Friday, November 30, 2007

The Travails of being a Telstra/Bigpond customer

For the benefit of overseas readers, Telstra is the main provider of telephone services in Australia and their Bigpond subsidiary is the main provider of internet cable connections. I have the misfortune to be a customer of both.

You can read details of the problems I have had in getting some sign of intelligence from them here.

If you ever want to express your disquiet at their poor service, the phone no. of the office of their CEO is 02 9329 2274. Getting Telstra phone nos. is a rare feat so you may want to bookmark this post.

Arrogant Queensland public hospital again: Cancer patient refused transport, walks 30km

It's pretty disgraceful that only publicity humbles the hospital bureaucracies

A MAN recovering from cancer and his wife had to walk home almost 30km along dirt roads after being discharged from Maryborough Hospital in Queensland at 12.30am and refused transport. Glenn Horne and his wife Helen, both aged in their 50s, trudged for more than seven hours in sandals and thongs in the dark before finally being picked up by a neighbour about 4km from their Harris Rd property, south of Maryborough, early on Monday.

While the hospital has since telephoned and apologised for their ordeal, blaming it on "a breakdown in the communication process", the Hornes said the incident was symptomatic of administrative problems still plaguing Queensland Health. Mrs Horne said she had phoned for an ambulance on Sunday for her husband, who was in agony with an infection after enduring two operations for bowel cancer less than two months ago. They arrived at the hospital about 9pm with only $20. Mr Horne said he had expected to be kept in overnight but instead was given medication and discharged at 12.30am on a rainy night. "They said we couldn't stay even though the casualty room was virtually empty," Mrs Horne said. "When I said we lived 30-40 minutes' drive away, they just said 'well, that'll be an expensive taxi ride'."

Not wanting to bother friend and neighbour Desiree Taylor at that hour of the night and with no buses available and no money for a taxi, the Hornes said they decided they would have to walk home. "It was a moonlit night, thank heavens, but it was still very spooky," said Mrs Horne, who said they had neither water nor food. "We were exhausted, pretty worn out, when Desiree's son Kieran saw us (4km from home) and then she picked us up. We finally got home at quarter-past-eight in the morning."

Mr Horne said they had not wanted to make a fuss about their ordeal but he and his wife also wanted others who might find themselves in a similar situation to realise they had rights to transport and accommodation support options. Mr Horne said their situation had not been helped by his inability to work because of illness and the fact his car had broken down.

Tiaro Mayor Linda Harris said the incident needed to be highlighted so hospital staff could be counselled to better handle such issues. Fraser Coast Health Service district manager Kerry Winsor said that although procedures were in place to handle such situations, the support options were not brought to the patient's attention in this case and "we have apologised".


Muslim aggression towards police in Melbourne

From the picture it would seem that both black and Arab Muslims were involved. Australia has taken in as refugees considerable a considerable number of black Muslims from Sudan and Somalia

POLICE have described a violent clash with north African Flemington residents as a riot brewing for some time. But they have been forced to defend what some witnesses have described as heavy-handed tactics. What police say started as a routine arrest over a suspected rock-throwing incident led to a mob converging on 21 officers at a commission [welfare] housing estate on Racecourse Rd.

One policeman was assaulted and was taken to hospital with suspected broken ribs. Others were abused and spat on. An 18-year-old youth accused of throwing the rock denied any involvement and said police reacted violently. "They kicked me in the back and they kicked me in the head. I was screaming," he said. "I know they've got a job to do but they had nothing on me. I didn't do anything."

Restaurant owner James, who did not want to be identified, said he had just dropped off his apprentice when police falsely accused the youth of throwing the rock. "I thought it was just inflammatory from the beginning," he said. "There wasn't any mediation as such."

Police sources said delinquent youths, and even children, were constantly sniping and baiting police in and around Flemington. "The patrols are getting stoned by kids as young as 10 every second night," one police source said. Wednesday night's ugly incident began when a north African youth threw a rock at a passing divisional van about 11pm. The van stopped and called for back-up, which arrived quickly.

Residents -- mostly young African men -- appeared from the commission flats. According to a police report: "A large crowd, possibly numbering over a hundred, gathered, attempting to free the man who attacked police." Four youths aged between 14 and 18 were arrested. They have been released and are expected to be charged on summons.

Premier John Brumby condemned the mob. "It is not part of the civilised way of life that we expect from our state, and Australians more generally," Mr Brumby said. Police Minister Bob Cameron added: "If people commit crime they can expect to be dealt with irrespective of their backgrounds." Senior police said lawless north African youths viewed police as easy targets.

Jesuit Social Services youth worker Ahmed Ahmed claimed police were harassing local youths. "They are arresting kids as young as 14 years old," Mr Ahmed said. "It is the police who are aggravating the situation."

Region 3 boss Insp Nigel Howard yesterday backed his troops, dismissing claims they were racist and used heavy-handed tactics. "My members will not come down here and be insulted. Enough is enough in respect to that," Insp Howard said. Flemington police are expecting to meet African community leaders on Monday.


Australian police ready for sweep to deport New Guinea illegals

Note here that it is Melanesians (blacks) calling for the expulsion of Melanesians

FEDERAL officers are preparing an unprecedented sweep through the Torres Strait to deport Papua New Guineans illegally living on some of Australia's most remote territory. Community leaders in the Torres Strait held emergency meetings with immigration officials last week, after a surge in the number of people arriving from PNG, securing a commitment to have them deported. An immigration spokesman yesterday refused to discuss the coming operation, but confirmed meetings with community leaders had recently taken place. "The department has held recent meetings with councils in the Torres Strait. However, we will not discuss operational details," the spokesman said.

Thursday Island Mayor Pedro Stephen said communities including Saibai, Boigu, Iama, Masig, Dauan, Erub and Badu islands were in danger of being annexed by PNG because of the large number of illegal arrivals. "All seem to have more PNG nationals living there than local islanders," Mr Stephen said. "They are coming and taking over all the businesses." The situation has become particularly bad on Saibai Island in northern Torres Strait, where as many as 300 of the immigrants, dubbed "overstayers" by the locals, have strained resources and almost run the islands limited water supply dry.

Mr Stephen said the Torres Strait Treaty, which came into effect in 1985 and allows the movement of people between PNG and the Australian islands, needed to be rewritten to ensure economic development in PNG's Western Province. "There's been nothing built there for decades. What you have is the Third World just a stone's throw from an Australian community," Mr Stephen said. "It's no wonder they travel to access services. They've got nothing at home."

Even the most senior PNG national in Torres Strait, the Reverend Lawes Waia, who lives on Thursday Island, just off the tip of Cape York, has called for the borders to be closed and the Torres Strait Treaty to be torn up. "Whether we drink contaminated water, whether we carry sickness and diseases on our bodies, whether no government services are reaching us, let's stop bothering the Torres Strait Islanders with their island facilities and resources. Please close the border now and put all words into action," Mr Waia said.

Mr Stephen said communities in the northern Torres Strait were concerned the numbers might become so great they would wind up becoming PNG territory. "You have to remember that when the Torres Strait treaty was signed, PNG wanted to basically cut the strait in half and administer the islands north of Badu," Mr Stephen said. "A lot of people remember that and think maybe this is a way of getting those islands."

A senior Saibai Island community member, who asked not to be named, said the PNG nationals ignored local immigration officers, and had built a filthy shanty town on the northern edge of the island. "We are pleased the Department of Immigration is finally going to do something," the local said. "These people have brought diseases which we can not cope with. It is not good for our community."


Thursday, November 29, 2007

A small personal note

Life is not all politics (Thank goodness) so I cannot resist a little note of satisfaction here about the results my son has just got in his university examinations for the final year of his B.Sc. All his subjects were in mathematics and he got 7s (the maximum possible mark) in all subjects. He will be heading for his doctorate in mathematics now. I am sure it is very evil of me to say so (according to Leftists anyway) but it is a great satisfaction to have a very bright son. His mother is over the moon too. Neither of us have ever "pushed" him in any way. He is just a natural-born academic. I can't imagine where he gets that from! Since IQ is not genetically inherited (according to Leftists) it must just be a random event! I will be going to his graduation ceremony in a couple of weeks. I wonder if I should wear my doctoral robes?

We will be having a small family celebration of the occasion this Sunday -- at which I will of course be opening a bottle of Penfold's Grange.

Your government will protect you (NOT)

Appalling foster parents kill child. But no doubt they had a good attitude to homosexuality. That seems to be a major selection criterion for foster parents these days. And having 17 people living in one small house is no problem, of course

On the day of her death, a 12-year-old girl in foster care lay in the dirt outside her Darwin home, delirious with pain and covered in ants, a court heard yesterday. She was so sick that she defecated in her clothes and could not walk without help, Darwin Magistrates Court heard. She died after allegedly being laid outside in the dirt by one of her carers, who the court heard is alleged to have said if she "wanted to soil herself" she "might as well go outside and act like the animal".

The girl died from acute septicaemia in a Royal Darwin Hospital emergency room on July 12. Two women, one 42 and the other 43, have been charged with her manslaughter. Director of Public Prosecutions Richard Coates told Darwin Magistrates Court the girl was limping three weeks before her death and "during the last week of her life'' needed help "to go to the toilet". "There is evidence that she urinated and defecated in her clothes as she was unable to go to the toilet," Mr Coates said.

And, on the day she died, he said the girl lay in the dirt with bleeding gums and "ants on her nose, eyes and mouth", deliriously telling her siblings she could see fairies in the trees.

A niece of both women said when she asked why the girl hadn't been taken to a doctor for her limp, one said it was because it was a muscle injury from a school sports day. The niece said the girl was still limping by the second week of the school holidays, and "never moved off the couch" when she visited. But she said she was "gobsmacked" when she was told the girl had died, and St John's ambulance officer Craig Garraway also said he didn't see any injuries on the girl when he tried to resuscitate her.

Two Family and Children's Services officers told the court they had seen the girl lying on the kitchen floor crying, and although she was "unsteady'' on her feet they considered she did not need medical treatment. A neighbour, who is also a NT police officer, said the "bubbly" girl became "real crook" just before her death and "was in pain". The court heard that nine of the two accused's children were living in the three bedroom Woodroffe home, as well as another adult and five foster children.


Businesses race to escape Leftist labour laws

SMALL businesses are being urged to sack workers before Labor overhauls the industrial relations laws, as one of Australia's biggest employers races to put 15,000 staff on five-year employment contracts before Work Choices is scrapped. Telstra yesterday outlined a post-election strategy to urgently sign up thousands of its staff already employed under Australian Workplace Agreements to new deals that do not guarantee pay rises. The AWAs being offered by the telecommunications giant could also be offered to new employees who join Telstra before the new laws are passed.

The move comes as small businesses were being advised to seize the "window of opportunity to take advantage of Work Choices" before Labor's new laws are implemented. "The exemption from unfair dismissal laws for businesses with 100 employees or less could be gone by early 2008," says Smartcompany, an online magazine for business that attracts 80,000 hits a month. "SME (small and medium enterprise) owners who move quickly to get rid of unsuitable staff could save themselves on legal costs and go-away money down the track. "There is also an opportunity for SMEs to maximise the benefit they derive from (AWAs). Labor has promised AWAs signed before its laws come in will be allowed to operate until 2012."

While Julia Gillard, the incoming deputy prime minister and industrial relations minister, has warned companies against rushing in new AWAs, Labor has acknowledged that employers would be free to keep signing up workers until the legislation is passed - potentially months away. Even then, the Rudd Government could face problems in the Senate, with the remnants of the former Coalition government divided on whether they should respect Labor's election mandate to scrap Work Choices. The Coalition will retain control of the Senate until at least July next year.

The ACTU last night attacked the moves, accusing business of ignoring the federal election result, which it said was an unqualified repudiation of the Work Choices laws. And a wary Council of Small Business of Australia rejected the call to sack staff now, describing the advice as "just a red rag to a bull". "Running out now holus bolus sacking staff because they might be unsuitable now or in the future, I don't think is the way to go," said the council's chairman, Bob Stanton.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow urged small business to ignore the advice. "Surely, small businesses would be appalled to think that staff they had with them for quite a long time would suddenly be feeling insecure because they were being urged to sack them," she said. Ms Burrow said Telstra's move was "extraordinarily provocative", accusing the giant telco of trying to intimidate workers to sign away their right to a collective agreement for five years. "Clearly some CEOs and many Liberal Party members still haven't heard the voters' message that they want the Howard government's extreme IR laws abandoned," she said. "We would urge the Telstra management to respect the rights of their staff, allow them to negotiate a collective agreement and rebuild a working relationship that is based on rights at work that Australians just overwhelmingly voted for."

Telstra said its strategy was entirely legitimate, despite the change of government. "Telstra is giving 15,000 employees on AWAs the opportunity to renew their contracts -- a choice allowed by the new government," a spokeswoman said. "It is a voluntary process. If employees don't wish to sign an AWA, they will just say 'no thanks'. "Giving employees a choice to renew their workplace agreements and achieve certainty around employment terms and conditions over the next five years is an opportunity, not an imposition. Some will choose to renew. Some will choose to do otherwise. But it is the employee who gets to choose, not Telstra and not the union. And that is the way it should be."

Telstra confirmed the AWAs did not contain automatic pay rises for employees, saying annual wage increases would be "based on market reviews and individual performance". The Telstra spokesman said many Telstra employees earned significantly more money on AWAs than existing collective arrangements. For example, communication technicians on AWAs earned, on average, $30,000 a year more than those on the current enterprise agreement.

Ms Burrow said Telstra employees on AWAs had no certainty about receiving a pay rise for up to five years. Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Stephen Jones said Telstra management was pressuring staff on existing AWAs to sign new five-year contracts, regardless of how long their current agreement had to run. "Even Joe Hockey has declared Work Choices dead," Mr Jones said. "Yet Telstra remains hell-bent on moving as many staff as possible on to Work Choices agreements."


Huge mob of blacks attacks Melbourne police

AN attempted arrest descended into a mass brawl last night as police came under attack from up to 100 youths in Flemington. One officer suffered a bruised chest and ribs as the aggressive crowd turned on police. When police stopped to speak to a rock-throwing suspect on Racecourse Rd he became abusive and was arrested. It was during this arrest that another man - also believed to have been involved in the rock-throwing - attacked police officers. After he was also arrested, scores of youths and adults - many believed to be of African descent - surrounded police and attempted to free the men.

One police officer was injured and a total of 15 police units from the CBD and inner suburban areas attended to disperse the crowd. Two further teenagers were arrested. Four males aged between 14 and 18 years of age were eventually taken to the Moonee Ponds Police Station before being released. They are expected to be charged on summons at a later date.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sperm donors to ban Muslims, lesbians?

Why is discrimination bigotry? We ALL practice discrimination in our personal life. Women tend to choose tall men and men tend to choose busty women, for instance. Hence boob jobs for women and Filipina brides for short men. And what is more personal than your offspring? More practically, I believe that there is a shortage of sperm donors -- hence the new legislation -- as men are scared away by possible legal obligations to offspring (Obligations that have in fact been imposed by courts in Sweden). So giving donors the right to express personal preferences should encourage more of them to come forward

A BIZARRE row is set to erupt over claims that reproductive donors will be given the right to direct their sperm or eggs not go to certain groups such as Muslims, Jews, single mothers or lesbians. Critics believe the Iemma Government's Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill allows sperm and egg donors to specifically discriminate against ethnic, religious and other minorities.

The Bill, due to be debated in the NSW Legislative Council, is primarily aimed at allowing donor-conceived children to access information about the donor parent when they turn 18.

But Greens MP John Kaye said yesterday there was widespread concern the Bill, as currently drafted, allowed donors to nominate classes of people to whom their sperm or eggs may not be given. "While the Bill contains a number of positive features, it is simply unacceptable to enshrine discrimination into the law," Mr Kaye said. "Granting legal sanction to bigotry and prejudice sends an appalling message that it is acceptable to discriminate on grounds that are irrelevant."

Under the Bill, the names of donors in NSW will be recorded on a compulsory central register to guarantee they can be found by their offspring. But Health Minister Reba Meagher has said the legislation will not oblige donors to have contact with their offspring or make them legally or financially responsible for the children.


Rudd: Is the mask slipping already?

By Andrew Bolt

NOW that Kevin Rudd has won the election, Peter Garrett's quip that Labor will change its me-too promises may be coming true. The phoney election is over. Only the dumb or desperate Liberals ever thought Labor would lose. Now for the real election. Which "Kevin Rudd" will we get as Prime Minister: the conservative, or the Left's pet muppet?

Right now there's one "Kevin Rudd" looking tough, but there's another "Kevin Rudd" talking mush. So the answer hangs in the balance, although I fear it's already tipping to the kind of faddish symbolism that gets black children hurt.

Oh, I know, you'll think I'm just choking on sour grapes. But no. It's actually the triumphant Left that most wants to know if Rudd really is the me-too conservative he claimed he was before the election. To be blunt, they're hoping he was just fooling you and will now leap out of the closet dressed in red, or at least the pink of a nice Laurent Perrier Rose. They are hoping, in short, that Labor's environment spokesman, Peter Garrett, spoke the truth when he quipped that Labor's me-too promises didn't matter, because "once we get in we'll just change it all".

You doubt such moralising folk could be so cynical? Then hear it from Leftist journalists, who screamed loudest that Howard was a liar but now pray that Rudd is one, too. Hear it, for instance, from David Marr, the Sydney Morning Herald journalist and writers' festival darling, who joined Labor party workers at Rudd's victory bash and said: "Many frankly hope Peter Garrett was right: that despite all the non-promises of the campaign, something is going to happen in Australia now. Their leader seems a mystery to them." Count Marr among those hopers, left flat by Rudd's post-victory press conference: "It was a performance so passionless, so grey that it raises the terrible possibility that our new leader is not channelling John Howard but Philip Ruddock . . ."

Indeed, The Sunday Age is demanding Rudd be the radical he promised he wasn't. "Cast off Me Too," it urged him the day after his win. "The truth is many, if not most of us, voted against the other bloke -- it really was time -- and not actually for you. And many of your voters hope Peter Garrett was right; we'll see the real Rudd and ALP now that you have the keys to The Lodge."

Will Rudd oblige, and reveal his inner Whitlam? From the pictures and TV footage, you'd assume no: conservative Rudd will stand firm. Already he's dropped the vote-for-me grin and adopted the I'm-the-boss frown, as he tries to assert himself as head of a government whose members are mostly well to his Left, from what we'd guess of Rudd's beliefs. He's even ordered all Labor politicians to visit two schools this week to get in touch, which should make them feel as patronised as the poor students they're about to bore.

Indeed, I'm sure Rudd would like to do the Bob Hawke consensus thing, and govern, as he said on Saturday, "for all Australians" -- which means governing from the centre, where the next election must be won. Yet listen carefully. Hear the first sounds of Rudd doing a Garrett? I don't count Rudd's boast that he'll sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases within days. He promised that futile gesture in the campaign, after all, and how well it's worked. US satellites now say 2007 is likely to be the coolest year since 1983. Saved by Rudd!

No, it's the other bones Rudd is tossing to the Left, now voters can't complain to anyone about the mess. Here's one: before the election, Rudd was so keen to seem conservative that he supported -- and voted for -- the Howard government's intervention in troubled Aboriginal settlements in the Northern Territory. That meant backing such moves as checking children's health, sending in more police, opening Aboriginal towns to visitors, banning booze traffickers, and making sure welfare payments went on food for children.

During the campaign, Rudd was asked if he'd change what had been done. His answer: "We don't intend to roll it back at all. Therefore when I say that we will be implementing and backing the intervention, it is as I have described before, and that is without qualification." But that was before the election. Here is Rudd now, as reported in The Australian: "The incoming prime minister said through a spokesman he was open to altering John Howard's unprecedented intervention. These include reintroducing the controversial permit system, which regulates non-indigenous access to communities, and modifying rather than scrapping the Community Development Employment Projects work-for-the-dole scheme."

Here's another example of a Garrett: Just days before the election, Rudd was asked six times by 3AW's Neil Mitchell if he'd say "sorry" to Aborigines as Prime Minister. Rudd, still playing at being conservative, tried every which way to avoid promising that "s" word.... But that was then, when voters still had a choice, and this is now. Which is why, just two days after the election, you read this in the papers: "Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd says that his government will make a formal apology to indigenous Australians early in its first term. "His deputy, Julia Gillard, made the same pledge earlier in the day, saying it was Labor policy to say 'sorry'." Suddenly "sorry" wasn't so hard to say, after all, at least not for Gillard, the Left's spearhead, even if Rudd yesterday was still choking on it, promising nothing but more talks.

Cross? Well, Garrett did warn you: "When we get in, we'll just change it all." But who will complain? Not journalists like Marr. Not The Sunday Age. Not the Liberals, desperate not to seem nasty any more. Not the many Australians who think a symbolic gesture like a sorry can't hurt, and will at least prove we have good hearts. Yet there is a price to pay, and it will be paid by the very weakest. Here's an item from Marr's own paper last week:
Aboriginal social workers in Brewarrina say the indigenous community there is confused and fearful after the attempted removal of four children from their families last week, which sent two of them into hiding. Grace Beetson, who runs the Ourgunya women's refuge, described scenes reminiscent of the film Rabbit-Proof Fence when Department of Community Services workers and police arrived at the children's house to take four of them into care on Thursday . . . But the department said the two babies were taken into care amid serious fears for their safety and that department case workers were thrust into a scene of escalating violence and personal risk when attending the premises.

I'll say it again: the "stolen generations" myth is killing black children. Rabbit-Proof Fence was a film which rewrote history, so that the peaceful removal to a boarding school of a half-caste bush girl who had been abandoned by her father, rejected by her tribe and apparently preyed upon by white men, was portrayed instead as the violent stealing of a loved daughter from a Garden of Eden. Nor has this been the only lie told. Students read in their Jacaranda school histories that "more than 100,000" Aboriginal children were stolen simply for racist reasons, even though the top "stolen generations" propagandist, Prof Robert Manne, cannot name me even 10.

The result? Child protection workers are now often too scared to remove black children from dangers they'd never tolerate for white ones. As Labor's national president, Warren Mundine, says: "They are in a no-win situation -- if they take the child's view, they are accused of being stolen-generation cultural, genocidal pigs, and then if they leave the kids in the (risky) situation, they are blamed for the dreadful and horrific outcomes." Think of the children who have died or suffered terribly for this myth. Here's just one of the many news reports I've collected:
An Aboriginal baby who died lying on a filthy mattress between her passed-out mother and father could be alive today if Western Australia's Department of Community Development had intervened to take her away from her alcoholic parents . . . The Coroner . . . said it was particularly alarming that there was a reluctance by DCD to intervene to save Aboriginal children at risk.

Here's another, from Victoria:
A violent man who inflicted horrific injuries on his toddler nephew was given custody despite fears expressed by childcare workers that he posed a danger . . . But court documents claim the magistrate ruled (Aboriginal) cultural identity a priority.

Myths have consequences. And here is Kevin Rudd's first test. Is he of the Left, more concerned with seeming good than achieving it? Then he'll say his "sorry" to the stolen generations that never were, and sabotage the intervention that is trying to save black children from cultures gone rancid. Or is he truly a conservative, more concerned with getting good results than flaunting good intentions? We'll find out sooner than I suspected, and I do hope Marr will be disappointed -- not least because blacks' lives really are more important than white lies.


Pom discovers Oz kulcha

Graham Boynton finds high art in Australia. Many Poms have deluded views of Australia. They mistake bluntness for stupidity -- just as we often fail to see that the point of British hypocrisy is usually concern for other people's feelings

Australia is a country of culture, style and taste. There, I've said it. Sport-obsessed, brash, uncouth, belligerent and teeming with larrikins it may also be but, as I discovered on my fifth visit to the Lucky Country, there is a more civilised side to a place that is usually more closely associated with the rough and ready aspects of 20th-century frontier societies.

In Sydney I found an Irishman - Fergus Linehan, the artistic director and chief executive of the Sydney Festival - to confirm my views, and a good 10 days later in Adelaide I discovered a valley full of cultivated winemakers to drive the point home. In between, visits to the theatre, to a string of outstanding restaurants serving memorable fusion cuisine, and to the country outfitter RM Williams, followed by a few days just wandering around one of the most pleasant cities on the planet (Adelaide) finally convinced me that my previous misgivings about Australia had been unfounded. I am now persuaded that as the 21st century progresses the Lucky Country will become increasingly alluring not only as a tourist destination but also as a place to live.

The sobriquet Lucky Country was meant ironically and as an indictment of 1960s Australia. It was the title of Donald Horne's 1964 book and was taken from the opening sentence of the final chapter: "Australia is a lucky country run by second-rate people who shared its luck." Horne maintained that the country's economic prosperity was derived from its natural resources rather than the intelligence of its inhabitants and that Australia "showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society". Forty years later Horne wrote an article in The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, arguing that although things had changed for the better the jury was still out.

Fergus Linehan, who was brought to Sydney on a three-year contract to run the annual showcase of dance, theatre, opera, popular music and visual arts, says there is nothing wrong with the intelligence of modern Australians. He cites as an example the thriving creative arts scene and says that whereas in the past the big cultural festivals were all about British philharmonic orchestras and national ballet companies "going out to the colonies to keep them civilised" they now have a healthy combination of international and indigenous talent that performs to tens of thousands of enthusiasts

Nobody's pretending that this is fine arts central, but Linehan - who comes from what he describes as "that autumnal, literary city of Dublin" - says that the right mixture of high art and popular culture has been embraced by Sydney's population: Ralph Fiennes performing the Samuel Beckett novella First Love, Lou Reed's Berlin, Rosanne Cash, the Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg performing Chekhov, acrobats, jugglers, children's theatre. "It is a hedonistic paradise," he says. "January, when the festival is on, is like August in France: beach in the morning, lunch theatre, concert party. Just a great time. And Aussie crowds are very well behaved - socially responsible and well behaved. It's an orderly place, a prosperous, egalitarian community."

Linehan directs me to the satirical musical Keating!, which is playing at the Belvoir Street Theatre, as an example of great indigenous creative arts. That night I go with an old friend who has lived here for years and, with her acting as a simultaneous translator, I get the satirical nuances. Even without the nuances it is a splendid piece of comedy theatre and as I write this the thought of the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, in bustier and fishnet stockings, looking like a cross between Billy Bunter and the Rocky Horror Show's Frank'n'Furter, makes me laugh out loud.

Then there is the boom in Aussie sartorial chic, formerly rudimentary attire that was made locally for a small clientele of cattlemen, surfers and farmers, but now internationally famous and very cool because it has been endorsed by such celebrities as Bill Clinton and Daryl Hannah. For example, Uggs or Ughs were once cheap, simply constructed sheepskin boots, made to keep the feet of South Australian surfers warm after a day in the cold Southern Ocean - the company logo of Pacific Sheepskins, which starting making the original Uggs in the early 1970s, is a sheep on a surfboard. Then one day Daryl Hannah walked into the Sheepskin Shop in the Rocks and out with a pair of Uggs at the end of her very long legs, and suddenly every young woman east of Hollywood Boulevard wanted to be seen in them.....

All of this is not to say that Australia's - and Australians' - essential qualities of earthiness and of being a bit rough around the edges have evaporated in a cloud of cultural perfume. As one friend said as I was waxing lyrical about style and taste, "the culture is based on metaphysics - if you really want to get belted in an Aussie pub, walk in quoting Keats and Plato." And that flinty, laddish humour remains.

During last year's Ashes, I was watching Australia applying the ritual stuffing to our hapless English cricketers and turned to a group of Aussies sitting behind me. I asked them if they thought their team was going to win the series. "Win?" came the genuinely astonished reply. "Win? Mate we're going to s*** in because for us an ordinary win is little better than a draw."

So, with all this newly acquired cultural and sartorial baggage on board it is appropriate that I decide to spend my last few days of this cultural odyssey in what some Australians call - without irony - "the Renaissance Capital of the Southern Hemisphere", the lovely city of Adelaide. It is, like its spiritual sister city Cape Town, physically pretty, on the coast and at the centre of a booming wine industry.

Viticulture attracts gastronomy and gourmands tend to be civilised, so if you are looking for cultured Australia planted in an architecturally pleasing city with a generous green belt of parks, golf courses and botanical gardens, this one really fits the bill. In between long sessions of glorious cricket at the most beautiful Test match ground in the world I find myself walking the parks, strolling around Victorian buildings and catching the tram to and from Glenelg, the seaside resort that is Adelaide-by-the-Sea. Had I discovered this place 20 years ago I'd have emigrated.

More here

Australia ranked world's third most livable nation

Ratings such as this are highly arbitrary. They are interesting only if you agree with the critieria used. The criteria behind this one seem reasonably down to earth. Silly old Donald Horne got one thing right when he called Australia the lucky country. Though Australia's easy life has more to do with the hard work and good sense of our forebears than luck. Still, we are lucky that they generally were people of such good attributes

AUSTRALIA is the third most desirable country to live in, according to an annual United Nations report that looks at wealth, life expectancy and educational levels. Australia came in behind top-ranking Iceland and Norway in second spot. The top three nations have not changed since last year's report, when Australia was again third but Norway was on top and Iceland second. AIDS-afflicted sub-Saharan African states occupied the lowest rankings of the UN Human Development Index. As expected, rich free-market countries dominate the top places. Behind Iceland, Norway and Australia come Canada and Ireland. But the US has slipped to 12th, from eighth last year."


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cardiology meltdown at major Queensland public hospital

A leading Queensiand cardiologist is on the brink of resigning out of frustration with the state's failing health system. An investigation into problems in cardiac services at Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital has been launched by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. The specialist cardiologist, who declined to be named, had initially raised concerns with hospital managers but they failed to respond to her complaint. Details of the complaint have not been revealed, but are believed to concern management conflicts stemming from bed and staff shortages.

It is not the first time senior doctors at the Prince Charles cardiac department have been forced to quit. In 2000, heart surgeon Dr Julie Morton resigned, citing workplace environment as the problem, and in 2004 Dr Con Aroney also left the cardiology department. Only last year, renowned heart and lung transplant surgeon Dr John Dunning was so appalled by the state of Queensland Health that he returned to Britain.

Dr Don Kane, president of the Salaried Doctors Queensland union, said Queensland Health had failed to fix on going problems. Managers at the Prince Charles Hospital refused to comment.

The above article by Hannah Davies appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on November 25, 2007

The Senate battle begins

Leftist rage in evidence already. A wiser man would start negotiating -- and do so in a civil manner. But I guess his glass jaw is showing already. Flying into a rage when frustrated seems to be his form

Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd says the Coalition is being "arrogant" if it thinks it can stand in the way of his Government's workplace reforms. Senior Coalition figures admit that Labor now has a mandate to abolish WorkChoices, but they warn that Senate support for the ALP's changes is not guaranteed. The Coalition will retain control the Senate until July next year but Mr Rudd says Opposition senators must listen to the voters.

"There could not be greater clarity about what we stand for and propose," he said. "Are the Liberals still so out of touch with working people in Australia that they think they have a mandate to retain WorkChoices? "Is that the sort of arrogant statement we're hearing from the Liberals two or three days after an election?"

Earlier the former workplace relations minister Joe Hockey said he believed Labor had a clear mandate to get rid of the IR legislation. "The Labor Party has a mandate to tear up WorkChoices," he said.

Liberal leadership candidate Brendan Nelson says the Liberal party has received a strong signal on WorkChoices, but he has concerns about the impact of Labor's plans to change unfair dismissal laws. "We've got to make sure that the Labor Party does what it said it would do," he said. "We'll look very carefully at any legislation that is presented. I feel very strongly about any retreat at all on unfair dismissal law provisions."


Encroaching sanity about GM

NSW, Vic lift GM bans in landmark moves

The Victorian and New South Wales governments have become the first in Australia to allow farmers to grow genetically-modified (GM) food crops. NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald has announced the state is ending its four-year moratorium on GM canola crops, despite a last-minute plea from Western Australia and Tasmania to maintain the ban. Mr Macdonald says the move will put NSW farmers on a level playing field with overseas farmers because GM canola now accounts for 70 per cent of the global canola market.

But NSW farmers will need to get approval from authorities before they plant the crops. "It is a cautious approach to this issue to balance the various stakeholder interests and concerns," Mr Macdonald said. He says GM canola crops will be segregated to protect non-GM crops. But Biological Farmers Australia director Scott Kinnear has questioned the effectiveness of that strategy, saying the wind tends to carry GM seeds into non-GM areas.

Mr Macdonald says growing GM canola will have a positive impact on the environment because it reduces the need for pesticides. He says strict labelling laws will also be in place so people will know what they are eating.

Greens MP Ian Cohen is strongly opposed to the move. "We really are moving into a new set of circumstances in agricultural production and consumption," he said. "It's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to turn it back."

Mr Macdonald says South Australia is also due to make a decision on GM canola soon. He says his Government's decision was made after an inquiry chaired by former Nationals leader Ian Armstrong. "This panel received 1,375 submissions and conducted more than 30 interviews on issues associated with the marketing and trade aspects of GM crops," he said in a statement. "The review found that it was time for change and that farmers and markets wanted the choice. "There is a confidence out there in the industry that it is time to move into the future on this important issue." Mr Macdonald says GM canola will be available in a limited supply for next year's planting season.


Kids must not run in park

Obesity, anyone?

A GROUP of children have been nabbed for running around a park and threatened with fines by their council. Glen Eira Council has ordered these cute "crooks" out of a Caulfield park and threatened to hit each one with a $250 fine if they return. The children and their parents are furious after they were challenged by Glen Eira officers last Thursday and ordered out of Princes Park during after-school exercise.

The council says it is trying to protect the drought-affected park by making it off limits to any organised sporting groups without a permit. However local families say the fun police are a bad joke. In recent weeks, about eight children and parents from the three families have been meeting at the park after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The energetic youngsters run a lap of the three-oval park and play games.

Dad Grant Cohen said they were approached last week by a Glen Eira local laws officer who told them organised groups weren't allowed on the grounds. "It's ridiculous -- we're just three families who all live five minutes away," Mr Cohen said. "We started coming down here because the kids would be getting home after school and playing computer games all arvo. We wanted to give them a chance to run around. "This park should be full of kids doing exactly that."

Now the kids have gone from running around to being on the run -- forced to be fitness fugitives. "We rang the council and they said that even if we went down the road to Caulfield Park, as long as we were in a group we'd still be fined," Mr Cohen said. The group were told even a single family of eight kids would not be allowed to run around together.

Glen Eira director of community relations Paul Burke said the by-law banning unauthorised groups from parks had been in place since 2000, and council had stepped up enforcement because of the drought. While Mr Burke wouldn't say the minimum number that constituted an organised group, he stuck by the decision to ban the kids.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Medical negligence in regional public hospital ruins a life

Jamie Oxley is only 22 -- but he already feels like a 60-year-old. Three years ago, Mr Oxley went to the Cairns Base Hospital emergency department after experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting. About four hours later he was discharged without his twisted bowel being diagnosed, despite X-rays that allegedly showed "classical" evidence of the problem.

He was rushed back to hospital by ambulance nine hours later and doctors had to remove about 3m of his small intestine, resulting in a permanent disability. Mr Oxley, who worked as a seafood processor before his operation, now struggles to work due to fatigue. Mr Oxley, of Yorkeys Knob near Cairns, is suing for $540,000 damages for pain, suffering, loss of amenities of life, economic loss and loss of earning capacity.

His statement of claim against the State of Queensland, filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on November 13, alleges Mr Oxley lost a major portion of his small intestine as a result of the failure to diagnose the obstruction early enough to treat it. A filed medical report by Dr John Raftos, a senior Sydney emergency medicine specialist, said X-rays taken when Mr Oxley first went to hospital showed air-fluid levels in the small intestine. "It would be reasonable to expect any ordinary skilled doctor would interpret this X-ray as being diagnostic evidence of small-bowel obstruction," Dr Raftos said.

Before the emergency operation Mr Oxley and his partner Nichola Easton, 21, had bought their own unit and were working hard for their future. Mr Oxley, who had won a regional trainee award, then lost a chance of promotion to a manager's position and later had to give up his job. "I'm only 22 but I'm finding it hard to do a week's work," he said.

Lawyer Damian Scattini, of Quinn and Scattini, said it was another case of a young Queenslander "being left with a life sentence because a Queensland public hospital dropped the ball". "The problem is that it was entirely preventable, but now Jamie is left to live with the consequences of the hospital's neglect," he said.

The above article by Kay Dibben appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on November 25, 2007

Good to see the end of the cloud-cuckoo-land party

OUTGOING Queensland Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett yesterday warned the party may never recover from its electoral rout. Mr Bartlett lost his Queensland Senate seat, with less than 2 per cent of the primary vote - well short of the 14 per cent needed after preferences. The Queensland makeup of the Senate is likely to be Ian Macdonald and Sue Boyce (Liberals), Ron Boswell (Nationals) and John Hogg, Claire Moore and Mark Furner (Labor). But The Greens believe they could still win the sixth spot from Labor.

Senator Bartlett said yesterday he was disappointed with the result. "I'm not totally shocked at not winning, but the vote being as low as it is was a surprise," said Senator Bartlett. Party leader Lyn Allison also lost her Senate seat in Victoria, meaning the Democrats will have no representation in Federal Parliament after July. Senator Allison said: "I think we've lost our four remaining seats. I don't call that an annihilation entirely - we will still have one member of parliament in South Australia," she said.

Greens Queensland Senate candidate Larissa Waters has 7.44 per cent of the primary vote and says the result will be determined by postal votes. Pauline Hanson won more than 4 per cent of the primary vote while Family First polled just over 2.3 per cent. Ms Hanson's result means that under Australian Electoral Commission guidelines she stands to pocket funding of $2.10 a vote or $200,000.

Apart from the Liberals with 39.78 per cent, Labor with 39.31 per cent and the Greens (7.44 per cent), Ms Hanson's Pauline's United Australia Party was the only other in Queensland to crack the 4 per cent mark. The ALP looks set to pick up four new Senate positions, building on its 28 seats in the 76-seat chamber.

But the Coalition will hold on to its majority of 39 until next July - putting the Labor Government on a collision course with its rival. Mr Rudd's plan to ratify the Kyoto protocol and scrap industrial relations laws may not happen until the second half of 2008, as the Coalition firmly opposes both policies. Once the new Senate takes shape, Mr Rudd will have to negotiate new laws with the Greens, an Independent and Family First, who will hold the balance of power.


Only a slight move to the Left

By Paul Sheehan

Ideology is dead in Australia. The electorate made sure of that at the weekend. Australia now has a new leader as conservative as the one the public has just cast aside. The transition was seamless, bloodless and ruthless. Seamless, because the prime minister-elect has committed himself to policy pragmatism, fiscal conservatism and border security. Kevin Rudd is also the only member of the Labor Party who has regularly attended the federal parliamentary prayer group (dominated by social conservatives like Bronwyn Bishop and Bob Katter).

Bloodless, because the election campaign, at least as contested by the principals, was never grubby or personal but remained a contest of ideas. It was left to a few Liberal hacks to provide the grubby, and a few media commentators to provide the personal, the mean-spirited and the one punch thrown in the campaign. Ruthless, because the Prime Minister, John Howard, the supposed political master, may have lost his seat in Parliament, while his deputy, the supposed new leader, Peter Costello, self-decapitated as the heir-apparent yesterday, after he had considered the magnitude of the rebuilding that lies ahead.

So the Australian political system, one of the oldest and most stable democracies in the world, has delivered an emphatic change of leadership with a modest change in direction. The electorate has chosen a Labor leader who locked his party's utopian left wing in a broom closet for the election campaign, and is giving every indication he intends to keep them there. In his final keynote address of the campaign, not once did he mention the words unions, Aborigines, indigenous, apology, refugees or multiculturalism.

It's taken almost 40 years to learn from mistakes and apply the necessary discipline. What rolled over the Howard Government in the past eight months was Labor 3.0, built on the experiences of Labor 1.0 and Labor 2.0. Labor 1.0 was the Whitlam government; after emerging from 23 years in the wilderness in 1972 many of its members behaved like pigs at a trough and it was rejected overwhelmingly by the public in 1975. Labor 2.0 was the Hawke-Keating government, vastly more sophisticated and accomplished, but eventually undone by arrogance and the culture wars, as Paul Keating, Gareth Evans, Nick Bolkus and Robert Tickner led the charge of "racism" every time anyone dared to question its misguided policies on immigration or Aboriginal affairs. It took 10 years for Labor to recover.

Labor 3.0 is encapsulated by Rudd's refusal to contest the culture wars with Howard. The rhetorical tendencies of firebrands like Julia Gillard, Peter Garrett and the trade union ideologues have been conspicuously tempered or measured, or non-existent, since Rudd took charge. On Saturday night, we had the spectacle of Stephen Smith, a senior member of Rudd's shadow cabinet, complaining about "the worst excesses, the ugly face of unionism, which hasn't helped us at all". He was referring to Labor's relative failure in Western Australia.

The utopian Left inside Labor and the Greens will have to come to terms with the reality that Australia will soon have a Labor prime minister who has a temper, an iron will, a fierce intellect and an enormous mandate, who has given the Australian electorate what it wanted. What it wanted was an end to the excesses and the hollowness of the Howard Government, not a deviation from policy pragmatism.

More here

Sometimes you can't win

And trying to protect Aboriginal children from abuse will almost always be an example of that

ABORIGINAL social workers in Brewarrina say the indigenous community there is confused and fearful after the attempted removal of four children from their families last week, which sent two of them into hiding. Grace Beetson, who runs the Ourgunya women's refuge, described "scenes reminiscent of the film Rabbit-Proof Fence" when Department of Community Services workers and police arrived at the children's house to take four of them into care on Thursday.

"Bystanders watched as police used capsicum spray on emotional fathers and ripped two children [aged three and six months] from their 18- and 19-year-old mothers' arms," Ms Beetson said. "Aboriginal women outside of the house and across the street were crying, whilst children were running around distraught, fearful and screaming."

Ms Beetson said neither mother was aware she was under departmental scrutiny, but a spokesman for the department said it had been working on the case and "seeking to engage the family without success".

Two other children aged eight and 11, who were sisters of the young mothers, had since gone into hiding after learning that they were also scheduled to be removed, Ms Beetson said. "Their mother . has desperately requested support from DOCS in the past. These children had been taken into care and then returned when appropriate placements could not be found. Whilst a care plan was drafted and respite specifically requested, the family received no further support or resources from DOCS," she said.

A protest march was being organised in Brewarrina, amid fears that a radical crackdown like that in the Northern Territory was being planned for western NSW. But the department said the two babies were taken into care "amid serious fears for their safety" and that department case workers "were thrust into a scene of escalating violence and personal risk when attending the premises". "The decision to remove these children was not taken lightly. Such decisions are always difficult," the spokesman said. "DOCS recognises the distress of the family and the community in this case but must put the safety of these children first."

Earlier this month, Brewarrina was the scene of the funeral for two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth, an Aboriginal boy whose body was found in a suitcase in a pond in Ambarvale. Dean's death was the first of a series of tragic incidents this month that has put unprecedented pressure on a department already under strain. Dean's father, Paul Shillingsworth, grew up in Brewarrina. Dean's mother, Rachel Pfitzner, of Rosemeadow, has been charged with his murder.

The Minister for Community Services, Kevin Greene, said two new DOCS case workers began work in October in nearby Bourke and two more positions were being advertised as part of a NSW Government strategy to boost child protection resources in western NSW.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Ruddslide

Some readers may be looking to me for a comment on the implications of the recent Australian Federal election. As I see it, one centre-right government has been replaced by another. As Andrew Bolt has pointed out, there are even some ways in which Rudd is to the Right of John Howard. And the policies of the two major parties on social issues such as illegal immigration, abortion and homosexual marriage seem to differ only in the smallest of details.

There are some causes for concern, of course, but nothing major is likely to change much. The Australian Labor party is arguably the world's most conservative Leftist party and they strongly reinforced that in the recent election campaign by their constant "me-toos" to the policies of the Howard government. They NEEDED to do that. Any hint of traditional Leftist policies would have sent them to oblivion again -- as it did in the previous election under the leadership of Mark Latham. In other words, they won by promising that there would be only micro-changes. That is pretty conservative in at least one sense.

There will certainly be a lot of rabid Leftists in the new Labor cabinet (government) but Rudd has immense authority for having led them out of the wilderness and he is also an obsessive bureaucrat who will not let much past him and he knows full well what his victory depended on. So any Bolshevik tendencies in the cabinet will undoubtedly be stared down.

If Rudd WERE to depart from his election promises to any substantial degree that would be a strong confirmation of what his electoral opponents constantly harped on during the campaign: Can he be trusted? And that would almost certainly lead to his defeat in the next Federal election in 3 year's time. And I know without looking that Rudd has far greater ambitions than being a one-term Prime Minister. So, ultimately, it is the electorate that is the watchdog watching him. And his recent success shows that he is too good a politician to be unaware of that gaze.

The biggest danger that I see is in his High Court appointments. Judges generally seem pretty power-mad and Rudd appointments could take the brakes off that. Australia has had a lot less legislating from the bench than the USA has had so it would be a great pity to lose that restraint.

The Rudd stance on the Iraq involvement is certainly weaker than that of John Howard but I again think Rudd will be cautious. His habit of caution and avoiding controversy should see any moves being slow and well-considered rather than hasty. He is certainly a lot less frantic about it than the U.S. Democrats are. Britain is already in the process of pulling out of Iraq, however, so that makes whatever Rudd does fairly inconsequential by comparison.

Food fanatics now targeting hospitals

Apparently adults have to have their decisions made for them by these Fascists too

CANCER Council Victoria is heading an alliance of key health groups accusing the Brumby Government of failing to fight obesity by refusing to ban junk food in hospitals. The cancer council, Diabetes Victoria, Vic Health and Deakin University - which form Victoria's Obesity Policy Coalition - want to ban junk food in vending machines and canteens.

The New South Wales Government has done so, but a spokesman for Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said canteen and vending machine food was a matter for individual health services to address.

Health groups say hospitals should be leading by example. "In hospitals we are dealing with the effects of chronic diseases, conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer which are all affected by weight," OPC senior policy adviser Ms Jane Martin said. "These conditions are a big burden on hospital budgets yet chocolate bars, sugary drinks and chips are available in vending machines 24 hours a day. "We have seen changes made in school canteens and suppliers to schools have been able to make this shift. "It is not difficult to refrigerate vending machines in order to supply healthy choices."

Hospitals were also one of the first places to go smoke-free and tackle tobacco, she said. "We need to treat being overweight like tobacco," Ms Martin said. "It's about doing the right thing for people who are sick and their families." "Patients, visitors and staff need to be surrounded by the right messages."

Department of Human Services spokesman Bram Alexander said hospital canteens did provide a range of healthy choices, but they could not make people buy them


Only a government would provide a third-world school in a first-world country

PARENTS at Victoria's most forgotten school have issued a plea for help as its dilapidated classrooms crumble around their children. Wodonga South Primary School is old, inadequate and unsafe. For 15 years the State Government has promised to rebuild or relocate the ageing school in Victoria's northeast. But, despite significant sections of the school falling down and failing to meet the Government's minimum standards, nothing has been done to fix it. The school has no heating, no counselling room, no canteen and no physical education facilities.

It has seven permanent classrooms - fewer than half the prescribed minimum. Classrooms show signs of structural faults, cracked walls and peeling paint and many have mildew, leaky roofs and broken windows. And the school is so crowded the music teacher has to conduct lessons in a storeroom at the back of the library.

School council president Stephen Hudson said businesses would be fined or shut down if they provided work conditions as poor as those of the school. "It's not fair on the kids," he said. "We're going to have two generations of children that have gone through primary school without the basic things that most kids take for granted."

The school is only 2.2ha, well below the Department of Education's 3.5ha standard. Teachers are so scared some of the school's 500 children will be injured in the tiny schoolyard that they are forced to stagger lunch breaks. Principal David Hinton said parents, teachers and students were desperate for a new school and an end to the government inaction. "It's untenable for teachers to teach in and it's unsafe for children to learn in," he said.

Education Department spokeswoman Melissa Arch said the school would receive funding in the next three years. "The school will be rebuilt on another site and the department is currently negotiating to secure land for the site," she said.


The good ol' crooked Queensland police again

ALMOST five years after graduating from the Queensland Police Academy, Caboolture officer Jason Cuttler has the dubious distinction of being Australia's longest serving probationary constable. The 34-year-old is paid at entry level and will remain on the lowest pay point until next year and maybe even longer. But according to him, his stagnant police career is not the result of a lack of ambition or determination. Instead, Constable Cuttler says he has been "victimised and harassed" by senior officers ever since he sued the police service in order to gain entry.

The former radio promotions worker first applied to enter the service in 1993 but was rejected because he had "too many speeding fines". He tried again and again while working as a corrective services officer and eventually took the matter to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favour. In 2002, Constable Cuttler took his place at the Oxley police academy, graduated and was posted to Rockhampton, aged 29. But within six months of taking up his post, senior officers ordered an investigation into alleged disciplinary breaches by him.

These included lying about a single sick day, presenting for work two hours' late on one occasion and the incorrect storage of his capsicum spray. The investigation took almost three years and resulted in Constable Cuttler being fined $75 and defaulted to the lowest pay point. He is now taking action against the QPS to have that decision overturned and will face the Misconduct Tribunal for the ninth time next week.

But if that is not enough, Constable Cuttler is taking on the QPS in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission over alleged "victimisation and harassment" by senior officers whom he believes are preventing him from being promoted. By his own estimate, Constable Cuttler should be a senior constable by now rather than a probationary constable.

He made his 14th appearance at the commission yesterday, represented by Queensland Police Union official Des Hansson, who declined to comment on the case. Commissioner John Thompson ordered the matter to go to arbitration if it was not resolved by the QPS within seven days. Outside the commission, Constable Cuttler was optimistic of a favourable outcome. "I've done nothing wrong mate," he said. "I've been told it would be easier for me to sign a confidentiality agreement and go but why go away for something you haven't done? Justice has to prevail."

The QPS refused to comment yesterday.


Judge criticises non-judicial bias in a colleague

He is referring to homosexual judge Kirby, who seems to judge all matters by their effect on his anus

Retired High Court judge Ian Callinan has accused fellow judges of carrying "personal baggage" when handing down decisions. Mr Callinan, who was appointed to the High Court in 1998 and retired in September, was yesterday critical of some colleagues and aspects of the legal system.

On his appointment as an honorary fellow of the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia, in Brisbane, he said judges bringing personal baggage to a constitutional question had an obligation to make it clear what that philosophy was and to be "absolutely candid" about it.

"When I was at the bar, I sometimes thought, and not just in constitutional cases, that judges were not always as candid about their real reasons for deciding a case as they might have been," he said. Mr Callinan also criticised High Court judgments as "too long, too wordy and too numerous" and often "self indulgent" and "productive of uncertainty".


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Big day for Australia today

I have just gone and voted in Australia's Federal election. My local polling place was VERY well-staffed and well managed. I was in and out in 10 minutes -- unlike the way many Americans have had to line up for hours in their previous Federal elections. And because all votes are on paper, recounts are fairly easy and disputes about the results are rare.

We have separate ballot papers for the Senate and the lower house and the fact that the two ballot papers are very different in size means that it is almost impossible to get the two mixed up. Nonetheless there was a lady standing by the ballot boxes to see that everybody put their paper in the right box. Very good for absent-minded people like me!

I gave my Senate vote to Pauline, of course. Her policy of restricting Muslim immigration is the only sensible one for any Western nation, in my opinion.

This election gets weirder and weirder

Andrew Bolt comments on some of the odd policy alignments of the two major parties

KEVIN Rudd looks like winning and there shouldn't be much left to surprise us as Labor's Light on the Hill somehow becomes the Light on the Till. How strange this election is. It's not just that voters seem ready to sack a government that's left them richer than ever. That's weird enough. But want weirder? Then pick which leader - John Howard or Kevin Rudd - glared through his glasses and said this at his campaign launch:

"I don't stand before you with a bagful of irresponsible promises ... I am saying loud and clear that this sort of reckless spending must stop."

Now pick which leader - Howard or Rudd - said this at his launch:

"I want to be prime minister ... so that we can achieve a lasting recognition in our constitution of the first Australians, the indigenous people of this country."

The story of this election is in those two quotes. So is the story of why Howard is in a trouble he never saw coming. It was Rudd, of course, who promised an end to reckless spending, to roars of applause from a Labor audience including, believe it or not, Gough Whitlam. Even Whitlam? Clapping with his greedy hands a promise to spend less? Live long enough and you'll see even this.

That was the quote that might well steal Labor this election. And Rudd has since gone even further, promising this week to slash government spending programs by $10 billion and even take "the meat axe" to a public service that has been "bloating".

It's just spin, you'll say. These promises to slash the public service, for instance, come from the same whatever-you-want-me-to-say candidate from Focus Group Central who's also promising 81 new bureaucracies and 119 review committees. Indeed, so keen is this former public servant on bureaucracy that a group of his staffers worked even on an answer to the question Rove McManus put on television on Sunday: who would Rudd go gay for?

So Rudd will cut bureaucracy? Cut spending? Yeah, and my name's Joan Kirner. Yet that is indeed what he's promising, firmly, and in words John Howard would be proud to utter if he dared to himself. Sure, you can complain that Rudd's new Tightwad Party is just some PR flim-flam. You can protest that Rudd in Opposition actually opposed most of the Government's spending cuts and economic reforms, and even in this campaign has matched Howard's spending almost dollar for dollar. And you can warn that Rudd's plan to wind back the workplace reforms that have helped make us richer will also make a lot of people a little poorer. It's the dole for them.

I worry about all that, too, even though I feel Rudd at least hopes to be as fiscally tight as Labor premiers now tend to be. But Rudd's failings are still to be seen in practice, while Howard's failings, real and mostly hyped, are already in full view. And a key failing is this: that Rudd can pose as Scrooge because Howard can't.

Does anyone think Howard is not a spendthrift? Seen all the Government advertising? Your money, folks. Added up his election promises? That's $50 billion right there. In fact, over the next four years the Government will spend $1 trillion in all. Of course, Howard has good excuses. As in: his biggest promise is to give you back $34 billion in tax money that government would otherwise spend for you. As in: we're spending big because, under the Liberals' management, we're earning big, too. As in: Labor will spend that same fortune - provided, that is, it lets us keep earning it. All true, even if too often overlooked or taken for granted after 14 years of growth.

But with all this money coming in - and Howard shovelling it out - Rudd got the chance he's now snatched. Can anyone really say that, compared to Howard, Rudd looks like Whitlam? He looks rather like the bank clerk querying the number of zeros on Howard's withdrawal slip. In playing that role he's rubbed out some of that big question mark always hanging over Labor - can it be trusted with our cash? As a Sydney paper put it, forget Light on the Hill; will it be Light on the Till?

It's not just the scale of Howard's spending that has helped Rudd to pose as a conservative by contrast. It's also the way Howard has spent it, seeming to buy off interest groups, one after the other, like the clever politician Rudd keeps calling him. The Liberals need votes in Tasmanian marginal seats? Then take over a state hospital there and tip in a few million. The Liberals need more votes in a New South Wales seat? Then bung it $1 million for some wild plan for an ethanol plant, that never ends up getting built. For years this has worked well ... until now. Look at the Liberals' string of election giveaways to one lot of must-have voters after another. Is there a pattern to them, a philosophy, a story? Or does it just look too much like more tacky dosh for votes?

Which brings me to that campaign promise of Howard's -- to put to a referendum a change to our Constitution to recognise Aborigines are our "first people". Did anyone buy that line? To the Left, this was just Howard offering to do something he should have done years ago. Like his late alleged conversion to the global warming faith, it was more a confession of past failure than a promise of a new dawn. Like his big dollar bribes, it was a promise that seemed made only to keep sweet one more bloc of votes. Howard's adoption of the (Not Quite) Sorry agenda did little for conservatives, either. It seemed just one more cultural surrender, just one more sign Howard may indeed have stayed on too long. Here was an exhausted Howard giving in to what he'd been so right to resist for so long -- a symbolic gesture that would entrench the New Racism, and make it even harder to smash the victimhood that has made victims of many Aboriginal children.

I shouldn't be too hard on him, though. Howard still has the fine instincts that make him on his guard against the New Age faiths and their bogus preachers who'd beggar us. Only Howard, not Rudd, would have dared intervene in troubled Aboriginal communities, risking the fury of city romantics who prefer their blacks to be quaintly tribal and tethered to handouts.

Rudd, in contrast, blows with whatever wind will puff the giant sails of his ambition. Even many of the keenest Labor voters seem to sense that he stands for little but himself. That he'd have been in favour of the Iraq war had the polls been different, just as he backed the booting out of the innocent Dr Mohamed Haneef. No wonder there is no excitement about his campaign - other than the thrill of probable victory.

Even a Labor booster as keen as Professor Robert Manne is left to only hope there's more to Rudd than he's letting on: "I think that we will only know what the Rudd government will do in three or four years' time because at the moment the Rudd government is avoiding the kind of polemical stoushes with Howard because it knows it can't win ... When he gets into government then we'll begin to see the differences again." Or, um, not.

How far this is from the campaigns of Whitlam in 1972 or Bob Hawke in 1983, who led Labor to victory in tides of idealism and hope. I remember the emotional pull of Hawke's great campaign promise: "Bringing Australians Together." I remember the hairs standing on the back of my (naive) head as Hawke led politicians, unionists, business giants and academics into his great summit of consensus at the old Parliament House, to work out the Big Deal. History seemed on the hoof, and I leapt on, working bright-eyed on Hawke's next two election campaigns.

What was different was that Hawke had a purpose -- to bring us together. Rudd offers only administration -- "New Leadership". New leadership? But to do what, exactly? Rudd hasn't said, other than promise he'll be just like Howard, but less old. Less old, yes, but also less experienced, less calm, less decisive, less predictable, less competent and -- on past performance -- less honest. But what policy differences is he offering? A few more computers in schools? Hardly the "education revolution" he promised. Less spending? A billion a year less in a $250 billion budget won't even be noticed.

No, the difference boils down to Rudd's three big symbolic promises, each of which is wrong in principle, and bogus in delivery -- to cut greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent by 2050; to pull out combat troops from Iraq; and to "scrap" WorkChoices. The first is a promise to make cuts that won't work in ways Rudd won't detail at a cost he can't reveal to reduce temperatures that won't budge -- and to do all this by a deadline he won't be around to see. The second is to pull out troops from a war largely won, signalling a defeat we haven't suffered, to send them to where they're not wanted, while actually leaving twice as many still in Iraq. And the third - well, a leader's got to give unions some return for the $30 or $50 million they've put into Labor's campaign, even if some workers then find they've suddenly become too expensive or risky to hire.

For someone who worked for Labor, this agenda does not thrill. It hurts the people I'd hoped to help. And as a conservative, I fret. Rudd represents a lurch into the irrational and faddishly impractical. Yet he looks like winning. Weird, but I guess when Whitlam cheers a Labor leader for promising to be even more Howard than Howard, there shouldn't be much left to surprise us. Except, perhaps, the result.


Freedom of information coming?

It's probably the most broken promise in politics so wait and see. The Leftist writer below seems to think it will happen though. Typical of the poor reality contact among Leftists. With governments of both Left and Right there is normally an initial opening up followed by a gradual closing up again

Matthew Moore argues today that, despite the government successfully suppressing information this week about their earlier plans for Workchoices, some good came out of the decision:
Although [Channel 7 journalist] McKinnon lost, there were some important victories in the fine print. The Government won because the tribunal upheld one argument against release. But most of the other arguments were demolished by the deputy president, Stephanie Forgie. ...Ms Forgie turned on its head the claim that public servants have a reasonable expectation the documents they prepared would remain confidential, and said it really meant this: "If the work they did as Australian Public Service officers were revealed they would not in future do the work required of them as APS officers holding senior positions ... whichever way the claim is stated, it cannot be said to have a rational basis." There is much more of this uncharacteristically blunt language, but you get the drift.

He says that the only reason the government ended up winning the case was because of the use of so-called "conclusive certificates", the ruling that in the opinion of the government, releasing the material would not be in the national interest. This very flexible tool has been used constantly by the government to block FoI access.

But, as Moore points out, Labor has promised to abolish these certificates. If they happen to win tomorrow, the abolition of the certificates will greatly improve public access to government information, which is a good thing. But that promise is one of many against which the credibility of a new government would be held to account and for which there will be no wiggle room. As I've said before, I wonder if Kevin Rudd (if his party happens to win) realises the extent to which people will expect such standards to have changed.


Black activist slams Leftists

Kevin Rudd has betrayed aboriginal people after abandoning a promise to pursue a constitutional referendum on reconciliation if he is elected Prime Minister, Noel Pearson said today. The director of the Cape York Institute said he "dreaded a Rudd Prime Ministership" who he branded "innately contemptuous of indigenous people" after The Australian reported that the ALP would not pursue a reconciliation preamble to the Constitution. "Mr Rudd's (support for the referendum) has been thrown into the dustbin two days before he hopes to become Australia's prime minister," Mr Pearson said. "Mr Rudd has now reneged on the commitment.. it shows a flagrant contempt for indigenous policy."

Despite the ALP committing to a referendum on reconciliation in October, Mr Rudd said that while he understood the proposal for an Aboriginal reconciliation preamble to the Constitution was a big change for Mr Howard, but he did not feel the need to pursue it. "From my point of view, the key thing is closing the gap (between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal living standards) and the key to this also is to introduce policies that give effect to closing the gap,'' Mr Rudd said. "I am concerned about making advances on the practical front first. Let's take other things subsequent to that.''

Mr Pearson said Mr Rudd, who he once worked with in Brisbane, had "innately contemptuous view of indigenous people". "From this betrayal I dread a Rudd prime ministership," Mr Pearson said.


Crowding in public hospitals kills people

NSW emergency departments are so overcrowded that the situation is contributing to deaths and will continue to do so until more beds are opened, a leading academic has said. New figures, to be released at an emergency medicine conference next week, show that, nationwide, the number of emergency patients waiting to be seen increased by 32 per cent between June and September. Associate Professor Drew Richardson, from the Australian National University medical school, said yesterday the September 3 snapshot of emergency departments also showed a continuing upward trend in patients waiting for a bed since the last snapshot, on June 18, at the same time of 10am.

The new data backs up concerns of emergency staff that chronic overcrowding is affecting patient care, highlighted by Jana Horska's miscarriage in a toilet at Royal North Shore Hospital two months ago. "I believe that mortality is higher in Australian hospitals than it should be because people are being delayed in the emergency department," said Professor Richardson, chairman of road trauma and emergency medicine at Australian National University. "It's about available beds - there's no other way of looking at it . The assumption I make is that hospital overcrowding is contributing to deaths in the Australian community and that until we decide we're going to work our hospitals on the basis of efficiency rather than utilisation, this will continue to happen."

Most of Sydney's major hospitals operate well above 85 per cent capacity - the recognised safe benchmark - to up to 5 per cent over capacity. Professor Richardson will tell the annual scientific meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine on Tuesday that emergency departments are frequently grinding to a halt - a trend that has been worsening over the past 10 years - because patients are waiting for beds. He said the September survey of 71 hospitals showed a 6 per cent nationwide increase in the number of emergency patients waiting for a ward bed and a 3 per cent increase in those waiting for more than eight hours, known as access block, since the June survey.

NSW had only a 4 per cent increase in patients waiting due to access block but a 20 per cent increase in patients waiting for treatment. However, he said the figures were significantly skewed downwards because the September snapshot was taken in the APEC week in which NSW hospitals cut back services. "NSW deserves a modicum of praise for being better than they used to be, whereas the other states are not, but nationally we have a huge problem," he said.

Professor Richardson said research published in the international journal Critical Care Medicine in June showed that if a patient spent more than six hours in emergency waiting to go to the intensive care unit, their in-hospital mortality rate was 17.4 per cent, compared with 12.9 per cent if there was no delay. He said similar studies in the ACT and Western Australia, published in the Medical Journal of Australia last year, showed emergency department overcrowding was associated with increased mortality.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Asylum bid likely to sink

THREE Indonesian families plucked from a leaking boat west of Darwin would have little chance of securing asylum on the basis of economic hardship under current Australian laws. The three men, their wives and their 10 children are "bajo laut", or sea gypsies, who are used to perilous journeys across treacherous waters. Their decision to seek economic asylum in Australia was probably based on "little knowledge" of immigration law and the simplistic assessment that "if Australian detention centres are good, how much better must the rest of it be?", according to Australian National University anthropologist James Fox.

The 16 were rescued in the Timor Sea by HMAS Ararat on Tuesday after their fishing boat took on water and was accidentally capsized by navy personnel. The three heads of the families involved - Sukardi Liri, Sadar and Sangaji Jawa - had all previously been arrested by Australian maritime border patrols while fishing in the Timor Sea. Australia only recognises asylum-seekers who meet the United Nations definition of a refugee: people who are outside their country of nationality or their usual country of residence and are unable or unwilling to return because of persecution over race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said yesterday the Indonesians were "at least a day away" from Christmas Island where they would be held at the island's original detention centre, as the new $356 million complex is not ready to be occupied.

Figures from government agencies reveal Indonesia's fishing fleet has largely retreated from Australian waters, or been reduced in size, as a result of increased enforcement and education. After John Howard ordered an October 2005 review of the threat of illegal fishing, the agencies came up with a new enforcement strategy as an education program was rolled out in eastern Indonesian villages. Although the 2006-07 budget included a $389 million, four-year funding boost to "more than double the number of apprehensions each year", the agencies have been so successful their focus has shifted to deterrence.

As well as surveillance, a cut in Indonesian fuel subsidies two years ago and poor weather helped reduce the number of incursions last year. The number of vessel sightings - some legitimate and some counted more than once - fell from 8619 in 2005-06 to 3609 in 2006-07. In the same time, the number of apprehensions also fell, from 367 to 216, as did the number of forfeitures of boats. Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz said it appeared Indonesian fishermen were getting the message.

Professor Fox described the Roti Island sea gypsies as "the poorest of the poor". He speculated that the voyage was "a desperate misguided flight from poverty to some kind of imagined wealth, if they could find acceptance in Australia". The bajo laut are an ethnic group spread across southeast Asia who make their living from the ocean but often regard themselves as having no long-term fixed address. If their claims for asylum are rejected, they will most likely be returned to Roti, where the boat's owner, Sukardi, will probably undertake extra poaching trips to pay off the debt on the vessel that sank.


Rudd would turn back boatpeople

It looks like the limpwristed approach to illegals that is common elsewhere will not be coming to Australia

KEVIN Rudd has taken a tough line on border security, warning that a Labor government will turn the boats back and deter asylum-seekers, using the threat of detention and the nation's close ties with Indonesia. In an interview with The Australian, the Opposition Leader advocated a layered approach to border security based on "effective laws, effective detention arrangements, effective deterrent posture vis-a-vis vessels approaching Australian waters".

Mr Rudd also said that a referendum on Aboriginal reconciliation, a separate Aboriginal treaty and a republican referendum would not occur in the first term of a Rudd Labor government, if at all. And he refused to give any commitment to a statutory bill of rights, saying Labor's only promise was to "consult the community" on the issue.

With the campaign closing amid Liberal exploitation of fears about Islam in Sydney's west and the arrival of 16 boatpeople from Indonesia off the West Australian coast, Mr Rudd promised a tough and integrated border-protection policy from Labor. This would mean close co-operation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Indonesian Government. Mr Rudd said Labor would take asylum-seekers who had been rescued from leaky boats to Christmas Island, would turn back seaworthy vessels containing such people on the high seas, and would not lift the current [much reduced] intake of African refugees.

"You'd turn them back," he said of boats approaching Australia, emphasising that Labor believed in an "orderly immigration system" enforced by deterrence. "You cannot have anything that is orderly if you allow people who do not have a lawful visa in this country to roam free," he said. "That's why you need a detention system. I know that's politically contentious, but one follows from the other. "Deterrence is effective through the detention system but also your preparedness to take appropriate action as the vessels approach Australian waters on the high seas."

Mr Rudd heads into the final two days of the campaign with an election-winning lead in the polls, although early figures from Newspoll and the latest Galaxy poll in News Limited newspapers give the Coalition some hope. Newspoll is detecting strong gains for the Coalition in Western Australia and a minor recovery in Queensland and Victoria, with full figures to be available in the final poll of the campaign exclusively in The Weekend Australian tomorrow. The Galaxy poll, which surveyed almost 1200 people on Tuesday and Wednesday, had Labor and the Coalition equal on 42.5 per cent of the primary vote. Taking into account preference flows, this gives Labor a lead of 52per cent to 48 per cent - the Government's best result this year. Such a swing, if uniform across the country, would deliver Labor 15 seats, one short of the 16 it needs to form government. An ACNielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers gives Labor a two-party-preferred lead of 57 per cent to 43 per cent, which would deliver a landslide victory.

John Howard accused Mr Rudd, in an interview with The Australian this week, of forming an alliance with the Greens in the Senate and with all state Labor governments. The Prime Minister warned this would form an unprecedented coalition in the Senate, House of Representatives and all state and territory governments, without checks and balances.

Mr Howard said yesterday he believed Mr Rudd "would change the country" if elected. "When there's been a change of government, there's been a profound change in the direction of the country," he said. "Now if the country were going in the wrong direction, it would be understandable that people would want change, but if it's going in the right direction, why would you change something that's going in the right direction?"

But in his interview with The Australian, Mr Rudd rejected or played down a series of social policies and issues that Labor and the Greens had pursued for years during the Coalition Government. He said a referendum on the republic was not a priority, flatly rejected the prospect of a separate treaty with Aborigines and said he was unlikely to pursue Mr Howard's plan for a reconciliation preamble to the Constitution if he were elected tomorrow. Instead, he will pursue practical outcomes for indigenous communities that "close the gap" between the living standards of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

Mr Rudd said he understood the proposal for an Aboriginal reconciliation preamble to the Constitution was a big change for Mr Howard, but he did not feel the need to pursue it. "From my point of view, the key thing is closing the gap (between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal living standards) and the key to this also is to introduce policies that give effect to closing the gap," Mr Rudd said. "I am concerned about making advances on the practical front first. Let's take other things subsequent to that."

Mr Rudd also said he was "absolutely" committed to following through on the Coalition's federal intervention in the Northern Territory. "I am steeled and seized by the report, The Little Children Are Sacred," he said. "You can't read that and just pretend it's business as usual in the Northern Territory, so I am prepared to give it a go." Mr Rudd said Labor would review the intervention after 12 months to ensure it was working effectively against a series of benchmarks on infant mortality and education standards. "I am fundamentally committed to making a difference on those areas of disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia," Mr Rudd said. "If that is done, perhaps we can look at other initiatives." He emphasised there would not be a separate Aboriginal treaty under his government.

Mr Rudd said a referendum on Australia becoming a republic was "not a priority" and he could not see it happening in his first term. "The republic is not a priority," he said. "I doubt therefore we would see any action on a republic during the first term." Mr Rudd said the ALP conference had agreed to look at a bill of rights but he did not put it as a priority. "It's not a priority," he said. "We had this debate, it's a highly contentious area." Mr Rudd said he was aware of the implications for national security legislation if a bill of rights were introduced. "I think it is an area to proceed very cautiously with," he said. "We are committed to consulting the community on the need for one, we are not committed to implementing one."


House full, overstretched midwives at NSW hospital warn

SENIOR staff at the state's busiest hospital have threatened to close its doors to women in labour because there are not enough midwives or beds to cope with the baby boom and they fear lives are in danger. Angry midwives at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown wrote to the Herald to complain women were left to labour in chairs because the beds were full, and that they were asked daily to work double shifts to cope with demand. They said the maternity unit was down 29 midwives, and some staff were working three shifts in a 34-hour period.

"Our maternity services are stretched beyond a safe working capacity. We are constantly . asked to care for more mothers and babies than is humanly possible," one midwife, who sought to remain anonymous, said. "Patient safety is continually compromised . bed block is occurring every day. Delivery suite is constantly overcrowded with 14 women in an 11-bed unit and unsafe staffing levels." She said staff had requested that the maternity unit be closed to new patients when full or overcrowded to ensure its safe operation, and that women be transferred to other maternity units in the area.

"Our members have told us it is a complete crisis," said Hannah Dahlen, secretary of the NSW Midwives Association. "They have had vacancies they cannot fill, the staff are burning out and going elsewhere - they are getting desperate." While Ms Dahlen said that many other hospitals were in similar dire straits, she said Royal Prince Alfred was experiencing particular pressures because of a local baby boom. More than 5000 babies were delivered at the hospital last year - almost 1000 more than expected. "That is a 25 per cent increase in the birthrate, and there hasn't been a staff increase, in fact staff have been leaving." Add to that a crisis in the midwife workforce, where up to 600 positions are vacant across the state, and there was an increasing likelihood of mistakes and other problems occurring.

"The gold standard is one midwife to one woman, yet what we currently have is three labouring women to one midwife - it isn't the best care and we do know that the risk of adverse events increases when that happens." It was understandable that the midwives had chosen to make their complaints via a series of unsigned letters to the Herald, given all staff were under threat of disciplinary action if they spoke out against the state's area health services, she said.

However the executive director of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Di Gill, disputed the figures, saying there were only 15 vacancies in the unit. Miss Gill also denied that the delivery room was ever overcrowded and insisted "no woman has ever given birth in a corridor". She scoffed at the idea that nurses or midwives might feel that their jobs were under threat if they spoke out about conditions in the unit. "That is rubbish. I am not in the habit of sacking people and certainly not midwives."

Yet the nurses' union backed the midwives' claims. Its general secretary, Brett Holmes, confirmed to the Herald that less than two months ago, there were 29 vacancies in the unit.


New Victorian public hospital will have everything

Except enough doctors and nurses and beds. That's too hard. One billion dollars just to provide 46 extra beds? Unbelievable. But I guess that it compares with the $702m for just 27 more beds that the NSW government is spending

THE new $1 billion Royal Children's Hospital will have its own aquarium, Scienceworks, cinema -- even visits from zoo animals -- to help take patients' minds off their illness. Plans for the Royal Park hospital were unveiled yesterday, with work to begin within five weeks and finish by 2011. The new buildings will contain 353 beds -- 46 more than the existing hospital -- capable of treating an extra 35,000 patients a year. The original $850 million price tag has grown to an estimated $1 billion to accommodate a 90-room hotel, gym, two childcare centres and a small supermarket.

Premier John Brumby said the $150 million "add-ons" would be paid for by private investors with no cost to taxpayers, under the public-private partnership with the Children's Health Partnership consortium. "It will make it the most state-of-the-art, environmentally and family-friendly children's hospital, not just in Australia, but anywhere in the world," he said. Patients and families will have more privacy, with 85 per cent single bedrooms complete with bedside entertainment systems and pullout double beds for parents. It will be built in parkland immediately west of the present hospital.

A two-storey coral reef aquarium will dominate the hospital entrance, while Melbourne Zoo will bring animals to the hospital for interactive education programs. A Scienceworks display with 20 hands-on experiences and two large exhibit spaces, and a bean-bag cinema, will also help children relax between treatments. McDonald's has the option of keeping a store at the Royal Children's.

Having spent a combined three years in the hospital fighting cystic fibrosis, Leanna Babet, 15, said the comforting surrounds of the new design would put patients at ease. "It is overwhelming when friends come to visit sometimes because this hospital looks so much like a hospital, and with the new designs it just looks funky and cool," she said.

The Royal Children's will be Australia's first five-star green hospital, with a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases and 20 per cent reduction in water demand [What a hot and smelly place that will make it -- if other "Green" buildings are a guide]. But that has not eased the concerns of Melbourne City Council environment committee chair Fraser Brindley, who said the Government missed the opportunity to increase the size of Royal Park by relocating the hospital to Docklands. The Government has promised to demolish much of the old hospital by 2014. It has also said there will be no net loss of parkland.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bureaucrats face Rudd axe

Amazing if he does it. But it's probably of a piece with Bill Clinton's declaration that "The era of big government is over"

KEVIN Rudd has vowed to fund his election policies by taking a "meat axe" to the bloated bureaucracy if he wins Saturday's election. The Opposition Leader has also promised to keep a Labor government in touch with ordinary Australians by taking his cabinet and public service department heads on the road for monthly meetings in regional areas, including indigenous communities.

And in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, he accused John Howard of ravaging the education system through under-investment and crippling the nation's capacity to compete on the international stage.

Mr Rudd's razor gang promise, likely to alarm Canberra's large population of public servants, comes as Labor continues to lead the Government in the opinion polls ahead of Saturday's election. Repeating his election campaign mantra of economic conservatism, Mr Rudd said his razor gang, headed by finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner and Treasury spokesman Wayne Swan, would slice through the bureaucracy but leave services to the public untouched. Mr Tanner last night claimed to have identified $10 billion worth of budget savings to help fund Labor's election promises. The savings, which include $1 billion from scrapping the Access card welfare identification program, have been submitted to Treasury for costing.

However, Mr Rudd has also flagged the creation of dozens of new agencies and statutory bodies and promised at least 119 reviews - on issues ranging from grocery prices to the format of election debates - if Labor wins government. His cost-cutting approach is similar to that adopted by the Prime Minister when he was elected in 1996 and appointed a razor gang to scrutinise all departments except Defence. Mr Howard hired Max Moore-Wilton, nicknamed Max the Axe, to drive the downsizing as the head of Mr Howard's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. By June 1997, 15,000 permanent employees had left the commonwealth public service, prompting a temporary slump in the Canberra property market. But numbers recovered in later years, surpassing 1996 levels by June 2003. There are now about 135,000 permanent public servants, 16,000 more than when Mr Howard won government. There are several thousand more temporary public servants.

"When I talk about the razor gang, I am dead serious," Mr Rudd said yesterday. "It's probably not the right town or possibly the place to talk about it here in Canberra. It just strikes me as passing strange that this Government, which supposedly belongs to the conservative side of politics, has not systematically applied the meat axe to its own administrative bloating for the better part of a decade. "I am very mindful of what can be done through our razor gang process as far as (the) administrative functions of government are concerned." Mr Rudd said the razor gang's work, combined with Labor's modest spending promises and identified savings, would allow it to deliver its promises while retaining fiscal responsibility.

Finance Minister Nick Minchin scoffed at Mr Rudd's claims, saying Labor had proposed 81 new bureaucracies and 119 reviews it would undertake in government. "Labor's policies would create a vast bureaucratic empire," Senator Minchin said. "True economic conservatives propose streamlining public administration, not setting up a whole new array of bureaucracies and reviews. "Labor's approach would be a victory for career bureaucrat Kevin Rudd but an expensive nightmare for the Australian taxpayer."

The Commonwealth and Public Sector Union yesterday vowed to "vigorously defend" the interests of its 65,000 members against Mr Rudd's cost-cutting drive, predicting the overall size of the public service would not change under a Labor government. CPSU national secretary Stephen Jones described Mr Rudd's comments as "intemperate". Mr Jones said savings could be found within the public service but "if they're serious about finding savings they should sit down with the employee representatives". "If Labor is successful, they will find if they want to implement their policy they are going to need qualified and experienced staff on deck," Mr Jones said. "There is a tight labour market. The commonwealth is not immune from that. I think one of the bigger challenges of a Labor government would be finding staff, not getting rid of them."

Liberal senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries, said he was appalled by Mr Rudd's comments. "The city has grown tremendously in the last seven or eight years and has the lowest unemployment in the country," Senator Humphries said. "He has signalled that he is prepared to bring that to an end." Senator Humphries said heavy public service cuts could put the ACT into recession.

Mr Rudd also said he wanted to be the education prime minister and savaged the Prime Minister's record on education, accusing him of disinvesting at a time when all other nations were lifting spending. "Because the quality of our education system will fundamentally determine the rich and poor nations of the 21st century, the time for action is now," Mr Rudd said. On early childhood education, Australia was "stone, motherless last" when compared with other nations.

He said the Liberal Party was more interested in leadership squabbles than policy-making and its election campaign had been exclusively negative. Mr Rudd accused Mr Howard of treating human beings like "economic commodities" through his Work Choices industrial relations laws, which would be abolished under Labor. Despite continuing to criticise Mr Howard's negative campaign, Mr Rudd continued with his own negativity by repeating his claim that if Peter Costello became prime minister, he would toughen Work Choices.

Asked whether he had enough power within the Labor Party to keep its left wing and the trade union movement under control, Mr Rudd insisted he would govern in the national interest, not sectional interests. He said old ideological divides had dissolved in contemporary politics and that despite being an economic conservative, not all of his policies were conservative. "I am confident that the program we've put forward is a substantive reformist program," Mr Rudd said. "I am confident that members of our party, in all their diversity, will be in there behind the implementation of that program. For all our faults the Labor Party is about decency."

If Labor was elected, its first year would be dominated by work on climate change, education and health and it would conduct extensive negotiations with states on improving public hospitals. There would be no major changes in the machinery of government or upheavals in the structures of the public service. And much of next year would be used to define and administer a tender for the provision of computers to all high school students in line with his promise of an education revolution.

Mr Rudd said his cabinet would meet in regional areas once a month, accompanied by public servants. He said people in regional communities ought to see their government in action.


The education consequences of a Labor Party win

Howard believes he has changed the country during his four terms, most notably to be "less politically correct", he said in an interview with me at Kirribilli House two weeks ago. And he knows that it is on education, the touchstone issue that divides Rudd and Howard, where the Opposition Leader bears the heaviest burden of political correctness.

Rudd's party has long been hostage to the education unions and educationists of the so-called progressive left, who persist with 40-year-old radical theories such as whole-word reading and student-directed learning, despite a generation of conclusive proof they do the most harm to the underprivileged children they profess to care most about. As Janette Howard, a former teacher, said during my interview with her husband at Kirribilli House, education is the ground zero of the culture wars, which she prefers to call a "standards war".

In her travels with him on the campaign trail she has found that "people are concerned about what [children] can't do anymore, that they can't spell, they can't add up . or they don't know enough history". "There's real anger about that," agreed the Prime Minister.

But Rudd has somehow managed to bypass the anger about education standards. Instead he has dazzled everyone with promises of an "education revolution" which offers little of substance other than giving laptops to every year 9 to 12 student and providing high speed broadband, as if technology is any substitute for good teachers, discipline in the classroom and the ability to read, write and think. In fact, excessive emphasis on technology confines the teacher to be a mere facilitator.

As high school teacher Jane Sloan put it so eloquently in our letters page on Tuesday: "I find myself increasingly reluctant to take up the types of mediated communication that instruments such as interactive whiteboards, computers and data projectors facilitate. "I am not particularly interested in feeding my students' desires (some would feel it as a need) to be entertained - which is how these tools are marketed to us. I believe education should be about enlivening imaginations, not simply providing people with a stock of commercially generated images and sensations that they can scroll through in their minds when the situation requires them to be thoughtful." Sloan sees students "struggling to express their ideas in writing because they have limited vocabularies, and lack the fluency and facility that the majority of educated native speakers once had".

Restoring standards in education would be the real education revolution. Concerted attempts to muscle the Labor states, which control schools, have begun under the former education minister Brendan Nelson, and now Julie Bishop, albeit with mixed success. The Government has been pushing ways to improve teacher training, introduce performance pay for teachers, push phonics as a necessary part of early reading programs, allowing more parental choice, regular assessment, a national curriculum and a more rigorous history syllabus.

It is one of Howard's greatest achievements to have incrementally dragged the debate on education away from the progressive wreckers, despite the boast of Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne, that "the conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum". His problem this election has been that Rudd will not be baited on these ideological traps, refusing for instance to be drawn into a Lathamesque "hit-list" of private schools, prompting the NSW Teachers Federation to express "disappointment".

But the monkeys on Rudd's back are such high priests of political correctness as Byrne and Wayne Sawyer, the former NSW English Teachers Association president who famously blamed the last re-election of the Howard Government on the failure of teachers to brainwash their charges and form a "critical generation". Denying such people the dues they believe they deserve after nearly 12 years in the wilderness will be the real test for any Rudd government if it is genuine about improving education. But it's hard to believe they will risk the wrath of the Howard-haters.


One of Australia's charming Muslims jailed for sex assault on little girls

Mohammed did much the same so why not?

A 'STUDENT' who indecently assaulted a girl in a department store change room has been jailed for two years. Mohammad Sehnawaz Khan, 31, pleaded guilty to three counts of committing indecent acts with a nine-year-old girl at the Myer store in Chadstone shopping complex on May 14.

The County Court heard the girl and her younger sister were in the toy department without their parents when Khan approached them with some children's clothing. He told the older girl he wanted her to try them on because he was buying them for his niece in India who was the same size. The girl didn't want to go but agreed after Khan persisted and she wanted to get rid of him.

Judge Michael Higgins said Khan followed the girl into the unattended changing rooms, which she was not expecting, so she insisted on her younger sister being in there with them. The court heard as the girl tried on the clothes Khan touched the outside of her underwear and asked the younger sister to take photos on his mobile phone as he hugged and kissed her on the shoulder. The girls were eventually able to flee and reported back to their parents.

Khan was in Australia on a bogus student visa at the time of the assault, after being rejected entry back into Australia under his own name because of two court appearances in NSW. Judge Higgins said Khan would be deported back to India when he completed his sentence.


Greenie defends graffiti

Australia's Greens are generally far-Leftists and the ideas below are a logical deduction from the Leftist mantra that "There is no such thing as right and wrong"

A Greens MP has launched an extraordinary defence of spray can vandals, saying graffiti brightened up the city and could be attractive. Sue Pennicuik told State Parliament new laws cracking down on graffiti vandals were draconian and unnecessary. She said graffiti vandals were being treated more harshly than dangerous drivers. Declaring that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", Ms Pennicuik said corporate logos were as much a blight on the landscape as graffiti. People who sprayed graffiti should be called graffiti markers, rather than vandals. "A lot of graffiti, including tags, can be political, aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking," the Upper House MP said in a 48-minute speech. She said there were two points of view about graffiti, and "not everyone hates graffiti and not all graffiti is bad".

Ms Pennicuik's speech, and her bid to amend the new laws, were attacked by her rivals from across the political spectrum, with Labor MP Martin Pakula saying graffiti vandalism was idiotic. "The vast majority of Victorians absolutely detest graffiti. They detest it because it is mindless vandalism," Mr Pakula said. He said that 95 per cent of graffiti was not art. "It is not self-expression, it is not clever, it is not political comment, it is mindless vandalism."

Ms Pennicuik defended her speech, saying she was seeking to highlight concerns about the harsh penalties and police powers under the new laws, which were due to pass the Upper House last night. She said offenders, who were mostly teenagers, could be jailed under the new laws. She said the laws also created a reverse onus of proof, meaning people found with suspected graffiti implements, such as spray cans and stencils, would have to prove they were in possession of them for legitimate reasons. "I'm not saying there shouldn't be any penalties -- there should be -- but that there should be a diversionary program for young offenders. "Graffiti is a problem, I agree. No one likes tags particularly, and I don't like them. But do we want two-year jail terms for 15-year-old kids to be the penalty?"

In her speech, Ms Pennicuik said the cost of cleaning up graffiti should not be the reason for making it a crime. She argued some graffiti walls, such as those in Hosier Lane in the city centre, were tourist attractions. "So what is the price of having clean walls? "This Bill . . . is an over-reaction to the issue of graffiti." Ms Pennicuik also told Parliament that "one could say the graffiti can break up the monotony of urban space". "While in one way of looking at it graffiti is annoying and costly, the other way of looking at it is that it is an acceptable way of expression and it could be tolerated, and is tolerated, in certain circumstances."


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More government by coverup in NSW

Too bad about abused children, of course. DOCS is the notorious NSW Child Welfare Department

Hundreds of public school principals have been gagged from complaining about serious cases of child neglect because to do so is critical of the Iemma Government. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that a statewide survey of schools which revealed concerns about the Department of Community Services' performance was shut down by education bosses. Principals were warned they may be breaking the law by responding to the survey which was organised by their professional body, the Public Schools Principals Forum.

Last night Education Minister John Della Bosca's office accused the organisation of using the issue for "political sport", saying evidence would be taken by the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection headed by Justice James Wood.

Forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride, principal of Sarah Redfern Public School at Minto in Sydney's southwest, claimed education bureaucrats were "protecting the Government from further exposure to criticism over the DOCS debacle" in stopping the survey. "The Principals Forum is interested in one thing only - that is the safety and welfare of all children," Ms McBride said. Principals have revealed thousands of children turn up to school showing signs of severe physical abuse or extreme neglect and are angry many cases appear not to have been followed up.

Almost 200 responses to the survey were received by noon last Friday, when deputy directors-general Trevor Fletcher and Peter Riordan issued a memorandum warning principals not to respond. The memo said: "Principals (or teachers) - as public sector officials - should be aware that there are laws concerning the disclosure of information . . . "Given these laws, principals and other staff are advised not to respond to the Public Schools Principals Forum or any other online surveys about such sensitive matters," it read. It is understood about 50 principals defied the warning and forwarded their responses.

The survey covering about 60 per cent of schools across NSW - the fourth conducted by the forum since 2001 - reveals cases of multiple notifications involving seriously neglected children. Ms McBride said the forum had an "impeccable record in respect of privacy".

Premier Morris Iemma made child abuse and domestic violence his key election platforms when he was returned to office earlier this year. But Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner said yesterday the gag showed Mr Iemma's claims of openness and transparency in the inquiry into DOCS were a "sham". "This proves yet again what everyone outside the Government knows - we need a royal commission into DOCS," Mr Stoner said. "While kids continue to slip through the cracks, Mr Iemma's overriding concern is to keep a lid on negative publicity."

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Training denied it was gagging principals. "The welfare of our students is the paramount concern of the department," the spokesman said. "Disclosing details that could potentially identify a child at risk is illegal and irresponsible."


Government by coverup in Queensland too

The internal Queensland Health probe into the death of Ryan Saunders will be restricted to the clinical decisions of Rockhampton Hospital staff with broader concerns over resourcing to be ignored. Premier Anna Bligh yesterday insisted the so called "root-cause analysis" into Ryan's clinical treatment was a sufficient response to the two-year-old's death. Ms Bligh rejected calls for a wider inquiry into the Rockhampton Hospital that have gathered momentum after The Courier-Mail revealed crucial witness testimonies of Ryan's treatment would not be taken.

"The investigation that's being undertaken into the tragic circumstances around little Ryan's death is an investigation into the clinical treatment of the child," she said. "It is absolutely clear this boy was very sick. That is why he was in hospital and why he was transferred to hospital. This is not a matter anybody is disputing." Ms Bligh, who has promised to personally intervene and act on Ryan's case, said the analysis would consider what treatment he received, who he received it from and at what point.

Ryan was originally transferred from Emerald Hospital with a suspected twisted bowel to Rockhampton for an ultrasound scan. However, the results were unreadable after a 20-hour delay in doing the scan. He died at 12.15 am on September - 30 hours after he arrived in Rockhampton.

One witness in the hospital at the time has told how he heard Ryan's screams throughout his ordeal, contradicting Health Minister Stephen Robertson's suggestion that the toddler's pain was only an allegation at this stage.

Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said Ryan's ordeal combined with the experiences of others showed there were systemic problems at the Rockhampton Hospital that needed to be the subject of an open inquiry. "The people of central Queensland cannot trust Anna Bligh or her bureaucrats to run their own 'root-cause-analysis' and then leave it Anna to decide," he said. However, Ms Bligh dismissed the call, saying Queensland's health system had already been the subject of two commissions of inquiry and each case would be individually investigated.


Lesbian child abuse OK -- of course!

If it had been a male teacher ....

A former teacher has escaped immediate jail after succumbing to her love for a troubled student and having lesbian sex in bushland in Perth. Elizabeth Anne Crothers, 50, received a two-year jail term, suspended for two years, in the Perth district court yesterday after a jury found her guilty on one count of indecent dealing and one count of sexual penetration. In WA, lesbian sex is legal at 16, but the age of consent rises to 18 when one of the couple is in a position of authority over the other - as in a teacher-student relationship.

Crothers was tried on 21 counts of indecent dealing or sexual penetration of a pupil in her care between November 1998 to March 1999. She admitted having a full sexual relationship with the teenager but insisted it happened only after the girl left school in March 1999.

A jury yesterday cleared Crothers on 19 charges but found her guilty on one count of indecent dealing and one count of sexual penetration. Those charges related to Crothers digitally penetrating the girl and allowing the teen to digitally penetrate her in bushland in Perth's hills in February 1999.

The girl told the court she shared her first sexual experience with Crothers who seduced her when she was a troubled student. Crothers, a mother of two, admits she was stupid to meet a student outside school. But she insisted it was not until 2000 that she began fondling and kissing the girl, engaging in mutual digital penetration and giving and receiving oral sex in a live-in relationship that lasted several years.

Judge Michael Muller said the pair were in love and Crothers had resisted a sexual relationship with the "tortured'' child until succumbing in an isolated incident. He found she had not groomed the girl for sex and encouraged her to leave school and home so Crothers could exploit her. "I cannot find you induced the girl to leave school to take advantage of her sexually,'' the judge said.

But he said the breach of trust was very serious. He sentenced the weeping Crothers to two years on each count, to be served concurrently, and suspended the term for two years. She had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years for the sexual penetration and five for indecent dealing.


Researchers strike gold in meningococcal disease fight

Meningococcal disease can strike with frightening speed. Its victims can present with symptoms in the morning and be dead by nightfall. But now, a breakthrough by researchers might go some way to reducing meningococcal fatalities by making it significantly easier to detect the bacteria. It involves the use of nanotechnology, and more specifically, the use of small gold particles being injected into suspected sufferers.

Larraine Pocock knows more about meningococcal disease than most. But it hasn't always been that way. It wasn't until her 21-year-old son Troy travelled to England for a working holiday that she began learning all about the deadly disease. "We got a call from Chelsea Hospital - he'd been admitted and he was critical," she told AM. "We were to ring back in an hour, and I asked them what they thought it was and they thought it was meningitis, and I just realised how serious that was, so I rang back in an hour and he was actually on life support. "So, we rushed to Sydney to try and get to London, but he was to pass away that night."

Ms Pocock now runs a meningococcal foundation named in honour of her son, the Troy Pocock Foundation, based on the New South Wales south coast. She has welcomed the news that new technology might be able to detect the disease within 15 minutes, a far cry from the current testing procedure, which can take up to 48 hours. "Meningococcal disease attacks very quickly and you can be well at breakfast, and you can be actually dead by dinnertime," she said.

Meningococcal disease affects 700 people in Australia each year and 10 per cent of those who contract meningococcal will die from the disease. About 20 per cent of those who contract it will have permanent disabilities.

A prototype device has been developed for the new technology, which involves molecular-sized flecks of gold being covered with antibodies that will attract the protein present in meningococcal bacteria. Jeanette Pritchard is involved in the development of the new technology, which has been designed by Melbourne's RMIT University. She says it has already proven highly successful in tests, and could pave the way for a significant reduction in deaths from meningococcal. "The test result will show either a yes that bacteria are present in the sample, or no the bacteria aren't present," she said. "So, it will basically given an indication that yes, treatment needs to be administered." She says the technology is still in development, but could be in clinics within three years.

Ms Pocock says that while the development of the new technology is welcome, it's far from being a panacea. "We've still got to like raise the awareness for the parent or the teacher or the carer to, you know, take the child to the doctor or the hospital first," she said.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Snake-training for Australian paramedics

While many people would have freaked out at the thought of holding a snake, Simon Hale couldn't have been more excited. The paramedic is one of the Queensland Ambulance Service's new overseas recruits, and last week had to learn all about the state's creepy crawlies as part of his training to join the service. "It's been very nerve-racking but very, very exciting," Mr Hale, 36, from England, said. "When they asked if I wanted to hold it I was up straight away. It felt very cold and it was quite heavy, actually."

The carpet snake was just one of 11 snakes the 14 new UK, US and interstate recruits had to handle as part of their initiation into the QAS. The training also included getting close to spiders and crocodiles. "It's given me an insight and I know what I'm looking out for, I know what to expect and hopefully I'll be able to deal with it," Mr Hale said.

Not everyone was so keen to get up close and personal with their new country's wildlife, with some recruits cowering in the corner at the sight of redbacks, huntsmen and funnelwebs [spiders]. But English paramedic Harvey Milburm, 41, had a crocodile sit on his lap and said the experience was "fantastic": "Being given the opportunity to see these animals up close has been really great. "We've actually all been really excited about this day. We were all lining up to hold the snakes, and everyone's really enjoyed themselves."

Although Mr Milburm was pleasantly surprised by how soft the crocodile was, he said he hoped he wouldn't have to use his training soon. "Obviously I'd prefer it if the offending animal was away from the patient at the time, but at the end of the day we're here to deal with these situations so, hopefully, we'll all deal with it in a professional manner."

Helping to organise the day was head ambulance officer Darren Ferguson, who said the training was vital for officers as exposure to these critters was increasing. "Urbanisation means there's less trees around, so snakes are inhabiting towns now and the drought is bringing snakes out more. So there's a good probability these officers will see snakes," he said. "It's learning how to identify early and manage a snake bite, before the symptoms progress, more seriously."

The above article by Anooska Tucker-Evans appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on November 18, 2007

The flight to private schools is pushing fees up

The cost of a private education is rising by double the rate of inflation and taking the best schools out of many parents' reach. Although some private schools charge fees of as little as $2000 or $3000 a year, the fees at some of the best secondary schools now commonly total $18,000 a year, and the amount is predicted to go even higher.

If you are thinking about a private education for your children, bear in mind that schools usually offer discounts for siblings, so the cost may not necessarily be double the cost of one child. But fees do not cover additional expenses such as uniforms, books and excursions, the cost of which tends to rise with the more expensive schools. If you've just started a family, then investing the Government's baby bonus immediately will help. It stacks up to a healthy $4187 but you will need to top up the bonus with regular savings in order to cover the full cost of an education. To make funds stretch further, many parents opt for a state primary education and a private secondary school, which cuts costs and gives more time to get enough money together.

Say you were expecting school fees for your child to run to $18,000 a year (in today's money - not indexed) for a total of five years between the ages of 13 and 18. If you were to pay those fees from your income at the time they were needed you'd pay an average of $346 per week - a big dent in the family budget. However, using an education savings plan available from specialist fund managers, kick-started with the $4187 baby bonus from birth, you will only have to save $3400 per year, or around $66 per week from birth to the age of 18 in a balanced fund yielding about six per cent per annum, after fees and taxes, to cover the private school fees....

Matt Walsh of specialist fund manager Lifeplan says: "Depending on the person's time frame and the risk they're comfortable with, you can invest entirely in aggressive equities or entirely in safe bonds if you wish - or something in between. The idea is really to invest aggressively when you have a five-year plus outlook, then to decrease the risk as you near the time that you will need to draw on the money. Then you might shift increasing amounts into the safer funds.'' The proceeds are tax-free as long as you use the money for education purposes, and those can include HECS fees, HELP (the university funding scheme), tuition fees, uniforms, books, computers, sports equipment, school outings - really, anything related to the education. If you don't use the funds for education purposes, the earnings accrued on your contributions are taxed at 30 per cent.


Regulators finally do something about irresponsible bureaucrats

QUEENSLAND'S former chief health officer, Gerry FitzGerald, faces disciplinary action for his role in the Dr Death scandal at Bundaberg Base Hospital after a dogged two-year pursuit by a doctor with the Royal Flying Doctor Service on the other side of the country. The Medical Board of Queensland, which had been reluctant to launch proceedings against anyone over the Bundaberg hospital disaster, with the exception of surgeon Jayant Patel, is preparing to start disciplinary action against Dr FitzGerald, one of its former members, for failing to act swiftly.

The decision of the board is sensitive because it was initially dismissive of calls for top administrators to be held accountable. It was pressed into an investigation of Dr FitzGerald by a West Australian-based doctor with the RFDS, Simon Evans. Documents obtained by The Australian yesterday show the board has now agreed that Dr FitzGerald received serious complaints about Dr Patel in early 2005 but "failed to take proper action to ensure that Dr Patel was limited to surgical work that he and the hospital could satisfactorily perform". Dr FitzGerald said yesterday he was "very disappointed" with the board's decision. He said he had tried to do his best under difficult circumstances.

Dr Evans hopes the latest decision will send a powerful message to senior bureaucrats and administrators in charge of health systems that they are not immune from disciplinary action usually reserved for clinicians. Dr Evans urged the board two years ago to start disciplinary action against Dr FitzGerald, who had resigned from Queensland Health after giving evidence at a 2005 judicial inquiry into the problems at Bundaberg Base Hospital, as well as other administrators. "They told me they had absolutely no intention of taking any disciplinary action against any administrators adversely named in the report (of the inquiry)," DrEvans said yesterday from his home in Derby, in Western Australia.

Undeterred by the rebuffs, Dr Evans researched the evidence in greater detail, cited legislation and administrative negligence cases from Britain, and wrote several letters accusing the board of failing in its responsibilities. "From my time at Queensland Health as a clinician I could see where the major problems were - they were with senior medical administrators," Dr Evans said.

The board has concluded that Dr FitzGerald "failed to recommend suspension of Dr Patel when he could and should have done, thus exposing patients to undue risk of harm". The matter is to be heard by the Health Practitioners Tribunal. Medical practitioners found guilty of unprofessional conduct face penalties ranging from fines to being struck off as doctors.

Serious concerns relating to Dr Patel's performance at the Bundaberg hospital were not properly addressed until senior nurse Toni Hoffman put her job on the line by going public in 2005 with evidence of unnecessary deaths and injuries resulting from Dr Patel's surgery.

Dr Patel, who has lived in Portland in the US state of Oregon since fleeing Australia in April 2005, will be arrested by US marshals when the paperwork is completed between Australian and US authorities, possibly as early as next month. The extradition request is understood to relate to 16 charges, including manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, arising from his time at Bundaberg Base Hospital.

Tess Bramich, the widow of a patient who died at the hospital, said she had "forgiven" Dr FitzGerald. Mrs Bramich said since Dr FitzGerald was facing disciplinary proceedings, other administrators also needed to be dealt with. A senior source said the board had always been uncomfortable with the prospect of taking action against a former member. The board permitted Dr Patel to practise in Queensland, overlooking his history of serious disciplinary action for botched surgery in the US.

Retired Supreme Court judge Geoff Davies QC, head of a public inquiry in late 2005, made strong findings against Dr FitzGerald for not acting on a clinical audit that showed Dr Patel's complication rate was at alarming levels. The inquiry ruled that Dr FitzGerald's decision to permit Dr Patel to continue to practise "was a course designed to minimise publicity and in effect conceal the truth. The interests of the patients were ignored." Mr Davies told Dr FitzGerald: "You knew he had 25 times the complication rate for a very normal piece of surgery. "What more do you want to protect the potential patients of Bundaberg Hospital?"

Dr FitzGerald, who won support from patients and Ms Hoffman because of his candour and his apologies on behalf of the health system, has denied he set out to conceal information. He now works at the Queensland University of Technology.


Unions not the main enemy

MUCH of the criticism directed at Kevin Rudd's Labor Party in the run-up to Saturday's election has been focused on its domination by unions and ex-union leaders. With the notable exception of the regulation of the workplace, and just possibly of support for free trade, I suspect this standard line of criticism gets it wrong.

The real threat to Australia comes not from the unionists but from the other main wing of the Labor Party, what I would describe as the chardonnay-sipping, ultra-PC, anti-traditionalist wing of the Labor Party. These are the people who worry me.

Start with the legal revolutionaries among them. This Labor-voting crowd, well represented among lawyers, judges, teachers and academics, wants power taken away from elected MPs and given to unelected judges. They badly want a bill of rights. They know perfectly well that all bills of rights - be they British-style statutory ones or Canadian-style entrenched models - have precisely this increase-the-power-of-judges effect. Indeed, if they had no effect at all on the power balance, why would anyone push so hard to have one?

This crowd also knows that if voters are asked in any sort of referendum they will always be sensible enough to vote down a bill of rights or some disguised version of one. So these people set up elaborate consultation processes that attempt to give the illusion that a bill of rights is wanted. This is precisely what the state of Victoria did before enacting its statutory bill of rights only last year. Knowing that they could not win a referendum there (or anywhere) a "consultation process" was put in place chaired by a longstanding proponent of bills of rights and lacking even a single opponent of these instruments.

Yet this consultation sham of "like-minded activists talking to like-minded activists" served a useful function for the legal revolutionaries. It helped reinforce the basic selling line that's used. The trick is to just keep repeating the mantra: "We need to protect and uphold fundamental human rights." Never, ever acknowledge that people in Australia simply disagree about what exactly is required to protect and uphold these indeterminately phrased, vague moral guarantees.

So proponents gloss over the patently true fact that smart, reasonable, even nice people simply have different opinions about gay marriage, abortion, how to treat refugee claimants, how to balance security concerns about terrorism against individual liberties and so much more. Those are the sort of things a bill of rights takes away from parliament and puts into the province of the judges.

These instruments are sold to the public by always talking up in the Olympian heights of moral abstractions. They have real bite and effect, however, in terms of contentious, debatable moral issues where none of us, top judges included, have a pipeline to God. The problem is that the chardonnay-sipping wing of the Labor Party does rather tend to think that its moral antenna is more finely attuned than that of everyone who disagrees with it.

It's not the ex-unionists who are the preening, puffed-up moralisers in the Labor Party. Far from it. But the crowd that doth vaunteth itself has calculated that the unelected judges are likelier to give it the moral outcomes it wants than are what it sees as the grubby politicians. And just to make sure of this, it tries to appoint to the bench people in its own image, people who are as much anti-traditionalists, parliamentary sovereignty-loathing activists as it is. One need look no further than Victoria's recent judicial appointments to see what I mean.

Nor do you hear these same legal revolutionaries admit that in a recent poll in Britain 61 per cent of people said they wanted to scrap that country's barely seven-year-old bill of rights. In fact, as the judicially driven absurdities have mounted over there, even some of Britain's Labour ministers who introduced it (no referendum there either) have started to have second thoughts. What absurdities you ask? Well, under its aegis, British judges have said the bill of rights gives prisoners rights to drugs, foreign hijackers the right to live in Britain, Gypsies the right to squat, a native-born Italian murderer of a London headmaster the right to a family life and, from that, somehow, a right not to be deported after serving his sentence.

Needless to say, the chardonnay-sipping wing of Britain's Labour Party, including the whole expansive industry of self-styled human rights lawyers, has blamed the media, not the bill of rights. You see, it rather likes all these outcomes. And many like the judge-driven legalisation of gay marriage in Canada. And the unbelievable entitlement to an oral hearing and taxpayer-funded lawyer for all those who simply claim also to be a refugee in Canada (which costs billions of dollars, much of it going to lawyers).

In the long term it's these sort of anti-traditionalist, ultra-PC people who pose the biggest threat to Australia, not the unionists. It's not the unionists who sneer at patriotism or at Australia's constitutional arrangements. (And let me say straight out that I think our arrangements to be the best in the world.) It's not the unionists who are so politically correct that they can't laugh at anything, including themselves, or who genuflect before every passing grievance-industry complaint. It's not the unionists who implicitly demean the family as the bedrock unit of social life, and look for ways to undermine it by suggesting that all forms of social organisation are as good as each other, a claim belied by every collected statistic related to the comparative outcomes of children from single-parent homes and those from traditional two-parent homes. It's not the unionists who see any and all attempts to legislate against potential terrorists as some descent into an authoritarian, police state hell. It's not the unionists who indulge in politically correct claptrap or fall victim to postmodernist, deconstructionist fads.

One of the attractive things about Australia's left-wing party - as opposed to New Zealand's, Canada's, Britain's and, to a lesser extent, the US's - is that it has not fallen wholly under the control of the preening, smug, holier-than-thou PC brigade who like their moralising to come cheap and easy. Sure, ex-unionists may tend to focus on their members more than on the unemployed. And sure, some of them may not see, or care much about, the wealth-creating effects of free trade, especially for the poor part of the globe. But I'd take them any day of the week over the other main wing of the Labor Party.


Monday, November 19, 2007

This old Leftie is so good at projection he should run a movie theatre

Projection is of course seeing your own faults in others. It is an old deceptive strategy. Even Jesus Christ condemned it (Matthew 7:3-5). Bob Ellis below keeps saying Leftists "can't say" various things when they in fact say most of them all the time. He attributes speech restrictions to conservatives when it is Leftists who are always trying to suppress anything they dislike in the name of "hate speech". Reading the stuff below you would think that it was conservatives who constantly say "There's no such thing as right and wrong" -- when that is in fact the mantra of the Left. Ellis did once say a few reasonable things but maybe in his old age the booze has got to his brain. He certainly seems to live in a very distorted mental world. Unsurprisingly, the rant was published by Australia's public broadcaster

The Right's dirty tricks are many and cunning and foul and they stink in the nostrils of our neighbourly democracy - disfranchising 200,000 students, vagrants and people between addresses for instance, disqualifying George Newhouse, pretending Hicks, Habib, Haneef and Tony Tranh have somehow, somewhere imperilled Australia, pretending interest payments under Hawke and Keating weren't half, in real terms, of what they are now. But their most remarkable success, I think, has been to abolish - or terminally diminish - the concepts of 'better' and 'worse', and 'right' and 'wrong'.

We're not allowed to use them any more. We can't say, for instance, that many, many Russians are worse off now than they were under Gorbachev Communism, even those that beg on the streets now, as they never used to, or get hunted down and shot for dissident journalism. We can't say that four million Iraqis, those that have fled their homes and can't go back, are worse off now than they were under Saddam. We can't say Cubans are better off than they were under Batista, though 97 percent of them can read now versus 3 percent then, and no-one starves or lacks hospital treatment, even American tourists, even Michael Moore.

We actually can't say these things. We can't say privatisations make things worse though they always do, with Qantas less safe, ETSA more expensive, British Railways more dangerous, Telstra a nightmare of punishing greedy incompetence and higher phone fees. The concepts of 'better' and 'worse' can't apply to privatisations, the Right has decreed. Privatisations are inevitable, modern, trendy, fashionable, the future. If they turn out worse for you, tough titty. They're great for us, the shareholders. I invite you to name one entity that privatisation has made better, just one. Not 'more efficient', which means a lot of people get sacked and the services get worse, and scarier. Not 'more flexible and marketplace-oriented' which means it all goes overseas. Better; better for you. No? Not one? Funny, that.

And we can't say it's 'wrong' to torture people. We don't know what torture is - sleep deprivation, waterboarding, snarling dogs that threaten exhausted men's genitals being not quite cruel enough; torture is that which might 'occasion death' Don Rumsfeld says, so the question doesn't arise. Waterboarding is only 'abuse'; abuse is fine.

We can't say it's wrong to kill a hundred thousand Iraqi people, more than died at Hiroshima, because a ruler of theirs might be hiding a big bomb somewhere, so long as we call it 'minimising civilian casualties', and say we acted on 'the best advice available', then it's not wrong any more. That advice wasn't wrong; it was the best advice available, though Hans Blix's advice, which was right, was available too. Funny, that.

It's not wrong either to give 297 million dollars to Saddam Hussein to buy weapons with, or French perfume, so long as we did it inadvertently. It's not wrong to shoot Iraqi women and children in their moving cars in city streets so long as we do it inadvertently. There's no concept of 'manslaughter' in Americanised Iraq, it seems, the sort that gets you years in gaol for running over a child. We can blam away at civilians to our heart's content so long as we think they acted suspiciously. We're the good guys, and mistakes occur and they're a sad necessity in war. We regret all that, but we're not to blame. They didn't stop their car soon enough, and we 'followed the correct procedures' and blew them all away.

It's not wrong to send back women and kids in leaky boats into stormy seas, or stand by callously while they drown. These drownings serve the greater good. They stop desperate intelligent people from 'jumping the queues', the queues you used to see any day outside the embassies in Kabul when the Taliban ruled, and shot you for trying to leave. It isn't wrong to turn up in a classroom and march off weeping school kids into Villawood and traumatise their classmates; it's a regrettable necessity. Otherwise more little kids might come here and learn in school how to be good Australians, and we couldn't have that.

It's acceptable, apparently, ask Blackwater, to kill people if you offer their families twelve thousand dollars for each dead breadwinner, dead mother or dead child. That makes it all right. Twelve thousand dollars makes it all right. The convicts on Death Row should be told of this. A telethon could raise the money and set most of them free.

What's wrong about all this is not just that it happens but that John Howard seems to think it's fine, or he says he does. He uses the weasel words, mimimising casualties, regrettable necessity, inevitable dangers, and he goes to the soldiers' funerals and hugs their mothers and wives. He's good at all this, he says the right words, he talks the talk, regrettable necessity, served his country.

But he doesn't seem to understand, not even now, that it's simply wrong, dead wrong, to kill people, and it's worse than wrong to kill people who haven't done anything, and it's really wrong to torture people to get them to say things, true or not, that you want them to say, like David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib who in their dodgy confessions under 'quizzing' and 'rendition' impaired and fractured their subsequent lives. And it's wrong to lock up people like Tony Tranh without reason, and wreck his life, and his wife's, and his little son's, without even, thus far, a non-core apology.

And it's wrong that this kind of killing and torture doesn't put Howard and his linguistically slithery co-conspirator Ruddock in gaol, or in the dock in The Hague, or in a public debate on these things with Julian Burnside, or Michael Kirby, or Geoffrey Robertson in the Press Club in Canberra. These are the obvious minimums of response of civilised people in a just society of laws obeyed and crimes forbidden and days in court and jury verdicts and freedom of speech for all. They are the right responses. They serve the good. They make our life on earth better, not worse.

But the Right has its reasons, and 'better' and 'worse' and 'right' and 'wrong' aren't concepts it finds of use any more. When the Right is losing a war it says 'We're making progress in some areas, less progress in others'. When the Right inadvertently murders innocent people in their beds it says 'We're cracking down on an insurgent presence in a dangerous district in Sadr City'. When the Right is randomly kidnapping blameless breadwinners it says 'We're making significant arrests' and 'cleaning out the terrorist presence in a dangerous neighbourhood in Fellujah'.

Kidnapping is what we do, because we're there illegally. 'Making arrests' is what law-abiding people do, in justly constituted societies, after forensic investigation and a stated charge and the reading to the prisoner of his rights which include the right to phone his lawyer. We've kidnapped maybe fifty thousand people in Iraq, and let maybe forty-eight thousand of them go, declaring them probably innocent after months of fruitless torture, the frenzy of their families, the loss or bombing or shooting up of their houses, and the economic ruin of their bloodline's future, without apology, compensation, or even a taxi ride home. Mostly they're just dumped on a remote road and made to walk hundreds of miles to what used to be their family home.

And it's not wrong to do so, we're told. It's only 'mistaken'. 'In war mistakes are inevitably made' John Howard says. And that makes it all right. It's another of his non-core apologies; there will, I guess, be others if he survives in office; many are due.

Right and wrong should come back into the language, I think, and better and worse, even good and bad. Call me old-fashioned, but that's what I think. It's time.

In my late old age, and my darkening humanist despondency (I'm an extremist, fundamentalist, humanist fanatic, my son says unforgivingly but kindly), I've lately thought of issuing a T-shirt, and it reads: 'I think it's wrong to kill people; I think it's wrong to torture people, and wrong to hurt children. That's what I think. I'm a bleeding heart. How about you?'

Because this is all, in the end, a bleeding heart is, and the Right was very shrewd when it made that description of ordinary human decency seem so damning, so naive, so unrealistic in a world of regrettable necessities like the inadvertent killing of tens of thousands of children, and the torture of many with dogs and sleeplessness and simulated drowning. So I'm a bleeding heart, and I believe in right and wrong. And better and worse. How about you?


Greens to fight Victorian desal plant

Greenies constantly block dam-building and have as a result given most of Australia a water shortage. Governments are now trying to fix that shortage by building desalination plants. But desal is no good either the Greens now say. They clearly WANT us to suffer severe water shortages. I think all known Greenies should have their town water cut off. That might bring them down to earth with a bump. Why let them benefit from what they irresponsibly oppose?. Andrew Bolt goes into the matter further

GREENS leader Bob Brown received a hero's welcome at Kilcunda Beach yesterday as he pledged to do all he could to stop the Victorian Government building a desalination plant. About 300 people turned out to the sixth protest rally in as many months aimed at stopping the $3 billion project. Senator Brown said if the community stuck together there was a good chance the desalination plant would not be built. He described the desalination plant as a monstrosity that wasn't needed, and said that he would take the fight against it to Canberra.

"We determinedly take this into the national Parliament and fight it every step of the way until the only evaporation out of here is those planning for this wrong-headed project," he said. "Politicians who don't listen to the community ultimately suffer the consequences."

Senator Brown said he was more confident heading into Saturday's election than he had been for the past four. The Tasmanian senator, who entered Parliament's Upper House the year John Howard became Prime Minister, said there was a real mood for change across Australia.

Support for the Greens, who could win the balance of power in the Senate, continues to grow, with yesterday's Galaxy poll in the Sunday Herald Sun showing 11 per cent support for the party in marginal seats. "I think the Government is going to lose and that there will be a big move away from the big parties in the Senate," he said. "We are going to have to work with one or other of the major parties if we get the balance of power, and we will do that responsibly. "Leaving either one of them in control of both houses of parliament is not only bad democracy but, everywhere I go, people don't want it."

For the first time, the environment is a crucial election issue across the country with some polls showing 80 per cent of people saying it will affect their vote. Greens policies including drawing up a plan to phase out coal exports, reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, scrapping university fees, forgiving HECS debts and redirecting the $3 billion private health insurance rebates into public health and hospitals.

Senator Brown said Mr Howard was out of touch with the public and his 11 years in office had been plagued with injustice including the treatment of refugees, the war in Iraq and a total disregard for the environment. After yesterday's rally, Senator Brown met Tony and Virginia Eke, whose land will be compulsorily acquired by the State Government to build the desalination plant. The couple have spent the past seven years building their dream of an eco-tourism spa and cottage retreat on the Wonthaggi coastline. "You are the first politician who has come here who is talking from the heart," Mr Eke told Senator Brown.


Conservatism and Christianity have much in common -- says Howard

There is a historical look at what they DO have in common here

GOD is not a Liberal, but he sure likes Liberal policies, Prime Minister John Howard has told Korean churchgoers in his marginal Sydney electorate. As the election campaign entered the final week, Mr Howard with his wife Janette, was back in Bennelong today amid fears he could lose the seat to the Labor challenger, former journalist Maxine McKew.

At the Riverside Girls High School hall in Gladesville, Mr Howard addressed a Korean congregation through an interpreter telling them he shared their belief in God and the "transforming influence" of Jesus Christ. "I'm not suggesting that God is either Liberal or Labor," Mr Howard said. "He is neither. "But I am suggesting that the influence of Christianity in such policies as families, individual responsibility ... personal choice and free enterprise sit very comfortably with the values of my party."

After the service, Mr Howard took the opportunity to press the flesh with constituents who will have a major role in deciding his fate in six days' time. It could be one of the last opportunities Mr Howard gets this campaign to convince Bennelong voters to give him another term in parliament.

Asked earlier what he expected to be doing the same time next Sunday, Mr Howard said: "I am planning to be preparing for our fifth term in government and I will be talking to the treasurer and deputy prime minister about that." Mr Howard rejected a suggestion that was a cocky remark. "It doesn't demonstrate hubris - it just demonstrates my quiet expectation," he said.


Public hospital staff warned of prison for media leaks

Health authorities in Western Australia say public hospital staff have been warned they could face two years in prison if they leak confidential reports on adverse incidents. The Health Department is investigating the case of a confidential form, leaked to a Perth newspaper last month, that detailed the case of a man who died from a heart attack in Royal Perth Hospital's emergency department. The man had been admitted for a different health complaint, seen by doctors, stabilised and left on a trolley in the emergency ward awaiting a bed. After 11 hours in emergency, he suffered a massive heart attack and was unable to be resuscitated.

Royal Perth's executive director, Philip Montgomery, said it was the first state breach of a 1973 commonwealth law designed to protect the confidentiality of staff making incident reports under the Advanced Incident Management System, or AIMS. He said the hospital was concerned about the leaking of the AIMS form: "The point of the system is to encourage and facilitate staff to report incidents in such a way that their identity is protected, so clinical care can be improved."

Dr Montgomery said the penalty for releasing incident reports was two years in prison. "The consequence is that we've gone back to all our staff and made them aware you can't breach confidentiality." The matter could be referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission. Dr Montgomery said he accepted the man's 11-hour stay in emergency was too long "but we don't believe there has been any inappropriate clinical care".

An emergency staff doctor told The Weekend Australian the number of AIMS reports had dropped off immediately after the media story, because of staff fears of public disclosure.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Australians are unusually happy with their country

They have a lot to be happy about. Any country that has conservative governments regardless of which party is in power has only minor problems. The Australian Labor party is nothing like the assemblage of hate-filled cretins and opportunists that constitute the U.S. Democratic party

Another of the foundations of our national self-image is crumbling: the tall poppy syndrome. Australians like to think of themselves as a cynical bunch, viewing politicians and authority figures as crooks, liars, hypocrites or lazy bastards. The attitude is a remnant of the convict days, we say proudly, when we knew the people pushing us around were no better than we were, so we'd take any opportunity to cut them down to size.

But a survey of 3902 adults just published by the Centre for Social Research at the Australian National University suggests we may not be not so tough-minded after all. Compared with other western nations, we're actually rather idealistic, even enthusiastic about the people who organise our lives.

Last week we reported that the survey, published in a book called Australian Social Attitudes 2: Citizenship, Work and Aspirations (UNSW Press) showed surprising support for trade unions and for taxation, while 61 per cent agreed with the statement "The government doesn't care what people like me think" and 62 per cent said "Political parties do not give voters real policy choices".

But this doesn't mean we are more cynical about political institutions than other countries. An even higher percentage of the population think the government doesn't care in Poland, Japan, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Shown the statement "Most of the time we can trust people in government to do what is right", only 40 per cent of Australians agree. But in Japan, only 9 per cent agree. In Germany, it's 10 per cent, in France 22 per cent, in Britain 29 per cent and in the United States 31 percent. The only nations that trust their governments more than we do are Denmark, Finland and Switzerland.

Asked how widespread is corruption in the public service, 80 per cent of Poles, 63 per cent of Israelis, 42 per cent of Japanese, 30 per cent of Americans, and 16 per cent of Australians answered "A lot of people" or "Almost everyone".

Asked about their fellow citizens, 58 per cent of Australians say other people can "almost always" or "usually" be trusted, while that is said by only 15 per cent of Chileans, 26 per cent of Japanese, and 46 per cent of Britons and Americans.

The researchers conclude that when our attitudes are "examined in a cross-national perspective, Australians' assessments of democracy appear rather optimistic. Compared to other rich democracies, Australia experiences high levels of trust in government, a public very approving of how well democracy is working, high levels of personal (internal) efficiency, and very low levels of perceived political corruption. Australians also place more value on obeying laws, honesty in tax payments, and voting than citizens of most other nations examined here ... while Australians can be negative about politics, they remain among the most trusting citizens, both interpersonally and politically, of the world's democracies."


Your bureaucrats will protect you (NOT)

Why does anybody feed these useless know-nothings?

A senior bureaucrat in the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service yesterday denied the existence of a culture in the organisation more focused on producing corporate strategies and business plans than in actually fulfilling their responsibility to keep Australia free of disease. Under sustained cross-examination for most of the day at the government inquiry into the equine influenza outbreak, NSW assistant regional manager for AQIS Julie Sims was repeatedly forced to admit that she had little practical knowledge of on-the-ground operations. Ms Sims, effectively second in command in NSW since 1996, is responsible for the Eastern Creek quarantine station, which has been named as a potential source of the outbreak of equine influenza.

She acknowledged she had not seen the horse stable area for several years, had not read the specific work instructions on the importation of horses and did not know whether they had been implemented in NSW. Nor did she know the exact work roles of the staff. She also acknowledged that she had received no training in regard to risk assessment and had not read a leading author in the field.

While saying there had been a general concern within AQIS for a number of years over a lack of resources and staff, Ms Sims struggled to name the specific aspects of the operation that were being affected by the shortage and also admitted she could not find any documents to demonstrate that she had expressed any concern over a lack of resources at the station.

Counsel for the Australian Racing Board Garry Rich asked Ms Sims: "How can you make sensible decisions ... if you do not know what staff are required to do on a daily basis? You don't think that it is helpful to know what the staff have to do?" Ms Sims replied: "It is not my responsibility to know what the staff have to do." She said the question of what skills were required by staff would be handled by the station's manager.

Ms Sims was also forced to admit that she did not know there was a requirement to inform visitors to the quarantine station of quarantine procedures. She also acknowledged that she was not aware of the procedures for truck drivers and grooms when horses arrived at the airport.

But Ms Sims disagreed with a statement put to her by Mr Rich that there was "a cultural problem with your department that the senior managerial staff are more concerned about their managerial functions, that is, proposing business plans and corporate objective statements," rather than their job of keeping animal diseases out of Australia. "No, I don't agree with that," she said.



Three current stories below:

Barely-disguised corruption from a State government

Labor push to gag hospital inquiry

The NSW Labor Government has moved to shut down a parliamentary inquiry into Royal North Shore Hospital before it hears more damning evidence of malpractice. The Weekend Australian can reveal Labor used its numbers on the inquiry committee to vote down a proposal by Coalition members, at a closed meeting on Wednesday evening, that would have extended the inquiry's reporting deadline past December 14 and also put aside extra days for public hearings.

The cave-in preceded a direct plea to the inquiry yesterday by the couple whose tragedy at RNSH led to the inquiry being established. Mark Dreyer, whose wife Jana Horska miscarried in a toilet adjacent to the hospital's emergency unit on September 25, begged committee chairman Fred Nile to extend the committee's deadline in order to do a thorough job. "There is no deadline that applies to our ongoing grief," Mr Dreyer said.

Asked by Mr Nile what he hoped for from the committee, he replied: "I hope you give this inquiry the necessary time it needs and not be pressured to finish it off by the recommended time of December -- that's what I'd like to say to you personally. "You are a man of high moral standards so I've got some trust in you to carry out what's required." Mr Dreyer added it was important to allow anybody with a story ample time to bring it to the inquiry. "We certainly won't fail you," said Mr Nile, fully aware the committee had already done so.

Informed of the secret committee vote last night, Mr Dreyer said: "This was always my fear, based on the track record of this Government. I put a challenge out to Nile today to show his supposed impartiality. "If this is going to be the case and we don't get the extension we desperately need, we have an inquiry that is doing half the job. Why bother?"

In an emotional 30 minutes of testimony, Mr Dreyer and Ms Horska both wept as, speaking on his wife's behalf, Mr Dreyer described the nursing care she received at RNSH as cold, robotic and mechanical. "There was no comfort, no reassurance to either of us ... in the darkest hour of this ordeal -- there was nothing," he said. He said his pleas and those of Ms Horska, who was in agony, to nursing staff for assistance were "like talking to the wall". "It was urgent to us but not to them," he said.

In further shocking testimony, he said that after her miscarriage Ms Horska was placed on a trolley and left for an hour with her dead baby between her legs. He described as "unbelievable" the insensitivity of NSW Premier Morris Iemma in expecting the couple to provide evidence to a committee of senior doctors during the same week they received pathology results confirming their baby was a boy.

He said that on the morning after the miscarriage, his wife received a visit from a hospital bureaucrat engaged in "damage control" before she was allowed to see a gynaecologist. Earlier, RNSH's director of medical services revealed the hospital relied on charity for basic equipment such as lasers and specialist operating tables. Sharon Miskell told the inquiry that only the skill of the hospital's surgeons had prevented "adverse outcomes" resulting from broken or decaying equipment.


NSW: Fix the hospital or we'll quit, warn doctors

SENIOR surgeons are threatening to resign if the Government does not restore Royal North Shore Hospital to its former glory. Their warning came as the couple who sparked the latest inquiry, Mark Dreyer and Jana Horska, broke down as they relived their ordeal of her miscarrying in the hospital's toilet.

Silence fell over the room as Mr Dreyer detailed the night his wife lost their unborn child on September 25, when Ms Horska was 14weeks pregnant. "There is no deadline to our ongoing grief and suffering," Mr Dreyer said. "It has cost both of us terrible grief and we will always be wondering if the outcome would have been different if we had been treated as a priority."

Christian Democrats' leader Fred Nile, the parliamentary inquiry committee's chairman, promised the couple "the inquiry won't fail you". Mr Dreyer said he had no faith in the Government for implementing change. "I think people would have had a lot more respect for (Premier) Morris Iemma to come out and take the politics out of it, take away the political spin which has been very hurtful for us," he said. "The insensitivity has just been unbelievable, they don't understand the pain they cause with this rubbish they peddle."

There is only one more day of public hearings, on Monday, before the committee retires to consider its recommendations. But it has been swamped with damning complaints which doctors from the hospital have said are an embarrassment. The inquiry was told equipment was so inadequate that only the competence of surgeons had prevented harm coming to patients. Director of medical services Dr Sharon Miskell said there had been instances where equipment was broken, inadequate or non-existent. "We are unable to perform surgery, we are delaying surgery," she said.

Three of the hospital's senior surgeons spoke of their embarrassment at the gradual decay of the once marquee hospital. Area director of intensive and critical care Professor Malcolm Fisher warned he was on the brink of quitting. "The findings of this committee and the response of the health department are crucial," he said. "They will determine if we give this a go or walk." Other doctors described the health department's "inept system" as failing patients as well as being the cause of the hospital's loss of staff. Intensive care director Dr Ray Raper said he was embarrassed this week at a patient's recount of a hospital stay. "My colleagues have been telling me for a long time they are embarrassed of the conditions of the hospital," he said.


Oppressive health bureaucracy defeated in court

Angry obstetricians have demanded an apology from a regional health service after a judge last week threw out its attempt to sue one of its own doctors to claw back part of a $7.5 million negligence payout. Birth specialists condemned the case brought by the Greater Southern Area Health Service in southern NSW as a waste of taxpayers' money and "a disgraceful attack" on Wagga Wagga obstetrician George Angus. The GSAHS had claimed Angus should be jointly liable to pay $7.5 million awarded in respect of a birth at the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital in 1995 -- even though he was merely the senior obstetrician on-call and denied ever being consulted about the case.

During the birth the baby's shoulders became stuck and the baby's brain was deprived of oxygen for several minutes. The child has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and moderate intellectual disabilities. The health service admitted liability in the negligence claim brought on behalf of the family, and it was settled in May 2003. The GSAHS's subsequent move to sue Angus sparked alarm among obstetricians throughout NSW.

Justice Michael Adams in the NSW Supreme Court rejected the health service's case, ruling that a more junior doctor did not consult Angus on whether a drug to increase contractions should be given to the mother during labour. The judge also ruled there was nothing to suggest Angus acted in a way that was medically inapppropriate on the basis of the knowledge he had at the time. Adams ordered the health service to pay Angus's costs. Megan Keaney, head of claims in NSW for Angus's insurer, Avant, said she was "confident" total costs for both sides would exceed $500,000.

"The fundamental reason that he (Angus) won was that the court confirmed that he had not seen the patient," Keaney told Weekend Health. "It was the hospital's case that he had. It was always our view that the evidence to support that assertion was very slim. "There's no doubt that this has created a lot of ill-will between obstetricians in rural south-western NSW and NSW Health. That's quite understandable, given their (GSAHS's) approach to this claim."

Christine Tippett, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said had the case gone the other way the "implications for doctors on call would have been very serious". "What it would have meant was that any doctor on-call for a public hospital could have been called as a co-defendant on a claim, even if they had not been called (for advice) or provided any service for the patient," Tippett said. "That's quite untenable. We consider that Angus should receive an apology for the distress that this case has caused him."

Albury-Wodonga obstetrician Pieter Mourik, who was previously the representative for the Wagga region on the RANZCOG council, said the case was a "tragedy" and the GSAHS should "hang its head in shame" for bringing the action. While he welcomed the outcome, he said the "damage has already been done" as Wagga's three obstetricians were no longer working at the Base hospital, now served by locums and overseas-trained doctors.

"The NSW Department of Health is also responsible for this disgraceful attack on a capable, rural obstetrician," Mourik said. Angus told Weekend Health the outcome was anticlimactic "because I didn't think they had a case in the first place".

"To be dragged through the court for 10 days, for something I know nothing about, and didn't know anything about -- and then to be told you're not guilty of something that I was not guilty of in the first place -- it was a bit of a hollow victory," Angus said. "The sad thing about this is the fact that all this public money on a court case that had no merit. (Other doctors) are very suspicious of the health service now -- the GSAHS has done itself a disservice."

After the case GSAHS chief executive Heather Gray declined to say if an apology would be forthcoming. A GSAHS spokesman this week declined to add to her comments. "The Greater Southern Area Health Service and NSW Health is still to review in detail the judgment handed down," Gray said in a statement. "The costs are yet to be determined. GSAHS is making no further comment on the matter at this time."


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Long wait imposed by Queensland public hospital permanently damages baby

No recognition of what the failure to provide prompt treatment could lead to

Another mother has told of her harrowing experience at the Rockhampton Base Hospital, furious over a bungle that caused her four-month-old daughter to lose an ovary. Nicole Simpson yesterday revealed how she waited two months for contact [an appointment] from the hospital after her daughter Jade was referred there with a hernia by their family doctor.

The details of how Jade was treated will stoke the anger that has reverberated around the state after The Courier-Mail reported this week that two-year-old Ryan Saunders from Emerald had waited 30 hours in September before his twisted bowel was diagnosed in Rockhampton Hospital. Ryan died just as he was about to fly to Brisbane for an emergency operation.

Jade Simpson's ordeal came to light as Queensland Health chief health officer Jeannette Young insisted the Rockhampton Hospital was doing a good job. Dr Young spent yesterday at the hospital to hear directly from staff, many of whom are upset over the attention Ryan's case has received. "They have got a very good paediatric service, there is nothing wrong with it at all," she said.

Jade's hernia burst before the hospital made any contact and she spent three days in pain at the hospital waiting to be transferred to Brisbane by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Mrs Simpson and her daughter were eventually forced to catch a commercial flight, and Jade was operated on 30 minutes after arriving at the Royal Children's Hospital. The operation in March 2006 came too late to save one of Jade's ovaries. "She has only got a 50 per cent chance of having children when she is older and it is all their fault," an angry Mrs Simpson said. "If she had been seen to earlier should would still have two."

Queensland Health is undertaking its own probe, known as a "root cause analysis". However, Mrs Simpson said her daughter's ordeal was also the subject of a "root cause analysis" which she condemned as little better than a cover-up. "All it basically said was 'we did our best, too bad, so sad'," she said. Mrs Simpson said she warned politicians, from local MP Robert Schwarten through to former premier Peter Beattie, of the hospital's shambolic efforts in a bid to prevent further children from suffering. "The main reason for writing to them was so it didn't happen again but it did and this time someone died," she said.

Dr Young yesterday said she was unaware of Jade's case but insisted the hospital was performing well. She met Ryan's parents Donna and Terry on Monday to discuss their son's treatment and hear their concerns. However, she dismissed criticism of Ryan's 20-hour wait for an ultrasound scan after he had been sent from Emerald with a suspected twisted bowel. "It is not a lack of equipment, it is not a lack of staff, it is not a lack of resources," Dr Young said.


Australia returning to the failed ideas of the past

John Howard is a political dinosaur lumbering towards a humiliating defeat next Saturday. This must be true because the media tells us so. So do opinion polls, bloggers, taxi drivers and my teenagers. They know everything.

Yet for all the hype the biggest dinosaur of them all is Rudd himself. Despite the gloss, Rudd's new Labor remains a Jurassic Park of failed ideas. He showed again this week he is a pleasant enough fellow who tries hard to put a good face on it. But he remains a Labor pedant and a control freak whose credo is from the ark.

If he wins -- and I'm sure he will -- the defining themes will be the resurrection of unionism, a bloated bureaucracy, a rekindling of the handout mentality and a high-risk economic strategy that would fail a probity test. Rudd's central ideas are so ancient they are older than John Howard.

The return of a union-dominated cabinet will be a ticking time-bomb for small business. The Howard era of prosperity and high employment will be swept aside largely because the Prime Minister has been portrayed a yesterday's man by a bored and shifty media in search of fresh meat.

Kevin has painted a gloomy picture of life under Howard and Costello. And it is a false picture. Labor's interest rate record is truly appalling alongside the Coalition's, and the the Bureau of Statistics confirms wages under Howard and Costello have risen higher than grocery prices. No matter. Howard must be sent packing because he is old.

Democracy will be quietly dispensed with in favour of rule by a distant bureaucratic tyranny. Rudd says he will set up no fewer than 67 taskforces, committees and departments, plus 96 policy review teams. This will create an immense and overpowering government sustained by a parasitic class of government employees. Industry and individual effort will be stifled.

Rudd showed us his style as the director-general of cabinet in the Goss Labor government. Even cabinet ministers were prevented from speaking unless they had clearance from Kevin. Later, Rudd opposed the introduction of the GST, saying it would be the ``highest form of fiscal vandalism''. Rudd repeatedly has opposed economic reform. He supported union control of the waterfront while opposing the privatisation of Telstra. He opposed the tariff reduction schedule for manufacturing industries.

At this week's hearts-and-flowers campaign launch in ``Brissy'' Rudd attacked Howard's ``irresponsible spending spree''. Later it was revealed Labor's promises would cost $12billion compared with the Coalition's $11.7billion.

A speech Rudd made to the Sydney Institute in 2000 was more revealing. He said then it was the duty of social democrats like himself to develop a ``New Internationalism''. He outlined a 10-point agenda for New Internationalism. It was dripping with Euro-left sentiment. He said there should be a ``red thread'' running through all policies, including economic management. Rudd has stated ``free markets must also be managed markets'', a statement I find dangerous for someone who pretends he is an economic conservative. Rudd and Swan and Co are barbarians at the gate.


Lessons from Rudd's form in the Queensland government?

The writer below expects that Rudd has learned but we will see

The Goss administration (1989-96) was a control freak's dream. Under the iron grip of the premier, the government was dismissive of caucus, ministers were periodically relieved of policy responsibility, and media control and political spin were highly centralised in the premier's department. Goss famously told his supporters to "take a cold shower", cautioning them not to get carried away with their enthusiasm for change. Rudd was initially principal private secretary to Goss, then director-general of the new cabinet office in 1991.

In this position he was regarded as a centrist controller, somewhat distrustful of professionals, and someone who did not suffer fools gladly. He was convinced there were "right answers" to political and policy problems. One of his public service nicknames was Dr Death. He, along with others, was accused of sin-binning a number of former heads of department in an empty warehouse, giving them nothing to do: the notorious gulag.

Rudd ran a large, activist cabinet office (on the NSW model) with an ambitious policy purview. He hired policy specialists and party operatives, and seconded staff from policy departments. It certainly was not a paper-pushing unit, administratively circulating papers. Rudd was often out fighting departments in the trenches. The cabinet office often overrode ministers and departments, or changed their submissions - sometimes unrecognisably. It developed a culture of adversarial relations with the rest of the public service. It pretended to consolidate all policy at the centre, using terms such as whole-of-government, which was code for the premier's preferences or priorities.

Rudd's diagnosis of the problem in Queensland was that the state lacked policy capacity, that departments were not responsive and that leadership across the public sector was poor to non-existent. But his diagnosis of the commonwealth will be different. The commonwealth public sector is much larger, too multi-faceted and too complex to lend itself to a rigid centralism. There is obvious talent in some departments, and policy capacity is not weak, although in some areas there's a need to exercise it more strategically.

Rudd has, in my view, also learned from the youthful exuberance of the Goss era. In state harness he was a bureaucrat, not a minister; this is an important distinction. He took the severe electoral blows of 1995 and 1996 - rejections of the Goss regime from an "ungrateful" electorate - very hard but learned from the mistakes and excesses. He also lost at the federal level when he first ran for a seat.

Tempered by these events, he remade himself for political life, becoming one of Australia's most hardworking constituency politicians, involved in all manner of local issues. Unlike Wayne Swan, who accompanied him back to Canberra in 1998, he largely eschewed domestic policy issues until he became leader in 2006. If he becomes prime minister he will have to work through a cabinet of senior ministers with their own power bases. Caucus federally is no pushover. His decisions about how he organises his internal advisory structures will set the tone of the government. This includes who he chooses to head his department, whether he will develop a centralist strategic policy unit or enhance the cabinet policy office. How prime ministers will develop in office is always unpredictable.

Rudd has already announced he will establish a razor gang and make cuts to administration and tinker with performance pay. These are the kind of signals that got the Queensland public service's back up in the '90s, and not a good message to send out to the very organisations he will need to rely on when in government.

Rudd is a learner from past experiences. He will approach the task of managing the commonwealth differently, although some of his personal style may remain important. He is likely to remain a workaholic, anxious to be across all briefs (he exceeds even John Howard's capacity for work). He enjoys intellectual sparring and being right. He has centrist tendencies and often chooses to work through a chosen few, expanding this through concentric circles of advisers and staff. He believes in the contestability of policy advice and will seek to avoid group think and instances of self-serving politics.

If he still retains a glass jaw when criticised, he has learned to be more relaxed and comfortable with those with whom he has to interact. He has, in short, learned not to do things the Queensland way.


Past Muslim aggression and hostility breeds distrust of them

As one of the last rural bastions in Sydney, Camden prides itself on keeping that laid-back twang of a true country town. But the once-sleepy hamlet in Sydney's southwest has become the scene of a battle over a proposed Islamic school for up to 1200 students on 15ha wedged between market gardens and pastures. It has roused a community to action on a scale not seen since a Muslim prayer hall was proposed in The Hills district in 2002. Residents, who speak their views plainly, fear it is the first tremor of a seismic change in the area that would be followed by a mosque.

Now the school's developers have asked for calm and a chance to prove themselves as Australians like everyone else. Quranic Society vice-president Issam Obeid told The Daily Telegraph yesterday they didn't expect such a hurtful reaction to the school. "Our aim is to open a school for all Australians, not just the Muslim community," Mr Obeid said. "Hopefully the students are going to be lawyers, teachers and business people or work in IT." Mr Obeid said they chose Camden because it was a beautiful rural area where they were able to buy a large block relatively cheap at $1.45 million. And while students would be free to pray on the site, there were no plans to build a mosque. "We will be teaching Australian values first because we are all Australians. We're not bringing anything bad from overseas and we're not there to teach minority group people," Mr Obeid said. "Hopefully one day when people start to get to know us they will realise we are not like what they think."

A public meeting held in Camden last week attracted more than 2000 people opposed to the development on the corner of Cawdor and Burragorang Rds. Support for the campaign has been gaining momentum through text messages, email and Facebook groups while the first form of "vandalism" at the site came when a wooden crucifix engraved with Christian scripture. The cross, which has been described by some residents as nothing more than irreverent Aussie humour, says in part: "When the enemy comes in like a flood the spirit of the Lord will lift up a flag in victory (Ish 59:19)."

Camden Council, which has received about 300 official objections, has indicated it would only be approved or rejected on planning grounds - not the basis of religion.

Local Rebecca Napier said Camden had a real community concern that the Islamic school wouldn't fit in with because Muslim's "refused to integrate". "We lit up the Christmas tree the other night and that is something they wouldn't be into because they're anti-Christian," Ms Napier said. "It would become more like Lakemba and less like the country town that we love."


Friday, November 16, 2007

Teacher-training stupidity

Don't the educational theorists know ANYTHING about reality? They certainly don't realize that sometimes more is less. They quite reasonably want to get bright people into teaching so what do they do? They make it compulsory for aspiring teachers to undergo four years of brain-dead half-life in moronic teachers' colleges. Anybody with half a brain would NOT waste 4 years of their life that way. They would do a real degree instead. When a one year diploma was all it took to become a teacher, the applicants for teacher training were of a much higher quality. Connect the dots!

Even a one-year qualification is probably overkill in the case of someone with a good first degree or higher. I went into High School teaching with NO teacher qualifications whatever: Just a fresh Master's degree. And my students got excellent results in their exams! The story below is from Australia but I believe that the situation is similar in the USA -- with intellectual standards in American teacher-training colleges also in the basement

MEDIOCRE students are going on to become teachers because poor pay and low job status is scaring the best people away from the job. Education Minister Julie Bishop yesterday admitted there was a problem in attracting the best people into teaching, as an education expert warned of dire consequences for students.

At an education conference at Melbourne University yesterday, Professor Bill Louden from the University of Western Australia said most teachers now come from the second lowest quartile in school performance results. Mr Louden said the number of high achievers going into teaching has halved over recent years. Universities must lift their intake standards for teacher training before students begin to suffer, he said.

In a debate with opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith, Ms Bishop said low tertiary entrance scores for education was deterring bright students, and said the Howard Government was committed to lifting the social standing of the profession. "Students say they are not going into teaching because of the inflexible salary arrangements and the status of the profession - they want to be in a profession where people are paid on excellence, not on years in the job,'' Ms Bishop said.

Mr Smith said a Labor Government would also focus on getting the best students into teaching. "We have to tell young Australians (teaching) is a noble profession and absolutely essential to our fundamental economic and social prosperity and one of the great challenges for our ageing teacher stock is to become attuned to the digital age.'' He said Labor had committed to a 50 per cent reduction in HECS fees upfront for those studying maths and science, with a 50 per cent remission at the back end where the student takes up a relative occupation such as maths teacher or scientist.

During the debate, Mr Smith said university fees were scaring some students away from tertiary education, while Ms Bishop attacked Labor's plan to abolish full fee places. Ms Bishop said Labor had failed to tell universities how they would be compensated by scrapping the places- worth $700 million nationally. Mr Smith said Labor would release its plans prior to the election. Mr Smith attacked the Coalition's plan for a national curriculum for just years 11 and 12.

Ms Bishop yesterday said the national curriculum for English, maths and science would be headed by hand-picked expert groups, as the Government did with Australian history earlier this year.

A Labor Government would implement a standardised curriculum from kindergarten to year 12, so all Australian students would be learning the same material, he said. A national curriculum board would take the best of currciculum from each state and re-work it into a super-study for all Australian students.


More public hospital craziness

This is utterly insane. $702m for just 27 more beds -- or $26 million per bed. And that's just the building cost

Plans to redevelop Royal North Shore Hospital will only mean an extra 27 new beds, which would fall short of meeting future demand, doctors have told a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the hospital. NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher said this week that a $702 million redevelopment would result in the hospital having 626 beds, including 46 critical care beds and 40 mental health beds.

At the inquiry today, the hospital's director of trauma Tony Joseph said the minister's comments was the first time that number had been revealed. "Thus the new hospital will provide a total of 27 more beds than the current total of 599, which is a concern, given the projected population growth for the northern part of Sydney," Dr Joseph said. He said he had done a recent snapshot survey of the hospital and found that 10 out of 24 wards at the hospital's main clinical services block had been closed or converted to "other non-inpatient services".

The inquiry was set up after Jana Horska, 32, miscarried in the toilets of the hospital's emergency department in September. Ms Horska is to appear before the inquiry this afternoon.


The Christian Right in Australia

The Christian right is nowhere near the force here some would have us believe, writes Chris Berg

CHRISTIAN voters can look forward to receiving special information packs about the election from the Australian Christian Lobby this week, which is bound to send yet another shudder through the inner-city left.

The bogeyman of the 2007 campaign is the idea that there is a growing religious right in Australia - an ambitious movement of social conservatives carrying the banner of Jesus, eager to take control of national politics. In God Under Howard, Marion Maddox described a Federal Liberal Party beholden to Christian groups in the same manner that the Republican Party in the United States is influenced by evangelicals. The disproportionate power held by Family First, the conspicuous musical enthusiasm of the Hillsong Church, and the revelations about the Exclusive Brethren all seem to support this view.

If this is the case, well, such is the nature of representative democracy. Theorists may declare that democracy reflects the voice of the people but it has always been susceptible to highly co-ordinated special interest groups. Organised groups with strong institutions and well-defined agendas do well in a democratic competition. But it is not at all clear that there is a religious right in Australia with the ambitions and influence ascribed to it.

The Prime Minister is fond of describing the Liberal Party as a fusion of two distinct philosophies - liberalism and conservatism. As a result, some in the ranks of the party are undoubtedly social conservatives motivated in part by religious sentiments. But their policy influence is dramatically overstated. Eleven years of the Federal Liberal Party in government has hardly seen regression in ethical policy. We can criticise their reluctance to push for liberalisation in some areas, such as gay marriage, at least until recently. But the Government's record demonstrates a regrettable attachment to the status quo, rather than a desire to return to the God-fearing moral codes of the Victorian era.

Neither does Family First match the description of a religious right. Its focus may be on gay marriage, internet pornography and reducing rates of abortion, but there is little material difference between Family First's policies and the policies of the major parties. And when we investigate the party's platform further, it becomes obvious that on economic issues Family First is well to the left of the Labor Party on foreign ownership, privatisation, tax, workplace relations and free trade. Voters who believe that the ALP has gone soft on many key economic issues such as industrial relations would do well to have another look at Family First. Similarly, most Christian groups are moderately left-leaning. Modern Christianity wields ambiguous and empty phrases such as social justice as easily as any Labor backbencher. This is no surprise - the Bible provides little explicit support for free market capitalism.

The concept of a religious right appears to have been imported wholesale from the US, and uncomfortably shoe-horned into Australia's public debate. Australia, as a country with a small and wealthy population, will always partly depend on imports. But not everything that is imported is easily integrated into the culture or embraced by consumers. Twinkies - the heart attack-inspiring rolls of cream and sponge cake - have never found a willing market in Australia despite being ubiquitous in the US. Rhetoric about the religious right is just as inappropriate in Australia as the Twinkie. The religious right, to the extent that it exists, is small and has little impact on public policy.

Why, then, the breathless hyperbole? Politics is mostly about opposition and demonisation. Perhaps the fantasy that the right wing of Australian politics is a cookie-cutter, sorry, biscuit-cutter duplicate of the hated US Republican Party helps build group solidarity on the secular left. But isn't there enough to enrage the left without awkwardly importing ideas from overseas? Surely rhetorical exaggeration and indignation is one area where it would be better to grow local.


Aren't we lucky to have Greenie wisdom to guide us?

They don't even know how to grow trees!

Trees are mysteriously dying in front of the new Brisbane City Council executive tower -- hailed as one of Australia's most environmentally sustainable buildings. Six of the native subtropical waterhousea floribunda trees planted at the precinct this year are dead and about 15 others are in visible distress. The Brisbane Square is the largest high-rise office building in Australia to receive a five-star green rating from the Green Building Council of Australia and has been praised by Brisbane City Council for its green credentials. But Reddacliff Place at Brisbane Square, intended to be one of Brisbane's most beautiful and tree-shrouded public spaces, may have to be torn up for remedial work to solve the tree problem.

An investigation by arborist Peter Bishop has found possible problems with drainage design. "The pits for the trees have gravel in the bottom of them and the drainage line is above that," Mr Bishop said. "In effect, you've got a bath tub where the plug is up the side of the tub. The water sits in the bottom of these pits and turns stagnant because it can't get away." Mr Bishop believes the pits need to be re-engineered.

The mature trees are worth $2000 each to replace, while any work to solve the drainage problem is likely to run into six figures.. Brisbane City Council declined to comment on why the trees were dying. A spokeswoman said it did not own the building or the square and only leased space there.

Mr Bishop said the live trees should be removed immediately if they were to be saved. "The drainage issues need to be rectified and new trees will need to be planted and fixed in such a fashion that they can withstand the wind loads that are placed upon them," he said. He predicted if nothing was done, every tree in the square would be dead within a year.

Brisbane City Council has claimed credit for demanding environmentally friendly principles be used in the development, which also houses the Brisbane City Library and Suncorp offices. Some of the features that enabled the $198 million highrise to achieve its five-star green rating include using materials such as goat hair, wool, cotton and hemp in parts of the construction. The building's water-saving features include using river water in airconditioning, on-site rainwater tanks and a sewerage treatment plant.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Toddler dies in agony after public hospital negligence

The Queensland government has ordered a review into the death of a three-year-old boy who was allegedly left untreated for 30 hours at a regional hospital. Nationals MP Vaughan Johnson told state parliament today Ryan Saunders was rushed by helicopter from Emerald hospital to Rockhampton hospital "where he lay screaming in agony for over 24 hours with his distraught, traumatised and helpless parents by his side".

Mr Johnson said Ryan was suffering stomach pains and was taken to Emerald hospital by his parents on October 25. He was later transferred to Rockhampton following fears he may have a twisted bowel. Mr Johnson said Ryan was ignored by doctors for more than 24 hours at Rockhampton hospital and died the next day. "They virtually did nothing with him for about 30 hours ... This is just totally unacceptable," Mr Johnson said. The MP called for an investigation into the incident.

Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the case had been forwarded to the coroner and an independent review would also be carried out. "Central Queensland Health Service District will also be commissioning a root cause analysis to look at the care provided and identify if there are any issues that need to be addressed to improve the care that was provided," Mr Robertson told state parliament. "This analysis will be provided by an expert team external to Central Queensland Health Service District." Mr Robertson said it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of the case but acknowledged "the tragedy that did befall that family".

He said health officials had already met with Ryan's parents and would meet with them again on Friday. "At these meetings, the family will be provided with all available information in relation to the care provided," he said. The minister said the findings and recommendations of the independent review would be made available to the family.


Australian wages soaring

AUSTRALIAN pay packets swelled almost 5 per cent over the year to August, with the average wage now $57,324, but male earnings are still way ahead of female wages. Average weekly ordinary time earnings (AWOTE) for adult full-time employees rose 1.0 per cent in the three months to August for an annual rate of 4.9 per cent, seasonally adjusted, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported today. Private-sector average wages soared 1.3 per cent in the quarter to $1,077.80, seasonally adjusted, reflecting a whopping annual jump of 5.8 per cent.

The strong growth in private-sector wages reflects a booming economy. Employers are having to pay employees more and more as a national skills shortage raise the price of labour. Strong growth in the mining, finance and other service sectors is driving much of the growth. In contrast to strong private-sector gains, public-sector average wages were up just 0.1 per cent over the quarter to $1192.20, seasonally adjusted, for an annual rise of 2.3 per cent.

Full-time adult ordinary time earnings rose by 5.2 per cent for males to $1 172.20 while female wages grew 4.8 per cent to $980.70 in trend terms. But in annual terms, men are earning much more than woman, with the average male wage rising to $60,954, while the average female wage is $50,996. This reflects the different nature of male employment, with males tending to hold more senior role, but also reflects much of the work that female do is poorly paid, according to unions.

While a dump-truck driver working in a mine can expect to be paid between $70,000 to $100,000, the reality is that earnings for largely female child-care workers and those who look after the elderly are struggling to rise over $40,000 a year.


Bureaucratic madness in South Australian "Child welfare" agency

Welfare for bureaucrats would be more like it

The number of bureaucrats earning $100,000-plus in the department that helps the state's most vulnerable people has almost doubled in the past year. The figures have led to claims the Families and Communities Department is building a bureaucracy of "fat cats" rather than helping children and the needy.

The Government questions the figures, revealed in the Auditor-General's report, arguing it was based on staff being moved from a statutory authority. It comes after The Advertiser revealed examples of taxpayers paying out large sums for crisis care. They included:

A SEVEN year old boy costing $500,000 for a rented home and team of full-time private nannies.

A FAMILY of five children under the age of 11 who have been in care for over a year at a cost of more than $1 million.

The Auditor General's report shows staff on $100,000-plus salaries have jumped from from 68 to 129 in the past year, with the most highly paid on more than $320,000. The report found 27 people were on salaries of $150,000 or more, up from 17. The total cost of staff on $100,000-plus salaries has skyrocketed from $9.1 million to $16.7 million.

Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith believes the money could have been better spent. "The effort needs to be put into getting experienced social workers into families homes to help with their difficulties and identify (those) at risk," he said. "So I think the whole structure needs to be less top heavy, with more workers in the field."

The report also identified an additional $35 million was injected into the department in January to cover cash shortfalls. Treasurer Kevin Foley approved the move after Families and Communities Minister Jay Weatherill advised of "significant cost pressures within Families SA and Disability SA". "It signals problems in the ability to plan and budget their child protection operations and it lines up with this blowout in fat cats," Mr Hamilton-Smith said.

Mr Weatherill said the figures were "simply untrue" and only five extra employees were earning more than $100,000 in 2006-07. "The overwhelming majority of the apparent increase is because disability reform has meant some people who were counted as working for a statutory authority are now working for the department," he said. "Or because employees previously earning less than $100,000 have received standard enterprise bargaining rises.


Another bent cop with a bad memory

Police union chief Paul Mullett has admitted warning a detective his telephone was being tapped, but denied knowing the officer was under investigation over links to a gangland murder. During a five-hour grilling by the Office of Police Integrity into top-level leaks in the Victoria Police, Mr Mullett insisted he believed the taps were part of an investigation into factional politics within the union, unconnected to the murder inquiry. Appearing anxious and wary in the witness box, the police union boss regularly responded "I can't recall" when questioned over his knowledge of internal leaks and telephone intercepts.

At the outset of yesterday's hearing, Mr Mullett changed evidence he gave to an earlier secret hearing, admitting to having given six incorrect answers. And he counter-attacked, accusing Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon of supporting a campaign by his factional rivals to have him forced out as Police Association secretary.

Mr Mullett said he frequently received leaks of sensitive information from disgraced assistant commissioner Noel Ashby, who resigned last Friday, describing him as "a good source". He said confidential information was regularly traded within Victoria Police, despite this being improper and potentially putting lives in danger.

Mr Mullett admitted staging supposedly innocent telephone conversations with Mr Ashby and the target of the murder inquiry, Detective Sergeant Peter Lalor, in a bid to throw investigators off the track after discovering they were being tapped. Mr Mullett denied warning Sergeant Lalor he was being investigated by Operation Briars, the taskforce on the 2003 underworld murder of a male prostitute Shane Chartres-Abbott. Asked by counsel assisting the OPI, Greg Lyon SC, if he told Sergeant Lalor he was the subject of the investigation, Mr Mullett said "no", adding he was offended at the suggestion.

The hearing has been told that information about Operation Briars was leaked by Victoria Police media director Stephen Linnell to Mr Ashby and then to Mr Mullett, who allegedly passed it to the police union president, Inspector Brian Rix. The hearing was told that after Inspector Rix allegedly passed the warning on to Sergeant Lalor in August, calls between Sergeant Lalor and an ex-detective also under investigation by Operation Briars, John "Docket" Waters, suddenly stopped. Sergeant Lalor, who is a union delegate, is alleged to have given Chartres-Abbott's address to an underworld hitman, and to have provided an alibi for the man on the day of the murder.

Mr Mullett agreed he passed on information to Inspector Rix that Sergeant Lalor's phone might be tapped. But he insisted he believed the taps were in relation to an investigation into the so-called "Kit Walker" affair - a probe into anonymous emails allegedly sent around the force by Sergeant Lalor as part of a factional battle for control of the association.

During secret OPI hearings last month, Mr Mullett said he could not a recall a meeting with Sergeant Lalor at the offices of the Police Association, but he said yesterday he had "refreshed his memory" and now recalled that the meeting took place. He changed five other parts of his testimony, saying his memory had been refreshed by reading transcripts of the evidence given at last week's OPI hearings by Mr Linnell, who resigned on Monday, and Mr Ashby. Mr Mullett admitted talking to Mr Ashby about his appearance at the secret OPI hearing after giving evidence last month that he did not. It is illegal to discuss the private hearings of the OPI.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bent cop has "refreshed" memory!

If British officials can be "economical with the truth", why cannot an Australian official have a "refreshed" memory? Another most useful excuse for lying!

Victorian police union secretary Paul Mullett has told the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) he wants to change some answers he gave the OPI at a private hearing last month. Senior Sergeant Mullett has told a public OPI inquiry today that since the private hearing "I have refreshed my memory". He admitted today to speaking to former assistant police commissioner Noel Ashby about his appearance at the private OPI hearing after telling the hearing last month he had not. It is illegal to discuss the private hearings of the OPI with anyone.

He also admitted meeting Detective Peter Lalor at the union's headquarters after telling the private hearing he had not. He now says he asked Mr Ashby to make inquiries as to who was on a police taskforce related to a secret investigation. Det Lalor was the target of the internal investigation into the gangland murder of a male prostitute in 2003.

It is alleged Sen-Sgt Mullett was a link in a chain of senior police figures which ended with Det Lalor being tipped off that he was being investigated. It has been alleged Det Lalor gave the address of the prostitute to a hitman. Mr Ashby and director of the police media unit Stephen Linnell have quit in the last week after being found to have lied to the OPI.


More revelations about NSW hospital

Amazing that this was ever tolerated

Cockroaches crawled over patients undergoing surgery and theatre staff were forced to catch a falling patient after an operating table collapsed in the middle of a procedure at the Royal North Shore Hospital. The incidents were part of a litany of horror stories about the hospital that were revealed as a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the RNSH began yesterday. In a written submission to the inquiry, Jeffery Sleye Hughes, who was senior orthopaedic consultant at the hospital for 12 years until this year, detailed:

* patients with infected joints and compound fractures being "left to rot" in wards for 18 hours or more because of "inappropriate theatre management";

* patients being lied to about the reason their surgery was delayed, by units in the hospital trying to cover their backs;

* live cockroaches running over operating theatre tables during surgery;

* high-pressure hoses exploding in theatre during operations and injuring staff; and

* operating tables collapsing during surgery, with surgeons forced to catch falling patients.

The inquiry, which is due to report next month, was called following the publicity surrounding the case of Sydney woman Jana Horska, who miscarried in a toilet adjacent to the hospital's emergency unit in September, after waiting hours for treatment.

In another submission, Sydney woman Maureen Cain told how her husband lost both legs after contracting a staph infection at the hospital in 1998. "The family and I were horrified at the filthy conditions but, as we were so occupied with supporting our husband and father, (we) did not do anything at the time," Mrs Cain wrote. "Wards were dirty, bed frame had congealed matter on it, there was no ventilation in the bathroom, syringe left under the bed for three days before I picked it up - I could go on and on."

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher insisted conditions would improve under new management and stressed the need for better financial management to end budget overruns. "There will be no cuts to nurses, no cuts to doctors and no cuts to beds," Ms Meagher said. "Our investment in frontline services will continue to increase in those important areas, but it is important that the hospital's financial management is improved and there have been a number of ideas floated."

Acting nursing director Linda Davidson told the inquiry nurses at RNSH had been spat at and abused in the street following coverage of problems at the hospital. "I have had it reported to me that some nursing staff in the community are actually undergoing similar situations that their colleagues at Camden and Campbelltown experienced, which was abuse in the streets and actual spitting episodes," she said. "So when that comes back within that environment, the morale does tend to wane accordingly." Nurses at Campbelltown and Camden Hospitals were abused in the streets when the hospitals were at the centre of maltreatment allegations in 2004.


Believe me Greenies, I tried the bus but it is a lost cause

By Andrew Gall, writing from Sydney

I drove to work the other day. Walk out the door, hop in the car, 15 minutes later I am at my desk after parking at the early-bird rate of $18. Going home is just as low fuss. Problem is I felt a bit guilty with all the talk about greenhouse emissions and carbon footprints, so I caught the bus to work today. As I live in Annandale and work near Wynyard, how hard can it be?

Walk out the door, 50 metres to the bus stop and wait. One hour and seven minutes later I am at my desk, realising I could have walked it quicker. The first thing you notice is that the timetable is just a selection of random times with no relevance to buses actually arriving. Although the timetable suggests there is a bus every four or five minutes the reality is actually no buses for 25 minutes and then four or five buses simultaneously. My neighbour tells me the record is eight buses at once. With narrow streets precluding passing, the result is one or two hugely overcrowded buses followed closely by three almost empty buses.

Once on the bus I discover another problem. The bureaucrats apparently claim that buses are designed to fit the "95th percentile adult". Unfortunately this data appears to be based on 19th-century Lancashire miners or hobbits. I am just over 180 centimetres and I have to bend over while standing in the back of the bus. Jamming my legs into the seats is almost impossible.

The next problem is the route appears to be have been designed by Soviet Central Planning. Annandale is five kilometres west of the city, and as three-quarters of the passengers go into the CBD you would expect the bus route to be generally easterly. Not so. It meanders through the back streets of Camperdown and Glebe before coming out on Broadway and going down George Street. Once the bus turns onto Broadway and joins up with all the other Parramatta Road and King Street services it becomes almost comical as we leave the realm of professional commuters with their TravelTens and weeklies and enter the world of tourists who try to pay with a $50 note.

As people trickle off through Railway Square and Haymarket the buses creep on and begin to clump together until by the Queen Victoria Building, George Street is one long bus queue. Eventually we arrive at Wynyard and I give thanks for one small mercy - that I am not the driver. Today I am driving to work.


Conservatives back calls for a judicial enquiry into a useless Left-run child protection agency

The NSW Opposition is supporting a call for a royal commission into the state's child protection agency. The State Government has been urged by Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper to launch a royal commission into the operations of the Department of Community Services (DOCS). The newspaper has created a petition in the hope of "forcing the Iemma Government to address DOCS' incompetence". They have also called on DOCS workers to come forward to discuss the difficulties faced by the agency and its staff on the ground.

"The Daily Telegraph is now taking a stand on behalf of all children whose lives are at risk through a combination of parental neglect and the mismanagement of the Department of Community Services," the newspaper said. "We are calling for a royal commission to end the shameful events that have led to five children - all known to DOCS - killed, injured or forced to live alone in the past month." The calls come after a series of high-profile incidents involving DOCs, with the latest being a three-year-old Sydney girl named Emily who was admitted to hospital on Monday night after allegedly being bashed by her mother's partner.

Emily's case

Yesterday Emily remained in a stable condition in the Children's Hospital at Westmead suffering severe facial injuries and bruising to her body. Her mother's 23-year-old boyfriend has been charged over the assault. At the time of the attack, the girl was in the care of her mother and the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in a housing commission townhouse at Glenfield. [welfare housing].

Neighbours said they heard shouting and arguing throughout Monday afternoon and evening. A neighbour who raised the alarm, Christine, yesterday said she was called over to the house about 5pm. Christine said she saw Emily in the back seat of the family's sedan with a towel on her head. Her face was "blue and purple", one eye was swollen shut and her mouth was covered in blood. "(She looked) just like she's been hit by a truck," Christine said yesterday.

She said she told the mother's boyfriend the child needed to be taken to hospital but he refused, saying he would take her to a "backyard" doctor. When he returned at 8pm, Christine went inside the house and the boyfriend handed her the child, who kept falling asleep and appeared concussed. She said she told the boyfriend she would take the child to hospital but he told her she was all right.

DOCS yesterday confirmed Emily was known to the department but not in relation to physical violence. Emily's mother has been questioned at length by police and released. Her boyfriend is to face Campbelltown Local Court today charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.

One in hundreds

Emily's case is the latest in a string of publicised cases in which children known to DOCS have died or suffered injuries. Last month the body of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth was found in a suitcase dumped in a pond in western Sydney. Dean had also been known to DOCS.

"Despite a $1.2 billion, five-year program intended to improve DOCS, the state Labor Government has delivered a system where an increasing number of children, known to authorities as being at risk of harm, are dying in NSW," Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said today. "Labor won't be able to ignore a royal commission, it will force them to act. "Over the last four years, 422 children have died who were known to DOCS."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Head-in-the-sand health bureaucrats

Queensland ambulance bosses were warned months ago about chronic understaffing and overworked paramedics suffering severe fatigue on the job. Confidential workplace health and safety documents obtained bt The Sunday Mail reveal that stressed frontline troops raised concerns as long ago as 2005. They warned that driving ambulances while fatigued threatened paramedics, patients and the public.

One said it was not uncommon for paramedics to have micro-sleeps at the wheel. A supervisor submitted a report to the Qeensland Ambulance Service workplace health and safety officer in May, outlining specific problems in Southeast Queensland. He recommended a review of fatigue policies: using other staff to drive fatigued officers back to the station and then home; and communications officers being more vigilant about overtime. He also called for an investigation by an independent agency.

Sources said yesterday that the report was ignored by QAS management. Stanthorpe ambulance Officer Julie Clark last week gave The Sunday Mail details of a nightmare shift of 36 hours. Ms Clark, 43, a trainee paramedic, said there were major safety concerns for all people involved and that someone could have been "in- jured or worse, killed" if she had fallen asleep. Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins said long shifts were "rare" but conceded the Clark situation "could have been managed better".

Paramedics were critical of Mr Higgins' claims and said marathon shifts were common. Several recently complained to their supervisor, who filed a report with the QAS workplace health and safety officer. "As the immmediate supervisor of staff who are regularly driving while fatigued, I have great concern about the safety of these officers and the members of the communitv that are exposed to these fiatigued officers." he wrote. "The QAS itself has identified that fatigue as an issue ... (but) this has not translated ... because we are quite regularly working 16 hours plus.

The supervisor said officers strongly believe that the community deserved better than being treated by a fatigued officer who couid possibly make an incorrect decision about the emergency health treatment given, which could lead to long-term ill-health or even death. Emergency Medical Service Protection Association president Prebs Sathiaseelan said it was just the "tip of the iceberg". "QAS management has known about the problem for a longtime. They received documentation through the normal channels of communication, but it was ignored," he said. Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said he had asked Mr Higgins to send a notice to all ambulance officers tomorrow reminding them of measures in place to alleviate fatigue.

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on November 11, 2007

Head-in-the-sand Immigration bureaucrats

Years in jail for nothing and not even an apology two years later! This is rivalling the incompetence of the U.S. immigration bureaucracy!

Details have emerged about the wrongful detention of a man who remains a stateless citizen despite an Immigration Department admission of error. Tony Tran, who was living in Brisbane with his wife and son, was detained in December 1999 when immigration officials told him his visa had been cancelled years earlier. The Department admitted a mistake and released him after five-and-a-half years, but because he and his son have no permanent resident status they still face possible deportation.

Mr Tran had been in Australia for seven years, and after applying for a spouse visa for his wife he was detained. This was despite the fact that a letter notifying him of his cancelled visa had never been properly delivered to him. David Manne, director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, told ABC's Lateline that is illegal. "He should never have been in there in the first place. He should never have been locked up," he said. "Under Australian law, if you're not properly notified of a decision, it is unlawful for you to be detained."

His wife and two-year-old son Hai were not detained, but when faced with detention, his wife willingly left the country. She returned two years later and left her son in Queensland, before returning to South Korea. Mr Tran has not heard from her since.

While Mr Tran was in detention the Immigration Department had his son put in foster care and tried to have him deported, despite his repeated attempts to keep in contact with his son. In 2005 Mr Tran was released with a letter from the Government admitting that he had actually had valid visas since 1993. But two years after his release, there has been no resolution of his or his son's ability to stay in Australia.

Even though he has no rights of citizenship anywhere else and has now been in Australia for 14 years, Mr Tran and his son could still be deported unless they are given permanent residence. Mr Manne says Mr Tran is in legal limbo. "Their future fate is completely uncertain," he said. "They have nowhere else to go, and yet in Australia they have no permanent status." A suit has been filed in the Victorian Supreme Court seeking damages for the unlawful detention, and the reinstatement of Mr Tran's visa.


For more details, see here

Hospital neglect 'killed mother'

"DON'T leave your loved ones alone at Royal North Shore Hospital." That is Lindy Batterham's advice as, one year after the agonising and preventable death of her mother, Joyce, she struggles to come to terms with the negligent care the 90-year-old received at RNSH, and the cover-up that followed. Left at the hospital overnight, simply so that her heart medication could be assessed in the morning, Joyce was dropped on the floor by a nurse, broke her hip, suffered a stroke during surgery and died six days later. "I'll be traumatised by my mother's last six days for the rest of my life, having flashbacks of witnessing her dying in a nightmare of pain," Ms Batterham, 52, said.

Her account of her mother's last days, revealed to The Australian yesterday, is one more RNSH horror story embattled NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher doesn't need as she prepares to front a parliamentary inquiry into the hospital this morning. The inquiry has been forced on the NSW Labor Government following the case of Jana Horska, who was left to miscarry in a toilet adjacent to the hospital's emergency unit in September. Ms Horska's case provoked an avalanche of complaints against the hospital.

When Ms Batterham left her mother at RNSH around midnight on November 10 last year, Joyce, who lived with Ms Batterham, was alert and in sound health. After arriving by ambulance at RNSH emergency at about 6pm with breathing difficulties that had been successfully treated before, Joyce did not see a doctor until 3am the following morning. Those nine hours were spent in great discomfort.

As the result of a pressure sore and poor circulation causing pain in her good leg, Joyce spent much of the time sitting on the edge of her ambulance stretcher, dangling her leg over the side. The doctor said there was nothing much wrong with Joyce and that she could stay overnight in the hospital's aged-care ward and see a specialist about her medication the following morning. Exhausted, Ms Batterham went home, little imagining she would never speak to her mum again.

"She could still be with us now, but because one nurse tried to move my mum, who was a large woman with only one leg, from her wheelchair to a hospital bed without a rail or anything for my mother to hold on to, she was dropped to the ground, resulting in a broken hip," she said. "When I arrived about an hour after Joyce had been dropped, I found they had put her back in the wheelchair and given her painkillers to address the extreme pain she complained of, then left her, with no access to a buzzer. "It was only after I intervened and insisted she be seen by a doctor and X-rayed for a possible fracture, and laid down on the bed instead of with her leg dangling, that these things finally happened." Three hours after being dropped, Joyce was finally seen by an orthopedic surgeon.

But there were more bungles ahead. Joyce's surgery the next day, Sunday, was postponed - without her or Ms Batterham being told. And when Ms Batterham phoned on the Monday morning to ask when the surgery would happen, she was astounded to hear it had already begun. She was unable to comfort her mother before surgery and was denied the opportunity to speak with her again, since Joyce was unable to communicate following a stroke on the operating table.

But what really angers Ms Batterham, as she prepares to lodge a submission with the parliamentary inquiry, is the hospital's lack of accountability and the way key details were airbrushed out of the written report she finally received on Joyce's death, which is being investigated by the Coroner. There was no mention of the fact Ms Batterham had to beg for her mother's hip to be examined by a doctor. No mention of the fact her pain was misdiagnosed by nurses as being the result of poor circulation. Above all, there was no admission that the attempt by a nurse to lift Joyce by herself, with no handrail, was a dangerous practice.


Hysterical poof gets the boot

He apparently thinks that it is cool to abuse women

A Labour party candidate in the Australian federal election has removed a volunteer worker from his campaign after he launched a tirade of abuse at the wife of his opponent. Environment minister Malcolm Turnbull is fighting to retain the seat of Wentworth in Sydney for the incumbent Liberal party. The seat was subject to recent boundary changes and now includes gay districts such as Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, and the Labour party candidate George Newhouse has emphasised the anti-gay position of the present government.

On Saturday Gary Burns, a well-known gay rights activist, campaigning for Mr Newhouse, physically intimidated Mrs Turnbull in the street, calling her a fag hag. Mr Burns later sent an email to Mr Turnbull, quoted on "You will get more angry homosexuals like me attacking you verbally in public because of your fascist leader John Howard, who treats my community like second-class citizens. "Your middle-aged well dressed "fag hag" impersonator of a wife will not protect you from the anger my community has stored up for you and your Government come election day on Saturday November 24. "You are a weak and pathetic excuse for a human being."

Mr Newhouse's campaign director has now confirmed that Mr Burns, not a member of the Labour party, will no longer be working on the campaign. "On behalf of the federal Labour campaign for Wentworth, we regret any inconvenience and apologise to Mrs Lucy Turnbull," the director said.

Last week Mr Turnbull promised that if re-elected his party will allow interdependent gay couples to share each other's public pensions and benefits such as superannuation. He made his pledge at a meeting of lesbian and gay business leaders.

The present government failed to make any decisions on gay equality across a range of issues outlined for them in June by a report from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It listed the 58 laws that need to be changed to give gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights. Prime Minister John Howard's senior government colleagues split on the issue. Some felt it should not be a priority ahead of the election and were concerned about the cost of reforms. Other Cabinet members, especially those with sizable gay communities in their constituencies, argued that equal provision in areas such as Medicare and pensions must be in place before going to the polls.

A report from the HREOC was presented to the federal parliament in June and the Labour party, favourites to win the election and commanding double-digit leads over the governing Liberal party, are committed to reforms. However, both parties oppose gay marriage.


The hysterical one defends his actions here

Monday, November 12, 2007

It looks like Britain does not have a monopoly on filthy public hospitals

Cockroaches crawled on operating tables during procedures, the inquiry into Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital has been told. Health Minister Reba Meagher is the first witness to face the inquiry this morning, being held at NSW Parliament. The hospital's doctors and former management are giving evidence into the hopital, which has been the centre of many complaints over the past two months. One doctor, who has since resigned, complained of the filthy conditions in operating theatres.

Nationals state MP Jenny Gardiner told the inquiry the allegations were made in a submission from the doctor who worked at the hospital for 16 years. "He refers to the killing of live cockroaches on operating theatre tables during operations and `no response when I forward a written complaint and response is requested'."

Ms Meagher said that was unacceptable. "That is why the new management has responded to concerns of staff at the hospital and ordered a complete clean of the hospital," Ms Meagher said. Contract cleaners were sent to the hospital on the eve of a tour of the facility by the parliamentary committee. Ms Meagher has denied the clean-up was an attempted cover-up, saying it was done after a request by staff and had been arranged before the committee indicated it would visit.


Two crooked cops down

But plenty more where they come from

VICTORIA police media director Stephen Linnell, who is answering corruption allegations at an independent inquiry, has resigned. Mr Linnell's lawyer, Martin Grinberg, told the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) inquiry today Mr Linnell had resigned. OPI delegate Murray Wilcox indicated Mr Linnell, believed to be at the inquiry today, would still be required to give further evidence..

His resignation follows that of Assistant Commissioner Noel Ashby who quit on Friday after three days of explosive evidence implicated him in a Victoria Police corruption scandal.

Mr Linnell was expected to return to the witness box for a second day of grilling at the inquiry today. The OPI is examining leaks over a botched secret police task force investigating police links to a 2003 murder. The task force, dubbed Operation Briars, was investigating claims a police officer gave the address of slain male prostitute Shane Chartres-Abbott to a hitman. The leaks resulted in the police suspect being tipped off about the investigation.

A police spokeswoman confirmed Mr Linnell had tendered his resignation to Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon this morning. Ms Nixon may comment later today.


What a great idea!

Car hoons [speed hogs] will have their vehicles crushed and the video posted on the internet in a bid to deal with the growing defiance of speed obsessed drivers in Sydney. But first they will have to witness their car destroyed under crash test experiments in RTA labs. As four more cars were confiscated at the weekend in drag racing offences across Sydney, The Daily Telegraph can reveal NSW premier Morris Iemma is planning a major offensive against this increasingly reckless - and often fatal - behaviour.

On Saturday night, a P-plater [provisionally licenced driver] crashed into a tree at high speed in Londonderry, in Sydney's west. The 20-year-old driver and his 16-year-old passenger suffered multiple fractures and were last night in Nepean Hospital. It was what The Daily Telegraph warned in August would continue to happen unless NSW adopt Los Angeles' style laws that not only confiscate cars but destroys them.

Following a campaign sparked by a flood of support from Daily Telegraph readers - in the wake of the deaths of Alan and Judith Howle, allegedly killed by street racers - the Government has agreed to toughen the laws for car hoons. And if crushing their cars does not change the behaviour of young drivers, the Government will consider posting the entire spectacle on YouTube as an education tool. "These modified, loud and often illegal vehicles confiscated from car hoons will be smashed to pieces in our crash labs, the results filmed and analysed, and the wrecks shown to other young drivers as a warning," Mr Iemma said.

In four other incidents at the weekend police charged four drivers and confiscated their cars after two street racing incidents in Sydney's southwest. A 23-year-old P-plate driver and a 23-year-old man were given court attendance notices for street racing at Lansvale and had their cars confiscated. Two Holden sedans were also seen racing on Victoria St, Wetherill Park, on Saturday night.


Huge success about to be thrown away?

If you have ever wondered which country has the healthiest, wealthiest population in the world, you don't have to look far. Providing you are not an Aborigine, the average Australian's chances of combining long life with comfortable lifestyle are the best in the world. Bar none. The statistical evidence is emphatic. Australia ranks equal third in average longevity. It ranks eighth in per capita wealth among nations with populations larger than that of greater Sydney. Average household wealth has doubled in the 11« years since the Howard Government was elected. Unemployment is the lowest in 30 years. You, personally, may, or may not, have never had it so good, but we, as a population, have never been as healthy and wealthy as now.

Australia is thus approaching a fascinating historical juncture. Amid such benign economic conditions, we may be on the brink of an unprecedented experiment in power politics - giving control of every government in the nation to a political machine with a proven record of insularity and self-serving public patronage on a large scale.

This is uncharted territory. Nine Labor governments out of nine. Nine governments able to cross-fertilise each other's power base, exercising complete control over appointments to the judiciary and the senior bureaucracy. Nine Labor governments with big debts to the unions that underpin their finances. It could change Australia's political culture for a generation.

Kevin Rudd presents impressively and has wisely targeted the Government's obvious weaknesses in education policies, labour law reform and climate change. He has managed to operate above the realities of Labor's machine politics. But then so did Premier Bob Carr, and he bequeathed to NSW a state Labor Government riddled with cronyism, addicted to gambling, coddling the public sector unions, and providing inefficient public services.

On Friday the former federal Labor leader Mark Latham, in an essay in The Australian Financial Review, portrayed the modern Labor Party as far more committed to self-preservation than idealism. In the process he also demolished a core element of Rudd's presidential campaign - the idea that Australia has a housing affordability crisis.

"It seems strange," Latham wrote, "to hear people talking about a private housing affordability crisis when, over the past decade, Australia has experienced its greatest ever boom in private housing investment . In most cases, [home buyers] are enjoying a quality of housing well beyond the expectations of their parents and grandparents before them . Bargains are still available. In south-west Sydney, for example, home buyers can purchase a three-bedroom brick house in a decent neighbourhood for less than $250,000 . There is no crisis in the private housing market, just the manufactured hysteria of the political class."

Latham is half right. Rising interest rates have been offset by income tax cuts from the Federal Government. Housing prices have been rising in most areas, which means the net wealth of home buyers has been rising. Reserve Bank statistics show no meaningful mortgage delinquency. There is no crisis. That said, the Government has stimulated the economy, and the housing market, with rolling tax cuts, a gang-busters immigration policy (120,000 immigrants a year plus a surge in short-term work visas). Per capita private debt has ballooned. While wealth creation and rising real incomes have been spread right across society, the gap between rich and poor has widened.

There is the other manufactured "crisis" that has been helped along by government missteps. The unions have financed a campaign against the Work Choices legislation built on a series of scares presented by actors masquerading as victims. In contrast, since Work Choices became law, work creation has boomed. Last Thursday's employment figures showed the economy at the highest rate of employment and job-creation in a generation.

The Prime Minister made one of the great mistakes of his career by investing so much political capital in Kevin Andrews, who oversaw sweeping labour market reforms via Work Choices, reforms that have stimulated job growth and job creation, as intended, but have also been overly ambitious, overly cumbersome and very much a work in progress. The Government needs to address this reality or die.

Labor's confection of a sense of crisis, in the midst of real-world growth and prosperity, is thus based on some real-world stress, much of it self-inflicted by a consumer-driven culture, plus a great deal of hot air and false hope. As Latham wrote on Friday: "We have reached the zenith of policy convergence in Australian public life. Everything else is just play-acting, a bit of media melodrama to keep the public entertained. Australia is having a Seinfeld election, a show about nothing."

Once again, he is only half right. There is great deal of play-acting. There is a great deal of policy convergence between Labor and the Coalition. There is, however, a real schism, a real issue that divides the Government and the Opposition - the restoration of union power. That is what the election on November 24 is really about. Under a Labor government, the deputy prime minister and minister for industrial relations would be a hard-left union ideologue and labour lawyer, Julia Gillard. The attorney-general would be Senator Joe Ludwig, who, in the great tradition of the Labor patronage machine, is the son of a Queensland Labor powerbroker, Bill Ludwig, the national president of the Australian Workers Union. Leaders of the machine would dominate the ministry.

Everything is in place. With Labor so close to the holy grail of power - every government in Australia - the machine, and the Labor left, are maintaining an iron discipline, and a patient silence.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Law 'turns boys into rapists'

TOUGH new rape laws which make it clear being drunk does not constitute consent have been condemned by barristers, who insist: "It will turn our sons into criminals." The NSW Bar Associations reckons the "No means no" law goes too far and will lobby Upper House members to vote against it when it is up for debate next week. The law will define the meaning of consent for the first time, making it clear that being drunk or under the influence of drugs does not mean consent has been given. It will also introduce an "objective fault test", meaning a man can no longer use the defence that he thought he had consent if the circumstances appear unreasonable.

"It will turn our sons into criminals," new Bar Association president Anna Katzmann SC said yesterday. "For years women have been insisting 'No' means 'No'. What troubles us about this new legislation is that it introduces a new regime where 'Yes' may mean 'No'." Ms Katzmann gave the example of a woman on a first date who might not want to have sex but after both she and the man had drunk too much said "Yes". The next day she feels guilty and tells her mother, who goes to the police. "That would be rape under the new laws," Ms Katzmann said. "The fact that he was drunk cannot be taken into account. The fact that she was drunk is no excuse for him.

Chair of the Bar Association's criminal law committee Stephen Odgers SC said the law made sexual assault a crime of negligence. "The stupid, the negligent, the intoxicated, the crazy will be treated as if they are the same as the true rapist, who knows there is no consent to sexual intercourse," Mr Odgers said.

Opposition attorney general, former Crown prosecutor Greg Smith, said the Attorney-General John Hatzistergos needed to spell out the law better. Mr Hatzistergos said the introduction of an objective fault test was canvassed during the State Government's exhaustive consultation process and had wide support, including police and the Rape Crisis Centre. "Although Mr Odgers might like to draw a distinction between the stupid or drunk rapist and normal rapists, for rape victims they're categories that don't matter," he said.

"If a person is drunk it does not automatically mean that consent can't be given. What it means is that the onus is on the other person, usually a man, to show he had reasonable grounds to believe the woman had consented. "It's difficult to take the Bar Association seriously on this matter when, in their own submission, they concluded that just because a woman was asleep or unconscious (it) doesn't negate consent." Earlier this year The Daily Telegraph launched the Justice For Women Now campaign to give sexual assault victims equal justice and to encourage more women to report assaults


GM paranoia hurts Australian farmers

This week academics at the University of Melbourne released news of the latest victory in the environmental movement's war on Australia. The ban on growing genetically modified canola is costing our struggling farmers a whopping $157 million a year. No green group has yet claimed credit for this triumph of economic terrorism, but no doubt one will soon. On its website, Greenpeace lists among its main achievements the decision by five states to impose moratoriums on the commercial release of the first proposed GM crop. The greens applied pressure on the states after both Australia's independent regulators, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, approved the general release of two types of GM canola in 2003.

This is a hot issue because most states are reviewing the bans, due to expire next year. It matters more generally because canola was the first big battleground in the public debate here over the acceptability of genetically modified foods.

The errors and misconceptions the green activists were able to lodge in our minds then have influenced our attitudes to this new frontier of science ever since. Basically, Australians remain pessimistic while other countries have moved on and are reaping the benefits, and not just from canola. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics has estimated that we stand to lose $5.8 billion in a decade if we don't access all new GM crop varieties. (Mind you, we are not always consistent. Most of the cotton grown in Australia is genetically modified. We hear no complaints from the greens about this. A cynic might say this is because if it wasn't modified it would require a lot more water and pesticides to grow. But the same applies to GM canola.)

Professor Rick Roush and Dr Robert Norton from the Faculty of Land and Food Resources at the University of Melbourne have looked at more than 20 recent reports on GM canola in Australia. They have compared this with the situation in other countries that have not banned GM canola, particularly Canada. A comparison of the experiences of Australia and Canada enables us to review the claims against GM canola made by the greens.

Let's start with the economics. The greens have sometimes argued that Australia, far from benefitting, would lose financially by growing GM canola, because foreign markets would gradually shut out not just GM canola but all canola from countries that grew the GM strains. In fact, just the opposite has happened internationally. More markets have now opened up to GM canola. The biggest is the European Union, which has approved the importation of GM canola grain and oil. As a result of this market expansion, Canada's canola production has increased by 40 per cent since 1996. It has been able to do this in part because GM strains are more productive. Canada's average yields have increased by 40 per cent over the past decade. In Australia, they've gone into reverse, declining by 10 per cent. Because of this and the drought, last year Australia actually imported a large quantity of Canadian GM canola.

This failure in the greens' economic predictions should not surprise us. In the past decade, as green spokesmen took to cutting their hair and wearing suits, they also began to argue their case on financial as well as environmental grounds. It was part of the appeal for respectability. But where it has been possible to test green economics, it has often been found wanting.

Perhaps the most persistent example of this has been in relation to the timber industry. Whenever Bob Carr created a new national park and destroyed yet another small town's economic basis, there was a claim from some city-based green group that the local folk would gain far more from "green tourism" than they lost from the closure of their timber mill. This proved to be fantasy.

Of course, it's not just a question of economics. Over the years green activists have presented a wide range of arguments against GM canola. But their basic position is one of faith: they are fundamentalists. On its website Greenpeace announces it is "opposed to the patenting of life". It is not clear whether this opposition is based on disapproval of capitalism or science or both, but as a general statement it leaves little if any room for debate.

A more positive view of genetic modification is that it's the latest stage in several thousand years' efforts by humans to improve crops. One of the great achievements of the past half-century has been the boom in agricultural productivity. Those who've benefited most have been the world's poor. If further improvements mean "patenting life", so what?

A perverse result of the successful green opposition to GM canola is the harm it has done to the environment. As Roush and Norton explain in their paper, growing the current types of (non-GM) canola requires large amounts of herbicides that stay active in the soil for considerable periods and can be aquatic pollutants. In contrast, GM canola would do far less damage. The Canadian experience shows that GM canola is good for the economy, and good for the environment. Indeed, Canada is planning a 70 per cent expansion of its crop by 2015. Buckling to green propaganda in 2003 was a major failure of leadership by Australia's premiers. Let's hope they reverse that decision next year.


One reason for the housing shortage

Delays of as much as six years and complications for developments as minor as a cubby house are among a catalogue of complaints about Sydney's clogged planning system. Even government ministers and senior bureaucrats have fallen foul of slow council approvals, according to the collection of horror stories seen by The Sunday Telegraph. One applicant ended up in hospital with heart problems. Leichhardt and Ku-ring-gai are the most commonly complained-about councils.

Among the plaintive pleas for assistance to Planning Minister Frank Sartor was one addressed from the coronary unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Its author was recovering there after acute heart troubles he attributed to a long battle over minor renovations to his 1880s cottage. A State Government minister, whose identity was not revealed, encountered similar problems over a 1.3m extension to her bathroom.

Mr Sartor, who has received dozens of unsolicited cries for help so far this year, said they had galvanised him to reform the system. Under changes revealed to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Sartor plans to radically increase the number of so-called complying developments - smaller projects under $1 million that can be approved without a development application. Legislation to go before Parliament by June will introduce targets for complying developments of 50 per cent by 2012, up from their existing level around 10 per cent.

A father of five wanted to carry on his podiatry practice at his Westmead home. The most significant physical alteration involved a 8m by 4m shed to house his car, a kayak and his son's bicycle. "It certainly took its toll,'' he said. "I'm not normally the sort of person to bear a grudge - I like to just move on - but it left a mark.''

However, Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery said decisions needed to consider the wider community. "(Mr Sartor) only seems to be hearing the applicants, but every applicant has a neighbour,'' she said.


Incorrect Australian men

A collection of some things they have said has just been published

Nick Bideau, the former trainer and boyfriend of the Aboriginal Olympic sprinter Cathy Freeman, is included for saying: "I never turned away from Cathy. No matter how fat she was."

Commenting on the trial of pregnancy - for men - Joe Hockey, a government minister, once said: "Well, it's exhausting for me, her being pregnant. "I don't know why, during the birth process they only focus on the women. What about the men standing there? I mean, that's pretty hard. Well, as long as they get the cricket in the hospital."

The book is the culmination of a tongue-in-cheek contest started in 1993, when a group of women gathered in Sydney to celebrate the retirement of a notoriously sexist trade union official named Ernie. The gathering gave rise to the annual Ernie Awards, "the world's premier event shaming men for outrageous sexism".

The Ernies Book, subtitled "1,000 terrible things Australian men have said about women", features quotes from sportsmen, businessmen, journalists and politicians - including the prime minister John Howard.

Magistrates also make an appearance. One in New South Wales told a female defendant: "Come back when your IQ is as high as your skirt."


Saturday, November 10, 2007

DOCS negligence yet AGAIN

If only the parents had been a respectable middle-class couple whom some idiot had accused of "witchcraft"! The "social workers" would have taken all their kids off THEM in double-quick time! Feral parents, however, must be treated with "respect" -- and too bad about the kids

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma is being told to stop denying there aren't major problems within the Department of Community Services (DoCS), with a baby known to the department in hospital suffering cardiac arrest and severe head injuries. The 14-month-old had just been returned to her mother and partner who is on parole for murder.

Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell says the Premier has a lot to answer for. "Morris Iemma needs to explain how laws used last year allowing DoCS workers to bypass the courts and rescue children in serious risk of harm aren't being enforced." "These laws may have prevented death and injuries, and Morris Iemma needs to explain why they're not being used."

An ambulance was called to the little boy's Blacktown home early yesterday morning, there they found the 14-month-old in cardiac arrest with head injuries. He is being treated in Westmead Hospital where he remains on life support. It's believed the child had been in the care of his grandmother, and previously DoCS, before being given back to his 19-year- old mother just weeks ago. DoCS has confirmed it was aware of the child, and the fact that his mother's partner has just been released from prison after serving time for homicide.

Shadow Community Services Minister Katrina Hodgkinson says it's yet another tragedy. "Why are babies who are clearly at risk not looked after properly by the Department of Community Services, when there is obviously a need for that to be happening?"

It's the latest in a series of abuse cases involving children known to DoCS including two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth, found dead in a suitcase and seven- year-old Shellay Ward, who starved to death at Hawks Nest.


Racial tensions behind 'turf wars' around Brisbane

RACIALLY motivated "turf wars" are happening regularly at shopping centres, in the city and at railway stations, a Brisbane City Council investigation has found. South Bank Parklands, the Queen Street Mall and the Chermside and Garden City shopping centres were all identified as hot spots for hostilities. City Hall says police, youth justice workers and council staff confirmed "inter-communal hostilities" happened regularly in Brisbane involving Pacific Islander, African, Vietnamese and Indigenous youths. The investigations formed part of council research into a strategy designed to prevent incidents like the 2005 Cronulla riots from occurring in Brisbane.

On Tuesday, City Hall endorsed a new draft plan, Rites of Passage: Social and Economic Pathways for Culturally Diverse Young People, that aims to create better social and employment opportunities for new arrivals and refugees.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman this week acknowledged that conflicts occurred in the city but said multiculturalism was working well and Brisbane did not have the kind of racial problems experienced interstate. "There will be gangs, there will be young people of different backgrounds having a go at one another - that has happened in this city from the moment it was formed," he said. "But wholesale racial tensions, vilifications, are not something that we're prepared to allow to develop."

Cr Newman said council's strategy was designed to address unemployment and other root causes of potential conflicts by dealing, in particular, with young men from all cultural backgrounds. Labor's community services chair Cr Catherine Bermingham played down the talk of "turf wars", saying they were not new in Brisbane. "When I was growing up there were gangs, so to speak, and I remember my parents talking about gangs such as bodgies and widgies and all that sort of thing," she said. "There's always going to be some sort of youth conflict." Cr Bermingham said the Rites of Passage strategy would help to build inclusiveness and provide opportunities for young people from different backgrounds.

Cr Bermingham said some African members of her own East Brisbane ward had complained of being ostracised after comments like those by federal Liberal MP Gary Hardgrave, who last month said his Moreton electorate was "exhausted" by the intake of African refugees.

A spokeswoman for South Bank said there had been no increase in incidents within the parklands and the corporation was working with police to proactively address security. In a statement, the Queensland Police Service said it was not aware of any "turf wars" between culturally-specific groups. It acknowledged that groups of youths from different backgrounds frequented many public spaces in Brisbane.


Rudd attacked by previous Leftist leader

"Biffo" runs true to form but what he says is mostly right for all that

Delighted Coalition ministers yesterday welcomed back former Labor leader Mark Latham, who emerged from self-imposed political exile to sneer at Kevin Rudd's campaign. Mr Latham called this the Seinfeld election - "a show about nothing" - and said Mr Rudd was a conservative like Prime Minister John Howard. He also undermined the core of Mr Rudd's campaign by questioning whether working families were in financial trouble, and praised the Australian health system as one of the best in the world.

The controversy he stirred took up a lot of campaign time Labor would have wanted to devote to other issues. "He's talking about his views of the world. That's a matter for him," said Mr Rudd, who had not read his former colleague's sharply-worded article in The Financial Review. "I'm about the future with fresh ideas for Australia." [That's a joke! Rudd's only ideas are "me too"s to what Howard says]

John Howard most certainly had read it and said: "I have broken the drought by mentioning Mr Latham." He said Mr Latham had confirmed a Rudd government would drop its conservative policies once elected. "Mark Latham said, 'We all expect, we all hope it will be a lot more . . . progressive if the Labor Party gets in'," Mr Howard said. "He uses the word progressive, I use the word radical."

However, the article said the opposite. Mr Latham had suggested there was a hope a Rudd administration would drop conservative policies, but he expected it would become even more conservative. That didn't stop ministers gleefully spreading the misreading. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett had said last week that Mr Rudd would "change it all" in government, and Mr Latham had confirmed this. "Mr Latham is a former leader of the Labor Party and whatever people in the Labor Party try to say about him, he knows people in the Labor Party, he's talking to them constantly and Mr Latham has confirmed what Mr Garrett said last weekend," Mr Downer said. "Mr Latham and Mr Garrett together have demonstrated precisely where Labor really stands, which is cheat our way into office by pretending we're like the Government and then we can begin our radical agenda."

In fact Mr Latham had written that nothing would change regardless of who won the election because Australian public life had reached the "zenith of policy convergence". "The dominant ethos is greed, not generosity. I expect a Labor administration to be even more timid, more conservative," he wrote.

Taking aim at Labor's campaign on housing affordability, he said there was no crisis - "just the manufactured hysteria of the political class". "There is no crisis for the hundreds of thousands of families that have put themselves into debt and built large new homes, the so-called McMansions, across the country," he wrote.


A crooked senior cop again

Reminiscent of having the police chief sent to jail -- as happened a few years ago in Queensland

ASPIRING chief commissioner Noel Ashby was yesterday forced to quit Victoria Police in disgrace. Former assistant commissioner Ashby faces jail for allegedly lying to a corruption inquiry and trying to pervert the course of justice. His ambition for the top job came crashing down after damning evidence against him was aired at an Office of Police Integrity hearing.

A shattered Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said yesterday she felt betrayed by Mr Ashby, a 30-year veteran of the force, and her media director, Steve Linnell, who she said could both face charges. "I want to say to the community how disappointed I am by this whole episode," she said. In another day of stunning evidence, the OPI hearing was told:

POLICE Association secretary Paul Mullett asked Mr Ashby to personally handle a serious disciplinary case against union delegate Jenny McDonald in the hope she would be treated leniently.

BUGGED phone calls revealed Mr Ashby told Sen-Sgt Mullett he would try to get her case reassigned to him.

DEPUTY Commissioner Simon Overland was part of an OPI sting to catch media director Steve Linnell leaking to Mr Ashby.

THE OPI got Mr Overland to ring Mr Linnell and provide him with confidential information to see if he would leak it to Mr Ashby -- he did so 11 seconds later.

MR ASHBY tried to stop Insp Brett Curran being appointed chief of staff to Police Minister Bob Cameron and enlisted Sen-Sgt Mullett's aid.

SEN-SGT MULLETT told Mr Ashby that his (Mr Ashby's) stocks were rising significantly with Premier John Brumby, and Mr Ashby replied "watch this space" in an apparent reference to his being appointed Chief Commissioner.

OPI bugs repeatedly caught Mr Linnell and Mr Ashby being crudely critical of Ms Nixon, Mr Overland and various assistant commissioners, with Mr Ashby calling them "the shiftiest bunch of c---s". Mr Ashby admitted he was jealous Mr Overland was being sent on a study trip to France, and that he and Sen-Sgt Mullett tried to stop it.

Counsel assisting the OPI, Dr Greg Lyon, SC, has accused Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell of leaking confidential information relating to the 2003 murder of gigolo vampire Shane Chartres-Abbott. Dr Lyon said that information was relayed to Sen-Sgt Mullett and Police Association president Brian Rix. He said that one of the targets of the murder investigation, Police Association delegate Det-Sgt Peter Lalor, was tipped off soon afterwards. Mr Linnell was taped telling Mr Ashby it would be difficult to convict Det-Sgt Lalor because "cops get off". Mr Ashby immediately responded, "yeah, yeah, but might get Docket". Docket is the nickname of former Victoria Police detective David Waters.

Mr Waters and Det-Sgt Lalor are both targets of Victoria Police taskforce Operation Briars, which is investigating the Chartres-Abbott murder. Operation Briars is probing allegations that Det-Sgt Lalor passed Chartres-Abbott's address to the hitman hired to kill him. It is also investigating claims Mr Waters was at a meeting where plans to kill Chartres-Abbott were hatched.

Ms Nixon said the OPI told her in September that Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell were being investigated in relation to the Chartres-Abbott matter. "It's been a very difficult time to know people who were close to you were being accused of these matters," she said. "Now, as we have heard, the evidence has confirmed the real concerns (the OPI) had."

More here

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Department for Ignoring Abused Children again

They just don't do their job -- so kids die. Where is the logic of taking away one kid and leaving the others to rot?

The Iemma Government was under pressure last night to explain its inaction over the death of seven-year-old Shellay Ward, as it emerged that the NSW Department of Community Services had been repeatedly warned about the plight of the child and the conditions she lived in. Former neighbours of the Ward family say they contacted DOCS on numerous occasions about the autistic girl, who starved to death. They had told authorities that she never attended school and was forced to spend her days in a room left littered with rubbish and excrement. Shellay, weighing just nine kilograms, was found dead in bed at her home in Hawks Nest, north of Newcastle, on Saturday.

Two former neighbours said yesterday they had contacted DOCS with concerns about the welfare of Shellay and her siblings when the family lived in Matraville. Janice Reid said she rang DOCS when the Ward family was in Matraville, in Sydney's east, and again when they moved to Hawks Nest in August. Mrs Reid, a DOCS foster carer, said she used to see Shellay standing at the window naked and she spent many hours in her bedroom with the door closed.

Industrial cleaners were called in to the three-bedroom Matraville house after the family left. Mrs Reid said the house was knee-deep in rubbish. The room that Shellay had been living in stank of urine and there were patches of faeces on the floor. "It just smelt like a toilet; like a bad, filthy public toilet," she said.

Mrs Reid said that the first time she reported the family to DOCS, social workers investigated and took the youngest of the four Ward children away to foster care. After her second report nothing was done. Once the family moved she made a third report. "I originally reported it because it was an unusual situation when you don't see kids in the yard ... and DOCS did come," Mrs Reid said. She said Shellay was "quite chubby and healthy" when she last saw the child, about eight to 10 months ago.

Another neighbour, Darlene, called DOCS four years ago with concerns. "We'd see them at home through school hours every day of the week. They were dressed in really old dirty clothes. They were really pale like they had never seen the sun and their hair was really matted. In the five or so years they lived there Darlene saw the wife once - going to the letterbox. "This is 2007, there should not be children allowed to die like this. That is the saddest part, that DOCS had taken the baby and left three other children in that situation."

Debbie Jacobson, a board member of the Foster Care Association NSW, said she called the DOCS helpline twice and then met DOCS management about her concerns for the Ward children. "They assured me they would look after it and look into the family [but] months later it still looked like nothing had been done. They said they could not tell me anything more due to confidentiality reasons, but that they were taking care of it."

Ms Jacobson said she knew of at least five complaints made to DOCS in relation to the family. "It just amazes me especially when there were so many notifications put through. I can understand one or two notifications slipping through the cracks but that many should not have gone unnoticed. A child has died and somebody needs to be accountable for it." An email from an unnamed foster carer, read on Macquarie Radio, said a number of people had been in touch with DOCS about the Ward family.


Australia not a 'welfare state'

AUSTRALIA is no longer a "welfare state" and is on the path to becoming an "opportunity society", John Howard said today. Laying out his economic vision for the future, the Prime Minister said only the Coalition could sustain prosperity, encourage the freedom of an enterprise culture and delivering full employment. In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs, Mr Howard said Labor's attempt to say it had the same economic policies as the Coalition's was designed to `'conceal'' important differences.

Mr Howard used the speech to argue that only the Coalition was supporting the entrepreneurial and enterprise culture that is vital to economic success. "This election is about the future. It is about positioning Australia as an open, dynamic and flexible economy, able to compete in the global economy, but also able to withstand the economic shifts we know can hit without a warning,'' he said ". And, very importantly, it is about continuing a great national project we have begun - the transition of Australia from a Welfare State to an Opportunity Society.

The prime minister, speaking as the latest figures showed unemployment still at its 33- year low level of 4.2 per cent, again said that getting a person a job was the cornerstone of the economic fabric of the nation.

"We do not need new leadership for an old Australia,'' Mr Howard said. "We need proven leadership of the Australia of today and tomorrow.

Mr Howard said there should be no illusion that economic policies of the two parties were the same. "With the (Labor consultants) Hawker Britton spin machine in overdrive, any day now I'm expecting Julia Gillard to claim the Socialist Forum was really a free market think tank,'' he said. Wages policy was a key part of macroeconomic policy, yet Labor wanted to remove individual contracts and increase the bargaining power of unions with all the risk that it would see labour costs rise faster than the economy can handle, he said. "He can't claim that he would abolish WorkChoices and simultaneously claim there is no difference on macroeconomic policy,'' he said. To do so, is to fundamentally misunderstand the importance of today's labour market arrangements to avoiding a wages breakout, higher inflation, higher interest rates and a return to a boom-bust economy.''

Mr Rudd's practiced the `'art of the subtle sneer'' when dismissed the contribution of the mining industry as just digging up dirt. "As if a job in mining is somehow sub-par and not sufficiently `knowledged-based' for Mr Rudd's sensibilities,'' he said. "In fact mining is one of the most technologically advanced sectors of the Australian economy as well as being a very valuable source of high-wage jobs and export income. "If Mr Rudd were of a mind to check the facts he would find that the mining sector now employs far more people working in research, innovation and other knowledge based industries than it does in actually digging up dirt.''

The Coalition offered a practical approach to climate change rather than Labor's more aggressive anti-mining proposals,'' he said.


Eight Aussie universities in world's top 100

EIGHT Australian universities have made the top 100 in the latest world rankings of institutions of higher education. The Australian National University at No16, followed by the University of Melbourne (27) and the University of Sydney (31), were the top three performers. Australia's top six research-intensive universities remained in the rarefied top 50 of the Times Higher Education Supplement-QS World University Rankings of the top 200 universities. The ANU ranking remained steady but the University of Melbourne continued its downward slide from 19th two years ago. The University of Sydney climbed seven places from 38th two years ago.

Outside the top three, the University of Queensland leapfrogged Monash and the University of NSW to be the country's fourth top university, according to the THES-QS, with a new world rank of equal 33rd. Monash, previously ranked fourth nationally, slid to fifth and 10 places worldwide to 43rd, down from 33rd two years ago. The UNSW fell from 41st two years ago to 44th.

Outside the top 50, the University of Adelaide came in at 62nd, and the University of Western Australia just behind it at 64th. Well outside the frontrunners, but still with a credible performance against rivals worldwide, Macquarie University came in at equal 168th, the Queensland University of Technology at 195th, the University of Wollongong at 199, RMIT University at 200th, and La Trobe at equal 205th.

Rankings spokesman Nunzio Quacquarelli said the latest rankings showed 21 Australian universities were now among the world's Top 450 universities, a major improvement from last year. The ANU, Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland universities all featured in the Asia-Pacific region's Top 10, he said.

However the THES ranking system has come under fire following a new analysis of it and its main rival, Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities. Writing in the November edition of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Macquarie academics Paul Taylor and Richard Braddock said the Jiao Tong system was "clearly superior". "In emphasising research, it (the Jiao Tong) focuses on one of the essential functions of a university ... in contrast with the THES system, which gives great weight to (subjective) peer review, the Jiao Tong system concerns itself with genuine criteria rather than mere symptoms of excellence," the pair said.


Brisbane gets a plug in the New York Times


ONCE just a stopover for tourists en route to either the Great Barrier Reef or the beaches on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, the eastern Australian city of Brisbane has emerged as an alluring destination in its own right.

Returning recently to the city where I grew up and left 15 years ago for fast-paced Sydney, I found Brisbane to be almost unrecognizable. No longer a large country town, the capital of Queensland is now Australia's fastest growing city, and a plethora of new cafes, bars and shops, not to mention a beautiful new modern art gallery, add up to the kind of place that you could easily spend several days exploring.

Once known as BrisVegas (thanks to a casino and glitzy night life in the 1980s), the city is bisected by the Brisbane River, which winds its way to Moreton Bay, past former wool stores that have morphed into luxury apartments, and historic Queenslander houses built on stilts to catch the breeze. A former power plant sitting on the water's edge is now a performance center. Catamaran ferries ply the river, taking locals to work and to weekend farmer's markets.

The city's newest attractions are the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and the just-renovated Queensland Art Gallery, which sit next to each other on the last bend of the river on Stanley Place in South Bank Parklands. GoMA is Australia's largest modern-art gallery, with works by Australian and international artists including the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor and the German artist Katharina Grosse. Enormous windows frame spectacular city views, and the gallery, which adjoins a brand-new State Library, has its own cinema complex and children's art center. The Queensland Gallery's new additions include a sweeping glass entry and the Historical Asian Gallery.

The museums ( can be reached by strolling down the River Walk, a floating walkway that links the New Farm area to the central business district and runs past South Bank Parklands, an expansive beach and swimming lagoon right on the river overlooking the city.

The museum scene in Brisbane doesn't ignore history. For perspective on Brisbane's role as Pacific headquarters for the allied forces in World War II, visit the MacArthur Museum Brisbane, at 201 Edward Street, dedicated to General Douglas MacArthur, who made Brisbane his base for two years. In those years, millions of Americans passed through the quiet Australian backwater that many thought would change after the war. Instead, central Brisbane almost closed down as a dwindling population moved to the suburbs.

Now, areas like Fortitude Valley, a formerly gritty area known as "sin city," have transformed themselves. The Emporium Hotel just opened on the site of a former bus depot with its own upscale shops and restaurants. Guests can take a dip in the 50-foot saltwater rooftop pool with views of the city and Story Bridge, and recline on loungers, separated by billowing bronze-colored silk drapes. Don't be surprised to see brilliantly hued rainbow lorikeets in frangipani trees outside the hotel, or hear a kookaburra laughing its head off.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Public hospital kills baby

By way of the usual short-staffing

A mother who accidentally suffocated her newborn baby says she will consider suing a Brisbane hospital after a coroner found nurses failed to follow guidelines. Baby Arisa was less than a day old when her lifeless body was found in mother Yumiko Huber's bed at the Mater Mothers' Hospital in South Brisbane on August 17, 2005. She was revived but was found to be brain dead and died the next day when she was taken off life support.

A report by Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements - made public today - found the first-time mother had been exhausted after a difficult birth, on pain relief medication and antibiotics, and had a fever when she was left breastfeeding her daughter at about 5am. It found staff had left the pair for one hour and 45 minutes before discovering the child and her sleeping mother - contrary to hospital guidelines which required checks on mothers breastfeeding in bed every 15 to 30 minutes. "The evidence was also clear that no specific warning was given to the mother before the baby was placed with her for breastfeeding in bed," the report said.

The report said the midwife should have advised Ms Huber to take care and call for assistance if she or the baby became sleepy.

The parents were too upset to speak today, but a statement released by the father, Philip Huber, was highly critical of the hospital and its nurses, who he blamed directly for his daughter's death. The couple's lawyer Sarah Yellop today said they were considering legal action against the hospital and the two nurses who were on shift that night. "That's something that we've got to consider and, obviously, they are giving some thought too," Ms Yellop told reporters. "Given the findings of the inquest, I'd consider that there would be very strong grounds for compensation claims." But, she said, it was too early to comment on how much compensation might be sought.

The coroner's report recommended better training for nurses and more education for new mothers, especially involving the dangers of having the baby in bed with them. The report also noted "extremely heavy" workloads for nurses and low staffing levels which led to shortcuts being taken.

A statement from the hospital today said the report's recommendations had already been implemented. "Mater Health Services continues to express its deepest sympathies to the Huber family," it said. "Immediately after the death of Arisa Huber, Mater reviewed its policies and procedures in the Mater Mothers' Hospital. "Since the tragic event occurred two years ago, the recommendations made by the coroner in the report have already been implemented by the Mater." The changes included a new education program for staff and patients. [New policies? What about implementing the old ones?]


Ambulance disaster just waiting to happen

A trainee paramedic who worked virtually 36 hours straight this week is so tired driving her ambulance she sees "little monsters" on the road in front of the vehicle. Stanthorpe ambulance officer Julie Clark blames the marathon shift at the Granite Belt station on chronic understaffing with paramedics regularly working 20 hours straight. Her stint - from 8am on Monday to 8pm on Tuesday - included two quick power naps, two return trips to Warwick and an eight-hour return drive to Brisbane with patients. "Lives are at risk because of this," Ms Clark told The Courier-Mail last night. "I have been so tired I have seen little monsters running all over the road."

The revelations are another embarrassment for the Bligh Government as it investigates why record funding for the Queensland Ambulance Service is resulting in worsening service [The experience of governmenrt medical services worldwide]. The QAS yesterday offered Ms Clark, 43, a transfer to a quieter station after her frustrated partner blew the whistle about the problems and forced the QAS to let her talk.

But Ms Clark insisted a transfer would not solve the problems as eight staff regularly worked 20-hour shifts as their "on-call" time became rush hour. "We love our jobs and we do get overtime but this just isn't safe for me or the patients," said the paramedic of 18 months. "By the time I came home, I was dizzy from very little sleep and I wasn't safe to drive especially long distances, or do my job. "I told the Assistant Commissioner I want to stay here but we just need more staff. That's the problem."

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts has requested a report of the situation with rosters over the past five days being checked. A QAS spokesman admitted the station had experienced extraordinary conditions with "a spate of serious, potentially life-threatening incidents in the Stanthorpe area this week". "A dedicated ambulance officer at the Stanthorpe station was called to attend a number of these incidents while rostered on for emergency availability at the time of these incidents," the QAS spokesman said.

But the statements were met with anger from the Ambulance Employees Australia Union and the State Opposition, which both demanded an independent inquiry into the service. Coalition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone said the understaffing was typical of a system in crisis right across Queensland. "She was a danger not only to the patients she was treating but to herself and (this) goes well beyond any workplace health and safety guidelines," Mr Malone said. AEAU secretary Steve Crow said the problem was associated with busy regional stations that had inadequate staff. "Surely there is a way to look after the patients better by actually looking after the paramedics," Mr Crow said


Police negligence frees child-killer

West Australian police "stuffed up" when they failed to DNA test the blood-splattered shorts worn by child-killer Dante Arthurs when he attacked another young girl four years ago, police chiefs admit. Arthurs, 23, was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum of 13 years yesterday for the murder of eight-year-old Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu in a toilet cubicle at a Perth shopping centre last year.

During his sentencing in the Supreme Court yesterday it was revealed that a pair of shorts worn by Arthurs at the time he allegedly attacked another eight-year-old girl in 2003 were not tested until last month. It was only then that a bloodstain on the shorts was found to match the eight-year-old victim of the 2003 attack.

The case was dropped in 2003 by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Robert Cock because police bungled the interview, intimidating Arthurs when they thought video and audio tapes had been turned off. Mr Cock was also told there was no forensic evidence to support a prosecution.

WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said today he had contacted the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) to investigate "what the hell went wrong". "I think WA police have to accept this has been stuffed up," Mr O'Callaghan said. "What we've seen is DNA evidence that could have been analysed in 2003 and the WA police have let the community down. "I think to call it a bungle would be an underestimation."

Yesterday, Sofia's parents stayed away from Arthurs' sentencing to save themselves from the pain of what they labelled a "lack of effective justice".


Aussie crowned top winemaker

A SOUTH Australian has been crowned the world's winemaker of the year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. Michael Fragos, the chief winemaker at McLaren Vale's Chapel Hill winery, was named winner of the prestigious gong last night. "I am absolutely ecstatic," Mr Fragos said today.

The International Wine and Spirit Competition, founded in 1969, is regarded as the premier competition of its kind in the world. Last month, a Chapel Hill wine selling for $25 a bottle was named the best cabernet sauvignon at the London competition. The Chapel Hill McLaren Vale 2005 cabernet sauvignon also won a gold medal at the prestigious competition. Chapel Hill's 2004 McLaren Vale shiraz claimed the trophy for the best Australian red wine at the competition, while the 2005 vintage of the shiraz won a gold medal.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What a racket!

In the story below, a guy who looks as pink-skinned as I am is somehow classed as black so gets half a million bucks of taxpayers' money because concerned child welfare authorities took him off his natural parents when he was a kid and placed him with white foster parents. How awful of them! These days they just let the abused black kids die, of course. ANYTHING is better than placing them with white families!

The guy below should be thankful for his pink skin in fact. In the old days the authorities didn't think there was much they could do for blacks. It was only half-caste children whom they thought had a chance and whom they therefore endeavoured to save. And even then it was only in some States that they even went that far. If there was any crime committed, it was that so FEW children were removed from abusive black families.

The "stolen generation" is just a myth concocted by Leftists. There was no "generation" removed from their parents -- just a few isolated and endangered individual childen. Note that the individual below is the FIRST to be judicially classified as "stolen". If there was a whole generation, where have all the rest of them been hiding all these years?

The first member of the stolen generation to be awarded damages by a court has asked for 50 years of interest on his $525,000 compensation. Aborigine Bruce Trevorrow was awarded the payout in August after a South Australian judge ruled the state falsely imprisoned him as a child and owed him a duty of care for pain and suffering. In the SA Civil Court yesterday, Julian Burnside, QC, for Mr Trevorrow, asked for the interest on the compensation be backdated to 1957 when Mr Trevorrow was taken as a child.

Mr Trevorrow was taken from his family in the Coorong in 1957, when he was 13 months old and was given under the authority of the Aborigines Protection Board to a woman, who later became his foster parent, without his natural parents' permission.


So exactly when did Aussies have it better?

It may be of some relevance to note that in political history, the sentence "You never had it so good" is most often associated with Britain's Conservative "Supermac", who went on to win the subsequent election

JOHN Howard's biggest problem right now isn't that he's a liar. It's that he told the truth. And how Labor is now hammering the Prime Minister for it. Night after night I see ads starring a new Whingeing Wendy, whining how Howard once said "working families have never had it so good". "Really, Mr Howard?" she snarls with a voice like a bandsaw, just like the original Whingeing Wendy, designed by ad man John Singleton, who nagged Howard to defeat in his 1987 campaign against Bob Hawke. "How can you say that when my childcare and grocery prices are higher than ever?"

On she goes, yammering about her various bills, like someone astonished to find herself living in an age where you actually had to pay for stuff. We'll be seeing more of Whingeing Wendy and her bills, I'm sure, after today's announcement by the Reserve Bank board of another interest rate rise - the sixth since the last election. In fact, Wendy has been whingeing about them already: "And those interest rate rises, they've stretched us to the limit ... 'Never better off?' You've lost touch, Mr Howard."

Er, Wendy? Excuse me, dear, but it's actually you who's lost touch. By almost any measure you care to take, Australians in general are indeed better off than ever. In fact, the most astonishing thing about this election is that Howard is about to be junked despite an economic record he could bronze and hang in his study with pride. Take it from me, Howard can't believe it himself.

Check the stats. More people have jobs than ever before. Pensions are high. Wages have gone up and up. The place is booming. Your family home is now worth plenty. Tax cuts for the average wage earner have more than covered the rises in mortgage rates, which are still lower than what we had when Howard was first elected.

As for Whingeing Wendy's groceries, an analysis by CommSec's chief economist shows that more than two-thirds of a basket of 50 items typically bought from supermarkets have got more affordable over the past six years. Indeed, after-tax wages have risen twice as much as overall prices. We've got it not just made, but buttered on crumpet.

All of this is perfectly obvious to visitors. Simon Heffer, columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph, dropped in last month to report on Australia and rhapsodised: "For an Englishman or anyone else coming here now, the place is humbling. "We really do see a people who have never had it so good. "Indeed, it is hard to name a nation in history that has ever had it so good as the Australians are having it now."

Or ask Australians returning from overseas, even from Scandinavian countries that our socialists long hailed as Nirvana. An acquaintance who has spent the past eight years living in Norway yesterday emailed to say he'd had enough, and was coming home to heaven. He listed the things that had left him cold among the fjords: "$12 beers, 25 per cent GST, $12 pack of cigs, $50 pizzas, world's worst taxes on cars and petrol, world's close-to-highest electricity prices." Whingeing Wendy would pop a valve.

Yet telling the truth about our good fortune has been a huge blunder by Howard, who has scrabbled since to assure voters they really are poor, sad, picked-on little battlers, who need lots of loving and as much free money as would choke Dick Pratt. The charitable reading of this phenomenon is that voters don't want their leaders to seem complacent, as if they've given us as much as they're ever going to give and will now put up their feet on the Kirribilli ottoman. With Howard already seeming like he's worn out his welcome, and worn through his agenda, his boast couldn't have sounded worse.

But the less charitable - and perhaps more accurate - explanation for our Whingeing Wendys is that many Australians like to praise themselves for their successes, but blame others, especially the Gummint, for their failings. In other words, they're whingers inclined to give politicians nothing more generous than the two fingers, and themselves nothing more harsh than a free pass.

A classic example of the species is Monash University ethicist Leslie Cannold, who this week wrote a column in The Age savaging the Howard Government for making her want to take her son out of a bad (Victorian-run) state school and into a private one she couldn't afford. "The rot comes from the way we fund our schools," she raged. "And it is making me so angry ... that I can hardly breathe. "(My son) can see how frustrated I am at my inability to give him the wonderful educational opportunities we both see dispensed like lollies all round us; how sad and guilty I feel that despite the fact that we are doing the best we can, our best isn't good enough..." And so on, like Whingeing Wendy's twin sister.

As it happens, the Howard Government has actually spent more than ever to make it possible for more parents - many poorer than Cannold - to send their children to private schools. And as it also happens, Cannold might well be able to afford to send her son to a private school, too, if she made the same sort of sacrifices I've seen other parents make. This is, after all, the same woman who only recently wrote a whole column confessing she spent money on botox injections, and would consider cosmetic surgery as well. But don't let nasty John Howard suggest Cannold might actually be doing pretty well to so indulge herself. That would just prove he was out of touch, wouldn't it?

That's sure what Labor leader Kevin Rudd argues, as he bids for the whingers' vote: "Mr Howard says working families have never been better off ... (but) my experience across the country is that working families have a radically different take." Clever politics, but since it's wrong to say working families have never had it so good, I have a question for Rudd: What year exactly did they have it better? No, I can't remember, either.


Leftist power grab coming to Australia

ANY survey of Kevin Rudd's policies leads to an inescapable conclusion: that he wants a sustained increase in the executive power of the prime minister across the spectrum of government. Such an interpretation will be denied. It must be denied, since Labor says John Howard has assumed and abused too much executive power, implying that Labor will remedy such defects. But a tough-minded analysis of Rudd's proposals for office leads to different conclusions.

Remember the most important signal Rudd has sent about office is his plan to select the ministry as well as allocate the portfolios. "Let me be clear about this," Rudd said on September 27. "I'll be determining the composition of the Labor ministry should we be elected to form the next government of the country." This is a direct strike for greater prime ministerial power over the factions and the caucus. Rudd's bid for this power is unqualified and courageous. It sounds Whitlamesque in its "crash through or crash" intent. It is a break from tradition and reflects Rudd's distrust of factional influence. It is inconsistent with the caucus rules and requires caucus consent. Rudd has chosen to confirm only three ministers, Julia Gillard in industrial relations, Wayne Swan as treasurer and Lindsay Tanner in finance. The rest of the ministry is open.

If Rudd gets his way then he, not caucus, will select ministers and victory will surely guarantee he gets his way. Rumours abound about whether various shadow ministers will survive but nobody knows. It is a reminder that Rudd's campaign is presidential, that he owes few debts and that his plans for office are kept tight.

Beyond the claim to select the ministry, Rudd plans vast changes in the system of government. There is, however, one unifying theme: greater prime ministerial power. Consider three priority areas: security, climate change and federalism. Rudd's policy involves the creation of an office of national security within the PM's department. This would be headed by a new position in the Australian system: national security adviser. It is proof that Rudd intends to enhance one of Howard's innovations: the prime minister as national security chief.

The office of national security is probably a re-badging of the existing National Security Division within the PM's department. But the national security adviser is a new concept. It implies the creation of a second officer at secretary level within the department. The critical issue is whether this officer is just a bureaucratic co-ordinator (highly unlikely) or whether Rudd invests this post with policy-making authority. In this case the national security adviser reporting to Rudd would become a rival policy source to defence, foreign affairs and the chief of the defence force.

Note that Rudd plans to commission at once a new defence white paper, sweeping in conception, which deals with the region, militant Islam and WMD proliferation. Once this paper is received Rudd intends, among other things, to "write a more comprehensive national security statement". Such formalisation of a national security strategy has been resisted by Howard.

Such initiatives must be seen in context. Rudd would be the most security aware incoming PM since Malcolm Fraser in 1975. He will have in Robert McClelland as foreign minister and Joel Fitzgibbon as defence minister, deeply inexperienced incumbents. It will be a situation with a PM versed in security policy, equipped with an advisory apparatus that exceeds anything Howard built, and with novice ministers. At the same time Labor has long been pledged to create a department of homeland security, a vast cultural change to the public service and regulatory agencies.

The misgivings within the bureaucracy and the national security community are legion. The new department will include Labor's proposed coastguard, Customs, ASIO, Office of Transport Security, Australian Federal Police, emergency management, anti-money laundering and the Australian Crime Commission. Shadow minister Arch Bevis significantly likens this revolution to the Whitlam government's 1970s creation of a super defence department that incorporated the departments of army, navy, air force and supply. Last month Bevis said Labor would commission a counter-terrorism white paper to define a whole-of-government response and attacked the Howard Government for its rejection of the homeland security philosophy.

Now there are three things you need to know. This is an American concept. It is an American title. It is an American failure. The US Department of Homeland Security has been little short of a disaster. Howard would not touch the notion. For Australia, it will constitute a huge project in governance and there are many security experts in Canberra warning Labor to halt this innovation. They are in for a shock. Rudd is determined to establish the homeland security department.

Consider climate change. Rudd has announced that an office of climate change will be created within the PM's department, signalling his plan to lead on this issue domestically and internationally. Howard began this process but Rudd will command it. He will entrench a climate change policy window into the prime ministership. Rudd's first climate change priority is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and this will be orchestrated at the level of prime minister. Having used climate change to define his modernist agenda, Rudd will make the post-2012 Kyoto negotiations into a central theme of his head of government diplomacy.

Don't think for one moment the environment minister will control this operation. The report by Ross Garnaut on a national emissions trading scheme was commissioned by Rudd and he will be the principal actor in decisions and implementation following the Garnaut report.

Consider Rudd's pledge to fix the federation. He has raised the greatest expectations about serious federal-state reform since Whitlam. The Council of Australian Governments will become far more important as an instrument of reform. Rudd will become the pivotal figure in this process, backed by his department and working with the premiers.

This list hardly scrapes the surface of Rudd's new agencies and statutory authorities. He will create a health and hospitals reform commission (within the first 100 days), a skills Australia authority, an infrastructure Australia authority and dozens of other statutory bodies, departments, offices, inquiries and new arrangements for industry. It raises the question: does Rudd want to govern the nation or just reorganise its government?

Here is the Rudd paradox. While an agent of me-tooism on many policies, Labor's structure of government agenda reveals an entirely different story. The public servants working on the transition plans can hardly believe their eyes. This Labor agenda means a deepening of the prime minister's powers and a reorganisation of government that is Whitlamesque in its scope and its obsession about process.


Surge in medicine errors in major South Australian public hospital

The direction of change is almost invariably for the worse in Australia's public hospitals

HUNDREDS of medication errors have been recorded at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in the past year, hospital documents reveal. In a situation the state's peak medical body yesterday described as "devastating", it can be revealed 728 medication-related mistakes by doctors and nurses at Royal Adelaide Hospital were reported last financial year compared with 611 in 2005-06. Details of the 19 per cent increase in errors is in RAH safety and quality unit documents, obtained by The Advertiser under Freedom of Information laws.

The Patient Incidents - Medication Related reports show the most common errors are omissions, prescribing problems and overdoses. In 46 cases last financial year, the wrong medication was given and in 11 cases medication given to the wrong patients. During the first six months of this year, seven patients suffered "major permanent loss of function or permanent lessening of bodily function" as a result.

Central Northern Adelaide Health Service acute services executive director Kaye Challinger said there were no patient deaths recorded because of medication errors during the past two financial years. She said, in a written statement, the RAH regarded the incidents as "serious" and a "range of initiatives" had been put in place, including a new medication chart and pharmaceutical reforms. Incident reports are phoned through to a contact centre via a 1800 number.

But doctors, nurses and the State Opposition fear most incidents are going unreported. Australian Medical Association state president Dr Peter Ford said there was a lot of pressure, with hospitals running at more than 95 per cent occupancy. "This really is a scenario for mistakes to occur," he said. "It is a devastating finding."

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Lee Thomas said the errors "reflected a workforce under pressure". Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith said the figures were "very alarming". "The statistics for all hospitals should now be made publicly available," he said. But Health Minister John Hill said medication errors affected just 0.37 per cent of the total number of patients treated at the hospital in 2006-07.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NSW government employs drones instead of doctors and nurses

New South Wales Health Minister Reba Meagher rejects claims the clean-up of Royal North Shore Hospital occurred specifically to coincide with a parliamentary inquiry into its performance. RNSH has enjoyed a major spruce-up, with a huge team of cleaners employed to do the job.

The Opposition has been critical of the timing but Health Minister Reba Meagher says she's just trying to improve the hospital. "The concerns about cleaning were raised directly by the nurses to the chief executive and the chief executive has responded to those claims," she said. Royal North Shore has been under siege of late, with patients left to miscarry in emergency and cases of serious misdiagnosis.

Meanwhile, it's claimed 250 nurses could be employed with the money spent on 159 health bureaucrats who are being paid even though they don't have a position. Almost half have had their role made redundant. New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa has told 2GB's Ray Hadley there is a deadline for these people to find work within the public service. "They're in a different category because they tend to be not highly paid people," he said. "They're given an oppotunity - 12 months - to find an alternate employment opportunity within the public sector. If they fail to find they are given termination and they've got 12 months to get out of the system."


An earlier version of the above article included the following:

The state government has been forced to defend the cost of keeping redundant health workers on the payroll on the same day the inquiry into Royal North Shore Hospital begins. Around $15 million is being spent on health bureaucrats who are without a permanent position but the government insists the workers are not sitting around doing nothing. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says the union-secured deal speaks volumes about the government. "The $45 million a year being paid to 600 people to sit around and do nothing would be better spent employing more teachers, nurses and police."

Big failure for Australian-designed cars

Attempts to beat the Japanese at industrial design are just crazy and a waste of time and money. Tariff protection for the Australian car industry has failed and should be cancelled forthwith

In A first for the Japanese car giant, Toyota has beaten the new monthly car sales of Holden [GM] and Ford combined as Australia's manufacturers struggle against a wave of imported vehicles. As the price of crude oil approaches $100 a barrel, new cars are selling at a record pace and sales are tipped to eclipse the milestone of 1 million new cars sold in a year by the end of the year. In Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries sales figures for October released yesterday, market leader Toyota sold 20,212 vehicles, whereas Holden and Ford sold a total 19,621. Significantly, Holden and Ford were among only seven of the 42 brands to not post a sales increase in October. New-car sales were up by 8.6 per cent so far this year, the figures showed.

It is the first time Toyota has held such a strong lead over Holden and Ford and the company is on track to post its fourth year in a row as Australia's most popular car brand. But Toyota wasn't popping champagne corks yesterday, saying it would rather have stronger competition. "The result is double-edged," said Toyota's executive director of sales and marketing, David Buttner. "While it's pleasing to have strong sales we're mindful of the strong industry."

Toyota's Yaris hatch outsold by more than two to one Holden's similarly sized Barina. And Toyota's Corolla outsold the Holden Astra and Ford Focus small cars also by more than two to one. Mr Buttner said Toyota's record sales were due in part to having a newer model line-up (most of its range has been updated or replaced in the past three years) and that Ford and Holden would bounce back as they updated their models.

Holden's Commodore remained Australia's biggest selling car, but sales of the Ford Falcon were down by 22 per cent in the first 10 months of this year compared with the same period in 2006. An updated Falcon is due in March. Contrary to perception, sales of four-wheel-drives have never been stronger. Sales of light cars are up by 9.2 per cent and small cars are up by 5.4 per cent, but sales of four-wheel-drives are up by 15 per cent. Toyota Australia's chairman emeritus, John Conomos, said he expected the new car market would reach the 1.04 million sales mark this year based on present trends.


Bipartisan tax stupidity

The nation's leading universities yesterday called for the abolition of a tax that renders worthless scholarships for disadvantaged and rural students. Chairman of the Group of Eight elite universities Alan Robson said the scholarships were a way of improving those students' access to university but the bursaries were counted as income in the means test on the commonwealth's Youth Allowance. However, the commonwealth's own equity scholarships - about $8500 this year for new students - were exempt.

"It's a real disincentive for any university or donor to offer scholarships because if we do, the Government just cuts their Austudy payment," Professor Robson said. "This makes such scholarships almost worthless and was the reason behind the group's recent decision to discontinue its equity and merit scholarship scheme. "This tax anomaly is a crazy thing," he said.

Under the means test for the Youth Allowance, worth $348.10 a fortnight, students earning more than $236 a fortnight lose half their allowance. If their income rises above $316, they lose 60 per cent of the allowance.

Professor Robson - vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia - said the proportion of students from low-income families attending university had not risen for more than 20 years. Yesterday, neither party would commit to the change, which would cost an estimated $26.5million a year.


A discriminatory anti-discrimination body

Post below lifted from Leon Bertrand. See the original for links

As readers may be aware, we have exposed the inherent left wing bias of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission (ADCQ). This bias is systemic, and involves multiple breaches of the Public Service Code of Conduct. We have now added links to all our exposes on the sidebar on the left of our blog, for your reading pleasure.

ADCQ is obviously a disgrace, continually practicing the types of discrimination it was established to combat. It engages in left wing activism at public expense and forces parties to attend compulsory conciliations, even if the complaint the conciliation is in relation to does not relate to the Act it is supposed to administer. This is a government organization whose outlook is more discriminatory than Pauline Hanson's policies. Taken together, ADCQ is a big lump of left wing absurdity.

Is there anything that the ADCQ does which can be seen as making a difference in the community? Does anyone read or is anyone persuaded by their left press releases?

There is no doubt that Discrimination legislation should exist. Discrimination is a terrible thing, and remedies should generally be available when people are vilified or discriminated against. Discrimination cases can be litigated in court under the federal Acts, without recourse to the ADCQ and its authoritarian regime of compulsory conciliations. I honestly do not see how these mandatory conciliations benefit anyone. No doubt ADCQ would reply that they exist in order to help the parties reach agreement. This is code for the conciliator putting pressure on the parties to come to an agreement, despite their wishes, and no matter how unjust the terms of the agreement are. When agreement is reached through a compulsory process which would not be reached through a voluntary one, the agreement is almost inevitably the result of coercion.

What we are dealing with is a human rights bureaucracy imposing injustice, and not justice in discrimination cases. If parties want to negotiate or conciliate, they can arrange this to be done privately. If they want to litigate without first going through two conciliation sessions, that should be their right. Parties actually in a dispute are better placed to decide how the dispute should proceed, particularly when they have legal representation. Similarly, employers and employees are better situated to decide the pay and conditions of employment in a workplace. It is generally inappropriate that third parties are able to impose themselves without the consent of the two parties.

In relation to complaints involving smaller remedies than are usually sought in courts of law, perhaps the Small Claims Tribunal should be given jurisdiction to adjudicate such matters. The reason why it is not appropriate to have a specialist tribunal has been pointed out by the H.R. Nicholls Society:

The inevitable problem which arises in every specialist tribunal, unstated by Justice Guidice, is the composition of these tribunals. The type of people who seek appointment to antidiscrimination tribunals, and often succeed in getting appointed, are often women, homosexual, and sometimes disabled (the former head of the Victorian tribunal was a blind woman). They tend to be steeped in student revolutionary culture of the 1970s and are living specimens of an undergraduate time warp. For them, employers, large and small, are the drivers of capitalist oppression. In this time warp, white, middle-aged males harass, intimidate, fail to promote, fail to hire and terminate employees as part of a conspiracy against non-Anglo-Saxons and women. Profoundly ignorant of how markets work in a free economy, and guided by chattering-class perceptions of how and why hiring and firing occurs, they are determined to bring light to the unenlightened and to expose the evils of the market economy. These tribunes are not judges at all-but social engineers sitting on the bench-inspired by the example of Sir William Deane, Sir Anthony Mason and Sir Gerard Brennan.

When a matter needs to be resolved through arbitration or litigation, it is appropriate that the officials are politically impartial, unlike the Anti-Discrimination Commission. This is the fundamental reason why ADCQ and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal both need to be abolished. Political bias is inappropriate in the public sector, as the Code of Conduct makes clear.

There would also be macroeconomic and microeconomic benefits associated with such a move. Firstly, it would force the socialist bureaucrats at ADCQ top go find real jobs. This would help alleviate the "capacity constraints" in the Australian economy that Wayne Swan keeps talking about. Suddenly there would be a few hundred more workers out there on the job market. Hopefully not all of them are completely useless, and their skills in coercing parties and pushing political agendas could be put to good use in the private sector, or in a left-wing party. Some could apply for jobs to work with Peter Russo, advocating in the political arena for terror suspects.

Secondly, if the Government were to save the money used for ADCQ, to be spent or given back to taxpayers at a later date, these savings would also help curb inflation through reduced government spending. The result would be that another interest rate rise would be less likely.

Some people may think that when I advocate for smaller government and lower taxes that I am advocating that essential services are not provided by the Government. The truth is that I am not extreme - I do realize that health, education, roads and law enforcement are essential services that require government funding. When I call for lower taxes, I mean that Government should stop spending money on stupid things like Anti-Discrimination Commissions, or rebates which do no more than give people back their tax moneys. The economy would function so much more efficiently if Governments stopped propping up left wing institutions and pork-barreling, and stuck to the essential services. In relation to ADCQ, Governments should not fund left wing activists to carry out their activism. Such activism should be done in their own time, and not at our expense.

For all the above stated reasons, ADCQ benefits no-one (except the left) and is a waste of everyone's money. It ought to be abolished. Now.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Suspend Muslim immigration, says Hanson

I will be voting for Pauline. She has long had a lot of popular support and the major parties do eventually move towards her views

Senate hopeful Pauline Hanson has accused the Federal Government of opening up the immigration floodgates to people "who have no intention of being Australian". Ms Hanson, who is running in the federal election under the banner of Pauline's United Australia Party, was campaigning on similar policies to those that won her international notoriety a decade ago, including calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration.

Campaigning in NSW, the right-wing firebrand told website she was worried about the loss of Australian values, particularly as a result of Muslim immigration. "I've seen the destruction of our industry, manufacturing, our farmers, everything that is Aussie and to be proud of ... that's been lost," she said. "They've just opened up the floodgates to allow people here that have no intention of being Australian or being proud Australians. "I've actually now called for a moratorium on Muslim immigration because I believe it's not for reasons of religious or any other reason. "But I think it is a cultural difference to us as Australians and we must protect our own culture."

Ms Hanson, who co-founded the One Nation party, listed "Australian values" as the nation's culture, way of life and standard of living. She said if she held the balance of power in the Senate she would be willing to block legislation she did not agree with. "If it is not in the best interests of our country and the Australian people, yes I would," she said. "I wouldn't do deals and sell myself out or the people out for that. "I would fight to make the politicians accountable to us and that's what they haven't done and that's why I'm standing again and that's why people are getting behind me in the support. "They don't believe that there is true representation."

Ms Hanson's vote will be bolstered by the fact she has registered a party. When Ms Hanson ran for the Senate in 2004 she appeared under the line as an individual candidate - a position which historically attracts fewer votes.


Australian troops upset at negative Iraq news

AN Australian army officer serving in Iraq says Diggers are disappointed with the media coverage of their positive work in the troubled nation. Major James Kerr said he and the rest of the 550 Australian soldiers in Overwatch Battlegroup West III had completed 34 projects since May, including rebuilding schools and orphanages, and training Iraqi police on how to handle militias. The group, based at the Tallil air base, had also provided irrigation systems and pedestrian bridges to help the Iraqi people.

"The boys get disappointed with what they see in the media. There's no focus on what we're achieving here, it's more of a focus on the political side and it's really upsetting for them," said Maj Kerr, a 33-year-old from Sydney. "They're out on the ground speaking to local Iraqis, training local Iraqis and helping them improve their skills so in time - and we don't know when - those guys will be able to take over and sort things out in Iraq. "If you spend your whole time in Iraq and then all you read in the paper is something a politician said about Iraq, it makes it really hard for the guys. "It's understandable that the media want to sell papers so they just focus on how many bombs went off in Baghdad. That's of interest to us but that doesn't affect what we're doing. "Here in the south I think we're having an excellent effect. And I think the guys have done very well to improve the life of the Iraqis in the area. "It's all stuff that is going to help Iraq sort itself out. All we hope is that message gets home. It's not a political issue, we just want people to know we're doing a good job."

With the November 24 federal election looming, the Iraq war is high on the agenda. If Labor wins power, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has pledged to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, while Prime Minister John Howard has promised to review Australia's role there.

"It's a bit hard for us, we're always apolitical and whatever the Government decides we'll go with," Maj Kerr said. "But I think that the training we have done and the things we have put in place will help the Iraqis. If we stay we'll be able to do more but if we leave we'll at least have given them a start on what they need."


Another disastrously mismanaged public hospital

This time in Victoria. Coverup included, of course

Victoria's leading hospital trauma centre has been in disarray for several years, with top surgeons refusing to operate with its director, Professor Thomas Kossmann. Since 2004, several surgeons working at The Alfred hospital have avoided operating with Professor Kossmann due to concerns about whether his treatment of some patients was excessive. They also complained about his billing arrangements with the Transport Accident Commission - which pays for medical treatment of road crash victims in Victoria.

The Age can reveal the medical department heads and senior managers at the hospital, which last month announced an external review into Professor Kossmann's clinical practices, have dismissed multiple complaints made by surgical staff over the past three years. Staff have told of a culture of fear and silence at the trauma centre, which treats most of the severe road crash victims in the state. Several surgeons who complained to department heads were told to keep quiet. One who confronted Professor Kossmann about his decision to operate on a patient, judged by other doctors to have such serious injuries that surgery was futile, did not get his contract renewed in 2005.

Professor Kossmann has stood down from surgery while the review takes place. He has declined requests to be interviewed, but in a brief statement through the hospital, he said: "I refute the allegations."

The Alfred has declined to release the review's terms of reference. It has also declined to answer questions and told The Age that it had only recently received complaints about Professor Kossmann, who was recruited from a Swiss hospital to head the trauma unit in 2001. However, an internal memo obtained by The Age suggests that problems in the trauma unit are longstanding. The memo, written in February 2005 by the then head of neurology, Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld, orders surgeons to assist Professor Kossmann in theatre when requested. "It is expected that you will assist Professor Kossmann . in spinal surgery," it says. The memo was written after some surgeons refused to assist him. Several surgeons who still work at The Alfred continue to avoid operating with Professor Kossmann. "It's true. People have chosen not to participate in surgical procedures that he's been involved in," said a doctor with recent experience at The Alfred.

Over the past 12 months, The Alfred conducted a review of its trauma department with a focus on patient care. It is believed doctors raised concerns about Professor Kossmann during this review, which were not acted on. The Age has interviewed more than a dozen medical sources who tell a consistent story about concerns over Professor Kossmann's performance and the hospital's repeated failure to act.

One concern is about his treatment of TAC-funded patients. The commission pays for the medical care of every Victorian injured on the state's roads under the personal injury insurance scheme, paying doctors generous fees for procedures performed on victims. It is believed Professor Kossmann has a deal with the hospital that allows him to receive payments direct from the commission, with a percentage going to The Alfred. This contrasts with many other staff doctors, whose payments are pooled, with the money distributed equally.

It is believed the review into Professor Kossmann was ordered by Alfred chief executive Jennifer Williams after she was recently given a series of patient cases that doctors believed warranted scrutiny. Hospital insiders say Ms Williams is now taking the issue seriously and may not have been aware of all the previous complaints, with senior managers and department heads not passing them on.


PC warriors serve up a slanted education

IN her address to her union's conference in 2005 the Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne openly acknowledged the ideological bias that dominates the school system. As she put it: "We have succeeded in influencing curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum."

This bias is the consequence of historical factors originating in the politics of the 1960s that led to a domination of school curriculums by the ideology of the politically correct Left. Correspondingly, the majority of high school teachers appear to have many values compatible or consistent with this ideology. This ideological hegemony is one of the salient features of "progressive" education. This means that for the numerous students with non-Left views, the education system presents additional challenges.

Although many teachers are likeable people who generate a pleasant atmosphere in their classrooms, what pervades in the school system is a way of looking at the world characterised by the Left, an outlook presented not as ideological but as normal, correct, legitimate and just. More importantly, in terms of assessment, what also exists is a subtle un-stated pressure to ideologically conform if students want to succeed academically.

It should be noted that most of the teachers exerting this pressure would probably be unaware that they are doing so because they would be unaware of the bias affecting their assessment. From the teachers' perspective, they are simply sharing their enthusiasms with their classes and responding positively to what they prefer to see in students' work. Meanwhile, the politically incorrect arguments presented by some students in their essays would be assessed more severely because, from the teachers' perspective, they are genuinely seen to be flawed.

As a private tutor, what I have noticed by closely observing patterns of ticks and comments made in the assessment of students' papers, is that when students clearly indicate in the introduction of their essay that they share their teacher's politically correct beliefs, the teacher automatically clicks into what I describe as a non-critical frame of mind. Consequently, the teacher is less inclined to notice mistakes in grammar, argument or in the presentation of evidence. Meanwhile, if students cross the teacher's bias, the opposite happens. The teacher clicks into a critical frame of mind, finding every justification in the essay to deduct grades.

Due to the psychological subtlety of this behaviour, it is highly likely that the teachers displaying their bias would not recognise it as such, but rather see the grade solely as the product of their professional judgment. It is human nature to display an affinity for those who appear to be like-minded, and to favour them, and this is as true for the assessment of essays as it is in most human interactions. However, because so many teachers share an ideological disposition, the aggregate effect of this tendency is a politically correct bias that appears to be both systematic and widespread. In addition, this bias is so prevalent and so deep-seated that it has achieved a degree of normalcy or a taken-for-granted quality, thereby being virtually invisible to many involved with the system. This is much like the way we become more aware of the constant hum of an air conditioner when it is suddenly switched off than when it is running.

Consequently, if greater intellectual diversity was introduced into the education system, for example, to reflect the degree of diversity in the mainstream community, it would probably initially appear strange to many people, especially to many of those working in it.

Unfortunately, some teachers are not subtle in expressing their Left-wing bias, being quite militant in the expression of their views and intolerant of dissent. Although evidence of commendable attempts at broad-mindedness and fairness among teachers can be found, evidence of blatant bias is far from rare in the school system.

For example, a student came to me late in his Year 11 to receive early preparations for Year 12. Soon after I commenced helping him in English, he reported to me a recent incident when he suspected that he had experienced ideological bias in the assessment of an essay. He had written an informative piece that appeared to be broadly appreciative of the US in its victory in the Cold War, which the teacher had severely criticised. Concerned, he made an appointment to see his teacher to discuss the matter. Unfortunately, what resulted was a severe haranguing, with the teacher yielding no quarter and even boasting to the student that she was anti-American. To many of the politically correct, the US is perceived as an international villain for being a militaristic capitalist superpower.

When the student renewed his attempt to put his case, her convoluted and uncompromising argument worked its way towards a reference to Pearl Harbor. Initially stunned by this irrelevancy, the student soon realised that this was a cruel dig at his Japanese heritage. It did the trick. The student ceased putting his complaint. Coming to the teacher with what he felt was a legitimate grievance, he left feeling that his efforts were futile. He also found the experience somewhat humiliating.

Teachers responsible for scenes like this are probably likely to forget them minutes later. Unfortunately, the students involved are likely to remember them long afterwards. It is also highly likely that these teachers would not remotely see themselves as politically or ideologically oppressive, or as part of a system that creates an environment where free thought and expression can be compromised. The idea that the beliefs of the politically correct, which are seen by them as so noble and emancipating, especially when they were touted by radical students in the '60s, could have become a means for compromising the intellectual freedom of the young in the 21st century would be unimaginable to them.

As for the student who expressed those moderate pro-American views, upon appreciating the realities of the school system, he produced politically correct essays, perfectly tuned into his teachers' biases, to receive A grades that were (thank goodness) hassle-free. Like the characters Winston Smith and Julia in George Orwell's classic anti-totalitarian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, students with non-Left views need to learn to outwardly conform to inwardly remain free.

Prevailing educational practices suggest that the custodians of the education system, like the teachers' unions, have not realised that they are on the wrong side of a growing desire among Australians for greater intellectual diversity and freedom. There is a need for an education system that would better serve the young in terms of their need for knowledge and acceptance. However, as the president of the Australian Education Union recognised regarding the process of reform, there will be a lot of work to do.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

African youths in frenzied attack on Melbourne motorists

This is their thanks for being taken in as refugees. It does go some way towards explaining the attitudes of Sudan's Arabs towards them

A GANG of African youths has attacked motorists in what police suspect was an attempted carjacking. Peak-hour drivers cowered in their cars on a Carlton North street as a driver, her male passenger and another motorist were set upon. Joy Bennett, 21, was waiting at lights in Rathdowne St when the gang began battering her late model Mitsubishi sedan with bricks, smashing its front and rear windscreens. The gang punched Ms Bennett's passenger, Josh Winnell, through his open window and threw a rock through another window.

The mob also turned on a driver who had pulled over to use his mobile phone. When the man refused to get out of his car, the group tried to smash the driver's side window.

Ms Bennett, of Montrose, said the men "came from nowhere". "We were on our way home and had pulled up to the lights. We were there for a matter of seconds when a group of guys surrounded the car," she said. "When the guy was at the window with the brick, I thought he was going to throw it and get me. I was scared they were going to get Josh out of the car. "I had no idea what was happening. I didn't know what they wanted. This doesn't happen, not in real life." Mr Winnell, 24, said: "I remember them trying to grab and punch me. I was in shock. I wanted to get out of there."

The attacks began on Rathdowne St, near Alexandra Pde, at 6.45pm on Friday. It was believed the gang might have been on an attempted car-jacking spree. Sen-Constable James Midgley said the three victims and witnesses had described the men as African. "It's a very random and brazen attack that's occurred at a major intersection at peak hour," he said. The incident is the latest of several involving Africans. Police came under siege recently in brawls involving about 200 youths that closed a suburban cinema and shops.

Those involved on Friday were described as in their late teens to early 20s. One wore a hooded black zip-up top with a white stripe. Police urged anyone who saw the attacks or had information about the men involved to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


Worrying honesty about Leftist hypocrisy

Labor frontbencher Peter Garrett [above] has been rocked by his second embarrassing gaffe in a week. Mr Garrett told high-profile Sydney radio identity Steve Price a Rudd Labor government would ditch its "me too" promises once it won power. "Once we get in we will change it all", Mr Garrett told Price at Melbourne airport yesterday. Mr Garrett later claimed his words were intended as a joke. "This was a short, casual conversation which was jocular in nature," Mr Garrett said.

Mr Price's question was prompted by yesterday's Herald Sun front-page which outlined 22 major Government policies in which Mr Rudd had either directly copied or had backed without question. Treasurer Peter Costello seized on Mr Garrett's conversation at the airport, arguing that it proved Labor's tactic of adopting similar policies to the Government was a "pretence". "I think Peter Garrett, in a moment of candour and truth, has really exploded Kevin Rudd's pretence," Mr Costello told Sky News. "Labor has no intention of actually implementing these things. "As Peter Garrett said: 'Once we get in, we will just change it all.' In other words, Labor is saying one thing but it intends to do a very different thing if it gets elected."

Mr Price said later he was certain Mr Garrett's response to his airport question was not spoken as a joke. "He wasn't laughing, it wasn't a joke," Mr Price said last night. He said his recollection of the conversation was that he tackled Mr Garrett directly on the question of Labor's "me too" policies. "I went up and introduced myself to him (Peter Garrett) . . . I had a copy of the Herald Sun in my hand," Mr Price told Southern Cross Radio yesterday. "He said that the "me too' tag will not matter if Labor wins the election because, quote, 'once we get in we'll just change it all'."

Mr Price said he was so surprised by Mr Garrett's frank admission that once the MP had left, he asked TV presenter Richard Wilkins, who was also present, if he had heard correctly. "And he (Mr Wilkins) said 'sure did, he said it all right'," Mr Price said.

But Mr Wilkins, Channel 9's entertainment presenter, said he thought the MP had responded with a "throwaway line" something like "we'll change that when we get in". Mr Wilkins said he was stunned the chat had been recounted on radio and catapulted into the election debate. "Something of that nature was said. It was very much said tongue-in-cheek . . . He didn't mean it to be taken verbatim," Mr Wilkins said. "In hindsight, Peter probably would have chosen his words differently had he known it was going to blow up like this."

Earlier this week, Mr Garrett backtracked on comments about a post-Kyoto protocol after saying Labor would not insist on major polluting nations such as China and India having binding targets. Labor leader Kevin Rudd over-ruled his environment spokesman, insisting that his government would not enter into an agreement which was not binding on all countries.


Good conservative economic policies promised: Let's hope this does not get "all changed" too

LABOR'S aspiring treasurer, Wayne Swan, has outlined a tough conservative plan to run tight budgets and keep cutting tariffs, setting himself on a potential collision course with colleagues and unions if elected. In an interview with the Herald, Mr Swan said that as treasurer he would not intervene to freeze tariffs to protect industries suffering from the rampaging dollar, such as car makers. "We're not going back, we're going forward," he said. "We won't be going back to a tariff wall."

And he vowed to be "tough" with colleagues wanting to spend heavily to implement their agendas after a decade in the political wilderness. He said he would turn down his cabinet colleagues: "I'm absolutely prepared for it. I make no apologies for the fact that I will be tough. Keeping spending under control is critical." Labor would be ready to deliver its inaugural budget on time in May, he said. There would be two clear priorities for a first Labor budget: "We have a big agenda - with climate change and education there is a degree of urgency."

Spending on less urgent items would need to be cut. Labor, which has listed $3 billion in planned budget cuts already, would announce a second round of spending cuts before the election on November 24. Mr Swan attached less urgency to Labor's proposed national anti-poverty summit, which he endorsed in his 2005 book, Postcodes: The Splintering of a Nation. Yesterday he promised only a "social inclusion agenda". Where the Treasurer, Peter Costello, has criticised some executive pay packets as excessive and issued demands that the banks not raise their retail lending rates, Mr Swan adopted a laissez-faire stance on both issues. He said executive pay "is entirely a matter for the shareholders of the companies concerned". On bank lending rates, he said: "I'm not in the business of giving the banks advice one way or another."

On the sensitive issue of industry protection, Mr Swan said the dollar, at its highest in 23 years against the US currency, made it tough for some manufacturers. "We're dedicated to working with the sector to make sure we maximise our opportunities as we go up the value-added chain. "We'll be at the table with them, but we're not going back, we're going forward."

With fresh fears in world financial markets of a US recession, he said he remained an optimist on the economy. He had faith in Australia's regulators and "first class" Reserve Bank to steer the economy through difficult times. He rejected Mr Costello's prediction in a Herald interview last week that a "huge tsunami" would hit world markets when China floated its currency.

Labor's ambitious agenda on education and training, health, climate change and infrastructure would need to be balanced against the need to control inflation in an economy running out of spare resources. "This conjunction of an economy operating at the limits of its capacity and a new government with new priorities has several implications for the role of Treasury within government," Mr Swan said. Under Labor, the Department of Treasury would be re-engaged as a vital source of advice on "a new wave of micro-economic reform" aimed at enhancing the supply side of the economy and lifting workforce participation towards New Zealand levels of 70 per cent, from 65 per cent now.

Treasury would be consulted on all substantial new spending measures within the cabinet decision-making process. "The Treasury is the most talented group, I think, of individuals located in one central agency that you can point to in the federal bureaucracy," Mr Swan said. Labor was in regular phone contact with Treasury officials, he said, after a meeting with the Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, and several division heads before the start of the campaign.

Mr Swan promised to unveil more budget savings before the election to offset its growing list of spending promises. "We're acutely aware of the need to be responsible in our approach to spending," he said. "The search for savings always goes on." He accused the Government of "dereliction of duty" in failing to invest in measures to expand the capacity of the economy, which had led to higher inflation than otherwise would have been the case. "I don't believe that they have provided the back up to the Reserve Bank that the Reserve Bank has required," he said.

On industrial relations, he promised to be merciless with rogue unionists: "We'll deal with thuggish behaviour . if and when it rears its ugly head." Mr Swan said Labor's industrial relations would be based firmly on enterprise bargaining, with pattern bargaining strictly forbidden.


Rudd's conservative claim a 'con'

This story was written a few days ago but now seems prophetic

The story of Frank Abagnale jnr, immortalised in the movie Catch Me If You Can is an incredible tale of a con artist who successfully impersonated an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer and history professor, cashing phoney cheques all along the way. It was quite the swindle and not dissimilar to that being perpetrated by Labor leader Kevin Rudd, who has suddenly begun pretending to champion the economic conservative cause.

Within just weeks of his election to the leadership of the Labor Party, Rudd had already proven himself a spin-over-substance man, cutting a TV commercial claiming that a number of people had declared him as an economic conservative, which was a badge he wore with pride. Before that ad, I'd never heard Kevin Rudd described by anyone as an economic conservative and, in perhaps the biggest con of all, not even he himself had claimed to be one until he declared it on TV.

In fact there doesn't appear to be any evidence Kevin Rudd has ever claimed he was an economic conservative in the more than 300 speeches he's made in the Parliament - not even one mention in his maiden speech - which is usually used as an opportunity for new MPs to state what they believe in, what drives them and what their philosophies are. So much for him wearing the description as a "badge of pride". Over his years as a member of parliament, Rudd has continued to prove he is anything but economically conservative.

In 1999 he claimed tax reform would destroy jobs, growth and be "fundamentally unjust". And ever since he has consistently opposed measures to improve our economy, balance the budget and pay off Labor's $96 billion of debt, which has meant we can provide better services, lower taxes and record jobs growth. Only now, when Australia has become one of the strongest developed economies in the world, has Kevin Rudd has suddenly decided he wants in - attempting to con the Australian public that he now supports everything he has opposed since the day of his election to Parliament.

Becoming an economic conservative involves more than just saying a glib line in a TV commercial. Just saying it doesn't make it true - otherwise I'd be booking ads tomorrow claiming that "many people have described me as looking like Brad Pitt". We are no longer in the phoney election campaign; this time it's the real thing and two weeks in, the only policy Rudd can hold up as bearing any semblance to economic conservatism is a tax policy shamelessly plagiarised from the Coalition and cheaply rebadged as his own.

If he were prime minister who would he copy? Who would he impersonate? Unlike Frank Abagnale jnr, if the inexperienced, union-controlled Kevin Rudd were to become prime minister he would actually have to perform that role every single minute of every day - the only difference being, however, that the cheques he would be cashing in would be paid by us.


Activist judiciary a looming menace for Australia

FRANKLY, there may be more to fear from Labor's lady lawyers than from the union blokes who run the Labor Party. Astute Labor lawyers in a future Rudd government, women such as Julia Gillard, Nicola Roxon and Penny Wong, will surely have their eyes on the real prize: leaving a legacy that will outlast a term or two in government. That legacy may be an activist judiciary. A Rudd government may come and go, but the judges it appoints are there to stay.

To be sure, appointing judges is the right of every government, and the decision rests ultimately with the prime minister. The Howard Government has stacked the High Court with stodgy conservative judges. You know the type. Judges who have that old-fashioned view about democracy under which politicians and the people make the laws and judges implement them. Under a Rudd government, Labor's lady lawyers may champion the need to fashion an entirely different system of justice by appointing judges who have little time for such democratic traditions, preferring a more adventurous role for judges. Whether a prime minister Kevin Rudd could withstand that push remains to be seen.

It's not such a zany prediction given the legal shenanigans in Victoria. Last week, Labor Attorney-General Rob Hulls announced that human rights advocate Lex Lasry will take up a seat on the state's Supreme Court and former ALP member and ACTU assistant secretary Iain Ross will head to the County Court. Hulls, who has apparently appointed more than half of the state's 214 judges since he became A-G in 1999, has been busily revolutionising the Victorian judiciary. Hulls says the judiciary must be more representative. But this representative revolution is not about returning power to the people. Quite the opposite. Hulls has been choosing judges that represent a certain Labor view of the world. Going by the more prominent appointments, we're talking about installing progressive judges who have staked out their preference for ambiguous human rights and international law. Outlandish?

Consider Chris Maxwell. Since 2005, the former civil libertarian president of Liberty Victoria, has presided over the Victorian Court of Appeal. Maxwell is rather keen on bringing nebulous notions of human rights and international law into his courtroom wherever possible. A future Ansett administration? Throw out your copy of the Corporations Law. According to Maxwell, the demise of Ansett demonstrated that "quintessential corporate law issues such as insolvency ... can throw up human rights issues". He has spoken about how his court will "encourage practitioners to develop human-rights based arguments".

Why? Well, let's just say that judges who draw upon international laws invariably use them to reach courtroom decisions that have more to do with their own grand personal preferences than the tedious rule of law and pesky domestic laws. Take former academic Marcia Neave, appointed to the Victorian Court of Appeal in 2006. As head of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, she advocated the courtroom as a change agent, suggesting that if you're looking for a quick way to change the law, go looking for a judge.

And Hulls has made sure there are plenty of judges ready and willing to serve as judicial law-makers. Judges such as Kevin Bell, appointed to the Victorian Supreme Court, who has demanded that judges be given "the necessary tools - you have to introduce a bill of rights". Happily for Bell, Victoria has just such a tool: its Charter of Rights. So let's not beat around the bush. Hulls has appointed those who share his human rights view of the world.

Now, prima facie, human rights are fine notions. But they are deliberately framed in airy language to disarm debate, to put them beyond reproach. Yet their vague nature means they can be twisted this way and that, depending on whether the result a judge wants is this or that. There is little predictability or certainty. The rule of law becomes no obstacle for significant social change.

Social change is a fine thing, too. But it comes down to who should be changing society: elected politicians or unelected judges. Hulls appears to prefer the latter. Call me old-fashioned but this is a fundamental change to the way we make laws. The whole purpose of elections is you get to choose politicians to represent you. If we don't like the laws, out goes the government. Why bother voting for politicians if unaccountable judges, appointed for life, get to make laws under the guise of international human rights law.

At the moment, this postmodern version of democracy is largely confined to the poor punters in Victoria. We need to hear from Rudd that this is not a precursor of similar change at a federal level under the ALP. Rudd says he is an economic conservative. He appears to be a social conservative, last week rejecting the idea of gay marriage. But where is he on the judiciary's role? There are plenty of Labor lawyers only too eager to push for more activist-minded judges.

Mention judicial activism and the usual refrain is that this is a meaningless term used by those who don't like the decisions of some judges. That's poppycock. It is a valid term if properly defined. Academic Greg Craven summed it up rather nicely a few years ago when he described judicial activists as those who believe "parliaments are untrustworthy, executives nasty and the people unreliable".

There will be plenty of opportunities for a judicial makeover, with HC justice Michael Kirby and Chief Justice Murray Gleeson soon to retire. If Labor is really impatient, they could simply legislate to increase the number of HC justices from seven to nine. There were murmurs about that before the 2004 election. And Labor has done it before.

As The Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia records, when one of the founding HC justices died in 1912, Labor attorney-general Billy Hughes quickly legislated to increase the HC by an additional two judges, allowing the government to make three appointments in the last few months of office.

Who might we see as our leading judges? Rumours swirling around include human rights silk Julian Burnside as a possible future chief justice of the Federal Court and Labor lawyer George Williams scoring a seat on the High Court. Some wags are even saying that Labor's favourite Sydney silk, Bret Walker, is quietly boasting that he has been assured a seat on the High Court. And here's the irony. In government, Labor may end up appointing judges who have nothing but disdain for politicians and parliament and, yes, the people. Let's hear from Rudd that this is not on the cards.



Global cooling should be much more in evidence by then, anyway. So that will be a good excuse

THERE's one of two things happening out there on climate change. Either the Coalition and Labor are combining to pull the wool over our eyes on what we want from a Kyoto II global agreement - or they are positioning Australia yet again to walk out on a global deal. If you've been listening casually to this week's claims and counter-claims on climate change, you might well think that both sides have pledged that they will not sign up to any post-Kyoto agreement unless it requires developing countries to cut emissions. But it's not so simple. Listen closely to what they're saying, and it's far more vague than that.

Mr Rudd says Labor will insist on "commitments" by developing countries as part of Kyoto II. Mr Howard says developing countries must be "part of the agreement" so it "applies in an appropriate way to all the world's major emitters". A bit vague? Let's try their ministers. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Kyoto II must "include obligations by developing countries". Fran Kelly on Tuesday on the ABC tried to get him to specify those obligations. "You have to take into consideration a number of factors here, but if everybody makes a reasonably equitable contribution to addressing the issue of greenhouse gas emissions - developing countries argue for a differentiated commitment - but if they all make a commitment nevertheless, then we should be able to get the balance right."

What did that mean? Kelly pressed on, and Downer kept fluttering away. "Well, there will be different approaches," he said. "The central point here is the challenge to get them to make a contribution ... We would not agree to an agreement where developing countries didn't make any contribution."

Why are they all so vague? Because they all know that the key developing countries are not going to agree to cut their greenhouse gas emissions for years, until they are approaching the levels the Western countries are at.

Look at the panel accompanying our news report. The US in 2004 pumped 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for each of its 300 million people. Australia pumped out 19.4 tonnes - yet China produced only 3.6 tonnes per head, Indonesia 1.4 tonnes (excluding forest fires), India one tonne and Bangladesh just 270 kilograms. Does anyone (apart from The Australian and the odd ABC interviewer) seriously think that China, India and Bangladesh are going to agree to reduce their emissions from these levels?

That's why their "commitments" will be token things. China's President Hu Jintao made that clear when he visited Australia for the recent APEC summit. China, he pointed out, has made commitments to reduce its energy intensity (the amount of energy used for each unit of output) by 20 per cent, to increase its use of renewable energy, to increase forest coverage to 20 per cent of its land mass, and so on.

That's all good if it happens. But as Professor Ross Garnaut has pointed out, China is growing so fast that it could reduce its energy intensity by 40 per cent by 2020 and its emissions would still more than double. Keep listening carefully, and hope that Howard and Rudd stay vague. Otherwise there will be no Kyoto II at all.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Has the ALP become the DLP?

You need to know Australian political history to get the force of the heading above. The DLP were a splinter party off the ALP principally comprised of conservative Catholics. Bob Santamaria was their guru -- though not formally their leader. ALP figures always loathed the DLP

Perhaps it is time for the ALP to grant the political activist B.A. Santamaria posthumous honorary membership. After all, Kevin Rudd and the Labor team in the 2007 election campaign have been keen to stress their social and economic conservatism along with their support for the Australian-American alliance. The principal difference between Labor and the John Howard-led Coalition turns on industrial relations. But this should not be a bar to Santamaria's ALP membership, since the Catholic activist always favoured regulated labour markets and supported trade unionism as an institution.

The public stance of leading ALP figures indicates how Labor has changed in order to get ready for government and make itself attractive to voters. During an interview with The Australian Financial Review on February 7, 2003, Rudd described himself as "an old-fashioned Christian socialist". Today, the Opposition Leader still proclaims his Christianity but he has junked the "s" word. Now Rudd declares that he is an "economic conservative". But there is more. The Labor leader's political heroes now include, wait for it, the Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies - who just happens to be one of Howard's heroes.

Rudd first declared himself for Menzies in an article published in The Monthly last November. He repeated the message in Parliament on December 5 last year - just after he became Opposition Leader. And he returned to this message in April when he told the Herald journalist Peter Hartcher that, unlike Howard, Menzies believed in a social contract that recognised a "set of obligations binding those who have power to those who have none".

Menzies was a fine democrat in his time. Yet his version of a social contract included the banning of the Communist Party during the time of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in the early days of World War II, an unsuccessful attempt to ban the Communist Party during the Korean War in 1951 and a lifelong advocacy of the White Australia policy. It's difficult to reconcile the real Menzies with the hero Rudd recalls.

As Rudd indicated in his article in the October 2006 issue of The Monthly, he is a great fan of the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was murdered by the Nazis in April 1945. Yet, as with Menzies, it is not clear as to how far Rudd's admiration goes. The Labor leader's opposition to gay marriage, announced last week, would be consistent with the German pastor's position. But Bonhoeffer was also unequivocally opposed to abortion, a position which Rudd is yet to embrace publicly. Rudd does not regard a preoccupation with sexual morality as consistent with the spirit and content of the Gospels. But Bonhoeffer did.

Certainly Rudd has shown signs of economic and moral conservatism in the past. However, his deputy, Julia Gillard, appears to be a relatively recent convert to the cause of economic reform. Interviewed on Lateline on October 17, Gillard attempted to play down her one-time membership of the Melbourne-based Socialist Forum. She told the presenter, Tony Jones, that her connection with this organisation "occurred more than 20 years ago when I was in my 20s" and that her role merely involved "clerical and administrative work". Quizzed further on Meet the Press on October 20, Gillard acknowledged that her membership of the Socialist Forum "did continue for a period" beyond her student days but maintained that it was "a sort of debating society".

In fact, documents published in the Herald Sun reveal that the deputy Labor leader was on the organisation's management committee until 1994 and was a member until 2002, when it merged with the Fabian Society. The Socialist Forum was set up to facilitate the entry of former Communist Party members into the Victoria ALP. Around the same time, some supporters of Santamaria's National Civic Council were readmitted to the ALP.

In his book Crossing the Party Line, the former communist Bernie Taft described the Socialist Forum as an organisation of a broad range of people on the left who possessed a "socialist commitment". That was then. Now Gillard describes herself as "certainly a conservative person when it comes to government finances and accounting". Certainly Gillard was always a pragmatist but it was not until recently that she has presented herself as a conservative.

In her defence, Gillard has claimed that the Liberal Party deputy leader, Peter Costello, when he was a university student, was "hanging out in a group called the Social Democrats". Perhaps so. But the Social Democrats were just that - social democrats who opposed the communist, Trotskyist and socialist traditions within the labour movement. The right-wing Labor MP Michael Danby was president of the Social Democrats at the time. There is no evidence that Costello ever embraced socialism or any of the ideas of the extreme left.

Then there is the case of the Opposition spokesman for the environment and the arts, Peter Garrett. In his 1987 book Political Blues, the then rock star and continuing conservationist railed against "the devouring jaws of capitalism", dismissed the quest for sustained economic growth as "one of the holy writs of society" and opposed the Australian-American alliance. If Labor is elected on November 24, Garrett will be a member of a government led by confessed economic conservatives who believe in economic growth and support the Australian-American alliance.

In Political Blues, Garrett was dismissive of the contribution made by the Australian Defence Force in international conflicts. But as a member of a Rudd government, he would support Labor's policy to continue the ADF's commitment in Afghanistan and to withdraw only a third of the ADF's current members in Iraq. In recent times, Garrett has acknowledged his embrace of pragmatism. It seems we're all conservatives now.


Auditor lashes $2.1bn frigate upgrade

This sort of thing is absolutely routine for the defence forces not only in Australia but also in the USA and UK. People forget that the defence forces are huge bureaucracies -- with all the irresponsibility and bungling that implies. All army men have known about that forever, of course

The Australian National Audit Office has launched a scathing indictment of the navy's $2.1 billion frigate upgrade. The upgrade is four and a half years overdue and projected to run tens of millions of dollars over budget. In its annual report, the ANAO says long delays had resulted in the number of FFG frigates earmarked for an upgrade being reduced from six to four. Under the 1999 program - implemented by the now privatised Australian Defence Industries - the warships were to be equipped with new radar, sonar, weapons and combat systems. ANAO noted the upgrade contract had to be redrawn after the number of frigates to be refitted was reduced to four from six.

Work on the first warship HMAS Sydney, which was scheduled for completion by August 2003 and finished on April 2006, although the navy is still unsatisfied with the result. The fourth warship is not expected to be returned to service until 2009. ANAO noted that as of September, "HMAS Sydney was experiencing continuing delays in obtaining Initial Operational Release by Navy''. The problems relate to the vessel's underwater warfare and electronic support systems.

"If industry and DMO fail to deliver the specified capability to schedule, then invariably the ADF (Australian Defence Force) experiences delays in achieving the anticipated capability,'' it said. "In the FFG Upgrade Project's case, there is a four and a half year delay in the delivery of the final upgraded ship and an over five-year delay in the delivery of the upgraded Combat Team Training facility.''

As of mid-year, only 83 percent of the project's funds had been spent, it said. "The contract did not adequately provide for the project authority (Defence Materiel Organisation) to excercise the necessary degree of control required.''

The report made nonsense of the Howard Government's credentials on defence procurement, Labor's defence spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon told The Australian. He said the report showed the folly of the Government's attempt to "pump up ADI's value'' prior to its privatisation. "The upgrade of these guided missile frigates is now four and a half years late. "Despite a $275 million cost blowout, the navy is now only getting four upgrades for the price of six,'' Mr Fitzgibbon said. He said DMO cost blowouts and delays was now running to $13 billion including the navy's Seasprite helicopter, the army's M113 personnel carrier upgrade, the RAAF's Wedgetail surveillance planes and the Tiger reconaissance helicopter.


NSW hospital woes spreading

The state's crumbling public health system is sliding further into crisis, with ambulance crews revealing patients on the Central Coast have died waiting for treatment. As embattled Health Minister Reba Meagher today meets with staff at the beleaguered Royal North Shore Hospital, The Daily Telegraph reports the crisis in our state's health system is engulfing more hospitals.

Paramedics are the latest health workers to speak out, revealing their forced queuing at public hospitals because of a lack of patient beds is costing people their lives. Their warning comes as paramedics on the Central Coast are losing up to 1000 hours a month on the road waiting outside clogged-up hospitals. Documents obtained by the NSW Opposition reveal the seven Central Coast ambulance stations have this year lost the equivalent of 170 days queuing outside Gosford and Wyong Hospitals' emergency departments because there are no beds. Leaked figures from log books show 138 "cases" had to wait more than two hours at both hospitals.

One source said up to 80 per cent of the area's 18 ambulance day crews were regularly off the road and unable to answer triple-0 calls because they were trapped at hospital emergency departments. An ambulance officer with more almost 30 years' experience told The Daily Telegraph jobs were going unanswered. "We sometimes have to get crews from Hornsby or St Ives to answer calls on the Coast because 80 per cent of us will be queuing at the hospital," he said.

Patricia Marshall knows the tragic consequences of our over-stretched public health system - her sister Lynette Salmon died after being forced to wait 20 minutes for an ambulance - despite living just two minutes from an ambulance station. Ms Salmon, 37, suffered an epileptic fit at her Blackwall home last year, dying on her way to hospital. Ms Marshall believes her sister would be alive today if an ambulance had arrived earlier. "What a waste of a life," Ms Marshall said.

Head of emergency services for the Central Coast Dr Kate Porges yesterday backed the paramedics' claims. "We see them (ambulances) queuing outside but there is nothing we can do," he said.

Opposition health spokesman Jillian Skinner said ambulance crews were contacting her daily about the problems. "Our hospitals, not just Royal North Shore, are struggling to cope with patients coming through emergency," she said.


Fathers unpopular with the Left

By Bettina Arndt

IS Kevin Rudd interested in men? The answer, sadly, seems to be no. Unlike John Howard, the Opposition Leader rarely talks about issues affecting many of his own gender, such as family law, child support, fatherless families, boys' education. Indeed, this potential prime minister seems content to hand over the running on most social issues to female colleagues renowned for their anti-male bias. For anyone keen to ensure men and boys receive a fair go, the prospect of a Labor government is all bad news.

As a prime minister, John Howard has been most unusual in his passion for social issues, his famous "barbecue stoppers" and his willingness to stick his neck out and speak about the role of men. Remember the debate about single women's access to IVF? While most politicians were cowed by the wave of women's rights rhetoric, Howard voiced the concern of many suggesting it isn't in our society's interest to encourage more fatherless families. Picking up on community discontent about children losing contact with fathers after divorce, he set up a bipartisan committee to look into the "rebuttable presumption of joint custody", where parents share care unless good reasons preclude it. But Labor's Jennie George and Jenny Macklin dug in and the committee was forced to water down their recommendations.

A 2005 survey of parliamentarians by Fathers4Equality showed 62 Coalition members likely to support a shared parenting amendment compared with six from Labor. Yet, resulting changes to the Family Law Act have done much to ensure children's rights to contact with both parents.

Labor reluctantly supported the legislation, with Kevin Rudd expressing great concern about the changes. He deferred to his then shadow attorney-general, Nicola Roxon, who played up the fear that children would be forced to spend time with dangerous dads.

Roxon previously dismissed the custody inquiry as "dog whistle politics to men's groups aggrieved by the Family Court". Labor's disdain for such groups is consistently demonstrated as Labor shadow ministers refuse to meet even the most respected of these organisations, despite strenuous efforts by a sprinkling of Labor backbenchers to encourage their party to take interest.

Labor MP Roger Price spent years tearing his hair out over his party's failure to implement the recommendations of the inquiry into child support that he chaired in the early 1990s. It was the Howard Government that finally tackled this controversial issue, implementing far reaching changes recommended by an expert committee to make the scheme more equitable.

Yet, Labor's determination to cater to lone-mother lobby groups shows in their recent announcement that they are monitoring the scheme to ensure the primary carer is not disadvantaged. They have also expressed concern about Government efforts to help lone mothers make the transition from welfare to work. Both policies could well suffer rollbacks if Labor ends up in power.

Labor doesn't just have it in for men. The party has consistently favoured women in the workforce over mothers at home with young children. The last time Labor was in power, families relying on one income lost ground compared with other families, suffering an average 4 per cent drop between 1982 and 1995, according to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling in Canberra. At the time, Joe De Bruyn, national chairman of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Union blamed Labor's "femocrat advisers" for consistently refusing to support women who stayed home, choosing instead to promote child care to encourage workforce participation.

With more than 75 per cent of all families relying on one income when they have infants, Howard moved to increase their support. Between 1996 and 2001, a single-income, two-child family on average weekly earnings gained 16 per cent in disposable income. Labor's more recent support for the babycare payment is a sign the feminist ideologues may be losing some of their grip on the party, but there are clear signs biases remain. One major reason Keating lost power was the perception that Labor governed for some rather than for all. The 750,000 non-resident parents in Australia are one group who should be wary that their interests have no place on a Labor agenda.


Many liberties being lost

Governments are taking our liberty in the name of protecting our health, writes Chris Berg

Are we freer today than we were half a century ago? That question is surprisingly hard to answer. The state control over the economy that characterised Australia in the 20th century is quickly being replaced with nanny state controls. Barriers to trade have been mostly eliminated, and state monopolies eradicated. But accompanying that has been explosive growth in social and environmental regulations. There are now more pages of Commonwealth legislation introduced every year than were passed in the first 40 years of federation.

In our social lives, freedom has both advanced and retreated. For example, restrictions on the sale of alcohol have eased. But they have been replaced by nanny state measures such as smoking bans. In the future, cigar bars will be as distant a memory as the six o'clock swill. Since smoking bans were enacted this year in Victoria and NSW, sales growth in pubs has dropped significantly. Hotel patronage may return to former levels - international experience seems to indicate that it will - but when smokers return to the pub, they will be less free than they were in October last year.

Unquestionably, advocates of individual liberty and personal responsibility have lost the battle on smoking. That's not surprising - smoking is reviled by everybody who doesn't enjoy it. In a liberal state, that disagreement would be sorted out by negotiation; before the bans, many restaurants and hotels already enforced non-smoking areas or disallowed it entirely. But in a nanny state, such negotiations are replaced by force of law. Similar sentiments lie behind restrictions on poker machines. The gaming industry is a political football to be kicked around at every state election, while individuals who value their freedom to enjoy the pokies are ignored.

In a nanny state, the government morphs into an over-eager insurance company, assuming the role of risk-manager for its citizens. Any risky or unhealthy endeavour has to be eliminated - individuals cannot be trusted to assess the risks themselves.

The next target is food. Numerous proposals are on the table to tackle our expanding waistlines, including banning certain types of fats, banning junk food advertising, and even taxing fatty food. Earlier this year, the Labor Party hinted that it was considering banning the use of licensed characters such as Shrek in junk- food advertising, should it win government. Last week, the Cancer Council of Australia came out in support of a general ban on junk food ads aimed at children.

However, there is little evidence that such bans work. Both Quebec and Sweden have tried them, but neither have seen any reduction in childhood obesity. There are twice as many overweight children in Sweden as there were 15 years ago, even though the Scandinavian country has had a ban on all advertising aimed at children since 1991.

Furthermore, politicians hurrying to make political capital out of medical problems such as obesity and lung cancer rarely think through the unintended consequences of their policies. Swedish advertising bans have not reduced obesity, but they have had other results. Losing the revenue from the highest-paying advertising has reduced the quality and quantity of children's television programs. Similarly, restricting the advertising market has raised the cost of toys in Sweden to 50 per cent above the average European level.

The Australian Government's hard line on tobacco has had similar consequences. Smokeless tobacco products have been swept up as the nanny state tries to purge society of everything that meets its disapproval.

It is unfortunate that Australia lacks a strong intellectual history emphasising individual liberty and personal responsibility. Our "she'll be right mate" attitude is easily swamped by our calls for government to intervene in personal decisions. Laws are passed with little reference to how they will affect our freedom. As a result, individual liberty in Australia is slowly being eroded by neglect.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Forgotten history: The disasters of the previous Labor government

IF 38 per cent of people polled this week by The Daily Telegraph thought the Kyoto Protocol was the treaty which ended WWII, who do they think Bob Hawke [former Labor Party Prime Minister] is when they see the Silver Bodgie sashaying through the local RSL in his white slip-ons? An Antipodean Colonel Sanders? Mick Dundee's older brother? Or a Gold Coast real estate baron?

The gravel-voiced Hawke and his vaudevillian successor, former treasurer and prime minister Paul Keating, have emerged as a sideshow act in Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's travelling dog-and-pony show. But it's doubtful whether those in the adoring throng can remember or ever knew what actually took place during their reign.

While Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello have been careful to pay due attention to the reforms of the Hawke-Keating era, the ALP's ageing but resilient duo have been more reticent to pay tribute to the groundwork laid by Howard in his days as treasurer. They've also been less than flattering about the Howard-Costello team.

Last year, however, former Reserve Bank governor Ian Macfarlane noted that the introduction of the tender system for the sale of Treasury notes and Treasury bonds "was second only in importance to the float of the Australian dollar in 1983". As columnist Gerard Henderson reminded readers recently, "these changes were introduced in 1979 and 1982 respectively, when Howard was treasurer". Readers young and old might also be unaware that Howard also called for the Campbell Commission report which recommended many of the reforms for which the ALP now claims credit, or that the Coalition supported the Hawke-Keating reforms when they were introduced into Parliament. The Howard Government proceeded with the reform process and Australia today has an economy which is the envy of the developed world. But its reforms were opposed every inch of the way by Labor's successors to Hawke-Keating.

Until recently, Rudd described himself as a Christian socialist. The socialist label has disappeared during Rudd's remake. His deputy Julia Gillard has told outright porkies [lies] about her socialist connections, claiming variously that she dabbled in left-wing politics as a student and that she later only helped with the typing.

Our old stagers however have left a paper trail which should be put before the Generation Y voters before they are permitted within 100m of a polling booth and distributed around the nursing homes targeted by the ALP's answers to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Flicking through the files, it is impossible not to be assaulted by the headlines which Hawke and Keating created, such as "Home rates may hit 18 per cent", above the byline of doughty Fairfax veteran Michelle Grattan, in The Age of May 29, 1989. What a cold winter that was.

Or "Apology on recession" from The Herald Sun, above a photograph featuring a smiling Hawke on March 6, 1998, when he admitted his government had misread the economic situation surrounding the 1987 which delivered Keating's recession "we had to have". The corrective action, said Hawke, was too late to avoid soaring interest rates, unemployment and inflation.

Speaking of unemployment, which under the Coalition is at record lows, what about this headline from The Financial Review of July 10, 1992: "Unemployment rate at highest level since 1930s". That was when youth unemployment reached 35.8 per cent. And how about this one, from The Sydney Morning Herald of November 11, 1992: "Worst job figures for 60 years". Unemployment had by then reached 11.3 per cent with a record 979,000 out of work. It got worse, of course, and a year later when the number of unemployed had climbed all the way to 1,017,600 the left-leaning Geoffrey Barker wrote in The Age: "Paul Keating will wear yesterday's unemployment figures like a crown of thorns."

Barker reminded his small audience that Keating had vowed seven years earlier that he would make Howard wear his Liberal leadership like a crown of thorns and do everything he could to obliterate him from leadership. Keating might need to be reminded of those numbers as he stumps around the backblocks now, occasionally emerging from relative obscurity to attend musicals about himself or rewrite history.

And if you thought shadow treasurer Wayne Swan's helpful hints to shoppers were a joke, how about Hawkie's advice to punters on November 9, 1985, in which he advised that the community would have to learn to live with higher interest rates. The overnight cash interest rate at the time was 16.5 per cent, with pressure on the banks to lift their prime rates to 19 or 19.5 per cent. Home mortgages were still capped at 13.5 per cent - but that was soon to change. By June 4, 1989, The Sun-Herald was able to run with "Home-loan rates highest in the world", a barbecue stopper if there ever was one.

The government responsible for this debacle blamed the problem on "the expectation that we who live in the Lucky Country should be able to own our homes". Silly people, silly people, wanting their own homes. But it got worse as The Daily Telegraph headline "18 per cent home loans soar again" announced on July 1, 1999. So, if you happen to see this Down Under version of the Glimmer Twins on one of their outings, remind them again how bad the good old days actually were and ask them how exactly their protege plans to do things differently.


Homeschooling growing in Australia

As government schools deteriorate both behaviourally and educationally

THOUSANDS of students are being pulled out of Queensland state and private schools to be educated at home by their parents. The home schooling revolution is being driven by parents looking to shield their children from bullying and undesirable teenage peers. Home education is a "lawful alternative" for students of a compulsory school age, but Education Queensland sets out strict guidelines. Those wishing to go to university have to sit a special tertiary admissions test.

Homeschooling Association of Queensland president Robert Osmak estimates more than 22,000 children are now being home schooled in the state. This is double the figures obtained through a government working reference group in 2002. "I'd say the majority of parents are moving to home schooling out of despair," Mr Osmak said. "Their children have been terribly brutalised. They've been beaten up in the school yard on a regular basis."

Mr Osmak said the mother of a teenage Brisbane student had contacted him this week after her son was hit from behind, pushed to the ground and had his head smashed against the concrete at a state school. "The thug was only suspended for three days. Nothing is being done to protect the children who are being hurt," he said. Mr Osmak said he had written to Education Minister Rod Welford seeking a meeting to discuss some of the complaints by parents to him and streamline access to home schooling.

Mr Welford declined to meet with Mr Osmak, but indicated Education Queensland was providing information to the families and recognised home schooling was a "legitimate option" which parents could apply for on behalf of their children. In a lengthy letter to Mr Osmak, Mr Welford wrote: "Please be assured that my department takes issues of bullying, harassment, violence and discrimination seriously. Schools have codes of student behaviour and behaviour management programs for developing respect and safety towards others."

Mr Osmak, a former teacher with 23 years' experience in the state and private system in Queensland and overseas, has home schooled his nine children. "Two of them are in business, one of boys is employed and three of the girls are at TAFE. The two youngest are still being schooled," he said.

Valma Cronau, who heads a Gold Coast support group, said hundreds of home schooling families met regularly for social functions. She said one of the reasons for home schooling her children was to teach them Christian values. Other factors included removing them from peer pressure, and contact with drugs and "political correctness". To ensure students are being taught properly, EQ requires parents to apply for home schooling on behalf of their children and be granted registration. For continued registration, a parent is required to provide an annual report.


Another "overconfident" surgeon still operating

How many more people will he hurt before they get around to de-registering him?

One of Australia's leading cosmetic surgeons is under investigation for allegedly performing unlicensed operations following the emergency admission to hospital and surgery on a woman who had undergone an extensive makeover in his inner-city clinic. Millionaire doctor, television personality and former president of the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australia Simon Rosenbaum has been slapped with restrictions on his practice in Queensland and Victoria after medical authorities alleged he posed a "serious potential risk" to "vulnerable persons".

The Brisbane surgery of Dr Rosenbaum, who is under investigation by two state health watchdogs, as well as Medicare, was raided earlier this year as part of the investigation that may soon widen to other cosmetic physicians. Dr Rosenbaum - a 20-year veteran of the cosmetic surgery explosion in Australia - has performed thousands of operations in his clinics in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, and South Yarra, Melbourne. The procedures are touted as being cheaper than those performed in hospitals because of the lower fixed costs in the clinics.

But for almost a year, authorities have been investigating his practice following post-surgical complications to the woman in Brisbane which required emergency surgery to stop internal bleeding and to drain half a litre of blood. The woman, who worked as a nurse in Queensland, underwent a breast augmentation, mini-abdominoplasty and liposuction in a three-hour operation conducted by Dr Rosenbaum last October in his Australian Clinic for Cosmetic Surgery in Brisbane. The operation cost $20,000.

It is alleged Dr Rosenbaum - a regular guest of the Good Medicine television program - has been "performing complex procedures" in a clinic not licensed to do so and on patients under general anaesthetic, also without an appropriate licence for his clinic. According to documents obtained by The Australian, the woman returned to a hotel room after her operation and soon felt "very unwell and clammy", had a rapid pulse and was unable to remain standing. She called Dr Rosenbaum, who examined her that night, before telling her to visit his clinic the next day where she was put under observation. The Medical Board of Queensland also alleged Dr Rosenbaum put her under observation at his clinic the next day for eight hours - despite "clinical indications that immediate referral to hospital was appropriate" - before taking her to a Brisbane hospital.

In letters to medical authorities, Dr Rosenbaum said he was "not aware of the regulations affecting the administration of anesthesia". [Spare us!] Yesterday, he denied any patient had been put under general anesthesia in his clinics and that his rate of complications was "10 times" better than the average. "The reason I have been singled out is because of professional jealousy by the plastic surgeons," he said. "They ... are very successful in getting government bodies to do their dirty work."



Three articles below:

Your government will protect you -- NOT!

Corrective Services officials wanted to house serial sex fiend Robert John Fardon in a street with more than 23 children and near to a man convicted of a sex offence. The revelation came as controversy raged yesterday about what to do with convicted child rapist Fardon, who was released from jail on Tuesday after serving time for a parole breach. Police and Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence admitted it had been a mistake to attempt housing Fardon in the North Ipswich street. She said that, in future, Corrective Services would consult residents about placing serious sex offenders.

Fardon was driven to a house at Lowry St - where more than 23 children live, including a 17-year-old girl next door. It is opposite the home of David Sant, who had been in the same block as Fardon at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Mr Sant admitted he had been convicted of indecently dealing with a minor in 1988. Corrective Services has strict rules on who can live in housing for sex offenders released into the community under supervision orders. However, the rules do not mention children living in nearby homes and the department does not check the criminal records of neighbours.

The Fardon saga has the Government frantically attempting to find legislative solutions to prevent up to 100 serious sex offenders from being released over coming years. There are also plans to fast-track restoration of houses on prison property and identify other possible sites on Corrective Services land where accommodation could be built.

Parents in Lowry St said they had fears for their children living next door to Fardon. Mother-of-four Justine Jarvis said Ipswich was targeted as an area for sex offenders to live. "I think it's a bit wrong, they always bring molesters into Ipswich," she said. "I'm worried. I used to let my kids play on the path, but I won't now and there's a lot of kids in the street who play out there."

Neighbour Mr Sant said his conviction for indecent dealing was not what it seemed. "It was when I was into witchcraft. I was in a satanic cult and I was having sex with my fiancee in a caravan," he said. "There was meant to be a girl in the cupboard. She used to come around and talk to my fiancee."

Attorney-General Kerry Shine has ruled out introducing minimum sentences. His spokesman said such a move would prevent judges from crafting penalties based on individual situations. Under existing legislation, people face conviction if they warn others or tip off media to an offender's whereabouts


Would you trust him near your own children, Minister?

Comment by Melbourne writer Andrew Bolt:

Ipswich parents have stopped pedophile Robert John Fardon from moving into their suburb:
The outraged North Ipswich locals discovered the serial rapist and pedophile was headed for their neighbourhood when a television camera crew met him at his new address. The street is five blocks from a school and close to parks. Fardon has been in custody since late July after breaching his supervision order by violating his curfew and being in the company of fellow multiple sex offender Trevor Toms. He had previously served 27 years for violent sexual crimes, including the rape of a 12-year-old girl and the sexual assault of her 15-year-old sister.

That's too bland a description of what he did, so read this court finding to better understand the parents' fear.
The circumstances of the offences, to which reference will be made below, made the rape and the sodomy, for which sentences of 14 years were imposed, serious sexual offences within the meaning of the Act. It may be noted that on 8 October 1980 the respondent pleaded guilty to raping a 12 year old girl, indecently dealing with her and unlawfully wounding her 15 year old sister. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for the rape and lesser concurrent terms of imprisonment for the other offences. The respondent was released on parole after serving 8 years of that sentence and within 20 days had committed the offences for which he was sentenced on 30 June 1989. The respondent, who was born on 6 October 1948, has an extensive criminal history, principally for stealing, disorderly behaviour and weapons offences. Of some relevance to this application is his plea of guilty in 1967 in NSW to attempted carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 10 years.

Yet the parents get the usual tut-tutting:
Corrective Services Minister Judy Spence earlier yesterday called for people to show restraint in exposing Fardon's new address. "I am sure people will want to expose Mr Fardon's whereabouts, but I want people to bear in mind that the man has to live somewhere," Ms Spence told Parliament.

Here's three "somewheres" that occur to me:

1. In jail.

2. In Ms Spence's street.

3. In the street of the judge who stopped attempts to keep Fardon locked up.

The last two options might concentrate minds wonderfully.


Irresponsible government has a rethink

Government at long last realizes that secrecy just encourages abuses

QUEENSLAND Police Minister Judy Spence has warned that anyone who passes on information about the location of sex offenders released into the community risks jail. The Government yesterday decided to inform people when a sex offender was going to be moved to their neighbourhood.

It came after the bungled placement of notorious sex offender Robert John Fardon in Ipswich, west of Brisbane. A camera crew from the Seven Network greeted Fardon at the location, alerting residents to his presence. They reacted angrily, forcing corrective services to move him to a house on the Wacol prison precinct, where the 59-year-old will now live.

In state parliament today, Ms Spence said police would prosecute residents who relayed information about the relocation of an offender. The maximum penalty is two years' imprisonment, or a $7500 fine, she said. Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney yesterday told reporters he would tip off others if he were in that situation. Ms Spence said a campaign organised by a UK tabloid showed what could happen when information about sex offenders was spread throughout the community. "Five families were incorrectly identified as harbouring sex offenders," she said. "Police also had to protect a 55-year-old south London man after 500 leaflets were wrongly distributed, accusing him of being a child abuser." In the past 12 months, a north Queensland woman was bashed by a group of men while out walking, because she was the mother of a man accused of sex offences, Ms Spence said.

She urged people to cooperate with police in relation to offenders, and leave it to them if they stepped out of line. "It is totally irresponsible for the media and the opposition leader to encourage community members to out sex offenders," Ms Spence said. "If vigilante activity is encouraged, there will be law-abiding people harmed and criminalised."


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Labor party making it up as they go along

Zeg's cartoon above features muffled versions of Peter Garrett and Julia Gillard, nominally party spokespersons on the environment and labor relations -- both of whom have at times been put back in their box by Rudd for saying unpopular things -- showing that even party spokespersons don't know what the party policy is

LABOR has scrambled to cover up damaging claims it has a massive hole in election costings, after ditching at least $2 billion in projected savings. Kevin Rudd on Monday was forced to make a snap decision to abandon savings initiatives, amid concerns they were too sensitive.

The sudden move caught some ministerial spokesmen off-guard, unaware savings moves were dropped. These included a plan to sell the Badgerys Creek airport site in western Sydney. Labor also dropped plans to reclaim $700 million in payments to the states. Deputy Labor leader Julia Gillard admitted some savings measures had been dropped because of their sensitivity. This included an earlier plan to increase tobacco excise by $630 million, a move which would have seen the price of cigarettes rise sharply. "We decided that they were not good ideas - they will not be proceeded with," Ms Gillard said.

Leaked documents also reveal that bigger saving measures, put forward by Labor finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner, also were rejected by the Opposition's razor gang. These included a range of small savings in education, while Labor also rejected plans to save money on new federal police resources.

Seeking to dent Labor's economic credibility, Finance Minister Nick Minchin said Mr Rudd would not be able to afford his election promises, after dumping the savings "hit list". "They've dumped those savings in a panic reaction to the release of this list and now find they can't afford their promises," he said. "So they've got some very big questions to ask - are they going to wind back their promises or are they going to find more savings? "And if they've got more savings, come clean on it. Don't have these secret, hidden lists floating around in ALP corridors."

Last night, Mr Tanner confirmed his earlier "hit list" of savings measures had changed, but promised Labor would be "fiscally responsible". It is expected the Opposition will announce further savings measures, building on the $3 billion it has already announced.


Whitewash report for disaster hospital

It has been just over a month since Jana Horska miscarried in a toilet at Royal North Shore Hospital, and the State Government's handling of the tragedy has only deepened the pain for her and her husband. Mark Dreyer said yesterday he was shocked to hear from a journalist on Friday afternoon that a Government report into the incident had been released; he and Ms Horska they were still waiting to be interviewed for it. Mr Dreyer said the report was a rushed, inaccurate job that had "just added to our tragedy".

The inquiry into Ms Horska's miscarriage on September 25 found staff were not at fault and had followed protocol. The report said the couple had been invited to give their account "on several occasions but they declined". But Mr Dreyer said this was "an out and out lie". He said they were bypassed because they had wanted legal representation at the interview and this did not fit into the Government's October 26 deadline.

One of the authors, Professor Clifford Hughes, said yesterday Ms Horska and Mr Dreyer were telephoned by his co-author, Professor William Walters, on October 3 offering a meeting the next morning at their home so they could be interviewed. But Mr Dreyer said that after their lawyer faxed the professors on October 3 asking for a list of questions, they received a letter from Professor Walters the next day, October 4 - which twice misspelt his name as Draper - saying he and his colleague still wanted to speak with the couple but would have to interview hospital staff first, "given the need for us to progress the review".

He said he and Ms Horska did not hear from them again. He said he had sought legal advice because he did not trust the Government and he and his wife were too distressed to handle it. "That, of course, added time to the inquiry and, as it turned out, we never got to have a say and it angered me and my wife and this has just added to our tragedy," he said.

Professor Hughes said yesterday his inquiry team called the couple's lawyers on October 16 and 18 indicating they wanted to interview the couple. "We got no response to any of these attempts," Professor Hughes said. He said the door was still open. "It's not too late for us to hear their side of the story and if they were to show us other facts that were important . we would draw that to the attention of the director general [of NSW Health]."

The chief of staff of the embattled Health Minister, Reba Meagher, is looking to leave. Tom Forrest applied for a senior position in the Health Department in July, but his application was not successful.


Grammar comeback in Queensland?

GRAMMAR will return to Queensland classrooms in Years 11 and 12 under a revised English syllabus requiring that students be taught grammar, spelling and punctuation. The Queensland Studies Authority, which is responsible for school curriculums, says a new senior English syllabus to be taught from 2009 will remove the "over-emphasis on critical literacy" used to analyse literature. Critical literacy is a theory used to analyse texts which holds that language is never neutral and should be dissected to reveal how the writer is manipulating the reader.

The changes are based on a report by the executive dean of arts at the University of Queensland, Richard Fotheringham, which recommends the syllabus be more specific about the novels, plays and poems that students should study. The report was commissioned last year by Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford, who has called for "plain English guidelines" and criticised the "post-modern mumbo jumbo" in the state's English syllabus.

In an article in the QSA journal, director Kim Bannikoff said the revised syllabus would encourage teachers to use a range of approaches to texts. "The narrow focus on 'socio-critical elements' will be reframed so students are assessed on their evaluative thinking skills and decision-making in the reading and writing of texts," he says. Mr Bannikoff refused to elaborate, but a QSA spokesman said socio-critical elements were what developed students' ability to critique texts. "The narrow focus in the past refers to the over-emphasis on critical literacy," the spokesman said. Mr Bannikoff said the syllabus would ensure students studied a range of classic and contemporary novels, poems, plays, films and other works. Teachers can expect more specific advice about what to study and assess.

The QSA spokesman said the syllabus would specify the range and balance of texts to be studied rather than setting mandatory reading lists. The changes were greeted with suspicion by the English Teachers Association of Queensland, whose president, Gary Collins, said teachers would resist plans to remove critical literacy from the syllabus. "We certainly believe a critical literacy approach shouldn't dominate all teaching and assessment tasks," Mr Collins said. "But it would be a decidedly retrograde step if it were to be removed entirely."

A spokeswoman for Mr Welford said the minister was considering the report.


Do-gooder knowalls fail again: Approach to problems with black youths backfires

Response? A coverup, of course

A $2 million State Government program for disadvantaged Redfern youth actually encouraged children to stay out on the street late at night and exacerbated tensions with local police, a secret report reveals. The Government has gone to great lengths to hide the embarrassing review of the Redfern Waterloo Street Team - a group of welfare workers parachuted into the suburb in late 2003 - by refusing to release the report under freedom of information laws.

The secret report slams the Government for establishing the street team "as a result of a cabinet minute, rather than through a planned response ... by determining the 'solution' to a perceived problem at a senior level, those charged with responsibility for implementing the model were constrained in their ability to develop a more flexible response to actual needs."

The street team, made up of workers from the Central Sydney Area Health Service, the Department of Community Services and non-government organisations, conducted late night walks to encourage young people to go home and referred cases to social services for follow up. A key program goal - guiding children on the street late at night home - ended up backfiring, with "staff suspecting they were encouraging many young people to be out later on the streets as they knew they could get a lift home from the [Redfern Waterloo Street Team]".

The review found administration took up too much time and resources and the street team worsened community relations with local police. Helen Campbell from the Redfern Legal Centre said the findings did not surprise her. "If they found you on the street at 11 at night, you would get a pizza and a free trip home. Why wouldn't you stay out later?" she said. "There is still no youth refuge in Redfern. If a kid is is out at night, one of the question you have to ask is, it it safe at home?"

Geoff Turnbull from the REDwatch community group warned that despite its failure, the Government had not learned any lessons from the street team experiment. "If they had started to change the way they operated in the area, I wouldn't be as concerned. But decisions continue to be made at a cabinet level and implemented without working with what is already happening in Redfern and Waterloo," he said. "The [Government's Redfern-Waterloo] Human Services Plan says that the stuff they are doing in terms of youth services is based on what they have learned out of the street team. That was the reason we wanted to see the evaluation. The future of what happens to services here is based on the street team."

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Frank Sartor, said the minister dissolved the project shortly after inheriting it in 2005 and reallocated funding to other community projects. The Yaama Dhiyaan indigenous training college received $750,000, $500,000 went to a new Police Citizens Youth Club at the redeveloped former Redfern Public School, and leftover funds were diverted to South Sydney Youth Service and the Fact Tree youth service.


It's offical: we're having a baby boom

AUSTRALIA is now in the middle of its biggest baby boom in more than three decades, official statistics have confirmed. More babies were born last year than in any since official records began, with the exception of 1971. And Australians are having their babies later in life - the median age of a first-time mum last year was almost 31, while the average dads were just over 33 years of age. These are the highest-ever median ages for new parents. The fertility rate - the number of children an average woman is expected to have in her lifetime - rose to 1.81 last year, up from 1.79 the previous year.

The Federal Government's baby bonus - introduced in 2004 and now worth $4000 per baby - has been widely credited with encouraging Australians to have more kids.

Figures released today showed 265,900 births were registered in 2006, the highest number since the 276,400 births reported 35 years previously. Women aged between 30 and 34 had the highest fertility rate in most of Australia, while in Tasmania and the Northern Territory it was women aged between 25 and 29. The average number of births also increased last year to 63.3 babies per 1,000 women aged between 35 and 39, which was the highest since 1961.

Of all the births in 2006, 67 per cent of new parents were married, compared to 83 per cent in 1986.


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