AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ARCHIVE
Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
The original version of this blog is HERE. Dissecting Leftism is HERE (and mirrored here). The Blogroll. My Home Page. Email me (John Ray) here. Other mirror sites: Greenie Watch, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Immigration Watch, Food & Health Skeptic, Gun Watch, Socialized Medicine, Eye on Britain, Recipes and Tongue Tied. For a list of backups viewable in China, see here. (Click "Refresh" on your browser if background colour is missing) See here or here for the archives of this site
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, 2011
Queer judge blames Christians for spreading AIDS!
How offensive and perverse! Article below by Michael Kirby, a retired Australian High Court judge who is openly homosexual. Christians are like Apartheid practitioners according to His Honour.
Instead of blaming Christians, might it not be a more productive strategy in the fight against AIDS to dissuade homosexual penises from entering homosexual anuses?
In 2010 Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa declared that the time had come, particularly for Africans, to stop the “wave of hate” and to stand up “against wrong”.
He was referring to the wrong to “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people” who are “part of the African family” and who “are living in fear.”
This news from Africa would be bad enough. But the same fear extends far beyond that continent. And in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, which has afflicted humanity since the 1980s, the vulnerable are not only gays but also sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs) and women.
This fear exists in many countries where, despite the knowledge that science now affords us about human sexuality, irrational hatred of sexual minorities and sexual activities is encouraged and even sometimes promoted by religious leaders, in supposed reliance upon their understandings of religious texts.
They rely on their imperfect understanding of what was written in ancient books long before Dr. Alfred Kinsey, American biologist and founder of the Institute of Sex Research, demonstrated the realities of human sexual experience, the frequency and variety of its manifestations, and the dangers and injustice of punishing people for adult, private, consensual sexual conduct. [Relying on the perverted Kinsey and his discredited "research" shows the intellectual shallowness of Judge Kirby]
Most religious people are good and kind. Love for one another exists as a basic tenet in all religions and all cultures. I have myself been brought up in religious faith. I honour brothers and sisters in all religions who are struggling to make a charitable, informed and unbiased contribution to the global struggle against HIV/AIDS.
However, officially the Roman Catholic and Greek and Orthodox Christian churches are still in serious denial about the scientific evidence available about human sexuality. As they have often been in denial about science and its teachings in the past.
Just as they originally denied the opinions of Galileo and Copernicus that the earth circled the sun. And as they, and the Anglican Church, originally denied Darwin’s thesis of evolution of the species, expounded 150 years ago.
Clutching onto imperfect understandings of ancient scripture, leaders of most of the spiritual faiths, instead of re-examining their holy texts by reference to science (as they did in other instances in the past), have adopted a new, irrational approach.
In other parts of the world, the hate may not always be so intense. But the stigma over sexual conduct that is often taught by religious people cannot be accepted any longer. It is now a major cause of death in the AIDS epidemic.
It has to stop. Not only because it is immoral, conflicted, irrational and wrong. But also because it is now seriously impeding the global struggle against HIV and AIDS for the saving of lives. The magnitude of the suffering demands blunt speaking at this time.
As Bishop Tutu has said: “All of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services…Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones’. Gay people too are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
Rightly, Bishop Tutu has drawn a parallel between the earlier, successful, global struggle against racial apartheid and the present global struggle against sexual apartheid. To the moral struggle against sexual apartheid must now be added the urgent needs of the struggle against HIV and AIDS.
Australians want Julia Gillard and Labor gone, latest Newspoll reveals
It is often said that governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them so this poll suggests a change of government
VOTERS don't approve of Julia Gillard and would kick Labor out of power if an election were held today, a new poll suggests. The latest Newspoll reveals that while there has been a bounce back in support for the Greens to 14 per cent, the ALP's primary vote remains stuck at 34 per cent.
Voters say they would elect the Coalition, but they do not approve of its leader, Tony Abbott.
The Newspoll, published today in The Australian newspaper, shows the Liberal Party turmoil of the past fortnight involving Mr Abbott and his frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey has not delivered a boost for Labor.
As Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott clashed in Parliament yesterday over the carbon tax, the PM took a blow from one of the independent MPs supporting her Government.
Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie said her plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia was an abomination. Labor had lost its moral superiority and walked away from one of the reasons he backed her as PM after the hung Parliament.
Mr Wilkie yesterday voted for a Greens motion condemning Ms Gillard's plan to swap 800 asylum seekers for 4000 refugees from Malaysia.
Another 52 asylum seekers arrived yesterday, the fourth boat since the Government announced - but has not signed - the Malaysian plan. It leaves 150 people waiting in limbo.
The only ray of light for the Government in the Newspoll came via the Greens. The jump in support for the Bob Brown-led party to lift its primary vote from 10 to 14 per cent has given Labor its best two-party vote since March.
Newspoll has the Coalition leading 52-48. The August election had both parties at 50-50. The telephone survey of 1128 people at the weekend found the Coalition's primary vote dipped two points to 44 per cent and Labor edged up a point to 34. Both moves are within the poll's margin of error.
When Ms Gillard toppled Kevin Rudd as PM Labor's support was 35 per cent. Today's poll shows she is still considered the better PM and in the past fortnight increased her lead over Mr Abbott from a wafer-thin four points to seven. But the 44 to 37 per cent lead is a far cry from the 50-31 lead she had just two months ago.
One in five voters could not decide between either party leader. That is reflected by the approval ratings, which show voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard at 35 per cent dissatisfaction 54 per cent. It's just as bad for Mr Abbott. His satisfaction ranking is 37 per cent and dissatisfaction 53 per cent.
Are you a genuine skeptic or a climate denier?
So asks JOHN COOK, writing on a site of Australia's ABC. He has the amusing assertion that those who reject Warmism consider only the evidence that suits them. Talk about the pot calling the kettle Afro-American!
Cook does link to a large number of Warmist assertions by others but is critical of none of them. He just lists them as gospel and does not at all consider whether the phenomena mentioned are caused by human action.
As can be seen on the header of GREENIE WATCH, skeptics generally accept that there has been SOME warming but dispute both its likely future magnitude and its origin.
Mr. Cook quite ignores the fact that he is peddling prophecies. And they rely purely on supposition, not evidence. And as far as I can find, Greenie prophecies have a record of complete falsity so far. Prophecy really is a mug's game.
Since he is so keen on taking into account ALL the evidence, it would be amusing to get his response to the fact that the tidal gauge data do not show an acceleration of Sea Level rise; that the NOAA -NODC data do not show a significant rise in Ocean Heat Content between 1979 and 1997; that the warming of the last 150 years has been a perfectly comfortable total of less than one degree Celsius -- etc.
In the charged discussions about climate, the words skeptic and denier are often thrown around. But what do these words mean?
Consider the following definitions. Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.
So here's one way to tell if you're a genuine skeptic or a climate denier.
When trying to understand what's happening to our climate, do you consider the full body of evidence? Or do you find the denial instinct kicking in when confronted with inconvenient evidence?
For example, let's look at the question of whether global warming is happening. Do you acknowledge sea level rise, a key indicator of a warming planet, tripling over the last century? Do you factor in the warming oceans, which since 1970 have been building up heat at a rate of two-and-a-half Hiroshima bombs every second? Glaciers are retreating all over the world, threatening the water supply of hundreds of millions of people. Ice sheets from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south are losing hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice every year. Seasons are shifting, flowers are opening earlier each year and animals are migrating towards the poles. The very structure of our atmosphere is changing.
We have tens of thousands of lines of evidence that global warming is happening. A genuine skeptic surveys the full body of evidence coming in from all over our planet and concludes that global warming is unequivocal. A climate denier, on the other hand, reacts to this array of evidence in several possible ways.
The most extreme form of climate denier won't even go near the evidence. They avoid the issue altogether by indulging in conspiracy theories. They'll pull a quote out of context from a stolen 'Climategate' email as proof that climate change is just a huge hoax. I have yet to hear how the ice sheets, glaciers and thousands of migrating animal species are in on the conspiracy, but I'm sure there's a creative explanation floating around on the Internet.
The hardcore denier, firmly entrenched in the "it's not happening" camp, denies each piece of evidence. When confronted by retreating glaciers, their thoughts flick to the handful of growing glaciers while blocking out the vast majority of glaciers that are retreating at an accelerating rate.
They ignore sea level rise by focusing on short periods where sea levels briefly drop before inevitably resuming the long-term upward trend. The key to this form of denial is cherry picking. If you stare long and hard enough at a tiny piece of the puzzle that gives you the answer you want, you find the rest of the picture conveniently fades from view.
Some climate deniers have found it impossible to ignore the overwhelming array of evidence that the planet is warming (cognitive bias does have its limits) and moved onto the next stage of denial: "it's happening but it's not us". After all, climate has changed throughout Earth's history. How can we tell it's us this time?
The answer, as always, is by surveying the full body of evidence. Warming from our carbon dioxide emissions should yield many tell tale patterns. We don't need to rely on guess work or theory to tell us humans are causing warming. We can measure it.
If carbon dioxide is causing warming, we should measure less heat escaping to space. Satellites have observed this, with heat being trapped at those very wavelengths that carbon dioxide absorb radiation. If less heat is escaping, we should see more heat returning to the Earth's surface. This has been measured. Greenhouse warming should cause the lower atmosphere to warm but simultaneously, the upper atmosphere to cool. That's indeed what we observe is happening.
As far back as the 1800s, scientists predicted greenhouse warming should cause nights to warm faster than days and winters to warm faster than summers. Both predictions have come true. Everything we expect to see from greenhouse warming, we do see.
So which camp do you fall in?
Do you look at the full body of evidence, considering the whole picture as you build your understanding of climate? Or do you gravitate towards those select pieces of data that, out of context, give a contrarian impression, while denying the rest of the evidence?
More HERE (See the original for links)
It's all hot air from the jet-setting eco brigade
The Sunday Telegraph's "Carbon Cate" headline should have come as no surprise. Sure, it was a clever journalistic line in response to news that Cate Blanchett was heading the Australian Conservation Foundation's TV advertising campaign in support of a carbon tax. But Don Henry, the foundation's executive director, should have seen it - or something like it - coming.
On ABC radio on Sunday, Henry seemed unprepared for the criticism, which demonstrates just how out of touch some inner-city environmentalists are with predominant views in the suburbs and regions. Blanchett is an admirable and successful Australian. Even so, many Australians who struggle to pay their power bills each quarter do not want to be lectured to by a multimillionaire film star.
Some supporters of a carbon tax have declared that Blanchett has a right to say what she likes and said that the Academy Award winner should not be criticised on the grounds that she is rich. Both points are obvious. However, at issue is the double standard.
Irrespective of her wealth, if Blanchett lived like Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, it is unlikely there would be any reaction to her telling Australians that it is time to do something about climate change. But those Australians who know who Blanchett is well understand that she has a very large carbon footprint. Not only does she live in a Hunters Hill mansion but she travels the world to practise her art.
Granted, at some cost, she has put solar panels on her family home. And she may offset her travel by arranging for someone to promise to plant trees somewhere. Yet the fact remains that she believes carbon emissions threaten the planet, and if everyone lived her life, carbon emissions would soar.
Australians in the suburbs and regions understand this. They also feel that many who live in the inner cities or wealthy suburbs close to the CBD look down on them. Blanchett and her husband, the director Andrew Upton, gave a talk to the City of Sydney in March. They looked back in happiness at the inner city of the 1980s but said that, at this time, "the suburbs could feel flat and dry and filled with sinister silence underneath the crickets and sprinklers". What snobbish bunk. (A personal declaration - I lived in the suburbs in the 1980s.)
One of the problems facing Julia Gillard is that so many of those who speak the loudest about the need to reduce carbon emissions have a personal carbon emissions footprint that would be the envy of most Australians.
Tim Flannery, head of the Climate Commission, travels the world calling for a reduction in carbon fuels. Tim Costello, World Vision Australia's chief executive, is another inveterate traveller. So is Dick Smith, who apparently feels the need to travel the world, sometimes flying his own aircraft, in order to save the world.
This is a common phenomenon. The Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, is a proselytiser for the environment. But she has been photographed travelling to work in a chauffeured car (even though she lives in the inner city) and owns a car with an off-street garage.
Shortly before Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, separated, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Gores had bought a mansion in Montecito with six fireplaces, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms and one pool. An eco-catastrophist such as the former United States vice-president should have been able to manage with, say, three fireplaces and a mere four bathrooms. Al Gore also claims to offset his emissions. But, again, who would offset what if everyone lived like Gore?
This year Sting made yet another visit to Australia as part of his Symphonicity tour. Interviewed by Julian Morrow on Radio National, he was asked whether he felt a tension between his "environmentalist beliefs and the lifestyle of an international entertainer". The answer was, well, yes - but not really. Sting acknowledged that carbon offsets did not really work and that the criticism was justified but concluded: "I'm not given an alternative to do this life without burning fuel." Morrow accepted this.
Support for the carbon tax is highest among well-educated Australians who enjoy relatively secure employment or comfortable retirement - many of whom live in the inner cities. Concern about a carbon tax is greatest among Australians whose jobs are not so secure or who live on retirement incomes where life is a daily struggle - many of these Australians live in the suburbs and regional areas.
Viewed from the perspective of the ABC studio in Ultimo, the top 1000 emitting companies tend to be regarded as the big polluters. Viewed from Wollongong and Campbelltown, they tend to be considered the big employers. Of all the members of the Gillard cabinet, the Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, understands this best.
Writing in her Open Salon blog last year, Ann Nichols put it this way: "It is very easy to preach about the value of the grass-fed, the solar, the phosphate-free and the organic when you are in a position to afford it all - or willing to decide for yourself that you can live without cars, meat or a washing machine." That is a question of affordability. Double standards add to this frustration.
It is true that the wealthy miners such as Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest publicly opposed the Rudd government's proposed mining tax. But they were urging others to do the same. It was a case of: "Do as I do." The problem with the Australian Conservation Foundation's advertisement is that the Blanchett line appears to be: "Do as I say but please don't do as I do, lest the planet burn." It's not a credible message.
Elitism doesn't sell
Leftist journalist David Penberthy, below, has some points of agreement with Gerard Henderson above
The decision of actors Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton to front advertisements supporting the Federal Government’s climate change policies has been denounced as a shocking act of impertinence by a pair of cashed-up lefties who have no right to enter the debate.
These advertisements are 100 per cent privately-funded and in a democracy such as ours people have every right to spend their money as they wish to make their point. That said, there’s a separate issue as to whether the advertisements are tactically smart. It’s more likely that rather than galvanising support for a carbon tax, they will have the opposite effect of alienating mainstream voters who simply want details about how much the carbon tax will cost them, and what type of compensation they will get in return.
The left of politics in Australia seems to be permanently afflicted by what could be described as the Don’s Party syndrome, whereby affluent and educated people think you can win debates by telling people what’s good for them.
Advertising executive Adam Ferrier wrote a good piece on The Australian yesterday fleshing out the point.
“One of the risks of any green campaign is that it appears like lefty, progressive, idealistic and elitist, detached from the struggles of everyday people,” Ferrier wrote. “At worst, Cate is at risk of making the cause elitist. For the millions this (ad campaign) cost, there are so many other ways to change behaviour than having an elitist talking head spruik a carbon tax as easily as spruiking x, y or z.”
The best example of this was the republican campaign, which culminated with a tragi-comic cocktail reception for the failed yes vote on the night of the ballot where Rachel Ward sobbed on husband Bryan Brown’s shoulder as Malcolm Turnbull declared that John Howard had “broken the nation’s heart”. What had really happened was that the republicans had completely stuffed their campaign by leaving much of the talking to celebrities while overlooking their first responsibility – to explain how a republic would work, why we needed one, and how life would change for the better under the new constitutional model.
The same mistakes are being made now by progressive people who believe in climate change. And the same mistakes are being made, spectacularly, by the Gillard Government. The PM looks like she is dancing to the tune of the Greens purely because of the disastrous quirk of democracy at last year’s election, where no-one actually won, and she decided to break her own promise of not introducing a carbon tax in order to form government. We are now moving headlong towards putting a price on carbon – ie, introducing a tax – and the Government is trying to win a debate when it is yet to provide people with any detail.
It’s a ludicrous manoeuvre, asking people to take you on trust when you have already breached their trust by changed the position you adopted in the election campaign. Until such a time as the Government releases details of how it will actually work, how much it will cost, how much compensation families will receive, they are sitting ducks.
The pro climate change lobby and actors such as Blanchett and Caton can say and do what it likes in an attempt to bolster its cause, and spend as much money as they wish in the process.
There is a separate issue though as to whether it will actually bolster the cause. In the absence of policy detail, and with the voters still smarting from being misled by the PM, you would have to say they’ve probably done their dough.
30 May, 2011
Poll finds Queenslanders fed up with state and federal governments wasting money
WASTED: The legacy of government programs for taxpayers is $20m for Fuel Watch; $2.45b with $190m in safety checks for the ceiling insulation scheme; $13m for Grocery Watch; $308m for the set-top box program; $275m with $45m help for operators with the Green Loans program; $500m blowout on the old solar panels program and $1b for its successor; and $40m on the solar hot water program. Source: The Courier-Mail
QUEENSLANDERS have lost faith in the ability of the state and federal governments to spend money wisely. A Galaxy Poll conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail shows 70 per cent of Queenslanders believe governments are wasting money. But the politicians say they have got it wrong.
The Courier-Mail's Waste Watchers campaign will keep an eye on how governments are spending taxpayer money.
It comes after both federal and state governments have been dogged by a series of botched or complaint-riddled programs, ranging from the deadly $2.45 billion home insulation scheme at the federal level and the health payroll fiasco at the state level.
Others include the dumped $275 million Green Loans program and two school initiatives the multibillion-dollar Building the Education Revolution which was overwhelmed by complaints of cost blow-outs and shoddy workmanship and the $1.8 billion computers in schools program, which was stalled by cost blow-outs. Both relied on the state and federal governments to deliver.
Now, the Federal Government has turned its hand to yet another big service delivery program that's already shrouded in controversy: the commitment to install TV set-top boxes for pensioners at a cost almost 10 times the price for which the cheapest devices can be bought.
Treasurer Wayne Swan insists it is the Federal Government's economic record that has kept Australia out of recession. "(There have been) 700,000 jobs created since we came to office and another 500,000 in the recent budget," he told The Courier-Mail.
He said the Government had been "full and frank" about the home insulation problems but stood by the new set-top box scheme for pensioners.
Mr Swan backed the Government's spending record, saying it was returning the Budget to surplus "more rapidly than this country has ever seen before".
But the Galaxy Poll revealed even ALP supporters were unsure when asked whether federal and state governments spent money wisely, with 52 per cent of Labor voters disagreeing.
The Courier-Mail asked the Queensland Federal Labor MPs the same question but was met with silence, with only two backbenchers Member for Blair Shayne Neumann and Member for Moreton Graham Perrett and Treasurer Wayne Swan responding.
The same question was asked of 51 state Labor MPs, with 30 responding with examples of good government spending. Another 21 did not reply, including state Treasurer Andrew Fraser.
Better off with cash
EVERY Australian household could have been handed a cheque for about $560 but instead, they got a series of botched or complaint-riddled "assistance" programs from the Federal Government that were designed to help ease household pressure.
An analysis by The Courier-Mail of a selection of major Government household schemes reveals most Queensland homes would have been better off with a simple cash boost to combat soaring living costs.
The Rudd and Gillard Labor governments have been rocked by a series of costly high-profile service delivery program failures, resulting in billions spent on dumped plans.
But myriad smaller household assistance schemes have also been dogged by complaints, delays and allegations of shonky operators.
The Courier-Mail analysis totals the household programs to about $4.8 billion the equivalent of about $567 per Australian household.
Queensland Council of Social Services president Karyn Walsh said low-income families had struggled to make ends meet over the past five years and needed all the genuine assistance they could get.
"There's been a 63 per cent increase in the cost of electricity, gas and water over the past five years and families need a lot of help to get through that," she said.
Ms Walsh said the money would be better spent on initiatives to reduce household costs on a weekly basis, and noted that many of the programs like home insulation and solar power weren't accessible by low-income families.
The big blunders are headlined by the deadly $2.45 billion home insulation scheme which was dumped after dodgy work and major safety problems, with the Government then having to budget another $190 million for safety checks.
The $275 million Green Loan program designed to assist households use energy-saving technology was also scrapped, with another $45 million budgeted to help operators left in the lurch when the program was ditched.
Two other programs designed to ease hip pocket pain, GroceryWatch and FuelWatch, were dumped before they even got off the ground at a cost of at least $13 million.
Solar panel rebates saw taxpayers first hit with a $500 million blow-out when the Rudd Government cancelled the original program with less than 24 hours notice, before later launching a new scheme. The scheme that followed has cost $1 billion but is now being rolled back ahead of schedule amid concerns it is hiking up electricity prices.
At $40 million, the Government's solar hot water program has been criticised for massive delays.
Coalition MP Jamie Briggs, who runs the Opposition's "waste watch" committee, said the Labor Government was "unable to implement a government spending program without wasting billions of dollars in the process".
"Labor's latest spending initiative overpriced set-top boxes highlights Labor's addiction to spending and proves they haven't learnt from their first-term stuff ups."
Children's play equipment too safe for their own good, expert warns
PLAY equipment designed by "safety Nazis" shouldn't prevent children from taking risks and enjoying themselves, a child expert has warned. More kids aged two to seven were getting injured in playgrounds because they didn't know how to take calculated risks.
A speaker at the Early Childhood Education Conference in Melbourne this week, early childhood specialist Prue Walsh said modern "plastic fantastic" playgrounds were too safe.
"Often playgrounds are designed by engineers who have no knowledge of children," she said. "Children need to actively explore and discover the world around them and to do that they need to learn to take calculated risks," she said.
Playground injuries were often a result of children being poorly co-ordinated because they did not know how to negotiate risks, Ms Walsh said. "I worry about children who don't run up slippery slides," she said.
Ms Walsh said commercial pressures, such as insurance premiums, had influenced the design of today's playgrounds. "Parents are scared of their precious children getting injured and teachers are scared of getting sued," she said.
To improve playgrounds, Ms Walsh suggested longer and bigger slides built into embankments to eliminate falls. Also, smooth boulders for balancing, shallow ponds for exploring and plenty of vegetation to provide nooks and crannies for children to crawl around.
Triple P Parenting Program founder Professor Matt Sanders said children should be in a place safe where they can have accidents and falls. "You want equipment that are in parks and children using toys that we buy to be basically safe so that kids can't be easily injured on them or accidents that easily occur," he said.
"But at the same time we should be encouraged kids to be kids and to enjoy themselves. "Exploring, climbing and experimenting is part of childhood but when it's done when adequate supervision the risks are minimal."
Western Australian Premier holds whip hand in tax debate
Western Australia is grabbing the gravy (Royalties) from the mining boom, thus frustrating the Feds, who need it to prop up their profligate spending
WA Premier Colin Barnett is politically in a seemingly win-win position as he challenges the federal government to get back to work and forget the tax fight.
He can afford to take the moral high ground because in the west anyone who takes the fight to Canberra is a champion and, sadly, on tax matters federal Treasurer Wayne Swan's credibility is in tatters.
Barnett is also in the fortunate position of having guaranteed income flow even if Swan cuts federal funding.
Even local ALP politicians despair about Canberra's mishandling of the debate. They openly say it is hurting their chances of re-election and stress that the mishandling of the mining tax, carbon tax, and the latest row with Barnett over royalties, means Swan has lost forever the chance for any real tax reform.
At The Australian Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum yesterday in Perth, outgoing Woodside boss Don Voelte echoed the views of many in the industry when he praised Resources Minister Martin Ferguson but treated Swan with contempt, saying he had been taught only to say nice things about people, so would say nothing about Swan.
Voelte may be leaving the country, and a business leader has only one vote, but a treasurer needs some credibility to do his or her job and the reality is that Swan has little respect from the business community.
The level of business distrust of Canberra is damaging at a time when the reality is the economy is not nearly as strong as the official figures may indicate. This message was driven home loudly and clearly at yesterday's forum.
Barnett also has the luxury of a steady flow of royalty income from iron ore and liquefied natural gas exports, but he, like Canberra, has no real answers on just how to spread the benefits of the boom.
The economy is a lot weaker than most people think and certainly anyone in discretionary retail would quickly agree.
The issue is how to use the proceeds to develop other industries and revive manufacturing, which Barnett can happily offload to Canberra.
He has the likes of Shell's Ann Pickard able to spend money building a research capability in Perth for her new floating LNG plant, which will be designed partly in France and built in South Korea.
Yesterday's panel was united in calling for more immigration, even targeted project-specific immigration, to help mitigate cost pressures.
Woodside has US welders on the job already at its Pluto plant who will be headed home once their work is finished. While Perth and east coast workers happily fly in and out of the big projects, that is only a short-term solution and ironically some cite the fact that Australians are too comfortable to make a big call in moving their base up to the Pilbara. Some argue a special locational tax break could be used to encourage workers to move to the west.
Barnett wants a return to a workable Council of Australian Governments format, but of course he holds the economic whip hand if he loses faith in commonwealth-state relations. That is, until he needs some help on infrastructure funding, which didn't get a mention yesterday but is a key concern.
Global cooling hits Sydney
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) predicts up to 20mm of rain will fall in Sydney today, with warnings of dangerous surf conditions. The State Emergency Service has warned of storms and flash flooding on the northern beaches today.
There is also a strong wind warning for waters between Port Macquarie and Port Hacking, in Sydney's south, with a swell of up to three metres predicted. Since 9am yesterday, 30.6mm fell at Observatory Hill and 15.4mm at Sydney Airport.....
Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said it could be the coldest May in Sydney in more than 40 years. "A cloudy and wet end to the month will ensure this will be Sydney's coldest May since 1970," Mr Dutschke said.
According to Weatherzone, minimum overnight temperatures averaged less than 10.8 degrees, nearly 1 degree below the long-term average. The temperature dropped below 10 degrees on 11 nights, when usually there are only eight nights so cold in May.
A cold front dropped snow in Orange on May 12, a rare event so early in the year, Mr Dutschke said.
29 May, 2011
An old propaganda lurk surfaces in Australia
The Leftist Australian government recently released a "report" designed to prop up its proposed carbon tax. Neither the report nor the tax has gained much traction, however.
To explain that lack of traction, the piece from the Left-run "Sydney Morning Herald" below claims that climate skeptics are psychological cripples, unable to face the evidence.
Demonizing your enemy is classical wartime propaganda and Leftists do it even in peacetime. The first big attempt at it in peacetime erupted in 1950. It is amusing that a 1954 revision of that attack is revived below: The old two-dimensional account of ideology. That account never worked then and it is equally shallow today.
Believe it or not, the author below claims that skeptics are "hierachical/authoritarian" yet it is skeptics who reject authority and Warmists who embrace it! I think it is clear who the mental cripple is! The poor soul writing below has totally lost touch with reality. Would a diagnosis of schizophrenia be too extreme?
And, needless to say, there is not one fact cited below in support of the author's assertions about either climatology or psychology. It is all just bald assertion
I've been thinking a bit about the sea hare this week while observing the fallout from the Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade. Wondering, too, about primitive human biology, about what factors interfere with our survival instinct - fear, fun, greed, legacy, even good old distracting lust.
The report is a powerful enunciation of what science now knows about climate change and the risks it poses. That the atmosphere and the oceans are warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, sea levels are rising and the biological world is changing. "We know beyond reasonable doubt that the world is warming and that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary causes."
In the nuanced language of science, it doesn't get much stronger. As the American scientist Naomi Oreskes [Calling Oreskes a scientist is a condemnation of science] has observed, "History shows us clearly that science does not provide certainty. It does not provide proof.
It only provides the consensus of experts, based on the organised accumulation and scrutiny of evidence." And here we have it.
So how do you respond to such confronting news? Do you weigh the credentials of the speakers, study the evidence? Or do you switch it off, turn the page, scream and shout? According to psychological research by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale University, your reaction either way will have little to do with the strength of the arguments or the calibre of the science. It will have everything to do with whether it gels with, or offends, your deep-seated views about morality and how the world ought to work.
Yale law professor Dan Kahan's "cultural cognition of risk" theory attempts to explain public disagreement about the significance of empirical evidence by plotting individuals on two scales of cultural belief: individualists versus communitarians, based on the importance people attach to the public good when balanced against individual rights; and hierarchists versus egalitarians, based on their views of the stratification of society. Simply explaining the science to these audiences, he finds, will only serve to wedge the two sides.
The sliding scales are not unfamiliar. Think Tony Abbott as the archetypal suit-and-tie individual hierarchical - values clustered around free-market enterprise, personal achievement, industry, regard for authority (though not, it seems, scientific authority), traditional family, personal freedom; and Bob Brown is out there as your sandal-wearing communitarian egalitarian, protesting that pretty much everything Abbott cherishes damages all he holds dear.
Put a scientist in front of an audience of individual hierarchicals saying that global warming is high risk, and only 23 per cent of the audience will buy the speaker as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Same message, same scientist, and 88 per cent of egalitarian communitarians nod their heads.
Have the same author change tack to argue that warming is no great drama, and the Abbotts now lap it up (86 per cent), and the Browns wander off (46 per cent). The well-oiled machinery of manufactured denial knows how to push all these buttons.
Yale's audience testing finds the only factor likely to interfere with our psychological gatekeeping is if someone within our "camp" - someone we perceive as sharing our world view - says something unexpected. (Hence the reverberations in industry and markets when BHP chief Marius Kloppers last year urged rapid action to put a price on carbon emissions.) In short, evidence from someone you identify with will sway your view; science - facts - won't.
Same as it ever was, maybe. But new media helps us contrive a self-affirming information bubble, an echo chamber in which only our own beliefs are broadcast back to us. Debate in the US on the Yale findings prompted the reflection that our instincts in this regard mean - as one political scientist observed - "we are not well-adapted to our information age".
The findings also confirm that for all our modernity, tribal leaders remain critical. Leaders of all persuasions - political, religious, industrial, social - have immense power in influencing responses to the most diabolical of problems.
In the foreword to a new book debunking scepticism of science - Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand - Oreskes argues that fear is the major driver of denial. "Fear that our current way of life is unsustainable. Fear that addressing the issue will limit economic growth. Fear that if we accept government interventions in the market place . it will lead to a loss of personal freedom. Or maybe just plain old fear of change."
As economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, all great leaders share one common characteristic - "the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time".
Gillard's "refugee" hypocrisy
THE past week has brought home that the Labor government can't claim a shred of principle on asylum policy any more. It has shamed itself repeatedly and in a most hypocritical way. Those who condemned the Pacific solution have embraced a Malaysian one. The people who said Nauru was unacceptable for offshore processing in part because it wasn't signed up to the UN convention on refugees aren't worried that Malaysia is also outside it.
If the government wasn't desperate, it would be embarrassed. If its backbench wasn't frightened of the electoral backlash over boat arrivals, it would be up in arms.
Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, lashed out at the deal and Malaysian human rights activists attacked it. Pillay, visiting Australia, toned down her initial criticism after government briefings but still declared the bilateral agreement would need to be scrutinised carefully for its human rights guarantees.
Meanwhile, Malaysian activist Eric Paulsen from that country's Lawyers for Liberty wondered how Australia could achieve what others could not. "All of a sudden, without any changes to Malaysian immigration laws and policies, will asylum seekers suddenly become immune to their day-to-day reality of arbitrary arrest, detention, harassment, extortion, jailing and whipping? We doubt that very much."
Former federal human rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski reinforced a point the opposition has pushed, when he said at least in Nauru "we were able to control the conditions in the detention centre" - Malaysia would be a "much worse solution".
It does seem a leap of faith to believe Australia can be sure the asylum seekers we send there under the "swap" deal won't be badly treated, given the country's record. It will take some formidable monitoring.
The only way the government can get out of its imbroglio is if the deterrent - the fear of being sent to Malaysia and the back of that long "queue" - discourages the boats quickly. Then perhaps, the government hopes, it won't have to send too many people to Malaysia. Or, at least, if the boats slow dramatically, criticism of the nastier aspects of the deterrent will fade. The end will be regarded as justifying the means.
No wonder Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd are out spruiking the "don't come" message, as the government has been working frantically to bed down the formalities of the Malaysian deal, so implementation can start. On another front, negotiations with Papua New Guinea for a processing facility there crawl along.
If the boats keep coming, and the Malaysian 800 quota is filled, the government's border protection political disaster will continue. If the people smugglers are discouraged, on the other hand, Tony Abbott will find a potent issue rapidly subsiding
Just what Australia needs: A Green jobs fund
Never mind that Green jobs have proven a mirage everywhere else
JULIA Gillard is facing union pressure for a $1.5 billion fund from the carbon tax to compensate manufacturers for the impact of the high Australian dollar and the two-speed economy.
In a submission to the government on the carbon pricing policy, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union also calls for a $3.7bn low emissions industry and technology development fund to drive green jobs under a carbon pricing regime.
The call comes as the government is considering creating a multi-billion-dollar carbon bank to manage the development of low-emissions technologies in its negotiations with the Greens on the shape of the carbon pricing package.
AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver said the clean technology sector was worth $6 trillion and there was a trade war between the US and China on how to take advantage of that. "We have to exploit the opportunity putting a price on pollution provides us to position ourselves to be part of the action," he said.
Mr Oliver said manufacturing was under pressure at present, but he was hopeful the Australian dollar had peaked. Mr Oliver said the carbon pricing debate was getting to the "pointy end".
The AMWU argues that its plan, which totals $6.7bn, would "reduce carbon emissions, develop a clean technology industry in Australia and help Australian manufacturing cope with the high dollar".
Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme contained a 6 per cent buffer for the global financial crisis and the government has been under pressure to keep the buffer to alleviate pressure caused by the high dollar on emissions intensive trade exposed industries. The $1.5bn buffer fund would provide $1bn to energy-intensive firms with greenhouse gas emissions reporting obligations to assist them with electricity costs during the first two years of the carbon-pricing scheme.
The union calls for a further $500 million for accelerated depreciation for new low-emissions and energy efficient plant and equipment for firms requiring support to a low-pollution economy. The union has also called for a $1.5bn energy efficiency plan, adding its weight to advocates of action on climate change such as the Climate Institute.
The submission says the low emissions industry and technology development fund would provide grants and cost-sharing arrangements for researchers, entrepreneurs and start-up firms to trial, demonstrate and commercialise low emissions technologies.
Beware Trilby Misso lawyers
Now that crooked Keddies has crumbled, can we hope the same of Trilby Misso? They chased a client for $123,000 despite their 'no win, no fee' mantra
THEIR motto is "because we care" but law firm Trilby Misso has been slammed by a judge for the way they treated a client.
The high-profile "no win, no fee" firm was branded as dishonest after demanding more than $123,000 to release the man's legal file after dropping his case because they believed it could not be won. A Supreme Court judge last week referred Trilby Misso to the Legal Services Commissioner, calling for the firm to explain its "outrageous" costs bill.
"To insist on immediate payment of monies in circumstances where none were chargeable is dishonest," Justice Duncan McMeekin said, in a judgment delivered in Rockhampton.
Townsville church minister Colin Ireland, 57, who was injured in a boat ramp accident in 2006, hired Trilby Misso to represent him in a personal injury claim in 2009. But in August last year, Trilby Misso terminated Mr Ireland's retainer, after deciding it was too risky to proceed on a no win, no fee basis.
Mr Ireland then asked for his case file so he could retain another solicitor, but was shocked when Trilby Misso demanded "immediate payment" of $123,522 before it would release the file.
The firm later said it would accept $35,000. Mr Ireland took Trilby Misso to court and also complained to the Legal Services Commissioner.
His barrister, Graeme Crow SC, argued that Trilby Misso only had a right to be paid legal costs if it successfully obtained damages or costs for Mr Ireland.
Justice McMeekin said by terminating the retainer "without good cause", Trilby Misso had stalled Mr Ireland's claim and forced him to find other lawyers. He ordered the files be handed over.
"Absent some explanation, the impression is that an outrageous amount was demanded in an attempt to coerce (Mr Ireland) into accepting an obligation to pay the lesser amount of costs when offered," Justice McMeekin said in his decision.
28 May, 2011
Muslims try peaceful persuasion instead of bombing people
A big improvement
CHRISTIANS in Sydney will have their core beliefs challenged by provocative advertisements due to appear on billboards and buses in the next month.
The ads, paid for by an Islamic group called MyPeace, will carry slogans such as "Jesus: a prophet of Islam", "Holy Quran: the final testament" and "Muhammad: mercy to mankind". A phone number urges people to call to receive a free Koran and other Islamic literature.
The organiser of MyPeace, Diaa Mohamed, said the campaign was intended to educate non-Muslims about Islam. He said Jesus was a prophet of Islam, who was to come before Muhammad. "The only difference is we say he was a prophet of God, and they say he is God," Mr Mohamed said. "Is it thought-provoking? Yes, it is. We want to raise awareness that Islam believes in Jesus Christ," he said.
Mr Mohamed said he hoped the billboards would encourage Christians and Muslims to find common ground. They were not intended to downgrade the significance of Jesus. "We embrace him and say that he was one of the mightiest prophets of God."
MyPeace plans to extend the campaign, funded by private donations, to television.
The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Rob Forsyth, said it was "complete nonsense" to say Jesus was a prophet of Islam. "Jesus was not the prophet of a religion that came into being 600 years later."
But the billboard was not offensive, he said. "They've got a perfect right to say it, and I would defend their right to say it [but] … you couldn't run a Christian billboard in Saudi Arabia."
The bishop said he would pay for billboards to counter those of MyPeace if he could afford it, and "maybe the atheists should run their billboards as well".
A spokesman for the Australian Islamic Mission, Siddiq Buckley, said the campaign would increase awareness of the positive facts of Islam. "I would be looking at this as a good opportunity to explain what we mean."
Abortion doctor gives women Hep C
Evidence of the low moral standard needed in an abortionist
A MELBOURNE doctor has been charged over allegations he infected nearly 50 women who visited his clinic with hepatitis C.
Police say anaesthetist James Latham Peters, 61, of Hawthorn will face 162 separate counts, including 54 counts of conduct endangering life, 54 counts of recklessly causing injury and 54 counts of negligence causing serious injury.
Police formally laid charges just before noon at the St Kilda Rd police complex where he was being held.
Police said the investigation continues, and Dr Peters could face further charges. The expected charges against Dr Peters come after a lengthy and complex investigation by police Taskforce Clays, established in April last year to investigate how the disease was spread to patients at the Croydon Day Surgery. He was taken into custody before 10am and is believed to be being questioned at the St Kilda Rd police complex.
The women had gone to the clinic to have abortions before being infected. A further 19 women treated by the doctor showed signs of past infection but there was not enough virus present for a definitive ruling. At least 4000 women who used the centre, now known as the Maria Stopes centre, have already contacted in connection with potential exposure to the disease.
The Health Department says 241 further women treated at the clinic between 2008 and 2009 could not be contacted, but it continues to cooperate with the police inquiry. "We would urge them to contact the Department of Health at their earliest opportunity,’’ a police spokeswoman said.
Ambulance ramping at major Queensland Hospital is chaotic, claim paramedics
AMBULANCE ramping at one of Queensland's largest hospitals has reached "chaotic" levels despite a recent multimillion-dollar emergency department revamp.
Frustrated paramedics said the queue of ambulances outside the Princess Alexandra Hospital hit 22 on Monday, with several category two patients who should be seen within 10 minutes left waiting for hours. "This is on a scale that no one has ever seen before," a paramedic, who did not want to be named, said. "There were some very sick patients in there that should have been seen to. It's chaos, absolute chaos."
The spectacle of ambulances queueing, which lasted from noon into late evening, prompted numerous staff to take photographs, several of which have been obtained by The Courier-Mail.
PA's acting executive director, Liz Jordan, said it was "categorically untrue" that 22 ambulances were ramped outside the hospital. But she admitted 11 ambulances arrived "simultaneously" between 5pm and 6pm. "Even during this very busy time, the hospital emergency department coped well," Dr Jordan said.
It came just six months after the completion of a $134 million expansion of the hospital's emergency department, which increased treatment bays from 20 to 45.
Jeanette Temperley, of paramedics union United Voice, said ramping was not getting any better. "Ambulances are driving round and round the city trying to find a hospital to take their patients," she said.
Queensland Health's own website shows the Princess Alexandra Hospital has been on bypass at 10am on three days this week, accepting only the most critical patients.
While ambulances crowded the PA emergency department entrance on Monday, Logan Hospital was on bypass for 10 hours, the paramedic said. The worst he had seen was six southeast Queensland hospitals on bypass at once one day last summer, he said.
Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the ramping situation at the PA was indicative of the crisis in Queensland's public hospital system. "Ramping delays treatment and it delays paramedics getting back out on the road to treat the sick and injured," he said.
Mr McArdle called for a "whole-of-hospital" approach to address the problem, including more beds and changes in discharge policies.
Politicians in rush to defend coal seam gas
POLITICIANS have rushed to defend the coal seam gas industry despite more controversy surrounding it this week.
In a show of support for an industry whose image was dented by another gas leak near Dalby on Monday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, travelled to Gladstone yesterday to launch construction on Santos's Curtis Island LNG processing plant.
The $16 billion project is due to deliver its first gas in 2015. Ms Bligh said the environmental approvals had been the "most rigorous" in Australian history.
Environmental groups have complained that approvals for coal seam gas projects - most of which are in Queensland and NSW - have been progressing too quickly, and a moratorium should be placed on further approvals until more is known about the controversial fracking technique.
Fracking involves the pumping of high pressure water and chemicals underground to release gas stores.
As the Gladstone launch was under way, the Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, was also selling the case for the coal seam gas sector. "This isn't something that's happened in the last one or two years. This is not some wild experiment," Mr Fraser said.
Farming groups have expressed outrage that energy companies have the right to enter private property to explore for coal seam gas, but Mr Fraser said not all farmers were opposed.
"There's plenty of farmers who are quite happy they've got a second string to their income," he said.
Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour. Lots on the police lately
27 May, 2011
Fast-track teaching program gets green light for WA schools
A version of "Teach for America" -- but anything that exposes the usual ludicrous four-year "teacher training" courses is welcome. I was a successful High School teacher without one minute of teacher training
A program that launches top-ranking university graduates into teaching positions within months will be rolled out across WA next year, addressing shortages the state government has struggled to fill.
The Teach for Australia program is in its second year in Victoria and the ACT, with dozens of graduates placed in low socio-economic and disadvantaged schools across the states.
The program has previously drawn criticism from the State School Teachers Union of WA, which claimed the fast-tracked program was undermining those who had completed traditional teaching degrees, and would place the already-disadvantaged students into a further vulnerable position.
However, the founder of the program has defended the high quality graduates accepted into TFA, which only places its graduates in schools where teachers refuse to go.
It had previously been reported that the TFA graduates would not have the authority to teach in local schools, but the WA College of Teaching has confirmed that they can work in WA after being issued with a Limited Authority to Teach.
This permits the graduate to work in a particular area, only when there is no registered teacher for that position, and where no teaching graduates will go.
Successful applicants will be placed in schools in term one next year, after completing a six-week intensive course through the University of Melbourne. This will mark the start of a two-year degree at the school, through which they will continue to teach at an 80 per cent load, allowing one day per week for studies.
TFA chief executive officer Melodie Potts-Rosevear said that ideally there would be between 25 and 30 new graduates in the program next year who would be ready to be placed in a WA school.
With the aim of the program to put the graduates where no other teachers want to go, she said it is a balancing act ensuring the school was big enough to accommodate at least two graduates, and that there was adequate support in the form of a mentor based at the school.
"We'll recruit as many as we think that are suitable and can fill genuine vacancies," she said. "We just respond to what the school's needs are, and it just becomes a bit of a matching process. "The school really has to be big enough to have two vacancies that we can fill, along with a mentor that can support them on a day-to-day basis. "Schools where there's only two or three classrooms are probably not suitable to the program."
She said they tried to get a minimum of two graduates at a school, and that they tried to "cluster" the graduates among schools in a close vicinity so that they have a support network.
TFA has been a success in its short two-year history in Victoria, with dozens of graduates among the best in their field choosing to take up the program.
Malaysia treats illegals harshly
Australia's Leftist government intends to send middle-class illegals from Iraq and Afghanistan there. If that happens, most will stop coming
UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who is visiting Australia, claimed yesterday the Gillard government risked breaching international laws with the proposed swap of 800 boat arrivals for 4000 refugees from Malaysia.
While Immigration Minister Chris Bowen insists the deal complies with the UN Refugee Convention, that document does not cover torture, cruel punishment or conditions in detention centres that are dealt with under other international covenants and UN guidelines.
His office could not guarantee covenants or guidelines would be part of the agreement, which Mr Bowen said would be signed within weeks. Pressed on whether canings and the caging of pregnant women or children would br prevented, Mr Bowen's spokesman said negotiations were ongoing.
Ms Pillay was critical of the government's proposal. "If checks and balances are not made there's a huge risk of violations," Ms Pillay said.
Amnesty International's Dr Graham Thom toured three Malaysian detention centres last year, hearing how detainees had died of leptospirosis contracted via rat urine.
He photographed women and a baby caged in squalid conditions at Lenggeng Immigration Depot, near Kuala Lumpur, and hundreds of men in a tennis court-sized enclosure.
"We went to three different centres and each was equally appalling," he said.
Refugee lawyer David Manne said he had assisted asylum seekers who had been in Malaysian detention camps which were overcrowded and rife with malnutrition. "There are very poor sanitary conditions, serious systematic abuse, beatings, whippings, canings," Mr Manne said.
A spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, said "safeguards" were needed in the agreement to ensure any detention of asylum seekers was for a limited initial period.
BIG GREENIE ROUNDUP
Four articles below
The electronic Dick gets carried away
Dick Smith is rightly one of Australia's most popular people and I agree with his view that Australia should aim for a stable population rather than an expanding one. But he seems to have fallen under the influence of Greenie myths. The idea that a major food exporter like Australia could run out of food is absurd. To gain perspective, consider the case of another major food exporter -- post-Communist China
PLANS to massively boost Australia's population are a bad idea and must be stopped, entrepreneur Dick Smith says.
'The Federal Government favours a "big Australia" and wants to increase the country's headcount from 22 million to 35 million by 2050, largely by immigration.
But Mr Smith said this was ridiculous. "We need to do something about this incredible increase," he said at an Australian of the Year dinner in Parliament House today. "No one is allowed to talk about it ... I am."
Mr Smith said Australia did not have enough water or food to support millions more people. It was crazy that seawater was being desalinated for drinking water to supply a booming population. "I believe in 100 years time people in Australia will be starving to death."
The intake of skilled migrants should be slashed and women should be discouraged from having more than two babies, Mr Smith said. He believes nine out of 10 Australians do not want a population boom.
Mr Smith is working on a documentary on the issue.
The Government wants to increase the population because it means more young taxpayers to pay the rising health and pension costs of the ageing population.
But a recent poll showed most people did not like that plan and some green groups have voiced concerns about the environmental costs.
"Climate change" hits South Australia
ADELAIDE shivered through its longest May cold spell in 24 years, weatherzone.com.au says.
The city's temperature failed to reach 15C from Monday to Wednesday - the longest consecutive run since 1987 - before reaching a maximum of 15.5C yesterday.
This was still more than three degrees below the long-term average.
Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said southerly winds and low cloud had persisted since last weekend, with cold air lingering much longer than usual.
Mr Dutschke said while the remainder of the week would remain cold, temperatures would warm to near 20C next Tuesday or Wednesday in a brief spell of northerly winds.
Threat of carbon tax blackouts
THE security of electricity supplies would be at risk and power prices would be likely to rise under a carbon price if assistance measures failed to prevent the financial collapse of coal-fired generators, a report has warned.
A tax on carbon emissions could undermine investments in new low-emissions generation, if the viability of generators was undermined, according to a confidential report by investment bank Morgan Stanley.
The report warns that energy retailers could face higher costs and increased financial risks.
It found it was possible that the introduction of a carbon price - given that it was a radical change in the cost structure of the entire generation sector - could result in some unpredictable shifts in electricity prices, as it could alter the behaviour of electricity generators bidding into the national electricity market.
The Morgan Stanley review, which was conducted in 2009 as the government developed its compensation package for Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme, has never before been released because electricity generators threw open their books to the investment bank for the analysis.
A summary of the report, prepared by the Department of Climate Change and obtained by The Australian, was circulated to generators this week for the first time.
The generators had demanded the information as they continued their talks on an adjustment package for Julia Gillard's carbon pricing plan, which is being negotiated with the Greens and the rural independents.
The report is relevant to the current negotiations because the government has made clear the CPRS is being used as the foundation for the new negotiations.
The report will intensify calls from coal-fired power stations, particularly the brown coal-fired Victorian generators, for financial assistance. It underlines the difficulties facing the multi-party climate change committee as it negotiates the final details of the carbon package. The government will need a concession from the Greens, who have opposed providing financial assistance to coal-fired power stations, if it is to be able to offer a package to the coal-fired power stations.
The Morgan Stanley summary emerged as business groups continued to eye a campaign against the carbon tax.
The Australian Coal Association has been sounding out advertising agencies as it examines a potential advertising campaign against the carbon tax.
The Australian understands other business groups are also considering the move.
Electricity generators are due to meet the government again today before the Prime Minister's multi-party climate change committee's weekend of negotiations on the details of the package.
The Morgan Stanley report - which modelled the impact of a carbon price on the Victorian plants of Hazelwood, Yallourn, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, South Australia's Flinders and Millmerran in Queensland - identified three primary risks to the operation of energy markets under a carbon pricing regime.
It warned of "physical threats to system security", weakened investor confidence and disruptions to normal operations in energy-contracting markets.
On the threats to the electricity supply, the Morgan Stanley report said "physical supply reliability could be affected by unco-ordinated plans across the market for the withdrawal of large amounts of generation capacity potentially in advance of when new generation capacity might be available".
It said there was potential for a steady decline in reliability if financially distressed power stations reduced maintenance, either because they were in the hands of their lenders or faced with investment difficulties for assets with uncertain economic lives.
The report also warned that significant reductions in asset values in a concentrated sector of the generation market "may make investors less willing and able to invest in new low-emissions generation and dissuade other investors (particularly foreign investors) from providing capital to provide such new investments".
"Such an outcome could jeopardise Australia's medium- to long-term energy security by delaying critical investments," Morgan Stanley found.
The ability of power stations to pass on the carbon cost would depend on whether there was unutilised capacity in the market.
"If this spare capacity is able to be ramped up, then higher-emissions generators would have difficulty passing their full carbon costs through as lower-emissions generators will be able to profitably increase their output," Morgan Stanley found.
Generators might also be unable to pass on carbon costs if demand for power fell because of the higher electricity prices.
More rapid deployment of low-emissions technology would also lead to a lower carbon price pass-through.
And the closure of existing power plants could force up prices, the report said.
"As existing capacity is retired, the balance of supply and demand will tighten, which may lead to higher market prices and higher pass-through factors for the remaining plant for a period of time," it said.
The report said higher gas prices would require higher levels of carbon price to ensure the long-run marginal cost of new gas-fired generation was competitive with the short-run marginal cost of existing coal-fired generation.
Bid to stifle climate debate clouds history of scientific errors
The Climate Change Commission has released its long-awaited report saying the "jury is in" on the science behind man-made climate change. The verdict? "Humans are the problem."
So strong is the consensus, argues the climate ambassador Tim Flannery, that it is time for news media to cease giving space for debate over the science in view of the magnitude of the threat and the inability of non-experts to understand the issues.
With respect, that argument is not going to blow air into my balloon. Our system of government relies on non-experts making judgments. Our cabinet ministers are chosen from the ranks of elected members of Parliament, rather than external experts. Each year the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has to decide how much the federal government spends on 50 different vaccines to combat the risk of a pandemic. Roxon is not an epidemiologist. Wayne Swan has never had a cent of his own money at risk in a business he was running, yet he makes the judgments as the Treasurer on monetary policy, securities regulation, tax rates and foreign investment. We know that relying on non-experts involves risk but we regard it as the least-worst system, in part because we know how often the experts have made catastrophic errors.
In Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841), Charles Mackay chronicled the human tendency to be swept up in herd behaviour completely at odds with our goal of dispassionate, individual thought. Mackay looks at the great Tulip Bubble, sharemarket frenzies, the burning of witches and failed doomsday prophesies.
The scientific community is not immune. Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) showed it behaving like any other group - with a dominant clique-building and defending their empires , while bullying and ostracising dissenters. Kuhn showed that in case after case, the orthodoxy defends the status quo long after the data shows its underlying thesis must be wrong.
We have seen how that bullying, data manipulation and discrediting of dissenters scandalised East Anglia's climate research unit, which put together the historical temperature data on which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based its warming scenarios. The most damning revelation was why the manipulation was necessary: because the earth is refusing to warm at the rates the models required.
Flannery trousers $180,000 a year from the Prime Minister to heighten community angst, and her re-election depends on his success. Panasonic, the producer of energy-intensive, carbon-rich electronic goods, sponsors his chair at Macquarie University. While that money does not go to him directly, he has boasted of "carrying the flag for Panasonic in everything . . . I do" before clarifying that "I have not advocated Panasonic as a company in my public engagements as chief commissioner, nor have I done so in my books or TV work." Clear as mud.
The criticism that "money talks" in policy debates about energy-intensive industries ought also to be directed at the academic and scientific establishment. If we were to remove all the scientists whose teaching and research programs derive taxpayer funds to pursue the anthropogenic thesis, I suspect the "consensus" would be weaker. It doesn't mean the thesis is wrong, but the transparency being practised by the scientists falls woefully short of that expected of journalists, politicians and company directors.
An eminent cereal biologist and board member of the then Co-operative Research Centre for Grain Food Products recently told me how he was called to Canberra in the 1970s to join a secret conclave of senior figures in the departments of agriculture and defence from the US, Australia and Britain. Their task was to consider how to ration food in the coming ice age. (In fact, the Earth has had no polar ice for 75 per cent of its 4.5 billion-year history and we are still in an ice age.)
The risks of making predictions about complex systems on the basis of computer models was graphically illustrated by the Club of Rome's famously discredited 1972 work The Limits of Growth, which argued that linear growth in food resources and exponential growth in population would lead to Malthusian famine and war. The model completely failed to account for the subsequent 400 per cent increase in agricultural productivity.
Remember Y2K? In 1999 governments spent millions enriching computer scientists for advice on how to manage the threats to our national security from the millennium bug.
When making decisions about our country's future, we ought not to be dismissive of the wisdom of the traveller on the Bondi tram. While public support for the man-made warming thesis is falling, it will not serve the cause of science to behave like a shock jock with a microphone for himself and a mute button for his callers.
26 May, 2011
Fraser's unreliable memoirs rewrite history
MALCOLM Fraser's memoirs, co-authored with Margaret Simons, are the most error-riddled, factually unreliable, tendentious, consistently nasty and overall disgraceful political memoirs I have ever read. Naturally they won the NSW Premier's Literary Award.
This infamous award demonstrates why the Premier's Literary Awards should be abolished. In their nonfiction section, at least, they are not about literature but promoting ideological conformity.
Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983. In office, he had the reputation of being an arrogant, right-wing bully. Later, he decided to reshape himself as a grand man of the Left.
I don't doubt his motives, though it is noteworthy that you get a lot more comfort, certainly more awards, on the Left.
Fraser now has the attraction for the Left of any radical convert. Metaphorically, he has crossed the Berlin Wall, except he went from West to East. The Left is constantly surprised that it dominates the culture in Australia but is repeatedly rejected by voters.
In truth, it dominates the culture only because of its stranglehold on taxpayers' funds, such as these awards. John Howard's memoir - the bestselling political autobiography in our history - is truly popular. It will be fascinating to see if it wins any of these wretchedly compromised awards.
Fraser's visceral hatred of Howard and his relentless denigration of him, often with highly dubious stories, along with Fraser's support of free entry for the boatpeople, more than anything else endear him to the Left.
Fraser's book contains some astounding factual errors. Two among many that Gerard Henderson has pointed out are that Fraser cannot even remember how many elections he won, claiming four, when in fact he won three. Fraser also claims George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four was inspired by British society of the 1950s whereas it was a satire of East European communist dictatorships. Henderson might have pointed out further that as Orwell died in January 1950 and Nineteen Eighty-Four was published two years before that, he couldn't have been inspired by much in the 50s.
But even Henderson's splendid industry omits many of Fraser's howlers. Fraser claims the neo-conservatives wielded great influence in the Bush administration of the 90s. But George W. Bush was not even elected until November 2000.
But it is not really this sloppiness and inaccuracy that is the main problem. It is the tendentious misrepresentation of the past. Fraser wants to pretend - who knows, perhaps he even believes - he was always a man of the Left. Fraser has every right to change his mind on the big issues that defined his political life, but he should own up to being a Liberal rat, who has ratted on his previous views and his previous party, and not pretend that he was always a Patrick White fellow traveller.
Let me give you just a couple of central examples. Fraser claims that when he became prime minister on November 11, 1975, he was unable to change Gough Whitlam's policy towards Indonesia because he was in caretaker mode, and that this policy required accommodation of Indonesia in East Timor. He further claims that he watered down a letter to then president Suharto expressing understanding of Indonesia's position, that he was extremely reluctant to send this message and did so only because he was told it was vital to do so.
This is wrong on every count and its wrongness is documented in the memoir of Dick Woolcott, who was Australia's ambassador to Indonesia at the time. Whitlam's policy was to favour East Timorese incorporation into Indonesia but that this should be achieved peacefully and by East Timorese self-determination.
Whitlam's policy may well have been self-contradictory but it certainly allowed Fraser to emphasise self-determination if he wanted to. However, in opposition Fraser and his shadow cabinet colleagues had labelled the East Timorese independence party, Fretilin, communist and Fraser and gang at that time were comprehensively anti-communist.
Woolcott's memoir records surprise that the confidential letter Fraser sent to Suharto did not include, as Whitlam had included in all his communications, a statement that Australia opposed the use of force. Woolcott rang Canberra to try to get opposition to the use of force included in the letter and was told not to change or interpret Fraser's remarks.
In other words, Fraser watered down Whitlam's opposition to the use of force, exactly the opposite of what Fraser claims in his book.
An even more bizarre claim Fraser makes, in rationalising his support for the Vietnam War, is that he did not know until 1995 of the US involvement in the coup against South Vietnam's president Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.
Fraser was Australia's defence minister at the end of the 60s. If he didn't know about the US involvement he was surely the worst informed defence minister in the history of this country or any other. The US involvement was absolutely common knowledge, a routine part of any discussion of Vietnam in those days. Morris West, Australia's bestselling author at that time, wrote a novel about the American role in the coup, The Ambassador, which sold more than a million copies.
The anti-communist B. A. Santamaria, whom Fraser much admired, broadcast numerous television commentaries about it. In one, in November 1968, Santamaria said the US "had organised the overthrow of president Diem five years ago, without even taking the precaution to see that he was not killed". American involvement in the coup was discussed routinely in classrooms and university lectures at this period.
Fraser is either misrepresenting his knowledge at the time to suit his ideology today or has forgotten about his knowledge at the time, or was indeed an astonishingly incompetent defence minister.
Fraser presents himself as a great hero on refugees, but Australia took in far more refugees under Howard than it did under Fraser. Fraser claims to have taken in 20,000 refugees a year in his last years in office, a claim completely untrue. Similarly in opposition he called for "a small number" of Vietnamese to be admitted.
His scabrous slanders of Howard, the worst based only on his memory and backed up by no corroborating testimony or documentation, reveal a nastiness of spirit remarkable even in the ego-mad world of Australian politics. This shameful book deserves no awards.
Warmist economist scorns his country
Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economist. He criticizes the Australian character, as well he may, given his own defective character. His slavish acceptance of authority is very un-Australian. Australians are traditionally irreverent. No wonder he does not like his fellow Australians. He would have been wearing a brown uniform in Hitler's Germany
It's a sore test of faith when people put power bills before their children's future.
Like most people, I'm an instinctive optimist. In any case, I see no margin in pessimism. If you concluded the world was irredeemably wicked, or destined for certain destruction, what would be left but to curl up and die? Since we can never be certain the end is nigh, much better to keep living and keep plugging away for a better world.
I confess, however, I've needed all my optimistic instincts to avoid despair over the terrible hash we're making of the need to take effective action against global warming. We're showing everything that's unattractive about the Australian character.
We pride ourselves that Aussies are good in a crisis, but until the walls start falling in on us we couldn't reach agreement to shut the door against the cold.
This week's report from the Climate Commission - established to provide expert advice on the science of climate change and its effects on Australia - tells us nothing we didn't already know, but everything we've lost sight of in our efforts to advance our personal interests at the expense of the nation's.
Its 70 pages boil down to four propositions we'd rather not think about. First, there is no doubt the climate is changing. The evidence is clear. The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, and sea levels are rising. Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.
Second, we are already seeing the social, economic and environmental effects of a changing climate. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwave-associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfires.
Sea level has risen by 20 centimetres globally since the late 1800s, affecting many coastal communities. Another 20-centimetre increase by 2050 is likely, on present projections, which would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
Third, these changes are triggered by human activities - particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation - which are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide the most important of these gases.
Fourth, this is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience. Without strong and rapid action, there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine society's prosperity, health, stability and way of life......
Australians are proud of their inbuilt bulldust detectors, but on this issue they seemed to have turned them off, happily believing whatever self-serving nonsense politicians, business people and media personalities serve up to them.
School discipline on agenda for Vic Libs
Discipline in Victoria's public schools, the rising cost of construction for major projects and federal Labor's carbon tax will be under the spotlight at the Liberal State Council meeting this weekend.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will address the meeting at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Saturday, while Premier Ted Baillieu on Sunday will thank party members for their contribution to the coalition's state election victory.
There is likely to be an air of celebration at the event, the first official Victorian Liberal Party gathering since the coalition swept to office six months ago.
There is also optimism about the party's prospects federally, as opinion polls have consistently shown the coalition in an election-winning position and Mr Abbott closing in on Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister.
Motions on the agenda include setting up a tribunal to toughen up discipline at public schools. The Waverley North branch, which is moving the motion, says there is a discipline crisis in many state schools, with teachers under siege from unruly pupils.
It wants teachers to have the power to report serious breaches of discipline to the tribunal, including physical and verbal assaults and intimidation.
In its motion, the branch says almost 14,000 students were suspended in state schools last year and a lack of discipline in public education is the reason many parents send their children to private schools. "Parents want more confidence to choose a government school," the motion reads.
A call from the Geelong branch to have speed camera revenue directly invested in road safety initiatives is also on the agenda. "The loss of public confidence in the validity of speed cameras as a tool to reduce road trauma requires attention," the motion reads. "To not address these issues would mean the party risks the same voter backlash which the Labor Party received in the lead-up to the last election."
Auditor-General Des Pearson is investigating the state's speed camera system and is expected to report to government in about August.
Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett said it was wrong to suggest only government school students had behavioural issues. "I ... get offended by the notion that these issues are only issues for government schools," she told AAP. "In terms of bullying and physical altercations, it's hardly a government school issue only."
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal said he welcomed more support from the Department of Education in dealing with abuse or violence from students and parents.
But he denied there was a lack of discipline in government schools. "The notion that there is a discipline crisis in government schools is a real furphy," Mr Sal said.
Failing Federal solar scheme
COMPLAINTS about shonky solar power companies are rising as homeowners cry foul over bad contracts and half-finished work. The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is receiving a complaint every business day from people who believe they have been ripped off, although there have been no prosecutions. There have been 75 complaints so far this year.
Most complaints relate to delays or failure to supply the product, incorrect installation, faulty components or misleading representations about the solar panel system's performance.
Thirty-five companies, mostly based in the state, had been the subject of complaints in relation to solar panel systems, the OFT said. Of these, 12 were the subject of multiple complaints. It said it had not needed to "initiate any prosecution", as the complaints had been "largely contractual disputes" between the trader and consumer. "The majority of these matters have been resolved through conciliation to the satisfaction of the complainant," the OFT said.
Following an $850 million solar spending blowout, the Commonwealth next month is reducing by $1500 the subsidy for a typical home solar system, prompting high-pressure sales tactics on the part of some solar retailers ahead of the deadline. Some solar contracts contain hidden charges, including extra hook-up and maintenance costs and warranties with questionable value.
The problems come after the Federal Government was forced to scrap the failed Green Loans and home insulation programs.
Industry insiders said some of the worst offenders in the solar industry were previously involved in the Commonwealth's failed Batts insulation scheme that resulted in widespread rorting as well as the deaths of some installers.
There has been an explosion in the number of solar installers, from 280 across Australia in 2007 to more than 3500 today, and a 17-fold jump in Queensland in the same period to 785.
Consumer body Choice this week warned customers to be wary of very cheap quotes and short warranty periods.
Reputable installers say they are frustrated by "cowboys" giving the industry a black eye, yet are reluctant to name and shame competitors.
AllSafe, a major solar franchiser, has helped victims of improperly installed work. Lorraine Biggin, a Toowoomba-based AllSafe franchisee, said a recent customer was dudded by an installer who didn't supply all the racking for his home solar system and left the job unfinished. "He paid for everything and they just left him twisting in the wind," she said.
Complaints about solar installers are commonplace on consumer websites. Homeowners have vented anger at the quality of some solar systems, delivering less electricity than predicted, unprofessonal installations, and installers who disappeared, making their 10-year warranties worthless.
Homeowners also are frustrated when state and federal governments change the rules for their solar schemes reducing the expectations for a return on investments.
The Queensland Government has stopped subsiding new large solar systems to keep people from profitting from its scheme, but that was precisely why some "solar farmers" invested heavily in solar systems.
Homeowners also have discovered that electicity providers are knocking back some solar systems or their systems don't pass inspection because they haven't been installed to standard.
Consumers have attempted to protect themselves by turning to websites such as solarquotes.com.au, where the work of solar installers is discussed.
Website spokesman Finn Peacock said it appeared from the discussions there were dodgy contractors involved previously in insulation work who jumped into solar when the federal money dried up. "Any time you have government throwing money around, you'll get all sorts," he said.
25 May, 2011
Labor rebuffs Greens on coalmines
RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has slapped down a demand by the Greens for a ban on new coalmines, declaring the coal industry has a bright future as a driver of economic prosperity, despite moves to tackle climate change.
Mr Ferguson has also championed the emerging coal-seam methane industry, which the Greens also oppose. He noted that if Australia abandoned coal and coal-seam gas exports, its customers would be forced to use lower-quality coal from overseas that would cause greater global levels of carbon pollution.
And as the minister accused the Greens of trying to "undermine and destroy" jobs and export revenue, one of Julia Gillard's hand-picked climate change commissioners warned that a sudden phase-out of coalmining would spark economic and social chaos.
Economist Roger Beale, a member of the Prime Minister's Climate Commission, which is charged with promoting rational debate on climate change, told a forum in Canberra that coal would be a part of world energy production for decades.
"So coal is with us," Mr Beale told a Climate Commission forum. "We can produce coal close to the markets that are demanding it. And we can do it in an efficient way. And it is high thermal-efficiency coal and it's generally low-sulphur coal."
Mr Beale's comments came as senior Labor Party sources scoffed at the Greens' demands on coal and said no Labor government would be "silly enough" to embrace the end of an industry that provided tens of thousands of jobs, often in areas traditionally favourable to Labor.
The Greens have lately sharpened their anti-coal rhetoric as they continue their negotiations with the Prime Minister about the design of a carbon tax.
Ms Gillard agreed to work with the Greens on the issue after last year's election produced a hung parliament, forming a multi-party committee to give the minor party input in return for its support for her minority government.
On Monday, Greens deputy leader Christine Milne, who favours a swift switch to renewable energy sources and believes lost jobs would be replaced by clean energy jobs, made clear she had no patience for a long transition away from fossil fuels.
"The Greens have said very clearly: no new coalmines, no extension of existing coalmines; let's invest in renewables - the technology exists," Senator Milne said. She also attacked the emerging coal-seam gas industry as "a disaster for Australia", despite it creating thousands of jobs.
Mr Ferguson yesterday rejected the Greens' view, issuing an unambiguous vote of confidence in the resources sector. "Not only does the coal-seam methane export industry have a great potential for Australia over the next 10 to 20 years, but so has the coal sector, and I might say the iron ore sector," he said. "That's despite, I might say, when it comes to coal-seam methane, LNG and the coal industry, the best endeavours of the Greens to undermine and destroy that industry in Australia."
In a veiled attack on the Greens' contention that jobs lost could be replaced by new positions in the renewable sector, Mr Ferguson said coal and coal-seam gas would deliver "real jobs and training opportunities" and "real export earnings" that would strengthen the overall national economy. Later, Mr Ferguson told The Australian that Australian coal was relatively clean by international standards and, if its exports ceased, customers such as China would be forced to use coal that would discharge greater levels of carbon.
Earlier, Mr Beale, the executive director of economics and policy at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Climate Commission forum - staged to promote rational debate based on facts - Australia needed to accept "the hard fact" that coal would be an unavoidable part of the global energy mix for up to the next three decades.
Mr Beale, a former secretary of the Department of Environment and Heritage and a lead author for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the answer to reducing carbon emissions was providing incentives for the market to drive change at a pace that was economically and socially sustainable.
"If we simply cut coal off, we would have economic and social chaos," Mr Beale said.
"These things shouldn't be planned, they should emerge through an efficient marketplace, and that will get you the best-paced, best adjustment, providing around the world we are given the right incentives to use coal in as clean a manner as is possible."
Mr Beale said the coal industry would continue to grow and remain an important power source for the world.
Shutting down the Australian industry, he said, would not necessarily "save the world" because its customers would simply take their business elsewhere.
Yesterday's forum came as several Labor Party MPs, asking not to be named, said that Labor was realistic enough to know that agreeing to the Greens' positions on coal would be politically unsustainable.
They said Labor had lost seats in mining areas in last year's federal election, such as the Queensland seats of Flynn and Dawson, and understood it wold not regain the seats if it shut down the industries that underpinned their local economies. "We want to do the right thing by the environment, but we're not silly enough to put people out of work, particularly when they are our supporters," said one Labor backbencher.
"Everything I am hearing from our leaders is that we want to put in place a process that will allow the market to drive the changes. So we are hardly going to tell people they can't build new coalmines." Another MP said it would be "political suicide" to embrace the Greens' position.
"At some point, the Greens will have to moderate their demands," the MP said. "I'm hoping they will be realistic enough to accept they can't have everything."
Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson said Senator Milne's attack on the coal-seam gas industry was a risk to the transition to a low-emissions economy. "Outright opposition to viable and sensible energy options . . . impedes the thoughtful and intelligent energy debate that we need to have," she said.
Leftist denial of immigration realities reaches new heights (or depths) in Australia
LABOR is so confident its refugee swap with Malaysia is going to slow the flow of boats that it has budgeted for the arrival of only 750 asylum-seekers next financial year, despite more than 6000 having arrived last year.
Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe said the figure was in line with arrivals in 2002 -- after the Howard government's introduction of the Pacific Solution.
Speaking in a Senate estimates hearing yesterday, Mr Metcalfe said the prediction of 750 boatpeople for 2011-12 had been made because "the government believes its policy will work". He was referring to the latest announcements by Labor that involves a five-for-one refugee swap with Malaysia and the possible reopening of an offshore processing centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
"As a result of policy measures put in place, the figure of 750 was decided," Mr Metcalfe said. "The government is confident policy changes made will have a significant impact on boat arrivals. "The figure is purely a figure identified for financial planning purposes . . . that was the same number as the people who came in 2002, which was also after a major policy change."
Mr Metcalfe said the 750 figure would include asylum-seekers sent to any offshore facility, but would not include "up to 800" to be sent to Malaysia as part of the planned deal.
Australia will take 4000 certified refugees from Malaysia even if fewer than 800 asylum-seekers are sent there.
The Immigration Department's chief accountant, Stephen Sheehan, said the budget measures included an average occupancy of about 6500 detainees. "We are budgeting for 750 arrivals as part of our modelling process and an average occupancy of 6556 -- including those IMAs (irregular maritime arrivals) who are sent offshore but spend a few days in Australian detention," Mr Sheehan said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the 750 figure "proved" the government would indeed send all 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia. "It just means back to business as usual," he said. "This is further evidence of why we need a parliamentary inquiry into the immigration detention network."
Mr Morrison on Sunday announced the Coalition's plan for a "warts and all" inquiry into immigration.
Desperate and hypocritical Labour Party grab for taxes
Western Australia is in the midst of what has been described as one of the biggest mining and resource booms in our nation's history.... This has greatly increased economic activity in Western Australia, but it has also brought significant pressures.
Population growth is one factors that has placed great demands on services provided by the State Government and local governments throughout the State.
The entire Australian economy benefits from this strong economic growth, and the Federal Government has an important role to play in ensuring the investment environment is attractive .
It must also provide sufficient support to the State Government as it battles with the large infrastructure demands.
This was the case until the Rudd/Gillard Labor Governments ran into budgetary strife due to its reckless and wasteful spending and turned their sights on the Western Australian mining sector.
In a desperate search for further sources of funding, then Prime Minister Rudd announced last year that he would introduce a Resources Super Profits Tax – a new federal tax on mining company profits.
This additional 40 per cent tax would have made Australia a far less competitive investment environment, and for the first time in living memory the issue of sovereign risk was raised among international investors.
As events transpired, this tax was the final straw for Kevin Rudd's leadership and it was scrapped by Julia Gillard after she toppled Rudd for the Labor leadership on June 24.
Julia Gillard then negotiated a Minerals Resource Rent Tax with three of the largest mining companies, excluding thousands of smaller miners from the negotiations.
These big 3 miners extracted a key concession in this pre-election "fix" that meant all existing and future State royalties would be credited against any MRRT liability – the Federal Government picks up the tab for State royalties, now and into the future.
It is an undeniable fact that Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced more than 12 months ago that he intended to gradually eliminate all existing discounts from the State's standard royalty rate of 7.5 per cent.
These discounts had existed for many years and were implemented decades ago so as not to discourage investment, particularly in the fledging Pilbara iron ore industry.
So when Premier Barnett announced in this year's State Budget that he was removing the discount for iron ore "fines" so that they were treated in the same way as iron ore "lumps" with all iron ore products having the same applicable royalty rate of 7.5 per cent, he was doing precisely what he said he would do.
Yet, astoundingly, his announcement came under hysterical attack from Treasurer Wayne Swan.
Mr Swan claimed not to have been given any prior warning, that Premier Barnett "did not communicate that he was going to do this..." and that the announcement came "suddenly out of the blue".
He has threatened retribution through the Commonwealth Grants Commission and to withdraw GST from WA. He has threatened to slash infrastructure funding from the State.
The Treasurer would have us believe that the Premier's announcement was a "black swan" event - unpredictable, unexpected, out of the blue.
This simply defies belief. There are numerous media articles over the past 12 months in which Premier Barnett has stated his intention to lift the royalty rate for iron ore fines from July 1 2011.
The Federal Treasury advised Mr Swan in a formal briefing document in May 2010 of the WA timetable for eliminating royalty discounts, with these documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
An official Federal Government fact sheet dated 2 July 2010 regarding the details of the MRRT stated "State royalties are assumed to be equal to 7.5 per cent of sales revenue and are credited against the MRRT liability to produce the net MRRT liability" .
In other words, Treasury were already factoring in to its calculations the fact that WA would lift all its royalty rates to 7.5 per cent. Even more damning is the fact that two days prior to Treasurer Swan's claims of total ignorance, Barnett's chief of staff personally informed Swan's chief of staff of the decision.
The question arises as to why Treasurer Swan had such a vociferous reaction to the WA Premier formally announcing something that has long been flagged.
It has all to do with the fragility of his Budget and the smoke and mirrors surrounding his claim that he will return the Budget to surplus in two years' time.
Having made the utterly unbelievable claim that he knew nothing about WA's intentions, Treasurer Swan must now explain the full implications for the federal Budget bottom line. His four Budgets to date have produced cumulative deficits of $150 billion and Treasurer Swan is yet to deliver a surplus.
Even during a period of strong economic growth and record terms of trade, a Swan surplus is a fast-fading mirage.
Commandos finally get justice
A soldier guides the lead convoy vehicle in Afghanistan.
Troops can again have confidence in the legality of their combat operations.
LAST week in Sydney, the military's chief judge advocate dismissed the charges against two Australian commandos over the deaths of Afghan civilians. I hope his decision is taken seriously and that we never see such charges again.
In October, when the charges of manslaughter by criminal negligence were laid against the army reservists, aspersions abounded. Many Australian media outlets were quick to allege that the incidental killing of civilians in Afghanistan was the inevitable consequence of a large proportion of reserve soldiers who were inadequately trained, gung ho and poorly led.
Those aspersions are all fallacious and have been extremely hurtful to the subjects of the charges, to their mates and to the 1st Commando Regiment, with its distinguished operational record.
What a profoundly disappointing contrast to the initial media scrum to see a solitary media representative in the courtroom on Friday for the duration of Brigadier Ian Westwood's decision to dismiss the charges against Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D.
Australian Defence Force legal officers have been taught for years that the law governing combat operations is international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) implemented into Australian domestic law through Commonwealth legislation.
Rules of engagement are drafted in strict compliance with that body of law, ensuring troop confidence in the legality of combat operations.
Late last year, the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, challenged that orthodoxy by laying charges without reference to an alleged violation of international humanitarian law.
Colonel Tom Berkeley, representing McDade in court-martial proceedings, repeatedly stated that the prosecution did not allege a war crime in the deaths in February 2009 of six Afghan civilians, including five children, in an Australian attack on a compound in Oruzgan province.
But the implication was that Australian criminal law apparently imposed a higher standard on ADF members, who could no longer assume that compliance with international humanitarian law would guarantee lawful conduct.
The chief judge advocate's decision to dismiss the charges in last week's pre-trial hearing restores the orthodoxy.
Negligence has never been an acceptable fault element for the perpetration of a war crime. At the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for example, the minimum requirements are intention or recklessness.
I spoke with senior military lawyers in the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand during the course of this case, and none of them could understand why these charges had been laid. They were uniformly emphatic that none of their soldiers would be charged with negligence in combat operations.
But our military prosecutor claimed that these two soldiers owed a duty of care to the civilians in the compound in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that the ADF contingent was subjected to sustained bursts of fire from an AK-47 from within the compound, the prosecutor insisted that the alleged duty of care was demonstrably breached by the two ADF members.
The chief judge advocate thought otherwise. In a meticulously reasoned decision, Westwood found that Australian law does not impose an enforceable duty of care on ADF members in the context of combat operations.
He did not suggest that combat is a law-free zone. International humanitarian law regulates the conduct of ADF members. Of course, if the ADF contingent that entered the compound in Oruzgan province on the night of February 12, 2009, had taken the civilian inhabitants out of their rooms, lined them up against the compound wall and shot them, multiple war crimes of murder would have been committed and Australian society would rightly demand that those responsible be brought to justice. Nothing of that sort happened.
I was encouraged by Westwood's closing exhortation - that the dismissal of the charges does not alter the tragedy of the deaths of civilians taking no part in the hostilities in Afghanistan.
International humanitarian law seeks to protect civilians from the scourge of war, even though the reality of some loss of civilian life is reluctantly accepted. The Australian Defence Force must continue to comply with that body of law in all its military operations. Members who violate the law should be held accountable.
But when our government sends ADF contingents into conflict, asking our young men and women to risk their lives in the conduct of military operations, compliance with international humanitarian law in the professional performance of their responsibilities is all that we should ask of them.
24 May, 2011
WTF! What would a Cambridge Don know about blackfellas?
His statements are mostly "motherhood" ones so why do we need them? Actually spending time among the blackfellas and getting to know their perspective is what is needed rather than a lot of do-gooderism by blow-in whites
UNDERSTANDING the culture of indigenous patients will help doctors close the gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, an international health professional says.
Doctors also need to foster trust, which is being eroded by "officialdom" and socioeconomic issues, Professor David Simmons from Cambridge University told a meeting on indigenous health and chronic disease.
Speaking at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians 2011 Congress, Prof Simmons said as well as examining the extensive statistics on health problems in indigenous communities, doctors need to look at how they are engaging with indigenous patients. "Officialdom at various levels from political to stakeholder engagement, along with a range of socioeconomic issues, has made trust fraught," he said.
Prof Simmons said a number of initiatives aimed at improving the health of diabetic Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders and Maoris had been very successful, and should be used in other areas. "Ensuring the health of the indigenous patient or community is important.
"As is understanding that cross-cultural issues, such as differing priorities and beliefs, will inevitably arise. "Building trust in indigenous health is imperative to the overall success of closing the gap and addressing disparities. "There will always be competing perspectives and agendas from within and outside the indigenous community, and beyond the individual patient."
The congress will also hear from Australia's leading addiction specialist Kate Conigrave on the issues that lead to drug and alcohol addiction. "Many communities have acted with great strength to tackle substance misuse but they need sustained support and access to treatment," Associate Professor Conigrave said in a statement. She said advances in medication could double the chance of success, and called for improved access to modern treatment in Aboriginal communities.
The 2011 congress, over three days, will address a range of areas including alcohol consumption during pregnancy, the challenges of paediatric care in remote communities, and indigenous dementia.
(Since those who do not know Aborigines are unliklely to be aware of it, I mention that Aborigines most commonly refer to themselves as "blackfellas". "Aborigine" is a pure Latin word: ab origine -- JR)
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission, a huge burden on the backs of the NSW taxpayer
During the 16 years the previous Labor government held office, the bedrock of its electoral strength and party finance was public sector unions and public sector employees. By a happy coincidence, this core constituency enjoyed multibillion-dollar largesse under Labor. Real public sector wages in NSW increased 23 per cent during the life of the government, a rate more than double the 11 per cent increase in real wages in the private sector.
Between September 1997 and June last year, real public sector wages in NSW increased 10.6 per cent more than real private sector wages. This also outstripped real public sector wages in other states by 6.9 per cent.
The commission has a reputation for handing down wage increases without regard to the state's capacity to pay for them. The commission delivered one-size-fits-all wage agreements, where unions won awards of the same size as other awards, without reference to differences in productivity growth between sectors.
The commission oversees a punitive occupational health and safety legal system, which operates under a presumption of guilt by employers and innocence by employees and is conspicuously biased in favour of union power.
The Labor government tried to rein in its self-imposed wage burden by legislating to cap wage increases at 2.5 per cent. Any additional increases had to be offset by cost savings. The policy failed as the commission continued to hand down wage increases of more than 2.5 per cent while only half the promised cost savings materialised.
An exasperated Premier told me on Friday: "One of the key reasons why wages policy has not achieved necessary savings is because of constant arrangements entered into at the commission based on planned future savings which have not been delivered. To my mind, it is simply wrong that we should risk the state's financial security on projections for savings with no real guarantee of having these savings realised."
This failure is expensive. The state's wages bill is now $28 billion a year. Every 1 per cent increase in wages costs the NSW budget almost $280 million a year. To stop subversion of the budget projections, the government is introducing legislation requiring that cost savings used to justify wage increases be achieved before the wage agreements are negotiated. Real savings will thus replace phantom savings.
The government is also introducing legislation to bring workplace safety laws into line with federal laws enacted by the federal Labor government. Responsibility for these cases will be moved from the Industrial Relations Commission to other courts where defendants have the same rights as plaintiffs and unions do not have de facto police powers of search and seizure.
A parasitic government welfare agency in South Australia
The equivalent body in Queensland has been heavily criticized too -- doing all it can to delay release of funds from its grip
GARY Norris had $7000 in savings in 2006 when his finances were taken over by the Public Trustee. Just three years later, his bank account was empty.
The intellectually disabled man from Mt Gambier handed his financial affairs to he Public Trustee after his carer was unable to continue with the responsibility.
Mr Norris's mother, Jan, said her son's savings were chewed up in Public Trustee fees and charges. And Mrs Norris is worried that other disabled pensioners will suffer the same fate when the State Government closes the Disability SA Client Trust management fund, forcing many to use the Public Trustee.
The $2.2 million savings measure was announced in last year's State Budget, but the Government has delayed the fund's closure by 12 months, to July next year.
The closure has been opposed by the Public Advocate and welfare groups which say pensioners will be slugged $45 a fortnight in fees if their funds are managed by the Public Trustee.
Disabilities Minister Jennifer Rankine said the deferral would provide clients with more time to consider their options. "That is, whether to transfer management to the Public Trustee, another financial service or whether they wish to manage their funds themselves," she said.
Mrs Norris said she would take over the management of her son's finances. "We are not going to chance it again," she said.
Opposition disability spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said the Government was back-pedalling to try to save itself from political embarrassment. "Delaying it (the fund closure) won't stop us raising the inequity of it," Ms Chapman said.
Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent said the deferral would not "undo the frustration, worry and panic many of these people have already experienced".
Revolting Melbourne public hospital
HARROWING conditions at Footscray's Western Hospital - including blood splatters, dirty beds and vomit-covered toilets - have prompted an urgent investigation into its hygiene standards.
When James Juranke, 24, rushed girlfriend Miranda Taylor, 25, to the emergency room at Western Hospital in Footscray last week to be treated for a pinched nerve, they were horrified by the state of the hospital. "It really made me sick to go in there, thinking that this is Australia," Mr Juranke said. "We shouldn't have to have situations like this.
"The staff were friendly and they tried to do the best they could with what they had available (but) Footscray was absolutely atrocious."
After sitting in a waiting room for more than four hours, Ms Taylor was given a bed in the fast track ward. But when she pulled back the sheets, she found the bed she was lying on was coated in filth, seen in photos provided exclusively to the Herald Sun.
The hospital said it would launch an immediate inquiry. "Western Health is extremely disappointed at the unacceptable level of cleanliness and hygiene which is reflected in the photographs you have brought to our attention," the hospital said in a statement.
"We have commenced an urgent investigation into the matter as it appears that, in this instance, the standards we expect have not been met. "We will be working with our staff and volunteers to identify how we might do this differently and better into the future."
When the couple arrived at 5.30am, they were the only people in the emergency waiting room other than an apparent homeless man who soon thanked staff and left. They did not get a formal diagnosis for Ms Taylor's pain until after 9.30pm, when nursing staff confirmed it was a pinched nerve and she was discharged.
"I felt like my leg was being ripped off, that's why we went there, and to be waiting that long in such disgusting conditions, not knowing what's going on, is pretty traumatic," Ms Taylor said.
Blood they had noticed at the hospital entrance was still there when they left, more than 14 hours later.
The only men's toilet in the waiting room was covered in vomit more than four hours after it was discovered by staff.
Wheelchairs in the X-ray department were secured with chains and when Mr Juranke asked why, he was told that if left unsecured, they would be taken by other departments.
"I wouldn't go back, not at all," Mr Juranke said. "The conditions were just putrid and disgusting and if I'd known I would have told Miranda to wait until 8am and just taken her to Williamstown and got some painkillers from the local 7-11."
Victoria's Health Services Commissioner, Beth Wilson, said patients were entitled to be treated with respect and dignity under the Australian hospitals charter. "Being subjected to dirty conditions is not dignified treatment, it's not respectful, she said.
The hospital said it was regularly subject to cleanliness audits and had consistently exceeded benchmarks. [That says a lot about the benchmarks]
23 May, 2011
Unlimited free phone calls for illegals detained in Australia -- a big hit on taxpayers
The figures below relate to only one of the many "detention centres" (jails) in operation
PHONE bills at the Scherger defence facility near Weipa have soared by more than a quarter of a million dollars in the first six months of the centre being used to house asylum seekers. The hidden cost is revealed in a bill for $259,455 that Defence sent to the Department of Immigration this month.
The revelations come as the Government faces a series of political attacks on its border protection policies, with the Opposition and Greens calling for inquiries into the way immigration detention centres are run.
Departmental staff will face a grilling from Opposition senators in Budget estimates hearings this week over an estimated $1.7 billion cost blowout in border protection.
Labor's plans to swap 800 asylum seekers with 4000 refugees from Malaysia will cost about $292 million. These costs are likely to increase, with the Government discussing similar deals with other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Thailand.
The phone bill is outlined in a Government contract notice for the Scherger detention centre.
It comes after the temporary use of the Cape York centre as an immigration detention centre was extended for another year. Numbers of asylum seekers housed in the remote far north Queensland facility have almost doubled from the original capacity of 300. There were 591 detainees in the centre this month, according the most recent data.
About 100 Afghan and Sri Lankan detainees were involved in violent clashes at the centre last week, raising fears of overcrowding.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to comment on the telephone costs. But a Department of Immigration spokeswoman said the costs related to all phone calls from the remote centre between October 2010 and March this year. "The figure is for the cost of all phone calls from Scherger immigration detention centre made by Defence, DIAC, Defence service provider... and local detainee phone calls," the department's spokeswoman said.
Opposition MP Jamie Briggs, who runs the Coalition's "waste watch" committee, demanded the Government provide a detailed breakdown of phone costs at Scherger and other immigration detention centres. "It appears to be an extraordinarily high cost," he said.
Mr Briggs said he did not oppose asylum seekers being able to call their families overseas, but said taxpayers should not be paying for "excessive" numbers of calls. He said he knew of examples of detainees running up large phone bills in other centres through daily calls to destinations including Iran.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday urged a wide-ranging inquiry into the immigration detention system.
The Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie have backed the inquiry but have called for it to consider scrapping mandatory detention.
Mother had to be flown interstate to have triplets
Australia is getting as bad as Canada -- where patients often have to fly to the USA to get treatment
A WOMAN pregnant with triplets had to be flown interstate to give birth because one of Sydney's largest maternity units did not have enough specialist neonatal cots to care for her babies.
Bronwyn Burns said she was told that she could have her babies at Sydney's Royal Women's Hospital in Randwick, but after the triplets arrived one of them would have to go to Nepean Hospital, 50kms away, while another would be flown to Melbourne for care.
The 33-year-old said she did not want her babies separated, so last Thursday she was flown to Canberra Hospital which had three neonatal cots available for triplets Montayah, Jaquarhn and Jyqueel.
The babies, two boys and a girl, were born via caesarean section on Friday morning at 31 weeks gestation, weighing 857g, 1.02kg and 1.48kg. They are all breathing on their own, but the smallest boy remains in neonatal intensive care while his siblings are in the hospital's special care nursery.
"It was a worry because we didn't know where I would end up having the babies," Ms Burns said yesterday. "First I was going to be taken by ambulance to Newcastle, but then when that couldn't happen, we had to be flown to Canberra. "My mum came with me but we weren't allowed to bring much so all the baby stuff I brought and all of mum's clothes and things are still in Sydney."
A NSW Health spokesman last night said there were 130 neonatal intensive care (NICU) cots and 400 special cots across the state. It was against NSW Health policy to separate a new mother and her babies, he said.
"If at any time the Royal Hospital for Women's Maternity or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reaches capacity as would be the case at any other hospital in NSW, mothers and babies can be referred through the state-wide network to other NICUs," he said. "However, it is best practice, wherever possible to move the mum before the birth."
Ms Burns, a single mother with three older children, drove from her home in Dubbo to Randwick for a specialist appointment last Monday. After she underwent a number of tests, doctors decided the babies would need to be delivered by caesarean section as there were concerns about their slow growth rate.
Government electricity is extra special
Government-owned electricity networks are charging almost twice as much as privately-owned operators
THE government-owned electricity networks in NSW and Queensland are charging almost twice as much as privately owned operators in Victoria, resulting in soaring bills for consumers, a new report warns.
The report, obtained by The Australian, argues the government-owned poles and wires that deliver power are delivering windfall profits to state governments at the expense of electricity consumers.
The government-owned networks also have more frequent and longer outages than the private networks that operate in Victoria and South Australia.
The report was commissioned by the Energy Users Association of Australia - whose members include Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers - and recommends the privatisation of the NSW and Queensland distributors, as well as regulatory reforms to empower consumers.
EUAA executive director Roman Domanski said it was crucial that the energy networks became more efficient to cut costs because power was becoming less affordable and climate change policies were set to further inflate electricity costs.
The warning comes as one of the nation's biggest electricity suppliers, TRUenergy, yesterday warned that household power bills would double over six years with the introduction of a carbon price. Last night, TRUenergy chief executive Richard McIndoe estimated that households would on average face a further $300 hike to their power bills if a carbon price were introduced at about $20 a tonne.
Mr McIndoe said this would come on top of a 40 per cent rise over the past three years - largely driven by rising energy network charges - and a further 30 per cent rise over the next three years related to rising gas prices and the costs of the mandatory targets for renewable energy generation.
"You are looking at a doubling of electricity pricing over a six-year period, which is pretty significant for households," Mr McIndoe told The Australian.
He added that a much higher carbon price - of at least $60 a tonne - would be needed to drive a switch from using coal to gas or renewables to generate electricity. "Really, at that level, a $60-plus price, you are going to see quite a lot of industry frankly closing down in Australia."
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said she would not back the carbon tax until she had seen the details of it, including how it would impact on households. The Prime Minister has blamed the states for skyrocketing electricity bills, saying there is now a costly spending catch-up after under-investment in the networks - and has said that other states could learn from the example set by Victoria.
The Kennett government privatised its entire electricity industry in the 1990s and South Australia followed suit, but NSW and Queensland have both retained their poles and wires networks in public hands.
Three articles below
The prophesied end of the world did not come on May 21 but the Greenie prophecies of doom never stop
This is an old one though: Sea levels could rise a metre by 2100. And aerial pigs could appear too -- particularly when one considers that the sea level rose only 7" (18cm) over the entire 20th century. Even journalists are no longer swallowing the bunk whole, however. Note that they use the Australian slang term "spruik" to describe the prophecy. "Spruiking" is what a con-man or an over-enthusiastic salesman does
The federal government's climate commission says global warming could cause the world's sea level to rise up to one metre by the end of the century - higher than previously thought.
The commission, established by Labor to spruik the case for tackling dangerous climate change, is also calling for a fresh approach to reducing carbon emissions. It suggests that rather than focusing on interim targets based on percentage cuts, governments should commit to emitting no more than an agreed carbon dioxide "budget" by 2050.
This so-called budget approach would allow greater flexibility and encourage investment in the most-effective technologies rather than quick-fix solutions.
The commission is releasing its first major report, The Critical Decade, on Monday. "A plausible estimate of the amount of sea-level rise by 2100 compared to 2000 is 0.5 to one metre," it says. That's higher than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's top range of 0.18m to 0.76m.
Commissioner Will Steffen, a Canberra-based climate scientist, made the assessment after surveying the existing literature and speaking to experts. "Some people may take issue with that - but that's my judgment," Professor Steffen told AAP ahead of the report's release at Parliament House. [Good for you Prof. But how good is your judgment? Prophecies are almost always wrong, you know]
The report states that even a rise of 0.5m could lead to an increase in extreme flooding events for coastal areas of Sydney and Melbourne "by factors of 1000 or 10,000 for some locations".
The global sea level has risen by about 20cm since the 1880s. But the rises aren't uniform - they vary according to ocean currents and the local conditions on the land.
In Australia, sea levels are rising fastest on the northern coastline. Around Arnhem Land it's rising by more than seven millimetres a year while the global average is 3.2mm. [So if it's not global, is it unrelated to global warming?]
Prof Steffen notes that's bad news for Kakadu. "It is low-lying and already we're seeing some salt water intrusion into some of the fresh water wetlands," he said.
When it comes to damage to the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian National University academic argues the report contains "solid data that says we are indeed starting to see some of these affects on calcifying organisms".
Prof Steffen said he hoped the report would refocus the political debate on the risks posed by climate change. "The costs of not doing something about climate change will almost surely be far, far greater than the costs of doing something about it," he said.
When it comes to taking action, the report suggests focusing on limiting emissions to an agreed global budget.
"The strategic challenge (then) changes from whether the 2020 target is a five per cent, 25 per cent or 40 per cent reduction against a particular baseline to how do we implement the transition to a low- or no-carbon economy by 2050 with the least economic and social cost while staying within the budget," the report states.
For humanity to have a 75 per cent change of limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius it would need to emit no more than one trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2000 to 2050. Some 30 per cent of that budget has already been spent.
The report acknowledges the difficulty with this approach would be allocating the global budget to individual countries.
But Prof Steffen points out the new method "really focuses attention on the endgame which is to decarbonise economies by the middle of the century". The report argues this would encourage investment decisions to be taken from a long-term perspective.
Prominent Australian conservative attacks Climate Commission report as 'nonsense'
LIBERAL [party] powerbroker Nick Minchin has attacked a new report that declares the world is in imminent danger from human-induced climate change as offensive nonsense from known "global warming alarmists".
Senator Minchin, who played a key role in terminating Malcolm Turnbull's leadership over his support for emissions trading, said there was still a legitimate debate over the role of humans in climate change. “The so-called Climate Commission is a Labor government-appointed committee of known climate alarmists, selectively appointed ... to further the cause of global warming alarmism,” he said following today's release of the commission's first report.
“I think everybody should take anything they say with a grain of salt,” Senator Minchin said. “What's most offensive is (climate commissioner) Will Steffen suggesting the scientific debate is over. “That's nonsense because there is a very lively scientific debate about the role of human-induced Co2 emissions in climate change.”
The Climate Commission report says the world has at best 10 years to cut carbon emissions or it will face dangerous atmospheric warming and sea level rises. [They have been putting out these 10 year warnings for years -- and none of them have ever come true]
Professor Steffen also called today for an end to “fruitless, phoney” debate, saying climate change denial is a luxury the world can no longer afford.
Senator Minchin is retiring in July but he remains a close confidant of Tony Abbott and his views as a party elder are widely sought. He is on the record as being sceptical of mainstream climate science, saying earlier this year he believed the world was more likely to be cooling than getting hotter.
Senator Minchin said the new report did nothing to further Labor's case for a carbon tax. “What I think is most frustrating in all of this is this report provides no basis for Australia acting unilaterally on a carbon tax,” he said.
“Given we are responsible for about one per cent of the world's emissions of CO2 and when it's clear that China's additional emissions over the next few decades will completely swamp any reductions in our emissions, anything Australia does will be utterly pointless and have no impact whatsoever on the global climate.”
Greens senator Christine Milne backed the commission's finding that Australia faced a critical decade on climate change, and also called for an end to the debate over whether climate change is real. “What this report will do is actually help the Australian population see that what we've been having is a phoney debate in Australia that's been run by the sceptics, financed by big business, by coal, by oil around the world,” she said. [Focus on finance rather than on the scientific issues?]
Hate speech, political violence and climate change
The Australian Greenie writing below unconvincingly tries to brand two prominent conservatives as hate speakers and then manages to find only two lone hate-speakers, the deranged Loughner and some other loner. And as for quoting the lightweight and self-contradictory David Neiwert, see here. And as for the sensationalist SPLC! Exaggerated scares are their fundraisers.
Our Greenie's lack of hard data leaves him entirely reliant on recycling judgments by others (including members of the Obama administration) that are as shallow as his own. So his fancied "culture of hate" turns out to be a mirage.
He makes no mention of the extremely hostile utterances by Greenies about skeptics. No mention at all of prominent Warmists like James Hansen who compared coal trains to Nazi death trains, thus helping to excite febrile rage among some gullible young Brits -- rage which they acted out by causing what little damage they could to Kingsnorth power station. When has a skeptic acted out any rage against Warmists?
And how about this little bit of hate-speech, also from the site which hosts the rant below?"Precisely the same pseudo-scientific “institutes,” using the same pseudo-scientific jargon and the same pseudo-scientific “conferences” are now seeking to create the appearance of a “debate” about the fundamentals of climate science. Indeed, the very same people - yes, the same individuals - who were involved in manufacturing doubt about the link between smoking and cancer are now also involved in manufacturing doubt about climate science"
So skeptics are "pseudo-scientific" and "manufacturing doubt" like the hated tobacco industry. Identifying anybody with tobacco is hate speech coming from a Greenie.
And who were those "same individuals" who were doubters about both tobacco AND global warming? There are none. It is a lie. The only individual whom Warmists sometimes refer to is Fred Singer, who once pointed out some dubious EPA statistics about SIDESTREAM smoke -- criticisms which were subsequently resoundingly confirmed. See also here and here and here and here and here and here
I could go on -- mentioning for instance the hostile emails and comments that we skeptics constantly get from Warmists -- but I would end up writing an even longer article than the one below if I did. The comments attached to the original article cover both sides of the issue, however -- including some juicy hate-speech against skeptics. I have reproduced only part of the article below but I doubt that much has been lost in my doing so
"If politicians are intent on whipping up a lynch mob to divert attention from their own culpability, it is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies." -- Miranda Devine.
"This is not some nice little debate. This is war." -- Tom DeWeese, American Policy Center, think tank linked to Exxon-Mobil and Koch Industries.
Hate speech seems to pose three serious threats to the green movement. Firstly, it may lead to acts of political violence directed against politicians, leaders or activists. Secondly, hate speech undermines the constructive political discourse we need in order to deal with climate change. Thirdly, hate speech is the leading edge of a dangerous, new species of politics that is emerging in the USA.
We are dealing with hate speech when death threats are made towards a group (or an individual based on his or her membership of a group); for example, when directed against US President Barack Obama on the basis that he is an African-American. I propose that hate speech is present in Miranda Devine’s slippery quote above, in which she sneaks a proposal to lynch greenies behind a hypothetical IF-THEN clause.
Hate speech is shifting our culture, creating a social licence to commit political violence against people who belong to designated groups: Jews, greenies, Muslims, progressives of any stripe. It is part of the deliberate political programme of the extreme right in the USA, and is funded by various ‘philanthropists’, most notably the Koch brothers, who own America’s biggest private corporation, Koch Industries (a major polluter).
The issue of hate speech and violence crystallised early this year, after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. On 8 January 2011 a rightwing assassin shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head, killed 6 people, and injured another 13. Giffords is hated for being Jewish, pro-choice and supporting community solar energy (and despite her relatively conservative positions on immigration and in support of gun rights).
The point is that the culture of hate erodes the social taboo against political violence and reinforces the ‘intuitive’ worldview of the mob. Professor Rod Tiffen of the University of Sydney says that the political parties and the Murdoch media work in tandem to drive populism. He writes, “Together they form an outrage industry that absents proportion, reason and reasonableness, and where it is difficult – soon, perhaps, near impossible – to have a measured debate of policy options.”
David Neiwert is a US journalist who specialises in investigations of extremists. His 2009 book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right explains how the conservatives got as crazy as they are and where they are headed.
The Eliminationists cites the story of Jim Adkisson, who killed two people and wounded seven in an act of extremist political violence in July 2008. Adkisson wrote, "Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals... Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House...”.
Neiwert believes it is a logical step from the right-wing extremism of Fox News and sections of The Republican party to get to violence. If greenies and liberals are in a global conspiracy with climate scientists, Jews, bankers and the UN to enslave the West, then it makes ‘logical’ sense to eliminate them. Ever since the Exceptional Case Study Project, the Secret Service has implemented protective security using behavioural analysis of these ‘logical’ precursors to assassination.
Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour
22 May, 2011
LOL! "Nearly all" Solar panel installations faulty
THE NSW government has ordered a statewide safety audit of solar panels after nearly all rooftop installations inspected were found to be faulty.
A Fair Trading report, obtained by News Limited, found nearly every installation under the contentious Solar Bonus Scheme was faulty and one third suffered from serious electrical defects.
Inspectors would be conducting further audits, particularly in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Fair Trading deputy commissioner Steve Griffin told News Limited.
NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts has ordered the review, comparing the solar panel installations to federal Labor's failed pink batts scheme. "Not only was Labor's solar bonus scheme a financial disaster for the state, it has clearly resulted in significant problems for people who raced to get panels on their roofs to cash in on the lucrative rates being offered," Mr Roberts told News Limited.
The audit by Fair Trading focused on installations in Port Macquarie, uncovering 29 per cent had potentially life-threatening electrical defaults and 64 per cent were in breach of the Home Building Act.
Premier Barry O'Farrell faces an uphill battle in parliament to push through legislation to slash the feed-in tariff for subscribers to curb a $759 million budget blowout to the scheme.
Muslim radio stays on airwaves
A MUSLIM group accused of having links to a "radical cult" will keep broadcasting on radio in a ruling that mainstream Islamic groups have condemned.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has renewed 2MFM's community radio licence for five years, angering Muslims who say it is linked to a "fringe group that promotes extremist views".
Muslim Community Radio Incorporated, the operator of 2MFM, has ties to the Islamic Charity Projects Association, which is associated with the group Al-Ahbash.
Al-Ahbash was founded in Lebanon and critics say it is a violent cult, but members deny the claim and say they promote Islamic pluralism.
Station manager Malek Jouddawi said criticisms of the station were "utterly wrong … whoever listens to our radio station can tell very clearly that we're moderate … We don't want to waste time responding to these people."
The endorsement by the authority was "evidence that 2MFM is serving the community responsibly".
The authority approved the licence renewal on the condition the station encouraged greater participation by "members of the wider Muslim community".
But Keysar Trad, the president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said the condition would change nothing "because no Muslims in the wider community want to have anything to do with them - no one will go near them."
Mustapha Kara-Ali, a founder of 2MFM who has distanced himself from the group, said the condition could work but it was crucial "for the [Muslim] community to overtake the Al-Ahbash and run the radio station for the whole community."
The Labor party's education "revolution" again
It certainly is revolutionary -- but not in a good way. NSW has been ground zero for these bungles
GOVERNMENT officials have admitted to a giant "stuff-up" after a pole was erected in the middle of a stairwell of a $3 million classroom complex, funded under the Building the Education Revolution scheme.
Teachers at Chatswood Public School are demanding an urgent safety inspection be undertaken of the building, claiming the pole is just one of a litany of defects in the building, which was completed in mid-March.
They say cracks have begun appearing in the walls, the stairs are incorrectly fitted, electrical fittings have fallen off walls, while gaps are evident between the lino and the walls.
Teachers were forced to buy 12 electric heaters as the gas was not connected to any of the six new classrooms.
Teachers have strapped gym mats around the pole - which supports a veranda - amid fears children walking down the stairs could slam into it.
NSW BER program director Angus Dawson admitted there had been a "stuff up", describing the bizarre placement of the pole as an error in "clash management". "It's clearly a stuff-up. It will be fixed at no cost to the taxpayer," he said. "We've had engineers look at the building and are happy to pass on their findings to the school."
Two existing demountable classrooms will be used if the building is found to be unsafe. Construction issues were identified last year, when the building was 60 per cent completed, by a BER Implementation Taskforce.
Its report found "a number" of defects, particularly in the roof, and recommended the NSW Education Department follow up with a certifying engineer.
Forty concerned teachers last week voted for a separate, independent safety inspection to be undertaken.
Opposition spokesman for education, Christopher Pyne, said a judicial inquiry was needed into the scheme.
A NSW Teachers Federation's spokeswoman said there were concerns for the welfare of staff and students.
Real estate fraud unpunished
Why not some time in the big house?
A BANKRUPT real estate agent has been "reprimanded" for his failure to complete a $25,000 prize draw promotion used to sell 50 properties in 2006.
The Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal, in a just-published two-page judgement, reprimanded, but did not further punish, Terry Hubert Little after he "failed to fulfil" the promotional prize draw.
QCAT member Professor Adrian Ashman last month reprimanded Mr Little under section 529(1) of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 after action instigated by the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
"It is alleged that he (Mr Little) failed to fulfil a 2006 promotional obligation to complete the draw for a prize of $25,000, participants in the draw being owners of 50 properties sold and settled through Mr Little's agency," Prof Ashman said.
"(The department) asserts the draw was never held and ... the prize money was subsequently withdrawn, along with other monies from the agency's general account."
Prof Ashman said a former business co-director, David Colston, in August 2007 did not deny the allegations levelled against Mr Little.
"Mr Little had at least six months to fulfil obligations arising out of the agency's promotion but he failed to do so," he said. "The delay in completing the promotion and awarding the prize money provided the opportunity for Mr Little's co-director to withdraw the money ... and move it elsewhere.
"I am satisfied that Mr Little did not act in a conscientious way to fulfil his obligations to the property owners who qualified for entry into the draw."
Mr Little, in his submission to QCAT, said he was "experiencing personal and financial difficulties" at the time.
The department submitted to QCAT that Mr Little be fined $1000, reprimanded and ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.
Prof Ashman said there were significant "mitigating circumstances" which warranted only the reprimanding of Mr Little.
"First, Mr Little admitted his shortcomings and did not seek to contest the matter," he said. "Second, he is an undischarged bankrupt and employed on a commission-only basis, which is at a subsistence level.
"It would seem to be a pointless and overly severe act to impose a further burden upon an individual who is already experiencing serious financial hardship."
Mr Little's agency and location was not revealed in the judgment.
Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour
21 May, 2011
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a shot at both Bob Brown and Malcolm Turnbull over the carbon tax
One in the eye for a nasty bitch: "The Director of Military Prosecutions, Lyn McDade"
She's not even a good lawyer, let alone knowing anything about army combat. Prosecuting our men for defending themselves was always utter slime. Get rid of the stupid bitch!
THE case against two army reservists charged with manslaughter in Afghanistan will not go to a court martial after a judge advocate yesterday dismissed the charges. However, Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D could still face alternative charges pending a decision by the Director of Military Prosecutions, Lyn McDade.
At a pre-trial hearing in Sydney, judge advocate Ian Westwood dismissed the case against Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D. That means a court martial set down for July 11 will not go ahead and Brigadier McDade must now decide whether to bring different charges against the soldiers.
It is not clear what yesterday's decision means for a third soldier - the unit's commander - who is yet to face a court martial and whether the lieutenant colonel is likely still to be prosecuted.
The charges related to a February 12, 2009, incident involving members of the Special Operations Task Group undertaking a compound clearance operation in Oruzgan province. Six civilians, including five children, were killed. [When a Talib fired on our men at close range from the middle of a room housing the women and children. The deaths were entirely on the head of the Taliban!]
Sergeant J and Lance Corporal D had been charged with manslaughter and, in the alternative, two counts of dangerous conduct, with negligence as to consequence.
Brigadier Westwood agreed with their defence team that the charges should be thrown out because they "did not disclose service offences". He said the issue of whether there was a duty of care was of "fundamental importance".
It had to be established that the soldiers had a duty of care before it could be decided whether or not they'd been negligent. But in reading through the Defence Force Discipline Act, he found an "absence of plain words" on any duty of care to non-combatants.
Brigadier Westwood said his ruling did not detract from the personal tragedy inherent in the prosecution's allegations or diminish the importance of the lives lost.
He said soldiers were in a unique position when they were engaged in armed combat. Australian law authorised the application of force, including lethal force, when troops were sent into combat. In fact, soldiers were compelled on "pain of penalty" to carry out attacks on the enemy and they could not simply decide not to take any further part in hostilities.
There was rarely time for calm reflection in what were frequently life or death situations. He noted that the prosecution had been unable to find previous cases where manslaughter charges were brought in an active combat situation and that illustrated the difficulty in proving a duty of care.
Former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove said he felt relief for the soldiers, who had got their lives back. "They had to stand up straight and let the legal system work itself out," he told Macquarie Radio. "It must have been terrible for them and their loved ones and their mates while they went through this process."
Lawyer Patrick George, who represented Sergeant J, said last night the charges were misconceived because soldiers clearly did not owe a legally enforceable duty of care for their actions in combat.
Julia rolls out the pork barrel for Tony Windsor
Using taxpayer's money as a bribe for his support in Parliament
THERE'S a golden glow in New England, enhanced by frequent bursts of cargo from Canberra, the occasional vroooom of RAAF jets and the crisp cutting of ribbons right across the House of Tony Windsor.
Like many others, Col Murray, the Mayor of Tamworth in the independent MP's northeastern NSW seat of power, feels that lovely warmth, too. "Tony Windsor has got his little piece of sunshine, and I guess that he got the PM up here shows she recognises that he's got the sunshine, too," Murray told The Weekend Australian.
In a season of supposedly "tough" budgets, Labor ministers have been making pilgrimages to this already bountiful region to deliver dams, roads, health facilities, training centres and more.
Julia Gillard made a two-day visit to New England this week - an eternity compared with the usual prime ministerial drop-ins of a few hours - and she didn't come empty-handed or to boot-scoot. The trip's indelible image was the Prime Minister and local MP descending the stairs of the RAAF VIP plane in Tamworth in the bush regal manner of Liz and Phil, those other much-loved Windsors in these parts.
Planes are a fixture in the skies here, with BAE Flying Systems winning a six-year, $120 million, Australian Defence Force contract the other day to continue basic flying training at Tamworth.
On Tuesday, Ms Gillard announced $20m in new funding for medical training facilities in Windsor's home town and in nearby Armidale.
Mobbed by schoolchildren, the Prime Minister opened a $10m sports dome in Tamworth, half of which was paid for by Labor's economic stimulus dollars. She and Windsor also visited Tamworth Hospital to promote a $120m allocation for a redevelopment and a $31.6m grant for a regional cancer centre, both projects financed by the $5 billion Health and Hospitals Fund.
So far, NSW has been allocated $1.115bn from the HHF. Although New England is one of 48 federal seats in the state, its $151.6m represents 13.5 per cent of all NSW HHF grants.
The following day, the House of Representatives partners travelled the 110km northeast to Armidale, where they flicked the switch on the first mainland section of Labor's $36bn National Broadband Network - a project Windsor has fervently supported and which he cited as crucial to winning his support for Labor after last August's federal election stalemate.
The launch was attended by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley, although only seven of the more than 4000 homes connected in Armidale were using the fibre-optic network.
This month, Health Minister Nicola Roxon was on hand with Windsor to turn the first sod on the site of a proposed GP Super Clinic at Gunnedah. New England has received a number of health grants from Labor's "nation-building" HHF, $1.8bn of which has been earmarked for a regional priority round, secured by Mr Windsor and his fellow NSW independent, the member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.
Tamworth hospital's director of nursing and acting general manager, Chris Coombs, said the development would take the hospital from dispersed 1950s building stock into the 21st century. "The building will be state of the art," she said. "It's just wonderful." Coombs said that in the 13 years she has worked at the hospital, the number of emergency patients had grown from 18,000 a year to more than 50,000.
Tamworth's mayor said he was delighted by the healthcare funding boost, but detected a subtle force at play. "We've been seeking funding for the base hospital for many years and it has been going around and around for a lot of years, but now there's been a flood of commitments delivered in the first year," Murray said.
He also points to the Chaffey Dam upgrade, announced in February with $17m in federal funds. As well, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese visited Tenterfield last Friday to promote with Windsor a $6m grant for a feasibility study for a realignment and bypass of the New England Highway.
During her visit, Gillard was repeatedly asked about her special relationship with the New England MP and what locals saw as Windsor's uncanny ability to secure funding for a long "wish list" of projects. "Tony Windsor is a very important part of our Australian parliament, and of course his support for the government is important to me and to the government," the Prime Minister told ABC regional radio listeners on Wednesday. "Tony Windsor, I think, is a very determined person, a very methodical person, so he works constructively with the government, raising the issues of concern to the region and that's good to see. "It's what we want local members to be doing."
Asked by The Weekend Australian if his position as a kingmaker had allow him to secure an unfair amount of funding, Windsor replied: "If that's the interpretation, I don't apologise . . . because I think country members have sold their electorates out in the past because of the need for the marginal city seats to receive the funding to buy the votes. I think it's rectifying inequities rather than some sort of pork barrel."
In any case, Labor had laid the ground work for its wooing of the rural independents over the course of its tumultuous first term under Kevin Rudd. As this newspaper has previously reported, New England received above-average stimulus funds for the primary school building program and road "black spots". Grants for social housing ($81m) and community infrastructure ($9m) ran at twice the national average.
Allocations from the Trade Training Centres in Schools program are running at almost $23m at five locations in New England. Labor has so far allocated $1.028bn over three funding rounds on these training centres. Given this program extends to every electorate, an average allocation would be $6.9m, so Windsor's seat has done extremely well from a measure Tony Abbott vows to cut in government.
When Gillard was trying to woo Windsor after last year's election, she was able to present a dossier of local projects that would be lost under Coalition rule.
Windsor said the substantive issues contained in the agreement he struck with Labor had benefited regional Australia generally, rather than one particular electorate. "I've been arguing for those things for a number of years," the independent said. "If you can put a bit more pressure on, well good luck."
Asked if that extended to pressuring government for the benefit of his electorate, Windsor replied that that was his job.
Julia hugely unpopular in Queensland
And Qld. is the swing state that any party has to win to form government
JULIA Gillard's support in Queensland has collapsed, with Labor's vote plummeting to record lows across the state. Labor's primary vote has crashed to 28 per cent, a Galaxy poll conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail reveals. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has pulled in front of Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister by a strong 16 percentage point margin.
And former Labor leader Kevin Rudd is now preferred Labor leader by 59 per cent of Queensland voters.
Queensland voters have turned against Ms Gillard's minority Government, with 39 per cent saying the hung Parliament has been worse than expected. In a sign the Government is failing to sell its plans for a carbon tax, only 8 per cent of respondents said climate change was the most important issue facing Australia.
Labor's primary vote has slumped from 33.6 per cent at the last election to 28 per cent, according to the poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The party would face an electoral wipeout if these results were replicated across crucial marginal seats in Queensland.
This result would see the Coalition win by 59 per cent to 41 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, assuming similar flows of preferences to the last election. Support for the Coalition has soared from 47.4 per cent primary vote at the last election to 53 per cent in the Galaxy poll.
For the first time in any recent opinion poll, Mr Abbott has pulled ahead of Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister by 53 per cent to 47 per cent. In a further blow to Ms Gillard, former prime minister Kevin Rudd has three times more support to be Labor leader.
Previous polls had already suggested Mr Rudd had more support than Ms Gillard as Labor leader both in Queensland and across the country. But the new poll shows Mr Rudd now has majority support among Queenslanders to take back leadership of the Labor Party. He has a massive 40 per cent lead as preferred Labor leader over the woman who deposed him as prime minister. Ms Gillard only secured 19 per cent support as Labor leader, down from 33 per cent in February.
"Such is the popularity of Kevin Rudd in Queensland that there is consensus between Labor and LNP supporters, with both of the opinion that he is now the best choice to lead the federal Labor Party," Galaxy chief executive David Briggs said.
The recent Federal Budget has not helped Treasurer Wayne Swan's popularity either. Support for Mr Swan to take over as Labor leader has fallen to 9 per cent from 15 per cent in February.
The poll shows voters' growing sense of disillusionment about Ms Gillard's power-sharing deal with the Greens and Independents. The number of people who said the hung Parliament was worse than expected has risen from 23 per cent in February to 39 per cent.
Almost half the people polled said it was too early to tell how the minority Government was working. But this was down from 62 per cent who were prepared to hold their judgment in February.
Economic management and cost of living were ranked as the most important issues, followed by illegal immigration and education standards.
Queensland Health staff angry as police called in over payroll debacle
Looks like the new minister is even more clueless than the old one
STAFF have accused Queensland Health of treating them like criminals as it attempts to claw back money wrongly claimed during the payroll debacle. The department has confirmed 88 health workers had been handed to fraud investigators.
The Courier-Mail understands 587 cases were first referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, but most were rejected because they involved minor payments of under $500. The remainder involved average cash payments of $5300 and were passed on to police.
But staffers who insist they mistakenly claimed too much in hardship payments said they were ready and willing to pay back any money they owed. Many were furious they had been subjected to the "humiliation and indignity" of detectives knocking at their doors alleging fraud, without any prior contact from Queensland Health.
The employees felt they were being further victimised by the disastrous system that left thousands unpaid or underpaid after its implementation last March. [And it's still not fixed!]
The department has insisted all cases were "thoroughly examined" before referrals to the police.
But two workers told of their trauma after being hauled before police, only to later be cleared of any wrongdoing. "The stress these allegations have caused are enormous. Sleepless nights, breakdown in marriage ... all because of false allegations," one man, who asked not to be named, said. "I am also out more than $2000 in legal fees to clear my name."
Another nurse released without charge said the process was "heavy-handed and insensitive", especially because she was encouraged by management to accept the interim payments.
The Queensland Nurses Union is pushing for compensation for those wrongly accused. A nurse said he was visited at home by detectives over a $500 emergency payment. "I've worked for Queensland Health for 20 years and I'm treated like a criminal and police come around and ask to question me in front of my family," he said.
General human resource services deputy director John Cairns said yesterday all staff were presumed innocent and referrals to police did not indicate guilt.
Police had also agreed to allow Queensland Health to first contact staff before detectives arrived, he said. Mr Cairns said 21 people had been been charged so far with fraud, with four pleading guilty.
Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour
20 May, 2011
Are these the people we want in Australia? All offenders should be denied permission to stay
THREE critical incidents are being reported each day across detention centres in what insiders claim is a system out of control.
Documents revealed to Federal Parliament show there were more than 3400 incidents reported across the detention network in the nine months to February this year. Of those, 850 were deemed critical.
According to reporting protocols adopted by Serco, the company contracted to run the centres, critical incidents include assaults, bomb threats, chemical and biological threats, death, sexual assaults, riots, escape, hunger strikes, damage to facilities or protests.
"Are things out of control? They have been out of control for five years," one worker said.
Harsher penalities for school thugs in Victoria
TOUGHER penalties for violent parents and students are on the way as more schools resort to lockdowns to protect students and staff. More than one state school a week is now locking students in to protect them from violence and aggression, compared to less than one a month five years ago.
Education Minister Martin Dixon yesterday told the Herald Sun he planned to increase penalties for the sorts of behaviour that often spark lockdowns. "There is a high expectation in the community that schools are safe places," Mr Dixon said. "Teachers expect that, parents expect that and children expect it and we've got to do everything in our power to ensure that remains the case."
Mr Dixon said schools were generally safe places, but there were some worrying trends with violence that needed to be addressed. He said a department taskforce was working to determine appropriate penalties.
Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said the federation had been pushing for tougher penalties for all illegal behaviour on school grounds. He said higher penalties - as applies to attacks on emergency service workers - were needed to curb a marked upsurge in violence, particularly from parents, in the past two years. "We want schools to have a status that is greater than that of a public park," Mr Cotching said. "When (people) come into a school there should be an understood and accepted requirement about how they behave."
New data obtained by the Herald Sun shows 11 schools locked in students in the first two months of the school year - nine of them because of aggressive or antisocial behaviour. In 2010 there were 23 school lockdowns for aggression and antisocial behaviour for the entire school year. Across 2008 and 2009 there were 53 violence-related lockdowns, up from 20 in 2006 and 2007.
Last month Flemington Primary was forced to hire a security guard after a father who was angry over a personal issue allegedly became threatening and aggressive.
Mr Cotching said principals have no protection or timely support in dealing with parents "who seem to think it is their unrestricted right to abuse, harass and intimidate" principals and teachers.
Seriously ill man being loaded into a maxi-taxi instead of an ambulance
TAXIS are being used in the place of ambulances to ferry seriously ill patients amid union fears the State Government is planning to privatise patient transportation.
The Ambulance Union has provided this photograph taken by an appalled paramedic which they say shows an elderly, unwell man being loaded into a maxi-taxi at the Princess Alexandra Hospital last Friday to be taken back to a Queensland Health-run aged care facility at Redland Hospital.
He was brought to the PA Hospital by taxi that morning as an outpatient and was accompanied by a nurse on the return journey.
Jeanette Temperley from the Ambulance Union said if anything had gone wrong during the ride home an ambulance would have had to be called anyway.
"If they're accompanied by a nurse, that suggests they need some sort of medical care," she said. "If there's a problem with the person in the vehicle, there's no equipment."
Ms Temperley said it was not the first time taxis or limousines had been used to transport seriously ill people. "We've had members say, 'I've seen a person put in a taxi that I don't think should've been there'," she said. "It could be that they're accompanied by a nurse which would indicate they need some sort of medical care, or that they're on a drip or an oxygen tank."
Dr David Thiele from Queensland Health said in the case of the patient photographed, the PA Hospital had not organised the transport and did not provide the chair loaded into the maxi-taxi.
He said there were "long-standing guidelines" for patient transport that had not recently changed. "The Queensland Ambulance Service is used for patients who require clinical care while travelling," Dr Thiele said.
He did not say what role Redland Hospital played in the case but it is understood the nurse who accompanied the patient is employed by Queensland Health at the hospital's aged care facility.
In August 2009, Queensland Ambulance Service medical director Stephen Rashford demanded an investigation by Queensland Health when two seriously ill children were transported by taxi between hospitals.
At the time, Dr Rashford questioned whether the cases represented "fiscal rather than clinical" decision making.
Queenslanders pay an annual levy of $109.90 per household which raises about $150 million a year towards maintaining the fleet of 435 ambulances and 630 personnel.
Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said taxis were not equipped to deal with "medical matters". "Having a nurse with a patient in a taxi is an acknowledgement the patient needs constant care," Mr McArdle said. "If anything went wrong there could be a major complication."
Taxi drivers also slammed the practice, saying cabbies were not trained to deal with medical emergencies. "Looking at this (photograph) makes me shudder," said Cab Drivers' Association of Queensland secretary Lee Sims. "The driver might be held liable for anything that happens to the patient. We aren't trained ambulance people."
The Government recently issued a tender for non-emergency patient transportation on the Gold Coast.
"What we're saying is" 'Is this the thin edge of the wedge? Is it about privatising more of the ambulance service?'," Ms Temperley said. "The government's denying privatisation is being considered but we need some guarantees."
Dr Thiele said the Chief Health Officer had given written assurances to the union that QH has no plans to increase the use of community and private transport providers.
More staff than customers on NBN books
THE government company rolling out the National Broadband Network has more staff than it does customers. NBN Co, which has 784 staff, has at most 607 customers after Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy launched the first NBN site on the mainland in Armidale yesterday, with just seven users. And none of the network's users is a paying customer yet.
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull last night seized on the figures, declaring them further proof that the government should have done a cost-benefit analysis of the $36 billion project. Given the "great hoopla" when the Prime Minister connected seven customers in Armidale, Mr Turnbull said, "who knows what tumultuous celebrations will occur when the NBN's customers actually exceed their staff". "It will be possibly declared a national holiday," he said.
NBN Co yesterday defended the numbers. "That's because we are in the process of building a network, establishing systems and trialling services in concert with our telecommunications partners on the way to offering a ubiquitous wholesale broadband service to all Australians over the course of the next nine years," said NBN Co spokesman Andrew Sholl. "There are no paying customers. We're in test phase."
Yesterday, NBN Co's head of product development, Jim Hassell, said the number of users in Armidale would be "increasing over the next few months" until trials finish in September "and then we open up to connection to everybody that we've passed".
"There isn't a take-up rate as such; it's just trials," Mr Hassell told ABC Radio.
NBN Co confirmed yesterday that there were about 600 "active services" in Tasmania - a take-up of about 15 per cent of the 4000 premises the network had passed in the towns of Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point since it started last July.
Senator Conroy said many customers were still waiting to get off their long-term Telstra packages so they could take advantage of the retail competition the NBN had created.
Mr Hassell, meanwhile, dismissed concerns that take-up in Tasmania was low, as connections had started 10 months ago at the end of July. "It's a new technology which has been rolled out," he said.
"I don't think it is a surprisingly low rate of connections. I think that's pretty good for the homes that we've passed and where we've got to. People will have agreements in place with their current service providers. Some of those will last over a period of time, so you don't expect them to change immediately."
NBN Co spokeswoman Rhonda Griffin said Tasmanian retail service providers - which bought wholesale broadband from NBN Co and then offered services to home and business users - were not paying commercial rates because the project was a pilot.
NBN Co is in talks about introducing charges.
Mr Hassell said almost 1000 customers would be connected as part of a trial of the first five release sites on the mainland - Armidale, Willunga, Kiama, Brunswick and Townsville - that would continue to the end of September. On average, 74 per cent of premises in these sites had agreed to have fibre connected. Just 50 per cent in the three Tasmanian test-site towns had agreed.
19 May, 2011
Victoria's Premier drops compulsory Aboriginal welcome
Good riddance to a stupid bit of tokenism. It is pioneers such as my ancestors who made Australia what it is today. If you are going to single out any group in multicultural Australia, a better case could be made for honouring them.
I have a picture of my grandfather's bullock team on my wall and every time I look at it, I am reminded of the quiet heroism with which they laboured to bring civilization to this vast country. Henry Lawson knew the bullockies (teamsters) well. Read his poem "The Teams" to get a picture of them. He describes my grandfather pretty well
The Premier has confirmed he will no longer force ministers and public servants to acknowledge traditional Aboriginal land owners at official events.
In a major policy shift that has upset some indigenous leaders, the State Government has dumped a Labor protocol as too politically correct. Brumby government ministers had to acknowledge the "traditional owners and custodians of this land".
But Mr Baillieu believes Labor's stance was dictatorial and has told his ministers that such acknowledgments aren't compulsory.
Former premier Steve Bracks has also slammed the state government calling their decision a "retrograde step." "I acknowledged the traditional land owners of Australian regularly when I spoke as premier." "I would have thought we would have moved on quite a bit," he said. "Thousands of times I started my speech with an Aboriginal welcome and I always felt very strongly about it."
He warned that people in defiance of the government could start using Aboriginal welcomes to embarrass the party. "That's what will come of this, it's the wrong step," he said.
Wurundjeri elder Auntie Di Kerr said she was saddened by the change, which comes as the AFL prepares for its indigenous round. "It's nice to be actually recognising first nation's people because we've been neglected and downtrodden for so many years," she said. "It shouldn't be a forced thing either, it should be a respectful acknowledgment and honest."
Mr Baillieu still acknowledges traditional owners at indigenous functions, but uses a new form of words at mainstream events.
"Can I particularly acknowledge all of those, past and present, including our indigenous communities, whose love of this land has made this a place we treasure and a state we all seek to nurture," he said at the recent inauguration of Governor Alex Chernov.
A government spokesman said the only requirement was that ministers and MPs used respectful language, including appropriate acknowledgments to particular audiences. "Unlike the former Labor government, ministers are free to express themselves as appropriate for the occasion," he said.
The issue has been raised at the federal level, with Tony Abbott attacking Labor MPs for "tokenism" and misplaced political correctness.
Tim Wilson, policy director for the Right-wing think tank Institute of Public Affairs, said the new policy made sense because indigenous acknowledgment were over-used. "The obsessive acknowledgment can only belittle and undermine the intent of such statements," he said.
Labor's spokesman for aboriginal affairs, Richard Wynne, said: "Labor believes it is the right thing to do to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and it causes great offence to Aboriginal people when political leaders fail to do so."
You can be a brainless twit (or even a blonde bombshell) if you are a Warmist
A junior Warmist at the University of Melbourne (Parkville) has excited the derision of Prof. Bunyip. He comments about the happy soul below, one Ailie Gallant
It is not Allie’s efforts to attract attention (which can also help with the funding), but her co-authored paper on water flows in the Murray Darling Basin which has brought so much reassurance.
In particular, it is the remarkably specific conclusion that there is precisely, and she is very exact about this, a 2.3% likelihood that any of the many droughts over the past 1500 years were worse than the one just ended - the same dry spell during which the she began smokin' dos' stats in her climate crib. It was a popular meme a few years ago, back when rain refused to fall and climate change was replacing global warming, so her enthusiasm at the time was understandable.
And her methods? Well, let's just say that the Professor is -- yo, lab bitches -- down with them.
The Original Custodians were not big on meteorological records, so that was a problem for Allie right there. She might have gone off to Barmah (a lovely spot) and cored a few red gums or somesuch, measured their transected rings and deduced when it had been hot and dry or cool and wet.
That was not her preferred method, however. Rather, nice and comfy at a Parkville work station, she consulted those who went before, mining their studies of celery top pines in Tasmania, teak in Indonesia, some tall timber in Western Australia, Tongan corals, kauri in New Zealand and other interesting bits of Bali, Fiji and the Great Barrier Reef. The closest survey site was a good 900 kilometres from the Murray, the furthest a 10-hour flight, even for Tim Flannery.
Data sources so far removed from the river she intended to study might have suggested an insurmountable obstacle to those who know not the miracles of modern modelling. By reviewing numbers here, sifting charts there and rejecting discordant figures in accordance with recognised climatological norms and norming, Ailie was able to feed what was left into a computerized vitamizer and - golly gosh, guess what? - demonstrate with charts and graphs that the recent drought really was the worst in centuries, just as the Phage, ABC, Guardian, World Wildlife Fund had been saying all along!
Indeed, by Ailie's reckoning, it was even worse, which must have convulsed the WWF's fund-raisers with shivers of delight: the drought was not the nastiest in 100 years or even 1,000 years - it was a full 1500 years since Australia had seen the arid like. Just to put things in perspective, that is not too long after the Romans pulled out of Britain. Amazing, ain't it, what climate science can learn about a river in southern Australia from a bit of Bali coral someone else has studied? And don't getting suspicious, thinking nobody could be that precise on the basis of such much-handled data.The science is settled, Ailie assures us, and to a 97.7% certainty, no less!
And that, as Ailie rapped the other night, is what climate science is all about. She is proud of her research, naturally, and quite probably eager to tackle the next challenge -- pinpointing Warrnambool's worst hailstorm since the Council of Trent, perhaps.
Commenter on Bunyip's site, David Joss, said...
It's a great pity that instead of studying proxies, these people did not peek into the history books.
The Federation drought ran almost as long as the most recent one.
The World War 2 drought may have been worse. It began in 1937. The Murray stopped running at Echuca in 1945 and seven million sheep died that year.
But the drought which lasted from the early 1830s until 1842 (some say 1844) was probably the worst one documented. By 1835 the Murrumbidgee had run dry at Gundagai. An early settler near Echuca, the squatter Henry Lewes, wrote that Horseshoe lagoon at Moama was dry when he arrived in 1842. There were trees growing in its bed which he reckoned were probably eight or nine years old. He watched them die as floods refilled the lagoon. And if the trees were as old as he believed, the lagoon had to dry out before the seeds could germinate.
Eye witness accounts trump tree rings every time.
Australian ski resort to open three weeks early
RECENT low temperatures and snowfalls will allow Australia's largest ski resort to kick off its winter season three weeks ahead of schedule. Perisher will officially open its Snowy Mountains Front Valley slope on Friday, following a successful round of snow-making last week.
It's the first of Perisher's snowfield to begin operations and the other slopes will follow on June 11, the official start of its season. "We are thrilled to ... be opening the resort way ahead of time," Perisher chief executive Peter Brulisauer said.
Temperatures at Perisher Valley are currently hovering around 5.7 degrees during the day. The average minimum during winter is about -3.7 degrees.
Patient spends six hours in waiting room on a drip and plastic chairs at Gold Coast Hospital
BEDS are in such short supply at the Gold Coast Hospital Emergency Department, a young man with an infected tooth had to lie across three chairs with a drip in his arm. But Queensland Health insists his care was "of a high standard".
The case comes as ambulance ramping continues to be a problem outside hospitals in the state's southeast, with Logan Hospital on bypass at 10am yesterday.
The man, who was in pain, had a swollen face and was experiencing fevers, spent more than six hours in the waiting room during the Easter long weekend before even getting inside the Accident and Emergency Department. When the 21-year-old was finally seen by a doctor and put on a drip, he said he had no choice but to lie across the plastic chairs.
"There was no way I could have sat up. I had to lie down," he said. "There was no bed. It was really bad. The chairs aren't made to lie down on."
When he first arrived at the hospital with his girlfriend about 10pm on the night of April 26, he said he was informed he was "low priority". "I was in copious amounts of pain. The fever was just terrible. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I was dizzy all the time, nauseous," he said.
The young man, who asked to remain anonymous, admits he was given a pain-killing injection in the waiting area within half an hour of arrival, but said he was then ignored until the next morning. "The worst part was definitely sitting in there after I'd been told I was low priority and then no one asking if we were OK," he said.
His mother said she was "horrified" when she arrived to find her son lying across chairs and using his girlfriend's leg as a pillow. "I could not believe what I was seeing," she said. "He was really sick. He was exhausted too. It wasn't good enough. "I could understand if he was a 21-year-old that had come in drunk and carrying on, but he hadn't. "He was sober."
The man's mother said she had to ask nurses to find her son a pillow.
Although Gold Coast Health Service District chief executive officer Adrian Nowitzke acknowledged the patient's accommodation "may have been uncomfortable", he said it was clinically appropriate. "I can confidently say that his care, including an expeditious specialist review, was of a high standard," Dr Nowitzke said.
He said the man was one of 186 patients seen through Gold Coast Hospital's Emergency Department that day.
The man eventually was admitted to the hospital overnight. His condition was reviewed by a specialist maxillo-facial team.
Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said the case was a prime example of the problems facing the Queensland health system. "What shocks me is that over the past seven years we've spent $42 billion in the health portfolio and these are the outcomes we are getting," he said. "Bed numbers are a critical issue that need to be addressed."
Australian Medical Association state president Gino Pecoraro said Queensland was about 1200 hospital beds short of what was required. "We need more beds but they need to be real beds with sheets, in a ward, not a chair in a corridor, and with staff allocated and paid to nurse them," he said.
"My heart goes out to anybody who is in pain, needs medical care and has to wait to get a bed. "As a parent, as a potential patient one day, I'd like to think if I need to go to hospital, there will be a bed for me."
Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour
18 May, 2011
Govt blocks sharia law push by Federation of Islamic Councils
THE GILLARD Government has quickly moved to block calls for sharia law to be introduced in Australia.
In its submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the government's new multiculturalism policy, The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has called for Muslims to be granted “legal pluralism".
Attorney-General Robert McClelland stomped on the request. “There is no place for sharia law in Australian society and the government strongly rejects any proposal for its introduction," Mr McClelland said.
Sharia has faced repeated criticism. It is again in the headlines following an Iranian court's decision to delay a planned “eye-for-an-eye" act of justice against a man who threw acid at a woman's face because she refused his marriage proposal.
“As our citizenship pledge makes clear, coming to Australia means obeying Australian laws and upholding Australian values," Mr McClelland said. “Australia's brand of multiculturalism promotes integration. “If there is any inconsistency between cultural values and the rule of law then Australian law wins out."
Mr McClelland is keen to assert Australia's position as a “stable democracy" where “rule of law" underpins society.
“People who migrate to Australia do so because of the fact that we have a free, open and tolerant society where men and woman are equal before the law irrespective of race, religious or cultural background."
Pay for Muslims to feel at home?
AUSTRALIA'S top Muslim organisation wants taxpayers to finance the expansion of Islamic schools and halal food outlets into mainstream suburbs.
And in a sign of growing community tension, the nation's peak Jewish authority has called for new migrants to be put on probation while their commitment to Australian values and laws is checked.
In a submission to a federal inquiry into multiculturalism, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils said Muslims were forced to live in enclaves near Islamic schools, mosques and halal food outlets. "The Government should invest in expanding services like halal and kosher meat and food outlets as well as faith-based schools," it said. "If the Government and politicians cannot recognise this as essential, it should no longer accuse the Australian Muslim community of intentionally living in enclaves."
Heba Ibrahim, the AFIC board member who wrote the report, told the Herald Sun there were reasons groups were drawn to certain suburbs. "I'm saying there needs to be a greater investment generally in schools that wish to go out into other areas that are not heavily populated with particular migrant and religious groups," she said.
Governments do not contribute to the building of new private schools, but private colleges get state and federal cash for running costs and upgrades. For example, Springvale Islamic school Minaret College received about $10 million in recurrent financing and almost $2 million in capital expenditure in 2009, according to the latest MySchool website data.
Melbourne has several halal butchers, but AFIC wants government help to make halal food more widely available. Houssam Dannawi, from Madina Halal Meats in Brunswick, said his customers were not limited to Muslims. "They try it and they come back. They like the diversity of what we offer," Mr Dannawi said.
In a separate hearing, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has told a Federal Parliament committee on migration that Australia must learn from the failed "anything goes" model of multiculturalism in Europe.
It wants migrants put on probation to enable a "confident assessment of their acceptance of Australian values and laws before granting full citizenship".
The council's executive director Peter Wertheim said there was concern about Islamic extremists. "If they're involved in criminal activity or incitement of violence or incitement of racism, that's something that should be taken into account," he said.
The organisation also wants mandatory English training for migrants.
Gillard and Swan: meet the fiscal incredibles
By economist Sinclair Davidson
Treasurer Wayne Swan claims to have cut some $22 billion out of the federal budget. Well actually that’s not quite right – he claims to have found savings of some $22 billion. Over four years.
Then we discover that some of those savings are actually tax increases. Not to mention the whole heap of new spending initiatives. No wonder people are confused and the budget hasn’t been well received.
To be fair – a tax increase is a ‘saving’ to the Commonwealth budget in some accounting sense but it is not a saving to the taxpayer. So in the very first instance the Government has a framing problem. They have framed their budget as an ‘us versus the taxpayer’ document and it is no wonder they have been accused of class warfare. Being proud of their ‘Labor budget’ doesn’t help either.
The blunt reality is that the Government’s spending cuts are simply not credible. There are actually some good spending cuts proposed in the budget yet good policy doesn’t sell itself and this government has proven to be incapable of selling anything.
While strictly speaking not counted as a spending cut the move to ‘reform’ the Disability Support Pension highlights the communication problem this government faces. It is a good idea to get people on the disability pension to work more – if they can. But this should not be framed in the context of labour force participation. Getting disabled people to work is never going to solve any so-called skill shortages.
Rather this should be undertaken as a social inclusion policy. That means that policy is likely to be expensive. Ideas here would be to exempt disabled employees from payroll tax – that means the Commonwealth would have to compensate states - or to refund their income tax payments to provide them with greater incentive to participate and so on.
The cuts to family payments, designed to save some $2 billion over four years, are incoherent. That isn’t to say they are bad policy. The economic narrative the Government has pursued in justifying those cuts is incoherent.
The Government have been unable to settle on a sensible description of the economy. On the one hand, we’re told Australian economic growth is the envy of the developed world, our net debt is low, unemployment is below 5 per cent, terms of trade are the highest since whenever, and so on. Yet, we’re also being told about the need for frugality, and the two-speed economy, and how the Government understands that families are doing it tough.
Of course, the Government is simply reflecting the uncertainty of current economic conditions but it hardly surprising that average Australians are experiencing some angst over that uncertainty. Winding back the social safety net would be difficult at the best of times – but it is much harder when people feel insecure.
Where the Government is struggling is in defining middle-class and middle-income. Almost everyone conflates the two definitions, but of course they are very different. The middle class is much larger than middle-income earners. Households with an income of $150,000 are not rich but they are well above the middle-income.
Any crack-down on middle-class welfare will require these households to effectively pay more tax or consume fewer public goods. As yet the Government has made no argument why this should occur, apart from vague references to ‘fairness’ and ‘labor values’. True, the prime minister did say on radio recently that ‘high-income earners like you and me do get asked to look after ourselves’. She earns an income far in advance of $150,000 and has few household expenses.
The lack of a coherent narrative isn’t the only problem the Government faces. Some of their cuts are lazy policy. The efficiency dividend will cut a mere $1 billion over four years. Sure everybody wants to have an efficient government, but the amount is trivial in the face of deliberate waste on pink batts and economic aid budget increases by almost $2.5 billion over four years. So while public servants scrimp and scrap to provide Australians with services the Government will be splashing out on foreigners. Does that make sense to anyone?
To place the ‘$ 22 billion over four years’ spending cuts in perspective, think about the total spend of some $362 billion – spell that out to three hundred and sixty-two thousand million dollars to get some idea of the magnitude. Next financial year alone, that amount is some $22.6 billion short of revenue.
Swan’s savings over four years are simply not enough. To make matters worse he is incapable of articulating why the budget needs to be in surplus and how best to achieve that goal. In an open globalised economy government is going to have less control over revenues and spending control is the only mechanism government has to ensure fiscal responsibility.
In 2007 Kevin Rudd stated, ‘this reckless spending must stop’. He was right then; he would be even more right now. This budget does have some good ideas in it, but not enough and those good ideas will wither on the vine unless the Government gets out there to articulate why fiscal responsibility sooner rather than later is good economic policy.
Students caught in the culture war crossfire
Public schools are again the battleground of a culture war. Make no mistake, the debate about the chaplaincy program and religious teacing really is a conflict about culture rather than God's place in a classroom.
The government announced in last week's federal budget an extra $222 million for the National School Chaplaincy program and providing religion classes in public schools. Yet revelations that Access Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison had spoken in a 2008 conference about the "need to go and make disciples" through a "God-given open door to children and young people" will no doubt further rattle those who resist such moves. The Victorian teachers union called at the weekend for an end to religious teaching in schools.
The battle is an extension of the skirmishes during the Howard years around what constitutes Australian identity and history. Many supporters of Christianity-oriented Special Religious Instruction (SRI) would argue, for instance, that Australia has after all been peopled and shaped by Christians of various denominations.
They have a point. In 1947, 88 per cent of Australians identified with one of these denominations. Even the most recent ABS census reveals that Christianity remains demographically prominent, with 64 per cent claiming at least nominal adherence. Inevitably, in some circles, being Australian is conflated with being Christian.
However, the reasoning that this aspect of Australian national identity needs to be preserved – some would say expanded – is faulty in the same way that an exclusively "white" or Anglo conception of it is false and potentially dangerous. Our social reality is no longer the monoculture it once was and it will never be that way again. Much as Christians would see opposition to SRI as an attack on their values and God himself, the glaring truth is that Australians embrace a range of belief systems that are also life-giving. Religious plurality is simply not the same as moral relativity.
What is thus insidious about volunteer-run religion classes is not that they might result in young people taking up a creed, but that in Victoria in particular, it is being run by a patently Christian organisation whose executive has reportedly said, "without Jesus, our students are lost". For we can all soberly agree that young people need a safe, structured forum for exploring what is right and wrong, but we cannot honestly teach them that Christianity has a monopoly on moral values. We insult their intellect when we do so. We also legitimise prejudice against other faiths.
This culture war, however, is not just about Christianity versus other faiths, but faith versus secularism. It is interesting to see secularists argue with slightly more vehemence than Christians what the character of Australian society really is. They see it progressing inexorably away from religious traditions and structures. The separation of church and state is often invoked, though the constitution merely prohibits imposition of a state religion and a religious test for public office.
They may not realise that many church organisations in fact do a lot of work for the state, especially in social welfare. Why is it that no one seems to be concerned, for example, by the prospect of a homeless man turning to God because of his encounters with the Salvation Army, which receives government grants?
More to the point, when secularists (humanists and atheists by another name) argue that religion has no place in schools, they make exactly the same mistake that Christian proselytisers do: they insult young people's intelligence by doing their thinking for them.
This, in the end, is what evangelists and atheists have in common, the fear that young people will be lost if the other got hold. It is what underpins all culture wars – fear for the future.
Christians, however, should not use government schools as a platform for a new-found crusade against secularism. They will lose. They will lose once young people figure out that being secular is not the same as being amoral. Neither should secularists dismiss religion wholesale, as if it does not offer young people a view that is as humane and ethical is theirs. If they genuinely wish for students to be able to freely choose, then that choice must be made authentic by having all options on the table.
From shared fear, perhaps both camps can thus share a common hope: that young people who wish to live authentically and decently as human beings will find what they are looking for.
17 May, 2011
Vic schools to teach bilingual curriculum
This is nonsense. Why should kids who already speak the international language learn another one? I greatly enjoyed my language studies but that was just a cultural recreation for me. And Asian languages are far too hard for English-speakers. The time would be much better spent reviving the teaching of English grammar -- JR
CHILDREN would be required to learn core subjects such as maths and science in a foreign language, under a state government plan to curb the "appalling" decline of languages in Victorian schools.
With government figures showing almost 60 per cent of secondary school students do not study a language - and almost a third of primary schools don't offer them - Premier Ted Baillieu has vowed to make language education compulsory for most students, starting with prep in 2015, and progressively increasing compulsory participation to year 10 by 2025.
The Sunday Age has learnt the government is also preparing to create a pilot program, in conjunction with a Victorian university, that would train dozens of primary school teachers to conduct lessons in a language other than English.
Academics and teachers have welcomed the push to boost the teaching of languages in schools, but remain sceptical about what the government can achieve.
The plan has been branded as "incredibly ambitious" given the difficulty of finding qualified language teachers, and many warn that without proper resourcing it will be yet another language policy that fails to deliver.
Over recent decades, dozens of state and federal policies have aimed to change Australia's status as a predominantly monolingual nation - but most have achieved limited success.
Six months before the 2007 federal election, for instance, Mandarin-speaking Labor leader Kevin Rudd announced a $68 million plan to revive Asian languages in schools, but four years later there has been little progress.
However, Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras told The Sunday Age there was no reason Victoria couldn't improve. He said the state had the potential to be the multilingual capital of Australia, but had dropped the ball over the past decade, and it was "appalling" so few people could speak more than one language.
"Over the last 10 years, the teaching of LOTE (languages other than English) has decreased considerably, and what should have been our core
A university determined to destroy its reputation for excellence
Choosing its academic staff on non-academic criteria: No men allowed for top teaching jobs in engineering
MELBOURNE University has won the right to bypass anti-discrimination laws so it can choose women for senior academic jobs in engineering. VCAT granted an exemption to the university to advertise two women-only research fellowships worth up to $100,000 a year each because of a "gender imbalance" in academic staff.
The university says girls need more role models at the highest levels of engineering, but critics argue gender shouldn't be an issue when choosing suitable staff.
The School of Engineering said less than one-in-five lecturers and research fellows and only 3 per cent of professors were female.
The head of mechanical engineering at Melbourne, Prof Doreen Thomas, said the exemption was needed to encourage more female PhD graduates to further their careers. "Often women don't apply for the positions. They don't think they're good enough for them," she said. "We need to have women as role models to go out to schools and say: 'Consider doing engineering'."
Former Engineers Australia state president Madeleine McManus said the profession struggled to attract women because of image problems, lack of role models and work-life balance issues.
But labour market analyst Rodney Stinson said it was ludicrous to offer women-only academic jobs when female employment in some engineering fields was as low as 4 per cent. "Why should 4 per cent have representation on what should be an elite group at university level," he said. "Within an academic framework, unless you're studying gender matters, it's ludicrous to look at gender."
Middle-class welfare tag insults the noble art of raising children
Much of the post-budget discussion has turned on whether what is fashionably termed "middle-class welfare" should be curtailed or continued. The debate has centred on the Gillard government's decision to cease indexing certain payments to families earning more than $150,000 a year. But a more appropriate question, in terms of the budget debate, is whether such a phenomenon as middle-class welfare exists.
Take a husband and wife with two children who live on the north shore or in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and earn a family income of $150,000. If they send their children to a government school, use a bulk-billing doctor and attend the local public hospital when necessary, no one would then depict them as welfare recipients.
However, if a government decides to pay benefits for bringing up children whose parents earn $150,000, this is now classified as middle-class welfare. Is it? Not really. Successive Coalition and Labor governments have decided to assist families with children. Such payments increased during the latter period of the Howard government and have been wound back somewhat under Labor.
John Howard tackled the issue directly during his address to the Menzies Research Centre in April 2006, declaring: "Those who seek to denigrate what we've done constantly refer to family tax benefits as 'middle-class welfare'. They are nothing of the kind. They are tax relief for a universal reality - that it costs money to raise children."
It may be intellectually unfashionable to say so, but there are good policy reasons to encourage families - including men and women with a total income of about $150,000 - to have children. This is for two reasons. The best way to constrain the ageing of the population is for Australians to have children. Ageing societies have their limitations - as a glance at Japan, Italy and Russia demonstrates.
Then there is the matter of what used to be called the middle class - once positioned between the upper class and the working class. Such terminology is now out of date for numerous reasons, including the fact that most Western nations also possess a group of welfare recipients, many of them young, who cannot be depicted as members of the working class. There is also the fact that what was once the working class has merged into the middle class and many of the former group, commonly known as "tradies", now run their own businesses.
Australia does not want a situation to develop where it is primarily the rich and the less well-off who have children. This was the rationale for Howard's family tax benefits scheme, along with the baby bonus (which was a form of parental leave). Such schemes are best regarded as payments - not unlike contributions made by governments covering the education and health of children.
Tony Abbott's after-budget appeal to what he terms "forgotten families" appears to be working because many now identify with this message. It's not the slogan that is causing the Gillard government problems. Robert Menzies, when out of political favour in 1942, coined the term "the forgotten people". He had in mind those Australians who were neither members of the business-based gentlemen's clubs nor trade unionists.
Menzies' "forgotten people" line had no impact in the 1943 or 1946 elections. But when Labor's Ben Chifley decided to nationalise the private banks in 1947, suddenly the line made sense. The Coalition victory in December 1949 was built on the back of bank clerks, returned servicemen and small business operators who came to believe they had been forgotten by Labor.
There is a significant difference between wealth and income. Some families on an annual income of $150,000 have existing assets or potential inheritance; others do not. Then there are those who aspire to attain a family income of $150,000 or more. Wayne Swan's budget is risky for Labor if it is depicted as an attack on middle-class welfare in a society where many people regard themselves as middle-income earners.
It is noticeable that most middle-income earners in the private sector do not sneer about middle-class welfare. This is very much the preserve of the well-educated middle-income earners in relatively secure employment in the tertiary sector. Journalists, academics, public servants and the like. Occasionally this can lead to a lack of self-awareness.
Take the Grattan Institute economist Saul Eslake. On May Day, The Sunday Age quoted him saying "there is little good done by giving people who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and their dependents money raised by higher taxes on other people". But where should the line be drawn? Eslake is perfectly capable of working in the private sector. But he is on the payroll of the Grattan Institute, which received $30 million in grants from the federal and Victorian governments.
Last week on ABC2's The Drum program, the lawyer Kara Greiner interrupted a statement by fellow panellist Julian Morrow on people becoming dependent on public funding with the telling question: "Isn't your entire income from public funding?"
There is good reason to be strict on welfare in particular and government spending in general.
It's just that payments to assist in offsetting the cost of bringing up children should not be ridiculed as welfare, for whatever class.
Asylum seekers pretending to be teenagers for faster processing
IMMIGRATION detainees are pretending to be teens to get their visa applications processed quicker and live in better conditions.
Victoria's biggest youth immigration detention centre in Broadmeadows is filled with many asylum seekers claiming to be under 18 to escape the tougher regulations for adults, an investigation has discovered.
Secret photos obtained by the Herald Sun reveal men with obvious signs of ageing, including crow's-feet, wrinkles around their eyes and receding hairlines. Experts say the men are more likely to be aged in their 20s.
Several Immigration Department sources have confirmed the con. Immigration officials lack time and resources to investigate people's ages so they deliver them to youth detention centres with "a wry smile", a whistleblower said.
"There are some massive guys, we're talking about man mountains, in the centre. Sixteen-year-olds just aren't built like that," the source said. Adult detainees bullied genuine youngsters at the facility, it was revealed.
University of Technology Sydney forensic anatomist Dr Meiya Sutisno said an initial assessment of a selection of the photographs showed men not minors. "They are not juveniles, definitely not," she said. Dr Sutisno said the men in photos she had seen were aged between 18 and their late-20s.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the age scam had become widely known among asylum seekers and the department was unable to prove people's ages.
"They (the department) have no idea how old these people are," he said. "They just guess."
MANY detainees deliberately have no documentation of their age so they can lie about how old they are.
SOME asylum seekers have privately confessed to being more than a decade older than they claimed.
INMATES at the Broadmeadows facility have boasted about escaping at night to get McDonald's.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre coordinator Pamela Curr said many didn't know their ages because it was not in their culture to celebrate birthdays. "They say what they have been told to say by people smugglers."
16 May, 2011
Better the dole than a dud job?
The discussion below is an interesting example of selective attention to the evidence by Leftists. A conservative writer replies quite well but I think just one point is needed to reveal the Leftist obfuscation:
I don't think anyone likes working in a dumb or grim job and many people resign from such jobs -- often becoming welfare dependent as a result of that. It is that basic fact that Leftists have latched onto here and here and here. They conclude from that fact that unemployment can be desirable. They conclude that being in a dumb job can be worse for your sense of wellbeing than being unemployed. And that may well be true in some cases.
What the Leftists "overlook" is that dumb jobs are very commonly just a first step on the occupational ladder. You have to crawl before you can walk and in your first job you will almost certainly be assigned the most routine work available. If you use that time to familiarize yourself with the organization's activities and show a willingness to work, however, you have a good chance of being given more rewarding work later on.
So the Leftists see only a static picture where what they are looking at is really a dynamic, changing situation -- and they therefore draw totally wrong conclusions. They fail to see that even routine work can be better than the dole because it puts you on the employment ladder. Being on the dole will get you nowhere
Now I guess many of us think we could be Managing Director of BHP-Billiton, but most of us accept that we might have to start at the bottom and work our way up.
But according to Stephen Long, ABC’s Economics Correspondent, talking about the government’s ‘tough’ welfare to work measures:But the other side is there is an assumption in all the discussion around this from the Government and just about everybody that somehow this is a universally good thing, that any job is better than no job and we will be giving these people the dignity of work, the dignity of labour.
Now there is a whole body of medical research and other research that actually says that pushing people into low wage, insecure jobs that can often be quite oppressive and give people little control can actually undermine their health and well being.
Now I’m not absolutely sure what body of medical and other research Long is referring to, but here’s a tip – the main findings of the research are as follows:
Unemployment has an unambiguously negative effect on health, particularly mental health;
The unemployed have lower levels of life satisfaction than those with a job (check out the HILDA results, Stephen);
A fair proportion (at least 50 per cent) who have a low paid job in period one have a better job in periods 2, 3, 4, etc. (again check out HILDA) – that is, low paid jobs are not necessarily ‘dead end’.
The research to which Long may be referring compares those in jobs with considerable control and autonomy with those in jobs without those characteristics and, not surprisingly, people feel better about the former.
Having said this, the HILDA survey suggests that long hours – which are a correlate of more senior jobs – does not lead to higher life satisfaction overall. So the jobs may provide personal control but come at the cost of long hours.
The government is on the right track in emphasising the dignity of work.
Anti-Muslim rally in Melbourne
No need to guess where the violence came from
MUSLIM groups are worried by a new nationalist organisation that claims Australia is in danger of being Islamicised.
Australian Defence League supporters clashed with Left-wing protesters in the city yesterday as the group held its first local rally, sparking a warning from the Baillieu Government that bigotry would not be tolerated.
A small team of police initially kept the groups apart, but ADL supporters were forced to end their protest early when activists encircled them and tore up placards.
The ADL is an offshoot of the English Defence League, which has staged demonstrations in areas of high Muslim concentration in the UK. About 40 ADL members, including women dressed in mock hijabs, protested in Federation Square yesterday over issues such as the certification of halal meat and concern sharia law would be introduced.
Protest organiser Martin Brennan claimed the group had 1400 members but denied it was anti-Muslim. "We are not racist whatsoever, we are against radical Islam infiltrating Australia," he said.
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said the group was provocative and wrong to believe that most Australian Muslims wanted to bring in sharia law. "It's of great concern that anyone is out there trying to disrupt the peaceful social fabric of Australia," he said. Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Nazeem Hussein said the ADL's views were uninformed and saddening.
State Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras said the Government did not tolerate racism, bigotry or the incitement of hatred. "Activities which undermine the multicultural harmony of Victoria will be dealt with swiftly," he said.
The ADL protest was swamped by the much bigger group of activists and unionists who shouted anti-racism slogans.
Anti-racism protester Mick Armstrong, from Socialist Alternative, said the ADL was trying to copy the tactics of its British counterpart. "They have had their protest and we have ended it," he said.
Christian preachers at homosexual rally
No need to guess where the violence came from
A GAY and lesbian rally against homophobia in Adelaide has ended in violence after it was crashed by Christian protesters, with two people being removed by police.
About 200 people had gathered in Adelaide, outside the South Australian Parliament, on Saturday to rally in support of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia when members of the Adelaide Street Church showed up.
Rally organiser Jason Virgo said one woman was pushed out of her wheelchair and police had to be called. "A small number of right-wing Christians came out and started waving their flags and getting in people's faces, yelling quite loudly, some of them got in a bit of a fight," Mr Virgo said. "(They had) signs saying `God hates sinners' ... no sign should say `God hates'.
"It's an International Day Against Homophobia and for them to come to us and come to our rally and say things which we find homophobic, it's disrespectful. "We would never go to their church and disrupt things the way they did today."
The Street Church's Damien Gloury said the preachers were mobbed and hit for proclaiming their Christian message. "We're just preaching the Bible, we're quoting the bible and it says that homosexuality is a sin," he said.
"We thought we would go out and not try to disrupt because we do love everybody, it might sound like we're condemning people but we're not we're just preaching the Bible.
"We've been mobbed, we've been hit, our banners have been thrown down and these people have been hating our guts just for proclaiming the Christian message in this nation and that's what it's about."
A spokeswoman for South Australia Police said two people had to be removed for breaches of the peace, but no arrests were made.
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School class size right, says Premier of Victoria
Good to see the class size myths disregarded. Classes could in fact be bigger with no loss of quality but a big saving for the taxpayer
PREMIER Ted Baillieu has ruled out an increase in school class sizes under his watch.
He made the commitment after his Education Minister Martin Dixon refused to give such a guarantee in a parliamentary budget estimates hearing earlier this week. "There will be no increases in class sizes," Mr Baillieu told the hearing yesterday.
Mr Dixon had refused to comment on class sizes because he said the issue related to wage negotiations with the state's teachers, which are due to begin soon.
Opposition education spokesman Rob Hulls had warned Mr Dixon's refusal to rule it out was code for saying class sizes would rise.
Mr Hulls said under the Labor government from 1999 to 2010, average class sizes in government schools dropped from 25.4 to 22 students.
15 May, 2011
Thailand interested in unloading its refugees onto Australia too
They'd be mad not to. The mad one is Gillard
THAILAND has expressed interest in striking a similar asylum-seeker deal with Australia to the one proposed by the Gillard government with Malaysia.
The development came as Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said a boatload of 32 asylum-seekers intercepted off Western Australia would be sent to a third country, even though the deal with Malaysia has yet to be finalised. Australia is in talks to swap 800 asylum-seekers for 4,000 genuine refugees currently living in Malaysia.
Australia has been seeking a regional solution to the issue of asylum-seekers, and has also approached Papua New Guinea about reopening its Manus Island detention centre.
Last night Thailand's foreign minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand would be interested in considering a swap arrangement similar to that Australia had reached with Malaysia. “I think the agreement between Australia and Malaysia on this particular model based on, I think, five to one ratio is something that the rest of us will be interested to look at,” Mr Kasit said after bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in Bangkok.
He said many countries had been looking for a way to deal with an influx of asylum-seekers. “I think the Australian-Malaysian likely agreement would provide some sort of certainty and also a model for others to study,” he said. “I think the whole issue could be discussed further by all the other countries involved.”
Many of the refugees Australia is set to take from Malaysia are from Burma, and travelled to Malaysia via Thailand.
Mr Rudd said he and Mr Kasit discussed the broader issue of asylum-seekers. “So what we discussed in particular was the ongoing support which our friends in Thailand need to sustain something in the order of 110,000 people spread across nine camps,” Mr Rudd said.
The asylum-seekers intercepted off Western Australia on Friday night are the first to arrive since Labor's announcement of its agreement with Malaysia. Believed to be from Afghanistan and Pakistan, they will be taken to Christmas Island for identity checks.
However Mr Bowen said they would then be taken to a third country, although he would not say what country that was. “It's well known we've been in discussions with Papua New Guinea. It's well known we are in discussions across the region,” he said. “We have an agreement to enter into a bilateral arrangement with Malaysia. “I am not going to flag which country these people will be sent to, but they will be held at Christmas Island, pending removal to a third country.”
Mr Bowen added: “My message to people smugglers and to asylum-seekers is very clear. “We will not be accepting and processing people for asylum claims who arrive in Australia by boat.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the arrival showed people-smugglers had not been put off by Labor spin on a people-swap deal with Malaysia.
Mr Bowen could not say where the group would be sent because the government had no deal with Malaysia, PNG, East Timor or anywhere else, Mr Morrison said. “Having realised that by announcing their panicked deal before it was agreed and operational they had issued an invitation to people smugglers, Minister Bowen is now trying to shut the gate once, in this case, the boats have bolted.”
Mr Bowen had not confirmed if Malaysia had been specified as a place asylum-seekers could be transferred to under Australian law, Mr Morrison said. “Unlike on Nauru or Manus Island, Australia will have no role in looking after the welfare of those potentially transferred to Malaysia under their five-for-one people-swap deal.
"The flood of asylum-seekers will generate a $1 billion-plus bonanza for the controversial foreign conglomerate that runs Australia's detention centres. Serco originally signed a five-year contract worth $370 million to run the facilities, including the Maribyrnong Detention Centre, until mid-2014. But immigration industry experts said this figure was now likely to burst through the billion-dollar barrier.
Figures obtained from government tender records show the total size of Serco's contracts in relation to asylum-seekers was quietly doubled in November to more than $756 million.
Of this, $712 million is allocated to run the centres through to mid-2014, including the notorious Villawood Centre in Sydney which was almost burnt to the ground last month by rioting asylum-seekers. A further $44.5 million was set aside for "residential housing and transport" for detainees.
But immigration industry sources are saying the latest contract amount for Serco is already six months out of date, and it stands to make hundreds of millions more from the taxpayers with continued boat arrivals.
One source said the asylum-seeker boom since November had already added up to $200 million to the total value of Serco's detention contracts. That would value them at up to $950 million as of this month.
Industry experts said Serco's bonanza was set to easily crack the $1 billion barrier if the Government's new "Malaysia Solution" does not work and refugee boats keep coming.
An Immigration Department spokesman refused to speculate on the Serco bonanza. A Serco spokeswoman said these were "questions for the Government".
In the two years since Serco took over the detention centres contract, there has been a blowout in both the number of refugees and detention facilities. In mid-2009, there were less than 1000 detainees in seven centres. But the latest figures show there are now 6700 detainees in 24 facilities across the country, all run by Serco.
Baby died of whooping cough after being sent home from hospital with "a cold"
A BABY who died of whooping cough was sent home from hospital after his parents were told the five-week-old just had a cold. Two days later, Kailis Smith stopped breathing in his cot and had to be resuscitated twice on his way back to hospital.
"The doctor said he just had a common cold and he'll get over it and sent us home, but he got worse and worse and we knew something was really wrong on the Thursday night," mother Roslynd Smith said. "On Friday morning he stopped breathing."
The baby, who was just one week shy of having his first whooping cough vaccination, was put onto life support on March 31 and then transferred from Tweed Hospital Emergency Department to Brisbane's Mater Hospital, where he lost his fight on April 22, Good Friday. He was just nine weeks old.
Jay and Roslynd Smith and two-year-old Shayda are devastated to lose the little boy who brought so much joy. "I always hoped and prayed for a little boy and to have him and have him ripped away from us is just terrible," Mrs Smith said.
The Tweed Heads family are firm believers in immunisation and urge all parents to vaccinate their children. "We are all vaccinated, so he must have picked it up from someone," Jay Smith, 33, said.
The Tweed Valley and nearby Byron Bay have a high number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
"Anyone who saw a baby with whooping cough would change their mind," Mr Smith said. "It's a horrible, horrible disease and people just don't realise. "And it's not just whooping cough coming back. TB and measles are coming back with a vengeance."
Kailis Smith is the seventh baby to die of whooping cough in the past two years.
Australian study shows that the success of a child is linked to father's education
No surprise to anyone who follows genetics research. It's all IQ and IQ is genetically transmitted. Government "support" will do little.
A Smith Family study has linked a father's education level to the professional success of his children. The report - titled Unequal Opportunities: Life Chances for Children in the Lucky Country - compares the lives and backgrounds of 13,000 university graduates aged 30 to 45.
It found those who had a university educated father were more likely to hold a degree themselves, have a professional job and earn around $300 more a week than those without an academic dad.
Among those people whose fathers did not go on to higher education, only 30 per cent had achieved a degree, compared to 65 per cent for those whose fathers did get a degree.
"If you think about a parent who had a limited education their understanding of career paths available to their kid would be much more limited," the charity's Wendy Field said. "For families on income support the difference is really, really stark.
"For kids it can mean that they make choices in their life that really protect their families from any additional financial stress and it can also mean that they just don't have access to a whole lot of opportunities."
The Smith Family says the report is disheartening and shows Australia has a way to go before its lucky status can be justified.
In 2008, after the Bradley Review into higher education, the Government adopted a target of increasing the number of university students from poor families to 20 per cent. The latest report shows that the current level is hovering around 15 per cent.
Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced new funding measures to help achieve the 20 per cent goal. Low income families will receive an extra $10,000 a year to encourage their teenage children to stay at school or in training.
Ms Field says it is a welcome first step. "It'll be interesting to see how that translates into take-ups," she said. "And it'll also be interesting to see what supports are available to help those kids to stay at university, because it's so much more difficult for kids whose parents are not in a position to support them financially."
14 May, 2011
Light bulbs and set top boxes
Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich
We have all heard many versions of the famous light bulb joke. Like this one: Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? A: Two. One to assume the ladder and the other one to change the bulb.
Since traditional light bulbs have long been banned in Australia, it’s time to adjust the joke and move on to other household items. Such as TV sets. But here the government provides us with a real life joke.
So how much money does it cost to install a digital TV set top box, worth about $30? Up to $400, never mind that you can buy a brand new flat screen digital TV for less than $400. Anyway, this is the amount the government has set aside to help eligible households under its Digital TV Switchover – Household Assistance Scheme. The scheme applies to pensioners and veterans who haven’t yet upgraded from analog to digital TV reception.
The $400 per household not only pays for the set top box but also for the services of ‘a qualified government contractor’ – perhaps the same people who were made redundant after the infamous pink batts debacle. The contractors will install the boxes, maybe even without burning down any houses.
But then again, what’s so difficult about connecting the box to a power socket, an aerial and the TV? Unless they’re deaf and blind, most pensioners should well be able to set up their new set top box – especially if they get it free of charge from Centrelink. And if they’re deaf and blind, well, they probably don’t watch much TV anyway.
It’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the scheme. Since when did government start paying for household items? What about the pensioners who had already switched to digital and paid for it themselves? And how can you justify a scheme costing taxpayers $309 million at a time of a $50 billion budget deficit?
The government’s set top box scheme is a modern version of the old light bulb joke. Unfortunately, it is very costly. And not very funny.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 13 May. Enquiries to email@example.com. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Gillard shouldn't give our money to terrorists
ASKED in July 2009, in the aftermath of the Gaza War, if Australia would deal with the Palestinian government if Hamas were to be included, Julia Gillard was unequivocal in her response: "Hamas obviously is a terrorist organisation that has been engaged in violent actions against the Israeli people, and in order to be part of any process it needs to completely renounce that violence."
So it should stand to reason that following the announcement last week that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group and rival Hamas had agreed to end their long-standing feud and form a unity government, the Australian government must re-assess its relations with the Palestinian Authority.
But in Tuesday night's budget, it was announced that "Australian aid to the Palestinian territories and Palestinian refugees in surrounding regions will double to around $70 million per annum by 2012-13".
Included within that, is money that will go directly to the PA to "improve its operations and assist in the delivery of services".
This is despite the fact that the "governance" section of our International Development Assistance Program in the budget explicitly states that "Australia supports a two-state solution led by a capable and moderate Palestinian Authority". The question is, can a Palestinian Authority partly run by Hamas be considered capable and moderate?
If anyone needed a reminder as to where Hamas's allegiance lies, look no further than their reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden.
Hamas was one of the few groups to condemn his killing, with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh calling bin Laden an "Arab holy warrior" and accusing the US of pursuing a policy based on "oppression and the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood".
Hamas was born out of a desire to create an Islamic state in Gaza, West Bank - and all of Israel. Its charter explicitly calls for Israel's destruction. It has said, unequivocally and repeatedly, that it will never negotiate with or recognise the Jewish state.
Since the beginning of this year, at least 300 rockets have been fired into southern Israel from Hamas-ruled Gaza, many by Hamas itself. Hamas also took responsibility for the deliberate firing of an anti-tank missile at a school bus several weeks ago, killing a 16-year-old youth.
Only two weeks ago, Hamas's "military wing" (whose philosophy and modus operandi is no different from the rest of the group) confirmed it was "going on the path of jihad".
Moreover, Hamas's military wing is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia under the Criminal Code Act. It is also a crime under Australian law, and a violation under international law, to provide funding to terrorist groups.
Yet there can be no guarantee that Australian taxpayers' dollars will not reach their hands and be used for acts of terror against Israel or to support the activities of those who threaten Australian security. Only last month Israel arrested an Australian man and charged him with spying for Hamas.
Before the ink on the unity agreement even had the chance to dry, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader involved in the talks, said "[o]ur program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognising it".
Hamas's Prime Minister immediately followed this by calling on Fatah to renounce its recognition of Israel.
Meanwhile, Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said the reconciliation "was not Israel's concern". Yet when an organisation does not recognise even your mere existence and is sworn to your destruction, that is a very real concern to anyone.
It is telling that in June 2007, after Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah in a brutal coup that resulted in the loss of hundreds of Palestinian lives and led to the feud between the two groups, Abbas said of Hamas: "there will be no dialogue with these murderers and forces of darkness".
Israel cannot be expected to deal with the new Palestinian government as long as Hamas continues to reject the quartet's (UN, US, EU and Russia) pre-conditions for participation in the peace process. These are: recognition of Israel, renouncing terror and violence, and accepting all previous agreements and obligations.
There is an additional reason to be concerned about this unity deal. Hamas and Fatah have reportedly agreed to release each other's prisoners, thereby severely undercutting Fatah's security co-operation with Israel in the West Bank, which has - until now - enjoyed relative calm. One prisoner, however, who will not be released is Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas has held as a hostage for almost five years after seizing the soldier from Israeli soil, in total violation of international law, and without allowing even a visit from the Red Cross.
In the coming months, the Palestinians will go to the UN to demand recognition of a Palestinian state. The agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas is intended to show the world they are united and more ready than ever for statehood. But regrettably, all Abbas has shown is that he prefers to partner with those who seek Israel's death and destruction, rather than negotiate a two-state solution in good faith.
Hamas's inclusion in the new Palestinian government raises serious implications for the Australian government.
Hamas has already declared it has no intention of abiding by the quartet's conditions - or the ones articulated by Gillard in July 2009 - including renouncing their campaign of terror against Israel. The Australian government would therefore now have to seriously consider whether it can even maintain ties to the PA.
The unity agreement will also have implications for Australian non-profit groups such as World Vision and Care Australia, who, notwithstanding their good intentions, may risk being in breach of Australian law by donating to projects in the West Bank and Gaza which may be effectively controlled or manipulated by Hamas.
After the announcement of the Palestinian agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both."
The PA has made its choice - peace with Hamas. Australia must make its choice as well.
Idiotic welfare system
SOME families could be better off knocking back a $20,000 pay rise rather than slipping out of the welfare net, an economist has found.
As the federal Government tries to claw back almost $2 billion in savings by stalling thresholds of some family welfare payments, an exclusive analysis for the Herald Sun reveals some families could be left asking questions about the worth of work.
It comes as Bureau of Statistics data shows Australian workers' average wages last year were more than $1000 a week.
Tony Abbott has stepped up his attack on the federal Government's plans, saying some families on $150,000 a year in wealthy parts of Australia were doing it "incredibly tough". "If I'm a policeman married to a nurse trying to pay a mortgage in Sydney, earning maybe $150,000 as a family, I'm still doing it incredibly tough," he said.
Some social services groups have questioned the debate over household incomes, saying many families were struggling on $70,000 or less.
The Government says households on $150,000 a year are "not rich" but need to do their bit to get the country back into surplus. Under the Budget, the cut-off threshold for Family Tax Benefits and the baby bonus and paid parental leave would stall at $150,000, and not match inflation rates until 2014.
Griffith University economics professor Ross Guest said the decision to withdraw middle-class welfare created "high disincentives to work". "As you phase out benefits, or cut them, it essentially hits people like another tax," he said.
Prof Guest's analysis of a couple with two children living on a primary income of $150,000 and receiving paid parental leave shows that they would be as much as $8000 worse off after tax if they received a $10,000 pay rise.
The family would need to receive a pay rise of more than $20,000 before they had as much disposable income as they did before losing the payments. They would need to receive a $30,000 pay rise to have just another $4000 in disposable income.
Data from the Bureau of Statistics shows the average pay packet of Australia's 9.8 million workers is above $1000. The average weekly income in August 2010 was $1035, an increase of $40, to take the annual salary to $53,820. For full-time work the average is $1267 a week.
Australian Human Resource Institute president Peter Wilson said the two-speed economy meant at the top end of the employment market, particularly in the resources sector, companies were giving extraordinary payments to staff. He expects average wages to rise by 4 per cent a year.
Gillard kills 'big Australia'
THE Gillard government has killed the concept of "a big Australia" by rejecting the idea of a population target, and will instead focus on areas of high labour demand using immigration and affordable housing.
The government's long-awaited sustainable population policy, to be released today, also rejects the concept of "growth for growth's sake" in which economic expansion is put ahead of all other concerns.
"Economic prosperity is only one element of a sustainable Australia; environmental sustainability and liveable communities are important," the Population Minister, Tony Burke, will say. "Growth for growth's sake leads us to a big Australia where people go to congested communities, not where they are needed."
Instead, the policy will recognise different communities have different needs. "In areas where there is demand for workers we are targeting immigration and affordable housing," Mr Burke will say.
"In areas of congestion we will target local employment so hard-working Australians spend less time and money travelling to and from work. Every local suburban job is a car out of a traffic jam."
The policy rejects "big Australia" - the term embraced by the then prime minister Kevin Rudd in late 2009 when Treasury forecast the population of 22 million would balloon to 36 million by 2049. This sparked a backlash in already congested regions such as western Sydney and the outer suburbs of other big cities.
The acceptance of regional difference will target the policy towards improving the quality of suburban life.
13 May, 2011
Back in the black or still in the red?
Wayne Swan’s boast that the Commonwealth budget is ‘back in the black’ deserves a sceptical response. For starters, the much-vaunted surplus does not appear until 2012–13. The budget places so much emphasis on estimates for 2012–13 that one could be excused for thinking this is May 2012. In fact, we are in May 2011 and the budget just handed down is for 2011–12. It features a $22.6 billion deficit in the midst of economic conditions (near full employment and historically high terms of trade) that could easily justify a surplus.
The ‘surplus’ estimated for 2012–13 is so small as to be more accurately characterised as a balanced budget. Moreover, Treasury’s 2010 estimates suggest that even a balanced budget in 2012–13 would represent a structural deficit (a measure that strips out unsustainable favourable effects such as the high terms of trade).
Those criticisms aside, the government’s broad goal of tightening fiscal policy is entirely appropriate and should be beyond controversy. More interesting is how they plan to get there.
Swan’s speech trumpeted $22 billion of ‘savings,’ but on closer inspection the savings effort appears timid. The figure of $22 billion is achieved by conflating expenditure cuts and tax increases, and then adding the results over four years to reach a large number. This is pure spin.
The actual expenditure savings year-by-year amount to little more than 1% of total budget outlays, and even those savings are more than offset by new measures that add to outlays. By contrast, the expenditure savings in the last Commonwealth budget that could truly be characterised as ‘tough’ (the 1996–97 budget) were about 5% of outlays, or 3% to 4% after allowing for offsetting new spending measures.
Revenue will do most of the work in putting the budget ‘back into the black’ in 2012–13. The government is relying on a 25% boost to its revenue over the next two years. While most of that represents an automatic cyclical rebound, the budget supercharges the rebound with policy measures that add further to revenue in the next two years (measures that Swan classifies as ‘savings’).
Some of the expenditure and revenue measures in this budget are worthy in their own right, but it is disappointing that in aggregate so little has been done to reverse the 17.4% increase in inflation-adjusted Commonwealth outlays that occurred in just two years (2008–09 and 2009–10) when fiscal stimulus was in full swing.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 13 May. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Greenie house of straw goes up in flames
IF THE story of the Three Little Pigs showed how vulnerable straw houses can be, the point was again illustrated in a recent case before the NSW Court of Appeal.
In 2007 Ian Reed was building a house near Orange, in the state's central west, using compressed straw bales for the external walls.
An owner-builder, he brought in tradespeople for more specialised jobs. One, a plumber, inadvertently set fire to the structure on January 12.
The court heard Bruce Warburton was soldering copper piping when his oxyacetylene torch ignited hand-packed straw behind a bathroom wall, burning down the building.
Mr Reed sued Mr Warburton in the District Court for negligence. After his claim was dismissed last year he appealed.
In the Court of Appeal, Justices John Basten and David Hodgson, and Acting Justice Kenneth Handley, overturned the earlier judgment, finding errors in the way the judge determined the issues in the case.
They ruled Mr Warburton was negligent, but only awarded Mr Reed $105,000 in damages - half the amount he sought - because he failed to tell the plumber about the hand-packed straw in the internal wall.
The court heard a straw bale had ignited when Mr Warburton was working in the kitchen, but was quickly extinguished with a bucket of water the men had on hand.
It was a different story when Mr Warburton worked on the bathroom, where Mr Reed had filled a gap in an internal wall with loose straw.
"It burnt back into the wall and roared,"' Mr Warburton told the District Court. "It just all ignited and flew straight up like a chimney."
Justice Basten said while Mr Warburton failed "to take reasonable care to avoid the risk of setting fire to the straw", there had been contributory negligence by Mr Reed.
Martin Urakawa, an architect with expertise in environmental design, said building with straw was part of a movement towards environmentally friendly building materials.
"People use it because they can build and shape it themselves and it's quick for them to put up," he said - but fire was, obviously "a drawback".
More brainless government
English tests for Australian born taxi drivers
NEW English tests introduced for would-be taxi drivers have offended Australian-born applicants who say they should not have to pay for a certificate to prove they can speak their own language.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads introduced the English assessment last November in response to the Workplace Ombudsman's report, which made 56 recommendations to reform the taxi industry. It requires all applicants to complete a $90 online test provided by the Central Queensland Institute of TAFE, regardless of nationality.
The assessment is a new national standard being introduced Australia-wide.
Since its introduction in Queensland, 869 people have undertaken the assessment with one in six (186) failing.
Queensland Taxi Advisers Incorporated spokesman John Rahilly said a "commonsense approach" was needed for the test's delivery. "I think it's ridiculous that English-speaking drivers have to sit the test, and there are no exemptions," he said.
"The initial reason for the test was to remedy the problem that already exists in the industry whereby many current drivers are not fluent in English. "As it stands, drivers employed before November 2010 do not have to be tested."
He said the $90 cost amounted to about half a day's takings for many cabbies, possibly even more than half. "You can be lucky to clear $175, so $90 is a significant sum for any driver," he said.
Veteran cabbie John Barker, from Bribie Island, said he was stunned when he reapplied for his driver's authority and was told he would have to undergo the assessment. "I was just stunned. I hadn't given up all that long ago, only six months or so, after 25 years of driving a cab," Mr Barker said.
"I admit that my junior pass in English was in 1965 but spending most of my 61 years in the country . . . one would think the transport department could be a little more understanding." He said he refused to pay $90 to be assessed on his English. "I will not be paying for a certificate to prove that I can speak my native language," Mr Barker said.
Mr Barker said he had decided not to resume his former career, and would remain on the pension instead. "I was only intending to work part-time but it's just not worth the hassle," he said. "If they're going to be that silly and they can't recognise a high school certificate, it's just ludicrous."
Surgeon in threat to quit Queensland Health over lost wages in payroll farce
AN EXPERIENCED surgeon is threatening to quit Queensland Health as new figures reveal staff went without pay almost 2150 times during the payroll disaster.
Ear, nose and throat specialist Garrett Fitzgerald believes at least $40,000 of his wages may have gone missing in the 14 months the glitch-plagued system has operated.
The Toowoomba surgeon is just one of hundreds of staff left out of pocket, with figures obtained by The Courier-Mail revealing 11,900 emergency payments were handed out since the system went live last March.
Dr Fitzgerald, who works in private practice but offers his service part-time to the Toowoomba Hospital as a visiting medical officer, said the new system could not cope with the different payments he received for regular and on-call time.
Both were supposed to be salary sacrificed into his super fund but Dr Fitzgerald claimed the on-call payments had gone missing. Dr Fitzgerald said he raised concerns with payroll staff at Ipswich late last year but was only last month offered a firm response - the money was sent to his bank but not assigned to any account.
Dr Fitzgerald worried the cash had landed in another person's pocket and said he was now paying a bookkeeper $70 an hour to trawl through his accounts searching for deposits. "This money seems to be floating in the atmosphere somewhere so I have to find it or prove that it didn't make it to me. If I did it to my employee, I'd be in jail," he said.
Queensland Health deputy director general human resource services John Cairns this week claimed Dr Fitzgerald's pay had been deposited into the bank account he nominated and said "he has not advised us" about payment problems.
But Dr Fitzgerald said he regularly liaised with Ipswich payroll staff and had also sent letter of complaint on March 23 to two district executives and Queensland Health director-general Michael Reid. A letter of reply sighted by The Courier-Mail written by Director of Medical Services Peter Gillies acknowledged "outstanding issues" and apologised for the ongoing "error".
Mr Cairns said Dr Fitzgerald, like all Queensland Health employees, could access one-on-one payroll assistance and cash payment of any outstanding money. "There is no reason for him to be out of pocket," Mr Cairns said.
Dr Fitzgerald said he would resign if his investigations ruled he had not been paid.
Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said: "This is just one more example of a system that is spiralling out of control and costing Queenslanders money."
12 May, 2011
More government waste -- and Gillard hasn't even got the brains to back down from it
LEADING retailers have rejected the Federal Government's digital set-top scheme for pensioners as grossly overpriced. The scheme, announced in the 2011 Federal Budget, sets aside $308 million to help pensioners switch over to digital TV.
The Federal Government plans to spend $350 per eligible household to provide the free service, which will include purchasing the hardware, installation, antenna adjustment, support and warranty services.
But sellers of electronic goods say they could complete the project for only one-sixth of the Government's projected costs, The Australian reports.
Kogan Technologies chief executive Ruslan Kogan said the Government could be delivering the set-top box to pensioners all over Australia "for much, much cheaper". "We estimated the $308 million scheme could be completed for only $50m," the online entrepreneur said. "We can charge as little as $39 for a set-top box (pre-GST). "I don't know where the Government is getting their price from, but we think they should shop around," he said.
The Australian surveyed several commercial outlets and found shopfront and online stores - Harvey Norman, Bing Lee and Kogan Technologies - sold, delivered and installed either a set-top box or digital television well below the estimated costs under the Government plan.
Master Electricians Australia chief executive Malcolm Richards said there was also a danger the plan could turn into the widely criticised pink batts scheme. "We don't need any further proof that the promise of easy government money will bring out all the shonks and shysters chasing a quick buck," he said in a statement.
Pensioners also gave the scheme the thumbs down this week. Pensioner Dawn Denman told The Australian the plan was a waste of money and a potential security risk. "I don't think they need a technician to do this . . . I don't want someone going through my home who I don't know," she said.
Ms Denman, who got a digital set-top box for Christmas, said her daughter took less than half an hour to install it. "It's nothing - it's just putting the cables in the back and using the remote control," she said.
Col Galway, a pensioner from Hervey Bay in Queensland, said he had installed two set-top boxes himself - a task that took "about 10 minutes each". "If they're talking about a $50 machine and $350 to come out and install it, I would like to get that job," he said.
But Mr Swan this week defended the plan, saying he would never apologise for supporting pensioners. He said more than 38,000 pensioners had already received new set-top boxes. "There are accredited people who not only provide the box but set it up and work with the household to make sure it works.
"This program is working well, it is of great benefit to our pensioners, who have worked hard over generations to make our economy strong and it's an important program and it's one that we strongly support."
Bureaucratic bloat continues
Treasurer Wayne Swan talked for the fourth year in a row about a tough budget, but despite the ballooning deficit, the Australian Public Service, which Kevin Rudd described in 2007 as bloated, continues to grow.
Hidden deep within Statement 6 of 2011-12 Budget Paper No 1 is data on average staffing levels in the public service, including all defence force personnel and people employed by commonwealth statutory authorities.
During the last year of the Howard government there were 248,217 full-time equivalent federal public servants across the country. In 2008-09, the first full year of the Labor government, this level increased to 250,566 public servants. A year later public service numbers increased to 258,321 and again in 2010-11 to 261,891 people. That's an extra 11,300 people in the life of the Rudd and Gillard governments so far.
The latest budget reveals that in 2011-12, when the government hopes its budget deficit will be sliced in half, the number of public servants on its payroll will grow by a further 1100 people to a grand total of 262,995 staff. It's as if the government thinks that, by some natural law, every year the size of the government has to get bigger.
The budget paper also provides a breakdown of anticipated staffing by agency, giving a crucial insight into the policy priorities of the government in the short term. While reallocations of staff across agencies affect the results, most public servants will feel nothing in net terms of the government's deficit reduction crusade.
The civilian Defence Department, including the Defence Materiel Organisation, is set for nearly 1000 new staff in 2011-12 compared with the previous year.
This may surprise many who observed the government laying the groundwork for cuts to this area. However, as revealed in The Australian last week, the announcement of 1000 jobs lost from Defence in the next four years are for intended, but yet to be filled, vacancies. The centralising of power in the hands of the Prime Minister is set to continue with more than 310 new employees in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The Immigration Department, which has distinguished itself recently by failing to advise its minister of a bomb in a detention centre, is expected to gain a further 285 employees. Staff lost from the Education Department will be partially offset by a new Vocational Education Regulator, with 155 new people on board.
And to tally all of this, and everything else, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be rewarded for enduring nominal budget cuts in previous years with 200 extra staff.
The budget paper highlights some employment losses from some agencies, but these cuts are mostly more apparent than real, with staff being reclassified from one agency to another in what is the big APS merry-go-round.
This public sector growth is the smoking-gun admission of the government that all its tough talk about savage spending cuts has come to nought. The meagre sacrifices of expenditure rationalisation offered will largely be offset by spending hikes elsewhere.
What has been missed in recent weeks is that the government had no intention of endangering the new protected species of public servants working for it. In an interview on the Ten Network's Meet the Press this month, Wayne Swan said: "We do not necessarily expect any forced job losses in the public sector."
So why does the government promise so much on public service rationalisation yet deliver so little?
From a political economy perspective, the answer is straightforward. A political party wishing to gain power, or hold government, will never offend its core political constituency for fear of losing its voter base. With trade union representation in the private sector leaching away because of global competition affecting trade-exposed industries such as manufacturing, public servants represent the dominant force in the union movement. It is the interests of this constituency that Labor, a creature of the unions, must serve. Being in a minority government alliance with the Greens, who are increasingly vying with Labor for votes from public sector workers, doesn't help the cause of right-sizing the government either.
Each year leading up to the federal budget the Community and Public Sector Union has warned the government against making cuts to the public service. Indeed, before the 2007 election campaign the national secretary of the CPSU rebuked Rudd for his "intemperate language" about cutting back the public service.
More evidence of badly managed flood control dams in S.E. Qld.
The key blueprint used to control Somerset and Wivenhoe dams is set for a major overhaul as criticism mounts over the way engineers handled the January floods.
The move raises possible legal implications for flood victims and insurers seeking compensation and could lead to a mass buyback of properties in flood zones.
The Courier-Mail understands that a "significant review" of the manual used to control the dams during floods will start within weeks, pre-empting the findings of the flood inquiry. The judge heading the inquiry has already labelled the manual "a bit of a mess". It was "not set" for a worst-case weather scenario, only historical norms, The Courier-Mail has been told.
The overhaul was likely to lead to a shift in priorities away from protecting upstream farms and bridges in favour of urbanised areas downstream. The revamp will involve Seqwater, the Department of Environment and Resource Management and councils.
It is understood officials now accept that more up-to-date modelling of river levels is needed to cope better with large floods.
The dams manual was originally developed to avoid political interference and is meant to help engineers prevent flooding and safeguard the dams. But independent experts say dam managers are unduly constrained by the document and that it is based on outdated and inadequate theories.
Dam managers are obliged to follow the manual in order to avoid legal liability.
"It's a hopeless manual," veteran Brisbane environmental engineer Max Winders told The Courier-Mail. "There would be very little professional support for the terms of the manual and no support for its efficiency. "Unfortunately Seqwater didn't have a flood simulation, it wasn't used at the time of the flood. They had nothing to make decisions with."
Mr Winders said the manual, first introduced in 1980 after allegations of political interference during the 1974 flood, failed to address flood mitigation in Brisbane. He said it focused on river flows rather than the river heights that they produced.
Mr Winders, who has advised on development on flood plains across Queensland and appeared as an expert witness on the topic in numerous court cases, has made a detailed submission to the inquiry.
Queensland drainage engineer Neville Jones, in another submission to the Inquiry, argues that operators stuck to the terms of the manual but their interpretation of it caused avoidable flooding in Brisbane. "Earlier and higher releases could have and should have been undertaken," he wrote. "A warrant existed under (the manual) . . . for higher discharges to be pre-emptively initiated."
Officials defending the dam operators say the critics are using hindsight and they would have faced criticism if early releases from the dam had flooded properties and then the weather had cleared.
It is understood recommendations that emerge from the overhaul of the manual will be forwarded to the inquiry. A new manual will have to be gazetted before it goes into effect. Law firm Maurice Blackburn, which is representing the interests of flood victims at the inquiry, said it was monitoring developments.
Gillard takes aim at self-employed
Tucked away in the torrent of detail in the 2011 federal budget is a dirty deal between the Gillard government and the unions designed to shaft a growing group that unions fear: the self-employed.
In this case the gun is carried by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, a former national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, former member of the executive of the ACTU, and former member of the board of the Labor front group GetUp. On Tuesday Shorten issued a deceptively bland press release which said, in part: "Some contractors appear to be unaware of their existing tax obligations or deliberately under-reporting their tax. The government will therefore introduce a requirement for certain businesses in the building and construction industry to report to the Australian Taxation Office annually on payments made to contractors in the industry … This will help ensure a more level playing field within the building and construction industry and improve voluntary compliance."
The new rule being introduced by Shorten will impose a grave and gratuitous administrative burden on small business operators and the self-employed. It appears to require that anyone in the construction industry who hires a contractor will have to report to the Tax Office every payment to that contractor. Every contractor, in turn, will have to report the detail of every payment they make to any other contractors.
"They are deliberately creating an administrative nightmare," said Phillips. "The Gillard government is moving to tie up contract work in so much red tape and complexity that the practical ability to be self-employed will evaporate. They want people to be employees, not self-employed."
In a separate punitive measure, the government has also targeted the smallest of small businesses: one-person operations reporting business income of less than $50,000 a year. The government is removing the 25 per cent tax offset these business operators receive. It will affect about 400,000 self-employed.
These measures follow a pattern of shoring up union power since Labor won office, as it repaid its union paymasters. The government has re-regulated the job market via the Fair Work Act. It has increased the scope of the award system. It has expanded the industrial tribunals system, setting up a new layer of bureaucracy and litigation called Fair Work Australia.
All these measures have the effect of being both job-creation retardants and inflation accelerants.
School heaters: More bungling from the NSW Education Dept.
In a bureaucracy, nobody gives a damn
AFTER decades of insisting unflued gas heaters were safe, the NSW Department of Education has installed flued heaters at Blackheath Public School - but the school had already installed reverse-cycle airconditioning.
Parents are angry the department did not reimburse the $44,000 parents helped raise to install the units a year ago.
Richard Kalina, who has campaigned against unflued gas heating and whose daughter attends Blackheath Public School, said the decision was an "appalling waste" of resources. "Blackheath now has two sets of heating," he said.
A Greens NSW MP, John Kaye, said the school found itself "in the ridiculous position of having two heating systems". But Hazelbrook Primary School, in the lower Blue Mountains, had missed out on flued heaters. "The sensible option would be to remove the flued units from Blackheath and take them down the road to Hazelbrook.
"The Labor government should never have let the situation reach the level of desperation that caused parents to resort to using their own money to buy a safe heater solution."
A spokesman for the department said the flued heaters, installed last week, were more cost-effective to operate than reverse-cycle airconditioning.
He said when the school raised the possibility of installing airconditioning in early 2009, the department recommended this be delayed until the outcome of the Woolcock Institute report on the use of unflued gas heaters in schools was known.
The report, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found respiratory illness was higher in classrooms with the heaters and levels of nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde were "substantially increased" when they were on.
"The airconditioning was installed in April 2010, before the mid-2010 announcement, after the report's release, of flued gas heating for the 100 coldest schools, including Blackheath," the spokesman said. "While the school will not be reimbursed for installing airconditioning, this equipment can be used for cooling during the summer months."
11 May, 2011
Australia's ABC makes no secret of bias
FOLLOWING the recent anti-carbon tax protests, the editor of The Drum, the ABC's opinion website, contacted me looking to commission an article.
Jonathan Green had first gone to Twitter to try to find someone to write a story from the perspective of the carbon tax protesters but come up empty.
He eventually tracked me down, but it's telling that none of his regular contributors or 7000 Twitter followers could help him accommodate the views held by 60 per cent of Australians. I suspect the reason he was so keen to get the story is once my article had appeared he was off the hook.
The ABC opinion website is not compelled by editorial policies to demonstrate any form of balance but merely to provide a "range of subjects from a diversity of perspectives".
At The Drum, one conservative opinion is all it requires to legitimise a dozen from the Left. Take, for example, the death of Osama bin Laden. Since his death, Drum readers have been provided with pretty much the same opinion every day from a total of nine writers: it was an extrajudiciary killing; the US was working outside the rule of law; celebrations of his death were disgraceful.
One of these writers, Greg Barns, went so far as to appear on The Drum's television show to express doubt that bin Laden was responsible for 9/11.
Two contributors were eventually published wishing good riddance to bad rubbish, enough for the ABC to claim it has provided a diversity of perspectives, and publish another brace of tales from the hand-wringers.
But it is ridiculous to assert, as the ABC's chief executive Mark Scott did following the launch of the ABC's editorial policies in 2006, that this fulfils an expectation that "audiences must not be able to reasonably conclude that the ABC has taken an editorial stand on matters of contention and public debate".
The real measure of bias at The Drum is not the range of opinion, it's the frequency. Until the end of last month, 98 writers had been published eight or more times at The Drum, producing a total of 1880 articles. Only eight of these contributors (one in 12) would pass muster as being on the right of the political spectrum: Glenn Milne, David Barnett, Chris Berg, Kevin Donnelly, Tom Switzer, John Hewson, Niki Savva and Sinclair Davidson.
Of these, Milne is first and foremost a journalist rather than an opinion writer, Hewson rarely expresses any conservative viewpoint, and others are specialists in areas such as education or economics rather than political issues of the day.
This means, for example, that of all the writers who are given a regular platform on the ABC website, I could find only four articles that were in some way supportive of Israel and none in favour of the war in Afghanistan.
By comparison, there are dozens of anti-Israel and anti-Afghan war pieces on the taxpayer-funded website, most of them accusatory and damning. For example, there are at least nine anti-Israel articles by Antony Loewenstein alone, 12 anti-Afghanistan war rants by Kellie Tranter, and many more from Labor Party speechwriter Bob Ellis scattered among his 110 contributions
Similarly, among the regular contributors to The Drum, there have been more than 20 articles critical of farmers on the Murray-Darling Basin, and none that I can find in support.
A few people were unearthed to write from the point of view of the farmers, so the ABC may now claim to have shown a range of perspectives but, like me, the editor would have had to search for them, and there will be no plans for these people to contribute again to The Drum any time soon.
Compared with a tally of at least 50 stories sympathetic to the plight of asylum-seekers, there does not appear to be a single article from one of the top 98 contributors advocating the border protection policies of the Coalition.
When asylum-seekers drowned at Christmas Island, there were no conservatives available at The Drum to question the policies that lured them here in the first place, only the usual queue of regulars writing from their default setting of confected moral indignation.
Think of just about any other issue that divides the Right and Left - say, David Hicks, nuclear energy or the National Broadband Network - and you will find reams of left-leaning group-think at The Drum. Thanks to its regular writers, this bias is structural and predictable. But it doesn't stop there. The Drum has started up a Twitter round-up on ABC online while question time is on in the House of Representatives. These efforts by a clubby group of left-leaning journalists, have been dominated by Green's former workmates at the Crikey website, including Green himself and Crikey contributors.
While the ABC's internet sites attract more than 25 million hits a month, a big concern is all of this frivolous online activity appears to be distracting our public broadcaster from giving us the news. The ABC is coy about exactly how much we are paying contributors to The Drum, saying only that the innovations division of which it is a part cost taxpayers nearly $10 million last financial year.
In the meantime, significant problems with the ABC's news have been exposed. ABC News 24 missed most of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on the day it occurred and ABC1 failed to cut into regular programming as the news broke about bin Laden.
Now here's a radical idea: if the ABC concentrated on giving us the news instead of this online puffery, it could help solve two problems at once.
"Asylum-seeker" influx sees Australia's detention costs rocket
THE influx of asylum-seekers by boat into Australia has led to an explosion in the costs of running the nation's immigration detention centres, blowing out previous budget allocations by more than $1 billion.
The costs of running offshore processing, primarily on the Christmas Island detention centre, have forced the government to spend $290 million extra in the current financial year, but the estimated blowout for offshore detention will skyrocket by $819m next financial year and total just over $1bn by the end of 2013-14.
Between the next financial year and the end of 2014-15, the government estimates it will have spent $2.5bn on offshore processing.
Running onshore detention centres, such as the troubled Villawood facility in Sydney, has cost the government $88m this year, bringing the total cost of running Australia's detention centres to about $788m in 2010-11.
The total cost for the program in the upcoming financial year will be $1.05bn for offshore processing and $90m for onshore processing.
In 2012-13 the total program cost of offshore centres will reach $677m, and the government will spend $401m in 2013-14. The government expects offshore costs to decline to $366m in 2014-15.
But signals point to the government opening more offshore processing centres with the costs associated with onshore processing remaining stable. Spending on onshore detention will decline over the next four years from previous expectations by about $10m.
The government has been in talks with Papua New Guinea over the possibility of reopening the Manus Island detention centre to deal with the influx, after the centre was closed down under the Rudd government.
The increasing price tag does not include costs associated with the new $300m Malaysian refugee exchange policy announced by the Prime Minister before the budget. Nor does it include $129m set aside for extra costs associated with building new centres and expanding facilities at Northam, Christmas Island, Darwin and Curtin detention centres.
The Department of Immigration will bear the brunt of the blowout with $200m set to be cut from the department in the next four years. According to the budget papers, the cuts will be achieved by "reducing expenditure on corporate support, policy and program design and service delivery function".
There will be an extra $107.7m provided over the next four years devoted specifically to fighting legal appeals to offshore arrivals.
Last year the High Court ruled that offshore arrivals should be given the benefit of offshore review, and the funds will be used to increase the number of reviewers and appeals hearings.
Yesterday a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the increased costs in offshore processing flowed from the expectation of new arrivals over the coming years, but said they would decline with the introduction of the Malaysian agreement.
MP proposes tough love for prisoners, saying prisons 'like hotels'
Mr McLindon is the sole representative of his party so will not have much influence. But he represents a rural electorate so some LNP people might take up his ideas
PRISONERS would have to go without air-conditioners, 24/7 electricity and porn in a proposed new "tough love" approach.
Following an inspection of the Townsville Men's and Women's Correctional Centres, the Queensland Party will today propose new restrictions to be placed on prisoners across the state. Leader of the Queensland Party, Aidan McLindon, will make these suggestions to Parliament today, including that prisoners be put on the same medical waiting lists as other Queenslanders.
"I spent four hours touring the facility and saw that prisoners had access to electricity, air conditioning and the latest DVDs along with stockpiles of pornos," said Mr McLindon. "It is no wonder that there is a 70 per cent re-offending rate in Townsville.
"Additionally, offenders have direct and instant access to medical treatment while everyday Queenslanders are left waiting for years."
Mr McLindon said the Queensland Party are looking to end the "easy living conditions" and replace them with "tough love". "Prisons are becoming hotels whilst the prison guards act as nothing less than glorified room service," Mr McLindon said.
"Queensland prison guards are doing the very best they can under these ludicrous circumstances and somebody has to lift the lid on this stupidity."
"Chief scientist": I'm a lobbyist
If anyone was under any illusions about the true role of government chief scientists, this interview with the new occupant of that role in the Australian civil service should dispel them.Science advocate
Chubb says that he will be a proactive lobbyist for science, helping the government and the public to appreciate the role of science in coping with the major challenges facing society. Doing this, he says, should help to insulate science from budget cuts. "If we can get science and its value to the community sufficiently high up the priority list," he says, "the job should be half-made each year before you go into bat for specifics."
Commendable honesty, but why on earth should scientists have their own lobbists on the inside of government? This reminds me of the recent scandals here in the UK, where healthcare trusts were revealed to be paying for union reps out of the public purse. Paying for union reps and paying for lobbyists does not seem materially different to me. Either way, these recipients of all this public largesse are not working for the benefit of the people but for themselves and their pals.
I wonder if [Britain's] Sir John Beddington also sees himself as a union rep for the scientific community who just happens to be paid out of public coffers?
10 May, 2011
Victorian hospital disgrace
Dying mother sent home twice without seeing doctor
A WOMAN who died 10 minutes after arriving home from hospital for the second time in a day was not even seen by a doctor, a coronial inquest has found. June Owen, 63, died after visiting Stawell Hospital. There was no doctor there, and the one on call decided not to come in to see her.
Janice Campbell said it was shocking a doctor had not seen her mother, who was in pain and suffering breathing difficulties.
Coronial findings made by magistrate Richard Pithouse last week - 18 months after the inquest - had left her family "confused". "It still leaves many questions unanswered, and it contains no recommendations on changes that need to be made to prevent this happening again," Ms Campbell said. [That is about what you would expect from Pithouse the shithouse]
On the day of her death, Mrs Owen contacted Rural Ambulance Victoria four times, and was twice taken to Stawell Hospital. She first visited the hospital at 5pm on January 21, 2008 with abdominal pain, and a nurse gave her two Panadeine Forte tablets and sent her home.
At 10.15pm, she again arrived by ambulance and a nurse phoned on-call doctor Briandha Jeremiah, who decided not to attend to examine her. Dr Jeremiah told the nurse to give her a pethidine injection, to relieve her pain, but the inquest heard conflicting reports on how long Mrs Owen should be monitored afterwards.
Mrs Owen was released from hospital 40 minutes after her injection. "A taxi took her home. She travelled home alone. It appears that five minutes later, Mrs Owen entered her bedroom," the report said. Her partner noticed she was breathing heavily, and five minutes later he returned to find her dead.
An autopsy found Mrs Owen, who suffered heart and lung disease, had died from an enlarged heart.
Stawell Regional Health acting chief executive Claire Letts said after Mrs Owen's death, triage, assessment and pain management policies at the hospital had been reviewed, and minor changes had been made.
Harsh Federal Budget cracks down on welfare
WORK-for-the-dole rules will be twice as tough for almost 230,000 long-term unemployed people as part of the Gillard Government's Budget crackdown on welfare. And disability pensioners will face tougher work rules and limits on time spent overseas to prevent rorting of the payments of up to $670 a fortnight.
But Labor faces major hurdles in selling its "tough love" Budget to average families who will be offered little to help offset the soaring cost of living.
The Government has been pushed further into the red by the impact of the global financial crisis, the summer of natural disasters and a collapse in company tax revenue.
Labor has promised a tough approach to Australia's ballooning welfare bills to force more people into work. People who have been on the dole for more than two years will be forced to double their minimum work experience and training requirements to two days a week for 11 months.
At the moment, these work requirements are limited to six months. The new rules bring work-for-the-dole in line with the number of weeks worked by average Australians who take four weeks holidays a year.
Work-for-the-dole activities can include part-time work, volunteer jobs that lead to work and on-the-job training.
Disability pensioners could face rules that allow them to work for up to 30 hours a week and still get welfare payments in a bid to slash the 860,000 people receiving the assistance.
The Government will also tighten eligibility rules for the dole, youth allowance and parenting payments as it wields a big stick against welfare recipients.
Now it's the digital TV box rort
A NEW public waste scandal is looming after it was revealed that up to $400 a time has been allocated to install digital TV set-top boxes that can be purchased for as little as $30 each.
The Federal Government has pledged to give every pensioner a new set-top box in today's Budget. The package would include installation, any necessary wiring work, a lesson in using it and a year's access to a technical support helpline. But in an echo of the failed pink batts scheme, the Opposition claims the costs of the $308 million scheme are massively overblown and it would be "cheaper to buy a new TV set".
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office said yesterday the package cost about $350 per person, but his spokesman declined to provide a breakdown of labour, equipment and administrative costs, saying it was "commercial in confidence".
However, Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said the scheme was as wasteful as the Building the Education Revolution program and the bungled home insulation scheme. "This is the new school hall, pink batt program. It seems as though the Government comes up with a wasteful program every Budget," Mr Hockey said.
"How many hours does it take to install a set-top box. Even if you are charging $25 an hour for one labourer I am pretty confident you're not going to be spending a day installing each set-top box."
Under the BER school classroom and hall building projects, tens of millions of dollars were spent on management and administration fees, while four deaths, house fires and shonky workmanship were linked to the bungled batts scheme.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said the $308 million Budget sweetener was to prevent pensioners being left in the dark and in the worst case, left without emergency services updates at times of crisis.
NSW pensioners will begin receiving boxes before the analog signal is switched off in Griffith, Hay, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, the South Coast and the Central West next year. The Hunter and New England regions are due to switch over to digital late next year while Sydney will get only a digital signal in 2013.
Mr Conroy's office said installers of set top boxes had to be endorsed under a government scheme or have completed six areas of competence in Digital Reception Technology.
The Government is using an online test to pass antenna installers for entry to a government-endorsed program. The Government is building a bank of installers, based on them having at least 12 months experience and having passed an online exam lasting about three hours on installation.
Funny money and Australia
We humans are a slow-learning species. In the 1980s we blew up what was then the world's second-biggest economy, Japan, with loose money. In the 2000s, we blew up the biggest economy, the US, with loose money.
Not content with that, in 2008 we went on to blow up the economy of most of the world. How? With loose money. Any intelligent species would learn from this experience. But look around.
The economies that account for 96 per cent of the world economy are today running loose money policies. Most are happily handing out free money. Some are supplying money at rates so low that it's actually cheaper than free.
It's done for good cause. When money is cheap, people are more inclined to invest or spend. So it aids economic recovery. The former chief of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, was named as Time magazine's person of the year in 1999 for his ready resort to loose money.
But if there is too much for too long, it ends badly. Exactly a decade later, Time named Greenspan as No. 3 on its list of "25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis". And I think they let him off lightly.
The evidence of the past three decades should be enough, but you can go back further. In fact, every major financial crisis in the four centuries of capitalism has had its origins in loose money.
How does it work? It's simple commonsense. The basis for value is scarcity. If scarcity is destroyed, so is value. And when money loses its value, it is abused.
Human societies have always abused commodities when they're provided too cheaply or free - free fresh water, for example - and money is no different. The loose money creates a "bubble" in asset prices, which ultimately collapses, dragging the economy into a recession, or worse.
The lyrics change from one episode to the next, but the song remains the same.
This time, it's happening in so many countries that it's much easier to list the countries where it's not happening. Brazil and Australia are the only economies of any reasonable size where money is not loose.
The standout champion of loose money in the world today is the US. For 2½ years now, the US Federal Reserve has been supplying money to America's banks at an official interest rate of 0-0.25 per cent a year.
Inflation in America is running at 2 to 3 per cent. So, in real terms, the American central bank is lending at an interest rate of minus 2-3 per cent. It is, in effect, subsidising the banks to borrow money.
The US is debasing its currency so effectively that the US dollar has fallen by 14 per cent in the past year, as measured by the Fed's major currencies index. But China doesn't want to lose export competitiveness to the US, so it has maintained its peg to the dollar. This means that China's renminbi is also depreciating in real terms against its other trading partners. So the US and Chinese currencies are debasing in tandem.
In the meantime, the central banks of the EU and Japan are handing out money cheaper than free. In sum, almost the entire world has gone monetarily mad. And the cheap money is forming a bubble in the price of commodities.
Central bankers in many countries are quietly worried about this. Each thinks that his bank alone cannot make any difference. So they leave their interest rates low. Yet their collective inaction guarantees that they are all facing a problem of growing inflation and a dangerous bubble in commodity prices. This is the same problem, the "prisoner's dilemma", that we see in the case of carbon emissions.
What can Australia do? The Reserve Bank is one of the very few central banks which is not running loose money, so it's not part of the problem. But the Australian government has a key part to play.
It's prudent for Australia to assume that the floodtide of global liquidity will eventually generate a crisis. Time magazine has already named Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, as its person of the year, in 2009. We cannot pick the date of the next crisis, and it is probably years away, but we can identify the trend. And prepare.
When the global financial crisis rocked the world, the key to Australia's relative immunity was that we went into the crisis with zero federal government debt. This was Peter Costello's gift to the nation.
It allowed the Rudd-Gillard-Swan government to launch two stimulus packages without any danger to Australia's rolled-gold credit rating. It's now time for the Gillard-Swan government to roll back the debt and restore Australia's fiscal health.
Swan has been busy pointing out that his plan to return the budget to surplus by 2012-13 would be the fastest consolidation in federal finances in modern history. But as the accompanying chart shows, this is just as well. Because the run-up in Australia's debt was among the fastest in the world.
Australian government debt has risen by 250 per cent since 2007, in the comparison prepared by Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart of the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research. This is the biggest percentage increase of any ''non-crisis country'' and third only to two of the front-line "crisis countries", Iceland and Ireland. They have had to resort to emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund to stay solvent.
Among the nations classed as crisis countries - Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Britain, the US, Greece and Portugal - the average debt run-up was 136 per cent.
Australia was superfast in resorting to debt. It worked and we avoided a painful recession. But the government must now conduct a superfast rundown in debt. This is a prerequisite to brace Australia for the crisis to come.
Learn from Canada about climate policy
In Australia it is increasingly common to hear lectures, invariably dressed up as speeches, from European politicians or the European Union itself about climate change and all that. However, Australia's economy has little in common with that of Britain or most of the other western European nations. Rather, our economy most resembles that of Canada - also a mineral-rich, primary producing nation - and to some extent the United States.
In view of this, the likes of Swan and Prime Minister Julia Gillard along with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would be well advised to take a break from the budget preparations and focus, for a while, on last week's election in Canada - assuming that they have not already done so.
In a surprise result Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of the incumbent minority government led by the Conservative Party, has been returned to office with an absolute majority of seats. This was not on the agenda just a few months ago.
There was one key issue that distinguished the Conservatives from their rivals. Harper declared that he was opposed to what he labelled as "the socialists and the separatists" - all of whom supported a cap-and-trade scheme (similar to an emissions trading scheme). The Conservative Party's policy was clear - under Harper's prime ministership, Canada would not introduce climate-change policies before those supported by President Barack Obama's administration and passed by the United States Congress.
In other words, Harper stated the belief that Canada should not go ahead of the field on climate-change policies - when such key nations as the US, China, India and Japan had not signed on to a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.
Previous administrations in Canada had endorsed the Kyoto agreement but Canada had consistently failed to meet its carbon reduction targets. The Canadian Conservatives campaigned that a cap-and-trade system would lead to an increase in fuel and power prices. It worked.
There were other factors, of course. Despite its minority status, the Harper government had presided over a sound economy and had restrained the growth of spending in responding to the global financial crisis. Even so, the key division between the Conservative Party and the others turned on its opposition to cap and trade.
In budget week, there is something to be learnt by both Gillard and Abbott in the surprise Canadian election result. Labor wants a carbon tax and the opposition advocates direct but expensive measures to reduce carbon emissions. In Canada, the Conservatives are running a line that goes something like this: Canada is a responsible nation and will play its part in reducing carbon emissions but only when the likes of the US, China, India and Japan do likewise.
This line worked for Harper in Canada. There is no obvious reason why such an approach would not also have appeal in Australia.
9 May, 2011
Nasty media people
I am no fan of Dr. and Mrs. Edelsten and there is no doubt that a young and attractive American girl who marries a rich Jewish doctor more than twice her age must raise eyebrows -- but the couple concerned seem happy with their arrangement and it is surely their own business anyway. So I think the cruel remarks about Brynne Edelsten (the leftmost lady in the photo below) are more a reflection on the ones making the remarks than anything else: Just not nice people
The new Dancing with the Stars season opener sparked a Twitter frenzy when the controversial WAG [Brynne Edelsten] was attacked for her dance form on the first night of competition.
New judge Josh Horner made his bid for Todd McKenney's nasty judge tag dubbing Edelsten's appearance as a "bedazzled potato sack".
But it was a back-stage swipe by co-host Sonia Kruger which sent social media into meltdown, telling the disheartened dancer: "I think it's nice you get on so well with your dad" - a dig at the age difference with her 67-year-old husband.
The cheeky remark triggered a tirade of abuse online, with viewers bombarding the program's Twitter feed.
The attack from Twitter fans forced an on-air apology of sorts, with Kruger presenting a visibly upset Brynne with a posy of fake flowers.
Australia was wiser about immigration in the past
Arthur Calwell was leader of Australia's Federal parliamentary Labor party between 1960 and 1967
The horrors of World War II reduced Europe to a state of absolute chaos, with crushed, displaced people having lost everything as well as their homelands, being confronted by an implacable new foe - communist Russia. Australia's concern about post-war reconstruction and population growth was acted on by the country's most successful and patriotic immigration minister, Arthur Calwell, who, according to his detractors of the day, "became increasingly aware of the splendid human material to be found in the refugee camps".
Between 1947 and 1952, 181,700 refugee and displaced persons entered Australia through the International Refugee Organisation, which was formed in 1946 to deal with the European refugee crisis, but the stringent health requirements quite correctly set by Calwell led to him being attacked again by the usual suspects as using refugees as "grist for the labour mill".
Fast forward to the years of Al Grassby, Malcolm Fraser, Petro Georgiou and all the other multiculturalists who linked arms with their lefty mates in our schools, universities and parliaments and imposed their version of a Brave New World on the rest of us. Fraser invited Lebanese Muslims to Australia in 1976 and our first boatpeople from Vietnam arrived during his government. During the Howard years the number of African refugees increased and I am reminded again of Calwell who said that he "objected to the mass importation of people who will form 'black power' groups and menace the security of Australia when their numbers have grown sufficiently" and become "fiercely anti-white and fiercely anti one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no."
Australia's immigration and refugee policies are now one huge mess with boatpeople arrivals in recent years leading to our coastal borders being shot to pieces and the disasters at Christmas Island, Villawood and elsewhere testimony to a government that has no idea what to do next. Sweeping changes to our immigration and citizenship laws are urgently required but mention the word law and a lawyer will be standing at your shoulder. Teams of lawyers jostle with each other to get their snouts in the trough of legal aid monies constantly being topped up by hapless taxpayers as the courts are log-jammed with cases and appeals related to immigration and refugee matters.
Our slavish adherence to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees is a millstone dragging us down and compromises our sovereignty. This was demonstrated by the UN buying into the Villawood debacle by telling protesters that UN officials would talk to them if they came down off the roof.
All Australian governments have done the UN's bidding without question but the Japanese have taken a different route. Not ratifying the UN Convention until 1981, Japan has accepted just 508 refugees from the 7297 applications made since 1982. Maybe salving its conscience, Japan is the third-largest donor in the world to the UNHCR, which could explain why a rapacious UN looks the other way while Japan goes on ignoring refugees and keeping its borders secure.
There is no escaping the dreadful track record of the UN over recent decades - the WHO rorts and scams, the horrible "sex-for-food" scandal in Liberia, the ghastly Rwanda genocide followed by Srebrenica and the list goes on. When was the last time an Australian foreign minister took the UN on? Alexander Downer is on the UN payroll in Cyprus so what hope do ordinary Australians have? Look at the damage John Howard did when he gave Amanda Vanstone the keys to the Immigration Department and then rewarded her by inflicting her on the Italians!
An Abbott government must reconnect with ordinary Australians through hard-headed and strong government but it will need new blood at all levels to help it make the changes. The undergrad apparatchik politics of past years must be swept aside. We must redefine our ocean borders and police them rigorously and the UN must be told the Australian government and its people will decide who migrates here in future.
A recent report tells us that more than 60 per cent of our refugees have failed to get a job after five years and 83 per cent of those households now rely on welfare payments for income. The greatest unemployment rate was recorded among new arrivals from Iraq and Afghanistan with less than 10 per cent finding full-time work and 93.7 per cent of households sucking on the Centrelink teat. I know many people who are not white but who are fiercely proud Australians and we must all stand together. I wonder how many of our current crop of MPs have read Calwell's autobiography Calwell: Be Just and Fear Not.
Wasting money on climate change betrays sick
LOST opportunities are invisible but deadly. On climate change, the call to buy insurance by pricing carbon is a cop-out. Where is the cost-benefit analysis?
We're thinking of axing Australian medical research yet we're supporting solar panel manufacturers in China. It doesn't have to be this way.
All the money spent employing green police, subsidising solar or researching how to pump carbon dioxide underground is money not spent on medical research.
Opportunity lost is a killer. The path not taken could be lined with happier, longer lives. Only the best evidence and real debate have a chance of helping us see through the fog to pick the better road.
While most scientists agree CO2 causes some warming, there is great debate about just how much. If CO2 has only a minor effect on temperature then spending, say, $1 billion on inefficient roof-top solar panels is not just wasted money, it's a choice that will kill people. We won't be able to say exactly who it will kill but we can virtually guarantee that some people will die in the future who could have been saved.
Why? Solar energy costs us more than five times what coal-powered energy does. So instead of spending $1bn on solar panels, we could have spent $200 million on cheap electricity and used the other $800m to double our medical research budget.
Right now, the government is planning to cut $133m from our $800m annual medical research budget. The Australian government has spent or will spend $3.8bn on initiatives to combat climate change across four years. (The US government was spending about $7bn a year at last count.) When Julia Gillard spends money on climate-related work instead of medical research, she is making a choice about the net benefits and it's supposedly based on science. It's true sooner or later medical research will get the answers right, but for someone who is sick with a deadly disease, sooner makes a life-and-death difference.
If our government-funded climate establishment makes the wrong guess about what humidity does in a warmer world, CO2 emissions become trivial and inconsequential. But the money diverted or delayed from better causes leaves a trail of destruction that cannot be repaired. Money can always be replaced, but lives lost are gone for good.
Julio Licinio, director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, put together a passionate, disturbing advertisement two weeks ago, a plea to stop cuts to medical research funding. His sister died aged four from a disease that is treatable today.
Which four-year-old in 2018 will die because Gillard introduced a carbon tax instead of increasing medical research funding? Which father will die in 2022 who would have lived if we had doubled our funding for medical research? It is for people such as four-year-old Fabiola that we should keep fighting for rational debate. Bad science makes for bad policy. Poor reasoning is deadly.
Medical research is blossoming at a phenomenal, historic pace.
The exponential curve in gene therapy, telomerase research, genomics and glycobiology is barely beginning. Four significant breakthroughs were made in medical research in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000.
These were the kinds of breakthroughs people had worked for decades to make, and some were not predicted even a few years beforehand. The human genome project was finished five years ahead of schedule and for a fraction of the expected price.
Right now, a year of medical research really does make a difference. These are the areas where we will be left behind and it will hurt. These are the industries where we need to stay at the head of the pack, not just to save lives but to save the economy as well.
Access Economics estimated in 2003 that every dollar invested in the Australian health research and development sector returned at least $5 in national economic development.
When government-funded Australian researchers discover treatments, we own vital intellectual property. We not only export products the world wants, we avoid being beholden to foreign patent holders. Some effective cancer drugs cost $2000 a week. Isn't that the kind of research we want to own?
If we lead the world in medicine, the world is our oyster. If it turns out clean carbon technology is useful, we can buy it with the spare change from the profits of medical research. We know we need a cure for cancer. We don't know if the rest of the world will want to pump CO2 underground 10 years from now.
When we lead the world in putting inefficient solar panels on roofs, we only help Chinese manufacturers and we win a race no one wants to win. You can't export second-hand solar panels or resell old pink batts.
Can we start looking at the cost benefits of all our policies instead of reasoning by fallacy? The precautionary principle is no principle of science: it's a blind tool that works for both sides of any debate.
To quote Licinio: "In 1964 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of childhood was 100 per cent fatal. Now the cure rate is over 80 per cent, thanks to medical research. When Fabiola died I was so upset that it took me decades to recover. From protracted mourning to survivor guilt, the impact of that death shaped my life. For someone like myself who suffered tremendously due to a disease [that] was incurable and whose cure has been subsequently achieved through medical research, the proposed cuts to the NHRMC [National Health and Medical Research Council] budget are unconscionable.
"On a very positive note, my mother, Aurea, lost her own mother early on. My grandmother died at age 47 due to malignant hypertension, which was out of control, and sky-high blood pressures. My mother suffered enormously because of that death; and she knew that she had the exact same disease. Later in life, my mother also developed breast cancer. However, medical research always caught up with her and her blood pressure was always well controlled. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer she had state-of-the-art treatment, guided by medical research. My mother died in 2007 neither from hypertension nor from breast cancer. Medical research gave my mother 40 years of active, happy and highly productive life."
Kids just can't be kids, says archbishop
THERE is a crisis in childhood so alarming, it is no longer an enjoyable time for many kids, one of Australia's top church leaders says. Melbourne's Anglican Archbishop Dr Philip Freier said kids were being robbed of the fun of childhood because they were experiencing the problems of adults - including sexualisation, depression and body-image blues - too early.
Dr Freier condemned the diet of sexual images children were being fed and said it was disturbing parents were giving children as young as eight spray tans.
He spoke out ahead of an address to a seminar on child sexualisation this month, being organised by the Australian Council on Children and the Media and Kids Free 2B Kids.
"There's a real crisis in many aspects of wellbeing of young people and children," he said. "To take that one step further, there's a crisis in childhood. "Young children are wanting to dress and depict themselves in an adult, sexualised way. "There are issues of self-harm and coping with adult concepts that they are not equipped to handle. "Childhood is under a great deal of pressure. "For many children it isn't a long period of time they enjoy."
His comments come as:
* A MELBOURNE child psychiatrist revealed children as young as eight are suffering depressive disorders.
* THE Education Department revealed it had fielded a series of complaints about sexualised, lewd behaviour by toddlers in childcare.
* CHILDREN as young as seven are being admitted to hospital for eating disorders.
Dr Freier has ramped up his calls for a major government inquiry into the state of childhood in Australia. He made a submission to the 2008 Senate inquiry into sexualisation of children in the media but said research into the issue needed to be broadened.
Royal Children's Hospital head of academic child psychiatry, Professor Alasdair Vance, backed the archbishop's comments, saying children faced more pressure to perform academically and adopt adult roles. He said depressive disorders were presenting about three years younger now in children.
Melbourne mother Rhonda Lord understands the importance of protecting childhood. Her family has even removed its TV from the house. "It's in the garage if they want to watch it, but they don't even miss it now," she said. "They spend time having fun with friends, doing creative play."
Parenting author Steve Biddulph said mums and dads could help stop the "toxic flow of rubbish" swamping children on TV by removing it from bedrooms and censoring shows.
Hindus learning from Muslims
We read:"UPSET Hindus have welcomed apology from an Australian swimwear label over the depiction of image of Goddess Lakshmi on swimwear at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in Sydney last week.
Indian activists of the right-wing Hindu organisation Shiv Sena held photocopies of models wearing swimwear featuring Lakshmi as they burned an Australian flag during a demonstration in Amritsar.
A statement attributed to Lisa Blue Swimwear, headquartered in Byron Bay said: "We would like to offer an apology to anyone we may have offended and advise that the image of Goddess Lakshmi will not appear on any piece of Lisa Blue swimwear for the new season, with a halt put on all production of the new range and pieces shown on the runway from last week removed.
In a statement, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, said the apology was “a step in the right direction”. He said inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts for commercial or other agendas was offensive to devotees. Symbols of any faith should not be mishandled, he added.
Maybe it's time for Christians to get on the bandwagon and do a bit of shouting, fist waving and flag burning etc. Christians in both Britain and America certainly get a lot of hate poured out at them by atheists and the Left.
8 May, 2011
Crazy Greenie recycling scheme leads to parasites in the Sydney water supply
HUMAN faeces used as fertiliser on farms is being blamed for a breakout of Third World parasites causing a serious stomach illness across Sydney.
Doctors fear the Sydney Water Biosolids Strategy, which turns 180,000 tonnes of human waste into fertiliser yearly, could be behind the emergence of stomach bug, Blastocystis hominis, usually found in dirty water in Third World countries and spread via faeces, and a second parasite which often accompanies it, D. fragilis. Both cause cramps, extreme pain, distended stomach, diarrhoea, weight loss and fatigue.
Confidential microbiology tests, signed off on by Sydney Water in the past four months and obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, detected D. fragilis in one in five samples of primary wastewater. The tests did not look for Blastocystis hominis.
Solid waste removed from the sewage is turned into biosolids and sent to 20 farms in NSW to enrich soil under a sustainability program.
Professor Kerryn Phelps, former head of the Australian Medical Association said there needs to be an independent inquiry into the practice after detecting an increasing number of patients with the parasites in their gut. "I've noticed an increase in these pathogens in people who have not travelled overseas," she said.
"One hundred and eighty thousand tonnes of partially treated sewage is being used as fertiliser annually and the program had not been independently assessed. "From a public health point of view, we have what appears to be a significant problem."
Switzerland and Austria have banned the use of sewerage sludge as fertiliser, while in Sweden and parts of Germany, supermarkets do not stock products treated with biosolids.
Three studies, published in international medical and public health policy journals, found residents living near land where biosolids are used suffered a statistically higher rate of illness.
The most recent, a 2007 health survey of residents living near Ohio farm fields which use biosolids, published in the international journal, Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, said this: "Results revealed that some reported health-related symptoms were statistically significantly elevated among the exposed residents. The findings suggest an increased risk for certain respiratory, gastrointestinal and other diseases among residents living near farm fields on which the use of biosolids was permitted."
Yet, NSW Health has not reviewed the potential health impacts of the program nor conducted tests on the farms where soil has been fertilised with human faeces.
Leading gastroenterologist, Professor Thomas Borody, who carried out research supporting the team that won a Nobel Prize for cure of stomach ulcers, said there needs to be an investigation into the biosolids program to give the public certainty that human faeces is not infecting our food supply.
He said in the past 10 to 15 years, 1500 people had been diagnosed with D. fragilis and Blastocystis in his practice. "If we are going to be using foods grown on crops which use these biosolids it would be good to have a certain level of assurance that they are not carrying pathogens," he said.
He said the parasite Blastocystis homonis was difficult to kill in humans. "The problem, apart from parasites, is viruses," he said. "Faecal matter transmits viruses that give you diarrhoea. What worries us more is the sporadic case of Hepatitis B and C when you do not know how it has been caught. Some people have never used needles."
Despite the discussion in medical journals about the transmission of D. fragilis, Sydney Water's spokesman said the bug was not a concern and was unlikely to survive for long outside the human body. "Sydney Water is unaware of any cases of illnesses directly caused by biosolids," the spokesman said.
Former general manager of Pittwater City Council, Angus Gordon, who retired in 2006, said NSW Health advised him not to use biosolids on sports ovals because it was not safe around children.
"The problem with biosolids was, at the time we were being advised, that there was the possibility of pathogens being within the biosolids," he said. "We were asking the question: if we were to use this material would it be safe for people, particularly children, to play on those fields, given that people do sustain injuries and grazes? "At the time we rejected it on the basis that we weren't able to get the assurances."
NSW Health's spokesman said if Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines were adhered to, the use of biosolids was unlikely to present a risk to public health. The 92-page long EPA guidelines state that if biosolids are used on agricultural land, crops - from potatoes to lettuce and turf - should not be grown for between 18 months and five years. There is also a 30-day harvesting rule for animal feed and fibre crops.
"Where there is a high potential for public exposure, access should be restricted by fencing and signing for one year after biosolids application," the guidelines state.
Sydney Water's water quality and public health program manager Peter Cox could not give a definitive answer when asked whether pathogens could be transferred from biosolids to humans, posing a health risk.
"What we do is we manage the guidelines to make sure that the biosolids are safe for the purpose that they are used," he said. "Pathogens can exist in very low numbers but not enough to cause any harm. There are lots and lots of pathogens and it will depend on the individual bit of biosolid that you pick up to analyse. The whole management of biosolids, which includes treatment and potential for exposure, is there so that it doesn't cause a risk to health."
Sydney Water does not conduct testing on its biosolids for the two parasites and would not reveal which pathogens, if any, it does test for. "We don't routinely test for things that are not required for us to test in the guidelines," Mr Cox said.
Illegals headed for Australia to be diverted to Malaysia
This deal is a shocker. Another 4,000 useless Muslims to be added to Australia's welfare rolls. And it will probably be more than that. If the refugee status of the illegals is to be assessed by U.N. officials rather than Australian officials, there are not going to be many rejections. Let's hope the bleeding hearts knock this idea on the head. Both the Greens and the conservatives are opposing the deal so it could well die. The Greens are the tail that wags the dog in the Australian government
ASYLUM seekers relocated to Malaysia could be abused, with reports of canings in immigration centres. The move to trade asylum seekers between the Australia and Malaysia is likely to come under fire from human rights groups.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australia and Malaysia were close to signing off on an agreement which would see 800 asylum seekers who try to make their way to Australia by sea instead taken immediately to Malaysia for processing.
In return, Australia would expand its humanitarian intake to resettle an extra 4000 genuine refugees already residing in Malaysia over four years.
But asylum seekers sent to Malaysia, which is not a signatory to the UN Refugees Convention, may receive rougher justice than in Australia. Figures out of Kuala Lumpur show that over the past five years almost 30,000 foreigners had been subject to caning by Malaysian authorities for immigration offences.
While most countries have abolished judicial caning, Malaysia has expanded the practice with the number of offences covered by the punishment having been increased to more than 60. In March, Malaysia's Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, admitted in parliament that 29,759 foreigners had been caned between 2005 and 2010 for immigration offences alone.
An Amnesty International investigation into 57 cases of judicial caning in Malaysia, published in December, found the punishment could be classified as torture as authorities had intentionally inflicted severe pain and suffering. The human rights organisation said tens of thousands of refugees and migrant workers had been caned since 2002, when Malaysia amended the Immigration Act to make immigration violations such as illegal entry subject to the punishment.
Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also pointed out that Malaysia was not a signatory to the UN Refugees Convention and asylum seekers taken there could be subjected to abuse. "There have been deaths of people in incarceration, while health conditions, particularly for children and their families, are horrid," she said.
Meanwhile, Ms Gillard said the arrangement with Malaysia was part of building a regional approach to combating people smuggling. "From the time that the agreement comes into effect, 800 people seeking to come to Australia by boat, hoping to have their claims processed in Australia, hoping to end up resettled in Australia, will be taken to Malaysia instead," she said.
Asylum seekers transferred to Malaysia would have their claims assessed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but would not receive any preferential treatment in terms of processing their claims.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he expected the deal, which had been negotiated with the Malaysian government over the last seven months, to be finalised in coming weeks. The arrangement would add an additional 4000 places to Australia's humanitarian intake over four years.
In October last year, Australia provided Malaysia with $1 million worth of equipment, including patrol boats, to help combat people smuggling.
"Refugee" detention centre a 'powder keg', say police, amid claims violent incidents are being covered up
VIOLENT incidents at Inverbrackie are being kept secret amid claims the centre is a "powder keg".
The Federal Opposition claims incidents at the Woodside centre are being covered up amid concerns about the ability to control a major disturbance such as the recent riot at the Villawood Detention Centre.
Federal MP for Mayo Jamie Briggs has lodged Freedom of Information applications seeking details of security breaches at Inverbrackie.
He warned a major incident could quickly escalate because of a ban on SA Police entering the centre's grounds.
Police sources have described the centre, which has 323 detainees including 96 children, as a "powder keg", predicting a major incident would occur.
"It is being discussed among police and there are fears it could blow at any time," an officer said.
The Sunday Mail understands from independent sources who have been on the site that several violent but isolated incidents have occurred at Inverbrackie where detainees face high stress levels while waiting to find out if they have been accepted as refugees.
Earlier this year hard-pressed staff had to resort to a "Code Black" call for emergency assistance, after a fight erupted among female residents, although it is believed the situation was quickly calmed.
Other incidents have included several where staff members have been assaulted and one in which a child was disciplined after hitting a bus driver with a piece of wire.
The Sunday Mail has been told of an incident where a man was injured when he deliberately smashed his head through a plate-glass window, although an Immigration Department spokesman said the only record of such an incident was a man banging his head against a door.
Centre operator Serco is reviewing security procedures after a couple briefly breached the facility's perimeter last month by walking out of the front gate while pushing a baby in a stroller.
An Immigration spokesman confirmed security incidents had occurred at the centre but stressed they were all minor in nature and were "past history".
Mr Briggs said he had had to resort to Freedom of Information after encountering great difficulty in finding out details about incidents at the centre.
"I'm concerned that Immigration may say they are not aware of incidents but that may be because Serco is not telling them," he said.
"The community panel also have been made to sign confidentiality agreements for privacy reasons so they can't alert the public to what may be happening."
Staff are forbidden from talking about incidents but it is known some are feeling stressed from working 12 hour-plus shifts while dealing with people frustrated at the time taken to process their applications.
The vast majority of the detainees are said to be well behaved and keen to learn English. However, it is understood some are using "aggressive and antagonistic" behaviour in order to trigger fast-tracked meetings with Immigration officials - on the basis that "the squeaky wheel gets the oil".
A common way is a short-term refusal to eat meals.
Last month a riot at the Villawood Detention Centre, Sydney, saw large sections set on fire and and more than a dozen detainees stage an 11-day rooftop protest, but NSW Police were powerless to intervene as the facility is federal property.
In March, there were two large scale breakouts of detainees at the Christmas Island facility as well as rooftop protests, and a protest was also staged at the Curtin Detention Centre in WA's far north.
Serco referred all inquiries about security to the Immigration Department, which said there were no plans to expand the centre beyond its capacity for about 400 people.
Mr Briggs has written to Police Minister Kevin Foley seeking clarification of SA Police powers in the event of a major disturbance, and what legal protection SAPOL officers have if they are called to intervene in an incident on the compound's perimeter.
"There is a culture of secrecy surrounding Inverbrackie and I have had numerous calls from residents concerned about exactly what is going on there but find it hard to get straight answers," Mr Briggs said.
"We have seen significant violent incidents at Villawood in Sydney and on Christmas Island, and it concerns me that bureaucratic hurdles may impede the ability of SAPOL to act against disturbances at the facility.
"In the interests of the local community I would not want to see a situation occur where SAPOL is sidelined while a disturbance at Inverbrackie becomes destructive and out of control."
A spokesman for Mr Foley confirmed the centre was under the jurisdiction of the the Australian Federal Police and Immigration officials.
7 May, 2011
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG bewails the flailing about policy of the ALP on illegal immigrants
The joys of bureaucracy
Disaster donations go out in a trickle
ANNA Bligh has read public servants the riot act for the second time in three months as anger builds over the slow rollout of relief funds to disaster-struck Queenslanders.
Just a third of the $260 million in the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund has gone to victims and Ms Bligh is livid at senior bureaucrats over delays. "I'm as frustrated as anyone else about this situation and I've issued a clear edict to those senior officers charged with distributing the funds: Just fix it," Ms Bligh told The Courier-Mail yesterday. "No ifs, no buts; just fix it."
The warning comes after a "please explain" in February when Ms Bligh said the process needed to be "streamlined".
More than 27,200 people have received almost $66 million as part of the first round of "emergency assistance" payments while the Government has paid $2.7 million to 98 householders whose homes were completely destroyed. Round 3 payments - for those who own houses that sustained structural damage - are at only $768,000 for 74 households.
John Tyson, whose wife Donna Rice and son Jordan were killed in the January 10 flash flood at Toowoomba, said every politician should spend a night in the Lockyer Valley and other flood-affected areas. "They'd learn life in a sleeping bag ain't much fun," Mr Tyson said. He said the bungled fund was "a crock" and that the Red Cross should be in charge of distribution.
Southport man Dennis Whitfield said he had contacted the Government up to 20 times demanding his money back so he could distribute the funds himself and was now threatening legal action.
"My wife and I were moved to tears when we saw the flood devastation in our beloved Queensland and ... we wanted our money to go directly and quickly to the people who needed it," Mr Whitfield said. "We did not wish to put money into state coffers where it would be whittled away by bureaucratic bungling."
Several Grantham residents criticised the lengthy application process, which includes providing two quotes from licensed builders for second and third-round payments.
Ms Bligh said the Government needed to ensure the correct checks were in place but admitted: "We need to do this with heart and flexibility."
Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman said Ms Bligh was no better than the insurance companies she had criticised for being slow to process claims. "The Labor Government should have geared up and put the resources in place to process the claims quickly and this simply has not happened," he said.
The good ol' generous taxpayer again
Incredible salaries of university bosses
THE salary of University of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield soared to $1,069,999 this week after he won a staggering $80,000 payrise. The rise alone is more than the Australian average wage of $66,200 and ahead of salaries paid to lecturers and tutors. Several other Queensland vice-chancellors are edging closer to the million-dollar mark, according to reports tabled in Parliament.
Are they worth it? While acknowledging their high-powered, high-stress jobs, many will conclude the salaries are excessive.
There is no doubt that university boffins who make it to the top in Australia climb aboard the ultimate gravy train. Perks include free cars and expense accounts and trips to exotic locations for "research" and important seminars and meetings.
University leaders become the chief executives of vast "companies". Unlike real-world companies, however, universities are topped up each year with billions in federal funding.
Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, got a pay rise of $50,000, taking his salary to $759,999. Ian O'Connor, vice-chancellor of Griffith University, got a pay rise of $75,000, taking his salary to $714,999.
However, the academic world remains puzzled by the generous salaries paid to the heads of much smaller universities. The remuneration of Greg Hill, vice-chancellor of the University of Sunshine Coast, is believed to be on $489,999, with rises in the pipeline set to take his salary next year to $509,000. Hill succeeded vice-chancellor Paul Thomas, who left with a payout including superannuation of $859,999. Hill is also president of the university whose student numbers have jumped 15 per cent to 7276 since 2006.
In a note in the annual report Hill said: "Despite the rapid growth in student numbers the quality of learning and teaching has remained high. The university was the top-ranked public university in Queensland for teaching quality and graduate satisfaction in the most recent Good Universities Guide." He said the Australian Learning and Teaching Council awarded university staff six citations for excellence.
The remuneration of Scott Bowman, vice-chancellor of Central Queensland University, was listed as $479,999. The university has 12,733 full and part-time students. More than 8000 of them are international students. Sandra Harding, vice-chancellor of James Cook University, won a $60,000 pay rise, taking her salary to a high of $559,999. James Cook has 18,971 students.
By comparison, the University of Queensland has 44,000 full-time and part-time students including 10,465 international students. QUT has 40,563 enrolments, including 6000 from overseas and Griffith University said it has 43,000 students with 9007 from overseas.
A professor told me vice-chancellors of smaller universities had to be paid more to attract them to regional cities. Their pay had to compensate for a loss of prestige in accepting a job at a university of lower standing, he said.
Professor Bill Lovegrove, vice-chancellor at the University of Southern Queensland, accepted a more modest pay rise of $20,000, taking his salary to $509,999. USQ has 26,069 students, nearly 20,000 of them external or online students.
And salaries look set to soar as student numbers rise. Indeed, I was told some universities had already approved a fresh round of pay rises for their vice-chancellors for next year. The top 10 executives at the University of Queensland now earn in excess of $300,000 each. So do the top 10 at Griffith. The top seven executives at QUT earn $300,000 or better.
So why are vice-chancellors and executives paid like the CEOs of big companies?
No doubt universities have become big companies. International education is Australia's third-largest export industry, generating $18 billion in exports in 2009, the Australian Technology Network Universities reported. That amount is 50 per cent larger than tourism-related travel, and has grown by 94 per cent since 2004, according to Greenfield. Higher education generates about $9.3 billion or 57 per cent of this export income, he told the Canberra Press Club this week.
Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said recently that Melbourne's seven universities were the city's biggest employers and had been the largest contributor to state economic development during the past 25 years.
Greenfield said higher education's contribution to economic prosperity was rarely discussed, even though it was the largest service export industry in Australia. He said a total of 480,000 undergraduate places were being funded in 2011, which is 50,000 students more than in 2009. "Encouragingly offers to students from low socio-economic backgrounds have increased faster than for other groups."
The rise of an academic fat cat class comes at a time when Australia's 40,000 academics such as lecturers and tutors believe they are underpaid. It is estimated that an additional 40,000 academic staff will be needed in the next two decades to reduce student staff ratios from an average of 20:1 to 15:1. In addition, thousands of academics will be required to replace those who retire.
A dissenting professor told me there was no evidence academic workers were being underpaid. She pointed to an international comparison of academic salaries by Laura E. Rumbley and colleagues at Boston College's Centre for International Higher Education which found Australian wages for entry-level academic positions are the third highest in the world after Canada and the US.
They are more than three times those in India and more than five times those in China. Australian wages for senior academics are the fourth highest in the world.
Qld.: A Leftist government's way of saving money
MORE than 3000 public servants are set to pocket a lucrative taxpayer-funded golden handshake of up to 90 weeks' pay under controversial State Government "cuts".
In a deal described as "very generous", staff with little more than a year's work in the public sector will qualify for the base payout of 30 weeks' wages, or an average of at least $35,000.
The plan is expected to cost $250 million and has been classified as a "voluntary separation program", reported The Courier-Mail.
But the Opposition yesterday accused the Bligh Government of squandering taxpayer money by not officially classing it as a redundancy program, which would have meant workers were paid less upfront but eligible for $100 million in concessions from the Australian Taxation Office. It said the Government was using clever wording in a bid to hide job cuts.
During the last election, Labor rallied against former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg's plan to implement a hiring freeze aimed at saving up to $1 billion. "Anna Bligh was promising jobs, not cuts, but in fact delivering, as we now see, cuts not jobs," shadow treasurer Tim Nicholls said yesterday.
The Government confirmed the base payments had been "substantially increased" compared with previous schemes.
Acting Treasurer Rachel Nolan said the scheme offered "greater operational flexibility" and the extra cash would ensure workers were not disadvantaged by the lack of tax breaks.
About 3500 people would be made redundant over three years but because their positions would continue to exist, the program did not amount to a redundancy scheme, she said. The Government expects to save $175 million in wages a year.
Queensland Public Sector Union secretary Alex Scott, who labelled the cuts a real concern, said the state needed more public service jobs. "Problems with unreasonable and excessive hours of work, as well as duties of position, rank in the top 20 reasons why many of our members request union representation," he said.
Mr Nicholls said the last redundancy program gave eight weeks' pay, plus two weeks for every year worked.
The new package offers a payment of 30 weeks' wages plus three weeks' pay for each completed year of service, up to a maximum 60 weeks. An average wage earner could walk away with $100,000. Only workers employed before January 2010 are eligible.
"The taxpayer is paying again for a lack of forward planning," Mr Nicholls said.
Treasury is still developing its terms and conditions but expects applications will open "very soon".
The package was described by a private sector employer group as "very generous", but a step in the right direction. "In the private sector they would be running for the door. You wouldn't have any problem filling it," Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland president David Goodwin said.
Pope gets tough on Leftist clergy
LAST Monday the front page of The Australian featured a large photograph of an angry bishop. Some commentators in the blogosphere saw it as yet another media beat-up designed to depict the Catholic Church in an unflattering light. To my mind, it demonstrated a grasp of the battle lines in the culture wars that has eluded the rest of Australia's broadsheets.
The bishop in question was the outgoing Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris. He is one of three men who have been relieved of their dioceses by the Vatican in the past few months.
The others were the bishops of Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Orvieto-Todi in Italy. But while they were removed for financial mismanagement in one case and misbehaviour in the other, Morris's ouster was on doctrinal grounds.
Bishops are in some respects akin to sovereigns in their dioceses and, while it has the authority to remove them, the Holy See is usually very slow to do so, preferring discreet solutions such as early retirement.
The three forced departures in seven months have no precedent in recent years and suggest an increasing preparedness to intervene on the part of the Pope and his new prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. The previous prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, was an uber-liberal.
The Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, John Bathersby, who will be retiring in 11 weeks, professed himself at a loss to understand the decision. He told the ABC: " I just wish it hadn't happened and I don't know why it happened and I would very much like to know."
Perhaps I can enlighten him. Morris issued an Advent pastoral letter in 2006 that canvassed various options to make up for the lack of priestly vocations in his diocese. Some were uncontroversial. Others, including the ordination of married or single women and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church clergy, were heretical.
He has since then maintained what he likes to call a dialogue on these non-options.
As anyone with the rudiments of a theological education would know, the Catholic Church resolved the question of women priests in 1994, with the Pope ruling that it had no power to ordain women in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1995 described that decision as unchangeably settled and "to be held definitively as belonging to the deposit of faith".
On the issue of recognising the orders of Protestant clergy, Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void" back in 1896 in Apostolicae Curae. That decision was reaffirmed by the CDF in 1998 as an infallible pronouncement to which Catholics must give "firm and definitive assent". The Lutherans in Australia and the Uniting Church don't have bishops or anything remotely like ordination in the Apostolic Succession, so recognising their orders is, theologically speaking, inconceivable.
As a bishop, Morris was obliged to teach what the church teaches, rather than using his position to sow error and confusion among his flock. His removal must have come as an almighty shock to him and his brother bishops in Queensland because they've been getting away with flouting some of Rome's rulings with impunity since the 1970s.
Given that Morris has had five years of what he again likes to call dialogue with no less than three Vatican congregations and the Pope, with plenty of opportunities to change his tune, why has he persisted in error when he was so clearly in the wrong? There are several schools of thought.
The first argues the bishop just isn't very bright. Its spokesman, Frank Brennan SJ, says: "Bill Morris never pretended to be an academic theologian. He was and is a sensible, considerate, pastoral priest and bishop of a country diocese."
The second, aired on high-profile sites such as Rorate Caeli and Father John Zuhlsdorf's blog and local sites such as Vexilla Regis, is that Morris may have had health problems. The third view, which most agree is at least a significant element, is stubbornness. Morris is one of those liberal-authoritarians who like to assert that within their own jurisdiction they are as powerful as the Pope.
The (ultra-liberal) National Council of Priests encouraged this delusion with a press release last week. "We are concerned about an element within the Church whose restorationist ideology wants to repress freedom of expression within the Roman Catholic Church and who deny the legitimate magisterial authority of the local bishop within the Church."
However, the fact of the matter is that individual bishops have no authority to make independent decisions about questions of doctrine, but rather a collegial role with the other bishops under the leadership of the Pope.
And, again despite the NCP press release, the Pope is not merely the first among equals. According to Canon 331, "by virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power, which he is always able to exercise freely".
Morris's removal sends a clear message to bishops, in Australia and around the world. The Holy See's patience is not, as it long seemed, limitless.
As with the Orvieto-Todi case, the fact that this intervention happened in a first-world country suggests delinquents in the European and American hierarchies can take a lot less for granted than before. As well, requests from the Vatican for bishops' resignations are more likely to succeed during the rest of Pope Benedict's reign because he has just demonstrated that he's prepared to use his powers.
Morris has become a cause celebre in the US thanks to an editorial in The National Catholic Recorder. More of the same can be expected from The Tablet, the English Catholic journal and other liberal websites. No doubt some members of the Swiss and Dutch bishops' conferences will be once again canvassing the option of schism, de facto or actual.
What are the likely repercussions for the Australian Catholic Church? Morris's departure will further fortify the position of Cardinal George Pell and the more traditionally minded bishops.
The more realistic, liberal bishops are going to have to kiss goodbye to any lingering fantasies they clung to in the 90s of ordaining nuns, or at least keep them to themselves.
As well, the next two years will see an unusually high number of empty sees, as a cohort reaches the age of 75 and retirement.
Three of them are north of the Tweed and it looks increasingly likely that the Vatican will be choosing outsiders rather than locals to fill the vacancies. Mark Coleridge, now Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, will probably be translated to Brisbane.
6 May, 2011
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the "Osama is not dead" doubts
"Asylum seekers" to be sent to Papua New Guinea?
AUSTRALIA could end up sending asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, as the Gillard Government ramps up desperate efforts to find a regional solution to the influx of boat arrivals.
Speculation is mounting that the Government may strike a deal with PNG to reopen the Manus Island detention centre, after it confirmed last night that Immigration Department head Andrew Metcalfe had visited the country earlier this week.
Manus Island, located hundreds of kilometres off the northeast coast of PNG, housed refugees under the Howard government. The facilities have been mothballed for years.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Immigration Minister Chris Bowen are desperate to find a solution to the unending flow of asylum seekers who are risking their lives coming to Australia by boat.
Before last year's election the government announced it would negotiate with East Timor to host a regional processing centre there.
Dubbed the "Dili Solution", the policy proved anything but, as negotiations failed.
According to a spokesman for Mr Bowen, the Government is "engaging with countries across the region about tackling people smuggling and irregular migration, following the endorsement of the regional cooperation framework in Bali". "That work continues," the spokesman said.
An Immigration Department spokesman said Mr Metcalfe played "an important role in advancing dialogue on immigration and border security issues in the region".
"And as part of his role a head of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, regularly travels overseas to meet with his counterparts," the spokesman said. "He was in Papua New Guinea earlier this week as part of his regular meetings with PNG immigration and foreign affairs officials. "Australia is working with many countries including PNG to progress outcomes from the Bali process ministerial conference."
Victorian schools allowed to bar non-believing teachers under law change
RELIGIOUS schools will be able to reject teachers belonging to different faiths under Baillieu Government changes to Victoria's equal opportunity laws. Christian schools will be able to ban single-parent teachers or others not fitting their beliefs. Jewish and Islamic schools will be able to hire only those teachers who uphold their values.
Islamic schools will also be able to make head scarfs compulsory for female students in changes that allow faith-based schools to uphold their religion through uniform and behaviour standards.
Strict equal opportunity laws banning discrimination against teachers were initiated by the Brumby government last year and were to take effect on August 1. But the overturning of the laws by the Coalition paves the way for religious organisations to employ only staff who share the beliefs of their communities.
The reforms will also strip Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commissioner of powers to investigate and enter workplaces. The commission was to be handed similar powers to the Office of Police Integrity under a Labor policy.
As part of the Coalition's "operation common sense", Attorney-General Robert Clark will force the commission to get VCAT permission before compelling a person or company to hand over documents, attend a hearing or give evidence about claims of persistent discrimination in workplaces.
Mr Clark said removal of employment restrictions for faith-based schools was a commonsense measure to retain a consistent approach, where the values of teachers match those of students, parents and volunteers. "The changes would apply the same rules to employment as to all other aspects of the organisation's activities - such as provision of services or engagement of contractors," he said.
If challenged on their grounds for rejecting a teacher, schools would have to persuade VCAT their reasons were in keeping with their wider religious beliefs. That would mean the more extreme the school community's beliefs were, the greater their range of exemptions could be.
Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said she was pleased the Government was amending the legislation so parents wanting a choice for their children's education were not disadvantaged. "We were concerned that the rights of independent schools to employ the most suitable staff would have been curtailed," she said.
"Choice in education is very important and we think it is common sense that religious schools ought to be able to choose staff they believe are the most appropriate for their school."
Australia has its very own brianwashed Muslims
THE ringleader of an Islamist plot to carry out an armed suicide mission at an Australian army base launched an astonishing diatribe against a Supreme Court judge yesterday.
The man, 34, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stood up in the dock, pointed at Justice Betty King, and called her a criminal.
"Why do you charge us as a criminal? Why don't you charge yourself as a criminal?" the man ranted. "You kill people for oil. You kill kids. You kill innocent people. You are criminal. We are not criminal."
Police and protective services officers surrounded the man and removed him.
When court resumed, Justice King said that though a tendered medical report had stated that the man's behaviour had moderated, his outburst did not indicate a significant change.
The prisoner, along with Saney Edow Aweys, 27, of Carlton, and Nayef El Sayed, 26, of Glenroy, was found guilty by a jury last December of conspiring to plan a terrorist attack on the Holsworthy army base in NSW.
The trio, armed with high-powered military weapons, planned to storm the lightly guarded base, jurors heard. CCTV filmed the ringleader approaching the gatehouse, which was manned by unarmed private security.
His lawyer, Patrick Tehan, QC, told yesterday's pre-sentence plea hearing the plot was amateurish, adding: "He is like Charlie Chaplin walking down (to the gate) with his little bag."
Justice King responded: "Except it's not very funny."
Mr Tehan said his client's conduct in furthering the plot was "very limited". "There're no maps, no plans, no documents found on him. No explosives. No material found in his possession of an extremist nature," he said.
Justice King accepted very little was done, but she said such plots struck terror into the hearts of Australians.
Mr Tehan said his client, born in Lebanon, was a simple man with a simple faith and a low IQ, and his religious fervour increased when he attended a mosque.
"You don't have to be intelligent to be a leader," Justice King said. "You can be charismatic and stupid and still be a leader. There are a number of them in the world."
Another huge computer bungle
And it is no joke. It affects police records
A MAJOR NCIS-style overhaul of Victoria Police's forensic information system is in crisis. The hi-tech system, which is to hold case data, photographs, fingerprints and exhibit logs, was meant to be running about four years ago. But sources say technical changes mean it has been effectively shelved.
In the latest technical headache to plague Victoria Police, the project manager has quit in frustration. The revised rollout date is just four months away. Police Minister Peter Ryan demanded answers last night.
Almost $10 million was set aside for the Forensic Information Management System in 2006, with its rollout expected the following year. The system would see exhibits tagged with barcodes and scanning wands used to track their movements. Case data would be placed on a database.
Police say the delay arose from a decision to include records of seized and lost property on the system, now badged the Property and Laboratory Management (PALM) program and worth $20 million.
A Victoria Police spokesman said the total cost had risen and deadlines moved because the project had become more complex. "The cost of the PALM program is higher than initially planned, but the costs have remained within the funds allocated to the project and the ongoing support," the spokesman said.
The Herald Sun has been told money has been taken from the Macleod forensic laboratory's maintenance budget to keep it running, that wage costs have spiralled and that the forensic information component is nowhere near ready for the August implementation.
Victoria's forensic centre has a long history of problems. A 2009 Ombudsman report attacked the forensic centre's poor tracking of drug exhibits.
5 May, 2011
Victorian council pays for Muslim swim screen
Money for Muslims but no money for pensioners??
RATEPAYERS will finance a $45,000 screen at a public pool so Muslim women can have privacy at female-only swim sessions. The City of Monash has approved the financing despite dissent from a female councillor. Cr Denise McGill said the issue had been divisive.
An Islamic women's group agreed the screen was unnecessary, Cr McGill said. "There are sharia swim suits and other modest forms like three-piece swim suits that are generally acceptable for the Muslim community," she said.
Cr McGill said she supported women-only swim sessions at Clayton pool but said the $45,000 earmarked for curtains could be better spent.
In February, Monash won an exemption from equal opportunity laws to offer fortnightly classes. But the Victorian Multicultural Commission rejected the council's application to help meet the cost of privacy curtains.
Council agreed to offer the female-only sessions for "cultural reasons" after being approached by Muslim women from various backgrounds.
Monash mayor Greg Male said community consultations had found support for improved privacy at pools.
A plan to offer pensioners a $50 rate subsidy was voted down by council.
Solar panel silliness slowly fading away
THE Federal Government is set to cut $1000 off the solar panel subsidy to cool an overheating market which has started to push up electricity prices.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the subsidy would be reduced to around $3700. "We will be announcing today a reduction in the level of Federal Government support for the installation of solar panels on people's roofs," he told ABC Radio. "However, the cut we are making still means that a subsidy of around $3700 will be available."
Mr Combet said there had been such strong demand for the solar panels that it had resulted in higher electricity prices. "The Government is very keen to take pressure off prices," he said.
The problem stems from feed-in tariffs, particularly in NSW where the former Labor government introduced a very high rate to encourage solar panel take-up, the minister said. Under feed-in tariffs people who install solar panels are paid for electricity they feed back into the electricity grid.
Mr Combet said the tariffs paid by states and territories supplemented the Federal Government subsidy to install panels and the NSW tariff had been a key driver of demand. "There just needs to be some heat taken out of that market while we still provide encouragement for people to use renewable energy in this way," he said.
Teen mums face welfare crackdown
This may actually do some good. Doing nothing is certainly a poor option -- JR
WELFARE dependent teenage mothers will be forced back to school in a crackdown on inter-generational poverty.
Their children will be forced to attend pre-school or receive specialised early learning services if deemed necessary to break a culture of underachievement.
The Advertiser has learnt Tuesday's Budget will contain draconian measures designed to end welfare as a lifestyle, and increase the pool of skilled workers available for employers.
It is understood Prime Minister Julia Gillard will reveal some details of the changes as early as today.
Ten local government areas selected for their high levels of welfare dependency will be used to trial the changes.
One site is likely to be in Adelaide's northern suburbs.
The radical measures follow a recent speech in which Ms Gillard nominated generation-to-generation joblessness and whole communities missing out on progress.
"The girl in Woodridge, south of Brisbane, who didn't fit in at school, now she's alone with a baby of her own, she needs more education and so will her child ... The Salisbury teenager who has drifted from education . . . I want young people to have a fair go, to have an opportunity in life, never to be held back by economic circumstance or social expectation," she said.
Teenage mothers and fathers receiving the Parenting Payment, of which there are 825 in SA and 11,000 nationwide, will be cut off unless they enter into stringent new workforce "participation requirements".
The benefit is paid at the rate of $626 a fortnight for a single; $429 if partnered; and $514 a fortnight if partnered but separated by prison, illness or the need for respite.
The trial rules will stipulate that from January 1 next year, welfare dependent teenagers with children aged six months or older, will be required to attend "compulsory" Centrelink support and engagement interviews.
That will then step up to compulsory school attendance and certificate level training once the child has reached 12 months of age.
The Government plans to defend the changes, which appear more stick than carrot, as necessary to break a self-reinforcing cycle of intergenerational poverty and social dysfunction.
It aims to address the problems created when children are raised by semi-literate parents - barely adults themselves - who start adult life behind the eight ball and never achieve full integration into the productive workforce.
It has long been recognised that teenage birth rates in socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Australia can be as much as eight times higher than normal.
Teenage parents are often under-educated, and frequently show up as having poor literacy, numeracy and confidence levels, rendering them unable and often unwilling to break into the workforce.
Government data suggests as many as eight out of every 10 have not finished school to Year 12 standard.
The figures show half of those receiving the payments had begun a life of welfare dependency with at least 12 months of Centrelink support under their belts before becoming parents.
Failure to comply with the new rules will see payments cut until compliance is achieved, although it remains unclear how a government can simply cut payments to a family which has no other economic means.
The policy is just one aspect of the Budget designed to unlock the productive capacity of the long-term unemployed, and force some on the Disability Support Pension into the job market.
The Government sees the changes combining overdue social reform with economic imperative.
A world of long-term welfare for "refugees"
Muslims particularly useless
MORE than 60 per cent of refugees to Australia have failed to get a job after five years, according to a damning Federal Government report into the humanitarian settlement program. And 83 per cent of those households now rely on welfare payments for income.
The greatest unemployment rate was recorded among new arrivals from Iraq and Afghanistan, with less than one in 10 finding full-time work and 93.7 per cent of households receiving Centrelink payments.
The statistics are contained in a Department of Immigration and Citizenship report released last Friday under the cover of the royal wedding. It is the first investigation into settlement of refugees in more than a decade.
The study of more than 8500 humanitarian entrants revealed that only 31 per cent of humanitarian refugees were considered "employed" after five years.
The remainder were unemployed, retired, studying full time, engaged in caring duties, doing voluntary work or trying to start a business from which they had yet to receive income. More than 60 per cent of those people without jobs had a poor command of English.
"Humanitarian entrants are most likely to be unemployed, even after five years of settlement," the report said. "There needs to be a greater understanding of migrants' personal or household dependency on Centrelink payments."
Statistics for skilled migrant intake and family migrant intake were more positive, with 84 per cent of skilled migrants working and a little over 50 per cent of the family migrants employed.
The report did find positive outcomes for humanitarian entrants, with almost a quarter completing a trade or university qualification within five years of arriving.
The Federal Opposition said the report was a "shocking wake-up call" for the Government's settlement services policy. "Low levels of employment, welfare dependency, lower income levels and poor English skills are a toxic social cocktail that can lead to enclaving and serious intergenerational social problems." Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.
Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Kate Lundy has said the Government was trying to improve conditions for refugees. "While the settlement outcomes for refugees improve over time, the report does find that there are difficulties, especially in the early years, in securing stable employment," she said.
4 May, 2011
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is imagining Osama's reception in hell
"Progressive" bishop says African priests no good
That would be "racist" in anybody else's mouth
THE bishop who has run foul of the Vatican has raised questions about integrating increasing numbers of overseas-born priests being used to plug gaps in Queensland communities.
Hundreds of people attended two separate vigils for Toowoomba Bishop William Morris in the Darling Downs centre last night, following his shock dumping by the Catholic Church this week.
The dismissal has created international headlines, with media making particular reference to the stern wording of a letter on the Vatican website stating it was determined by "Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop". Bishop Morris was ousted over a 2006 letter in which he raised the issue of married men or women joining the priesthood in an attempt to address the dwindling stock.
Instead priests have been brought in from overseas, which Bishop Morris says has been ill-considered. "It's not easy for a person coming out of an African culture into a western culture - they're mono-cultures, especially in western Queensland," he said.
"It's crazy, it's totally foreign for them, and a dozen people turn up whereas my experience in Africa has been that a thousand people turn up. Also the ministry in these areas is a relationship ministry, it's not service, but it's a relationship and you need to be that relationship, you need to become part of the community."
Bishop Morris said priest numbers in Queensland were about the same now as they were in 1929 after years of decline, but that the figures came at a cost. "If we're going to have international priests, I think we need to be able to create a relationship from priests who come in from whatever country," he said.
Bishop Morris said the Catholic Church had lost its openness and accountability. "Local bishops like myself, we've become almost branch managers," he said.
Archbishop John Bathersby said he had been saddened by Bishop Morris' departure but rejected suggestions the church was punishing progressives. "I think that the church has those types of people, has conservatives, has got radicals at the same time. But somehow or other the church is able to embrace all those different people," he said.
Eight Toowoomba diocese priests yesterday issued a statement expressing support for their former head of church saying he had not been treated "fairly or respectfully".
Bishop Morris, who will be known as a bishop emeritus of Toowoomba, said he would slowly pack his life up in the weeks to come after 18 years in service in the area. Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane Brian Finnigan has been announced as a temporary replacement in Toowoomba.
The best way to deal with evil is to pulverise it
Australian moralist Professor Mirko Bagaric comments on the demise of bin Laden. Bagaric is responding in part to the carping legalism that we hear from the likes of prominent Leftist lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, also an Australian but best known in Britain
FROM Canberra to Washington and even some parts of the Middle East, the champagne corks are popping after the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
Killing bin Laden at any cost has an important subtext - one which has the capacity to teach us lessons about the moral fog within, which we live and the rationality-free zone that occupies much of mainstream moral discourse.
The most illuminating aspect of the targeting of bin Laden is that it has near-universal support, despite it being an egregious breach of international law and dozens of human rights instruments. What about his right to life?
The presumption of innocence, and right to a fair trial, is also enshrined in international law and most domestic legal systems. Yet, even civil libertarian groups can't bring themselves to shed any concern for Bin Laden.
Civil libertarians are invariably quick to denounce any interferences with rights, especially those that imperil fundamental interests, such as the right to life and liberty.
The "end doesn't justify the means" is the catch-cry they trumpet most loudly in opposition to incursions of fundamental freedoms that are carried out for the common good. Truth is it does.
Failure to realise this is symptomatic of an unremitting deluded self-righteousness that freezes one's moral compass into an inward position, foreclosing consideration of the thing that matters most - the common good.
The reason civil libertarians are cheering with the rest of us, regarding the killing of bin Laden, has zero to do with the application of universal moral principles and everything to do with emotion - particularly their emotions. That their emotional response coincides with the morally correct stance is purely accidental.
The human misery caused by bin Laden has withered the compassion gland of civil libertarians towards him, to a point where they've fallen off their self-erected moral high horse. Hopefully that's where they will stay and join the rest of us in coming to understand that the end does justify the means. Always has. Always will.
No action is intrinsically bad or good. No principle is absolute. Matters are always context-sensitive. The best way to deal with evil is to pulverise it.
The moral and political debate in relation to important societal issues must move on from whether the end justifies the means to what end we, as a species, should be attempting to secure.
In this regard, there can only be one answer. The ultimate end is to maximise net flourishing, where each agent's interests counts equally - even those who do not excite our emotions.
The insurmountable conundrum that civil libertarians need to address is if the end does not justify the means, then what does?
Hopefully the reminder of the misery inflicted by bin Laden will encourage misguided libertarian groups to get out of their delusional comfort zone, and take a few steps up the moral mountain beyond the rights fog in which they are enveloped.
The world would be a better place, if we all applied our energies towards securing the right end instead of obsessing about their self-serving middle-class concerns.
Qld. fishermen escape hardline marine policies
The fact that Qld. is the swing State in Federal elections has nothing to do with it, of course
QUEENSLAND fishers will be spared the tough marine environmental protection rules about to be imposed across parts of Australia's southwest, Environment Minister Tony Burke has pledged.
The southwest marine zone, to be released within days, will set a "high water mark" for restrictions on fishing that will not be copied in Queensland and NSW.
Both fishing and conservation groups are awaiting the release of the southwest plan, which stretches from near Adelaide to Kalbarri in Western Australia, to assess how the Federal Government will treat marine reserves around the country.
But Mr Burke insisted the southwest marine bioregional plan would not set a precedent for other Commonwealth marine parks due to be set up by next year.
"The southwest has an unusual number of really high value environmental assets," Mr Burke told The Courier-Mail. "No one should think that we'll be adding an equivalent level of environmental protection in the east to what they'll be seeing in the southwest in a few days time."
The declaration is designed to win support from commercial and recreational fishers and prevent a repeat of protests that helped damage Labor's vote in a swathe of coastal seats in Queensland and NSW.
Queensland waters already have significant protection through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Mr Burke said. But he would not rule out any no-take zones in the Coral Sea and Fraser areas.
The Government yesterday released a "fisheries adjustment policy" modelled on a similar compensation plan set up by the former Howard government. The level of compensation for commercial fishing operators would depend on the extent of restrictions in their area, Mr Burke said.
Some areas could face restrictions ranging from complete bans on fishing to limits on hauls, trawling or use of nets.
Queensland Nationals senator Ron Boswell warned the Government would face a compensation bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars if fishers received "reasonable compensation" for restraints on their trade.
Recreational fishing group Sunfish Queensland spokeswoman Judy Lynne said there would be strong public protests against the plans if they included no-take zones.
Federal Government offers families cash if teens stay at school
MORE than 143,000 Queensland families will receive extra cash from the Federal Government over five years if their teenage children stay in school. About 650,000 families nationwide will get up to $4200 extra each year under a Labor election commitment to increase the number of 16 to 19-years who complete schooling.
New government modelling suggests tens of thousands of low-income families will also receive extra rent assistance up to $3600 a year and family tax benefit B payments in next week's federal Budget.
Treasurer Wayne Swan pledged the Budget would target welfare payments to low and middle-income families while creating incentives for students to say in school. "We fully understand how much bringing up teenagers can stretch family budgets, especially for families on modest incomes," Mr Swan said. "This extra help with cost of living pressures will help ensure that all teenagers are either learning or earning, so that we can build the best-educated and skilled workforce in the world."
The move reflects findings from former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry's tax review that the current drop in family tax payments once a child turns 16 creates a disincentive for older teenagers to complete school. Extra payments will only be made if students are in full time study or vocational training.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to make education and training the centrepiece of next week's Budget as the Treasury warns skills shortages threaten the economy. Ms Gillard yesterday pledged to spend an extra $200 million on school education for students with disabilities. The funds will cover speech and occupational therapy, audiovisual technology, teacher aides, health professionals and specialised curriculums.
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans flagged further skills funding in the Budget ahead of a major overhaul of vocational education.
A report by Skills Australia yesterday laid out a $12 billion plan to boost the number of Australians in training up to certificate III level.
3 May, 2011
Canberra 'paralysed' on border control
THE opposition is right to seek a stronger regime of enforcement for detention centres. Under measures proposed by the opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, detainees who engage in violent or unruly conduct could face a range of penalties below criminal sanctions.
This is sensible policy and in accordance with the public's expectations. It also highlights the growing weakness of the Gillard government on border-control issues.
But Morrison made a much more devastating point on Sky-TV's Australian Agenda program yesterday. The key question, he said, is the government's resolve. The illegal immigration industry recognises resolve and it also recognises a lack of it.
The Gillard government exudes weakness from every pore on border control. At every point, the illegal immigration industry has broken the will of the government. The government's policies in this area are like a shattered pane of glass -- ragged, injurious and impossible to repair.
The government is now paralysed on border control. It can merely react, increasingly ineffectively, to the growing aggression and self-confidence of the illegal immigration industry.
Every announcement of tough measures is shown soon enough to lack credibility.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen threatens to use the character test to deny visas to those guilty of violence or unruly behaviour in detention centres. Then it turns out that Bowen does not make such determinations and detention-centre inmates have acquired criminal convictions and then gone on to acquire permanent resident visas.
The illegal immigration industry has got the government completely sussed. Now it is in the process of making the detention-centre network completely unworkable.
In order to defuse tensions in the detention centres, processing times will be cut and people will be released as permanent residents sooner than ever.
They will win the prize of permanent residency and they will confirm the product the people-smugglers have to sell.
For Morrison also underlined the other key reality that highlights the government's weakness: virtually none of the asylum-seekers are ever sent home against their will.
So criminal convictions are no bar, no one gets sent back, the detention centres are unmanageable and the flow of boats is ever increasing. This represents comprehensive failure by Labor.
The other important policy lead from Morrison yesterday was that the Coalition will neither embrace nor contest the government's new enthusiasm for multiculturalism.At the same time, the Liberal Party would champion Australian diversity.
It's a good combination if the opposition can stick to it.
Australia's official climate experts: Clueless
Climate commissioner Will Steffen said the following at a meeting of the commission chaired by the ABC's Tony Eastley at Port Macquarie April 28. (Video available HERE)
At 16:09 WILL STEFFEN: "Great Barrier Reef: about 15 years ago there were no bleaching events. The sea surface temperatures is risen, we've had 7 or 8 severe bleaching events in the last 15 years in the Great Barrier Reef"
15 years from 2011 that would be 1996. Let's see what the record says:
According to the IPCC AR4 WGII (p.512) "Eight mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef since 1979"
According to wikipedia "The Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia experienced bleaching events in 1980, 1982, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006.[24
A question from the audience about 0:27:05:
At the time of the dinosaurs what would you imagine the temperature would have been?
WILL STEFFEN: Good question. That would have been about 65 million years ago. Much Much warmer than today, probably on the order of 5 or 6 degrees warmer. CO2 was much much higher than today as well, probably 900 to 1000ppm.
1. Dinosaurs actually extinct 65 million years ago. They dominated life on earth for 160 million years between the Triassic and Cretaceous, living through a wide range of climates. FAIL
2. For the Cretaceous temperatures about 4 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1700ppm. For the Jurassic temperatures about 3 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1950ppm. For the Triassic temperatures about 3 degrees warmer, CO2 about 1750ppm. FAIL
Clearly Will Steffen is getting his facts mixed up and is misinforming and misleading the audience. Will ABC's embedded reporter cover the lies, or let it slip? (or are they just mistakes-what from an expert, surely not).
We expect experts paid good money out of our taxes to get things right. It is news when they get things wrong.
(Note that the the main reason for an absence in bleaching being noted prior to 1980 has more to do with a lack of observers than events-but more on that later)
Welfare clampdown warning
THE extent of "middle-class welfare" has been greatly exaggerated and any move to clamp down on payments would cause considerable financial pain to Australian families, forcing some out of the workforce altogether, an analysis has warned.
As Labor prepares for the May 10 release of what it admits will be a "tough" federal budget, a new report cautions against slashing middle-class families' access to tax rebates and benefits.
The research, to be published later this year by the University of NSW's Social Policy Research Centre, warns that imposing tougher means tests for payments including the baby bonus, the childcare rebate and family tax benefits could reduce incentives for people to work by punishing families when they started earning more money.
It concludes that while there has been an increase in "middle-class welfare" over the past three decades, the rise in payments has mainly focused on families with lower incomes.
The study found that in 2008, 26 per cent of welfare payments went to the poorest 10 per cent of Australian families with at least one parent of working age, and almost 87 per cent went to the poorest 50 per cent.
Just 4.6 per cent of benefits were paid to the richest 40 per cent of families.
Gerry Redmond, a senior research fellow at the University of NSW and one of the paper's authors, said that Australia's welfare system was "very tightly targeted" to those in most need, especially when compared to other OECD countries.
"You can very easily argue that the increase in family tax benefits to better-off families has been politically motivated," he said.
"But, at the same time, what it has done is greatly increased the living standards of lower-income families with kids, and maintained their incentives to take on work."
The research comes in the wake of calls from prominent economists and the Australian Council of Social Service for the government to crack down on assistance to middle and high-income families as it battles to meet a promised return to a budget surplus by 2012-13.
It also comes after speculation - since hosed down - that the budget will include plans to means test the childcare rebate for families earning more than $150,000, and confirmation that Labor will again try to impose a means test on the private health insurance rebate for families on incomes over $160,000.
Treasurer Wayne Swan last week reiterated that he was a "strong supporter" of family payments.
"Some people run around the country railing against family payments, claiming they're all middle-class welfare. That is not my view," he told ABC radio. "I'm a strong supporter of a social safety net which supports people in work and which provides payments … to assist them with raising their children."
When pressed, Mr Swan would not say whether his comments meant parental payments and payments to single families would avoid the budget axe.
The Australian Council of Social Service has called for "bold action" by the government to curb "poorly targeted" payments that benefit high-income earners, including the childcare and private health insurance rebates.
ACOSS says governments are using such payments "as a balm for the concerns of middle and upper income earners about their living standards".
Economist Saul Eslake, of the Grattan Institute, agrees, saying there is "little good done by giving people who are perfectly capable of looking after themselves and their dependents money raised by higher taxes on other people".
Since coming to office in 2007, Labor has imposed means tests on "middle class welfare" payments including Family Tax Benefit B - paid to families with one breadwinner - and the baby bonus, but has also boosted payments to low and middle-income earners with its means-tested paid parental leave scheme.
At the same time, though, it has targeted middle and high-income earners with its flood levy and its plans to curb the private health insurance rebate, a change forecast to save $2 billion over four years.
In the case of Family Tax Benefit B and the baby bonus, it imposed a "sudden death" cut-off point of $150,000, rather than a sliding scale of gradually reducing benefits.
The new research warns that such sudden cut-offs for benefits create high effective marginal tax rates, potentially punishing people for boosting their incomes.
Australia's best teachers to be financially rewarded with bonus payments - Gillard
The country's best teachers will be offered bonus pay under a budget plan announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"The forthcoming budget will deliver on our promise to invest in rewarding great teachers around the country," Ms Gillard told reporters at a Canberra primary school this morning.
"We will design a system where teachers who are performing well can get additional pay and additional reward to recognise that great performance."
The bonus pay will cost the commonwealth $425 million over the next four years and a total of $1.3 billion to 2018, the government says.
The first bonuses will be based on the 2013 school year and be paid in early 2014.
Bonuses will range from $5400 to $8100, depending on the teacher's experience.
Ms Gillard says an estimated 25,000 teachers, or around one in 10, will receive incentives under the scheme.
2 May, 2011
Schools that cheat
NEXT month the latest round of National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy tests will occur. Some students will not be attending. This is because schools have recommended the parents keep their children at home. The reason is these children are deemed a potential hindrance to overall school test scores.
It is not that these children are necessarily those allowed to be excused under the protocols for NAPLAN. Children who have a significant disability that renders them incapable of being tested under NAPLAN specifications, or children from a non-English speaking background who arrived in Australia less than one year before the tests, do not have to sit them.
Even while these conditions are clear, some students will be absent for no reason other than the tests are likely to cause "stress". This at least was one of the scenarios exposed in The Australian on April 11 concerning Queensland's Miami State High School.
The school has encouraged about a dozen parents to keep their children at home. Such school-sanctioned wagging is to enable supposedly low-performing students not to influence the NAPLAN results as quantified on the My School website.
Queensland has an unenviable track record where fudging NAPLAN results is concerned. Last year, there were 23 allegations of cheating on NAPLAN levelled against state schools and five against non-state schools. While the details were not released at the request of state Education Minister Geoff Wilson, "unethical" behaviour of some Queensland schools is a euphemism for non-attendance.
Cold comfort though it may be, Queensland does not lead the nation on schools asking children to stay home at NAPLAN time. Victoria has the lowest NAPLAN participation rates in the country.
In the Year 3 writing test 94 per cent of students in Victoria sat the tests in 2008 compared with 91 per cent last year. This represents a drop of 2000 students. For Year 9 numeracy, 1934 fewer sat the test last year than in 2008.
It's a reality that prompted state Liberal Education Minister Martin Dixon to say of the Education Department's assiduousness under Labor: "If it had been rigorous, we wouldn't have seen falling participation rates."
Having children who do not fit the exclusion conditions stay away and not sit the tests is simply cheating and an unsubtle attempt to skew the tests results published on My School. This was never the idea of the tests.
NAPLAN is part of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's commitment to the "transformative" nature of education. There is a good reason for NAPLAN to be a test for all. Without a full cohort of participants, the national data is rubbery.
Australia's performance on international education skill assessments is declining. The OECD's 2009 Program for International Student Assessment for 15 year olds showed Australia had declined 13 points in reading since 2000 and had slipped 10 points since 2006 in mathematics.
But according to Australian Education Union's national president, Angelo Gavrielatos, teacher unions are to be congratulated on their obdurate anti-NAPLAN stance. Gavrielatos paid tribute to unions stymieing the tests in the AEU's national conference in January, lauding those foot soldiers who "put their careers on the line and faced threats of disciplinary action or dismissal over the union's campaign against NAPLAN testing, the misuse of data and school league tables".
I am supervising NAPLAN tests next month. The reality is that NAPLAN has begun to take on its own momentum. It has morphed into something it was never intended to be. The tests were to be a moment in time, a core sample of basic skills, not a prepared examination.
Underperforming schools were to get an increase in support to assist in bringing the results up to speed. The intention was about identifying weakness and high performance and increasing achievement overall.
But the preparation for NAPLAN tests has increased significantly. As this newspaper pointed out on April 13, Gillard, when she was education minister, foresaw the dangers. She asked the Education Department to "consider limits on practice time".
This, it can be argued, is another kind of cheating. If you prepare children for NAPLAN, teach to the test in other words, you are cooking results.
I have seen practice papers. The curious thing about them is the suggested answers to the questions provide detailed annotations for the teacher, including basic grammar and spelling explanations. That says a lot about the quality of the teachers. It seems they are assumed to know nothing and understand less.
In principle NAPLAN is an imperative educational reform. In practice it's been hijacked by nervous schools wanting a better result on My School and unions not wanting to have bad teaching exposed. Strange bedfellows indeed.
Absurd chase regulations lead to mutiny in the W.A. police
If some crook kills himself by speeding, how is that the fault of the police? Good riddance to bad rubbish
Western Australia's police have been issued with a union directive banning high speed pursuits - a move condemned by Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan as a recipe for "anarchy" on the roads.
The union took action yesterday morning in frustration at disciplinary action taken against officers, who have been accused of driving too fast in pursuits.
It comes as two men were killed after the stolen car they were driving slammed into a tree in the WA Wheatbelt, as police gave chase. The men, believed to be in their early 20s, died when the stolen black Holden Commodore crashed on the Great Eastern Hwy about 2km east of Carrabin, a roadhouse stop between Merredin and Southern Cross.
Officers from the Internal Affairs Unit and Major Crash Squad yesterday afternoon travelled to the Wheatbelt to investigate the circumstances leading up to the deaths.
The union is particularly irate about the use of automatic vehicle locators (AVLs) in police cars to build a case against the officers. The union argues the locators are inaccurate at recording speed.
In an email memo sent to the state's 5800 officers, the union advised that its board of directors had voted unanimously to an "absolute, total and immediate ban on all police pursuits".
Just hours later, two men were killed near Merredin when a stolen car slammed into a tree as they were being chased by police about 12.20pm.
Mr O'Callaghan called the union action irresponsible and urged officers to do their jobs. He has called an urgent meeting with the union for Monday to discuss the issue. "I don't think this action is satisfactory at all and I think potentially it could lead to some level of anarchy if it becomes a common approach to high-speed pursuits," he said.
Union president Russell Armstrong said the directive had been issued because "inaccurate information" from AVLs in police cars had led to disciplinary action against several police officers. AVLs are not certified speed detectors.
"These (offenders) are breaking into houses, stealing cars and goading police officers and when something goes wrong the police are the worst in the world. We have had enough. We want some protection," Mr Armstrong hit-out. "The AVL is not infallible and has shown to be grossly inaccurate on a number of occasions."
Mr Armstrong issued an additional threat if police hierachy did not resolve the concerns by May 11, the action would be extended to emergency and priority jobs, which include armed hold-ups, life-threatening incidents and volatile situations.
In WA, every police car is fitted with an AVL, a device operated by a global-positioning system, which provides information about the car's location and speed to the Police Operations Centre.
Two officers were recently disciplined over a chase of a stolen Ford Falcon V8, in which the car crashed killing the 15-year-old male driver in Noranda on April 15.
The Sunday Times understands the AVL registered the police car travelling at 164km/h during the April 15 chase, as officers on board verbally reported that their speed was 144km/h. There were also discrepancies between an independent witness who reported seeing the police car stop at a red light and the AVL's information that it did not stop. "These officers were (internally) charged despite the AVL not being a certified measuring device and contradictory evidence from both officers and independent witnesses," Mr Armstrong said.
Under the force's 140km/h speed cap policy, which came into effect in 2000, officers cannot engage in a pursuit that exceeds 140km/h without permission from the Police Operations Centre duty inspector. If the driver contravenes the policy without authorisation, the automatic locator triggers an alert to a supervisor.
Mr O'Callaghan said the AVL could not be used to criminally prosecute a police officer for a speeding offence, but had been used for internal disciplinary action.
"I'm a supporter of high-speed pursuits, you can't have anarchy on the roads and I think the public of Western Australia support it," he said. "But we do have to have boundaries because if you don't have boundaries in place terrible things can happen.
"If people out there on the roads know that police simply won't bother to pursue then we might have people that commit offences thinking they can get away with it. "I think what the union is doing is they're making a rod for their own backs. Ultimately I think many police officers will make the choice to do their job properly."
Last month, WA Coroner Alistair Hope recommended the blanket rule allowing police to drive up to 140km/h should be abandoned and speed restrictions be linked to the posted speed limit, arguing 140km/h may be suitable in 110km/h zones but not in built-up areas. He also recommended the continued monitoring of all pursuits through the AVL system and for video cameras to be fitted to police cars.
The findings came after an inquest into the deaths of four men during separate police pursuits.
Acting Police Minister John Day said he hoped there would be a swift resolution to the dispute to ensure the public's safety.
Heretical Australian Bishop gets a well-deserved boot
The usual arrogance that goes with "liberal" opinions. The man thinks his personal opinion should override centuries-old church teachings! It sounds like the Pope has been exceptionally patient in fact. The guy will find a happy home in the Church of England, however
THE Catholic Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, has been effectively sacked by Pope Benedict XVI over doctrinal disobedience for his support for ordaining women priests and other liberal reform.
Bishop Morris, 67, complained in a letter to his followers, read at weekend masses, that he was leaving unwillingly and claimed he had been denied natural justice.
He said he had taken early retirement because "it has been determined by Pope Benedict that the diocese would be better served by the leadership of a new bishop", The Australian reported.
In his letter, Bishop Morris said the Vatican's decision was sparked by complaints to Rome about an Advent letter he wrote in 2006. In that letter, he argued that with an ageing clergy the church should be open to all eventualities, including ordaining women, ordaining married men, welcoming back former priests and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church orders.
It is believed the Vatican had also recieved complaints about the material included in sex education programs in diocesan Catholic schools.
The style of Bishop Morris's departure is unprecedented in that he has made his disagreements with the Vatican so public. In previous years, bishops who fell from favour have usually resigned on the grounds of ill health, or no reason has been given for their departure.
Priests called a meeting at St Patrick's Cathedral to consider what action can be taken, including the possibility of a mass resignation of clergy. But one senior priest who has followed the bishop's controversial career said Bishop Morris had brought about his own demise because "you can't keep telling Rome to get stuffed".
Poll shows Queenslanders against planned carbon tax
And Queensland is the swing State that makes or breaks Federal governments
QUEENSLAND will be at the centre of the Government's battle to win support for its carbon tax, with a new poll finding the state has the strongest opposition to the plan.
A Galaxy poll commissioned by the Australian Coal Association found the highest opposition to the tax was in Queensland mining towns, where 73 per cent of voters were against it.
The findings come as the Federal Government talked down the likely level of the carbon tax in an attempt to argue the climate change measures would not cost jobs in high-polluting industries.
New Treasury modelling shows the carbon tax would have a minor impact on production costs of coal, steel and aluminium compared with the hit from the high Australian dollar and commodity price movements.
But Australian Coal Association chairman John Pegler warned the tax could be the end for Queensland coal mines.
"As the cost of this rolls along over time, it's going to cost jobs. It will certainly cost investment," Mr Pegler told The Courier-Mail.
Coal miners would support a different carbon pricing scheme if they had greater protection, Mr Pegler said.
The poll, which surveyed 1400 voters on April 12 and 14, found 63 per cent of Queenslanders opposed the tax compared with 55 per cent nationally.
Even more worrying for the Government, 77 per cent of voters across the country thought the carbon tax would leave them worse off. Only 6 per cent believed they would be better off.
A breakdown of the poll results in Queensland mining towns - in electorates including Capricornia, Dawson and Flynn - showed only 1 per cent thought they would be better off.
Almost half the respondents in coal towns in Queensland and NSW said they were unlikely to vote for a candidate who strongly backed the carbon tax. In metropolitan areas, the figure was 41 per cent.
The case against a popular Australian historian
Manning Clark was revered by almost the entire Australian political Left, including members of Labor party governments
By Ross Fitzgerald
After I'd left school and finished my PhD at the University of NSW in 1976, my brilliant but idiosyncratic biology teacher Norton Hobson confided that he was an ex-member of the Communist Party who worked as a part-time operative for the Victorian State Special Branch and for ASIO, supplying information about staff and students alike.
When I flew to Melbourne in late 1970, Hobson said that he had always regarded Manning Clark as a "crypto", that is, someone who kept his membership of the Communist Party and-or his strong support for the party a secret because he could be more useful that way than as an openly CPA member.
So what of the proposition that Manning Clark was a crypto-communist? On one level, because in those days the CPA was such a highly disciplined organisation, it seems unlikely the party would have wanted to recruit as a member someone such as Clark who was extremely erratic and who for most of his life had a severe drinking problem.
Yet because the historian was such a leading member of the Australian intelligentsia, it may have been the case that the CPA would have welcomed Clark's support.
This certainly applied to Clark's 1960 book Meeting Soviet Man, which detailed a trip, paid for by the Soviet Union, that he took in 1958 accompanied by the hardline Australian communist writer Judah Waten and the poet Jim Devaney.
This short book was effectively a pro-Soviet tract. At this time, Clark had already started to learn Russian. That Clark should have written such a paean for the communist state so soon after Nikita Khrushchev's so-called secret speech of March 1953 denouncing Joseph Stalin, and the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary in November 1956, would suggest Clark was, at least, an ardent fellow traveller. Also it's important to remember that, in this dreadful book, Clark described Vladimir Lenin as "Christ-like in his compassion".
Significantly, in an interview with Gerard Henderson at his home in Canberra in November 1988, Clark conceded Meeting Soviet Man was "not an aberration so much as an error of judgment in not making clear what I really had in mind". This interview is dealt with in depth in Henderson's chapter on Clark in his book Australian Answers, published in 1990. But what Clark actually had in mind in his 1960 book he never divulged. Certainly, the historian wrote unequivocally of his 1958 experiences of communist Russia that "whoever lives unmoved in Moscow must have a heart of stone". Certainly at that time, at least as expressed in the book, he had a very positive opinion about what life was like for the average person in communist Russia.
In June 1970 Clark again visited Russia at the Soviet Union's expense. Although this was a time when many dissident Russian intellectuals were still imprisoned or kept in psychiatric institutions, Clark gave a laudatory speech praising the Soviet Union and in particular Lenin, who he described as a great "teacher of humanity".
Even though he definitely did not get the Order of Lenin, Clark certainly received, on June 22, 1970, at the presidium of the Supreme Soviet, a Lenin Jubilee Medal to celebrate the centenary of Lenin's birth in 1870. Other of the many overseas recipients of the Lenin Jubilee Medal included delegates from North Korea and East Germany. That in 1970, after the brutal Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and with Leonid Brezhnev's ongoing repression of Soviet writers and intellectuals still in full sway, Clark should praise the Soviet Union without even mentioning the many victims of communist totalitarianism, is puzzling. Indeed it seems inexcusable.
And it's certainly true that back in Australia Clark was a strong supporter of the Australian-Soviet Friendship Society and a regular visitor to the Soviet embassy in Canberra.
Then there is the fact of his close and continuing friendship with his ex-academic colleague from the University of Melbourne, the well-known New Zealand-born, Oxford-educated communist Ian Milner, who undoubtedly was a spy for the Soviet Union and who defected to communist Czechoslovakia in 1950. Milner later worked for the Czech secret service spying on foreign visitors and also on students and his colleagues at Charles University in Prague.
Clark must have known that Milner was a committed communist yet he saw fit to visit Milner twice in Prague, once in 1958 straight after his trip to Russia and, again, in 1984.
Indeed five months before his death, Clark wrote to Milner: "I see us all as people who have lost their 'Great Expectations', either in any world to come, or in the here and now. [J]ust because 1917 fell into the hands of spiritual bullies, that does not mean we should give up the hope of stealing fire from heaven - or that we should bow down to 5th Avenue."
Even if Clark was not an active Communist Party operative, it seems indisputable that he was a strong supporter of the Soviets. To deny this seems as ridiculous as Gerry Adams, or his supporters, denying that Adams had once been a leading member of the IRA.
Many people, including Clark's most recent biographer Mark McKenna, argue that Manning Clark was a person who never made up his mind about the Soviet Union.
But even if this were so, what would the attitude be to an intellectual and historian who never made up his mind about Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany? Such a position would, rightly, be denounced. And would such a person be excused for sitting on the fence? Not on your nelly.
1 May, 2011
Alarm on plan to put gun-carrying Protective Services Officers in hospitals
This is a bandaid solution to the anger caused by the long waits imposed on people in need of attention
DOCTORS and nurses are alarmed by a secret State Government proposal to put gun-carrying Protective Services Officers in emergency departments.
A plan to place 120 armed officers in the already highly volatile setting could actually increase the danger for medical staff and patients, they have warned.
The Coalition listed the $21 million plan in its pre-election costings, but never publicly announced the plan before the election, or since.
Police minister Peter Ryan this morning confirmed the proposal and said it had been intended to address ongoing violence in hospital emergency departments.
Although hospital security needs to be addressed, Nurses Federation Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said adding armed officers who could easily be mistaken for police could create a powder keg in the emergency departments.
"We do not support having armed security people in those areas. We think that would make a volatile situation escalate, making it worse and unsafe," she said. "It would be very detrimental and we don't want to see it happen."
The Australian Medical Association also said that rather easing security concerns, having armed officers near patients in stressful and possibly psychotic conditions could inflame the situation.
"While hospitals and emergency departments require prompt access to specially trained security personnel, care must be taken to ensure they complement care and safety for patients and staff, rather than intimidate them," AMA Victoria Vice President and emergency physician, Dr Stephen Parnis said.
"This cannot be the only solution for emergency department safety. Other solutions like improved building design and reducing hospital overcrowding are necessities.
"During the last election the Labor Party supported the AMA's policy of increasing penalties for those who assault health care workers no response was received from the Coalition."
Mr Ryan said the proposal was now going to be reviewed by the Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee after concerns were raised by medical sources.
He said the $21 million package would be directed to easing emergency room violence, however it was not guaranteed that the Public Service Officers would still form a part of the final plan.
"The recommendation as contained in the document for the 120 PSOs, well see where that sits within the context of what we hear from the committee after its had its deliberations in conjunction with the health industry in particular.
Struggling families delay paying electricity bills inflated by Greenie charges
MORE than 1.1 million Australians were late paying their utility bills in the past three months as soaring electricity prices put pressure on household budgets. The figures come from a survey by credit information agency Veda Advantage and show the number of customers who missed a payment in any given quarter has risen by 40 per cent in the past 12 months.
Average arrears on utility bills have hit a record $500, said credit and collections agency Dun & Bradstreet.
The figures have been described as bordering on a national crisis, and are likely to get worse. Pricing regulator IPART has already said that NSW customers will be slugged with an 18 per cent price rise from July 1.
"It's a really worrying situation because there is clearly a growing group of people having difficulty with utility bills as the costs continue to rise and it doesn't look as though things are going to get any easier," said Chris Gration of Veda.
Ausgrid chairman John Conde offered no comfort to customers hoping his company would take action to ease bills, saying the company had introduced payment plans for struggling householders.
Clare Petre, the Energy and Water Ombudsman, said there was an ever-increasing number of complaints. "The 'usage' element of the bill is the smallest, with the bulk taken up by the fixed network charges, so it doesn't matter what the customer does to limit their usage, their bills are still unaffordable -- this is my biggest concern," she said.
Katherine Lane of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre said the State Government must legislate so households that cannot afford their bills are not unjustly cut off.
More black on black violence in Melbourne
High levels of violence are endemic among Africans
A SUDANESE teenager was assaulted by a group of men during an early morning attack in a popular night strip. Police said a glass bottle may have been used in the attack in Chapel St, Windsor, about 2.30am.
It’s believed a group of African men were responsible for the assault and fled. The assault is the fourth violent clash involving members of the Sudanese community in a week. A police spokeswoman said the victim, aged 18 or 19, was being uncooperative.
Ambulance Victoria spokesman Ray Rowe said the teen suffered a small cut to the head. He was taken to the Alfred Hospital in a stable condition.
Police are investigating a series of violent clashes in the days after last Saturday’s Miss South Sudan Australia beauty pageant in Clayton.
A man was stabbed and other injured during a wild brawl at a pageant afterparty on Sunday which saw police pelted with bottles.
Two policemen were also injured in a brawl at Braybrook on Monday.
Deyon Machok, 20, of St Albans, and James Makur, 21, of Keilor Downs, accused of instigating the vicious riot have been charged.
And three people were injured after a clash in the car park of Daisey's Hotel, Ringwood, on Tuesday night.
Case as shallow as a birdbath but NSW prosecutors pursue it TWICE
OVER the past four years, Philip Leung has wept many times for his dead lover, Mario Guzzetti. But on Thursday, after he was acquitted for a second time of his partner's killing, he wept for himself.
Mr Leung, 50, is the first person in NSW legal history to be tried twice over the same homicide investigation. The case was only possible because of the state's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006. Now he wants the legislation reversed to prevent anyone else being tried for the same death twice; what he calls the "ultimate injustice".
"My life will never be the same," he told The Sun-Herald. "Not only did I lose the man I love, I was accused of killing him. Before I knew it, I was locked up in jail. Nobody cared that I missed Mario's funeral, or that I had as many questions as anyone."
Mr Leung, a jeweller, began dating Mr Guzzetti in 2001. The pair shared common interests, including opera, and by 2004 they were living together. "We loved each other unconditionally. Like everyone, we argued occasionally and always over silly things."
On the morning of April 7, Easter Saturday, in 2007, a row erupted over a tiler's bag of cement that was obstructing access at their home in Alexandria. About the same time, neighbours heard a loud noise, like a shelf falling. After several minutes' silence, Mr Leung was heard wailing hysterically.
The first witnesses at the scene found him at the foot of the stairs, rocking back and forth while cradling his blood-stained partner, who had sustained head injuries. Mr Guzzetti , 72, had stopped breathing by the time ambulance officers arrived.
Later that morning Mr Leung was charged with murder, accused of killing Mr Guzzetti with a juicer the couple owned.
He spent more than five months in jail before being released on bail. At his trial, in May 2009, prosecutors alleged that Mr Leung had inflicted the injuries. Medical and scientific evidence was inconclusive, stating that the injuries were consistent with both a physical attack and a fall downstairs, followed by unskilled attempts at resuscitation.
Before Mr Leung could give evidence, Justice Stephen Rothman delivered a directed not-guilty verdict, ruling that the Crown had failed to properly establish how Mr Guzzetti had died.
However, prosecutors leaned on the controversial double jeopardy laws, which allow for appeals and retrials in homicide cases that are settled by a judge's directed verdict to the jury. As a result, Mr Leung was charged again, this time with manslaughter.
"I can't describe how that felt," he recalled. "I was so relieved to be walking out of court for the final time [after the murder verdict]. "They had 28 days to appeal and on the last day I received word that I would have to fight all over again."
On Thursday, after Justice Michael Adams directed a second jury to return a not-guilty verdict, four years of emotion spilled from Mr Leung. He had just become the first person in Australian legal history to be found not guilty twice by a judge's directed verdict.
"I felt him [Mario] alongside me always," Mr Leung said. "I still miss him. Only now can I finally begin to grieve the most beautiful, loving person I ever met."
Mr Leung said he intended to sue the police for compensation.
That evil "rote learning" is needed in primary schools
There is no other way to learn your times tables and they in turn are a major source of numeracy
In around two weeks, each school student in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia will sit the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. The four tests over three days begin with language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and writing, followed by reading and numeracy.
My eldest child, who is in Year 3, will take the tests for the first time this year. My daughter’s school takes these tests very seriously. They have been preparing students for a good proportion of the first term.
Although my own area of interest is reading, I am more familiar with the numeracy test, simply because numeracy is where my daughter is weaker. To my mind, the tests are a fair representation of my daughter’s mathematical prowess at this time. Just by doing practice tests together, I have been able to see the gaps in her skills and knowledge.
Two things have become apparent. First, my daughter’s performance in the test will be impeded because she does not know the times tables well. I share responsibility for this because I was already aware of it. We made a few half-hearted attempts to work on this at home, but it was tedious for both of us and I did not persevere.
However, it has become glaringly obvious that knowing single digit multiples is critical. And I mean really knowing them, not just knowing the concept of multiplication and that if you spend enough time drawing circles with dots in them, you can eventually work out the answer.
I cannot say whether this is true for many schools, but I have seen little evidence of memorisation in my daughter’s maths instruction, and there is no other way to permanently instil this knowledge and provide automatic recall. Language and social studies are not the only areas of schooling that have been adversely affected by constructivism.
Second, the numeracy is a test of mathematical literacy, not mathematical aptitude. All the questions are problem-based. This example from the 2010 Year 3 numeracy test paper shows that it is almost impossible to do well if you are not competent in reading and comprehending written language.
These biscuits are sold in packets of 10. Shelley wants to give one biscuit to each of her 27 classmates. What is the least number of packets that Shelley needs? (©ACARA 2010)
Fortunately, my daughter is literate and able to understand this question, so the test will assess her ability to solve the problem using mathematics. Other children will not be in the same situation.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 April. Enquiries to email@example.com. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.
Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here
For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.
Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).
For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security
Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.
I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!
I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.
The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"
UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.
Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.
A delightful story about a great Australian conservative