to administer NAPLAN 2010. These teachers and principals will not thank you for your intervention."

It's just part of union attempts to sabotage the popular tests, which are an important tool to improve education, especially for disadvantaged students. We see from last year's NAPLAN tests, for instance, that NSW schools fared disproportionately well, especially in primary reading, which shows former premier Bob Carr was justified in defending the curriculum from the worst educational fads. We can learn from some of the surprise successes, such as Macquarie Fields High School in the oft-maligned south-west suburb, which ranked in the top 100 schools in the country in numeracy.

But the militant ideologues of the Australian Education Union and the NSW Teachers Federation are determined to boycott the tests, ostensibly because they object to the possibility they might be used to rank schools in "league tables".

The only logical explanation for this madness is the unions are frightened of information. They don't want Macquarie Fields to be hailed a success or become a model for other schools in impoverished areas. They want to hide failures and condemn another generation of young Australians to illiteracy.

Even if the union campaign is only slightly successful, it will have contaminated this year's results. As this will be the second national test for students who sat the first test in 2008, it is crucial to measure their progress. It is the children who will suffer from this unseemly squabbling of grown adults.

To their credit, federal Education Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Education Minister Verity Firth are standing firm, determined to introduce transparency and accountability to the nation's classrooms. But it seems those good intentions only go so far. When it comes to a small software company that has turned the test into an easy online tool for schools and students to take regular snapshots of academic progress, education departments have resorted to the same intimidatory tactics as the unions.

David Johnson owns Naplan Online and AUSSAT Online, websites that allow students and teachers to take tests online, with immediate marks, and to track their results over time. He says he is being driven out of business by bullying bureaucrats.

Over the past nine months, he says the NSW Department of Education and Training and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, have sent him five threatening legal letters alleging copyright infringements and demanding he hand over his domain name and logo and stop people from doing the tests online. On Sunday night, he was intimidated enough to shut down the free online testing site, despite having "tens of thousands" of parents registered.

"We're just a small software business trying to make a dollar," he says. "The schools absolutely love [the website]. It cuts out the bureaucrats and empowers classroom teachers and principals. There is nothing like it available in Australia."

He says inefficient education bureaucracies have spent millions of dollars on IT departments that have not been able to create any comparable tool. Instead, they have trademarked the NAPLAN name and are trying to shut him down. "Why are government bureaucracies trying to operate like businesses? If everyone could use the NAPLAN assessment papers other people could develop new products and services that benefit everyone," he says.

An IT expert married to a schoolteacher, Johnson, 43, came up with the idea for the website after his eldest son sat the first NAPLAN tests in 2008 and he saw the flaws. "It was all paper-based, expensive and controlled by big bureaucracy." The tests are in May but results are not returned until September, giving little time to correct problems.

"If a child is struggling you need to know as quickly as possible so that you can act," he says. He worked out how to overcome the inefficiencies with software, which he patented, and has already sold to 300 schools, to use as a supplement to NAPLAN. His paid subscription service allows teachers to test students several times a year, giving them several data points from which to judge progress.

While NAPLAN is a useful tool for education departments to allocate resources to under-performing schools, in the classroom teachers still need ways to assess the progress of individual students. More data points help them identify where a child is faltering or progressing and to communicate to parents what value has been added over the year.

All the information Johnson uses is publicly available. He has just been more efficient than education bureaucracies at making it useful. There are plenty of commercially available NAPLAN guides in print form that help teachers and parents prepare children for the tests.

As Johnson says: "If our site disappears, someone somewhere will build another site to replace it." But he is running out of money and is now thinking of giving up and taking an IT job overseas. He has shown how private enterprise can solve problems more efficiently than bureaucracies. But his travails show how innovation is crushed when those bureaucracies run out of control.

SOURCE (There is now some talk that the unions will back down under threat of losing pay)

5 May, 2010

Rudd sends Australian jobs to conservative-led Canada

AUSTRALIA'S proposed new tax on its resources industry could be a huge competitive advantage for Canada, according to that country's finance minister, Jim Flaherty.

Speaking to the media ahead of a speech to a public-policy forum on pension reform, Mr Flaherty said overnight that the continued decline in corporate taxes in Canada was a “great attraction for investment”.

Mr Flaherty said he still needed to closely review the tax proposed by Australia's government to fully understand how it worked. Like Australia, Canada has a very large and active resource industry.

Kevin Rudd’s Labor government announced plans to make mining giants liable for a tax on profits made from the exploitation of non-renewable resources. The extra revenue will be used to lower other corporate taxes.

Mr Flaherty noted that Canada had been reducing its corporate tax rate, and corporations in most of Canada would face a combined 25 per cent tax rate by 2012.

He said the “easiest thing” for a politician to do is raise taxes, which immediately increases revenues, but limits growth.


Army of let-down voters set to desert ALP

Will Rudd be a new Whitlam -- remembered only for his follies and incompetence?

IN Kevin Grove, Caboolture, they're not happy, Prime Minister. Take Alan Abbott. The 52-year-old ute-driving handyman enjoys his beer and cigarettes and is deeply unimpressed the cost of both have gone up since he changed his vote in 2007 and helped elect the Rudd government.

The list doesn't end there. Mr Abbott and his wife, Sandra, who works in a petrol station, are uneasy about Labor's handling of border protection. They think Australia is already big enough and yesterday's 0.25 percentage point interest rate hike added to their concern about being priced out of Queensland's southeast.

Next time round, they will both be voting for the Liberals and their namesake, Tony Abbott. "You know, before the last election I thought Rudd was a fair dinkum sort of bloke," Alan Abbott said yesterday. "But there's something about him now that I don't really trust."

The couple are part of a growing army of the disillusioned and discontented with Mr Rudd, brought out in yesterday's horror Newspoll in The Australian for the Prime Minister and his government.

Concerns are also growing in the government, with worried Labor MPs planning to ask Mr Rudd to embrace a carbon tax as Labor's climate change policy, to fill the vacuum left by his contentious shelving of the emissions trading scheme.

After being bombarded by outraged younger voters in their electorates, five Labor MPs have told The Australian the government's current position on climate change is untenable and unsellable to the electorate.

The Abbotts' home in Kevin Grove is in the key electorate of Longman, north of Brisbane, which shifted to Labor in 2007 and will be in the Opposition Leader's sights when Mr Rudd calls the election later this year. Mr Rudd was campaigning only a street away on Monday, as he hit the hustings to sell the Henry tax review.

Alan Abbott enjoys a beer and a smoke - "you've got to have some vices, haven't you" - and the cost of both has gone up under the Rudd government. "I'm paying about $25 a week more for my cigarettes now than before," he said.

Mr Abbott doubts whether he will be around to vote again in Longman. "We're moving back to the Kerang district in Victoria and we can buy a house there with no debt," Mr Abbott said.

"And one of the reasons we're doing that is we don't want to get caught up again with a mortgage when it looks as though interest rates are going to keep going up and up.

"And with this Henry report, I don't mind the mining companies paying more tax - most of them are overseas-owned - but what about the other multinationals? "If you looked at all the other people who don't pay all their tax - the lawyers, the company directors - he was going to to do something about that as well, and that's another area where nothing happened."

But he also feels that Rudd wasn't upfront enough with his views on immigration and population, and that Australia is getting too many people.

Both the Abbotts are swinging voters who have no qualms about changing their vote between elections. "I didn't mind a lot of what John Howard did, but Work Choices was a big reason why I voted against him last time. Nothing happened to me, but I heard so many stories from people I knew about it."

In a deadly assessment, he feels that Howard had a core competence, while the current government doesn't. He said that around Caboolture and Morayfield, there was early talk that the Rudd government's roofing insulation scheme was a rort [racket], while the BER scheme to assist schools also seems to have been rorted.


Abbott: public cooling on immigration

THE high numbers of asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat is eroding public support for immigration, says the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

"Any perception that the Government has outsourced even a component of migrant selection to people smugglers threatens Australians' sometimes fragile support for immigration," Mr Abbott said in a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne. "The danger, when the immigration program is under question, is that millions of Australians feel less secure in their own country."

This was a particular risk because migrants and their children comprised 40 per cent of the population, he said.

Citing research by an ANU academic, Katharine Betts, that found Australians were more comfortable with migration when tough political rhetoric created an impression it was under control, Mr Abbott said the former government had more than doubled the migration intake.

"Rebuilding majority support for Australia's immigration program was one of John Howard's important but undervalued achievements," he said.

However, the Refugee Council of Australia said any recent concerns over immigration had been stoked by fear-mongering, not by the 5400 people who had sailed to Australia under the Rudd government.

The 50th boat to be intercepted this year was detected on Monday night, west of Ashmore Island.

Public attention continued to rest on the minority of asylum seekers who arrived by boat, when far larger numbers flew, said a spokeswoman for the council, Kate Gauthier. "If the public knew the truth about the numbers and the horrible situations they were fleeing, Australians would react with open arms and compassion."

On April 9 the government froze all processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan refugee claims in toughened measures to deter future boat ventures. Yesterday Mr Abbott said this change had not worked.

He reiterated a Coalition plan for the Productivity Commission to do an annual, independent review of Australia's infrastructure needs, considering short-, medium- and long-term population projections. "This should help to sustain public support for a significant immigration program."

However, a similar policy already exists. In February the government employed independent experts to advise on optimum levels of net overseas migration and the ability of infrastructure to cope. Professor Sue Richardson of Flinders University was commissioned to examine the relationships between migration and the built and natural environments.

Another professor, Peter McDonald of ANU, was commissioned to advise on net overseas migration factoring in the needs of the labour market.

Similarly, the federal government has also already announced changes to the skilled migration program to better meet Australia's long-term "economic and demographic goals".

Yesterday the Opposition spokesman on immigration, Scott Morrison, joined his leader in criticising the processing costs of asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

Each asylum seeker cost taxpayers almost $82,000, Mr Morrison said. "We are barely four months into 2010 and already Kevin Rudd has racked up a half-century of boats, with more than 2400 people on board."

The Minister for Population, Tony Burke, was travelling and unavailable for comment.


The Rudd baby scheme

The conservatives brought in a scheme to pay mothers to have babies. Now Rudd goes one better

WOMEN will be able to quit work up to three months before having a baby and still be eligible for taxpayer-financed maternity leave once their baby is born. The loophole was revealed in draft legislation setting out how the scheme will operate when it comes into effect on January 1.

The benefit will be worth $9788, compared to the $5185 baby bonus, which non-working mums will have to make do with. "It highlights an inequitable treatment between two groups of women," Opposition families spokesman Kevin Andrews said.

He said the loophole was also inconsistent with the scheme's pro-jobs objective. "It is contrary to the reason the Government has given for paid parental leave, namely to keep women in employment," Mr Andrews said. But Families Minister Jenny Macklin hailed the policy as a revolution for women and employers.

"(It) gives parents more options to balance work and family and helps employers retain skilled staff and boosts workforce participation," she said.

An estimated 148,000 mums will be able to claim the benefit each year, getting 18 weeks' pay at the minimum wage. The $543-a-week benefit can be signed over to stay-at-home dads if a child's mother wants to return to work. But the benefit will be lost if the parent receiving the benefit goes back to work before the leave is finished.

Exceptions will be made under a special "keeping in touch" provision, revealed yesterday, allowing workers to return for up to 10 days for meetings or other activities.

To be eligible for the leave, expectant mums must earn less than $150,000 a year and work at least 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months before their due date. The Government has agreed to allow a gap of up to eight weeks between working days to cater for casual and seasonal workers.

Employers will ultimately have to pay the benefit to eligible workers through their payroll system or face fines of $6600. They will be reimbursed in advance by the Government. But they can opt to have the payments made by the Family Assistance Office during a six-month implementation period. Women who resign will be paid by the FAO.

Women can apply for the benefit up to three months before their due date to get the paperwork out of the way. Workers who get employer-paid leave will also receive the government pay.

Ms Macklin said Australians had been waiting decades for a paid parental leave scheme.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has proposed a more generous scheme, financed by a tax on big business. But he indicated the Coalition would pass the Labor scheme in the Senate.

New mum Jessica Malcolm, 35, of Kensington, who gave birth to Hannah six months ago, said it was good news. "It would be nice to have that option, if you needed it," she said. "Some people get really sick beforehand. "I left a month beforehand and I really needed that time to prepare. Many people need two months."


4 May, 2010

Conservatives lead in latest poll

THE Federal Opposition has been warned not to get too excited about the latest Newspoll which puts it ahead of Labor for the first time since 2006.

Kevin Rudd's personal satisfaction rating has dropped the most in the shortest time in the 20-year history of Newspoll surveys, and for the first time since the election Labor no longer has a clear lead over either the Coalition or the Greens on the issue of climate change, The Australian reported.

Mr Rudd's previous standing as being seen to be "decisive and strong" also fell significantly and Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is considered almost equal with the Prime Minister in his grasp of major policy issues.

After weeks of dramatic policy reversals and broken promises, culminating last week in Mr Rudd's decision to put off his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme until at least 2013, the Government's primary vote has plunged eight percentage points to just 35 per cent. The Coalition's primary support has risen three points to 43 per cent.

According to the latest Newspoll, taken last weekend exclusively for The Australian and polling almost 1200 voters, the extraordinary shifts in the primary vote mean the two-party-preferred support for Labor has dropped to 49 per cent while the Coalition's has risen from 46 to 51 per cent.

The Prime Minister's personal satisfaction rating, down 11 points from 50 per cent two weeks ago to 39 per cent last weekend, is the lowest he has had as Labor leader, and it is the first time he has had a negative satisfaction rating, after dissatisfaction with him jumped nine points to 50 per cent.

Labor's primary vote, at 35 per cent, is at its lowest since March 2006 when Labor was in Opposition.

"Labor's taken a hit," Newspoll boss Martin O'Shannessy said today. But Mr O'Shannessy said the big turnaround should be treated with caution, saying it fell in the "rogue poll" range. "We think these numbers are probably telling us there is a protest vote ... probably against the shelving of the ETS," he said.

When asked what advice he would be giving Mr Abbott about the poll, Mr O'Shannessy told Sky News: "Don't get too excited, we haven't seen all of those (Labor) votes coming across to the Coalition." Instead, the Greens and independents were picking up much of the dissatisfaction with the Government. "That's a pretty classic sign of a protest vote," Mr O'Shannessy said.

The last time the Coalition was in front on the two-party-preferred basis, according to preference flows at the last election, was in August 2006 when Kim Beazley was opposition leader and John Howard was prime minister.

Although Labor's vote dropped heavily after the Government announced it would cancel the proposed new home roofing insulation scheme and spend $1 billion fixing up the old failed scheme, drop its CPRS this year and lift the tax on a packet of cigarettes by $2.16, the Coalition's vote did not lift to the same degree.

Satisfaction with the way Mr Abbott is doing his job as Opposition Leader dropped a little, from 46 to 45 per cent, and dissatisfaction rose back to where it was a month ago, to 43 per cent. Because of Mr Rudd's fall in favour, Mr Abbott is now the best placed Opposition Leader on the question of better prime minister.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said tough decisions taken by the Government over the past fortnight were the reason it had taken a hit in the polls. "We've taken some tough decisions in recent weeks, particularly the decision to increase the excise on cigarettes or tobacco," Mr Swan said. "That's what governments have to do. Governments have to govern in the national interest."

Opposition frontbencher George Brandis said the shift was "very striking", and that here had been a "sharp collapse" in public respect for Mr Rudd. "We've been saying all along, sooner or later, the public were bound to wake up to this bloke," he told Sky News. "He is a shallow opportunist."


NSW Police told to grow up

It's OK to call a cop a pr**k, rules magistrate

IT'S the five-letter word that police should from now on shrug-off. Why? Because a local court magistrate in Sydney ruled yesterday that the word "prick" was part of the every-day vernacular as he cleared a university student of an offensive language charge.

Waverley Local Court magistrate Robbie Williams made his comments during a hearing for science student Henry Grech, 22, who was charged following a heated argument with Senior Constable Adam Royds at Bondi Junction train station last year.

Mr Williams said he wasn't satisfied that a "reasonable person" would be offended by the word prick in general conversation. "I consider the word prick is of a less derogatory nature than other words and it is in common usage in this country," he said.

"A police officer on a number of occurrences would hear words like this used on a much worse scale. Police officers would be used to this type of language."

Mr Williams said the spectrum of acceptable offensive vocabulary in society was a "moving feast". "The words also take on different meaning. It is clear that there are some words which could be considered to be on the offensive list," he said. "As to whether the word prick falls into that category must be taken in the context of which it was used."

NSW Police Association secretary Peter Remfrey said the legal system should not be making police "second-class citizens". "We don't think it is satisfactory for the courts to sanction this sort of language against police officers," he said.

"Police shouldn't be punching bags for society, nor should they be open to this sort of abuse. One only has to contemplate the response of a magistrate if somebody called them a prick in their court. The magistrates should adopt the same approach to all people in the criminal justice system."

Senior Constable Royds stopped Mr Grech on the station's concourse area on November 5 last year after Mr Grech allegedly jumped a barrier. The pair had an aggressive exchange of words before Mr Grech told the officer that he would "see him in court" if he continued to harass him. Mr Grech then called Senior Constable Royds "a prick".

Mr Grech, who is student at the University of NSW, said he was surprised the matter had been taken to court. "When I used the word I didn't think it was offensive and didn't think it would end up in court," Mr Grech said. "I'm happy I got off."

Mr Grech's lawyer Nick Hanna used previous cases dating back to 1951 to compare other cases where magistrates and judges had dismissed offensive language charges.

He referenced decisions from court cases in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia where magistrates ruled that words including "s***" and "f***" had not been used in "an offensive manner and without sexual overtones".

Police prosecutors are unlikely to appeal against Mr Williams' decision.


The toxic NSW Ambulance service again

Bullying and mistreatment of staff by ambulance bosses seems to be endemic and ineradicable. Inquiry after inquiry has not budged it

Paramedic Al Qvist had been in the job for about five years when he plunged into deep depression. He had already endured a toxic combination of attending shocking accident scenes, being bullied and harassed by colleagues, and facing an unsympathetic, even hostile, management.

But the tipping point was in 1995 when he attended the scene of an AIDS patient who had jumped in front of a train in the Kings Cross tunnel. The man's body was severed below his pelvis and he appeared to be dead. When Mr Qvist shone his torch onto the emaciated body, the man's eyes rolled towards him and he said: "I want to die." Mr Qvist was covered in blood and was worried he had contracted HIV.

"The Ambulance didn't show any type of consideration or empathy at all," his wife, Kathy Qvist, said. "He didn't get debriefed and they were just expected to get back on and do their job."

In the following weeks he was badly assaulted by two patients. Mr Qvist asked for counselling but was instead sent to be psychiatrically assessed for his job suitability. He has never again asked for counselling despite three suicide attempts.

"He was a mess and for a while after that he went down into black places, basically, very dark places," Mrs Qvist said. "Al felt very isolated and very helpless."

She got rid of his rifle after he sat in the back room of the house with the barrel in his mouth.

Mr Qvist has not been interviewed for this story as staff are not permitted to speak to the media.

By 1999, he felt he desperately needed time off, but was refused, Mrs Qvist said. He overdosed on prescription drugs while home alone with his daughters, then aged seven and eight.

Mrs Qvist said his workers' compensation claim was rejected. "They said it's not our fault," she said. "I find it unbelievable. The Ambulance Service is an important part of the health system yet it just doesn't understand mental health."

The Ambulance Service did not respond to the Herald's questions about Mr Qvist's treatment, but said it takes the mental health of its staff very seriously. Mr Qvist has worked across the Hunter, most recently at Hamilton, Stroud and the Central West, and had a seven-year stint in Sydney, during which he had to commute from his home in Newcastle.

Again, in 2007, he was traumatised by the job when he almost drowned saving an elderly woman in the Newcastle floods. He still has nightmares and such a deep fear of water he carries an inflatable life jacket on wet days. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2008, around the anniversary of the floods, he again tried to commit suicide. He had time off work and was recovering, but last year had a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric unit after a station manager allegedly abused him and physically threatened him.

The Ambulance Service, seven months later, is still investigating.

Mr Qvist is on a high dose of anti-depressant medication and works at a station 200 kilometres from home. He is due to receive a bravery award this month for the flood rescue.


Taxing the Heart out of Australia

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that the Rudd Resource tax was just another in a long line of taxes helping to depopulate rural Australia.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that depopulation of the outback started with the fringe benefits tax and the removal of accelerated depreciation, both of which penalise companies who provide housing for employees.

“Every government since then has accelerated the drift to the coastal and capital cities.

“The heavy burdens of excessive fuel taxes, coal royalties, rail freights and infrastructure bottlenecks have for years restricted the development of the outback resource industry. Only deposits that are rich or close to the coast can pay their way, which is why the Galilee Basin has been undeveloped for so long.

“The vegetation control bans, water mismanagement and growth of carbon credit forests are depressing agriculture and will depopulate rural towns.

“Humans and their industries are also prohibited from vast areas of our land and sea sterilised by a confusing mixture of exclusion zones. And the lack and high cost of outback infrastructure has fed the fly-in mentality of industry and governments.

“Had the money wasted just on roof insulation been spent on new infrastructure, Australia would be a more decentralised and productive place.

“The climate alarmists urge still more carbon taxes and force the usage of expensive alternative energy. All outback industry relies almost totally on carbon fuels for motive power. None of our quad bikes, cars, trucks, road trains, tractors, dozers, trains, planes or ships are powered by solar panels or wind turbines – they need diesel, petrol, gas and electricity (from coal). And our biggest outback industries are focussed on exploring, developing, supplying or transporting carbon products. Coal, gas, oil, beef, sheep, dairy and timber are all threatened by more carbon taxes.

“The Rudd Resource tax is yet another centralising force, depressing outback industry and stimulating the population of drones around the government honey pots in Canberra. It increases the risk that the belated rush to build infrastructure will leave new trains without freight and new ports without ships.

“Taxes are creating ‘A Nation without a Heart’.”


3 May, 2010

Rudd's plan to kill off Australia's most profitable industry

Because of the risks involved, mining has to have higher returns than most businesses but Rudd plans to tax those higher returns away. Most likely result: No new mining projects, no new revenue from mining, no more job creation in mining and a gradual fall-off in mining exports -- which in turn will devalue the dollar and lead to higher prices for everyone. But in an election year none of that matters, apparently

THERE are three simple tests that should be applied to the government's plan for a new super tax on the minerals sector.

What problem is the new tax intended to fix? Will it harm or hinder investment, jobs and growth in the sector that kept Australia out of recession and underpinned economic growth over the past decade? And is there a better way? Let's test the five key propositions underpinning the government's case for a super tax on the resources sector against these criteria.

* First, the government argues that the existing arrangements - six different state and territory-based royalty regimes - are unwieldy and inefficient. But will the new tax streamline these arrangements? Actually, no. The states will still operate their own schemes (with Canberra rebating these imposts back to companies from its new super tax back).

So a mining company operating in several states will still pay royalties to them as well as dealing with the complexity of the new federal resource tax. And this is reform?

And what is the incentive for state governments to restrain themselves from levying new royalty hikes? None.

* Second, the government claims the new super tax will ensure the community gets a fair share of the dividend from mining expansion. Citigroup analysts wrote last week that Australian royalties and taxes are already some of the highest in the world. And this new super tax will make us the undisputed world champion on mining taxes.

Of course, the government claims that it missed out on $35 billion in revenue over the last decade. The facts tell a different story, but don't take my word for it. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wrote last year that the mining boom had boosted commonwealth revenues by $334bn since 2004-5. That is the equivalent of a GFC-style stimulus package every year for the past 5 years. Treasurer Wayne Swan told the National Press Club a few months ago it had been raining gold bars as a result of the minerals boom.

Until yesterday, the federal Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, spoke frequently about the surge of revenue into government coffers as a result of higher commodity prices.

The simple fact is existing arrangements have delivered a big dividend to the Australian community. That is plain from the fact the mining sector accounts for almost 18 per cent of corporate tax revenues, despite accounting for about 8 per cent of the economy.

And the tax office's own data shows the average tax take from mining is 13 per cent higher than the all-industry average. We have a two-speed tax system and the mining sector is already in the fast lane.

* Third, the government has decided for the mining industry alone any profit higher than a 6 per cent return (the long-term government bond rate) is a super profit which will attract the new 40 per cent super tax. How will that promote investment in inherently risky mining projects?

One investment house, MF Global, wrote last week that with the tax charge on mining likely to increase, investors might want to diversify their holdings away from highly Australia-exposed stocks.

* Fourth, the government claims a new tax on the minerals sector will actually boost investment, jobs and growth in the sector. There are two critical issues here. The government plans to apply this new tax to existing mines. In other words, the rules applying to hundreds of billions of dollars of long-standing investments will change overnight (and dramatically). The value of projects will be summarily slashed.

Leaving aside the grave risks to Australia's reputation as a safe place to invest, working out the liability of 500 existing operations will be highly problematic. The only industry earning super-profits in the post-Henry era will be tax accounting. Then there is the question of the $108bn of minerals projects under feasibility study or awaiting a final investment decision.

The inevitable consequence is many of these projects will be reviewed involving lower growth, fewer jobs and reduced investment. The burden will fall heaviest on regional Australia, where one in four jobs depends on exports. But the impact will be wider. Just as the benefits of the mining boom spread through the Australian economy, so will the consequences of a self-induced slowing of the sector.

The beneficiary will be projects abroad. And there are plenty of overseas options. Australia provides for less than 10 per cent of global output in most of the key commodities. Investment capital will look elsewhere with a keener eye. Australia will be the only nation in the world with a super tax on mining projects.

It is worth noting in this context that the government cites the year 2000 as an informal benchmark for the optimal share of mining profits to royalty take. In that year, there were just three major mining projects under way.

* Finally, there is the proposition that the mining tax grab should fund corporate tax cuts, infrastructure provision and changes to superannuation.

The government argues that in defiance of economic logic, a new multi-billion dollar annual mining tax will actually increase mining output and therefore increase tax collections, which can then fund other commitments and promises.

But the more likely outcome - projects deferred, lower growth, and a new enthusiasm for off-shore investment - will mean revenue gains from the new tax could be much, much lower than the government anticipates. Locking in future spending on a gamble on future commodity prices is an interesting approach.

None of the above should be interpreted as a refusal on the part of the minerals sector to play a constructive role in resource tax reform. We have been saying for months that current arrangements can be improved. But key features of this version of reform falls well short.

There is a better way, but to find that solution, the consultation process established yesterday cannot be limited to technical design questions. The government's message seems confused.

The government wants more from the mining sector while taking actions that will slow it down. The government is tapping the brakes to slow the mining sector down and let the rest of the economy catch up.

But as American comedian George Carlin once said, when you step on the brakes your life is in your foot's hands.


More "stimulus" failures -- new school buildings unsafe

Buildings being constructed under the federal government's schools stimulus program are riddled with safety hazards, from slippery tiles and toxic carpets to poisonous fumes from unflued heaters.

Environmental scientists, building industry experts, health groups and the NSW Teachers Federation have raised concerns about the potential risks associated with buildings in the $16.2 billion program.

The NSW Integrated Program Office for the Building the Education Revolution program has maintained the buildings are of high quality, sometimes exceeding building code standards.

But schools have complained of dodgy workmanship, including incorrectly fitted light switches and fans, temporary foundations, leaking water tanks and lifting carpets.

With winter approaching, schools and health groups have raised the alarm about the installation of 3000 unflued gas heaters. Studies have shown that the heaters release a potentially poisonous stew of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and formaldehyde. They are being phased out of schools in every state except NSW and Queensland.

"These are new buildings going up at significant cost to the taxpayer," NSW Teachers Federation president Bob Lipscombe said. "Heating is a very small component of the overall cost of building work. It would not cost a huge amount to put alternative heating in these new buildings. The Department of Education is not acting in a reasonable way at all."

The NSW Department of Education and Training says the heaters are safe, provided doors and windows are kept open to provide ventilation. Schools in cold-climate zones say this is impractical.

Berridale Public School, in the Snowy Mountains, has an unflued heater in its new $900,000 library. "We have been constantly told the library is of a very high standard," Berridale School Council's Fiona Suthern said. "It's a building that cost close to $1 million. An unflued gas heater is not a high-standard heating device. We're not asking for something flash - just something safe."

Richard Kalina, from the Campaign Opposing Unflued Gas Heating, said: "I feel it's bordering on criminal. When parents take their children to school, they should expect their children will be in a safe environment. They are not safe."

A 2007 Commonwealth health report on unflued heaters found exposure to the fumes they emitted causes increased respiratory symptoms in children with asthma, and were also associated with new asthma cases in children. About 11 per cent of children in NSW have asthma. The Asthma Foundation NSW has called on the Department of Education to remove the 51,000 existing unflued heaters in NSW schools and stop ordering new ones.

A NSW Department of Education spokesman said there was "no substantiated instances" of heaters causing illness when properly operated.

The combination of exposure to unflued gas heaters, as well as fumes emitted from paint, new carpet and building materials, could cause toxic overload in children, according to environmental scientist Jo Immig of the National Toxics Network.

"We are concerned about the overall toxic load," she said. "This is particularly important as far as children are concerned because they are much more sensitive to toxins than adults. "We recommended that schools undertake building work or renovations when children are on school holidays to minimise the risk of chemical exposure."

New buildings also posed a risk of volatile organic compounds being released from carpet, paint and new furniture, Ms Immig said. "Carpets are potentially one of the most toxic things in the indoor environment."

Professor Margaret Burchett from the University of Technology, Sydney, said it could take months for indoor air quality to improve. "If you smell that newness smell in a building it's a nice smell but it's also toxic."

Murdoch University environmental toxicologist Peter Dingle said the rooms should be allowed to air before being used. "If the teachers and kids walk into a new classroom or hall and there is a smell in the room they should not go into it," Dr Dingle said.

Tile supplier Richard Earp and slip resistance expert Carl Strautins have raised concerns about the type of tiles used in toilet blocks, canteens and entrances, which they say can lose their grip over a short time and become a slip hazard. A department spokesman said all floor tiles used were certified anti-slip in line with the relevant standard.


Major NSW public hospital is "broke"

The hospital that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Kristina Keneally chose as the location to trumpet health reforms is labouring under a budget shortfall of nearly $12 million and a spiralling surgical waiting list.

Documents leaked to The Sun-Herald show Blacktown Hospital was in the red by $11.94 million in January, making it one of the sickest establishments within the Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS).

Separate documents show Blacktown's waiting list nearly doubled from 570 patients in December 2008 to 921 in December last year. Mr Rudd and Ms Keneally visited the 350-bed Blacktown Hospital last week to announce just 18 new beds as part of what they described as their "historic health and hospital reform".

A week earlier, Blacktown's Labor MP Paul Gibson told a local newspaper: "We need another 110 beds, and we need them yesterday."

About one in five patients now being treated in nearby Westmead Hospital have been referred by Blacktown due to a bed shortage.

A fortnight ago it was revealed that the 13 hospitals in the Sydney West region had combined debts of $18.9 million at the end of the last financial year. SWAHS, which serves 1 million people, has been accused of failing to pay suppliers of medicines and diagnostic tests due to financial constraints.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said Blacktown's financial woes were "highly embarrassing" for Mr Rudd and Ms Keneally. "Their announcement won't fix the $12 million budget blowout, it won't cut the waiting list which has more than doubled since 2006 … Blacktown Hospital … will now be in cost-cutting mode because of Labor's failed management of our health system."

A spokesman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said Blacktown's budget shortfall varied by less than 5 per cent from its budget.

He said the hospital is $5 million over budget.

"It is the waiting time, not list, that is important and Blacktown has recently received enhancement money for surgery from the Area Health Service and is on track to meet its target of all patients being treated within clinical benchmarks by June 2010," he said.


Greenies as colonialists

They see themselves as the new aristocracy who can tell blacks what to do. Cape York Peninsula is roughly the size of England but the Greenies want it untouched by any development -- thus shafting the blacks who live there and who would profit from development

Throughout our exploration of the Queensland government's Wild Rivers legislation, it has dawned on me that colonisation of indigenous lands is a current process, not just something from the history books.

Until this point of realisation, my commonsense understanding of history held that colonisation was a process completed in my great-grandfather's day.

I do know about the forced removal and demolition of the Mapoon community on northern Cape York in the 1960s, but I guess I took that as an aberration - the aberrant behaviour of a now-discredited government - that could not happen today. The shotguns and bulldozers of the Mapoon case don't occur today, but colonisation of a more pernicious kind is still a reality.

Today it's happening under the banner of land management law driven by a political constituency for environmental protection.

It's about creation without consent of an ever-expanding body of land management law that has as its overall effect reduction in the level of autonomy indigenous people are able to exercise when managing their land.

The overall effect of non-consensual reduction of autonomy is denial of the established cultural processes of indigenous land management, and devaluation of the property rights of those indigenous land holders who have had their land management autonomy stripped away.

Given the outcomes of legal cases such as Mabo and Wik, which confirmed in certain places the continuous existence, not gracious reinstatement by the court or a government of the day, of native title over indigenous lands, does not the imposition of new land management law that denies traditional land management processes and reduces the underlying value of title constitute a colonial act? I think it does, and in this day and age that strikes me as a shameful thing for our society to accept.

I mentioned earlier the existence of a powerful political constituency for legislation protecting the environmental values of indigenous lands.

The Queensland government has its political allies for the Wild Rivers laws.

During the course of our research on Wild Rivers, we met some of the environmental groups engaged on this issue.

The passion, commitment, erudition, knowledge and political skill of these groups are undeniably attractive.

It's easy to understand how members are attracted to the cause.

But when they deploy these enviable skills to the project of legislating away, without consent, the property rights of indigenous people, they are partners in a new wave of colonisation of the cape.

Indigenous property rights are subordinated to an environmental aesthetic that is supported by sophisticated political clout, and so is successful.

Where historically indigenous property was taken so the colonisers could put the land to economic use, now it is taken to save the planet; to make up for the harm done to the planet through urban industrialisation and agriculture.

Indigenous communities can pay the price for our environmental miscreance.

Again, it shames me to think we find this tolerable.

As a consequence of working these things through, I've come to thinking about indigenous land management sovereignty. I wonder what we could come up with if we tried, in partnership with indigenous landholders on the cape and their leaders, to truly give authority over land management matters back to those people.


2 May, 2010

Unborn babies seized from 'unfit' Perth mothers

This sounds like something out of Nazi Germany but I suppose it does make some sense as prevention. There must be early, full and open judicial review of all bureaucratic decisions, however. Bureaucratic arrogance often runs wild in child welfare decisions already

BABIES are being "seized" by the Department for Child Protection before they are even born. The Sunday Times can reveal the department has started scrutinising expectant mothers they fear may be unfit to care for a baby.

Under the radical new government policy, would-be mothers who are 20 weeks or more pregnant are being forced to give urine samples - to show they are drug free - and prove they have permanent accommodation.

If the expectant mother fails to satisfy child-protection officers, they immediately start child removal procedures. It means the paperwork is completed ahead of the birth and, as soon as a baby is born, the child can be put into state care or given to a relative.

Abortion Grief Australia is concerned the scheme could lead to a rise in early terminations and expectant mothers committing suicide.

But Department for Child Protection director-general Terry Murphy said early intervention gave vulnerable mothers a better chance of keeping their babies because they had earlier access to help.

Mothers who want to keep their baby would have to undergo routine urine testing during pregnancy to prove they weren't drinking or taking drugs, he said. Mothers would also have to prove they had permanent accommodation, would be able to feed their baby properly and were not in a dangerous domestic relationship.

The assessments conducted by the department are in collaboration with officials from the Drug and Alcohol Office and Department of Housing.

"This will work best for women who have had a number of children and they've lost them all," Mr Murphy said. "These women would usually avoid us. "But, with this approach, people are more willing to actually meet with us and try to find a solution whereby they can be supported to keep their child."

Mr Murphy conceded that for some expectant mothers the only choice for DCP officers would be to start preparations to take the baby away once it was born. "There are a whole lot of graduated outcomes, all of which are an improvement on somebody being scared, giving birth, losing the child and then running away," he said.

"There are still times when we have to take a child away. "But what we can at least be confident of is that the mum has understood fully why and that it's not just the DCP being nasty, but it generally means her family and all the other agencies that might be involved are also saying that's what should happen."


Australia's new criminal class: Ambulance administrators

"Thou shalt not kill"! There's been far too many of these episodes: Schoolboy dies while waiting for an ambulance. Don't tell me nobody is responsible. Sending out half-equipped ambulances with half-trained personnel aboard is the start of the problem

A FIVE-year-old Gippsland boy died as he waited for a specialist ambulance that arrived more than an hour after his family's frantic call for help.

Ambulance Victoria has come under fire after the MICA unit that could have been the difference between life and death for schoolboy Rupert Rafferty took more than an hour to arrive. MICA units carry cardiac drugs and specialist intensive care paramedics trained to administer them.

Rupert's family phoned triple 0 at 10.13pm and it took 22 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive from Maffra at 10.35pm. But only one "advanced life support" member and an "ambulance community officer", trained only to administer first aid and assist paramedics, were on board.

After realising Rupert was going into cardiac arrest, they immediately called for back-up, requesting a MICA unit with exclusive cardiac drugs and specialist intensive care paramedics trained to administer them.

Another ambulance arrived to help, but without the proper tools and training could only keep Rupert alive in the hope the MICA team would arrive soon. The MICA paramedics did not arrive until 11.18pm. Rupert died of cardiac arrest at 11.50pm as paramedics carried him to a waiting air ambulance from Melbourne.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman James Howe said a MICA unit was not sent to treat Rupert immediately because the initial emergency call was listed as "convulsion". "Under the distress grid, that has a standard ambulance response as opposed to a cardiac arrest, which requires MICA," Mr Howe said....

Rupert's mother, Sarah, was too distressed to speak about her nightmare.

Speaking through a friend, she claimed response times were a major issue in the region, but she was happy with the efforts ambulance officers made to try to save her son's life.

Mr Rafferty said the did not blame ambulance workers for his son's death, but said it was impossible not to wonder if he could have been saved had there been a quicker MICA response. "I have heard of problems with response times and people complaining of them taking forever," he said.

"They do the best job they can, but the reality is there are not enough of them and the few there are have to cover a huge area. "I think the perception in the community is there needs to be more ambulances here, there needs to be more funding because the few that are here have way too big an area to cover."

Too many cases like this

Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said Rupert's case was the tip of the iceberg. Other cases the union listed include:

A 16-YEAR-OLD Maffra girl who died at a party last Saturday night when an ambulance arrived in 12 minutes, but a MICA unit took 20 minutes;

A PREGNANT woman told to make her own way to hospital because an ambulance would take an hour;

A MAN, 26, who died after an ambulance took 36 minutes to reach him after a car accident at Bairnsdale.

Mr McGhie listed Moe, Warragul, Geelong, Ballarat, Morwell and Sale as being in urgent need of more ambulances and ambulance staff. "There is a serious game of Russian roulette going on, " he said.

There are only four, full-time MICA units in regional Victoria - stationed at Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong and Morwell. Four more "single response" MICA sedans are based in the same towns.

Ambulance Victoria said that in addition to the units, more than 100 trained MICA paramedics rode regularly in standard ambulances.

Ambulance Victoria regional services general manager Tony Walker said the "most vigorous efforts" were given to revive Rupert. "It is always very sad when a young life is lost and our thoughts are with the families concerned and with our attending staff who we are supporting," he said.

The Victorian Government's response time performance target of 85 per cent of code one emergency calls being responded to within 15 minutes has not been met for five years. Last year, Ambulance Victoria achieved 82.5 per cent.

A spokesman for Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the Government was "working hard" to provide better health care in country areas. "We've added almost 1200 extra operational paramedics," he said.


Former officer claims WA cops lie, brawl, take sexual favours

This certainly confirms a popular perception of W.A. cops

OFFICERS allegedly competed over the number of arrests they could make and lied to protect each other in court, claims a whistleblower from within the ranks of WA Police.

The first-class constable, who quit the service last week after five years as an officer, is writing to Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan detailing her experiences and naming and shaming colleagues.

She has even accused former colleagues of deliberately starting brawls while on the beat and bragging about committing sex acts with women down side streets.
During her time at a Perth station in 2006 and '07, the 36-year-old said her fellow officers:

* Had a competition over the number of arrests they could make, with some police locking up more than 200 people a month.

*Arrested people for offences that were "totally unwarranted" to boost their arrest figures, often on false or exaggerated charges.

* Lied to protect each other in court cases where victims claimed they had been assaulted by police.

* Joked and bragged how they took drunk young women down alleyways and side streets where they kissed, took photos and, on occasion, had sex.

* Patrolled the beat aggressively and started fights with a "let's punch on tonight" mentality.

The woman, who sought legal advice before going public with her claims, this year launched an Equal Opportunity Commission case against WA Police. But she denies it motivated her to make her allegations.

She says she petitioned senior officers and sought guidance about making an official complaint in 2007, but was told to "toughen up" and not make trouble because the team was "bringing in good stats". The mother-of-two became so disillusioned with the job she had no choice but to quit.

The Sunday Times is legally barred from naming the police squad in question.

A spokesman for Mr O'Callaghan confirmed the case was before the Equal Opportunity Commission and urged the woman to report any evidence of police wrongdoing. "There have been many issues concerning this officer and WA Police would welcome any inquiry by the Equal Opportunity Commission," the spokesman said.

"As for the other unsubstantiated claims the constable, like any member of the community, can lodge a complaint with the Police Complaints Administration Centre or the Crime and Corruption Commission. She would, of course, be required to produce some evidence to support her claims."

Detailing her allegations, the woman from Tapping, in Perth's northern suburbs, said: "The public would be mortified, absolutely mortified. Police are supposed to be there to protect and serve, but some of these officers were doing neither."

Her claims come at a time when WA police have never had greater powers, with mandatory sentencing in force for anyone convicted of assaulting an officer and stop and search powers to be introduced.

Making the most arrests became a competition among some officers, she said. "It was all about who could write the most briefs," she said. "It was a competition for them. It was all about the stats. Sometimes they'd write up 200 briefs a month.

"They would charge people for stupid things. They'd hand a move-on notice to someone who was so drunk or drugged they didn't know what they were doing, and then arrest them for disobeying it. "Or they'd arrest drunk people or foreign people for failing to provide their details when clearly they didn't know what was going on.

"They bragged about (their sexual exploits) all the time. "I saw photos they'd taken of girls down alleyways.

"They lied in court all the time. All the time. "It was a case of the boys sticking together and sticking up for each other, not about what was right and wrong."

The woman said she was bullied by her fellow officers as the only female in her team. In January, she launched action against WA Police in the Equal Opportunity Commission over a separate claim that her superiors ignored more than 20 requests for a transfer to a station closer to home, which would have made it easier for the single mother to raise her sons, aged 8 and 11.

The woman said she also wanted to put to the commission her claims about officers making unfair arrests, enjoying sexual favours and committing perjury in 2006 and '07. But the commission cannot investigate alleged wrongdoings more than a year old.

Her lawyer, John Hammond, who is seeking $40,000 in compensation, said the woman's case was one of several before the courts in which WA Police were accused of treating female officers unfairly. "There is a culture of some male police officers treating female police very poorly," Mr Hammond said.

Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said police in WA had an "attitude problem" and she called on Commissioner O'Callaghan to consider integrity testing for officers.


Organic nutrition benefit 'a myth'

ORGANIC food does not have greater nutritional value than conventionally grown food, a major University of Sydney study has found. The study found food grown without pesticides or herbicides shouldn't be promoted as healthier as there was no evidence to show "it contained more nutrients than" normal food.

The author of the report went further, recommending consumers stick with conventionally grown fruit and vegetables because they are cheaper and, therefore, people could eat more of them.

The study, conducted by the School of Molecular Bioscience, surveyed the international literature on organic produce, conducted laboratory analyses of Australian foods and surveyed Australian health professionals about organics, critically evaluating the results.

But the study did not measure pesticide residues - one consumer concern driving organic food purchases.

The results, which will be published in the international science journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, showed that while some studies found organic foods had higher levels of vitamin C and phosphorus [Hey! Wait a minute. Aren't phosphates supposed to BAD for you?] than conventional foods, when these studies were correctly scrutinised there was little difference between the two.

But Organic Federation of Australia chairman Andre Leu rejected the study [He would], saying other long-term reports had found organic food was higher in nutrients than non-organic food. Mr Leu said most people who bought organics did so because they worried about the level of pesticide residue in conventional food, an issue not addressed by the study.

"Studies show there is no, or next-to-no, pesticide residue in organic produce," he said. "There is no real scientific data that shows the safety of pesticides in the human body, especially in children. [Most pesticides can simply be washed off and their use is heavily regulated anyway]


Australian farmers not sold on climate change

AUSTRALIAN farmers are sceptical about climate change and many do not believe it will affect agriculture during their lifetimes, a report says.

But the CSIRO research is calling on rural producers to increase their knowledge of the implications of global warming so they can make their farms more resistant to changing climatic conditions.

The report, A Participatory Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaption Options for NSW Farming Systems, identifies ways farmers can protect their livelihoods, such as by planting crops that can withstand hotter and drier weather, identifying ways to manage fertiliser, and maximising water use through efficient harvesting.

The report confirmed there was significant scepticism and misunderstanding among farmers on climate change and the impact it would have on agriculture. Farmers must also prepare for a future carbon emissions trading scheme.

CSIRO research team leader Steven Crimp said the need for improved climate change knowledge was paramount. "There is a lot of information about climate change and climate projections but there isn't a lot of information on how to make changes within farm management," he said. "Many farmers don't believe that climate change will affect them in their lifetime but we are already starting to see the effects of climate change and variation on the land." [There has always been climate change and variation on the land and farmers know it. Knowing what the weather is likely to do is central to their livelihoods. They are great climate watchers and many keep diaries of weather events]

A spokeswoman for NSW Climate Change minister Frank Sartor said the government was working with farmers to assess regional areas for climate change vulnerability. "The impacts of climate change pose a considerable risk to farmers," she said. "Probable effects include hotter, drier conditions, which will put crops under greater heat and water stress."

Agricultural business workshops for young farmers have been established by the food and agribusiness specialist bank Rabobank to deal with emerging challenges for Australian producers. They cover leadership strategies, business planning and economic management.


1 May, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pretty fired up about Rudd's tax increase on cigarettes and beer

Bipartisan agreement to defeat dependency

By Jessica Brown

True bipartisan agreement is rare. But it seems we have just that over the issue of Disability Support Pension (DSP). Both Labor and the Coalition tightened eligibility criteria for DSP. Both argue not only that we can’t afford to have an ever-growing chunk of the working-age population permanently on welfare but also that many people who would otherwise be on DSP personally benefit greatly from work.

But the conviction that it is politically difficult to move some of the existing 750,000 disability pensioners back into work also seems to be a bipartisan one.

The result is a system that applies different rules to different recipients. Anyone who applied for DSP after the Howard government announced its Welfare to Work reforms in 2006 was rejected if they could work 15 hours or more a week.

This had an immediate impact on the rate of DSP growth, which halved in the space of one year.

But anyone who has been on DSP since before the reforms – about 600,000 people – can keep their payment until they are assessed as being able to work 30 hours a week.

This means that two people with the same ability to work can be assessed differently depending on what year they applied.

About 1% of disability support pensioners leave the payment for a job each year. Waiting for the number of DSP recipients to fall naturally will take decades.

Applying the 15-hour rule consistently to all DSP recipients would undoubtedly result in a large number being reassessed as able to work and moved onto Newstart allowance.

Of course, any move to reduce DSP numbers must be matched by both a greater effort to help people with a disability to find work and a greater effort to ensure there are jobs available, or the reform will simply result in many disability pensioners joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

But successfully reducing the number of people reliant on DSP will pay dividends for both the wider community and the individuals.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated April 30. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

One African dead in Western Australian street brawl

Sounds like it was a Lebanese Muslim gang versus an African gang. More of that wonderful "diversity" to make Australia proud

Police have raided a Ballajura house and are interviewing five men as they investigate a Mirabooka brawl in which one man died and another was critically injured. Police and sources in the Sudanese community have confirmed the dead man is Asamh Manyan, 20, of Mirrabooka.

Paramedics and police were called to the Mirrabooka riot about 9.50pm. Insp. Neil Blair said police found a group fighting near the corner of Northwood Drive and Australis Avenue. Insp. Blair said two people were stabbed during the violent brawl and a 20-year-old had since died.

It is understood a police officer unsuccessfully performed CPR on the victim. The other man remains in a critical condition in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

A man was handcuffed by police and questioned on the roadside.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said this morning the men were either African or Middle Eastern but the violence was not gang related and there were no racial overtones. He said five people were being interviewed by police.

Sudanese community leader Simon Dang this morning said the man who died was an honest, hard-working student and it was a sad day for the Sudanese community and the community at large. Mr Dang said he was with a group of friends walking to the shop when the attack happened.

“When you lose someone in your family, (the family of the deceased) are very hurt," he said. “(He was) an honest young man who would not be involved in any type of crime. He has died for no reason.”

Supt Mark Gilbert, of the west metropolitan police district which stretches over one-sixth of the Perth metropolitan area and is believed to be the most culturally diverse in Australia, said police had engaged with community leaders to try and identify any underlying problems between various ethnic groups. “It is completely out of character for this area to have people stabbed in a street like this,” he said.

Police raided the Ballajura house earlier this morning. A big section of Australis Avenue was closed this morning as major crime squad and forensic officers searched nearby bush.

Several backpacks remain strewn on the road and about 20 bright yellow evidence markers dot the suburban street as police continue their search.

This morning one witness told how she watched the riot through a window after she heard screaming and shouting about 9.30pm. The 16-year-old Morley Senior High School student, who did not want to be named, lives on Wintersweet Ramble off Australis Avenue. "I just heard like screaming and saw people running around," she said.

She said she watched a group of men brandishing "some sort of weapon". "It was long, but it was too dark to see what it was," she said. "It was too much screaming, I couldn't understand it. It was too hard to make out what they were shouting."

She said her family had lived on the street for about five years and had never experienced anything like it before. "This is like the first time," she said. It's pretty quiet down here. It's kind of worrying ... wouldn't you find it worrying? It doesn't make you feel safe."

Another Wintersweet Ramble resident said he was watching a movie when he heard "a few pops and bangs." "I don't know if they were bottles breaking," the man said. "I had a quick gander out the window but didn't see anything."

He said there wasn't usually any trouble in the area although groups of males were known to walk the streets.

Police inquiries are continuing and the streets have been cordoned off. Motorists are advised to seek alternative routes this morning.


Crazy side effect of do-gooder law

Australian city forced to import sperm from US. Sperm donors should be able to choose whether they will be contactable by offspring

THE QUEENSLAND city of Townsville has turned to the US for sperm donations as Australia faces a critical shortage, the Townsville Bulletin reports.

Queensland Fertility Group, the largest fertility clinic in Townsville, 1300 kilometers from Brisbane, pays more than $700 an ampule for sperm imported from the U.S.

In the past, clinics used to rely on university students who were short on cash to donate sperm but these days not enough north Queensland men, or even Australian men, are prepared to donate.

Infertility specialist Dr Ron Chang attributed this decline to recent changes to the law that mean sperm donors have to be contactable once the child they helped to conceive turns 18.

"All the donors stopped coming forward because they didn't want a knock on the door in 18 years time," he said.

"I think children should have the right to know their biological parents, but it has a knock-on effect."

The shortage has also prompted IVF clinics nationwide to get creative about attracting potential donors.

New South Wales' largest clinic, IVF Australia, launched an online advertising campaign with tag lines such as: "You've got millions to spare, we only need one."


Conservatives get tough on immigration

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has vowed to keep population growth in Australia to below 30 million by 2050 and will more than halve the current immigration rate to achieve it.

And future population targets would be tied to a target range, much like the inflation rate settings determined by the Reserve Bank, set by Cabinet on the advice of an independent commission.

Releasing the Coalition's draft population policy, the federal Opposition Leader yesterday issued a direct challenge to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's "big Australia" policy, claiming it has set a target of 36 million by 2050.

Mr Abbott said he would also, for the first time, make it Liberal Party policy to restrict migrant intake to Australia to a two-thirds ratio of skilled workers to non-skilled workers.

Blog with Tony at midday Friday: Rudd's wrong population target

The Coalition believes it is on an election winner when it comes to immigration and population issues and Mr Abbott yesterday chose the hot point of anti-immigration sentiment in western Sydney to make the point.

"The current immigration numbers are utterly unsustainable," Mr Abbott said. "What we are saying with certainty is that we cannot continue to take 300,000 people a year."

Mr Abbott said that, if elected, the Coalition would also relax the red tape for skilled migrant visas - the 457 visa system - and also would apply a critical skills test to industries to determine if and where real occupational needs existed.

Mr Abbott told The Daily Telegraph his policy discussion paper was a formal rejection of Mr Rudd's "target" of 36 million people by 2050.

That is the predicted size of the Australian population at an annual net migration rate of 180,000.

However, at the current 300,000 figure, Australia's population would be closer to 43 million people.

To achieve a population target of fewer than 36 million people, the current migration rates would have to be virtually halved.

And the Coalition policy would give an expanded role to the Productivity Commission, which would be tasked with setting a population target range that would cover the short, medium and long term.

Population Minister Tony Burke responded to Mr Abbott's policy, claiming the Government did not have a target of 36 million.

"It's a lie," he said. "It's merely a projection from Treasury. It was not a target. Not an ambition. Not a policy."


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.